Colonel Général Cavalerie

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Hierarchical Path: War of the Spanish Succession (Main Page) >> Armies >> French Army >> Colonel Général Cavalerie

Origin and History

A first cavalry regiment known as "Colonel Général" had been raised in 1635 for the Comte d'Alais, In 1654, the Colonel Général Duc de Joyeuse died in front of Arras and Turenne was chosen to become the next colonel général of the cavalry. However, Mazarin still hesitated to promote him to this charge because Turenne was Protestant. The original "Colonel Général Cavalerie" was transferred from Flanders to Italy where it was disbanded at the end of the campaign of 1656.

On 24 April 1657, when the Maréchal de Turenne finally became colonel-general of the so-called “light cavalry”, his own regiment was renamed Colonel-Général Cavalerie. This regiment had been raised in 1631 by the Duke of Saxe-Weimar when Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden intervened in the affairs of Germany. The regiment had been among the contingent which entered French service in 1633, and had been in French pay since 26 October 1635. In 1636, it served in Lorraine under Colonel Trefski. It then served on the Rhine. In 1640, the regiment occupied Pont-à-Mousson. It returned to Germany in 1641. On 17 October of the same year, it became the property of Colonel Flechstein. In 1643, it took part in the battle of Duttlingen; and in 1645, in the battles of Marienthal and Nordlingen. On 24 February 1647, the regiment was officially incorporated into the French Army and attached to the Army of Flanders. By that time, its recruits were all French. In 1648, the regiment returned to Germany. In 1649, it was recalled to Flanders and given to Colonel Nimitz. During the Fronde, the regiment was recalled to Picardie. On 3 June 1651, it became the property of the House of Turenne. It now ranked 11th among the cavalry regiments. The regiment was then increased to six companies and in December of the same year to 12 companies. In 1651, it served in Lorraine; in 1652, it campaigned on the Loire at Gergeau, Blesneau and Étampes, and took part in the combat of the Faubourg Saint-Antoine. In 1653, it contributed to the capture of Rethel, Mouzon and Saint-Ménehoud. In 1654, it campaigned in Flanders and was at the sieges of Stenay, Arras, Le Quesnoy and Binch. It 1655, it took part in the relief of Le Quesnoy, Landrecies, Condé and Saint-Ghislain; and in 1656, in the relief of Valenciennes and La Capelle.

From 24 April 1657, the new "Colonel Général Cavalerie" took precedence over all other line cavalry regiments, ranking first. The same year (1657), the regiment took part in the capture of Montmédy, Cambrai, Saint-Venant, Waters, Bourbourg, La Motte-aux-Boix and Mardyck; in 1658, in the Battle of the Dunes.

On 20 July 1660, the regiment was reduced to a single company.

In 1665, the regiment was re-established and was present at the capture of Tournai, Douai and Lille. In 1668, it garrisoned Oudenarde.

In 1672, at the outbreak of the Franco-Dutch War (1672-78), the regiment (now six companies) campaigned in Holland. In 1673, it was at the siege of Maastricht. In 1674, it took part in the battles of Zintzheim, Einsheim and Mulhausen; in 1675, in the combats of Turckheim and Altenheim and in the relief of Haguenau and Saverne.

In 1688, at the beginning of the Nine Years' War (1688-97), the regiment took part in the siege of Philipsburg. During the same war, it participated in the siege of Namur and in the combats of Heidesheim and Steibach.

At the beginning of the War of the Spanish Succession, the regiment counted 3 squadrons.

By 1730, the colonel company was mounted on grey horses.

During the War of the Spanish Succession, the successive colonels of the regiment were:

  • since 24 September 1675: Frédéric-Maurice de la Tour, Comte d'Auvergne
  • from 10 February 1705 to 7 April 1747: Henri-Louis de la Tour d'Auvergne, Comte d'Évreux

...and its successive mestres de camp were:

  • from 17??: Le Brun d'Inteville
  • from 1711 to 1717: Comte d'Elèvemont

Service during the War

In 1701, the regiment was sent to Northern Italy.

On 15 August 1702, the regiment took part in the inconclusive Battle of Luzzara.

In 1703, the regiment took part in the expedition in Trentino.

