Piémont Infanterie

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Hierarchical Path: War of the Spanish Succession (Main Page) >> Armies >> French Army >> Piémont Infanterie

Origin and History

Since 1494, at the outbreak of the Italian Wars (1494-1559) there were units designated as bandes d'au delà des monts (bands from beyond the mountains) at the service of the King of France. They were charged with the conquest and permanent occupation of Piémont and other countries beyond the Alps.

In 1552, when Henri intervened against the Emperor, 20 black ensigns of the Bandes de Piémont were with his army.

In 1558, these Bandes noires de Piémont were organized into a regular regiment by King Henri II.

During the French Wars of Religion (1562-1598), on May 27 1569 at the camp of La Rochefoucauld, the regiment received an official status. The same year, it campaigned in Poitou and defended Poitiers. In January 1570, the regiment took part in a failed attempt to capture La Rochelle and, on June 15, in the combat of Sainte-Gemme where it suffered heavy losses. By 1572, the regiment garrisoned Abbeville. In 1575, it took part in the combat of Dormans; in 1577, in the siege of La Charité-sur-Loire; in 1579, in the failed relief of Saluces.

In 1584, the colonel of the regiment, M. de Brissac, having declared himself for the Catholic League, lost his regiment who took its definitive name of “Piémont”. In 1585, the regiment took part in the campaign in Provence; in 1586, in the siege of Chorges and in all expeditions along the Rhône; in 1592, in the capture of Digne; in 1593, in the captures of Cannes and Antibes. In 1597, the regiment had its quarters in Aix and Tarascon but was recalled to the army for the siege of Amiens. In 1598, it accompanied King Henry IV at Nantes.

From 1598 to 1610, the regiment was probably stationed in the region of Nantes and on the Loire.

In 1610, during the War of the Jülich Succession (1609-1614), five companies of the regiment were part of the expedition who entered into the Duchy of Zweibrücken, passed the Moselle and occupied Jülich.

In 1615, the regiment, who was still stationed on the Loire, was recalled to cover Paris and the Province of Champagne against Condé. On 21 October, part of the regiment fought at the combat of Chamlay. The regiment then returned to the Loire where it took part in the capture of the Castle of Isle-Bouchard. In 1616, it campaigned in Poitou and Guyenne before marching to Picardie in November. In 1617, eight companies took part in the siege of Soissons.

During the Thirty Years' War (1618-1648), in 1620, the regiment it took part in the campaign in Normandie; in 1621, in the sieges of Saint-Jean-d'Angély, Nérac, Clérac, Montauban and Monheurt; in 1622, in the siege of the Castle of La Force, in the capture of Tonneins, in the sieges of Sainte-Foy, Caraman and Cucq; in the captures of Bédarieux, Lunel and Sommières; and in the siege of Montpellier. The regiment was then sent to Lorraine. In 1627, it took part in the blockade of La Rochelle. In 1629 and 1630, the regiment campaigned in Montferrat. In 1631, it garrisoned Auxonne and Saint-Jean-de-Losne. In 1632, it was sent to Picardie where it occupied Guise, Saint-Quentin and La Fère. In 1633, it took part in the storming of the Castle of Freidembourg and in the sieges of Nancy, Bitche and La Mothe; in 1634, in the expedition against Heidelberg; in 1635, in the siege of Spires, in the Battle of Avein (20 May) and in the sieges of Tirlemont, Diest, Aarschott and Beelen. In 1636, the regiment returned to Calais and took part in the defence of the Somme against Piccolomini, suffering terrible losses. In 1637, the ranks of the regiment were replenished. It then took part in the siege of Landrecies and in the defence of Maubeuge. In 1638, it took part in the siege of Saint-Omer; in 1639, in the sieges of Lillers and Hesdin; in 1640, in the siege of Arras; in 1641, in the battle of La Marfée where it suffered heavy losses and in the siege of Bapaume; in 1642, in the battle of Honnecourt; in 1643, in the battle of Rocroi and in the captures of Binch, Sierck and Thionville; in 1644, in the siege of Gravelines; in 1645 in the sieges of Mardyk, Béthune, Menin, Lillers and Saint-Venant; in 1646, in the storming of the Castle of Lannoy and in the sieges of Courtrai, Berghes, Mardyk and Dunkerque; in 1647, in the siege of Dixmude. In 1648, the regiment established a bridge on the Lys and accompanied the Maréchal de Rantzau in his expedition against Ostende, fought in the battle of Lens and took part in the siege of Furnes.

