Origin and History
This regiment was the oldest of the Austrian Army. As soon as 1616, Heinrich du Val Count Dampierre received the authorisation of Archduke Ferdinand to raise an arquebusier company. He then fought with this company against the troops of Venice in Friuli. The company was later increased to 500 men. In 1618, Dampierre and his arquebusiers campaigned in Bohemia. After its junction with Count Buquoy near Deutsch-Brod (present-day Havlíčkův Brod/CZ) on 9 September, the unit followed the army to Czaslau (present-day Čáslav/CZ) to confront the rebel army of Count Thurn. However, none of the commanders took the risk of an open battle. The imperial army marched through Iglau (present-day Jihlava/CZ) to Austria. In the last months of that year, discussions started about the creation of a second Dampierre regiment. It was called “Florentiner” because it was under pay of Cosimo II of Medici.
The relevant decree was signed on 6 March 1619. The regiment consisted of 500 men (200 cuirassiers, 300 arquebusiers). Colonel-Lieutenant Ernst Count Montecuccoli (formerly serving in Dampierre's original arquebusier regiment) enlisted 300 troopers in Lotharingia (present-day Lorraine) and 200 in Austria. By June, the regiment had been completed and was probably stationed in Vienna. Its staff consisted of Lieutenant-Colonel Ernst Count Montecuccoli and of Captains (Rittmeister) Florimund Baron d´Ardre de Feicamps, Giacomo Count Strozzi, Octavio Count Piccolomini and Laurenzi. It soon had the opportunity to show its bravery and acquired great fame when, on June 6 1619, Kaiser Ferdinand II met 16 Austrian deputations requiring some arrangements. During these negotiations, the impertinent Andreas Thonradel seized the emperor by his waistcoat saying “Ferdinand will you not sign!”. The trumpets of the regiment immediately sounded. The Inhaber (proprietor) of the regiment, General Count Dampiere, sent Colonel Gebhardt Baron Saint-Hilaire with 500 troopers (3 coys of old Dampierre Arquebusiers, 1 coy of “Florentiner” and 1 coy of “Laghi”) towards Vienna where they deployed on the place. The frightened deputies fled and Kaiser Ferdinand II thanked the brave cuirassiers who had saved him. In recognition for this action the monarch gave to the regiment the marked privilege of, when under duty, marching at the sound of trumpets and with flying standards through the Hofburg and Residenzstadt. Furthermore the regiment was allowed to deploy on the Hofburgplatz (present-day Franzensplatz) and to set up tables for recruitment on this same place. The commander of the regiment had his quarters in the Hofburg, bringing with him the standards of the regiment. The commander of the regiment was also allowed to present himself in full arms in front of the emperor. The regiment also received the assurance that it would never be disbanded or reduced. Finally, no member of the regiment could be executed for a crime. Exceptionally, when someone had to receive death punishment, he had to be transferred to another regiment before the execution of the sentence. These privileges were maintained by the successors of Ferdinand II. For his part, Dampierre was promoted to General Feldwachtmeister (GFWM) and received command of an entire corps of around 5,000 men (including both of his horse regiments).
At the end of July 1620, Dampierre's Corps went to Moravia and participated in defence of Vienna against the forces of Gabriel Bethlen and Thurn. Afterwards, Dampierre advanced with a part of his corps on Pressburg (present-day Bratislava/SK) where he lost his life on 9 October. His regiments did not participate in this raid, both marched to Bohemia where, on 9 November, they fought in the Battle on the Weißer Berg near Prague. The old arquebusier regiment was under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Jakob Count Dampierre while the “Florentiner” were under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Don Pietro de Medici.
In 1626, the “Florentiner” unit was converted into a cuirassier regiment.
In 1628, the regiment was temporarily reduced to 3 coys.
In 1631, the regiment was brought back to full strength (10 coys). It took part in all the campaigns of the Thirty Years' War, participating in the battles of Leipzig (1631), Lützen (1632) and Nördlingen (1634).
In 1636-1637, the regiment was significantly understaffed and received additional troops from the disbanded Ratkay Regiment. These reinforcements brought its strength back to 8 coys.
From 1673, the regiment took part in the campaigns against the French on the Rhine. In 1674, it fought in the Battle of Sinzheim under the command of the Duke of Bournonville. In 1675, it fought at Altenheim. In 1676, it took part in the siege of Philippsburg.
