"offered to lead the Old Guard into action"

Napoleon's Old Guard by Hippolyte Bellangé
Public DomainNapoleon's Old Guard by Hippolyte Bellangé

The Old Guard were the most elite units of Napoleon's Grand Army. Forming part of the Imperial Guard, they were famous for their bravery and physical strength, and took part in all of Napoleon's greatest victories. The Imperial Guard was made up of the Old Guard, the Middle Guard and the Young Guard; together they amounted to 50,000 men. After the invasion of Russia only 1100 were left; the remnants fought at the Battle of Paris in 1814 before their final defeat. Many members of the Old Guard chose to follow Napoleon into exile in Elba, forming his private 500-strong guard. (Of the Old Guard who later fought at Waterloo, it is thought that very few of them were veterans of Napoleon's earlier campaigns.)