Commissaire général Cavalerie

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Hierarchical Path: Seven Years War (Main Page) >> Armies >> French Army >> Commissaire général Cavalerie

Origin and History

Commissaire général Cavalerie after the reorganisation of 1761 - Source: Raspe 1762 from User:Zahn's collection

The regiment was raised on October 15, 1645 from three old compagnies d'ordonnance and three new companies by the Marquis d'Esclainvilliers. It always ranked third among the French line cavalry regiments.

In 1646, the regiment served with the Army of Flanders and took in the siege of Courtrai. In 1647, it participated in the relief of Landrecies, and in the capture of Dixmude, the Knoque, Nieudam, Sluys and Lens; in 1648, in the siege of Ypres and in the Battle of Lens; in 1649, in the siege of Cambrai and in the capture of Condé and Maubeuge; in 1650, in the relief of Guise and in the Battle of Rethel; in 1651, in the relief of Dunkerque and Vervins; in 1652, in the Combat of Étampes and in the Combat of Saint-Antoine In 1653, the regiment campaigned in Bourgogne and Champagne where it was present at the siege of Bellegarde, Rethel, Mouzon and Sainte-Ménehould.

On May 25, 1654, the Marquis d'Esclainvilliers was promoted to commissaire général de la cavalerie and his regiment became known as "Commissaire-Général Cavalerie". The same year, it took part in the siege of Stenay, in the attack of the entrenchments of Arras and in the capture of Le Quesnoy; in 1655, in the sieges of Landrecies, Condé and Saint-Ghislain. In 1656 and 1657, the regiment campaigned in Flanders and Champagne. In 1658, it took part in the Battle of the Dunes and contributed to the capture of Dunkerque, Bergues, Furnes, Oudenarde, Menin and Ypres. In 1659, after Treaty of the Pyrenees, the regiment was severely reduced.

On December 5, 1665, the regiment was re-established. In 1667, it took part in the capture of Bergues, Furnes, Armentières, Courtrai and Oudenarde.

On February 4, 1672, at the outbreak of the Franco-Dutch War (1672-78), the regiment was permanently re-established. It numbered six companies. The same year, it took part in the capture of Wesel, Emmerich, Arnheim, Nijmegen and Crèvecoeur; in 1673, in the siege of Maastricht; in 1674, in the conquest of Franche-Comté and in the Combat of Séneffe; in 1675, in the capture of Dinant and Limburg, and in the Combat of Consarbruck; in 1676, in the sieges of Condé and Bouchain, in the capture of the Castle of Bouillon and in the relief of Zweibrücken; in 1677, in the siege of Valenciennes, in the Combat of Cassel, in the relief of Charleroi and in the capture of Saint-Ghislain; and in 1678, in the capture of Ghent and Ypres and in the combats of Rheinfeld and Ortenberg.

In 1684, the regiment was at the siege of Luxembourg.

In 1688, at the outbreak of the Nine Years' War (1688-97), the regiment campaigned in Flanders. From 1689 to 1691, it was posted on the Moselle. In 1693, it returned to Flanders, where it fought in the Battle of Landen and was at the siege of Charleroi. In 1694 and 1695, it campaigned on the Meuse and the Moselle. In 1696, it returned once more to Flanders and in 1697 was transferred to the Meuse.

In 1701, at the beginning of the War of the Spanish Succession (1701-13), the regiment was sent to Italy, where it took part in the Battle of Chiari; in 1702, it took part in the Battle of Luzzara; in 1704, in the sieges of Vercelli, Ivrea and Verrua; in 1705, in the capture of Verrua and in the Battle of Cassano; and in 1706, in the battles of Calcinato, Turin and Castiglione. In 1707, the regiment campaigned in Savoie and on the Rhine. In 1708, it was transferred to Flanders and was present at the Battle of Oudenarde. In 1709, it took part in the Battle of Malplaquet; in 1712, in the Battle of Denain and the recapture of Douai, Le Quesnoy and Bouchain; and in 1713, in the siege of Landau.

