Origin and History
The regiment was raised on December 11, 1675.
During the War of the Polish Succession (1733-35), the regiment served in Italy from 1731 to 1733. In 1734, it was back at Chinon.
During the War of the Austrian Succession (1740-48), the regiment initially served on the Lower Rhine in 1741. In 1742, it took part in the invasion of Bohemia. From 1743 to 1745, it campaigned in Alsace. In 1746, it was transferred to Languedoc and Provence. From 1747 to 1749, it was stationed in Valence.
In 1750, the regiment was stationed at Montbrison; in 1751, at Limoges; in 1752, at Douai; in 1753, at Aimeries; in 1754, at Valognes; and in 1755, at Cambrai.
In 1756, the regiment counted 4 squadrons and ranked 13th.
During the Seven Years' War, the regiment was under the command of:
- from November 29, 1748: Antoine Maurice, Comte d'Apchon
- from February 20, 1761 to June 5, 1763: Armand Charles François, Marquis de Nicolaï d'Osny
In 1787, the unit was transformed into a Chasseurs regiment and took No. 4.
Service during the War
Somewhere between August 23 and September 6, 1757, the regiment joined the Army of Saxony, led by the Prince de Soubise, in the area of Erfurt and Eisenach. On November 5, it took part in the Battle of Rossbach where it heavily suffered. It then retired into Hesse in the County of Hanau. At the end of the year, it took its winter-quarters in Lichtenau and Waldkappel to the south of Cassel in Hesse.
In February 1758, when Ferdinand of Brunswick launched his winter offensive in Western Germany, the regiment retired on the Rhine with the rest of the French army. From March 30 to April 4, it was on the left wing of Clermont's Army in the camp of Wesel on the Lower Rhine. In the first days of June, as a French army prepared for an offensive in Hesse, the regiment was part of a detachment under the command of the Duc de Broglie who followed up Ysenburg during his retreat. By July, the regiment had joined Soubise's Army assembling near Friedberg in Hesse. On July 23, the regiment took part in the Combat of Sandershausen where it was initially placed in the second line of the left wing. Throughout the battle, the Duc de Broglie used it to support the weakened points of his lines. On October 10, it was present at the Battle of Lutterberg where it formed part of the Reserve of cavalry.
On April 13, 1759, the regiment took part in the Battle of Bergen where it formed the second line of the left wing under the command of the Baron de Dyherrn. On April 19, along with the Chasseurs de Fischer and other dragoons, it broke the Hanoverian Grenadiers and the Prussian Finckenstein Dragoons, taking two flags. In June, at the beginning of the French offensive in Western Germany, the regiment was part of the “Right Reserve” under the command of the Duc de Broglie who had taken position at Friedberg in Hesse. On June 26, it expelled the Allies from Debrucke. During the night of July 11 to 12, the regiment saved 400 Carabiniers who had rashly pursued the Allies driven out of Holtzhausen. On August 1, the regiment took part in the Battle of Minden where it was attached to Broglie's Corps.
By the end of January 1760, the regiment had taken its winter-quarters in the third line of the French army in various detachments along the Rhine and the Main from its mouth. By mid March, the regiment was billeted in Deidesheim, still in the third line. On April 28, M. de Vair, at the head of Apchon Dragons and some volunteers, launched an attack on Vacha on the frontiers of Hesse, forcing the Allied force (2 coys of Freytag Foot Jägers, 1 coy of Freytag Horse Jägers, 1 sqn of Black Hussars) under the command of Colonel Freytag to abandon the town. Freytag then took position on a neighbouring rising ground to delay the French while Allied reinforcements (2 grenadier bns) were sent to his support. Upon arrival of these reinforcements, the French force retired pursued by the Allies beyond Geisa. In this affair, the Allies lost 30 men killed or wounded and the French 120 men. By May 23, the regiment was part of the centre vanguard of Broglie's Army. By July 23, the regiment was at Wasbeck under the personal command of the Duc de Broglie. By September 19, the regiment was attached to Prince Xavier's Corps, forming part of the vanguard of his right column. By December 30, the regiment had taken its winter-quarters in Hanau.
In February 1761, the regiment formed part of a cavalry corps deployed between Frankfurt to Hanau. On August 15, the regiment took part in a combat near Hardehausen. On August 18, the Hereditary Prince attacked M. de Caraman (Limousin brigade, Commissaire-Général cavalry brigade, Volontaires de Flandre and the present regiment), who had taken post on the left bank of the Diemel, between Peckelsheim and Warburg. Caraman retired in good order and joined M. de Stainville on the right bank of the river. In this affair, Caraman lost 30 men and took about 30 Allied prisoners. On September 2, Stainville advanced to Grebenstein, sending the Chamborant Hussards to Westuffeln, the Volontaires de Flandre to Carlsdorf, and a detachment of the present regiment to Hofgeismar. In the night of September 18 to 19, Talaru guarded Lutterberg with 6 volunteer bns, the present regiment and 1 cavalry brigade.
