La Marine Infanterie
Origin and History
The regiment already existed since 1621 when troops were raised during the blockade of La Rochelle. However, it became a regular regiment of the French Army only on September 26 1635 when the Cardinal-Duc de Richelieu persuaded the King to integrate it into his regular units. It initially counted 18 companies and was known as "Cardinal-Duc". At its creation, the regiment, who should have received the 106th rank, took the 16th rank.
In January 1636, at the beginning of the Franco-Spanish War (1635–59), the regiment joined the army of the Comte de Soissons on the Meuse. On May 31, this army defeated Taraski's 4,000 Polish Cossacks at Ivoy. Then, 400 men of the regiments were sent to the relief of Colmar. While the rest took part in the recapture of Corbie. At the end of the year, the regiment was renamed "La Marine", a title which it retained throughout its history. In 1637, the regiment took part in the capture of Bohain, in the sieges of Landrecies and La Capelle, and in the defence of Maubeuge; in 1638, in the siege of Saint-Omer; in 1639, in the siege of Hesdin and in the combat of Ruminghem. It was then sent to Caudebec to quench a peasants' revolt. In 1640, the regiment took part in the siege and capture of Arras; in 1641, in the sieges of Aire, La Bassée and Bapaume; in 1642, in the defence of Bapaume.
After the death of the Cardinal de Richelieu, on 4 December 1642, the Cardinal Mazarin succeeded him as owner of the regiment on February 13 1643. He used his influence to include it among the Vieux Corps, changing its rank from 16th to 6th.
In 1643, the regiment took part in the Battle of Rocroi, in the capture of Landrecies, Barlement, Émery, Maubeuge and Binch, and in the siege of Thionville. In 1644, protestations against the promotion of the regiment to the sixth rank of the infantry were so serious that it was sent to Catalonia where it was at the siege of Tarragona and at the capture of Gramont. In 1645, it took part in the siege of Roses; in 1646, in the siege of Lérida; in 1647, in the second siege of Lérida; in 1648, in the siege of Tortosa before being sent back to Guyenne because of outbreak the Fronde Rebellion (1648-1653).
In 1649, the regiment quenched the revolt of Bordeaux. In 1650, it was sent to reinforce the Army of Flanders but was soon sent to Saint-Quentin to assume garrison duty. It was, along with Sault Infanterie, sent to the relief of Mouzon. It later took part in the capture of Rhétel. In 1651, the regiment returned to Flanders where it was brigaded with Picardie Infanterie to avoid any contestation of its rank. In 1652, the regiment took part in the siege of Étampes; in 1653, in the sieges of Bellegarde, Mouzon and Sainte-Ménehould; in 1654, in the siege of Stenay, in the relief of Arras and in the capture of Le Quesnoy; in 1655, in the siege of Landrecies and in the capture of Condé and Saint-Ghislain; in 1656, in the siege of Valenciennes; in 1657, in the sieges of Montmédy, Saint-Venant and La Mothe-aux-Bois and in the relief of Ardres; in 1658, in the siege of Dunkerque, in the Battle of the Dunes and in the capture of Berghes, Dixmude and Furnes.
After the peace with Spain, in 1660, the regiment occupied the city of Avesnes retroceded to France.
In 1663, the regiment took part in the capture of Marsal. In 1664, it was part of the French army sent to Italy. It reached Modena but returned to France after the Treaty of Pisa and assumed garrison duty in Hesdin.
In 1672, at the beginning of the Franco-Dutch War (1672–78), the regiment was increased to 70 companies and campaigned with Turenne. Its first battalion took part in the relief of Woërden and in the raid in Holland. In 1673, the same battalion took part in the siege of Maastricht. In 1674, the entire regiment took part in the combat of Ensheim. Two battalions then garrisoned Brisach while the third was posted in Trier. In 1675, the third battalion took part in the capture of Limbourg while the two others fought in the combats of Mulhausen, Turckheim and Altenheim, and took part in the defence of Haguenau. In 1676, the regiment took part in the combat of Kokersberg and in the defence of Philippsburg; in 1677, in the siege of Fribourg, in 1678, in the storming of Seckingen and in the sieges of Kehl and Lichtemberg; in 1679, in the combat of Minden.
After the war, the regiment was sent to Saint-Étienne in Forèz and then to Bayonne. In 1681, it was stationed in Dauphiné but was sent to Pinerolo and then occupied Casale. In 1682, the first battalion was transferred to Alsace. In 1684, the first battalion, soon joined by the second, took part in the siege of Luxembourg.
