Volontaires de Saint-Victor

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Hierarchical Path: Seven Years War (Main Page) >> Armies >> French Army >> Volontaires de Saint-Victor

Origin and History

The unit originated from semi-permanent units designated as Volontaires de l'armée. In 1760, one such unit operated under the command of Stanislas Louis de La Noue-Vieuxpont, Comte de Vair, captain at Enghien Infanterie. In February, the Maréchal de Broglie adjoined him M. de Saint-Victor as second in command. On July 23, the Comte de Vair was killed at the head of his unit of Volontaires de l'armée at the affair of Sachsenhausen near Volkmarsen in Hesse. At the death of the Comte de Vair, Broglie entrusted this unit to M. de Saint-Victor.

This particular unit of the Volontaires de l'armée escaped to the short-lived status of such units. Indeed, in February 1761, before the beginning of the campaign, the Martéchal de Broglie decided to constitute a new unit of Volontaires de l'armée, giving it a permanent status.

A memoir addressed by M. de Saint-Victor to the son of the Duc de Broglie clarifies the composition of this unit.

"This corps was composed of one man per company of all French and foreign regiments of M. le maréchal your father. In 1760, after the affair of Corbach, and when M. the Comte de Saint Germain had reunited the troops of the Lower-Rhine to the army, the troops of M. de Vair reached 1,600 infantrymen, who he subdivided into twelve centuries of fusiliers, 3 of chasseurs, 60 fouilleurs (?) and 40 gunmen to serve the 4 pieces à la Rostaing. One also joined him piquets of hussars and dragoons..."

This memoir also explains that M. de Saint-Victor, succeeding to M. de Vair, had not enough mounted troops because the piquets of hussars and dragoons had been returned to their respective regiments. M. de Saint-Victor created a corps of 200 hussars to whom he joined 200 chasseurs à pieds.

The presence of Swiss soldiers in this corps provoked sharp protestations by M. de Castella, seemingly to no avail.

The organisation by "centuries" followed the ideas proposed by the Maréchal de Saxe in his "Rêveries". This was a period of history where much was published on the tactics of the Greek and Roman armies.

Since the unit had now been transformed into a permanent unit, it received new uniforms. The unit was organised into 1 grenadier company, 8 fusilier companies and 8 hussars companies, totalling 948 men. However, the unit was not an independent light troop regiment like for instance the Volontaires Étrangers de Clermont Prince, the Volontaires du Hainaut or the Volontaires de Flandre. In fact, its soldiers were still being paid by their parent regiment.

During the Seven Years' War, the unit was commanded by the following colonel-commandants:

  • since February 1761 until 1763: M. de Saint-Victor

In 1763, the Volontaires de Saint-Victor were disbanded and part of their troops was incorporated into the Volontaires Étrangers de Clermont Prince.

Service during the War

On July 23, 1760, the unit was with Broglie's forces for the attack on Spörcken's position near Volkmarsen in Hesse. La Noue, the commander of the unit, was killed during this action. Thereafter M. de St. Victor took over command the unit. By August 6, the unit was scouting the banks of the Weser between the Diemel and the Fulda. On August 10, Colonel Donop attacked and dislodged the Volontaires de Saint-Victor (2,000 men), who had been detached into the woods of Sababurg to protect Broglie's line of communication with Prince Xavier. The French lost 500 men killed, wounded or taken prisoners; and 3 guns. The routed Volontaires de Saint-Victor took refuge into Münden. By December 30, the unit had taken its winter-quarters in Krumbach.

On March 21, 1761, the Volontaires de Saint-Victor took part in the Engagement of Grünberg where they formed part of Closen’s Corps. On July 10, as Broglie was reconnoitring the area between Soest and the Lippe. he was joined by part of Closen's vanguard. Allied troops posted behind the village of Oestinghausen retired and then deployed in order of battle on a large heath enclosed within hedges near Hultrop. Their cavalry charged the Volontaires d'Austrasie, who were closely following the retiring troops. The Volontaires d'Austrasie, after losing 60 men killed or wounded and 6 officers wounded, took refuge behind the hedges bordering the village where they were soon supported by the Volontaires de Saint-Victor. At the beginning of this action, the Maréchal de Broglie along with MM. de Poyanne, de Stainville, d'Egmont, the Comte de Lillebonne and the Comte de Broglie were not far behind the Volontaires d'Austrasie and they were forced to gallop to escape the Allied charge. On July 12, the French made another attempt to reconnoitre the British positions. The Volontaires de Saint-Victor captured several Highlanders. On July 16, they fought in the Battle of Vellinghausen. On August 13, the Volontaires de Saint-Victor occupied a wood and a mountain linking with the French left. On August 18, Closen’s Corps formed the rearguard of the French army during the crossing of the Weser. Allied troops soon try to intercept it. The Highlanders and the British grenadiers debouched from the height of Altendorf and marched rapidly on the few French troops they could see. Closen suddenly unmasked his guns and opened on the advancing Allied troops while launching his hussars and the dragoons of the Volontaires de Saint-Victor commanded by M. de Gaintraud. They drove back the Allies. The 15th Elliot's Light Horse, which came to the rescue of the Highlanders and grenadiers, suffered the same fate. In this action, the Allies lost some 500 men. In anticipation of a new attack, Closen and Beauvau, joined by Chabot, then took position above Ovenhausen. The Volontaires de Saint-Victor were thrown into this village and into the wood in front of it. The 9 grenadier and chasseur bns deployed at the edge of the wood in front of the camp and the infantry on a height overlooking Höxter. Ferdinand decided to remain on the left bank of the river to cover his places and to threaten communications with Soubise's army in Hesse. On August 19, the Volontaires de Saint-Victor retired from Ovenhausen. By August 31, they occupued Holzhausen. On October 29, when M. de Stainville reached Seesen, he pushed the Volontaires de Saint-Victor to Goslar.

