New Advance




  • Flintlock
  • Nationalism



  • Grenadier


Conscription allows for mass armies called up by the state. The best of these conscripts form elite units of Grenadier assault infantry.


The machinery of the modern state makes conscription possible. It is by definition the government demanding military service from an individual regardless of his wishes in the matter. Although the conscript army is usually associated with the French Revolution and the mass mobilization ordered by Carnot, it actually started almost 100 years earlier. When Peter I started the Russian regular army in the 1690s, almost half of his original regiments of infantry were formed from men conscripted, not men enlisted voluntarily. Throughout the 18th century the Russian Army was made up of men called up from their villages on the basis of so many bodies per 100 ’souls’. By the time of Catherine the Great in the 1770s the conscript was called up for 25 years, and villages regularly held a funeral for the men before they left, on the assumption that they would never return alive. When the French Revolution embodied the State as the guarantor of the "Rights of Man" it also guaranteed the State the moral authority to conscript any and all citizens to defend it. The result, as it had been in Russian service, was mass armies. Napoleon took over 600,000 men into Russia in 1812, and the conscript Russian Army opposing him had over 400,000 men.

One of the features of a conscript army was that the professional soldiers that led it did not have a high opinion of the men. It was widely assumed that conscripts needed to be highly motivated while in uniform because they hadn’t been motivated enough to enlist voluntarily in the first place. One of the most common motivators was to form ’elite’ units for the best conscripts to aspire to, and to serve as models of behavior for the rest of the army. Peter the Great established five regiments of Grenadiers and two Guards Regiments at the beginning of the century, and by 1812 the conscript Russian Army had 12 regiments of Grenadiers and 6 regiments of Guards. The French Army under Napoleon had Grenadier companies in every battalion and the Imperial Guard, which by 1814 was over 112,000 strong.