Prussian Gens d'Armes
Origin and History
The unit was raised in 1691 in the area of Halberstadt from new recruits by Colonel Dubislav Gneomar von Natzmer as the Corps Gensdarmes, forming the third company of the Grands Mousquetaires. Von Natzmer became the first “Chef” of the regiment.
During the War of the Spanish Succession, in 1702, the regiment served on the Rhine and took part in the siege of Rheinberg. At the end of March 1703, it was at the blockade of Geldern. Then, from April 24 to May 15, it took part in the siege of Bonn, fighting in the skirmish of Lauingen. On August 13, 1704, the regiment fought in the Battle of Blenheim. From July 23 to August 22, it was at the siege of Menin. On July 11, 1708, it fought in the Battle of Oudenarde. On September 11, 1709, it took part in the Battle of Malplaquet. From April 22 to June 27, 1710, it was at the siege of Douai; from July 25 to August 28, at the siege of Béthune; from September 6 to November 9, at the siege of Aire. From August 7 to September 10, 1711, it took part in the siege of Bouchain.
A second squadron was raised in 1713, then a third. In 1714, the White Squadron of the Garde du Corps was brought into the regiment. From July 17 to September 24, 4 squadrons were at the siege of Stralsund. In 1718, a fifth squadron was raised. The sergeants of the regiment had the rank of Cornets in the army.
From 1714, the staff and one squadron of the regiment were stationed in Berlin. In 1718, the regiment received a fifth squadron. From 1720, the entire regiment was quartered in Berlin in a location that would later become known as the Gendarmen-Markt.
At the outbreak of the War of the Austrian Succession (1740-48), the regiment initially served against Austria. On April 10, 1741, it took part in the Battle of Mollwitz. In March 1742, it was ambushed at night in its village quarters in Senitz, south of Westin, the regiment fought off its attackers. On June 4, 1745, it fought in the Battle of Hohenfriedberg and, on September 30, in the Battle Soor where together with Buddenbrock Cuirassiers they drove 50 Austrian squadrons from a hill and captured the main enemy battery.
Mark Brandenburg was the inspectorate of the regiment and its garrison place was Berlin.
At the beginning of the Seven Years' War, the regiment counted 5 squadrons.
During the Seven Years' War, the regiment was under the command of:
- from November 20, 1747: Major-General Nikolaus Andreas von Katzler (ex-Chef of the Leibregiment zu Pferde; died as lieutenant-general)
- from November 5, 1760 till June 24, 1768: Colonel Friedrich Albert von Schwerin (became count in 1762, retired as major-general in 1768)
By 1806, the regiment was still known as “Gens d'armes”. That year, on October 14, it was in Kalckreuth's Reserve at Auerstädt and suffered heavy losses. It then joined Hohenlohe's Corps and surrendered at Anklam on November 1. The regiment was not re-raised. The depot went into the new 4th Kürassiers.
Service during the War
On August 26, 1756, when the Prussian army launched the invasion of Saxony, the regiment was part of the centre column led by Frederick II. More precisely, it belonged to Margarve Karl's Corps. The centre column had concentrated in the area of Brietzen and advanced unopposed upstream along the Elbe River by Torgau and Wittenberg, leaving Meissen to its left. On September 6, it encamped at Rothschönberg and finally reached Wilsdruf. On October 1, the regiment took part in the battle of Lobositz where it was assigned to the cavalry brigade of Major-General Pennavaire in Kyau Division. During this battle, it took 2 standards to Cordua Cuirassiers and lost 83 men. On October 16, it was among the Prussian force who received the surrender of the Saxon army at Pirna. On October 23, when Keith's Army left Lobositz to return to the Pirna country, the regiment joined Frederick at Linai to cover Keith's advance. On October 28, the whole force reached Gross-Sedlitz near Pirna and the regiment took up its winter quarters soon afterwards.
In April 1757, the regiment was part of the Prussian army who proceeded to the invasion of Bohemia. On May 6, the regiment did not take part in the Battle of Prague. It was rather deployed on the left bank of the Moldau near the Weissenberg as part of Keith's Corps. From May 9 to June 20, it covered the unsuccessful Siege of Prague, following the Prussian army in its retreat to Leitmeritz to cover Saxony. At the end of August, the regiment was part of the small Prussian army hastily assembled at Dresden by Frederick to head towards Thuringia and to contain the Franco-Imperial invasion of Saxony. On August 30, it accompanied Frederick in the vanguard when the army left Dresden. On November 5, at the Battle of Rossbach, the regiment was deployed in the second line of the right wing under Major-General von Seydlitz. During this battle, it captured 7 standards. It then followed Frederick in the forced march towards Silesia to contain the Austrian invasion of Silesia. On December 5 at the Battle of Leuthen, the regiment was deployed in Lentulus' Brigade in the first line of the cavalry right wing under Lieutenant-General von Zieten. During this battle, it broke the Jung-Modena Dragoons and took a cannon. Together with the Garde du Corps, they led the pursuit and brought in 15 more, as well as 5 colours, 9 standards and several hundred prisoners.