In march 1762, the Volontaires de Saint-Victor formed part of Soubise’s Army of the Upper Rhine. On April 12, a detachment of the unit reconnoitred towards Haaren and Fürstenberg on the Karpke. On May 17, the Volontaires de Saint-Victor, the Chasseurs de Monet and Chamborant Hussards were charged to reconnoitre the country between the Diemel and Kassel, passing the river and advancing up to Höxter where they made a few prisoners. On May 30, the Volontaires de Saint-Victor and the Chasseurs de Monet, who had been sent to the relief of Sababurg, reached the place after the retreat of the Allies. On the morning of June 4, the Volontaires de Saint-Victor and the Chasseurs de Monet, supported by the Volontaires Royaux de Nassau and the Volontaires de Soubise, drove Freytag from the height of Gerbenstein, following him beyond the heights of Liebenau. On June 24, the Volontaires de Saint-Victor were at the Battle of Wilhelmsthal. On July 14 at daybreak, Granby sent part of his corps across the Eder. The Allies then extended their right towards the French camp of Heslar and tested the French defence by attacking the French right at Neuenbrunslar, occupied only by the Volontaires de Saint-Victor and a few hussars. These French troops retired on the Eder. On September 10, the Volontaires de Saint-Victor took part in an attack on the pontoon train of the Allies at Laubach, driving back the 2 Allied bns and making themselves masters of Laubach and of the pontoon train. In this action the French lost about 100 men mostly from the Volontaires de Soubise and Volontaires de Verteuil. After this action the light troops retired on Castries' Corps on the Lich.

Uniform

To our knowledge, Mouillard is the only source depicting this unit.

Fusiliers

Uniform Details as per Mouillard
Headgear
Fusilier black tricorne laced silver with a white cockade
Grenadier probably a tricorne
Neck stock probably black
Coat blue lined red; 2 pewter buttons under the right lapel; 1 pewter button on each side in the small of the back
Collar blue
Shoulder Straps blue fastened with a small pewter button
Lapels red with 8 pewter buttons grouped 2 by 2
Pockets horizontal pockets, each with 3 pewter buttons
Cuffs red with 2 pewter buttons disposed vertically
Turnbacks red
Waistcoat white with pewter buttons
Breeches white
Gaiters black
Leather Equipment
Crossbelt probably white (no information available)
Waistbelt probably white (no information available)
Cartridge Box no information available
Bayonet Scabbard black with brass fittings
Scabbard black with brass fittings


Armaments of light troops usually consisted of a musket, a bayonet and a sabre.

Hussars

Uniform Details as per a contemporary illustration
Headgear red felt mirliton with a yellow flame edged white
Pelisse ventre de biche (chamois)
Fur trim sheepskin along coat edges and cuffs
Lace approx. 20 white braids
Buttons 1 row of approx. 20 large pewter buttons between two rows of 20 small pewter buttons
Dolman red with white braids and 1 row of large pewter buttons between two rows of small pewter buttons
Collar none
Cuffs ventre de biche (chamois) bordered with a white lace
Pockets n/a
Trousers red
Leather Equipment
Crossbelt n/a
Waist-sash red and ventre de biche (chamois)
Cartridge box n/a
Scabbard black with brass fittings
Boots black leather Hungarian boots
Horse Furniture
Saddlecloth red decorated with a white fleurs de lys in the corners and bordered white
Sabretache ventre de biche (chamois) decorated with a yellow fleur de lys


French hussars were usually armed with a short, curved sabre, two pistols and a musket.

Officers

no information found yet

NCOs

no information found yet

Musicians

The drummers of the regiment wore the Royal Livery: blue coat lined red; red cuffs, waistcoat and breeches; laced with the braid of the small Royal Livery.

Drummer wearing the Royal Livery - Source: Jocelyne Chevanelle

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

French Royal Livery - Source: reconstruction based on a sample from Jean-Louis Vial's collection


Colours

The regiment most probably did not carry any colour or guidon.

References

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

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

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