Origin and History
Since 1494, at the outbreak of the Italian Wars (1494-1559), there were units designated as bandes d'au delà des monts (bands from beyond the mountains) at the service of the King of France. They were charged with the conquest and permanent occupation of Piémont and other countries beyond the Alps.
In 1552, when Henri intervened against the Emperor, 20 black ensigns of the Bandes de Piémont were with his army.
In 1558, these Bandes noires de Piémont were organized into a regular regiment by King Henri II.
During the French Wars of Religion (1562-1598), on May 27 1569 at the camp of La Rochefoucauld, the regiment received an official status. The same year, it campaigned in Poitou and defended Poitiers. In January 1570, the regiment took part in a failed attempt to capture La Rochelle and, on June 15, in the combat of Sainte-Gemme where it suffered heavy losses. By 1572, the regiment garrisoned Abbeville. In 1575, it took part in the combat of Dormans; in 1577, in the siege of La Charité-sur-Loire; in 1579, in the failed relief of Saluces.
In 1584, the colonel of the regiment, M. de Brissac, having declared himself for the Catholic League, lost his regiment who took its definitive name of “Piémont”. In 1585, the regiment took part in the campaign in Provence; in 1586, in the siege of Chorges and in all expeditions along the Rhône; in 1592, in the capture of Digne; in 1593, in the captures of Cannes and Antibes. In 1597, the regiment had its quarters in Aix and Tarascon but was recalled to the army for the siege of Amiens. In 1598, it accompanied King Henry IV at Nantes.
From 1598 to 1610, the regiment was probably stationed in the region of Nantes and on the Loire.
In 1610, during the War of the Jülich Succession (1609-1614), five companies of the regiment were part of the expedition who entered into the Duchy of Zweibrücken, passed the Moselle and occupied Jülich.
In 1615, the regiment, who was still stationed on the Loire, was recalled to cover Paris and the Province of Champagne against Condé. On 21 October, part of the regiment fought at the combat of Chamlay. The regiment then returned to the Loire where it took part in the capture of the Castle of Isle-Bouchard. In 1616, it campaigned in Poitou and Guyenne before marching to Picardie in November. In 1617, eight companies took part in the siege of Soissons.
During the Thirty Years' War (1618-1648), in 1620, the regiment it took part in the campaign in Normandie; in 1621, in the sieges of Saint-Jean-d'Angély, Nérac, Clérac, Montauban and Monheurt; in 1622, in the siege of the Castle of La Force, in the capture of Tonneins, in the sieges of Sainte-Foy, Caraman and Cucq; in the captures of Bédarieux, Lunel and Sommières; and in the siege of Montpellier. The regiment was then sent to Lorraine. In 1627, it took part in the blockade of La Rochelle. In 1629 and 1630, the regiment campaigned in Montferrat. In 1631, it garrisoned Auxonne and Saint-Jean-de-Losne. In 1632, it was sent to Picardie where it occupied Guise, Saint-Quentin and La Fère. In 1633, it took part in the storming of the Castle of Freidembourg and in the sieges of Nancy, Bitche and La Mothe; in 1634, in the expedition against Heidelberg; in 1635, in the siege of Spires, in the Battle of Avein (20 May) and in the sieges of Tirlemont, Diest, Aarschott and Beelen. In 1636, the regiment returned to Calais and took part in the defence of the Somme against Piccolomini, suffering terrible losses. In 1637, the ranks of the regiment were replenished. It then took part in the siege of Landrecies and in the defence of Maubeuge. In 1638, it took part in the siege of Saint-Omer; in 1639, in the sieges of Lillers and Hesdin; in 1640, in the siege of Arras; in 1641, in the battle of La Marfée where it suffered heavy losses and in the siege of Bapaume; in 1642, in the battle of Honnecourt; in 1643, in the battle of Rocroi and in the captures of Binch, Sierck and Thionville; in 1644, in the siege of Gravelines; in 1645 in the sieges of Mardyk, Béthune, Menin, Lillers and Saint-Venant; in 1646, in the storming of the Castle of Lannoy and in the sieges of Courtrai, Berghes, Mardyk and Dunkerque; in 1647, in the siege of Dixmude. In 1648, the regiment established a bridge on the Lys and accompanied the Maréchal de Rantzau in his expedition against Ostende, fought in the battle of Lens and took part in the siege of Furnes.
