Origin and History
The unit was created as a free corps as per the regulation of November 10 1756 for Guillaume Henri, Prince of Nassau-Saarbruck. It was initially named Volontaires de Nassau-Saarbruck. The unit then consisted of 2 squadrons. Each squadron consisting of 2 companies of 75 men each.
On April 7 1758, the unit was renamed Volontaires Royaux de Nassau. On June 14 of the same year, the unit became the Royal Nassau Regiment and was incorporated into the regular German light cavalry. It counted 600 men divided up into 4 squadrons of 150 troopers (the standard organisation for a hussar regiment). However this regiment was the only hussar regiment to have the prévôté privilege, adding 1 provost to its staff.
During the Seven Years' War, the regiment was under the command of:
- since November 18 1756: Guillaume Henri, Prince of Nassau-Saarbruck
The regiment kept the same organisation with the new regulation of 1764. It was disbanded in 1776.
Service during the War
Somewhere between August 23 and September 6, 1757, the regiment joined the Army of Saxony, led by the Prince de Soubise, in the area of Erfurt and Eisenach. The regiment was considered of poor quality. At the end of the year, it took its winter-quarters in Stockstadt and Grossostheim in Hessen.
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, in February when the Allies launched their surprise winter offensive in Western Germany, the regiment had to retreat towards Düsseldorf and Deutz with the bulk of Broglie's Army. It passed the Rhine on April 3 and 4. In the first days of June, as a French army prepared for an offensive in Hesse, the regiment was part of a detachment under the command of the Duc de Broglie who followed up the Prince of Ysenburg during his retreat. By July, it had joined Soubise's Army assembling near Friedberg in Hesse. On July 16, Soubise sent the regiment along with Fischer's corps in a raid in Hessen-Kassel. On July 17, they surprised Marburg. On July 23, the regiment took part in the Combat of Sandershausen where it was initially placed in the second line. On July 24, the regiment reached Münden and almost captured the Prince of Ysenburg who was still in this town. Nevertheless, they captured some of his horses and found 8 guns abandoned by the Hessians after breaking down their carriages. The French continued to make prisoners. Royal Nassau Hussars then proceeded to Göttingen. On September 19, the regiment was part of Dumenil's Corps encamped at Warburg who retired to Kassel upon the approach of an Allied corps. On October 10, it was present at the Battle of Lutterberg where it was placed at the extreme left of the first line. It skirmished with Allied light troops but was not involved into any serious fighting during this battle.
By April 26, 1759, the regiment was part of the Duc de Broglie's Corps. 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 the evening of July 8, it accompanied Broglie in his raid on Minden. On the morning of July 9, the regiment discovered a float of timber which Broglie immediately used to pass the Weser at the head of 300 light troops. On August 1, the regiment took part in the Battle of Minden where it was attached to Broglie's Corps. By August 31, the regiment was attached to Broglie's reserve posted at Holzhausen. On September 22, the equipage and sick of the regiment were captured at Usingen by Luckner's Corps. On September 27, a party of the regiment was attacked by surprise by an Allied detachment (200 foot and 200 horse) at Neukirchen on the Solms River. On November 19, Broglie sent the regiment onto the Kinzig to support the manoeuvre of the Württemberger contingent. On November 29, a detachment of the regiment was driven back by the vanguard of the corps of the Hereditary Prince who was marching on Fulda to attack the Württemberger contingent. On Friday November 30, the Allied force under the Hereditary Prince launched a surprise attack on Fulda but the hussar regiment did not intervene in the affair.
By May 23, 1760, the regiment was part of the centre vanguard of Broglie's Army. On June 24, the regiment harassed the Allied garrison who had evacuated Homberg and captured prisoners and several wagons. On August 8, an Allied detachment under Luckner attacked Einbeck, forcing the Volontaires d'Austrasie to retire to Harste where they were soon joined by a dragoon rgt and the Royal-Nassau Hussards. By September 17, the regiment acted as a detachment to protect forage activities. M. de Stainville left Dingelstädt with the Volontaires de Schomberg, Bercheny Hussards and Royal-Nassau Hussards and marched towards Halberstadt. From October 15 to 24, Stainville scoured the Hanoverian countryside before returning to Heiligenstadt (present-day Heilbad Heiligenstadt). On November 12, a detachment of the regiment under the command of M. de Schwartz 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 Siegen and surroundings.
On February 15, 1761, the unit was posted at Eisenach during the Combat of Langensalza. On March 18, during the French counter-offensive in Hesse, Wurmser, with the Royal-Nassau Hussards and a detachment of dragoons and infantry, reached Fronhausen where he drove Allied patrols back to Niederweimar. The Royal-Nassau Hussards and part of Turpin Hussards then harassed Scheiter’s and Wangenheim’s detachment during their retreat. At 8:00 PM, the 2 Allied battalions occupying Marburg evacuated the town. On March 26 at daybreak, a few Allied troops were guarding a bridge over the Schwalm at Dittershausen. When the Hereditary Prince started to evacuate his outposts, M. de Poyannes sent against them about 100 men of Royal-Nassau Hussards, led by M. Schwartz and supported by dragoons and the Volontaires de Saint-Victor. This force broke the Allied hussars and reached the infantry, capturing 4 guns, a British aide-de-camp of the Hereditary Prince, Lieutenant-Colonel Jeanneret of the Malachowski Hussars, along with other prisoners. M. de la Borie, major of the Volontaires de Saint-Victor, closely followed the retiring Allied forces but the arrival of Allied cavalry forced him to retire. The Volontaires brought back only 1 of the 4 captured guns. By April 15, the Royal-Nassau Hussards were attached to Broglie’s Upper Rhine Army and posted in the region of at Limburg, Weilburg, Alzey and Karlstadt am Main.
