Origin and History
The regiment was raised on March 13, 1676 from the Compagnies franches d'Audigeau.
During the War of the Polish Succession (1733-35), the regiment served on the Rhine.
During the War of the Austrian Succession (1740-48), the regiment initially served in Westphalia in 1741. In 1742, it took part in the invasion of Bohemia. In 1743, it retreated to France. From 1744 to 1746, it campaigned in Flanders. In 1747, it was assigned to guard the coasts of Bretagne. In 1748, it returned to Flanders.
In 1749, the regiment was stationed at Vesoul; in 1750, at Thionville; in 1751, at Dôle; in 1753, at Schelestadt; in 1754, at Plobsheim; and in 1755, at Dijon.
In 1756, the regiment counted 4 squadrons and ranked 14th.
During the Seven Years' War, the regiment was under the command of:
- from February 1, 1749: Amable Gaspard, Vicomte de Thianges (brigadier from May 1, 1758, then maréchal de camp on February 20, 1761)
- from February 20, 1761 to November 30, 1764: Louis Jacques, Chevalier de Chapt Rastignac
In 1787, the unit was transformed into a regiment of Chasseurs: the Chasseurs du Hainaut.
Service during the War
At the outbreak of the war in 1756, the regiment was stationed at Saint-Malo.
By August 1, 1757, the regiment was garrisoning Abbeville and Montreuil-sur-Mer in Picardie.
The regiment remained in France from 1758 to 1759, guarding the Coasts of Bretagne.
On March 28, 1759, the regiment was at Louvain coming from Flanders. It then joined the Army of Germany. At the end of May, when the French Army of the Rhine launched its offensive in Western Germany, the regiment remained on the Rhine as part of the corps of the Marquis d'Armentières. On August 1, when d'Armentières appeared in front of Lippstadt with his corps, he deployed the Légion Royale and Thianges Dragons northwards at Warendorf and Telgte to guard his communications with Münster. The regiment then took part in the siege of Münster. By October 25, still attached to d'Armentières' Corps, the regiment was posted at Bork.
By May 23, 1760, the regiment was part of a detachment under the command of MM. d'Amezaga, Duc de Fronsac. On June 17, the regiment was part of a small division, under M. de Leyde, who reached Düsseldorf, on its way to join Saint-Germain’s Corps. On July 4, as part of d'Auvet's Division, it reconnoitred the area of Arnsberg. On July 31, the regiment took part in the Battle of Warburg where it was deployed in the first line of the centre. On August 22, the Hereditary Prince crossed the Diemel with 12,000 men and advanced on Broglie's left flank, his vanguard reaching Zierenberg. His light troops engaged a French detachment (Royal Dragons, Thianges Dragons and part of the Chasseurs de Fischer) under M. de Travers, which had been left at Oberelsungen to observe the movements of the Allies. The Allied light troops were soon supported by the Hereditary Prince at the head of the 2nd North British Dragoons (Scot Greys) and the 6th Inniskilling Dragoons and the British grenadiers. The French were finally driven back with considerable losses and took refuge in Zierenberg. On October 1, Broglie sent M. de Chabo towards Hachenburg with Royal Dragons and Thianges Dragons. On October 11, Chabo took position between Neuss and Meerbusch. On October 16, the regiment was at the Battle of Clostercamp where it formed part of the reserve under the Maréchal-de-camp Duc de Fronsac.
In February 1761, the regiment formed part of the Army of the Lower Rhine and was posted near Kleve under the command of Lieutenant-General d'Auvet. It was then allocated to de Muy’s Corps during the winter campaign in Hesse. On July 16, during the Battle of Vellinghausen, the regiment was allocated to the Corps of the Prince de Condé. On August 9, the regiment formed part of the reinforcement sent to the Army of the Upper-Rhine by the Prince de Soubise for its enterprise against Hameln. These reinforcements under Lieutenant-General de Lévis left from Rahm, passed the Ruhr at the bridge of Herdecke and spend the night near Hagen. On August 30 in the morning, a strong Allied column came out of Münster and marched on Bösensell, occupied by the Volontaires de Soubise and the Volontaires de l'armée on the French left wing; and on Groß Schonebeck on the Stever (near Nottuln) defended by the present regiment. At 9:00 a.m., informed of the attack on his advanced posts, Soubise went to the support of his left while ordering M. de Montbarey to support Chapt Dragons with the grenadiers and chasseurs battalions of Briqueville Infanterie, La Couronne Infanterie, and Bouillon Infanterie along with 2 artillery divisions. After a short engagement, the Allied infantry stopped while the Allied cavalry retired. Soubise ordered M. de Fronsac to attack the Allies who retired from hedges to hedges to the plain of Roxel where they tried to form. The present regiment and the dragoons of the Volontaires de Soubise charged them, penetrating the column in two occasions and capturing a few prisoners. The Allies then retired to Münster. M. de Wurmser was severely wounded during this action. On September 2, M. de Vogüé moved closer to Wesel with La Marck brigade, Flamarens Dragons, Chapt Dragons, the Volontaires du Dauphiné and the Maison du Roi, thus threatening Dorsten. By November, the regiment was posted in the district of Kleve.
In March 1762, the regiment was allocated to the corps of the Prince de Condé. On April 19, M. d'Apchon marched on Dortmund with 4,400 men (including 500 men of the present regiment), while 100 men of the regiment took position left of Wesel. By May 29, the regiment was posted at Kalkar. On July 4 in the morning, M. de Melfort and his vanguard bumped into Scheither's Corps at Leer (unidentified location) on the Lower Rhine and took 100 men and 3 officers prisoners, including M. de Scheither. The present regiment and the Volontaires du Dauphiné distinguished themselves in this action. On August 25, the regiment took part in the Engagement of Grüningen where it was deployed en potence on the left flank. On August 30, it fought in the Combat of Nauheim, where it formed part of the vanguard under Lieutenant-General Lévis. On November 20, Louis XV issued his instructions regarding the French armies serving in Germany, specifying which units should return to France right away and which should stay in Germany until the final evacuation. The present regiment was among those which remained in Germany and was posted on the Meuse.
|Headgear||red fatigue cap with a red turn-up edged with a braid of alternating black and white 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 yellow 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 grey saddle cloth and housings bordered with the same regimental lace.
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. 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 yellow 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
In December 1762, a regulation introduced a brand new green uniform with yellow 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
- 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 Thianges and then, from 1761, the livery of the House of Chapt which are unfortunately unknown.
Regimental guidons (4 silken swallow-tailed guidons): red field embroidered and fringed in gold; 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, pp. 434-435
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
Service Historique de l'armée de terre: Sommaire des forces armées Françaises à l'intérieur et à l'extérieur de la France - 1er Août 1757
N.B.: the section Service during the War is partly derived from our articles depicting the various campaigns, battles and sieges.