Alsace Infanterie

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Hierarchical Path: Seven Years War (Main Page) >> Armies >> French Army >> Alsace Infanterie

Origin and History

Charles VIII had been the first king of France who in 1486 took German lansquenets in his service. Since that time and until the Revolution, there has always been German troops in the French army. At the death of Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden in 1632, all German regiments of his army were taken in the French service.

At the end of the Thirty Years' War, in 1648, Louis XIV was king of France since five years under the regency of his mother Anne and of Cardinal Mazarin. By the Treaty of Westphalia, the Holy Roman Empire ceded the Landgraviates of Upper and Lower-Alsace to France. However, this new French province spoke German and counted a very important Protestant community. The principle establishing that the religion of subjects must be the same as the one of their prince led to new persecutions against protestants and to forced conversions. Furthermore, the question of suzerainty left open by the ambiguity of the Treaty of Westphalia did not appease tensions. The sovereignty of the king of France was largely contested by the towns and the nobility who wanted to maintain their privileges and the emperor's authority. To make things more complicated, several German princes, among which the Landgrave of Hesse-Darmstadt and the Count of Hanau-Lichtenberg, still owned fiefs in Alsace.

Immediately after the Thirty Years' War, Mazarin had to face insurrections from the parliament and from the nobility. These troubles known as Frondes lasted till 1653.

On April 16 1656, a treaty was signed between the king of France and Jean Louis de Nassau-Weilburg, Comte de Nassau-Ottweiler and Comte de Nassau-Saarbrück for the creation of Alsace Infanterie. However, even though the regiment wore the name of a province, it was not considered a provincial regiment. In fact, throughout the Ancien Régime, it was considered a foreign German regiment owned by its successive colonels.

In 1667, the Comte de Nassau ceded the regiment to his brother-in-law of the Birkenfeld-Zweibrücken (known as Birkenfeld-Deux-Ponts in France) branch of the House of Wittelsbach-Bayern whose members would command the regiment for more than 100 years until 1776. In December 1667, the first colonel of this house was Christian II de Birkenfeld, Comte palatin de Birkenfeld-Bischweiler.

In May 1696, the eldest son of Christian II, Christian III, Comte palatin de Birkenfeld-Bischweiler succeeded him at the head of the regiment. The latter became Duc de Deux-Ponts in 1731.

During the War of the Polish Succession, the regiment served on the Rhine in 1733 and 1735.

In 1734, Christian III ceded the regiment to his youngest son Frédéric Michel, Comte Palatin de Deux-Ponts-Birkenfeld and Comte de Rappolstein, who was only 10 years old.

During the War of the Austrian Succession, the regiment initially served in Bavaria in 1741 where Frédéric Michel, assumed effective service. In 1742, it was part of the French army which captured Prague. In 1743, its colonel, Frédéric Michel, was promoted maréchal de camp. In 1744, the regiment was stationed in Alsace and in 1746 on the Sarre. In 1747 and 1748, it served in Flanders.

In July 1752, Frédéric Michel ceded the regiment to his eldest son Charles-Auguste, Prince Palatin de Deux-Ponts, aged 6 and too young to assume command.

The regiment counted three battalions.

During the Seven Years' War, the regiment ranked 36th and was under the command of:

  • since July 4 1752 to November 12 1770: Christian Prince de Deux-Ponts

On January 18 1760, when the German Infantry was reorganised, the regiment incorporated the disbanded Bergh Infanterie which counted a single battalion. Thus, the regiment total strength was brought to 4 battalions.

Service during the War

In 1757, the regiment was supposed to be part of the Auxiliary Corps that should be sent to support Austria. Events in Germany changed this initial plan and the regiment was sent to the Army of the Lower Rhine. From April 27 to June 17, the regiment was part of the Reserve under the Prince de Soubise. On July 26, the regiment was at the Battle of Hastenbeck where it formed part of the right wing under d'Armentières. It attacked a strong redoubt at the outskirt of a forest where one of its captains captured 8 guns and 2 howitzers. After the victory, the regiment was part of the vanguard under the Duc de Richelieu in charge of the conquest of Hanover. In August, it took part in engagements at Rotheburg and Otterberg. On September 3, it was ordered to move to Kloster-Zeven, along with all the grenadiers. On September 4, it was at the combat of Bevern. After the Convention of Kloster-Zeven on September 8, it followed the main body, led by the Maréchal de Richelieu, who encamped at Halberstadt from September 28 to November 5. The regiment was placed in the centre of the second line. When the Allies repudiated the Convention of Kloster-Zeven, the regiment advanced against them and took part in an engagement at Vegesach. It also participated in the capture of Bremen where it finally took its winter-quarters in the first line of the French army.

At the end of January 1758, the regiment was once more assigned to the corps destined for Bohemia to assist Austria. However, in February when Ferdinand of Brunswick launched his winter offensive in West Germany, the regiment retreated towards Düsseldorf and Deutz with the bulk of Broglie's Army. From March 30 to April 4, it was in the first line of Clermont's Army in the camp of Wesel on the Lower Rhine. It passed the Rhine on April 3 and 4. By July, it had joined Soubise's Army assembling near Friedberg in Hesse. On October 10, it was present at the Battle of Lutterberg where it was placed in the centre of the first line.

