Corps Royal de l'Artillerie

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Hierarchical Path: Seven Years War >> Armies >> French Army >> Corps Royal de l'Artillerie


Origin and History

Royal Artillerie in 1757. - Source: Molzheim from the collection of Jean-Louis Vial published in Nec Pluribus Impar

In 1667, at the beginning of the War of Devolution (1667-68), part of the gunners and bombardiers distributed in various places were called to the army. They served with distinction at the capture of several towns of Flanders. At the beginning of 1668, they contributed to the rapid conquest of Besançon. At the end of the war, Louis XIV retained the services of these artillerymen and organised them in six companies: four of gunners and two of bombardiers.

On July 28, 1669, the recently created six companies were disbanded.

On February 4, 1671, Louis XIV created the Fusiliers du Roi regiment destined to guard the artillery. The king was the colonel of the new regiment while the artillery grand master, the Duc de Lude, ranked as its colonel-lieutenant. The new regiment consisted of four companies of 100 men each. The first company was formed with gunners belonging to the “Grand Maître” who previously served at the Paris arsenal; the second companies consisted of sappers; the third and fourth companies of labourers specialised in iron and woodworks to repair material and establish bridges. The three last companies were exclusively recruited among the infantry. It was the first infantry unit to be entirely armed with fusils instead of muskets; to receive the bayonet and to get uniforms. On August 20, 1671, only six months after its creation, the regiment was increased with 22 additional companies taken from infantry regiments; two of these companies were organised in grenadier companies. The regiment was subdivided in two battalions, each of 13 companies.

In 1672, at the outbreak of the Franco-Dutch War (1672-78), the regiment contributed, as an infantry unit, to the capture of Orsoy, Rheinberg, Utrecht and Doesburg. In 1673, it took part in the siege of Maastricht; in 1674, in the capture of Besançon and Dôle and in the Battle of Seneffe; in 1675, in the sieges of Dinant, Huy and Limbourg; in 1676, in the sieges of Condé, Bouchain and Aire; in 1677, in the sieges of Valenciennes and Cambrai. After its valiant conduct at Cambrai, the regiment was allowed to decorate the white cross of its colours with golden fleur de lys. It was also increased to six battalions by the incorporation of 60 companies taken in the last battalion of each regiment forming the “Vieux Corps”. In 1678, the regiment distinguished itself at the capture of Ghent and Ypres and fought in the Battle of Saint-Denis. The same year, Louis XIV raised 6 gunner companies, 2 companies of bombardiers and 1 company of miners. Initially, these companies were not attached to the present regiment. In 1679, part of the regiment was at the Combat of Minden.

In 1679, the sixth battalion was disbanded. The five remaining battalions were stationed in Douai where, in May, a school of artillery was established (it was closed in November of the same year). The regiment was then sent to Lille where it was reviewed by the king on August 1, 1680.

In 1684, the regiment took part in the siege of Luxembourg. It then assumed garrison duty in Metz.

In 1688, at the outbreak of the Nine Years' War (1688-97), the regiment took part in the sieges of Philisbourg, Mannheim and Frankental. In 1689, Louis XIV increased the number of gunner companies to 12 with soldiers taken from the old regiments. These companies were not yet formally attached to the present regiment. The present regiment also received two additional grenadier companies. The same year, two battalions served with the Army of Flanders and two battalions with the Army of the Rhine; while the second battalion was sent to Italy. The battalions serving in Flanders took part in the Battle of Fleurus. In 1691, the same battalions were at the siege of Mons.

On April 26, 1691, when all infantry battalions were reorganised in 13 companies, the Fusiliers du Roi were reorganised in six battalions. With this new organisation:

  • the four first battalions consisted of 1 worker company, 1 grenadier company and 11 fusilier companies
  • the fifth battalion consisted of 1 grenadier company and 12 fusilier companies
  • the sixth battalion consisted of 13 fusilier companies

Meanwhile, the 12 gunner companies remained independent.

In 1692, four battalions served with the Army of Flanders and took part in the siege of Namur.

On April 15, 1693, a royal decree renamed the unit Régiment Royal de l’Artillerie, specifying that it was now dedicated to the service of the artillery.

In 1693, the three battalions attached to the Army of Flanders served the 70 guns of this army and took part in the Battle of Landen and in the siege of Charleroi. In 1695, they were at the bombardment of Bruxelles. On November 25, 1695, Louis XIV issued a new decree where he renewed his instructions that the regiment should always march and camp with the artillery. Furthermore, the 12 gunner companies were incorporated in the regiment (2 companies per battalion). Finally, the five grenadier companies were transformed in gunner companies. Therefore, the new organisation of the regiment (a total of 4,950 men, excluding officers) was as follows:

  • first first battalions: 1 worker company (110 men), 3 gunner companies (each of 55 men) and 9 fusilier companies (each of 55 men)
  • second, third and fourth battalions: 1 worker company (110 men), 3 gunner companies (each of 55 men) and 10 fusilier companies (each of 55 men)
  • fifth battalion: 3 gunner companies (each of 55 men) and 12 fusilier companies (each of 55 men)
  • sixth battalion (Frades) consisted of 2 gunner companies (each of 55 men) and 13 fusilier companies (each of 55 men)

In 1698, after the Treaty of Ryswick, the regiment was reduced to four battalions.

