Mestre de Camp Général Dragons

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Hierarchical Path: Seven Years' War (Main Page) >> Armies >> French Army >> Mestre de Camp Général Dragons

Origin and History

The regiment was created on March 25, 1674 by the Comte de Tessé. In December 1684, it became "Mestre de Camp Général Dragons". Indeed the Comte de Tessé managed to have this charge created for him when he bought the charge of "Mestre de Camp Général" of the carabins from the Comte de Quincy.

At its creation in 1674 during the Franco-Dutch War (1672-78), the regiment initially occupied Vic de Bigorre, Lourdes, Bagnères and Campan. The same year, it took part in the combats of Saint-Jean-de-Pagès and Morillas in Roussillon. In 1675 and 1677, it continued to serve on the frontier of the Pyrenees. In 1677, it was transferred to Germany where it took part in the capture of Freiburg. In 1678, it fought in the combats of Rheinfeld and Seckingen, and was at the capture of Kehl and Lichtenberg.

In 1679 and 1681, the regiment was at the camp of the Sarre. In 1681, it was sent to Piedmont to occupy Casale. In 1683, it was at the camp of the Saône; in 1684, at the siege of Luxembourg; in 1685, at the camp on the Kinzig; and in 1686, in Dauphiné.

In 1688, at the outbreak of the Nine Years' War (1688-97), the regiment was stationed in Palatinate. In 1691, it was transferred to the Army of Flanders and took part in the Combat of Leuze. It was then transferred to Italy, where it was at the capture of Villefranche and Nice, and at the attack against Veillane. In 1692, the regiment was back to the Rhine, where it would remain until the end of 1696. In 1697, it joined the Army of the Lys and took part in the siege of Ath.

In 1698, the regiment was at the camp of Compiègne.

In 1701, at the beginning of the War of the Spanish Succession, the regiment formed part of the Army of Flanders. In 1702, it took part in the engagement of Nijmegen and in the cannonade of Hechtel, where it formed part of the rearguard. In 1703, it was at the sieges of Alt-Breisach and Landau and at the Combat of the Speyerbach. In 1704, it fought in the disastrous Battle of Blenheim, where it was forced to surrender as prisoners of war while defending the village of Blenheim. From 1706 to 1712, the regiment campaigned in Flanders; and in 1713, on the Rhine.

The regiment then sojourned in Languedoc and Normandie. In 1727, it participated in the camp of Stenai before going to Thionville. In 1732, it was at the camp of the Meuse.

In 1733, at the outbreak of the War of the Polish Succession (1733-35), the regiment initially served in the region of Metz before joining the Army of the Rhine. During this war, it took part in the attack of the Lines of Ettlingen, in the capture of Trarbach, in the siege of Philippsburg and in the Battle of Klausen.

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. In 1742, it was at the Combat of Sahay, at the affair of Frauenberg and at the unsuccessful defence of Prague. On June 27, 1743, it fought in the Battle of Dettingen. In 1744, it took part in the capture of Menin, Ypres and Furnes; in 1745, in the Battle of Fontenoy and in the sieges of Tournai, Oudenarde, Termonde and Ath; in 1746, in the siege of Namur and in the Battle of Rocoux; in 1747, in the Battle of Lauffeld and in the siege of Berg-op-Zoom; and in 1748, in the siege of Maastricht.

In 1749, the regiment was stationed at Montauban; in 1751, at Cahors; in 1752, at Metz; in 1753, at Sarrelouis; in 1754, at Lisieux; and in 1755, at Arras.

By 1756, the regiment counted 4 squadrons and ranked 2nd.

During the Seven Years' War, the regiment was under the nominal command of:

  • from January 24, 1754 to October 16, 1771: Marie François Henri de Franquetot, Comte de Coigny

During the Seven Years' War, the regiment was under the effective command of:

  • from March 1748: Colonel-Lieutenant Gabriel Augustin de Franquetot, Comte de Coigny
  • from March 27, 1761 to November 6, 1771: Colonel-Lieutenant Jean Charles, Marquis de Ville

Service during the War

In 1756, at the outbreak of the Seven Years' War, the regiment was stationed at Saint-Omer and Joigny.

In 1757, the regiment was initially posted at Valenciennes. It then joined the Army of the Lower Rhine commanded by the Maréchal d'Estrées for the planned invasion of Hanover. At the end of June, it was at the camp of Bielefeld with d'Estrées' main corps. On July 23, the regiment was part of the corps of the Marquis de Contades, consisting of 30 grenadier companies and three dragoon regiments, who advanced on the village of Brukensense at nightfall. On July 26, the regiment was at the Battle of Hastenbeck where it fought dismounted as part of the right wing under d'Armentières. 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. On August 8, the Maréchal Duc de Richelieu, now commanding the army, sent the regiment along with the Grenadiers de France and two other dragoon regiments ahead to occupy the city of Hanover. On August 26, Richelieu detached the Duc de Chevreuse on the right bank of the Lev with the Mestre de Camp Général Dragons, 2 other dragoon regiments, 12 cavalry squadrons and an infantry brigade to advance on Bottmer and to throw bridges on the Lev at Etzel. At the end of the year, the regiment took its winter-quarters in the third line of the French army in Hoya.