On April 13 1759, the regiment took part in the Battle of Bergen where it formed part of the second line of the right wing under the command of Prince Camille de Lorraine. The regiment was deployed in column behind the village of Bergen. On August 1, it also took part in the Battle of Minden.

By May 23 1760, the regiment was part of the left reserve of the first line of Broglie's Army, placed under the command of Saint-Germain. 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. On July 4, as part of d'Auvet's Division, it reconnoitred the area of Arnsberg. On July 31, the regiment was attached to the Corps of Maréchal-de-Camp de la Morlière posted at Welda 6 km to the south of Warburg in support of de Muy. On October 3, Ségur's Corps (including this regiment) was dispatched towards Hachenburg and Cologne. On July 31, the regiment took part in the Battle of Warburg where it was deployed in the first line of the left wing. On October 13, the regiment arrived at Neuss with Castries. On 16 October, it played an active role in the Battle of Clostercamp where it was posted in the first line of the left wing who bore the brunt of the attack of the Allies. At the end of October, the regiment, who had heavily suffered at Clostercamp, was sent back to France.

To do: details for the campaigns from 1761 to 1762

Uniform

The États militaires of 1758-1759-1760-1761-1762 and La Chesnaye in 1758 all describe the blue uniform illustrated below. Furthermore, the plates in the manuscript of 1757 kept at the Musée de l'armée and in Raspe's publication of 1761 both depict a similar uniform. However, Taccoli's plate dating from 1760 illustrates a white uniform (white collarless coat, white waistcoat and breeches, and red cuffs, lapels and lining, white buttons, horizontal pockets, silver laced tricorne with a white cockade).

This could be a simple mistake in Taccoli's work but the same type of problem arises with Royal Deux-Ponts Infanterie. This tends to suggest that, in some German regiments in the French service, a blue and a white uniforms have been in use during the Seven Years' War.

After the battle of Clostercamp in October 1760, Alsace Infanterie was among the decimated regiments and had to retire to Cologne to replenish its ranks. It would not be combat ready before the campaign of 1762. Could the white uniform be a temporary uniform attributed to the new recruits raised in German territory because blue uniforms were not available at that time? After all, we know that Alsace Infanterie belonged to the nephew of the Duc de Deux-Ponts, just a child in 1757 when his uncle the duke raised Royal Deux-Ponts Infanterie for the French service. Until 1761, this latter regiment had a white uniform with red distinctives. It then changed to a blue uniform after 1761.

Considering these facts, the temporary existence of a white uniform for Alsace Infanterie seems very possible.

Privates

Uniform in 1758 - Source: Kronoskaf
Uniform Details as per
Etrennes Militaires 1756 and 1758, Etat Militaire 1758, 1760 and 1761, Abrégé du Dictionnaire Militaire 1759

completed when necessary with information from Raspe's uniform plates and the manuscript of the Musée de l'Armée
Headgear
Musketeer black tricorne laced silver with a black cockade, fastened with a white and a white strap
Grenadier black tricorne laced silver with a black cockade, fastened with a white and a white strap

towards 1759, bearskins became increasingly common among grenadiers

Neckstock black
Coat blue lined red with 2 pewter buttons below each lapel
Collar red
Shoulder Straps red fastened with a small pewter button (as per Mouillard)
Lapels red with 12 pewter buttons
Pockets horizontal pockets, each with 5 pewter buttons
Cuffs red open cuffs without any button
Turnbacks red (none as per the manuscript of the Musée de l'Armée)
Waistcoat white with pewter buttons
Breeches white
Gaiters white
Leather Equipment
Crossbelt white leather
Waistbelt white leather
Cartridge Box natural leather
Bayonet Scabbard n/a
Scabbard brown


Armaments consisted of a musket and a bayonet. Fusiliers carried a sword (brass hilt) while the grenadiers had a sabre.

Officers

n/a

Musicians

The drummers of the regiment wore the livery of the house of Deux-Ponts.

Colours

Colonel colour: white field with a white cross.

Ordonnance colours: a white cross, their first and fourth cantons were red, their second and third green. These ordonnance flags remained unchanged from 1656 to 1791.

Colonel Colour - Source: PMPdeL
Ordonnance Colour - Source: PMPdeL

References

Anon.: Manuscript Troupes du Roi, Infanterie française et étrangère, année 1757, tome I"; Musée de l'Armée, Paris

Funcken, Liliane and Fred: Les uniformes de la guerre en dentelle

Menguy, Patrice: Les Sujets du Bien Aimé (a website which is unfortunately not online anymore)

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

Pajol, Charles P. V.: Les Guerres sous Louis XV, vol. VII, Paris, 1891

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

Rohan Chabot, Alix de: Le Maréchal de Belle Isle ou la revanche de Foucquet, Perrin, Paris, 2005

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

Taccoli, Alfonso: Teatro Militare dell' Europa, Part 1, vol. 2; Madrid, March 1760

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.

Acknowledgements

Jean-Louis Vial for the additional information on the origins of the regiment and on its uniforms