Colonel Général Dragons

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Origin and History

Trooper of Colonel Général Dragons - Copyright: Franco Saudelli and Dr Marco Pagan

The charge of Colonel Général of the dragoons was created in 1668 for the Comte de Péquilain who would later become Duc de Lauzun. On April 2 1668, his regiment was created from half the troops of Dragons Étrangers du Roi and half of Royal Dragons.

During the War of the Polish Succession, the regiment served on the Rhine from 1733 to 1735.

During the War of the Austrian Succession, the regiment initially served in Westphalia in 1741. In 1742, it took part in the invasion of Bohemia. In 1743, after the retreat from Bohemia, it campaigned in Alsace. In 1744, it was stationed on the Lauter. In 1745, it served on the Rhine. From 1746 to 1748, it took part in the campaigns of Flanders.

In 1749, the regiment was stationed at Montpellier; in 1750, at Castres; in 1753, at Aimeries; and in 1755, at Hesdin.

In 1754, Marie Charles Louis d'Albert de Luynes, Duc de Chevreuse obtained the charge of Colonel Général des Dragons.

By 1756, the regiment counted 4 squadrons and ranked 1st.

During the Seven Years' War, the regiment was under the nominal command of:

  • since 1754 until 1771: Marie Charles Louis d'Albert de Luynes, Duc de Chevreuse

During the Seven Years' War, the regiment was under the effective command of:

  • since January 1 1748: Colonel-Commandant Charles Marie Léopold, Comte de Dunois
  • from December 18 1758 until March 21 1769: Colonel-Commandant Jean Louis Marie Riquet, Chevalier de Caraman


Service during the War

In 1757, the regiment was at the camp of Stockheim. It then joined the Army of the Lower Rhine commanded by the Maréchal d'Estrées for the planned invasion of Hanover. At the end of June, it was at the camp of Bielefeld with d'Estrées' main corps. On July 23, the regiment was part of the corps of the Marquis de Contades, consisting of 30 grenadier companies and 3 dragoon regiments, who advanced on the village of Brukensense at nightfall. On July 26, the regiment was at the Battle of Hastenbeck where it fought dismounted as part of the right wing under d'Armentières. After the victory, the regiment encamped at Grosselsen near Hameln with the main body of the Army of the Lower Rhine from July 31 to August 2. On August 8, the Maréchal Duc de Richelieu, now commanding the army, sent the regiment along with the Grenadiers de France and 2 other dragoon regiments ahead to occupy the city of Hanover. On August 26, Richelieu detached the Duc de Chevreuse on the right bank of the Lev with the Colonel Général Dragons, 2 other dragoon regiments, 12 cavalry squadrons and an infantry brigade to advance on Bottmer and to throw bridges on the Lev at Etzel. At the end of the year, the regiment took its winter-quarters in the third line of the French army at Diepholz.

From March 30 to April 4 1758, after the retreat of the French army towards the Rhine, the regiment was with the army of the Comte de Clermont in the camp of Wesel on the Lower Rhine, on the right wing. In April, when Clermont redeployed his army along the Rhine, the regiment was placed in the third line at Roermund. After the successful crossing of the Rhine by an Allied army under Ferdinand of Brunswick on May 31, the regiment retired towards Rheinberg where it joined Clermont's Army on June 2. It remained in this camp, where it was placed on the flank behind the left wing, until June 12. On June 23, the regiment took part in the Battle of Krefeld where it formed part of the reserve, under the Duc de Chevreuse. In mid August, after Ferdinand's retreat to the east bank of the Rhine, the regiment, as part of the Army of the Lower Rhine, now under Contades, recrossed the Rhine to follow the Allies. On August 20, it was encamped near Wesel where it formed part of the Reserve.

In 1759, the regiment returned to France to guard the coasts of Saintonge, a charge that it assumed till the end of the war.

Uniform

Troopers

Uniform in 1756 - Source: Ibrahim90
Uniform Details as per
the Etrennes Militaires of 1756 and 1758 and Etat Militaire of 1760 and 1761

completed where necessary as per Raspe
Headgear red fatigue cap with blue turn-up edged white
or black tricorne (reinforced with an iron skullcap for combat) laced silver, with a black cockade on the left side fastened with a black silk strap and a small pewter button
Neck stock black cravate
Coat red with blue lining; pewter buttons and white laced buttonholes down to the pocket and a pewter button on each side at the small of the back
Collar none
Shoulder straps left shoulder: red shoulder strap edged white, fastened with a small pewter button

