Ernestinisch Sachsen Infantry
Origin and History
Even though the Upper Saxon District usually contributed more than 3,500 foot to the Reichsarmee, the Prussian invasion of Saxony in 1756 at the beginning of the Seven Years' War deprived the Holy Roman Empire of most of the contingent of this district. In addition, other principalities were aligned with Prussia or sympathetic to its cause thus further reducing the potential contingent of the Upper Saxony District.
In the spring of 1757, the Emperor ordered Duke Friedrich III of Sachsen-Gotha to take on some kind of leading role at least in posting the resolutions of the Reichstag. However, the duke respectfully declined, he had been one of the few who did not vote for the raising of the Reichsarmee against Frederick II. Moreover, in 1755, the duke had already concluded a subsidy contract with Great Britain and given a regiment (the so-called Hanoverian Sachsen-Gotha Infantry) for the defence of Hanover. The Emperor repeated his order but the duke, and other Ernestine rulers, managed to procrastinate until the Franco-Imperial invasion of Saxony. The Ernestine principalities had then no other choice but to comply to Imperial orders but they managed to postpone their involvement till 1758.
In March 1758, 120 recruits from Sachsen-Altenburg, who were marching to join the Reichsarmee were taken prisoners by Prince Henri and willingly joined the ranks of the Prussian Army. On March 6, Austria informed the Prime-minister Count von Bünau that the Principality of Sachsen-Weimar-Eisenach had to supply a contingent of 132 horse and 269 foot to the Reichsarmee. The principality agreed to supply 666 foot (12 staff officers, 9 officers and 657 NCOs and privates accompanied by 136 pack-horses and draft horses), thus compensating for the absence of mounted troops. In May, the Ernestine principalities finally supplied a single regiment counting 2 battalions to the Reichsarmee. It was known as the "Ernestinisch Sachsen Infantry" and comprised the following contingents:
- 1st battalion
- Sachsen-Weimar-Eisenach (5 coys for a total of 666 men) from the already existing Lassberg Infantry Regiment
- 2nd battalion
- Sachsen-Gotha-Altenburg (2 coys for a total of 312 men)
- Sachsen-Coburg-Meiningen (1 coy for a total of 104 men)
- Sachsen-Coburg-Saalfeld (1 coy for a total of 84 men) authorized to return home in March 1759
- Sachsen-Hildburghausen (1 coy for a total of 114 men)
On November 9 1758, the Sachsen-Weimar-Eisenach contingent marched from Weimar under Lieutenant-colonel von Riedesel (the colonel of the regiment being von Lassberg).
In March 1759, the company supplied by Sachsen-Coburg-Saalfeld was authorised to return home under the condition that the principality would then make an annual monetary contribution.
During the Seven Years' War, the successive commanders of the regiment were:
- from November 1758: Colonel von Riedesel
Service during the War
In November, the various contingents forming the "Ernestinisch Sachsen Infantry" finally assembled. The regiment, then counting 1,218 men, then joined the Reichsarmee (36 bns, 28 sqns) at Chemnitz where it was attached to the division of GFWM von Kleefeld.
In 1759, the regiment followed the Reichsarmee from Saxony to Franconia and then from Franconia back to Saxony. In September, the regiment was present at the siege and capture of Dresden. On September 8, the regiment took part in the Combat of Zinna where it was deployed in the second line of the infantry centre.
On September 29 1760, the regiment took part in a small action near Torgau.
At the end of the campaign of 1762, the regiment took its winter-quarters in and around Schesslitz, in the Principality of Bamberg.
On February 15 1762, the regiment received orders to return home. On March 14, the contingent of Sachsen-Weimar-Eisenach arrived in Weimar.
Several plates of the Vinkhuijzen Collection of Military Costume Illustration depict officers and privates of the Sachsen-Weimar-Eisenach contingent. The work Farbiges Handbuch der Uniformkunde: Die Entwicklung der militärischen Tracht der deutschen Staaten, Österreich-Ungarns und der Schweiz. Begründet von Prof. Richard Knötel. Grundlegend überarbeitet und bis zum Stand von 1937 fortgeführt von Herbert Knötel d.J. und Herbert Sieg. Dem Stand der Forschung angepaßt und ergänzt von Ingo Pröper, überarbeitete Neuauflage published in Stuttgart in 2000 gives a partial description of the uniform of the contingent of the Sachsen-Gotha-Altenburg contingent. Furhtermore, a set of painted tin soldiers, entitled "Stammtruppen des 153. Infanterie Regiments Sachsen-Altenburg" provides additional details about this contingent. Otherwise, there are very few details known and they relate to the various contingents.
|Neck stock||Weimar contingent: red|
Coburg contingent: red
|Coat||Weimar contingent: Prussian style dark blue coat lined red with white buttons|
Coburg contingent: Prussian style white coat lined red
|Waistcoat||Weimar contingent: straw with white buttons |
Coburg contingent: probably white
|Breeches||Weimar contingent: straw|
Coburg contingent: white
|Gaiters||Gotha-Altenburg contingent: black|
Privates were armed with a musket, a bayonet and a sword.