The Thirty Years' War was finished but hostilities with Spain continued till 1659. In 1649, the regiment took part in the siege of Cambrai; in 1650, in the siege of Rhétel. In 1651, it spent the year in Soissons. In 1652, it was recalled to Paris. In 1653, the regiment took part in the siege of Rhétel; in 1654, in the relief of Arras; in 1655, in the sieges of Landrecies, Condé and Saint-Ghislain; in 1656, in the siege of Valenciennes; in 1657, in the siege of Cambrai; in 1658, in the siege of Dunkerque and in the captures of Oudenaarde, Menin and Ypres.

After the Treaty of the Pyrenees, the regiment was stationed in Lorraine.

In 1664, the regiment was part of the French contingent sent to assist the Imperialist army. Part of the regiment was at the Battle of Saint Gotthard. In 1665, it returned to France and was immediately sent to assist the Dutch, taking part in the siege of Lockheim.

The fact that Navarre Infanterie, Champagne Infanterie and Piémont Infanterie were all created during the same year gave rise to endless argumentations about their respective ranking. In February 1666, Louis XIV had to edict a regulation stating that each regiment would alternate for the 2nd, 3rd and 4th ranks on a yearly basis.

During the War of Devolution (1667–68), in 1667, initially stationed at Metz, took part in the campaign in Luxembourg and then took its winter-quarters in Charleroi. In 1668, it took part in the attack on Geneppe.

At the beginning of the Franco-Dutch War (1672–78), in 1672, the regiment took part in the sieges of Orsoy and Rheinberg, in the passage of the Rhine, in the captures of Arnhem, Doësbourg and Zütphen; in the siege of Woërden and in the expedition against Zeeland, the sack of Bodegrave and Swammerdam. In 1673, it took part in the siege of Maastricht; in 1674, in the defence of Maastricht; in 1675, in the sieges of Huy and Limbourg, and in the defence of Maastricht where it remained till the end of the war. In 1676, a newly formed battalion was sent to Sicily where it remained till 1678.

In 1684, two battalions of the regiment were at the siege of Luxembourg.

At the outbreak of the Nine Years' War (1688–97), in 1688, the first battalion of the regiment took part in the sieges of Philippsburg and Mannheim while the second was part of the force who submitted Kayserlautern, Kreuznach, Neustadt, Oppenheim, Worms, Spires Mainz, Bingen and Oberkirch; bombarded Koblenz and put Palatinate to contribution. In 1689, the first battalion campaigned on the Rhine. In 1692, the regiment took part in the siege of Namur; in 1693, in the battle of Landen where it suffered heavy losses, in the siege of Charleroi; in 1695, in the occupation of Namur and in the bombardment of Bruxelles; in 1696, in the defence of the Castle of Hart near Neustadt.

Piémont Infanterie was among the six French regiments known as Vieux Corps.

By the time of the War of the Spanish Succession, the regiment counted three battalions.

During the War of the Spanish Succession, the regiment was commanded by:

  • since 8 March 1700: Chrétien-Louis de Montmorency, Chevalier de Luxembourg
  • from 16 March 1705: Anne-Jacques de Bullion, Marquis de Fervaques
  • from 26 January 1711 till 6 March 1719: Louis-Antoine-Armand de Gramont, Duc de Louvigny

Service during the War

In 1701, the first battalion of the regiment passed the Alps and took part in the Battle of Chiari. The two other battalions joined the army assembling at Neuf-Brisach.

In January 1702, the second and third battalions joined the first in Italy. On 23 May, the regiment contributed in the relief of Mantua. On May 27, it was detached with some cavalry and 4 guns to lay siege to Castiglione. The captain of grenadier Darmisson was mortally wounded during the siege. After the capture of Castiglione and of its castle, the regiment returned to Goito. On 3 June, it took part in an expedition against Madonna della Grazia. In the night of 11 to 12 June, Prince Eugène de Savoie made an attempt to kidnap the Duc de Vendôme as he had abducted Villeroy at Cremona earlier the same year. However, the regiment was assuming guard duty at Vendôme's headquarters and Sergeant La Varenne with 10 men occupied an outpost in a tree clump on the shore of Lake Garda. La Varenne spotted the Austrian detachment who was trying to berth silently under the cover of large reed patches. La Varenne's patrol immediately opened fire, alerting the entire army and the project aborted. On 26 July, the grenadiers of regiment took part in a combat near Santa Vittoria, deciding of the outcome of the engagement by attacking the flank and rear of the Imperialists. Lieutenant Daurignac was killed in this charge. Captain de Périssant, who had conceived and excuted the movement, received a pension of 400 livres. On 15 August at the Battle of Luzzara, the regiment was posted on the extreme left wing. As soon as Vendôme realised that the Imperialists were advancing against his positions, he sent forwards several brigades with Piémont Brigade in the lead, instructing them to entrench rapidly in a small wood bordering the Po. The regiment was soon attacked by the elite of the Austrian infantry led by the Prince de Commercy. As it advanced, this infantry exposed its flank to Piémont and Royal-Vaisseaux who opened a devastating fire. Vainly, Commercy's trrops charged four times but the two French regiments held firm. Commercy fell during the fourth charge. Meanwhile, the other French brigades flanking Piémont had been forced back and the regiment, along with Royal-Vaisseaux was isolated. Nevertheless, they held their positions till nightfall when combat ceased. In this battle, the regiment lost its lieutenant-colonel, M. de Loisel, captains Saint-Martin and Sénarque and several officers. After taking part in the captures of Guastalla and Borgoforte, the regiment took its winter-quarters in Modena.