During the War of the Spanish Succession (1701-13), the battalions of the regiment were distributed among the armies operating in Flanders, in Germany, In Italy and in Spain. On June 23, 1706, a fifth battalion was created. Each battalion comprised 1 worker coy, 3 gunner coys and 4 fusilier coys. After the War of the Spanish Succession, the fifth battalion was disbanded.

From 1716, a greater attention was paid to the standardization of calibres.

The decree of February 7, 1720 incorporated the “Royal-Bombardiers”, the miners and companies of pioneers into a “Royal Artillerie”. The regiment counted 5 battalions, each of 8 companies (100 men).

On July 29, 1729, worker and miner companies were removed from the regiment and formed in five worker companies (40 men each) and five miner companies (50 men each). Each battalion of the regiment was now organised in 8 companies of 70 men each: 5 gunner companies, 1 sapper company and 2 bombardier companies.

During the War of the Polish Succession (1733-35), battalions or detachments of the regiment served in Germany and Italy.

During the War of the Austrian Succession (1733-35), battalions or detachments of the regiment served in Germany, in Bohemia, in Flanders, in Italy and in the Alps.

On September 30, 1743, each company was increased to 100 men. On July 5, 1747, each battalion received 1 additional bombardier company and 1 gunner company.

On December 8 1755, the artillery was placed under the command of the War Minister. Artillery officers and engineers were grouped into a single Corps Royal d'Artillerie et d'Ingénieurs. This corps consisted of:

  • 1 headquarters of 31 officers
  • 5 artillery battalions, each consisting of 10 companies of 72 men
  • 5 companies of pioneers, each of 40 men
  • 5 companies of miners, each of 50 men
  • Ingénieurs du Roi (300 men)

On January 1 1757, a sixth battalion was added to Royal Artillerie. Each of the five existing battalions contributed 120 men for its creation.

Throughout the war, the arm was repeatedly reorganised. See our article on the organisation of Royal Artillerie for the details of these successive reorganisations.

During the Seven Years' War, the regiment ranked 47th and was under the nominal command of King Louis XV. A colonel-lieutenant assumed affective command:

  • from March 9, 1747 to January 1, 1777: Joseph de Vallière

During the Seven Years' War, each battalion was under the effective command of the following lieutenants-colonels (later known as chiefs of brigade):

  • 1st battalion
    • from January 28, 1753: Lieutenant-Colonel Raymond de Chabrié
    • from January 1, 1759: Chief of Brigade Arnould de Loyauté
    • from March 7, 1761 until October 15, 1765: Chief of Brigade Antoine Barattier de Saint-Auban
  • 2nd battalion
    • from December 15, 1751: Lieutenant-Colonel Henri-Charles de la Motte-Taffard
    • from January 1, 1759: Chief of Brigade Louis-Henri Ballard d'Invilliers
    • from March 7, 1761 until October 15, 1765 : Chief of Brigade Arnould de Loyauté
  • 3rd battalion
    • from March 30, 1748: Lieutenant-Colonel Jean-François de Fitte de la Soucy
    • from January 1, 1759: Chief of Brigade Urbain-Pierre-Louis Bodineau de la Pelleterie
    • from April 5, 1762 until January 1, 1763: Chief of Brigade Joseph du Breuil-Bélyon de Combes
  • 4th battalion
    • from December 12, 1754: Lieutenant-Colonel Jean-Baptiste de Wavray de Menouville
    • from January 1, 1759 until October 15, 1765: Chief of Brigade Pierre-Henri de Beausire
  • 5th battalion
    • from December 8, 1755: Lieutenant-Colonel Louis-Anne-Antoine, Comte d'Aumale
    • from June 1, 1758: Lieutenant-Colonel Arnould de Loyauté
    • from January 1, 1759: Chief of Brigade Raymond de Chabrié (killed in action at the Battle of Bergen on April 13 1759)
    • from May 8, 1759 until October 15, 1765: Chief of Brigade Louis-Philippe Taboureau de Villepatour
    • 6th battalion
    • from its creation on January 1, 1757: Lieutenant-Colonel André-Claude de Cosme
    • from January 1, 1759: Chief of Brigade Pierre-François Ansard de Mouy
    • from February 20, 1761: Chief of Brigade Arnould de Loyauté
    • from March 7, 1761 until October 15, 1765: Chief of Brigade Louis-Henri Ballard d'Invilliers

Service during the War

1st battalion

At the beginning of 1756, the Chabrié Battalion was garrisoning Besançon. In April, it was part of the amphibious expedition against Minorca. It took part in the siege of Fort St. Philip. The fort surrendered on June 28. During the siege, the battalion lost (killed or wounded) Captain du Pinay; Lieutenants Dutot, Mélac, Chaband, Verrier, Capriol de Péchassaut and du Gravierand cadets Méry and de Rozan.

