La Fère Infanterie
Origin and History
The regiment was raised during the Franco-Spanish War (1635–59), on 21 October 1654 by the Cardinal Mazarin who also assumed colonelcy. It was formed with 16 companies taken in existing units and received the name of “Mazarin-Français” which had previously been worn by the regiment now known as Bretagne Infanterie before the forced exile of Mazarin. At the time of the creation of the regiment, the Spaniards occupied part of the provinces located to the north of Paris and it became very important to keep the places still obeying the king. The regiment was assigned to the guard of the town of La Fère.
In 1655, the regiment took part in the siege of Landrecies, Condé and Saint-Ghislain. In 1656, it was almost annihilated at Valenciennes when the Prince de Condé forced the French lines. It was on this occasion that Roger de Bussy-Rabutin offered to Mazarin four companies from an old unit raised in 1652 by his father who formed part of the garrison of La Fère. In 1657, the regiment took part in the siege of Montmédy, in the capture of the Castle of La Tour, near Virton in Luxembourg; in 1658, in the conquest of Dunkerque, Berghes, Dixmude, Furnes, Gravelines, Oudenarde, Menin and Ypres.
After the war, the regiment assumed garrison duties in Dixmude which it evacuated on 24 February 1660 to return to La Fère. On 25 March 1661, Mazarin being dead, the regiment adopted the name of the town of La Fère. A name which it kept until the Revolution.
In 1667, at the outbreak of the War of Devolution (1667–68), the regiment took part in the sieges of Tournai, Douai and Lille; in 1668, in the first conquest of Franche-Comté.
After the war, the regiment was reduced to two companies (colonel and lieutenant-colonel). All other companies were incorporated into Champagne Infanterie.
In 1671, in preparation for the incoming Franco-Dutch War (1672–78), the regiment was re-established at 16 companies. In 1672, it took part in the capture of Wesel, Emerich, Rees and Deudecum and in the passage of the Rhine; in 1673, in the siege of Maastricht; in 1674, in the definitive conquest of Franche-Comté and in the Battle of Seneffe.; in 1675, in the defence of the bridges of Altenheim and in the relief of Haguenau and Saverne; in 1676, in the campaign in Lorraine, in the protection of the sieges of Bouchain and Aire, in the capture of Bouillon, Marche en Famène, in the relief of Zweibrücken and in the combat of Kokersberg; in 1679, in the combat of Sainte-Barbe near Metz and in the siege of Freiburg; in 1678, in the combat of Rheinfeld, in the attack upon the entrenchments of the bridge of Seckingen, in the capture of Kehl, in the blockade of Strasbourg and in the siege of Castle of Lichtenberg; and in 1679, in the combat of Minden.
After the war, the regiment assumed garrison duties in Freiburg.
In 1688, at the beginning of the Nine Years' War (1688–97), the regiment took part in the siege of Philisbourg and in the occupation of Mainz, Mannheim and Franckenthal; in 1689, in the defence of Mainz and Bonn. It continued to serve on the Rhine until 1692 when it was transferred to the Spanish Netherlands where it took part in the siege of Namur and in the Battle of Steenkerque before being transferred to the Moselle. In 1693, it garrisoned Landau. From 1694 to 1696, it actively campaigned on the Rhine. In 1697, it went to Flanders where it took part in the siege of Ath.
By the time of the War of the Spanish Succession, the regiment counted one battalion. However, on 1 February, a second battalion was raised to serve in the Low Countries.
During the War of the Spanish Succession, the regiment was commanded by:
- since 17 September 1694: François Morel de La Motte, Chevalier de Gennes
- from May 1703: N. Comte Desmarets
- from 6 August 1704 until 27 December 1731
In 1714, the regiment was reduced to a single battalion.
Service during the War
In December 1700, the regiment was sent to Northern Italy.
On 1 February 1701, the regiment received a second battalion who served in the Low Countries. Meanwhile, its first battalion took part in the campaign in Northern Italy. On 5 June, Catinat sent the Limousin Infantry Brigade (5 bns of Limousin, Maulevrier and I./La Fère) to Isola-Rizza. On 17 August, the battalion was stationed in Lodi. On 10 September, Villeroy resolved to reinforce the camp on the Adda by sending there 18 Spanish sqns, 2 French sqns, 3 bns from the 4 (I./La Fère, Quercy, Soissonais and Thiérache) already posted at Lecco and 1 Spanish bn. The first battalion took its winter-quarters in Cremona.
