Colonel Général Cavalerie

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Origin and History

Colonel Général Cavalerie after the reorganisation of 1761 - Source: Raspe 1762 from Zahn's collection

A first cavalry regiment known as "Colonel Général" had been raised in 1635 for the Comte d'Alais, In 1654, the Colonel Général Duc de Joyeuse died in front of Arras and Turenne was chosen to become the next colonel général of the cavalry. However, Mazarin still hesitated to promote him to this charge because Turenne was Protestant. The original "Colonel Général Cavalerie" was transferred from Flanders to Italy where it was disbanded at the end of the campaign of 1656.

On April 24, 1657, when the Maréchal de Turenne finally became colonel-general of the so-called “light cavalry”, his own regiment was renamed Colonel-Général Cavalerie. This regiment had been raised in 1631 by the Duke of Saxe-Weimar when Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden intervened in the affairs of Germany. The regiment had been among the contingent which entered French service in 1633, and had been in French pay since October 26, 1635. In 1636, it served in Lorraine under Colonel Trefski. It then served on the Rhine. In 1640, the regiment occupied Pont-à-Mousson. It returned to Germany in 1641. On October 17 of the same year, it became the property of Colonel Flechstein. In 1643, it took part in the battle of Duttlingen; and in 1645, in the battles of Marienthal and Nordlingen. On February 24, 1647, the regiment was officially incorporated into the French Army and attached to the Army of Flanders. By that time, its recruits were all French. In 1648, the regiment returned to Germany. In 1649, it was recalled to Flanders and given to Colonel Nimitz. During the Fronde, the regiment was recalled to Picardie. On June 3, 1651, it became the property of the House of Turenne. It now ranked 11th among the cavalry regiments. The regiment was then increased to six companies and in December of the same year to 12 companies. In 1651, it served in Lorraine; in 1652, it campaigned on the Loire at Gergeau, Blesneau and Étampes, and took part in the combat of the Faubourg Saint-Antoine. In 1653, it contributed to the capture of Rethel, Mouzon and Saint-Ménehoud. In 1654, it campaigned in Flanders and was at the sieges of Stenay, Arras, Le Quesnoy and Binch. It 1655, it took part in the relief of Le Quesnoy, Landrecies, Condé and Saint-Ghislain; and in 1656, in the relief of Valenciennes and La Capelle.

From April 24, 1657, the new "Colonel Général Cavalerie" took precedence over all other line cavalry regiments, ranking first. The same year (1657), the regiment took part in the capture of Montmédy, Cambrai, Saint-Venant, Waters, Bourbourg, La Motte-aux-Boix and Mardyck; in 1658, in the Battle of the Dunes.

On July 20, 1660, the regiment was reduced to a single company.

In 1665, the regiment was re-established and was present at the capture of Tournai, Douai and Lille. In 1668, it garrisoned Oudenarde.

In 1672, at the outbreak of the Franco-Dutch War (1672-78), the regiment (now six companies) campaigned in Holland. In 1673, it was at the siege of Maastricht. In 1674, it took part in the battles of Zintzheim, Einsheim and Mulhausen; in 1675, in the combats of Turckheim and Altenheim and in the relief of Haguenau and Saverne.

In 1688, at the beginning of the Nine Years' War (1688-97), the regiment took part in the siege of Philipsburg. During the same war, it participated in the siege of Namur and in the combats of Heidesheim and Steibach.

At the beginning of the War of the Spanish Succession (1701-13), the regiment counted 3 squadrons. In 1701, it was sent to Northern Italy. In 1702, it took part in the Battle of Luzzara; in 1703, in the expedition in Trentino; in 1704, in the sieges of Vercelli, Ivrea, and Verrua; in the Battle of Cassano; in 1706, in the in the Battle of Calcinato, in the Battle of Turin. In 1707, reorganised after the disaster at Turin, the regiment was sent to Flanders. In 1708, it took part in the Battle of Oudenarde; in 1709, in the Battle of Malplaquet; in 1712, in the Battle of Denain; and in 1713, in the sieges of Landau and Freiburg.

In 1714, the regiment was at the camp on the Upper-Meuse.

By 1730, the colonel company was mounted on grey horses. It took part in the training camp on the Sambre River.

In 1733, at the outbreak of the War of the Polish Succession (1733-35), the regiment joined the Army of the Rhine and was present at the siege of Kehl. In 1734, the regiment took part in the attack of the Lines of Ettlingen and in the siege of Philippsburg; and in 735, in the affair of Klausen. Once peace had been concluded, it was quartered in Mouzon and Damvilliers.