In 1757, part of the battalion along with 30 guns, 1 miner company and 1 worker company was transferred to Germany to reinforce the Army of the Lower Rhine while the remaining part continued to assume garrison duty at Mahon on the Island of Minorca. In August, the reinforcements made their junction with the army in Hessen. At the end of the year, the detachment of the battalion took its winter-quarters in the second line in the town of Hannover.

In April 1758, when Clermont redeployed his army along the Rhine, Chabrié Battalion was stationed in Wesel. After the successful crossing of the Rhine by the army of Ferdinand of Brunswick on May 31, the battalion retired towards Rheinberg where it joined Clermont's Army on June 2. The battalion remained in this camp, where it formed part of the Reserve, until June 12.

On April 13 1759, the battalion took part in the Battle of Bergen where it was deployed in front of the cavalry centre along the sunken road to the east of the Wartberg under the Chevalier de Pelletier.

In 1761, the battalion distinguished itself at the affair of Unna and at the siege of Meppen.

2nd battalion

At the beginning of 1756, the La Motte Battalion was garrisoning La Fère.

In 1757, La Motte battalion joined the Army of the Lower Rhine commanded by the Maréchal d'Estrées for the projected invasion of Hanover. On May 17, the battalion arrived at Wesel. At the end of June, the battalion was at the camp of Bielefeld with d'Estrées' main corps. On July 26, the battalion took part in the Battle of Hastenbeck. On September 8, after the Convention of Kloster-Zeven, the battalion followed the main body of the Army of the Lower Rhine, now led by the Maréchal de Richelieu, who encamped at Halberstadt in Prussian territory from September 28 to November 5. At the end of the year, the battalion took its winter-quarters in the first line in Wolfenbüttel.

In April 1758, when Clermont redeployed his army along the Rhine, La Motte Battalion, along with the Cosme and Menouville battalions, garrisoned the fortified bridge head at Büderich opposite Wesel. After the successful crossing of the Rhine by the army of Ferdinand of Brunswick on May 31, the battalion retired towards Rheinberg where it joined Clermont's Army on June 2. The battalion remained in this camp, where it formed part of the Reserve, until June 12. On June 23, the battalion took part in the Battle of Krefeld, serving under M. de la Vallière. In Mid August, after Ferdinand's retreat to the east bank of the Rhine, the battalion accompanied the Army of the Lower Rhine now led by the Marquis de Contades when it recrossed the Rhine for an offensive in Westphalia. On August 20, the battalion was encamped near Wesel. During this campaign, the battalion also took part in the siege of Münster where Captain Thieulin de Saint-Vincent and Lieutenants d’Alayrac and Bovet were wounded.

At the end of May 1759, when the French Army of the Rhine launched its offensive in Western Germany, the battalion remained on the Rhine as part of the corps of the Marquis d'Armentières. On October 19, the battalion was part of the force sent by Contades to reinforce d'Armentières on the Lower Rhine.

On July 10, 1760, the brigade took part in the Combat of Corbach. On July 31, it was at the Battle of Warburg and, on October 16, at the Battle of Clostercamp.

In 1761, the brigade distinguished itself at the defence of Cassel. On July 16, it fought in the Battle of Vellinghausen where Captain de Beaurepaire was wounded.

3rd battalion

At the beginning of 1756, the Soucy Battalion was garrisoning Metz.

By August 1 1757, the Soucy Battalion was stationed at Le Havre to defend the coasts of Normandy against British incursions. It continued to assume this role until 1760 when it was transferred to Germany. In 1757, Lieutenant Bonafous de Carminel was sent to Canada with 20 gunners.

In 1760, the brigade joined the army operating in Germany.

In 1761, the brigade distinguished itself at the siege of Meppen.

4th battalion

At the beginning of 1756, the Menouville Battalion was garrisoning Strasbourg.

In 1757, the Menouville Battalion joined the Army of the Lower Rhine commanded by the Maréchal d'Estrées for the projected invasion of Hanover. At the end of June, the battalion was at the camp of Bielefeld with d'Estrées' main corps. On July 26, the battalion took part in the Battle of Hastenbeck. On September 8, after the Convention of Kloster-Zeven, the battalion followed the main body of the Army of the Lower Rhine, led by the Maréchal de Richelieu, who encamped at Halberstadt in Prussian territory from September 28 to November 5. At the end of the year, the battalion took its winter-quarters in the third line at Rintheln and Oberkirchen.