In January 1702, 300 men from the second battalion were sent to Italy where they would be incorporated into the fist battalion which was attached to the corps under the command of the Prince de Vaudémont. By 18 April, the second battalion was assuming garrison duties in Damme. At the end of the year, it was stationed in Bergues.
By mid-May 1703, the first battalion was attached to Vaudémont's Army and posted at the bridge over the Secchia near Bastiglia. It later took part in the expedition against Trento. On 25 August, it was posted at Riva to cover the communications. On 29 September, it was at San Benedetto when the Savoyard Army was taken prisoners of war. It was then chosen to be sent to Piedmont. By 30 November, it occupied Asti. In December, it took part in the combat of Stradella. The same year, the second battalion was attached to the army of the Marquis de Bedmar in the Low Countries.
In 1704, the first battalion took part in the siege of Vercelli where Colonel Desmarets was mortally wounded. It was then employed at the sieges of Ivrea and Verrua. The same year, the second battalion was at the camp of Saint-Trond under the command of the Marquis de Bedmar. It then assumed garrison duties until 1708.
In May 1705, after the capture of Verrua, the first battalion joined the army under the command of the Grand Prieur de Vendôme. On 1 June at daybreak, it arrived on the battlefield of Moscolino where it distinguished itself along with La Marine Infanterie. On 15 August, the battalion joined the army of the Duc de Vendôme at the camp of Cassano. On 16 August, it took part in the Battle of Cassano where its brigade was among the three brigades who came to the rescue of the collapsing centre. On 15 October, the battalion distinguished itself once more in the attack upon the entrenchments of Gumbetto. It then took its winter-quarters at Desenzano.
On 19 April 1706, the first battalion took part in the Battle of Calcinato where it was deployed in the second line of the right wing, behind Piémont Infanterie. In September, after the disaster of Turin, the battalion continued to serve in Italy.
At the beginning of 1707, the first battalion left Italy and retired to France, marching to the relief of Toulon. It finished the campaign in Dauphiné.
In 1708, the first battalion marched to Flanders where it joined the second battalion, serving on this frontier since its creation. On 11 July, the entire regiment took part in the Battle of Oudenarde. It was then attached to the corps of the Comte de La Mothe who, during the siege of Lille, tried to make a diversion in Maritime Flanders.
On 11 September 1709, the regiment served under the Comte Albergotti at the Battle of Malplaquet. It then took refuge in Douai.
In 1710, the regiment took part in the gallant defence of Douai.
In 1711, the regiment took part in the attack upon Arleux where its colonel, the Marquis de Lisle, was dangerously wounded.
In 1712, the regiment took part in the recapture of Douai, Le Quesnoy and Bouchain.
In 1713, the regiment was not involved in the campaign on the Rhine.
|Coat||grey-white with pewter buttons on the right side and 1 pewter button on each side in the small of the back
|Waistcoat||grey-white (red as per Funcken) with pewter buttons|
|Stockings||white fastened under the knee with a natural leather strap|
|Gaiters||none at the beginning of the war, white later|
Armaments consisted of a musket and a bayonet. Fusiliers carried a sword (brass hilt) while the grenadiers had a sabre.
Marbot represents the uniform of this regiment in 1720 as entirely grey-white, including the cuffs, with copper buttons.
The drummers of the regiment wore the Royal Livery: blue coat lined red; red cuffs, waistcoat and breeches; laced with the braid of the small Royal Livery.
Please note that in the accompanying illustration, the drummer carries a drum at the arms of Navarre. The drum barrel should be royal blue decorated with golden fleurs de lys.
Colonel Colour: white field with a white cross.
Ordonnance Colour: yellow, red, blue and violet cantons with a white cross. These ordonnance colours remained unchanged from 1664 to 1791.
This article incorporates texts from the following books which are now in the public domain:
- Susane, Louis: Histoire de l'ancienne infanterie française, J. Corréard, Paris, 1849-1856, Tome 5, pp. 356-364, 371
Funcken, Liliane and Fred: Les uniformes de la guerre en dentelle, p. 55
Lemau de la Jaisse, P.: Abregé de la Carte Générale du Militaire de France, Paris, 1734, p. 112
Lienhart, Constant; Humbert, René: Les Uniformes de l'Armée Française de 1690 à 1894, Vol. III, Leipzig 1899 – 1902
Marbot, Alfred de and E. Dunoyer de Noirmont: Les uniformes de l'armée française, T1 "1439 à 1789"
N.B.: the section Service during the War is mostly derived from our articles depicting the various campaigns, battles and sieges.