In 1741, at the beginning of the War of the Austrian Succession (1740-48), the regiment took part in the invasion of Bohemia and was at the capture of Prague, and at the combats of Piseck and Sahay, it then took part in the relief of Frauenbeg and in the defence of Prague. In February 1743, it returned to France and was re-established to its initial strength. It then took part in the Battle of Dettingen, and in the Combat of Rheinweiler. In 1744, the regiment served at Saint-Quentin, then in Flanders. In 1745, it took part in the Battle of Fontenoy and in the capture of Tournai; in 1746, in the Battle of Rocoux; in 1747, in the Battle of Lauffeld, and in 1748, in the siege of Maastricht.

In 1749, the regiment was quartered in Vesoul; in 1751, in Belfort; in 1753, in Valenciennes; and in 1754, in Limoges.

Exceptionally, this cavalry regiment counted three squadrons.

During the Seven Years' War, the regiment ranked 1st among the line cavalry and was under the nominal command of the successive colonels généraux:

  • from July 7, 1740: Godefroi Charles Henri de La Tour d'Auvergne, Prince de Turenne
  • from April 16, 1759: Armand, Marquis de Béthune

During the Seven Years' War, the regiment was under the effective command of its successive mestres de camp:

  • from March 1, 1748: Charles Comte d'Ourches
  • from 1758: Bon Guy Doublet Chevalier de Fersan
  • from April 13, 1761 to July 19, 1763: Anne-Jacques Dubois, Marquis de La Rochette

When the French cavalry was reorganised on December 1, 1761, the regiment was increased to four squadrons, each of them consisting of four companies of 40 troopers, for a total of 640 troopers. The additional squadron came from I./Montcalm Cavalerie. However, the effective incorporation only took place at Gray on April 1, 1763.

The regiment became the "1er Régiment de Cuirassiers" in 1803. It was disbanded at Loches on December 24, 1815.

Service during the War

1756

In 1756, the regiment was stationed at Strasbourg.

1757

In 1757, the regiment was initially stationed in Landau.

By June, the regiment was with the Army of the Lower Rhine under the Maréchal d'Estrées, which was encamped at Bielefeld.

On July 26, the regiment took part in the Battle of Hastenbeck where it was among the cavalry of the right wing. After the victory, the regiment encamped at Grosselsen near Hameln with the main body of the Army of the Lower Rhine from July 31 to August 2.

After the Convention of Kloster-Zeven (September 8), the regiment followed the main body, led by the Maréchal de Richelieu, which encamped at Halberstadt from September 28 to November 5. The regiment was placed on the first line of the right wing.

At the end of the year, the regiment took its winter-quarters in Weener in Ostfriese, in the fourth line of the French army.

1758

In April 1758, when the Comte de Clermont redeployed his army along the Rhine, the regiment was stationed in the villages of Till, Moyland, Huisberden, Warbeyen, Grieth, Kaltenberg, Hasselt and Bedburg in the area of Kleve.

After the successful crossing of the Rhine by Ferdinand's Army on May 31, the regiment retired towards Rheinberg where it joined Clermont's Army on June 2. It remained in this camp until June 12. It was placed on the right wing of the first line.

On June 23, the regiment took part in the Battle of Krefeld, where it was placed on the right wing of the first line, under d'Armentières.

In Mid August, after Ferdinand's retreat to the east bank of the Rhine, the regiment, as part of the Army of the Lower Rhine now under Contades, recrossed the Rhine to follow the Allied army. On August 20, it was encamped near Wesel where it was placed on the right wing of the first line.

1759

In June 1759, during the offensive in Western Germany, the regiment was part of the main army under the command of the Marquis de Contades and was deployed in the first line of the cavalry right wing.

On August 1, the regiment took part in the Battle of Minden, where it was deployed in the first line of the cavalry centre under the command of the Duc de FitzJames. On August 15, during the French retreat, the regiment, which had suffered heavily at Minden and was now too weak to serve adequately, was sent to the rear at Marburg where it arrived on August 19.

1760

The regiment saw no action during the campaign of 1760.

1761

The regiment saw no action during the campaign of 1760.

1762

By March 1762, the regiment was attached to the Army of the Upper Rhine.

On June 24, the regiment was present at the Battle of Wilhelmsthal. By July 12, it was posted at Deiderode.

At the end of November, when the French army undertook the evacuation of Germany, the regiment was among the forces which remained on the Upper Rhine.