The Thirty Years' War was finished but hostilities with Spain continued till 1659. In 1649, the regiment took part in the siege of Cambrai; in 1650, in the siege of Rhétel. In 1651, it spent the year in Soissons. In 1652, it was recalled to Paris. In 1653, the regiment took part in the siege of Rhétel; in 1654, in the relief of Arras; in 1655, in the sieges of Landrecies, Condé and Saint-Ghislain; in 1656, in the siege of Valenciennes; in 1657, in the siege of Cambrai; in 1658, in the siege of Dunkerque and in the captures of Oudenaarde, Menin and Ypres.
After the Treaty of the Pyrenees, the regiment was stationed in Lorraine.
In 1664, the regiment was part of the French contingent sent to assist the Imperialist army. Part of the regiment was at the Battle of Saint Gotthard. In 1665, it returned to France and was immediately sent to assist the Dutch, taking part in the siege of Lockheim.
The fact that Navarre Infanterie, Champagne Infanterie and Piémont Infanterie were all created during the same year gave rise to endless argumentations about their respective ranking. In February 1666, Louis XIV had to edict a regulation stating that each regiment would alternate for the 2nd, 3rd and 4th ranks on a yearly basis.
During the War of Devolution (1667–68), in 1667, initially stationed at Metz, took part in the campaign in Luxembourg and then took its winter-quarters in Charleroi. In 1668, it took part in the attack on Geneppe.
At the beginning of the Franco-Dutch War (1672–78), in 1672, the regiment took part in the sieges of Orsoy and Rheinberg, in the passage of the Rhine, in the captures of Arnhem, Doësbourg and Zütphen; in the siege of Woërden and in the expedition against Zeeland, the sack of Bodegrave and Swammerdam. In 1673, it took part in the siege of Maastricht; in 1674, in the defence of Maastricht; in 1675, in the sieges of Huy and Limbourg, and in the defence of Maastricht where it remained till the end of the war. In 1676, a newly formed battalion was sent to Sicily where it remained till 1678.
In 1684, two battalions of the regiment were at the siege of Luxembourg.
At the outbreak of the Nine Years' War (1688–97), in 1688, the first battalion of the regiment took part in the sieges of Philippsburg and Mannheim while the second was part of the force who submitted Kayserlautern, Kreuznach, Neustadt, Oppenheim, Worms, Spires Mainz, Bingen and Oberkirch; bombarded Koblenz and put Palatinate to contribution. In 1689, the first battalion campaigned on the Rhine. In 1692, the regiment took part in the siege of Namur; in 1693, in the battle of Landen where it suffered heavy losses, in the siege of Charleroi; in 1695, in the occupation of Namur and in the bombardment of Bruxelles; in 1696, in the defence of the Castle of Hart near Neustadt.
In 1701, at the beginning of the War of the Spanish Succession (1701-13), the first battalion of the regiment passed the Alps and took part in theBattle of Chiari]]. The two other battalions joined the army assembling at Neuf-Brisach. In 1702, the second and third battalions joined the first in Italy. The regiment then contributed in the relief of Mantua and took part in the siege and capture of Castiglione. While on guard duty, it also prevented the abduction of the Duc de Vendôme. The grenadiers of regiment also took part in a combat near Santa Vittoria. The regiment then fought in the Battle of Luzzara and took part in the capture of Guastalla and Borgoforte. In 1703, the regiment contributed to the capture of Arco, Nago, Asti and Villanova d'Asti. In 1704, it took part in the sieges of Robbio, Vercelli, Ivrea and Verrua which lasted until April 1705. The regiment then took part in the siege of Chivasso and Asti. In 1706, it fought in the Combat of Calcinato and took part in the siege and battle of Turin before retreating to Provence. In 1708, the regiment campaigned in Flanders and took part in the Battle of Oudenarde. It was then allocated to the Observation Corps during the siege of Lille. In 1709, the regiment fought in the sanguinary Battle of Malplaquet. In 1710, it took part in the unsuccessful defence of Douai and then marched to Cambrai. In 1711, it campaigned in Flanders. In 1712, it fought in the Battle of Denain and in the capture of Marchiennes, Douai, Le Quesnoy and Bouchain. In 1713, the regiment distinguished itself at the siege of Landau and took part in the storming of Vaubonne's entrenchments in front of Fribourg and in the siege of Fribourg.