NCOs had a golden edging to their tricorne and collar, sergeants had a double edging.
Officers of the Weimar contingent had red waistcoats and blue breeches, white and red sash. They are alternately described with a blue coat, faced red, golden lace, golden sash, white waistcoat, white breeches and carried a spontoon.
Officers of the Coburg contingent had black tricorne laced gold and gold laced buttonholes.
Field officers wore silver and red sashes.
Drummers of the Weimar contingent wore a black tricorne scalloped white with a red pompom; a brown coat with red collar, lapels, cuffs, turnbacks and swallows nests; yellow buttons; collar, lapels, turnbacks, pocket flaps, swallows nests and the seams of the sleeves were edged with lace (white with a red pattern); Hungarian knots on the sleeves; white waistcoat and breeches.
It is also possible that the drummers of the Weimar contingent wore a uniform like that of the Weimar Landregiment: black tricorne edged white, dark blue coat with blue swallow nests edged yellow, buff breeches, white belts.
The drum was made of brass and had light blue hoops and red stripes.
To our knowledge, no sources describe the colour carried by this regiment. However, we know that each contingent forming the regiment had its own uniform. Therefore it is likely that they also carried different colours.
Later examples, dating from the XIXth century, show the following colours:
- Sachsen-Weimar-Eisenach: three horizontal bans (upper band black, middle band yellow, lower band green); centre device consisting of the coat of arms of Weimar-Eisenach
- Sachsen-Altenburg: two horizontal bands (upper band white, lower band green); centre device consisting of the coat of arms of Altenburg
- Sachsen-Coburg-Gotha: two horizontal bands (upper band green, lower band white); centre device consisting of the coat of arms of Coburg-Gotha
- Sachsen-Meiningen: two horizontal bands (upper band green, lower band white); centre device consisting of the coat of arms of Meinigen-Hildburghausen
- Sachsen-Hildburghausen: three horizontal bans (upper band red, middle band green, lower band white); centre device consisting of the coat of arms of Meinigen-Hildburghausen
- Sachsen-Saalfeld: two horizontal bands (upper band green, lower band yellow); centre device consisting of the coat of arms of Saalfeld
Here follow tentative reconstructions of these colours by Dinos Antoniadis. They adhere to the patterns described above. For the arms forming the centre device, we assumed a style similar to the one used for the colours of the Saxon Army (the crowned arms on a ermine mantle).
Beck, Dr August: Geschichte des gothaischen Landes, Vol. 1, Gotha: Thienemann, 1868
Boehm, E.; Rottgardt, D.: Die Reichsarmee 1757-1763 I. Teil. Zusammensetzung und Organisation, Manuskript, KLIO - Arbeitsgruppe 7jähriger Krieg, 1979
Boehm, E.; Rottgardt, D., Weirich, W.-D.: Die Reichsarmee 1757-1763 II. Teil. Die einzelnen Einheiten, ihre Stärke, Zusammensetzung, Uniform und Feldzeichen, Manuskript, KLIO - Arbeitsgruppe 7jähriger Krieg, o.J.
Brabant, Artur, Das Heilige Römische Reich teutscher Nation im Kampf mit Friedrich dem Grossen – vol. 2, Berlin, 1904
Galetti, Georg August: Geschichte und Beschreibung des Herzogtums Gotha, Vol. 1, Gotha: Ettinger, 1779
Müller, August: Geschichtliche Übersicht der Schicksale und Veränderungen des Grossherzogl. Sächs. Militairs während der glorreichen Regierung Sr. Königl. Hoheit des Grossherzogs Carl August zur ehererbietigsten Feyer Höchst Dessen funfzigsten Regierungs-Festes : Nebst XXII Beilagen und XX colorirten Abbildungen, 1825
Tessin, Georg: Die Regimenter der europäischen Staaten im Ancién Regime des XVI. bis XVIII. Jahrhunderts. Part 1 Die Stammlisten, Osnabrück 1986
Digby Smith for the translation and rf-figuren and Dieter Müller for the research
Volker Scholz for the information on the uniform of the Sachsen-Gotha-Altenburg contingent
Boris Brink for the uniform plates
Frédéric Aubert and Michael Zahn for the information on colours and Dinos Antoniadis for the tentative reconstructions