In March 1762, the regiment was attached to Soubise's Army of the Upper Rhine. On April 12, M. de Maupéou, commanding in Stadtberg, was informed that an Allied force was marching on the place. He sent orders to Dauphin Dragons, Nicolaï Dragons, Auvergne Infanterie and Castellas Infanterie returning to their quarters to stop their march and to advance on Frankenberg. By July 12, the regiment was at the camp of Helsa. On June 24, it took part in the Battle of Wilhelmsthal, forming part of the left vanguard under the command of M. de Stainville. The regiment captured a battery of 3 guns and 200 grenadiers. On August 30, it distinguished itself at the Combat of Nauheim but suffered heavy losses. In December, when the French army evacuated Germany, the regiment was directed on Valenciennes.
|Headgear||red fatigue cap with a red turn-up edged with a braid of alternating blue and aurore (light orange) squares|
or black tricorne (reinforced with an iron skullcap for combat) laced silver, with a black cockade on the left side fastened with a black silk strap and a small white button
|Neck stock||black cravate|
|Coat||red lined red with white buttons and white laced buttonholes down to the pocket and a white button on each side at the small of the back
|Waistcoat||red (with small sky blue lapels from 1757) with white buttons on the right side and white laced buttonholes on both sides|
N.B.: the fatigue cap was supposed to be worn only for the king's review, for foraging or when the regiment's chief ordered to wear it. In fact, dragoons often wore their fatigue cap during campaigns.
Troopers were armed with a musket, a bayonet, a pistol and a sabre. Carabiniers were armed with a rifle instead of a musket.
Surprisingly, the Etrennes Militaires of 1758 describes a green saddle cloth and housings with a white border.
Evolution of the uniform during the war
Throughout the war the French dragoon uniform seems to have evolved significantly. Our only primary sources for the uniform at the start of the conflict are the Etat Général des Troupes Françoises of 1753, the Etrennes Militaires of 1758. The first primary pictorial evidences comes from Raspe in 1761 and 1762. Here we present various interpretations of the evolution of the uniform.
Raspe's publication illustrating the uniform towards the end of 1760 shows the following evolutions:
- a black bearskin with a sky blue bag and tassel instead of a tricorne
- no laced buttonholes on the coat, pocket flaps, cuffs and waistcoat
- no buttons on the cuffs
- black cavalry boots
Raspe's publication illustrating the uniform towards the end of 1761 shows a uniform corresponding to our description from 1757 but with red breeches, a white cockade at the tricorne and without lapels on the waistcoat.
In December 1762, a regulation introduced a brand new green uniform with aurore (light orange) as the distinctive colour.
The uniforms of the officers were similar to those of the troopers with the following differences:
- the coat was made of Elbeuf woollen cloth (or of a woollen cloth of identical quality)
- linings were made of woollen cloth as well
- no braids on the coat or waistcoat but only silver buttonholes with silver plated wooden buttons
- Raspe publication illustrates plain red coat and waistcoat without edging or laced buttonholes at the end of 1760
- Raspe publication illustrates a uniform corresponding to our description but with buff breeches at the end of 1761
- red breeches
- saddle cloth and housings bordered with a silver braid (5.41 cm wide for captains and 4.06 cm wide for lieutenants)
- standard cavalry officer sword (gilt copper hilt, 83.92 cm long)
Officers were also armed with a musket and a bayonet and carried a cartridge pouch containing 6 cartridges. This musket was shorter than the muskets carried by troopers.
The maréchaux-des-logis and sergeants had similar uniforms made of Romorantin woolen cloth. Their coats and waistcoats had no silver buttonholes. They carried sabres like the maréchaux-des-logis of the cavalry regiments. Their saddle-clothes and housings were bordered with a 2.7 cm wide silver braid.
Drummers wore a coat similar to the one worn by the musicians of the cavalry. Musicians were always shaved and had no moustache. They were usually mounted on grey horses.
Musicians probably wore the livery of the House of Apchon and then, from 1761, the livery of the House of Nicolaï which are unfortunately unknown.
Regimental guidons (4 silken swallow-tailed guidons): green field embroidered and fringed in gold and silver; centre device consisting of a golden royal sun surmounted by a red scroll bearing the motto “NEC PLURIBUS IMPAR”.
This article is mostly a translation Jean-Louis Vial's article “Apchon Dragons” published on his website Nec Pluribus Impar. The article also incorporates texts from the following books which are now in the public domain:
- Pajol, Charles P. V.: Les Guerres sous Louis XV, vol. VII, Paris, 1891, p. 434
Funcken, Liliane and Fred: Les uniformes de la guerre en dentelle
Menguy, Patrice: Les Sujets du Bien Aimé (a website who has unfortunately disappeared from the web)
Raspe, Gabriel Nicolas: Recueil de toutes les troupes qui forment les armées françoises, Nuremberg 1761
Raspe, Gabriel Nicolas, Recueil de toutes les troupes qui forment les armées françoises, Nuremberg 1762
Rogge, Christian: The French & Allied Armies in Germany during the Seven Years War, Frankfurt, 2006
N.B.: the section Service during the War is partly derived from our articles depicting the various campaigns, battles and sieges.