Picardie Infanterie

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

Origin and History

In 1481, Louis XI charged the Sire d'Esquerdes to train the newly raised Bandes Françaises which would form the basis of the future French infantry. On 17 August 1483, Louis XI appointed d'Esquerdes governor in Picardie. The Bandes Françaises followed him in this province where they established themselves for a long period and thus became known as Bandes de Picardie. From 1484 to 1491, the Bandes de Picardie held their ground against the armies of the Holy Roman Emperor, capturing Saint-Omer and Thérouenne.

Between 1494 and 1521, there is no mention of the Bandes de Picardie but they certainly continued to exist.

From 1521, the Bandes de Picardie were involved in several campaigns in Champagne, Genoa and Picardie.

From 29 April 1547, the Bandes de Picardie had a permanent colonel-general. In 1551, the unit was sent to Italy. In 1552, recalled to France, it took part in the conquest of the "Trois-Évêchés" and in the defence of Metz. In 1556, it courageously defended Saint-Quentin but was finally taken prisoners.

The regiment was officially constituted in 1558 by Henri II, from the "Vieilles Bandes Françaises". It ranked first among the French Line Infantry regiments, immediately after the Gardes Françaises and Gardes Suisses. Consequently, it was part of the six French regiments known as Vieux Corps.

The regiment served in almost all the wars that France waged during the XVIIth century.

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 25 February 1691: Louis de Melun, Prince d'Epinoy
  • from 18 juin 1702 till 26 june 1717: François-Armand de Rohan, Prince de Montbazon

Service during the War

Soldier of Picardie Infanterie circa 1710 - Courtesy of The New York Public Library

In 1701, the regiment was sent to the Spanish Netherlands where it occupied Antwerp in the name of the new king of Spain, Philip V.

In the spring of 1702, the regiment was sent to Kleve country to join the army of the Duc de Bourgogne. After the expedition against Nijmegen, the regiment repassed the Meuse. Its third battalion formed part of the garrison of Liège which was soon besieged and forced to capitulate. The battalion lost 3 captains, 5 lieutenants and 50 soldiers in the Siege of Liège.

In 1703, the first and second battalions served in the Army of Flanders under Marshal Villeroy and Marshal Boufflers while the third battalion was attached to Tilly's Corps. On 30 June, the three grenadier companies of the regiment took part in the Battle of Ekeren.

In 1704, the entire regiment served under the command of Villeroy. In August, after the disastrous Battle of Blenheim, the regiment passed the Rhine and encamped at Biberach to cover the retreat of the Army of Bavaria.

In 1705, the regiment was stationed in Thionville as part of Villars' army charged to cover the frontier. At the end of the year, the regiment returned to the Spanish Netherlands to reinforce Villeroy. It was thrown into Bruxelles threatened by Marlborough and then took its winter-quarters in Louvain (aka Leuven).

On 23 May 1706, the regiment took part in the Battle of Ramillies where it was posted on the extreme right of the first line of infantry. When the French army routed, the battalions of Picardie brigade formed squares and retired in good order, covering the retreat up to Menin. In this battle, the regiment lost 40 officers. Among the dead were Major de Chavailles, captains Puget, de Vaux, Magnac and Lieutenant Hardy. The regiment was sent to Tournai to recover. In August, it joined the army assembling at Friedlingen under the Elector of Bavaria and the Duc de Vendôme.

In 1707, the regiment was stationed in Lille.

For the campaign of 1708, the regiment served under the Duc de Bourgogne and took part in the capture of Ghent and Bruges. On 11 July, it fought in the Battle of Oudenarde where its brigade drove back a Swiss corps and pursued it. During the pursuit, the flank of the brigade was threatened by Hessian troops. The Colonel Prince de Montbazon deployed the brigade in order of battle and engaged the enemy in a long melee which lasted till dusk. The regiment was the last French unit to leave the battlefield. The French army retired behind the Scheldt and Picardie brigade encamped at Saulsoy. The regiment took its winter-quarters in Arras.

In May 1709, the regiment joined Villars' army at La Bassée and encamped near Denain. On 11 September, the regiment took part in the Battle of Malplaquet where, after a few intial successes, it had to retreat when the Gardes Françaises routed. The regiment was then sent to Amiens.

In 1710, the regiment remained stationed in Amiens.

On 31 August 1711, a detachment of the regiment took part in the attack on an outpost at Hordain near Bouchain. At the end of the campaign, the regiment retired to Abbeville.

In July 1712, the regiment was part of a corps who made a diversion on Landrecies while Villars won the Battle of Denain. On 15 August, its third battalion opened the trench in front of Fort Scarpe at Douai. The regiment then took part in the sieges of Le Quesnoy and Bouchain before taking its winter-quarters in Saint-Omer.

In 1713, the regiment went to Alsace to cover the siege of Landau. On 20 September, it took part in the attack of General Vaubonne's entrenchments. It later was at the siege of Fribourg.

Uniform

Privates

Uniform in 1710 - Copyright: Richard Couture
Uniform Details as per
Marbot
Headgear
Musketeer black tricorne laced yellow with a white cockade
Grenadier black tricorne laced yellow with a white cockade
Neckstock white
Coat white (since 1703, it was grey before) with yellow buttons on the right side and 1 yellow button on each side in the small of the back
Collar none
Shoulder Straps none
Lapels none
Pockets vertical double pockets on each side (9 yellow buttons arranged in patte d'oie on each single pocket)
Cuffs white, each with 4 yellow buttons
Turnbacks none
Waistcoat red with yellow buttons
Breeches white
Stockings white 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

n/a

Officers

n/a

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: white field with a white cross.

Ordonnance Colour: red field with a white cross. These ordonnance 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. 221-286, 306

Other sources

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 partly derived from our articles depicting the various campaigns, battles and sieges.