In January 1703, the three companies of grenadiers and the three piquets of the regiment took part in the Comte de Vaubécourt's expedition against Bondanella occupied by 2,000 Imperialists who were killed or taken prisoners. In June, Captain de Maisonrouge and three lieutenants perished in front of Ostiglia. The regiment was then part of Vendôme's Corps and contributed to the captures of Arco and Nago, and later to the captures of Asti and Villanova d'Asti. It took its winter-quarters in Montferrat.

In March 1704, the regiment was at the siege of Robbio. Captain de Champagnelles and his company (54 men) were posted at Cozzo when he learned that the enemy were abandoning Rosasco nearby. The captain resolved to occupy the post and sent the young Lieutenant La Neuville (18 years old) forward with 15 men. As he entered the village, La Neuville saw hussars but forbid his men to fire. They advanced to a small place in front of the castle where they found themselves caught between two troops of dragoons. La Neuville continued his advance entered into the courtyard of the castle and held his ground till the arrival of the rest of the company. Soon afterwards, the company repulsed an attack against the castle. The village being considered as an important position, two battalions of the regiment were posted there. In May, the three battalions of the regiment were assembled in front of Vercelli. On 15 June, they opened the approaches against Vercelli. The Lieutenant of Grenadier Maranval stormed a demi-lune. Captain Varangue was killed during the siege. The regiment then took part in the siege of Ivrea and in the siege of Vérue (unidentified location) which lasted till April 1705.

On 1 March 1705, during the siege of Vérue, the regiment attacked the fort of the island. Lieutenants Mac-Mahon, Grignols and Chartogne were killed in the various combats under the walls of Vérue while Captain Préchac and Lieutenant Maranval were mortally wounded. The regiment then took part in the siege of Chivasso, where Captain Planel de Méric was killed. At the siege of Asti, while the Duc de La Feuillade was preparing to attack the city, the Imperial cavalry fell on the camp of the regiment and inflicted it heavy losses, especially to its grenadiers. Nevertheless, the Imperialists were driven back with a loss of 1,500 men. The regiment took its winter-quarters in Barzolo in Lombardy.

On 18 April 1706, the regiment rejoined the army. On 19 April, it took part in the combat of Calcinato where it was posted on the right of the first line of infantry, facing Prussian troops which it had previously fought at Landen. After passing in good order and under a terrible fire the ditches covering the the front of the Prussians. The regiment then hit the left of the Prussian regiments, charged them at the point of the bayonet and made a horrible carnage. At the end of August, the grenadiers of the regiment (3 coys) arrived in front of Turin. On the following day, they attacked a counterscarp and a demi-lune. They stormed the demi-lune but the explosion of a mine buried them alive. Only 30 grenadiers survived. The rest of the regiment arrived at Turin the following day. On 7 September, the Prince Eugène de Savoie and the Duke of Savoy attacked the French lines. In the ensuing Battle of Turin, the regiment, deprived of its best elements, was posted between the Stura and the Doire. It bravely sustained three charges before being forced to retreat with only 819 men remaining. Lieutenants de Chabestan and de Limars were killed in action. The regiment took its winter-quarters in Provence.

In 1707, the regiment was sent to join the Army of Flanders who remained on the defensive. The regiment then took its winter-quarters in Le Quesnoy.

In 1708, the regiment campaigned once more in Flanders. On 11 July, it took part in the Battle of Oudenarde where it was posted on the left with Picardie Infanterie. It charged five times and lost 36 officers dead and 63 wounded. Among the dead were captains Saint-Malins, La Grandroche, Bellisle, Damilly, Desbordes, d'Oudan, Bony, Blénicourt, Defline and Montausègle; and lieutenants O'Neil, Maisonneuve and Préchac. After this catastrophic battle, the Allies undertook the Siege of Lille. Meanwhile, the remains of the regiment formed part of the Observation Corps under the Marquis de La Châtre, posted at Escanaf. At the end of the campaign, the regiment was sent to Amiens.