In 1714, the regiment incorporated the disbanded Nuaillé Infanterie.
In 1719, at the outbreak of the War of the Quadruple Alliance, the regiment marched from Bretagne to Spain but hostilities had ended before its arrival and it returned to its garrisons in Bretagne.
In 1733, during the War of the Polish Succession (1733-35), the regiment served on the Rhine and took part in the siege of Kehl. In 1734, it took part in the passage of the Lines of Ettlingen, in the siege of Philisbourg. The same year, the regiment was increased to four battalions. In 1735, it fought in the Combat of Klausen.
In 1735, the regiment garrisoned Valenciennes; in 1737, Longwy; in 1739, Landau; and in 1740, Strasbourg.
In 1741, during the War of the Austrian Succession (1740-48), the regiment took part in the storming of Prague. During the winter of 1741-42, it lost half of his men in various operations. In 1742, it took part in the unsuccessful defence of Prague and in the disastrous retreat to France. In 1743, the remnants of the regiment were reinforced with 600 recruits and 1,300 militiamen. It then took part in the Battle of Dettingen. In 1744, it participated in the sieges of Menin and Ypres; in 1745, in the siege of Tournai, in the Battle of Fontenoy. In 1746, its first and third battalions were at the siege of Bruxelles, in the capture of Malines, in the covering of the siege of Antwerp, Mons, Namur and Charleroi, and in the Battle of Rocoux. During the winter of 1746-47, a fifth battalion was raised. In 1748, the regiment took part in the siege of Maastricht.
In 1749, the fifth battalion was disbanded. It was then stationed at Sédan and then at Givet. In 1750, it was transferred to Mézières, Charleville and Rocroi; in 1751, to Thionville; in 1752, to Saarlouis; in 1753, to Dauphiné; and in 1754, to Briançon where it fought the bands of Mandrin. In 1755, the regiment was sent to Reims and Sédan.
Piémont Infanterie was among the six French regiments known as Vieux Corps.
On the eve of the Seven Years' War, the regiment counted four battalions and had prévôté (provostship). The regulation of February 1, 1760 doubled its strength, each battalion now had 9 companies: one company of 45 grenadiers and eight companies of 85 fusiliers.
During the Seven Years' War, the regiment was commanded by:
- from February 1, 1749: Jean-Jacques Comte d'Esparbès de Lussan
- from December 1, 1762 to June 5, 1763: Jean-Frédéric Comte de la Tour-du-Pin-Paulin
Service during the War
In 1756, the regiment was sent to Normandie where it was initially stationed at the camp of Cherbourg before being cantoned at Saint-Lô and Vire. It was then ordered to march to Landau.
In 1757, the regiment was considered as one of the best of the French Army. On July 20, the regiment set off from Landau. On July 28, it passed the Rhine at Mainz. On August 1, it arrived at Hanau which opened its gates. Somewhere between August 23 and September 6, it joined the Army of Saxony, led by the Prince de Soubise, in the area of Erfurt and Eisenach. By August 30, it was cantoned in several villages along the Saal. It then received orders to march to the relief of Weissenfels, threatened by the Prussians. Captain de Tasque was left behind to guard the baggage. There was a boat on the other side of the river which could be used by the enemy to attack Tasque’s detachment. A soldier, Claude Bélier, known as Bellerose, swam across the river under a hail of musket balls and brought back the boat. During this campaign, the regiment did not stand up to its reputation: it was badly equipped and its standard drill did not even compare to the worst German militia. On September 27, it was in the first line of the left wing of the Franco-Imperial Army. On November 5, under M. de Crillon, it took part in the disastrous Battle of Rossbach where it was placed in the first line of the centre. The first battalion was forming a column with a frontage of 12 men. The other battalions were deployed in column by platoons. The Prussian artillery opened with canister fire on the heads of these columns. The grenadier company, forming the head of a column was annihilated by the first artillery salvoes. The regiment then marched to the enemy and suffered heavy losses before routing. In this battle the regiment lost more than 1,000 men (including 22 officers killed and 64 wounded). At the end of the year, it took its winter-quarters in Cologne, in the fourth line of the French army.
