Commercy Cuirassiers

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Hierarchical Path: War of the Spanish Succession (Main Page) >> Armies >> Austrian Army >> Commercy Cuirassiers

Origin and History

The regiment was created in 1678 from two cavalry regiments made available to the Emperor by the Duke of Lorraine and by 6 companies of the disbanded Hallewyl Cuirassiers and Gondola Cuirassiers. Peter Ernst Baron von Mercy de Billets was appointed proprietor of the regiment.

By an order dated 18 January 1683, the 1,000 men strong regiment was divided in two units which were completed by new recruits to 800 men each. The proprietor of the second regiment (the later Lothringen Cuirassiers) was Colonel Dupigny.

From 1683 to 1691, the regiment fought in Hungary against the Turks.

From 1691, during the Nine Years' War (1688–97), the regiment served in Italy as part of auxiliary corps supporting Duke of Savoy.. In 1695, it was returned to Hungary where it served until the end of the war.

The regiment counted 6 squadrons.

Since the creation of the regiment, its successive proprietors were:

  • from 1679: Peter Ernst Mercy de Billets (killed during siege of Ofen in 1686)
  • from 1686: Carl Prince Lorraine-Commercy (killed in action at the Battle of Luzzara in 1702)
  • from 1702: Franz Leopold Baron von Falkenstein

Since the creation of the regiment, its successive commanders were:

  • since 1679: Jacob Wilhelm Baron Zanthe von Merl
  • from 1686: Prince Lorraine-Commercy the proprietor of the regiment
  • from 1689: Carl Ludwig Bassompierre
  • from 1695: Franz Leopold Baron von Falkenstein

The regiment was disbanded in 1775 as the “Rothschütz Cuirassiers”.

Service during the War

In 1701, the regiment was sent from Bohemia and marched by Krumau, Holitz, Pailstein, Wegschaid, Griesbach, Passau through the Electorate of Bavaria to Kufstein and Inssbruck and then to Rovereto in Tyrol where it joined the army assembling for the planned invasion of Northern Italy. On 1 June, it was attached to the corps who set off from Ala towards Fredda, Sega, Breonio and Fosse. On 19 June, it was sent to reinforce Herberstein at Bevilacqua. On 1 September, it was at the Battle of Chiari. On 10 December, it formed part of a corps under FML Pálffy who was sent towards Mantua and took position at Romanore.Vaubonne Dragoons reached San Nicolò on the Po. The regiment took up its winter-quarters at Sermide and Mirandola.

In January 1702, the regiment was selected to form part of the Imperialist force destined to the conquest of the Kingdom of Naples, a project which was soon abandoned. It then took part in the campaign in Northern Italy. On 5 May, the regiment was part of Count Serény's Corps who marched towards Campitello. Around 20 May, the regiment formed part of the main body of the Imperialist army encamped between Boccadiganda and San Nicolo. By 12 July, it was in the neighbourhood of Brescello under the General Marquis Visconti. On 15 July, Visconti's Corps was sent to Montanara. On 21 July, it took position at Santa Vittoria on the Crostolo. On 26 July, the regiment fought in the Combat of Santa Vittoria where it suffered heavy losses. On August 15, it took part in the Battle of Luzzara.

In 1708, the regiment was sent to the Netherlands.

In 1709, it took part in the sieges of Lille and Tournai, and in the Battle of Malplaquet.

Uniform

Before 1738, there are almost no surviving contemporary source describing the details of the uniforms of each Austrian regiment. Even secondary sources are scarce. In this section, we present a tentative reconstruction of the uniform worn by this unit.

Troopers

Uniform Details in 1701 as per Donath
Headgear Western European theatres: black tricorne laced white (yellow in 1710) reinforced with an iron skullcap for combat

Eastern European theatres: round helmet of wrought iron with neck and nose protection
for ordinary service, troopers wore a tricorne decorated with a pompom, and black and yellow plumes

hair had to be of a standard length and tied with a black ribbon

Neck stock red (white in 1710)
Coat buff leather lined yellow with short skirts reaching above the thighs

replaced by a grey-white coat lined red by 1710

Collar none (short red standing collar by 1710)
Lapels none
Pockets horizontal pockets, each with 3 pewter (copper in 1710) buttons
Cuffs yellow (red in 1710), each with 3 pewter (copper in 1710) buttons
Turnbacks none
Waistcoat white made of linen cloth
Breeches red cloth with linen lining
Leather Equipment
Gloves thick leather gloves with buff coloured cuffs
Cross-belt natural leather with a brass buckle, worn across the left shoulder
Waist-belt natural leather with a brass buckle, worn above the coat
Cartridge Pouch cartridge pouch containing 24 cartridges
Scabbard sometimes made of metal but more often of leather with an iron tip protector and a brass mouth piece
Footgear riding boots made of Russian leather with a knee pad reaching above the knee

when not mounted, cuirassiers wore shoes with gaiters or stockings

Horse Furniture
Saddlecloth red, decorated with the embroidered arms or cipher of the regiment owner and bordered with yellow braid
Housings red bordered with a yellow braid
Porte manteau red


Troopers were armed with a cuirasse of blackened wrought-iron (some regiments used a leather full cuirasse with front and back plates) edged red, a pallasch (sword) and a pair of pistols.

NCOs

no information found yet

Officers

Uniforms of officers differed from those of the privates and NCOs by the finer material used. Cuffs and pockets were edged with a wide golden braid.

Officers wore a black and yellow silk sash across the chest or around the waist.

Musicians

In the Austrian Cuirassier regiments, kettle drummers and trumpeters were dressed according to the regiment owner's tastes.

Standards

From 1657 to 1705, all Austrian (Imperial) cuirassier regiments carried the same white Leibstandarte (colonel standard). It was fringed in gold and, on both sides, the border was decorated with a golden floral pattern:

  • obverse (right): centre design consisted of an armed black Imperial double-eagle with the arms of Austria on a shield, surmounted by a crown
  • reverse (left): the Mother of God (which had been declared the patroness of the army by Kaiser Ferdinand III) on a cloud and surrounded by rays
Leibfahne from 1657 to 1705 – Copyright: Kronoskaf

From 1657 to 1705, the obverse (right side) of the Ordinärestandarten (regimental standards) of all Austrian (Imperial) dragoon regiments was of an identical pattern and consisted of an armed black Imperial double-eagle with the arms of Austria on a shield, surmounted by a crown. The border of the obverse was decorated with a floral pattern in the metal colour of the regiment.

References

Donath, Rudolf; Die Kaiserliche und Kaiserlich-Königliche Österreichische Armee 1618-1918, 2. Aufl., Simbach/Inn 1979, plate B.5, B.7

Wrede, A. v.: Die Geschichte der K. u. K. Wehrmacht, file III. Part 2, Vienna 1901, p. 386ff

Acknowledgement

Harald Skala for the initial version of this article