Volontaires de Geschray

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Origin and History

The unit was created on July 31, 1747 by M. de Geschray who became its colonel. It consisted of 800 foot (8 coys of 100 men) and 400 dragoons (8 coys of 50 men). At the end of the War of the Austrian Succession, Three successive regulations (October 2 1748, December 30 1748 and March 1749) reduced the unit to 80 foot (2 coys of 40 men) and 40 dragoons (2 coys of 20 men).

Private of the Volontaires de Beyerle circa 1758 - Courtesy of The New York Public Library

In 1757, the unit was renamed “Volontaires de Beyerle”. This unit was well-known within the French Army for its exceptionally handsome looking men. It counted 120 men and consisted of:

  • 2 fusilier companies (each of 2 officers and 38 fusiliers)
  • 2 dragoon companies (each of 2 officers and 18 dragoons)

On February 1, 1758, the unit was renamed once more, becoming the “Volontaires d'Alsace”. It was significantly increased, then counting 456 men and consisted of:

  • 6 mixed companies (each of 6 officers, 40 fusiliers and 30 dragoons)

Following its almost complete destruction near Münden in July 1759, the unit was disbanded on November 22 of the same year. Its remaining troops were incorporated into various units: Volontaires de Flandre, Volontaires du Dauphiné, Volontaires d'Austrasie and Volontaires du Hainaut.

During the Seven Years' War, the unit was commanded by:

  • since July 31, 1747: Colonel de Geschray
  • from 1757 until November 22, 1759: Colonel de Beyerle

Service during the War

By August 1, 1757, the unit was garrisoning Domène et Crolles in Dauphiné.

On January 27, 1759, when the marquis d'Armentières was informed of prince Henri's movements against the Austro-Imperial army in Thuringia, he sent Fischer and Schomberg ahead with the Volontaires d'Alsace. On April 13, the unit took part in the battle of Bergen where it was deployed en tirailleur in the woods near Vilbel in front of the Saxon line. On April 19, Broglie sent the Volontaires d'Alsace under M. de Beyerle towards Fulda by Büdingen. In May, Broglie sent the unit to Lohr am Main to hinder the Allied manoeuvres in Franconia. In June, at the beginning of the French offensive in West Germany, the unit (estimated at 456 men) was part of the “Right Reserve” under the command of the duc de Broglie who had taken position at Friedberg in Hesse. On July 19 1759, the unit was attacked by Freytag's light troops near Münden. The unit was completely destroyed, some 200 men, including colonel Beyerle, were made prisoners, most of the remainder were killed. The unit was disbanded on November 22.


Uniform of the Fusiliers


Uniform in 1758 - Source: Richard Couture adapted from a template by Jean-Louis Vial [http://vial.jean.free.fr/new_npi/ Nec Pluribus Impar


Uniform Details as per
Etat Militaire of 1758 and 1760,
and Abrégé du Dictionnaire Militaire of 1759

completed where necessary as per Taccoli
Headgear black tricorne laced gold with a white cockade
Neckstock black
Coat blue lined red with 2 yellow buttons and 2 red laced buttonholes under the right lapel and 2 red laced buttonholes under the left lapel
Collar none
Shoulder Straps blue
Lapels red with 6 yellow buttons and 6 yellow laced buttonholes arranged 1-2-3 (top down)
Pockets vertical pockets, each with 3 yellow buttons and 3 red laced buttonholes
Cuffs red without buttons (with 3 yellow buttons as per Taccoli)
Turnbacks red
Waistcoat red with yellow buttons and black laced buttonholes on the right side; black collar; horizontal pockets, each with 3 yellow buttons and 3 black laced buttonholes
Breeches red
Gaiters white or black
Leather Equipment
Crossbelt natural leather (white as per Taccoli)
Waistbelt natural leather (white as per Taccoli)
Cartridge Box black
Bayonet Scabbard black
Scabbard black

Armaments consisted of a musket, a bayonet and a sword.


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Uniform of the Dragoons

Although dragoons are not mentioned specifically in the contemporary Etats Militaires, they probably wore uniforms similar to those of the fusiliers.

For his part, Mouillard illustrates blue schabraque and housings edged red.


Colonel flag: unknown.

Ordonnance flag (until 1757): white St. Andrew cross; each canton subdivided into a red and a blue triangles.

Ordonnance Colour until 1757 - Copyright: Kronoskaf

Ordonnance flag (from 1757 to 1759): white cross; each canton subdivided itself into 4 smaller cantons each formed by red and a blue triangles.

Ordonnance Colour from 1757 - Copyright: Kronoskaf


This article 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. 225, 236
  • Taccoli, Alfonso; Teatro Militare dell' Europa, Part 1, vol. 2; Madrid, March 1760, pp. 154, 156

Other sources

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

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

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 mostly derived from our articles depicting the various campaigns, battles and sieges.