At the end of January 1758, the regiment was assigned to the army that Louis XV planned to send to Bohemia for joint operations with the Austrian Army. However, when the Allies launched their surprise winter offensive in Western Germany, the regiment retreated towards Düsseldorf and Deutz with the bulk of Broglie's Army. It passed the Rhine on April 3 and 4. By July, it 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 in the centre of the first line. It took up its winter-quarters in Hanau and detached 100 men to guard the Castle of Marburg.
On April 13 1759, the regiment took part in the Battle of Bergen where it formed part of the first line of the right wing under the command of Prince Camille de Lorraine. The regiment was among the infantry deployed in support behind the village of Bergen. Two battalions timely came to the rescue of the French infantry occupying Bergen, driving the Allies back. In this battle, the regiment lost Captains de Bony, de Brassant, Lecomte, Chevalier de La Perrère and Balan, and Lieutenants de Rédon, de Malleville, Pernon, Colombier, Maury, Govin, Prévost de Millery and Malherbe, killed; and 25 officers wounded. The regiment then went to Strasbourg to recruit. After six weeks, it rejoined the army. 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 first line of Broglie's Corps. In this battle, it lost 180 men killed or wounded, including Lieutenant Dallat, killed; and Captains Desaulnayes,Belhude, Méric, Caty, Fredfont, Biarge, Malleret and 8 lieutenants, wounded. At the end of the year, a murder involving several officers of the regiment had grave consequences: in a war council, 3 officers, who had escaped, were sentenced to death; 5 officers were dismissed from service and sentenced to 5 years in fortress; all other officers present were dismissed and imprisoned for a year.
By January 3, 1760, the regiment had taken position at Weilmünster. On January 28, a royal decree confirmed the sentences of the war council. The regiment was sent to Metz and then to Ostend where it remained until March 1761.
In March 1761, the regiment set off from Ostend to rejoin Soubise’s Army on the Lower Rhine. At the camp of Wesel, it was deployed on the right wing. On July 16, the regiment took part in the Battle of Vellinghausen where it was deployed on the right of the first line of the infantry centre. It later took part in the attack of Wolbeck and in the siege of Meppen. It took up its winter-quarters at Kleve and Goch.
In May 1762, the regiment set off from its winter-quarters and went to the Camp of Rees. It then rejoined the Reserve commanded by the Prince de Condé on the Lower Rhine. It took up its winter-quarters in Wesel.
In the spring of 1763, the regiment returned to France by Givet and was sent to Saint-Omer where it arrived in May.
The following description has been verified against the manuscript "Troupes du Roi, Infanterie française et étrangère, année 1757, tome I" and Taccoli's book published in 1760.
|Coat||grey-white with copper buttons down to the waist on the right side
|Waistcoat||grey-white with a single row of small copper buttons; horizontal pockets, each with 3 copper buttons|
Armaments consisted of a musket and a bayonet. Fusiliers carried a sword (brass hilt) while the grenadiers had a sabre.
Officers and sergeants had black velvet cuffs.
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.
Colonel Colour (as per the État Militaire of 1740 and La Chesnaye in 1759): white field with a white cross.
Ordonnance Colours (as per the État militaire of 1730-33 and 1740 and La Chesnaye in 1759): black field with a white cross. These ordonnance colours remained unchanged from 1569 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 2, pp. 314-401
Anon.: Manuscript Troupes du Roi, Infanterie française et étrangère, année 1757, tome I, Musée de l'Armée, Paris
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 (a website which has unfortunately disappeared from the web)
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
Taccoli, Alfonso: Teatro Militare dell' Europa, Part 1, vol. 2; Madrid, March 1760
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.