In 1719, during the brief War of the Quadruple Alliance (1718-20), the regiment campaigned in Spain.

During the War of the Polish Succession (1733-35), the regiment served on the Rhine in 1733 and 1734. It took part in the siege of Kehl, in the attack of the Lines of Ettlingen and in the reduction of Philippsburg and Worms.

In 1735, the regiment garrisoned Landrecies, and then Thionville.

In 1741, at the outbreak of the War of the Austrian Succession (1740-48), the regiment initially served on the Meuse. At the end of 1741, it was transferred to Westphalia. In 1742, it was in Bavaria and contributed to the relief of Braunau and covered the retreat of the main army. In 1743, it returned to France. In 1744, the regiment was sent to Italy and was present at the capture of Aspremont, Utelle, Nice, Castelnuovo, Lescarena, Peglio, Castillon and La Turbie, at the combat of Villefranche and Stura, and at the siege and battle of Coni. In 1745, it returned to the Rhine. In 1746, it went to Flanders where it contributed to the capture of Mons and Charleroi and to the victory at Rocoux. In 1747, it was sent to Provence. It was then stationed in Puy until the end of the war.

In 1749, the regiment was stationed at Verdun; in 1752, at Charmes, Charleville and Mézières; in 1753, at Chaumont; and in 1755, at Lille.

The regiment counted 2 squadrons.

During the Seven Years' War, the regiment ranked 3rd among the line cavalry and was under the command of its successive commissaires-généraux:

  • from June 9, 1748: Charles-Eugène-Gabriel de La Croix, Marquis de Castries
  • from April 16, 1759 to 1778: Anne-François dd'Harcourt, Marquis de Beuvron

When the French Cavalry was reorganised on December 1 1761, the regiment was increased to four squadrons, each of them consisting of 4 companies of 40 troopers, for a total of 640 troopers. The two additional squadrons came from Beauvilliers Cavalerie which was incorporated into Commissaire Général Cavalerie. The effective incorporation took place in Saint-Lô, on April 1, 1763.

Service during the War

In 1757, the regiment was initially stationed at Bitche. 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's main corps. On July 26, the regiment took part in the Battle of Hastenbeck where it was among the cavalry of the right wing. After the victory, it encamped at Grosselsen near Hameln with the main body of the Army of the Lower Rhine from July 31 to August 2. After the Convention of Kloster-Zeven, it followed the main body, led by the Maréchal de Richelieu, who encamped at Halberstadt in Prussian territory from September 28 to November 5. The regiment was placed on the right wing of the second line. At the end of the year, it took its winter-quarters in the second line of the French army at Göttingen.

By July 1758, the regiment had joined Soubise's Army assembling near Friedberg in Hesse. On October 10, it was present at the Battle of Lutterberg where it was placed on the left wing of the second line. It was not involved into any serious fighting during this battle.

On April 13, 1759, the regiment took part in the Battle of Bergen where it formed part of the first line of the cavalry centre deployed behind the Wartberg under the command of the Comte de Beaupréau. In June, at the beginning of the French offensive in Western Germany, the regiment was part of the “Right Reserve” under the command of the Duc de Broglie who had taken position at Friedberg in Hesse. On August 1, the regiment took part in the Battle of Minden where it was deployed in the second line of Broglie's Corps.

By the end of January 1760, the regiment had taken its winter-quarters in the fourth line of the French army between the Rhine and the Main on the left bank of the Rhine. By mid March, the regiment was billeted in Uffenheim, in the fourth line of the French army. By May 23, the regiment was part of the right wing of the first line of Broglie's Army. On July 10, the regiment might have been attached to Prince Camille's Cavalry Corps who arrived too late to take part in the Combat of Corbach. By December 30, the regiment had taken its winter-quarters in Geisa.

In 1761, the regiment, which had been severely depleted during the previous campaign, was sent to guard the coasts of the Channel.

In 1762, the regiment formed part of the garrison of Sens.

In 1763, the regiment formed part of the garrison of Caen.