In March 1758, the regiment took part in the invasion of Moravia. From May 27 to July 2, it covered the unsuccessful Siege of Olmütz. On August 10, it was part of the corps who accompanied Frederick when he marched from Silesia to join Dohna to contain the Russian invasion of Brandenburg. On Tuesday August 22, this corps made a junction with Dohna at Manschnow. On August 25, the regiment fought in the Battle of Zorndorf where it formed part of the first line of the cavalry left wing. Together with the Garde du Corps and Czettritz Dragoons, they charged over the Zubern-Grund and into the milling mass of disordered Russian infantry, casting it into irretrievable confusion and taking 7 colours and 14 cannon but losing 98 men. On September 2, a week after the battle of Zorndorf, when it became clear that the Russian army was slowly retiring towards Landsberg, Frederick assembled the corps that he had brought with him from Silesia and left for Saxony where his help was badly needed. On October 10, the regiment took part in the Battle of Hochkirch where it was deployed in the centre of the first line in Zieten's Cavalry Brigade.
On September 25, 1759, the regiment took part in the clash at Hoyerswerda.
From July 12 to 29, 1760, the regiment took part in the unsuccessful Siege of Dresden. On August 15, it was in the Battle of Liegnitz but did not take part in the engagement. On September 17, it fought in the Combat of Hochgiersdorf. On November 3, it took part in the sanguinary Battle of Torgau.
On July 6, 1762, the regiment took part in the Combat of Adelsbach. On July 21, it was at the Battle of Burkersdorf. Then, on August 16, 200 men of the regiment were at the Battle of Reichenbach where they took a standard.
|Headgear||black tricorne (no lace) with a black cockade fastened with a small yellow button and white pompoms
N.B.: for combat, the tricorne was reinforced with an iron cap
|Coat||off-white trimmed with the regimental lace (red braid with a golden stripe)
|Waistcoat||blue trimmed with the regimental lace|
|Breeches||white (buff leather in campaign)|
Troopers were armed with a heavy straight-bladed sword, a pair of pistols and a musket. They wore a blackened breastplate edged red and fastened by leather straps. The musket strap was white edged with the regimental lace.
The saddlecloth and housings illustrated in our plate follow the traditional source: the saddlecloth kept in the Zeughaus in Berlin. However, this collection of saddlecloths dates from 1786! We have found a more contemporary source: the Uniformierung der Koeniglich-Preussischen Armee of C. Schröder, published ca. 1765. This source illustrates much simpler saddlecloth and housings: blue bordered red and decorated only with the eight-pointed silver star carrying a black eagle on a yellow field.
The NCOs wore the same uniform as the privates with the following exceptions:
- black within white pompoms in the lateral "cornes" of the tricorne
- golden lace with a red stripe to the top and back of the cuffs
The officers wore the same uniform as the privates with the following exceptions:
- black tricorne (no lace) with a black cockade fastened with a golden strap and a small yellow button and black within silver pompoms
- golden regimental lace
- breastplate edged in gilt metal with straps covered in gilt plates; gilt crowned Prussian crest in trophies of arms on the top centre of the breastplate
- silver and black silk waist sash
- silver and black sword strap
- holster covers and the shabraque bore a crowned, eight-pointed star within braid edging
- cartouche lids bore a crowned, eight-pointed star
N.B.: the dress coat of the full uniform (introduced in 1740) was red with dark blue cuffs (no lapels) with golden embroidered buttonholes and with a golden aiguillette on the right shoulder (embroidered buttonholes and aiguillette were not present on the service uniform).
Musicians wore the same uniform as the privates with the following exceptions:
- black tricorne bordered with light red feathers and one black within white pompom in each lateral corne
- a lace specific to the musicians bordering the collar (narrow lace), cuffs (wide lace), coat edges (wide lace) and decorating the shoulders and sleeves (narrow lace)
- hanging sleeves bordered with the musician lace (narrow lace)
The musician laces were:
- narrow lace: a gold braid with a central red stripe
- wide lace: a gold braid with 2 red stripes
Musicians did not wear breastplate.
The square standards were made of damask. The cords and tassels were silver and black. The pole of the standard was an amber tournament lance reinforced with iron hinges and gold finial.