In 1679, the regiment was reduced from 12 to 6 companies. Then the 6 remaining companies were incorporated into other units.
In 1683, the regiment was recreated from a kernel of 500 men contributed by Mercy Cuirassiers.
At the beginning of the Great Turkish War, in 1683, the regiment took part in the campaign against the Turks. It was in Vienna during the siege of the city. On August 18, the colonel (and owner) of the regiment, Baron Ludwig Dupigny, with 60 cuirassiers, without orders from the commander of the place, attempted a sortie. Dupigny, the Rittmeister (captain) Chavellico de Chovari and 30 cuirassiers were killed during this failed attempt. However, the Turks lost even more men. Later during the siege, Rittmeister Dudare was also killed. In 1684, the regiment was at the siege of Ofen. In 1686, it took part in the expedition in Upper Hungary and in the encounter of Szegedin. In 1687, it was at the Battle of Mohacs; in 1688, at the siege of Belgrade; in 1689, at the encounter of Patacin. At the engagement of Nissa, it was part of the rearguard under General Veterani who saved the artillery and baggage train from the attacking Turks. In 1691, it fought in the Battle of Szlankamen. In 1692, it took part in the attempt against Gyula and in the siege of Grosswardein (present-day Oradea/RO).
The regiment counted 6 squadrons.
Since its creation, the successive proprietors of the regiment were:
- since 1619: Heinrich Duval Count Dampierre
- from 1621: Don Pietro de Medici
- from 1624: Giacomo Count Strozzi
- from 1635: Hans Christoph Count Puchaim (sometime written “Puchhaimb”)
- from 1647: Johann Baron de Werth
- from 1652: Christoph Johann Schaff von Havelsee
- from 1661: Christoph Zeiss
- from 1673: Adam Quentin Count Herberstein
- from 1674: Alexander Prince Bournonville, Count of Hennin
- from 1683: Bernhard Baron Coneberg et Dupigny
- from 1685: Adam Bernhard Baron Saint-Croix
- from 1698: Joseph Innocenz Prince Lothringen und Bar (killed in 1705 at Cassano)
- from 1705: Ferdinand Count Breuner (killed in 1709 at Rumersheim)
- from 1710 until 1730: Thomas Emanuel Prince Savoyen
During the War of the Spanish Succession, the regiment was successively commanded by:
- since 1697: Claudius Florimund Count Mercy
- from 1702: Ferdinand Count Breuner
- from 1708 until 1716: N. N. La Marche
After the war, in 1716, the regiment participated in a campaign against the Turks where it fought in the Battle of Peterwardein and besieged Temesvar. In 1717, it took part in the siege of Belgrade in General Martigni's Corps. On August 16, it also fought in the Battle of Belgrade.
During the War of the Polish Succession, the regiment initially served on the Rhine against France in 1734 and 1735. Saint-Germain, the future French minister of War under Louis XVI, then served as Rittmeister in the regiment.
Service during the War
In 1701, at the beginning the War of the Spanish Succession, the regiment left its quarters at Enns in Upper Austria and marched towards Italy by Salzburg and Tyrol. At this time it consisted of 12 companies of 100 horse each organised in 6 squadrons. The train of Prince Eugène de Savoie accompanied the regiment. On August 16, Lieutenant-Colonel Count Mercy engaged the enemy near Pontoglio while reconnoitring its positions. In September, Rittmeister Hautefort took some prisoners during another engagement. On October 5, Lieutenant-Colonel Mercy at the head of a small force of infantry and cavalry (about 1,400 men) fought an engagement near Pizzighetone and captured among others 4 couriers with important documents. On November 17, Rittmeister Hautefort led a successful raid against the enemy headquarters. On 8 December, Count Mercy at the head of 300 cuirassiers of his regiment made a raid towards Borgoforte. He left some troopers near a bridge and proceeded with 180 men. His small detachment surprised 6 squadrons of enemies and defeated them. In this action the enemy lost 10 officers and 70 men killed and many horses captured. On his way back, Mercy was attacked by some French infantry. His horse was killed and Mercy taken prisoner. However, he was soon exchanged against the French Colonel Maulevrier.
On February 1 1702, the regiment took part in the failed storming of Cremona. Count Mercy with 225 cuirassiers attacked the Po Gate but was unable to occupy it. He then captures a nearby battery. An Irish regiment in French service made a counter-attack and recaptured the battery, taking Count Mercy, who had been wounded, prisoner. After his exchange, he soon received the colonelcy of a newly raised regiment (disbanded 1802 as “Brandenburg-Anspach-Bayreuth”, C 33). On August 15, the regiment fought in the Battle of Luzzara.