Uniform

Troopers

Uniform before 1759 - Copyright Kronoskaf
Uniform Details as per
the Etat Général des Troupes Françoises of 1753 and Etat Militaire of 1761
completed when necessary as per Rousselot
Headgear black tricorne (reinforced with an iron skullcap for combat) laced gold, with a black cockade on the left side fastened with a black silk strap and a small copper button
Neck stock probably a black cravate
Coat grey white lined grey white
Collar none
Shoulder straps
  • before 1759: on left shoulder, regimental lace and, on right shoulder, yellow aiguillette with black points
  • after 1759: on left shoulder, yellow with black points and, on right shoulder, yellow aiguillette with black points.
Lapels black, each with 8 copper buttons grouped 2 by 2
Pockets horizontal pockets, each with 4 copper buttons
Cuffs black cuffs, each with 4 copper buttons
Turnbacks grey white
Gloves buff
Waistcoat buff leather jerkin with copper buttons
Breeches kid (goat leather)
Greatcoat grey white lined grey white
Leather Equipment
Crossbelt white
Waistbelt white
Cartridge Box red leather
Scabbard black leather
Footgear black soft boots
Horse Furniture
Saddlecloth before 1759: red bordered with a yellow braid decorated with 2 outer thin black stripes and an inner thin black zigzag. After 1759: red bordered with a double braid (2 rows of red and yellow squares).
Housings before 1759: red bordered with a yellow braid decorated with 2 outer thin black stripes and an inner thin black zigzag. After 1759: red bordered with a double braid (2 rows of red and yellow squares).
Blanket roll n/a


Troopers were armed with a carbine, two pistols and a sabre. They were also supposed to wear a breastplate under their coat during battle but this regulation was not always followed.

Evolution of the uniform during the war

Lienhart and Humbert show the following differences:

  • a red saddle cloth bordered with a red and white lace

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

  • white cockade at the tricorne
  • 7 copper buttons on each lapel
  • only 2 copper buttons on each cuff
  • turnbacks attached with a small copper button
  • grey white waistcoat and breeches (maybe the “dressed uniform”)

Raspe's illustration depicting the uniform after the reorganisation of December 1761 shows the following evolutions:

  • white cockade at the tricorne
  • 8 copper buttons on each lapel
  • white coat
  • only 3 copper buttons on each cuff
  • red waistcoat for officers

Officers

Officers wore uniforms similar to those of the troopers with the following distinctions:

  • Maréchal des logis: silver laced tricorne, housing bordered with a 2,7 cm silver lace
  • brigadier: double silver lace on the cuffs

Musicians

No information available yet.

Standards

Colonel standard (1 silken standard): blue field sown with golden fleurs de lys

Regimental standards (3 silken standards): red field bordered, embroidered and fringed in gold

  • one side: a golden royal sun with the royal motto “Nec Pluribus Impar” in gold
  • other side: a crayfish with the motto “Retrocedere nescit”.

N.B.: the regimental standard is repeatedly described in various French États militaires (1740, 1741, 1753) as carrying une Ecrevisse sur terre on one side. This quite unusual device has conducted us to investigate this particular colour. PMPdeL found that the arms of the marquis de Bissy, who commanded this unit from March 1736 to April 1748, were three crayfishes on a gold field. For some reason, the centre device of the regimental colours seem to have retained these arms even after the marquis de Béthune and the marquis de Castries had succeeded Bissy. We have reconstructed the standard as per shown in Lienhart & Humbert.

Tentative Reconstruction
Colonel Standard - Copyright: Kronoskaf
Regimental Standard - Copyright: Kronoskaf

References

This article incorporates texts from the following books which are now in the public domain:

  • Susane, Louis: Histoire de la cavalerie française, Vol. 2, J. Hetzel et Cie, Paris, 1874, pp. 24-34
  • Pajol, Charles P. V.: Les Guerres sous Louis XV, vol. VII, Paris, 1891, pp. 322-323

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)

Mouillard, Lucien: Les Régiments sous Louis XV; Paris 1882

Raspe, Gabriel Nicolaus: Recueil de toutes les troupes qui forment les armées françoises, Nuremberg, 1762

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

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