The standard bearers had amber standard bandoliers, edged and fringed in gold.
The regiment didn't lose any standards between 1740 and 1763, so it only carried "FWR" pattern standards.
|Colonel Standard (Leibstandarte): white field, fringed gold with an amber central medallion surrounded by a crowned laurel wreath and decorated with a crowned golden eagle flying toward a golden sun surmounted by a white scroll laced gold bearing the golden motto "Non Soli Cedit". Decoration in each corner (crowns, laurel wreaths and “FWR” ciphers on a silver madallion).||Squadron Standard (Eskadronstandarte): amber field, fringed gold with a silver central medallion surrounded by a crowned laurel wreath and decorated with a crowned black eagle flying toward a golden sun surmounted by an amber scroll laced gold bearing the golden motto "Non Soli Cedit". Decoration in each corner (crowns, laurel wreaths and “FWR” ciphers) in a silver medallion.|
Stammliste aller Regimenter und Corps der Koeniglich-Preussischen Armee fuer das Jahr 1806. Reprinted by Bilblio Verlag, Osnabrueck 1975.
Anon.: Die Schlacht bei Minden 1759. J C C Bruns Verlag, Minden 1959.
Anon.: Uniformes Prussiens et Saxons, circa 1757
Alt: Das Koeniglich Preussische Stehende Heer. Schrapp, Berlin, 1869.
Bleckwenn, Hans (Hrsg.): Das Altpreussische Heer - Erscheinungsbild und Wesen 1713-1807, Teil III: Übersichten altpreußischer Uniformgestaltung, Band 4: Die Uniformen der Kavallerie, Husaren und Lanzenreiter 1753-1786, Osnabrück 1979
Bolke, Eberhardt: Preussische Fahnen 1740 – 1806. Dresden, 1944.
Bredow – Wedel: Historische Rang- und Stammliste des Deutschen Heeres. Berlin 1905.
Eckardt, Werner – Morawietz, Otto: Die Handwaffen des brandenburgisch-preussisch-deutschen Heeres. Hamburg, Helmut Gerhard Schulz Verlag, 1973.
Fiebig, H.: Unsterbliche Treue
Franke, Ludwig Eberhardt: Vorstellung der Koeniglich Preussischen Armee. Potsdam, 18??
Fraser, David: Frederick the Great, The Penguin Press, London 2000.
Gieraths, Günther: Die Kampfhandlungen der Brandenburgisch-Preussischen Armee 1626-1807, Ein Quellenbuch, Berlin 1964.
Gohlke, W.: Geschichte der gesamten Feuerwaffen bis 1850 Berlin 1911.
Grossen Generalstab. Urkundliche Beitraege und Forschungen zur Geschichte des Preussischen Heeres; Heft 14 / 15. Der Feldzug 1806 / 07 und die Reorganisation der Artillerie. Berlin 1914
Grossen Generalstab. Urkundliche Beitraege und Forschungen zur Geschichte des Preussischen Heeres; Hefte 26 - 30. Die Freikorps und Auslaender-Battailone. Berlin 1914.
Hoepfner, Edouard von. Oberst: Der Krieg von 1806 und 1807. Berlin, Simon Schropp & Comp. 1850.
Hohrath, Daniel: The Uniforms of the Prussian Army under Frederick the Great from 1740 to 1786; Vol. 2; Verlag Militaria, Vienna: 2011, pp. 532-539
Jany, Curt: Geschichte der Preussischen Armee vom 15. Jahrhundert bis 1914. Biblio Verlag, Osnabrueck, 1967.
Kling, C.: Geshichte der Bekleidung, Bewaffnung und Ausruestung des Koeniglich Preussischen Heeres. Three volumes. Putzer und Hoeltze, Weimar 1912.
Knoetel – Sieg.: Handbuch der Uniformkunde. H. G. Schultz, Hamburg, 1937.
Menzel, Adolph von: Die Armee Friedrich's des Großen, Berlin: 1851/57.
Prussian War Ministry. Fahnen und Standarten der preussischen Armee seit dem Jahre 1806. Berlin 1889.
Ramm, August Leopold: Abbildungen von allen Uniformen der Koenigl. Preuss. Armee unter der Regierung Sr. Majestaet Friedrich Wilhelm III Berlin, J F Unger, 1800.
Schröder, C.: Uniformierung der Koeniglich-Preussischen Armee, ca. 1765.
Voigt, Guenther: Deutschlands Heere bis 1918. Biblio Verlag, Osnabrueck, 1983.
N.B.: the section Service during the War is mostly derived from our articles depicting the various campaigns, battles and sieges.
Digby Smith for the initial version of this article.