In June and July 1704, the regiment took part in the Siege of Vercelli. In August and September, it was present at the Siege of Ivrea.

From October 1704 to April 1705, the regiment was present at the long Siege of Verrua.

In 1705. the regiment took part in the campaign in Piedmont under the command of La Feuillade. By May, it was posted in the area of Biella. When Prince Eugène de Savoie, victor in Germany, came back to Italy to relieve the Duchy of Savoy, the Duc de Vendôme, who occupied the Milanese with the Army of Lombardy, confronted him. Immediately, the Duc de La Feuillade sent a cavalry corps (including the present regiment) as reinforcement to Vendôme. On 11 May, this corps under the command of M. d'Albergotti left for Candia and Pavia and, on 17 May, arrived at Lodi. On 16 August, the regiment fought in the Battle of Cassano where Prince Eugène was totally defeated and forced to retire. The Franco-Spanish Army of Lombardy took its winter-quarters on the Mincio. By November, the regiment was at Palosio; by the end of December, in Mantua.

In 1706, the Army of Lombardy, now under the joint commands of the Duc d'Orléans and of M. de La Feuillade, undertook the siege to Turin while the Duc de Vendôme covered the operations. Vendôme assembled his army (58 bns, 65 sqns, 18 guns) at Castiglione and Carpenedolo and then marched towards Montechiari where an Imperial army had taken position with its right at Montechiari and its left at Calcinato. On 19 April, the regiment (3 sqns) took part in the Battle of Calcinato where it was deployed in the first line. Vendôme sent a detachment to occupy a hill where the Imperialists were taking position. The Colonel-Général Brigade (comprising Colonel-Général Cavalerie, Saint-Germain Cavalerie, Beaupré Cavalerie and Cappy Cavalerie) under the command of M. de Cappy took the hill. Vendôme's victory at Calcinato pushed back the Imperialists behind the Adige River along which Vendôme deployed his army. By May, the regiment was cantoned in Pontoncello and Santa-Maria. In June, Prince Eugène advanced again in Italy at the head of a new army to relieve Turin. The news of the defeat of Ramillies induced the French to retire on Turin, allowing Prince Eugène and Victor Amadeus II of Savoie to effect a junction between Carmagnola and Moncalieri.

On 7 September 1706, the French army was attacked under the walls of Turin by three columns: the right column under the Prince of Sachsen-Gotha, the centre column under Prince Eugène de Savoie, and the left column under the Prince of Anhalt while the garrison sallied from the city. During the ensuing Battle of Turin, the Chateaumorant Brigade (comprising Colonel-Général Cavalerie, Bissy Cavalerie, Saint-Germain Cavalerie and Beaupré Cavalerie) was deployed on the right wing where it was opposed mainly by Saxon troops. The powerful offensive of the Allies forced the French to retreat towards the frontier in the greatest disorder. This defeat decided the fate of Italy.

In 1707, reorganised after the Battle of Turin, the regiment was sent to Flanders. By May, it was at Saint-Ghislain in M. de Mimeurs's Brigade, together with Toulouse Cavalerie and Fontaine Cavalerie. The Army of Flanders confronted Marlborough, who retired to Bruxelles when he heard of the French successes in Spain and on the Rhine. The two armies remained face to face, neither of them willing to risk an open battle.

For the campaign of 1708, the regiment was attached to M. de Daulezy's Brigade along with Toulouse Cavalerie and Daulezy Cavalerie. It was sent to Ghent with the rest of the army. Ghent and Bruges were taken and the regiment established itself in the camp of Lovendeyhem near Ghent in preparation for the investment of Oudenarde. On 11 July, the regiment was at the Battle of Oudenarde but could not intervene because of the difficult terrain unsuitable for cavalry. After the defeat, the French army retired to Lovendeyhem. By October, the regiment belonged to Pezeux's Brigade, along with Du Roi Cavalerie and Pezeux Cavalerie, encamped near Bruges. By November, the regiment was at Steinbrugge. It then followed the retreat of the army towards Douai and took position at Avesnes.