In May 1709, the regiment joined the army assembled at La Bassée. On 11 September, the regiment fought in the Battle of Malplaquet where it captured three colours but suffered heavy losses: Lieutenant-Colonel de Féligonde; captains Campanel, Sainte-Marie and du Terrail; and lieutenants Catalan and Soultray killed. Shortly afterwards, the regiment entered into Valenciennes.

In March 1710, the regiment marched from Valenciennes to reinforce the garrison of Douai. This place was soon invested by the entire Allied army. At the beginning of the siege, Captain Rochepierre with his 80 grenadiers were thrown into the Castle of Vaugeville where he repulsed three assaults and was wounded. He finally accepted to surrender under the condition that his detachment would receive the same treatment than the garrison of Douai. Everything was settled when the powder magazine exploded killing most of the detachment, including Rochepierre. Douai held for 52 days during which the garrison made 32 sorties. On 8 May, grenadiers of the regiment were part of a sortie. On 25 May, Lieutenant Lesure with 20 men forced the enemy to abandon its work on the trenches which they then filled. In the night of 3 to 4 June, Captain de Noyelles was killed while successfully defending a post under his responsibility. In the night of 23 to 24 May, the regiment defended the demi-lunes but the Allies managed to breach the walls and the Comte d'Albergotti, governor of Douai was forced to capitulate. The regiment then marched to Cambrai.

In 1711, the regiment served once more with the Army of Flanders and had its quarters in Saint-Omer.

In January 1712, three piquets of the regiment took part in the attack on Lillers. On 24 July, the regiment fought in the Battle of Denain. It later took part in the captures of Marchiennes, Douai, Le Quesnoy, and Bouchain.

In 1713, the regiment distinguished itself at the siege of Landau where Lieutenant-Colonel de Périssant was wounded. It also took part in the storming of Vaubonne's entrenchments in front of Fribourg and in the siege of Fribourg where it was posted near the Roscoff. In the night of 30 September to 1 October, it opened the trenches in front of the Castle of Fribourg near Fort Saint-Pierre.

Uniform

Privates

Uniform in 1710 - Copyright: Richard Couture
Uniform Details as per
Susane, Funcken, Marbot, Lienhart and Humbert
Headgear
Musketeer black tricorne laced yellow with a white cockade
Grenadier black tricorne laced yellow with a white cockade
Neckstock white
Coat grey with copper buttons on the right side and 1 copper button on each side in the small of the back
Collar none
Shoulder Straps none
Lapels none
Pockets horizontal pockets, each with 3 copper buttons
Cuffs grey, each with 3 copper buttons (only officers and NCOs had black cuffs till the reign of Loui XV)
Turnbacks none
Waistcoat red (grey as per Marbot) with copper buttons
Breeches grey
Stockings red fastened under the knee with a natural leather strap
Gaiters none at the beginning of the war, white later
Leather Equipement
Crossbelt natural leather (often whitened with pipe-clay) with a brass buckle
Waistbelt natural leather (often whitened with pipe-clay) with a brass buckle
Cartridge Box natural leather
Bayonet Scabbard n/a
Scabbard black with white metal fittings
Footwear black shoes with a brass buckle


Armaments consisted of a musket and a bayonet. Fusiliers carried a sword (brass hilt) while the grenadiers had a sabre.

NCOs

NCOs were distinguished by black cuffs.

Officers

Officers wore uniform similar to those of the privates but made of finer cloth and with the following distinctions:

  • balck tricorne laced gold and bordered with white plume
  • golden gorget
  • grey coat edged with a golden braid
  • grey waistcoat edged with a golden braid
  • black cuffs edged gold

Musicians

Drummer wearing the Royal Livery - Source: adapted from Susane, Louis: Histoire de l'ancienne infanterie française

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.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

French Royal Livery - Source: reconstruction based on a sample from Jean-Louis Vial's collection


Colors

Colonel Colour (as per the État Militaire of 1740 and La Chesnaye in 1759): white field with a white cross.

Ordonnance Colours (as per the État militaire of 1730-33 and 1740 and La Chesnaye in 1759): black field with a white cross. These colours remained unchanged from 1569 to 1791.

Colonel Colour - Copyright: Gilbert Noury
Ordonnance Colour - Copyright: Gilbert Noury


References

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 2, pp. 314-380, 402-403

Other sources

Funcken, Liliane and Fred: Les uniformes de la guerre en dentelle

Lienhart, Constant and René Humbert: Les Uniformes de l'Armée Française de 1690 à 1894, Leipzig 1899 - 1902

Marbot, Alfred de: L'Infanterie et de la Cavalerie Francaise et Regiments Etrangers, Paris 1854