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Origin and History
The regiment was raised for the regent on April 1 1718. After his death, the regiment remained under the nominal command of 3 successive dukes of Orléans.
During the War of the Polish Succession, the regiment served on the Rhine from 1733 to 1736.
During the War of the Austrian Succession, the regiment initially served in Westphalia and Alsace from 1741 to 1743. In 1744, it was at Fribourg. From 1746 to 1748, it campaigned in Flanders.
In 1749, the regiment was stationed at Nevers; in 1751, at Besançon; in 1752, at Niort; in 1754, at Metz; and in 1755, at the camp of Richemont.
In 1756, the regiment counted 4 squadrons and ranked 7th.
During the Seven Years' War, the regiment was under the nominal command of Louis-Philippe, Duc d'Orléans.
During the Seven Years' War, the regiment was under the effective command of its mestre de camp lieutenant:
- since February 1 1749 till 1776: Comte de Pons Saint-Maurice
Service during the War
In 1757, the regiment 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 three 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 two 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 Orléans 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 Xanten on the Lower Rhine, in the fourth line of the French army.
In February 1758, when Ferdinand of Brunswick launched his winter offensive in Western Germany, the regiment retired on the Rhine with the rest of the French army. From March 30 to April 4, it was on the left wing of the army of the Comte de Clermont in the camp of Wesel on the Lower Rhine. In April, when Clermont redeployed his army along the Rhine, the regiment was placed in the third line at Straelen near Venlo. 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 until June 12 and was placed on the flank behind the left wing. 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.
At the end of May 1759, when the French Army of the Rhine launched its offensive in Western Germany, the regiment remained on the Rhine as part of the corps of the Marquis d'Armentières.
By the end of January 1760, the regiment had taken its winter-quarters in the first line of the French army. By May 23, the regiment was assigned to Broglie's headquarters. On November 12, a detachment of the Royal-Nassau Hussards was attacked by Luckner. Being outnumbered, the detachment retired on a detachment of Orléans Dragons led by M. de Pons. The two French detachments were then able to retire on Stainville's Corps at Duderstadt without being pursued. By December 30, the regiment had taken its winter-quarters in Nastatten.
By February 9, 1761, the regiment was attached to Broglie’s Army, and was part of a force of 10 bns and 9 sqns deployed in a cordon between Frankfurt and Hanau. On March 21, the regiment took part in the Engagement of Grünberg, where it was attached to Closen’s Corps, which attacked the Allies as they were forming on the heights behind Atzenhain. On March 25, the regiment formed part of a detachment of the vanguard under Montchenu, who drove the Allies out of the village of Mengsberg before catching up with Zastrow’s rearguard at Leimsfeld, capturing 1 flag, 2 guns, majors-generals Zastrow and Schlüter, a dozen of officers and more than 300 prisoners. By mid-April, the regiment was posted in the area of Trebur, Wiesbaden, Bingen and Ellfeld. On October 9, it was part of a force under Caraman, which advanced towards Hameln. Near Halle, it came to contact with Stockhausen's Corps, attacking and defeating this corps and capturing Stockhausen. Caraman, joined by Chabot's Corps, was pursuing the defeated corps when Luckner's Corps and Prince Frederick of Brunswick came to its support, forcing Caraman and Chabot to retire, which they did in good order despite several lively charges by their pursuers.
In March 1762, the regiment formed part of the Army of the Upper Rhine, under Soubise. On June 24, the regiment was present at the Battle of Wilhelmsthal. By July 12, it was posted at Landwerhagen under Prince Xavier. On November 20, when Louis XV issued his instructions regarding the French armies serving in Germany, specifying which units should return to France right away and which should stay in Germany till the final evacuation, the regiment was among those which remained in Germany.
|Headgear||red fatigue cap with a blue turn-up edged with a braid the livery of Orléans|
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 white button
|Neck stock||black cravate|
|Coat||red lined blue with white buttons and white laced buttonholes arranged 3 by 3 down to the pockets and a white button on each side at the small of the back
|Waistcoat||blue with white buttons on one side and white laced buttonholes on both sides grouped 3 by 3|
N.B.: the fatigue cap was supposed to be worn only for the king's review, for foraging or when the regiment's chief ordered to wear it. In fact, dragoons often wore their fatigue cap during campaigns.
Troopers were armed with a musket, a bayonet, a pistol and a sabre. Carabiniers were armed with a rifle instead of a musket.
Evolution of the uniform during the war
Throughout the war the French dragoon uniform seems to have evolved significantly. Our only primary sources for the uniform at the start of the conflict are the Etat Général des Troupes Françoises of 1753, the Liste Générale des Troupes de France of 1754 and the Etrennes Militaires of 1758. The first primary pictorial evidence comes from Raspe in 1761. Here we present various interpretations of the evolution of the uniform.
Raspe's publication illustrating the uniform towards the end of 1760 shows the following evolutions:
- a white cockade at the tricorne
- buttonholes on the left side of the coat edged in blue
- no laced buttonholes on the pocket flaps, cuffs and waistcoat
- no buttons on the cuffs
- black cavalry boots
In December 1762, a regulation introduced a brand new green uniform with red as the distinctive colour.
The uniforms of the officers were similar to those of the troopers with the following differences:
- the coat was made of Elbeuf woollen cloth (or of a woollen cloth of identical quality)
- linings were made of woollen 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
- 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 troopers.
The maréchaux-des-logis and sergeants had similar uniforms made of Romorantin woolen cloth. 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.
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.
As per Beneton, in 1739 the uniform was red lined blue and laced with a braid at the livery of Orléans (2 rows of red and white checkerboard with 2 central stripes: one white, one blue).
Regimental guidons (4 gros de Tour linen swallow-tailed guidons) red field sown with golden fleurs de lys and fringed in silver and gold;
- obverse: centre device consisting of crowned cipher of Orléans
- reverse: centre device consisting of a scene depicting Hercules crowned with laurels, dressed with a lion skin and leaning on a club surmounted by a scroll bearing the motto “Nomen laudesque manebunt”.
This 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, pp. 429-430
Funcken, Liliane and Fred: 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
N.B.: the section Service during the War is mostly derived from our articles depicting the various campaigns, battles and sieges.