On September 2, 1761, during the French campaign in Western Germany, Belzunce marched on Osterode where an Allied detachment under Freytag had taken position while Prince Xavier advanced against Luckner at Seesen. Belzunce first took position between Einbeck and Seesen. He then advanced on Osterode, attacked Freytag at 7:00 a.m. and defeated him, taking 17 officers and 450 men prisoners. Only Du Roi (Cavalerie or Dragons?), La Ferronnaye Dragons and Royal-Nassau Hussards had time to directly took part in the combat. Belzunce pursued the Allies beyond Zellerfeld and then took position at Clausthal, the main town of the Harz mining district, seizing large quantity of silver.
In 1762, the unit served with Soubise's Army of the Upper Rhine, during the French campaign in Western Germany. On June 4, 1762, the Volontaires de Saint-Victor and the Chasseurs de Monet, supported by the Volontaires Royaux de Nassau and the Volontaires de Soubise, drove Freytag from the height of Gerbenstein, following him beyond the heights of Liebenau. On June 20, M. de Clausen advanced to Wilhelmsthal with 8 bns, 4 dragoon rgts, the Volontaires Royaux de Nassau, the Volontaires de Soubise and the Volontaires de l'armée. By July 12, the unit was posted on the Schwalm under M. de Rochambeau. On June 24, the unit was present at the Battle of Wilhelmsthal where it formed part of the right vanguard under the command of M. de Castries. On September 9, as the French army was trying to relieve Cassel, the Volontaires Royaux de Nassau, the Volontaires de Soubise and the Volontaires de Verteuil attacked the Allied detachment escorting the pontoon train. They pursued it up to Laubach and captured the pontoons as well as a large number of ammunition wagons and several prisoners. After breaking up the pontoons, the French light troops retired. On September 16, the vanguard under M. de Saint-Victor (Volontaires de Soubise, Volontaires Royaux de Nassau with some cavalry and dragoons) passed the Ohm at the extremity of the Allied left wing and advanced on Alsfeld where it caught up with the Allied baggage and bakery retiring towards Neustadt. This vanguard made itself master of the Allied convoy, inflicting much damage, capturing several horses and hamstringing the rest. However, Freytag Jägers supported by some cavalry had immediately been sent in search for the French light troops, arriving just in time to save the train of bread wagons and forcing the French light troops to retire to the Ohm and to repass the river. Saint-Victor then recrossed the Ohm at Nieder-Ofleiden, between Schweinsberg and Homberg, pushing forward as far as Niederklein where he surprised the British mobile hospital which had not yet completed its evacuation. Saint-Victor captured several prisoners and horses. Granby's Corps soon forced this French detachment to retire on Ziegenhain. On November 20, 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 present unit among those which remained in Germany.
|Headgear||black felt mirliton laced with a white and aurore (light orange) braid; with a black flame laced with an identical braid; decorated with a fleur de lys (not illustrated by Raspe) and a white plume|
|Pelisse||red lined with white sheepskin
|Dolman||royal blue with 5 (12 as per Raspe) white brandebourgs and 1 row of 5 (12 as per Raspe) large pewter buttons between two rows of 5 (12 as per Raspe) small pewter buttons
|Breeches||royal blue chashkiry with natural deerskin scharawades|
Troopers were armed with a short, curved sabre, two pistols and a musket.
Officers wore uniforms similar to those of the privates with the following differences:
- silver fleur de lys on the mirliton
- silver braids and buttons
- pelisse lined with fox fur and trimmed with peau de gorge de renard (probably white fox belly fur)
Information in this section is taken from Jean-Louis Vial's excellent website Nec Pluribus Impar with his kind authorisation. The translation is from John Boadle.
Trumpeters and drummers wore the Prince of Nassau's livery.
The hussars possessed kettle-drummers, attached to the senior company. On campaign they did not follow their regiments but remained in the depot, so were not found on the battlefield (the regulations of 1762 did away with kettle-drummers). The coats of the drummers and the uniforms of the trumpeters were in the colours of the regimental proprietors. Their dress was in the normal 'French' cut of the time rather than the hussar style, which lasted until the latter days of the 'ancien régime', when trumpeters dressed in Hungarian style appeared. The trumpeters and drummers wore normal cavalry breeches and boots. The harness of the drum horses was also in normal 'French' style.
While the rest of the regiment had moustaches, musicians were completely shaved. They were usually mounted on grey horses.
Trumpets had richly laced and fringed banners with cords ended by knots on the upper part.
The regiment had swallow-tailed silken guidons fringed in gold and silver.
Obverse: aurore (light orange) field; golden embroideries on the sides, centre device consisting of the arms of the House of Nassau (a gold lion and a number of small gold rectangles on a blue field)
Reverse: blue field; golden embroideries on the sides, centre device consisting of a silver royal sun surmounted by a scroll bearing the royal motto “Nec Pluribus Impar”.
Menguy, Patrice: Les Sujets du Bien Aimé (a website who has unfortunately disappeared from the web)
Recueil de toutes les troupes qui forment les armées françoises, Nuremberg: Gabriel Nicolas Raspe, 1761
Rogge, Christian: The French & Allied Armies in Germany during the Seven Years War, Frankfurt, 2006
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.
Jean-Louis Vial who has kindly authorised us to translate and use part of the articles of his website Nec Pluribus Impar