Poitou Infanterie

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

Origin and History

Ensign of Poitou Infanterie circa 1690 - Source: adapted from Susane, Louis: Histoire de l'ancienne infanterie française

The regiment was raised on 16 September 1616 by César de Choiseul, Comte d'Hôtel. It initially counted 6 companies of 100 men each and was ranked 17th. The regiment was disbanded on 1 December but almost immediately re-established on 3 February 1617, now ranking 15th. In 1618, the regiment was briefly disbanded once more but re-established on 26 February 1619. Disbanded for a third time in 1620, it was re-established on 7 July 1621. It then took part in the siege of Clérac. In 1622, it was at the siege of Royan and at the blockade of La Rochelle before being disbanded a fourth time on 1 November 1622. Only one company was maintained and assigned to the garrison of the Island of Oleron.

On 3 August 1624, the regiment was re-established for the last time and took the name of “Plessis-Praslin”. It still ranked 15th despite the fact that it had been disbanded four times. It was then stationed in the region of La Rochelle. In 1626, it was promoted to the 13th rank and was sent to the Island of Oleron to protect it against English incursions. It took part in the attack against the English forces who had landed on Re Island. In 1629, it took part in the sieges of Privas and Alais.

In 1630, during the War of the Mantuan Succession (1628–31), the 12 companies of the regiment passed the Alps and took part in the capture of Pignerol, in the combat of Veillane, in the storming of Cumiane Hill, in the combat of Carignan and in the relief of Casale. It then occupied the Citadel of Casale till 1635.

In 1635, at the outbreak of the Franco-Spanish War (1635–59), the regiment was transferred to the Army of Picardie where it distinguished itself at the Battle of Avein. It then took part in the sieges of Tirlemont and Louvain, being part of the rearguard when the latter siege was lifted. It took its winter-quarters in the Netherlands. In June 1636, the regiment returned to France where it assumed garrison duty in Guise. In 1637, it took part in a few raids in Cambrésis and in the siege and capture of Landrecies. In 1638, the regiment was attached to the Army of Flanders and distinguished itself at the storming of the Câtelet. It was then transferred to Lorraine where it took part in the capture of Blamont and Lunéville before rejoining the Army of the Duc de Saxe-Weymar in front of Brisach. It took its winter-quarters in Franche-Comté.

In 1639, the regiment returned to Italy where it stormed the entrenchments at Cencio and took part in the siege of Chivasso, in the relief of Carmagnola and in a combat on the road to Quiers. In 1640, it took part in the relief of Casale, and in the siege and capture of Turin; in 1641, in the relief of Fossano and in the siege of Coni; in 1642, in the capture of Nice and in the siege of Tortone; in 1643, in the capture of Asti, in the siege of Trino and in the storming of the entrenchments at the bridge of the Stura; in 1644, in the siege of Santia

In 1645, the regiment was transferred to Catalonia where it participated in the siege and capture of Roses. It was then sent back to Italy where it was at the siege of Vigevano and in the combat of La Mora. In 1646, it took part in the expedition of Elbe Island before returning to France.

In 1647, the regiment spent part of the year in Languedoc. In June, it marched for Italy. In 1648, it took part in the relief of Casal-Maggiore and in the battle and siege of Crémona. It was the recalled to France because of the troubles of the “Fronde”. In 1649, it took part in the blockade of Paris, in the attack of Charenton, in the capture of Brie-Comte-Robert and in the defeat of the Lorrains at the passage of the Aisne. It finished the campaign in Flanders. At the beginning of 1650, it campaigned in Bourgogne where it took part in the capture of Bellegarde before being transferred to Champagne. It then took part in the relief of Guise and in the capture of Rhétel and Château-Porcien. In 1651, the regiment was attached to the Army of Flanders. In 1652, it took part in the capture of Charité-sur-Loire and in the combat of the Faubourg Saint-Antoine; in 1653, in the sieges of Vervins, Rhétel, Mouzon and Sainte-Ménehould; in 1654, in the siege of Stenay, in the relief of Arras and in the capture of Le Quesnoy; in 1655, in the sieges of Landrecies. Condé and Saint-Ghislain; in 1657, in the capture of Montmédy, Saint-Venant and Gravelines; in 1658, in the siege of Dunkerque.

In 1659, the regiment remained in the region of Dunkerque. In 1660, it entered into Rocroi.

In 1667, at the beginning of the War of Devolution (1667–68), the regiment went to Flanders where it took part in the capture of Berghes, Charleroi, Ath, Tournai, Douai and Lille. In 1668, it campaigned in Franche-Comté where it was at the sieges of Besançon, Dôle and Gray.