During the campaign of 1703, the regiment served in the Army of Count Guido Starhemberg.
In 1704, 3 squadrons of the regiment were attached to Starhemberg's Corps who campaigned in Piedmont and fought at Prarolo. The 3 other squadrons, who had remained in Lombardy, later retreated to Tyrol.
On 16 August 1705, 3 squadrons of the regiment fought in the Battle of Cassano where their Inhaber, Prince Josef Lothringen, was mortally wounded. The same year, the 3 squadrons operating in Piedmont camped at Ciavasso-Crescention and participated in a skirmish near Brandizzo.
In 1706, the regiment took part in the relief of Turin and afterwards in the siege of Pavia.
In 1707, the regiment took part in the unsuccessful expedition against Toulon1.
In 1708, the regiment returned to Italy, a detachment participating in the expedition against Fenestrelles.
In 1709, the regiment marched Germany. At the combat of Rumersheim, it suffered heavy losses. Its Inhaber, Ferdinand Count Breuner was killed during the engagement.
In 1710 and 1711, the regiment served with the Reichsarmee and did not see action.
In 1712, the regiment campaigned in the Low Countries where it took part in the siege of Le Quesnoy.
Before 1738, there are almost no surviving contemporary sources 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.
|Headgear||Western European theatres: black tricorne laced white reinforced with an iron skullcap for combat
Eastern European theatres: round helmet of wrought iron with neck and nose protection
hair had to be of a standard length and tied with a black ribbon
|Coat||buff leather lined red with short skirts reaching above the thighs|
replaced by grey-white coat around 1710
|Waistcoat||white made of linen cloth|
|Breeches||red (buff leather around 1710)|
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.
no information found yet
Uniforms of officers differed from those of the privates and NCOs by the finer material used. The coat, cuffs, pockets, saddlecloth and housings were probably edged with a wide silver braid.
Officers wore a black and yellow silk sash across the chest or around the waist.
In the Austrian Cuirassier regiments, kettle drummers and trumpeters were dressed according to the regiment owner's tastes. They often wore brightly coloured uniforms with:
- a plumed black round slouch hat
- a curled periwig down to the shoulders
- a white cravate
- a comfortable red or blue coat with wide skirts reaching above the knees, decorated with ribbons and braids
- red breeches
- riding boots made of Russian leather with a knee pad reaching above the knee
The fairly large trumpet had a square yellow silk apron carrying an embroidered black double-eagle.
Kettle drums were similar to those used nowadays in symphonic orchestras. They were fastened to the saddle on each side of the pommel. One drum had a low register, the other a high one. The kettle drums were covered with richly laced and fringed yellow or red silken brocade apron measuring 128 cm. The middle of this apron was decorated with the painted (oil paint) arms of the regiment owner.
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
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.
Ordinärestandarte (as per J. Belaubre's work "Les triomphes de Louis XIV")
(1) some Austrian authors (Thürheim, Gräffer) mention that, from 1707, this regiment served in Hungary against Rákoczy's rebels. This is a mistake resulting from a confusion between this regiment (then Breuner Cuirassiers) and a dragoon regiment raised for Seyfried Breuner in 1704.
Abtheilung für Kriegsgeschichte des k. k. Kriegs-Archives: Feldzüge des Prinzen Eugen von Savoyen
- Series 1, Vol. 1, Vienna 1875, pp. 212, 219-222, 227
- Series 2, Vol. 2, Vienna 1885
Donath, Rudolf: Die Kaiserliche und Kaiserlich-Königliche Österreichische Armee 1618-1918, 2. Aufl., Simbach/Inn 1979, plate B.6, B.8
Gräffer, August: Geschichte der kaiserl. Königl. Regimenter, Corps, Bataillons und anderer Militär-Branchen seit ihrer Errichtung biz zu Ende des Feldzuges 1799, Vol. 2, Vienna, 1804, pp. 33-39
Thürheim, A. v.: Die Reiterregimenter der k. k. österreichischen Armee, Vol. 1, Vienna 1862
Wrede, A. v.: Geschichte der K. K. Wehrmacht, Vienna 1898-1905
Harald Skala for the initial version of this article