Dragoni di Genevois
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Origin and History
The regiment was raised on 7 October 1689 by the Marquis de Chaumont. It initially consisted of eight companies, organised in four squadrons. The unit was completed only in 1691.
In 1690, during the Nine Years’ War (1688–1697), the regiment took part in the Battle of Staffarda. In 1693, it fought in the Battle of Marsaglia. From September to October 1696, it was present at the Siege of Valenza.
The successive commanders of the regiment were:
- from 6 November 1689: Marquis Luigi Deschamps de Chaumont
- from 1 February 1691: Count Paolo Domenico Doria di Prelà
- from 22 May 1706 to 1721: Count Alessandro di Saluzzo di Monterosso Valgrana
Service during the War
Before the war, by economic measures, this regiment had no horses. However, on 20 May 1701, at the outbreak of the war, it received horses. The four squadrons of the regiment were part of the second contingent that the Duke of Savoy intended to send to reinforce the Franco-Spanish army operating in Lombardy. However, this second contingent never left Piedmont and was quartered along the frontier at Asti and Vercelli.
In 1702, the regiment was part of the contingent that the Duke of Savoy sent to assist the French in Lombardy.
By 1703, each squadron of the regiment counted 120 men. On 29 September, one squadron of the regiment (120 men in two companies) was captured along with the other Savoyard units then serving with the Franco-Spanish army in Lombardy at the camp of San Benedetto on the Po, because the French suspected that the Duke of Savoy was considering to abandon the Franco-Spanish alliance. Initially, the dragoons wanted to fight back the French even without arms, but their officers stopped them to avoid a slaughter. As the rest of the Savoyard contingent, these dragoons were imprisoned in the Spanish fortresses of Lombardy. Some men were forced to enrol in the French Army and were sent to fight in Germany where, in 1704, they would surrender to the Imperialist at the Battle of Blenheim and re-trasferred to the Savoyard Army. Meanwhile, officers and soldiers imprisoned in Italy managed to escape, it is said that the Spaniards still considered the Savoyards as friends because they had fought alongside during the Nine Years’ War. So by 25 December, only a few months after its capture, the regiment was back to full strength, its effective strength was even increased to a total of then companies of 70 men each.
In 1704, the Duke of Savoy established the effective strength of the regiment at 700 men. From May to July, two squadrons of the regiment (approx. 200 men) formed part of a detachment of 500 dragoons (including troops from the Dragoni di Piemonte and the Dragoni di Sua Altezza Reale) which took part in the defence of Vercelli. They surrendered as prisoners of war when the place capitulated.
On 16 January 1705, the regiment, reduced to only 6 captains, 3 lieutenants, 2 cornets, 5 quarter-masters and 244 dragoons, arrived at Chivasso. The Duke of Savoy immediately started to rebuild the unit for a second time since 1703, in preparation for the opening of the campaign. The regiment was re-established at 10 companies (5 squadrons). By that time, its ten companies were known as:
- Luogotenenza Colonnella
In June and July 1705, the regiment took part in the Siege of Chivasso, fighting on foot along with the Dragoni di Sua Altezza Reale. It defended forts located at the southernmost part of the entrenchments. It was also charged to defend the fort erected on the right bank of the Po to defend the boat bridge thrown across the river which was linked to Chivasso by a covert road. At the very beginning of the siege, the Duc de Vendôme stubbornly attacked the entrenched camp but the regiment held its position ans drove back the French. In this action, the regiment lost 11 men killed.
At the opening of the campaign of 1706, the regiment counted 691 horses. On 14 May, it fought in an action near Pianezza where the French were trying to throw a bridge across the Dora. On 19 May, the regiment, joined during the night by the Piemonte Reale Cavalry and Schulenburg Cavalry (an Imperialist regiment) with 12 guns, were arrayed in front of the Castle of Lucento were the French were erecting a second bridge. They opened fire on the castle, burning all the provisions stored there. The bridge was damaged and its construction slowed down. The regiment then followed the Duke of Savoy in Southern Piedmont. On 4 July, one squadron of the regiment was sent to Cuneo. On 7 July, three squadrons of the regiment fought in the Battle of Saluzzo where they formed part of the relief force which came back to help the Savoyard troops to escape from Saluzzo. In August, the regiment retired to the Alps to recover (on average the cavalry had suffered a loss of about 40% of its force during the previous engagements). From 20 July, the regiment provided some escorts for the convoy supplying Turin which was besieged. On 7 September, three squadrons of the regiment took part in the Battle of Turin where they were charged, along with the Dragoni di Sua Altezza Reale, to guard the banks of the Stura River to turn the French positions. While the Dragoni di Sua Altezza Reale with the Duke attacked the French at the Madonna di Campagna, the regiment attacked the Parco Vecchio (north of Turin). The Duke then joined the regiment at Parco Vecchio and led it to the bridges on the Po which they occupied, thus cutting the line of retreat of the French fugitives. After the battle, the regiment had only 358 horses left and had to request 333 new horses to replenish its ranks. In the Autumn, the regiment probably took part in the operations to recapture Chivasso, Casale and Ivrea.
In 1707, the regiment took part in the invasion of Provence and in the unsuccessful Siege of Toulon.
In 1708, the regiment (681 men and 666 horses in four squadrons) took part in the campaign in the Alps and was present at the capture of the forts of Fenestrelle and Exilles.
On 12 July 1711, the regiment, together with the Dragoni di Sua Altezza Reale and Savoia Cavalleria, captured the town of Conflans in Savoy. They then reached Annecy and Chambéry and pursued the French up to Montmélian.
The first uniform of the regiment, at its creation in 1689, consisted of a green coat with red lining. For this reason, it was called “Les Dragons Verts”. By 1701, but more probably since 1696, the regiment changed to a red uniform with green lining.
|Headgear||black tricorne laced silver with a Savoy blue cockade (a red fatigue cap was also used in barracks and on duty service but rarely in battle)|
|Neck stock||white cravate|
|Coat||red with silver buttons on the right side
|Waistcoat||none (green waistcoats were introduced in 1708)|
Troopers were armed with a sword, two pistols and a carbine with a bayonet.
NCOs wore uniforms very similar to those of common troopers with laced buttonholes at the cuffs and on the breast. For an example of such uniforms, please refer to our article on the Dragoni di Sua Altezza Reale.
Uniforms of officers differed from those of the privates and NCOs by the finer material used. Cuffs and pockets were usually edged with a wide gold or silver braid. For an example of such uniforms, please refer to our article on the Dragoni di Sua Altezza Reale.
Officers wore a blue silk sash across the chest or around the waist.
Officer often had a blue plumetis to their tricorne.
no information available yet
Only one type of guidon was carried in this regiment (Colonela guidon were introduced only in 1740)
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Michele Savasta Fiore for the initial version of this article