right shoulder: fringed white epaulet

Lapels none
Pockets horizontal pocket flaps, each with 3 pewter buttons and 3 white laced buttonholes
Cuffs blue, each with 4 pewter buttons and 4 white laced buttonholes
Turnbacks blue
Gloves buff
Waistcoat blue edged white with white lining; pewter buttons on one side and white laced buttonholes on both sides
Breeches buff leather
Stocking white
Greatcoat red
Leather Equipment
Crossbelt buff leather
Waistbelt buff leather
Cartridge Pouch red leather
Scabbard black leather with copper fittings
Footgear buckled shoes with oiled calf leather soft bottines (sort of leather gaiters) or, for foot service, white gaiters
Horse Furniture
Saddlecloth blue bordered with a white braid; decorated with an embroidered stack of 5 standards (1 white, flanked by 2 red, flanked by 2 blue)
Housings blue bordered with a white braid; decorated with an embroidered stack of 5 standards (1 white, flanked by 2 red, flanked by 2 blue)


N.B.: the fatigue cap was supposed to be worn only for the king's review, for foraging or when the chief of the regiment ordered to wear it. In fact, dragoons often wore their fatigue cap during campaigns. This particular regiment is reputed to have worn fatigue caps only at the king's review. For the inspector's review, fatigue caps were tied on horse heads!

Troopers were armed with a musket, a bayonet, a pistol and a sabre. Carabiniers were armed with a rifle instead of a musket.

The Colonel Général company was mounted on grey horses.

Evolution of the uniform during the war

Throughout the war the French dragoon uniform seems to have evolved significantly. Our only primary source for the uniform at the start of the conflict is the Etrennes Militaires of 1756 and 1758. The first primary pictorial evidence comes from Raspe in 1761. Here we present various interpretations of the evolution of the uniform.

Raspe's illustration depicting the uniform towards the end of 1760 shows the following evolutions:

  • black bearskin with a blue bag and a blue tassel
  • small red collar on the coat
  • no laced buttonholes on the coat, pocket flaps, cuffs and waistcoat
  • only 3 buttons on each cuff
  • black cavalry boots

In December 1762, a regulation introduced a brand new green uniform with crimson as distinctive colour.

Officers

The uniforms of the officers were similar to those of the troopers with the following differences:

  • the coat was made of Elbeuf woolen cloth (or of a woollen cloth of identical quality)
  • linings were made of woolen cloth as well
  • no braids on the coat or waistcoat but only silver buttonholes with silver plated wooden buttons
  • Raspe publication illustrates a plain blue waistcoat without edging or laced buttonholes
  • red breeches
  • saddle cloth and housings bordered with a silver braid (5.41 cm wide for captains and 4.06 cm wide for lieutenants)
  • standard cavalry officer sword (gilt copper hilt, 83.92 cm long)

Officers were also armed with a musket and a bayonet and carried a cartridge pouch containing 6 cartridges. This musket was shorter than the muskets carried by the troopers.

The maréchaux-des-logis and sergeants had similar uniforms made of Romorantin woolen cloth dyed in half-scarlet for red regiments. Their coats and waistcoats had no silver buttonholes. They carried sabres like the maréchaux-des-logis of the cavalry regiments. Their saddle-clothes and housings were bordered with a 2.7 cm wide silver braid.

Musicians

Drummers wore a coat similar to the one worn by the musicians of the cavalry. Musicians were always shaved and had no moustache. They were usually mounted on grey horses.

Drummers wore the red livery of the House of Luynes.

Guidons

Colonel guidon (1 gros de Tour linen swallow-tailed guidon): white field embroidered and fringed in gold; centre device consisting of the crowned king's cipher; the field was spangled with 106 gold flames.

Colonel Général Dragons Colonel Guidon – Source: Richard Couture from a template by Jean-Louis Vial

Regimental standards (3 gros de Tour linen swallow-tailed guidons): crimson field embroidered and fringed in gold; centre device consisting of the crowned king's cipher; the field was spangled with 106 gold flames.

Colonel Général Dragons Regimental Guidon – Source: Jean-Louis Vial of Nec Pluribus Impar

References

This article is mostly a translation Jean-Louis Vial's article “Colonel Général Dragons” published on his website Nec Pluribus Impar. The article incorporates texts from the following books which are now in the public domain:

  • Pajol, Charles P. V.: Les Guerres sous Louis XV, vol. VII, Paris, 1891, p. 424-425

Other sources

Funcken, L. and F.: Les uniformes de la guerre en dentelle

Menguy, Patrice: Les Sujets du Bien Aimé (a website who has unfortunately disappeared from the web)

Raspe, Gabriel Nicolas: Recueil de toutes les troupes qui forment les armées françoises, Nuremberg 1761

Rogge, Christian: The French & Allied Armies in Germany during the Seven Years War, Frankfurt, 2006

Service historique de l'armée de terreÈ Archives du génie, article 15, section 1, §5, pièce 23

N.B.: the section Service during the War is mostly derived from our articles depicting the various campaigns, battles and sieges.