At the outbreak of the Nine Years' War (1688–97), in 1688, the first battalion joined Boufflers' Corps and was at the bombardment of Koblenz. In 1689, the same battalion occupied Mont-Royal; the other battalions took part in the capture of Kockheim. In 1690, the entire regiment joined the army of the Dauphin assembled at Landau. In 1691, the regiment was sent to Valence and campaigned in Piedmont where it took part in the sieges of the Castle of Veillane and Carmagnola, in the capture of Montmélian, in the combat of the Pass of La Fenêtre and in the relief of Suze. In 1692, the second battalion took part in the defence of Embrun. In 1693, the regiment was initially stationed at Orange. It then passed the Alps and took part in the defence of Pinerolo and in the Battle of La Marsaglia. At the end of 1694, the regiment was sent to Nice. In 1695, it was stationed at Antibes, Villefranche and Monaco. In 1696, the regiment took part in the siege of Valencia in Italy. In 1697, it was transferred to Catalonia and took part in the siege and capture of Barcelona.
After the Treaty of Riswick, the regiment was stationed in Roussillon.
In 1701, on the eve of the War of the Spanish Succession (1701-13), the regiment left Bayonne and marched to Toulon where it embarked for Italy. It was at the Combat of Carpiombat of Carpi but was not involved in any combat. Later, it fought in the Battle of Chiari. In 1702, it took part in the capture of Reggio, Modena, Coreggio and Carpi, in the Battle of Luzzara, in the sieges of Guastalla and Borgoforte, and in the capture of Bondanella. In 1703, it accompanied Vendôme in his expedition in Tyrol where it took part in the capture of Nago and Arco. The same year, it also fought in the combats of Santa-Vittoria and San-Benedetto and in the capture of Asti and Villanova d'Asti. In 1704, the regiment took part in the sieges of Vercelli, Ivrea and Verrua; in 1705, in the capture of Verrua, in the Battle of Cassano and in the storming of the entrenchments of Gumbetto; in 1706, in the Battle of Calcinato, in the defence of Alessandria and in the disastrous Battle of Turin. The defeated army then retreated to France and the remnants of the regiment took their winter-quarters in Provence. In 1707, the regiment took part in the successful defence of Toulon; in 1708, in the defence of Dauphiné where it continued to serve till 1712. In December 1712, the regiment was transferred from Dauphiné to Catalonia where it took part in the relief of Girona. It then returned to Provence. In 1713, it was sent to the Rhine. Two of its battalions took part in the sieges and capture of Landau and Freiburg, before being transferred to Roussillon.
In June 1714, the regiment was part of the auxiliary corps that Louis XIV sent to Philip V to assist him in the siege of Barcelona. On September 12, it took part in the general assault. In 1715, it participated in the recapture of the Island of Minorca. It then returned to France.
In 1719, the regiment joined Berwick's Army and took part in the siege of Funtarabia and in the capture of San Sebastian.
In 1733, at the outbreak of the War of the Polish Succession (1733-35), the regiment took part in the siege of Kehl; in 1734, in the attack on the Lines of Ettlingen, in the siege of Philisbourg
In 1736, the regiment was stationed in Metz; in 1738, in Verdun; in 1739, in Saarlouis and Bitche; and in 1740, in Metz.
In 1741, during the War of the Austrian Succession, the regiment took part in the capture of Prague; in 1742, in the unsuccessful defence of Prague and in the long retreat from Bohemia; in 1744, in the combats of Saverne, Augenheim, and in the siege and capture of Freiburg. In 1746, it campaigned in Provence. In 1747, it took part in the capture of Montalban, Villefranche and Ventimiglia.
In 1749, the regiment was sent to the Cévennes and then to Nîmes. In 1750, its first and fourth battalions were sent to Toulouse and the others to Montpellier.
La Marine Infanterie was among the six French regiments known as "Vieux Corps".
By the time of the Seven Years' War, the regiment counted four battalions and had prévôté (provostship).
During the Seven Years' War, the regiment ranked 6th in the French Army and was commanded by:
- from February 1 1749: François Vachon de Briançon, Marquis de Belmont
- from November 30 1761 to January 3 1770: Louis Bernard de Cléron, Comte d'Haussonville
Service during the War
In 1756, the regiment left Dunkerque for Lille.