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. On February 23, a detachment of the regiment was among the French troops who were attacked at Hoya on the Weser by an Allied column. From March 30 to April 4, the regiment was on the left wing of the army of the Comte de Clermont in the camp of Wesel on the Lower Rhine. In April, when Clermont redeployed his army along the Rhine, the regiment was placed in the third line at Brüggen, south of Venlo. 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, where it was placed on the flank behind the left wing, until June 12. On June 23, it took part in the Battle of Krefeld.

In 1759, the regiment returned to France to guard the coasts, a charge that it assumed until the end of the war. By 1762, it was posted at Dunkerque.

Uniform

Troopers

Uniform in 1756 – Copyright Kronoskaf
Uniform in 1757 – Copyright Kronoskaf
Uniform Details as per
the Liste Générale des Troupes de France of 1754, the Etrennes Militaires of 1758
and Etat Militaire of 1760 and 1761

completed where necessary as per Raspe
Headgear red fatigue cap with red (white from 1757) turn-up edged black (white from 1757)
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 pewter button
Neck stock black cravate
Coat red with red lining (white from 1757); pewter buttons and white laced buttonholes down to the pocket and a pewter button on each side at the small of the back
Collar none
Shoulder straps left shoulder: red shoulder strap edged black (white from 1757) and fastened with a small pewter button

right shoulder: fringed black epaulet (white from 1757)

Lapels none
Pockets horizontal pocket flaps, each with 3 pewter buttons and 3 white laced buttonholes
Cuffs red (white from 1757), each with 4 pewter buttons and 4 white laced buttonholes
Turnbacks white
Gloves buff
Waistcoat red edged white (with white lapels from 1757) with white lining; pewter buttons on one side and white laced buttonholes on both sides; (a white flap on each sleeve from 1757)
Breeches buff leather
Stocking white
Greatcoat red
Leather Equipment
Crossbelt buff leather
Waistbelt buff leather
Cartridge Pouch red leather
Scabbard black leather with copper fittings
Footgear buckled shoes with oiled calf leather soft bottines (sort of leather gaiters) or, for foot service, white gaiters
Horse Furniture
Saddlecloth red bordered with a black braid (white from 1757); probably decorated with an embroidered stack of 5 standards (1 white, flanked by 2 red, flanked by 2 blue)
Housings red bordered with a black braid (white from 1757); probably decorated with an embroidered stack of 5 standards (1 white, flanked by 2 red, flanked by 2 blue)


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.

Evolution of the uniform during the war

Throughout the war the French dragoon uniform seems to have evolved significantly. Our only primary source for the uniform at the start of the conflict is the Liste Générale des Troupes de France of 1754 and the Etrennes Militaires of 1758. The first primary pictorial evidence comes from Raspe in 1761. 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:

  • small red collar on the coat
  • no laced buttonholes on the coat, pocket flaps, cuffs and waistcoat
  • no lapels on the waistcoat
  • no buttons on the cuffs
  • black cavalry boots

In December 1762, a regulation introduced a brand new green uniform with red as the distinctive colour.

Officers

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 a plain red waistcoat without edging or laced buttonholes
  • Raspe publication illustrates white 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 the troopers.

The maréchaux-des-logis and sergeants had similar uniforms made of Romorantin woolen cloth dyed in half-scarlet. 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.

Musicians

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.

Drummers wore the unknown livery of the House of Coigny.

Guidons

Regimental standards (4 gros de Tour linen swallow-tailed guidons) finged in gold:

  • obverse: blue field sewn with golden fleurs de lys; centre device consisting of a golden royal sun surmounted by a scroll bearing the royal motto “Nec Pluribus Impar”
  • reverse: white field with a white scroll parallel to the pole carrying the motto “VICTORIA PINGET” emboidered in black


Mestre de Camp Général Dragons Regimental Guidon – Source: Jean-Louis Vial of Nec Pluribus Impar
Mestre de Camp Général Dragons Regimental Guidon – Source: Jean-Louis Vial of Nec Pluribus Impar

References

This article is mostly a translation Jean-Louis Vial's article “Mestre de Camp Général Dragons” published on his website Nec Pluribus Impar. The article incorporates texts from the following books which are now in the public domain:

  • Susane, Louis: Histoire de la cavalerie française, Vol. 1, Paris: Hetzel, 1874, pp. 299-306
  • Pajol, Charles P. V.: Les Guerres sous Louis XV, vol. VII, Paris, 1891, p. 425

Other sources

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

Rogge, Christian: The French & Allied Armies in Germany during the Seven Years War, Frankfurt, 2006

Service historique de l'armée de terre: Archives du génie, article 15, section 1, §5, pièce 23

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