Uniform

Troopers

Uniform in 1753 - Copyright Kronoskaf
Uniform Details as per
the Etat Général des Troupes Françoises of 1753 and Etat Militaire of 1761
completed when necessary as per Mouillard
Headgear black tricorne (reinforced with an iron skullcap for combat) laced gold, with a black and white cockade on the left side fasted with a black silk strap and a small copper button
Neck stock black cravate
Coat red lined red
Collar none
Shoulder straps black and white epaulets
Lapels black bavaroises (long lapels extending all along coat edges)
Pockets horizontal pockets, each with 4 copper buttons
Cuffs black cuffs, each with 4 copper buttons (carabiniers wore a 2,2 cm silver lace on their cuffs)
Turnbacks red
Gloves buff
Waistcoat buff leather jacket with copper buttons
Breeches kid (goat leather)
Leather Equipment
Crossbelt white bandoleer
Waistbelt white
Cartridge Box red leather
Scabbard black leather
Footgear black soft boots
Horse Furniture
Saddlecloth red laced with a black and white braid (checker pattern) decorated with an embroidered stack of 5 standards (1 white, flanked by 2 red, flanked by 2 blue)
Housings red laced with a black and white braid (checker pattern) decorated with an embroidered stack of 5 standards (1 white, flanked by 2 red, flanked by 2 blue)
Blanket roll n/a


Troopers were armed with a carbine, two pistols and a sabre. They were also supposed to wear a breastplate during battle but this regulation was not always followed.

The horses of the troopers were of various colours to the exception of the colonel company who rode grey horses.

Evolution of the uniform during the war

Raspe's illustration depicting the uniform towards the end of 1760 shows the following evolutions:

  • shorter black lapels extending to the waist
  • red waistcoat and breeches (maybe the “dressed uniform”)

Raspe's illustration depicting the uniform after the reorganisation of December 1761 shows the following evolutions:

  • black collar
  • black lining for the coat and, consequently, black turnbacks
  • only 3 buttons on each cuff
  • red waistcoat

Officers

Officers wore uniforms similar to those of the troopers with the following distinctions:

  • Maréchal des logis: silver laced tricorne, housing bordered with a 2,7 cm silver lace
  • brigadier: double silver lace on the cuffs

Musicians

House of Turenne

Trumpeters and kettle drummers wore a white uniform heavily laced with a black and white braid (checker pattern) and with yellow buttons. The kettle drummers wore a white turban with red and yellow plumes.

The black banners of the kettle drums and trumpets were embroidered and fringed in silver and carried the arms of the house of Turenne in an oval escutcheon.

House of Béthune

Trumpeters and kettle drummers probably wore a green uniform heavily laced with a braid consisting of 4 stripes (red, black, blue and light orange) and with yellow buttons. The kettle drummers wore a white turban with red and yellow plumes.

The black banners of the kettle drums and trumpets were embroidered and fringed in silver and carried the arms of the house of Turenne in an oval escutcheon.

Colours

Colonel standard (aka Cornette Blanche): white field fringed silver; centre device consisting of a golden royal sun. This standard was the first standard of France.

Regimental standards (5) until 1770 or 1773 : black field fringed in silver

  • obverse: sown with gold and silver fleurs de lys and towers (Tours d'Auvergne); central device consisting of a golden royal sun with the royal motto “Nec Pluribus Impar” in gold
  • reverse: embroidered in silver, central device consisting of a column of fire marching in front of the Israelites with the motto “Certum monstrat iter”

Regimental standards (5) after 1770 or 1773 : fringed in gold and silver

  • obverse: red field; central device consisting of a golden royal sun with the royal motto “Nec Pluribus Impar” in gold
  • reverse: white field; centre device consisting the mace of Hercules surmounted by a lion skin embroidered in gold and surrounded by two green laurel branches; the whole surmounted by a scroll carrying the motto “Infractus Frangit”
Tentative Reconstruction
Colonel Standard - Copyright: Kronoskaf
Regimental Standard - Copyright: Kronoskaf

References

This article incorporates texts from the following books which are now in the public domain:

  • Susane, Louis: Histoire de la cavalerie française, Vol. 2, J. Hetzel et Cie, Paris, 1874, pp. 1-12
  • Pajol, Charles P. V.: Les Guerres sous Louis XV, vol. VII, Paris, 1891, pp. 319-321

Other sources

Funcken, L. and F.: Les uniformes de la guerre en dentelle

Menguy, Patrice: Les Sujets du Bien Aimé (a website which has unfortunately disappeared from the web)

Mouillard, Lucien: Les Régiments sous Louis XV; Paris 1882

Raspe, Gabriel Nicolaus: 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

Vial, J.-L.: Nec Pluribus Impar

N.B.: the section Service during the War is mostly derived from our articles depicting the various campaigns, battles and sieges.