In 1672, at the outbreak of the Franco-Dutch War (1672–78), the regiment was attached to the Army of Holland and took part in the siege of Arnheim, in the investment of Genep and in the siege of Grave. At the end of the campaign, it followed Turenne in Germany and took part in the capture of Unna, Kamen, Altena and Bielefeld. It spent the winter of 1673-1674 in Philisbourg. In 1674, it took part in the Battle of Sintzheim, in the combat of Ladembourg, in the engagement of Ensheim and in the combat of Mulhausen; in 1675, in the combat of Turckeim. It then returned to Philisbourg before participating in the siege of Dinant and in the protection of the sieges of Huy and Limbourg. It then fought in the engagement of Consaarbrück and defended Trier. In 1676, the regiment fought at Kokersberg while a detachment defended Philisbourg. In 1677, the regiment was transferred to the Army of Flanders and was at the siege of Valenciennes and took part in the capture of Saint-Omer and in the siege of Saint-Ghislain. In 1678, it was at the capture of Ghent, Ypres and the Castle of Lichtemberg.

By 1678, the regiment ranked 15th, a rank that it would keep till 1775. It was stationed in Alsace.

On August 31 1682, the regiment took the name of the Province of Poitou.

In 1688, at the beginning of the Nine Years' War (1688–97), the regiment took part in the capture of Philisbourg, Mannheim and Frankenthal; in 1689, in the conquest of Palatinate and in the affairs of Rheindorf, Gueins, Winter, Rheinberg and Honuf. At the end of the campaign, the regiment, now counting 2 battalions, defended Mainz and Bonn. In 1690, the regiment was transferred to Flanders and fought in the Battle of Fleurus. In 1691, it took part in the siege of Mons; in 1692, in the capture of Namur, in the combat à Steenkerque and in the bombardment of Charleroi; in 1693, in the Battle of Neerwinden and in the siege of Charleroi. In 1694, the regiment initially served on the Coasts of Flanders and Artois before joining the army operating on the Meuse. In 1695, it was at the bombardment of Bruxelles. In 1696, it served in Flanders. In 1697, it took part in the siege of Ath where it distinguished itself.

In 1698, the regiment was sent to Compiègne.

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

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

  • since 3 November 1689: Léonor de Montchevreuil, Comte de Mornay
  • from 21 March 1702 to 6 March 1719: Louis-Charles de Montsaulnin, Marquis de Montal

Service during the War

In 1701, the regiment returned to the Netherlands.

In 1702, the regiment took part in the action under the walls of Nijmegen. In June, it was sent to Strasbourg. On 14 October, it fought in the Battle of Friedlingen where it lost its lieutenant-colonel, the brave M. de Chevannes, who commanded the brigade. This brigade had been posted in the first line at the foot of the hill of Tulich, along with Champagne and Bourbonnais brigades. The infantry of the Margrave of Baden occupied the top of this hill. The French brigades climbed the slopes of the hill with difficulty because of the vineyards. They briefly halted at the top of the hill to reorganise their lines and then marched directly to the enemy. After a bloody combat they drove the Imperialists out of the woods. The latter received reinforcements and vainly tried three times to reconquer their positions. They then left the field abandoning 5 guns.

In February 1703, the regiment took part in the siege of Kehl. On 24 April, it was at the attack of the Lines of Stolhoffen where its grenadiers distinguished themselves, losing one of their captains and 15 men. The regiment then followed Villars who marched to effect a junction with the Bavarian Army posted near Ulm. On his way, he fought several combats in the defiles of the Black Forest. He then stormed the entrenchments of the Homberg Valley at the point of the bayonet. Fearing that the enemy would throw a bridge on the Danube at Tulfingen, 8 km from Ulm, Villars left M. du Héron there at the head of 6 squadrons and the Poitou Brigade. Meanwhile, the Comte de La Tour, an Imperial lieutenant-general, took position with 5,000 horse beyond the Danube, near Munderkirchen, to cut Villars's Army from its line of communication with Switzerland. Villars resolved to get rid of this Imperial corps. On 30 July at 8:00 p.m., M. de Legall left with 18 squadrons carrying 200 men of Poitou Infanterie riding pillion. They marched all night, hoping to surprise the Imperialists. But the latter had been informed and had deployed in order of battle. They counted 1,500 horse more than the French detachment. La Tour attacked first and forced the French left to retire. The grenadiers of Poitou Infanterie, hidden in a sunken road, came to the relief of the French left, stopping the advance of the Imperial cavalry and this allowing the French cavalry to rally who then charged and broke the Austrian squadrons, driving them back in disorder into Munderkirchen across a narrow bridge. The Austrians had 14 squadrons thrown into the Danube where most men drowned. The French captured 11 standards in this action. On 30 September, the regiment was at the Battle of Höchstädt. It then took part in the capture of Kempten and Augsburg. It took its winter-quarters in Swabia.