In the spring of 1757, the regiment joined the army of Maréchal d'Estrées at Wesel. In June, it was encamped at Bielefeld with d'Estrées' main corps. On July 26, the regiment took part to the battle of Hastenbeck. It was in the column under Chevert who accomplished the flanking movement to attack the Hanoverian left wing in the woods. After the victory, it encamped at Grosselsen near Hameln with the main body of the Lower Rhine Army from July 31 to August 2. It participated to the conquest of Hanover. On August 26, the regiment and the Dauphin Brigade advanced against Rethem forcing the Hanoverian troops to abandon the place. After the Convention of Kloster-Zeven, it followed the main body, led by the Maréchal de Richelieu, who encamped at Halberstadt from September 28 to November 5. The regiment was placed in the center of the first line. On October 7, it joined the Army of Saxony at Weissenfels. On November 5, as part of Comte de Saint Germain Corps, it did not take part directly to the battle of Rossbach but covered the retreat of the Franco-Imperial army. It initially took its winter-quarters at Paderborn. However, after the breakdown of the Convention of Kloster-Zeven, it moved its winter quarters in the first line of the French Army in Braunschweig. On December 25, it occupied Celle (Zell) after forcing the passage of the Aller along with Vaubécourt and Aquitaine regiments at the bridge of Alten-Zell.
In January 1758, a detachment of the regiment took part to the operations led by the Marquis de Voyer around Halberstadt. During the retreat of the French army towards the Rhine, the regiment participated to several small engagements near Milingen, Rheinfeld and Camps abbey. In April, when Clermont redeployed his army along the Rhine, the regiment was stationed at Kleve. On June 2 1758, after the crossing of the Rhine by the Allies, the regiment was part of Villemure's corps which tried to oppose the Allied advance in front of Kleve. However, his flank being threatened, Villemure retired on Kalkar. On June 3, Villemure retired from Kalkar to Xanten before joining the main French army at Rheinberg. The regiment remained in this camp until June 12 and was placed in the centre of the first line. On June 23, the regiment took part to the battle of Krefeld where it was placed on the left wing of the second line under Saint-Germain whose division bore the brunt of the Allied attack when it tried to stop an outflanking manoeuvre. It defended the woods along the Niers River during three hours, repulsing three attacks before retiring in front of superior forces. 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 Allied army. On August 20, it was encamped near Wesel where it was placed on the infantry left wing of the second line. At the beginning of October, the regiment was attached to Fitzjames' corps which was sent to reinforce Soubise's army in Hesse. On October 10, it was present at the battle of Lutterberg where it was placed on the right wing of the first line. It was not involved into any serious fighting during this battle. The regiment took its winter-quarters at Kleve.
In April 1759, the regiment returned to France where he was sent to reinforce Le Havre theatened by the British.
From March 1760 to June 1761, the regiment was stationed at Dunkerque. Then, it was transferred to Brest.
On May 8 1762, a detachment of the regiment was among the expeditionary force of some 750 men who set sail from Brest to capture the fishing station of Saint Johns in Newfoundland. The fleet was commanded by Chevalier de Ternay d'Arsac while the ground troops were under Comte d'Haussonville, colonel of La Marine. On June 27, the French expeditionary force captured Saint Johns and held it until September 18 when it had to surrender to a British relief force. On September 23 all French troops were embarked on British vessels as prisoners of war.
In 1763, the regiment was stationed at Metz.
Armaments consisted of a musket and a bayonet. Fusiliers carried a sword (brass hilt) while the grenadiers had a sabre.
The drummers of the regiment wore the Royal Livery: blue coat lined red; red cuffs, waistcoat and breeches; laced with the braid of the small Royal Livery.
The colonel flag was white and the ordonnance flags had a white cross with the quarters alternatively green and blue. The ordonnance flags remained unchanged from 1636 to 1791.
This article incorporates texts from the following books which are now in the public domain:
- Susane, Louis: Histoire de l'ancienne infanterie française, J. Corréard, Paris, 1849-1856, Tome 3, pp. 235-268, 280
Chesnaye des Bois (de la), Aubert: Etrennes militaires, Paris, 1756, 1758, 1759
Funcken, Liliane and Fred: Les uniformes de la guerre en dentelle
Louis XV: Ordonnance du Roy portant règlement pour l’habillement de l’Infanterie françoise, 19 Janvier 1747
Menguy, Patrice: Les Sujets du Bien Aimé (an interesting website who has unfortunately ceased publication)
Mouillard, Lucien: Les Régiments sous Louis XV, Paris 1882
Pajol, Charles P. V.: Les Guerres sous Louis XV, vol. VII, Paris, 1891
Rogge, Christian: The French & Allied Armies in Germany during the Seven Years War, Frankfurt, 2006
Service historique de l'armée de terre - Archives du génie, article 15, section 1, §5, pièce 23
Vial, J. L.: Nec Pluribus Impar
N.B.: the section Service during the War is mostly derived from our articles depicting the various campaigns, battles and sieges.