In 1709, when Villars assumed command of the Army of Flanders, he assembled his army (including the present regiment) at Douai. In September, the army advanced to relieve Mons. On 11 September, the regiment took part in the Battle of Malplaquet where the French cavalry initially deployed in order of battle behind the infantry. The Allied cavalry under the Prince of Hesse and the Prince d'Auvergne took position in front of the French cavalry, provoking a cavalry battle. Outnumbered by the Allies, the French army was forced to retire but did it in good order.

In 1710, Villars remained in observation in his camp of Douai.

For the campaign of 1711, the regiment was brigaded with Saint-Pouanges Cavalerie and Ligondez Cavalerie under the command of M. de Saint-Pouanges. On 11 and 12 July, a squadron of the regiment took part in a raid against Prince Eugène's camp, killing several men and plundering during an hour before setting fire to the camp. The regiment then took position near Saint-Quentin.

In May 1712, the regiment was attached to M. de Livry's Brigade with Toulouse Cavalerie and de Livry Cavalerie. On 24 July, it took part in the victorious Battle of Denain.

In 1713, the regiment was sent to the Rhine where it took part in the sieges of Landau and Freiburg.

In 1714, the regiment was at the camp on the Upper-Meuse.

Uniform

Troopers

Uniform in 1690- Copyright Kronoskaf
Uniform Details as per Lemau de la Jaisse, Marbot and Lienhart and Humbert
Headgear black tricorne laced yellow, with a white cockade fastened with a brass button
Neck stock white
Coat red with black lining
Collar none
Shoulder straps red fastened with a brass button
Lapels black velvet down to the bottom of the coat with brass buttons
Pockets none
Cuffs black velvet, each with 4 brass buttons
Turnbacks none
Waistcoat buckskin
Breeches buckskin
Leather Equipment
Bandolier natural leather edged white
Waistbelt natural leather worn above the coat
Cartridge Box no information found
Scabbard black leather with a white metal tip
Footgear black boots
Horse Furniture
Saddlecloth red edged with a black and white braid (checker pattern)
Housings red edged with a black and white braid (checker pattern)
Blanket roll probably red


Troopers were armed with a sword, a pistol and a carbine.

Officers

As per Marbot, officers wore uniforms similar to those of the troopers but of a finer quality with the following differences:

  • lapels and cuffs edged with a golden braid
  • saddle cloth and housings edged with a golden braid

Musicians

As per Rousselot, trumpeters wore a very different uniform:

  • black tricorne edged gold with white plumetis
  • white cravate
  • grey coat heavily laced with a black and white (checker pattern) braid
  • black velvet cuffs edged gold without button
  • two grey hanging sleeves heavily laced with a black and white (checker pattern) braid
  • red saddle cloth and housing edged with a golden braid

The trumpet had a black apron embroidered and fringed in silver

As per Marbot, the kettle-drummer was a black people wearing

  • a white turban with yellow feathers
  • a white cravate
  • a black coat heavily laced with a white braid
  • black cuffs edged white

The apron of each kettle-drum was black with silver embroideries and silver fringes and was decorated with unidentified arms

Standards

Colonel standard (aka Cornette Blanche): white field fringed silver; centre device consisting of a golden royal sun. This standard was the first standard of France.

Regimental standards: black field fringed in silver

  • obverse: sown with gold and silver fleurs de lys and towers (Tours d'Auvergne); centre device consisting of a golden royal sun with the royal motto “Nec Pluribus Impar” in gold
  • reverse: embroidered in silver, central device consisting of a column of fire marching in front of the Israelites with the motto “Certum monstrat iter”
Colonel Standard - Source: Frédéric Aubert from a plate by Gilbert Noury
Regimental Standard - Source: Frédéric Aubert from an original plate by Gilbert Noury

References

Funcken, L. and F.: Les uniformes de la guerre en dentelle

Historique du 1er régiment de cuirassiers

Pajol, Charles P. V.: Les Guerres sous Louis XV, vol. VII, Paris, 1891, pp. 319-321

Susane, Louis: Histoire de la cavalerie française, Vol. 2, J. Hetzel et Cie, Paris, 1874, pp. 1-12

Vial, J.-L.: Nec Pluribus Impar

Acknowledgment

Jean-Pierre Loriot for the initial version of this article.