N.B.: Poitou Infanterie was the first French regiment to adopt the white uniform in 1703

In 1704, the regiment took part in the capture of Gemunden. On 13 August, it fought in the disastrous Battle of Blenheim where it was attached to Marchin's. It retired to the Rhine and took its winter-quarters at Viersheim, Erlisheim and Offembach. It was employed, along with Chartres Infanterie and Luxembourg Infanterie, in the construction of the Blenheim Redoubt, necessary to the defence of Fort-Louis.

In 1705 and 1706, the regiment was stationed on the Moselle. At the end of 1706, it was sent to reinforce the Armies of Flanders decimated by its defeat at Ramilies.

On 11 July 1708, the regiment took part in the Battle of Oudenarde where, along with Du Roi Infanterie it made the largest effort before retiring in good order. During the siege of Lille, the regiment remained at the camp of Meldert, under the Marquis d'Hautefort.

On 11 September 1709, the regiment took part in the Battle of Malplaquet where its brigade and Picardie Brigade were the first to penetrate into the defile, under the command of the Marquis de Chémerault.

In 1710, the regiment remained in the surrounding of Valenciennes to prevent a siege.

In 1711, the regiment took part in the affairs of Hordain and Arleux. In mid-June, it marched from Flanders to reinforce the Army of Alsace.

In 1712, the regiment was back in Flanders. On 24 July, it took part in the Battle of Denain and later in the capture of Douai, Le Quesnoy and Bouchain. These unexpected successes put an end to the war on this frontier.

In 1713, the regiment was transferred to the Army of the Rhine and took part in the siege of Landau. It managed to conquer the lunette in front of which the grenadiers of the army had failed the previous day. It also contributed to repulse a sally. After the capture of Landau, the captain of grenadiers de Carbonnel was promoted to major of the place. The regiment then marched on Freiburg where it took part in the attack on General Vaubonne's entrenchments. On 14 October, there was a general attack against the covert way. The two battalions of the regiment and the two battalions of Royal-Roussillon were charged of the attack on the right where the lunette was located. The signal was given at 6:00 p.m., however the Baron von Arsch had ordered a sally with 1,200 men at the same hour. The detachments bumped into each other. After a stubborn combat, Imperial troops were driven back into the covert way and the French battalions resumed their advance. The garrison of the lunette put up an admirable resistance and repulsed the French grenadiers with halberds and scythes. The second battalion of Poitou and Royal-Roussillon, initially hold in reserve, were engaged and the garrison gave way. Almost all defenders were killed.

Uniform

Privates

Uniform in 1702 - Copyright: Richard Couture
Uniform Details as per
Lemau de la Jaisse, Rousselot, Marbot, Funcken
Headgear
Musketeer black tricorne laced gold with a white cockade
Grenadier black tricorne laced gold with a white cockade
Neck stock white
Coat grey-white with royal blue lining; yellow buttons on the right side and 1 yellow button on each side in the small of the back
Collar none
Shoulder Straps grey-white fastened with a small yellow button
Lapels none
Pockets double vertical pockets (6 yellow buttons arranged 2-2-2 on each single pocket)
Cuffs royal blue, each with 4 yellow buttons
Turnbacks none
Waistcoat royal blue with yellow buttons and yellow trimmed buttonholes
Breeches royal blue
Stockings royal blue fastened under the knee with a natural leather strap
Gaiters none at the beginning of the war, white later
Leather Equipment
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 wore uniform very similar to those of privates with the following exceptions:

  • coat, pockets, cuffs and waistcoat edged with a yellow braid

Officers

no information found

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


Colours

Colonel Colour: white field with a white cross.

Ordonnance Colour: a white cross with blue and red opposed quarters. The ordonnance colours remained unchanged from 1682 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 4, pp. 181-206

Other sources

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. 106

Marbot, Alfred de and E. Dunoyer de Noirmont: ‎Les uniformes de l'armée française, T1 "1439 à 1789"‎

Rousselot, Lucien: Infanterie française (1720-1736) (II)