In April 1758, when Clermont redeployed his army along the Rhine, Menouville Battalion, along with Cosme and La Motte battalions, garrisoned the fortified bridge head at Büderich opposite Wesel. After the successful crossing of the Rhine by the army of Ferdinand of Brunswick on May 31, the battalion retired towards Rheinberg where it joined Clermont's Army on June 2. The battalion remained in this camp, where it formed part of the Reserve, until June 12. On June 23, the battalion took part in the Battle of Krefeld, serving under M. de la Vallière. In Mid August, after Ferdinand's retreat to the east bank of the Rhine, the battalion accompanied the Army of the Lower Rhine now led by the Marquis Contades when it recrossed the Rhine for an offensive in Westphalia. On August 20, the battalion was encamped near Wesel.

On April 13, 1759, the brigade took part in the Battle of Bergen where Lieutenant Cazerac was wounded. At the end of the campaign, the brigade returned to Besançon.

In 1762, the brigade contributed a detachment to the French expeditionary force sent to support Spain in its invasion of Portugal.

5th battalion

At the beginning of 1756, the Aumale Battalion was garrisoning Grenoble.

In 1757, detachments of the battalion were posted on the Mediterranean coast. Somewhere between August 23 and September 6, part of the battalion with 20 guns joined the army led by the Prince de Soubise, in the area of Erfurt and Eisenach for the ongoing invasion of Saxony. On November 5, the battalion took part in the disastrous Battle of Rossbach where Captains La Roussière and Lecerf were mortally wounded; and Captains de Bron, Geoffroy, Danthelmy, de Caylus and 4 lieutenants were wounded. At the end of the year, the battalion took its winter-quarters in Hanau in Hessen.

By July 1758, part of Loyauté Battalion (former Aumale) had joined Soubise's Army assembling near Friedberg for an offensive in Hesse. Another detachment served on the coasts of Bretagne where it took part in the victorious Combat of Saint-Cast. On October 10, part of the battalion took part in the Battle of Lutterberg. At the end of the year, the brigade was assembled at Besançon.

On April 13, 1759, four companies of the brigade took part in the Battle of Bergen where it suffered heavy losses, including Chief of Brigade Chabrié, Captain Regnier, and Lieutenants Marrast and Malseigne, killed; and Lieutenant Ladonchamp wounded. From June, these four companies participated in the French offensive in Western Germany. On August 1, they fought in the Battle of Minden where Captain Chevalier de Cirfontaine and Lieutenant Gillot were killed; and Lieutenant-Colonel Le Duchat-d'Ouderne, Aide-Major d'Indreville and Lieutenant Baroille were wounded.

By the end of January 1760, the brigade had taken its winter-quarters in the third line of the French army along the Rhine and the Main from its mouth. By mid March, the entire brigade was billeted in Offenbach, still in the third line. By May 23, the brigade was part of Broglie's Army. It distinguished itself at the siege of Ziegenheim and at the Combat of Corbach where Captain de Cirfontaine and Lieutenant La Molinière were wounded. By December 30, the brigade had taken its winter-quarters in Offenbach.

In 1761, the brigade took part in the defence of Cassel and in the Battle of Vellinghausen where Chief of Brigade de Villepatour was severely wounded.

On September 21, 1762, the brigade took part in the Combat of Amöneburg where Captain Blosset de Montvallon was severely wounded.

6th battalion

The Cosme Battalion was created by a decree dated January 1, 1757. Each of the 5 existing battalions contributed 120 men for its formation. Later during the year, it joined the Army of the Lower Rhine commanded by the Maréchal d'Estrées for the projected invasion of Hanover. On September 8, after the Convention of Kloster-Zeven, the battalion followed the main body of the Army of the Lower Rhine, now led by the Maréchal de Richelieu, who encamped at Halberstadt in Prussian territory from September 28 to November 5. At the end of the year, the battalion took its winter-quarters in the first line in Braunschweig.

In April 1758, when Clermont redeployed his army along the Rhine, Cosme battalion, along with La Motte and Menouville battalions, garrisoned the fortified bridge head at Büderich opposite Wesel. After the successful crossing of the Rhine by the army of Ferdinand of Brunswick on May 31, the battalion retired towards Rheinberg where it joined Clermont's Army on June 2. The battalion remained in this camp, where it formed part of the Reserve, until June 12. On June 23, the battalion took part in the Battle of Krefeld, serving under M. de la Vallière. In Mid August, after Ferdinand's retreat to the east bank of the Rhine, the battalion accompanied the Army of the Lower Rhine now led by the Marquis de Contades when it recrossed the Rhine for an offensive in Westphalia. On August 20, the battalion was encamped near Wesel.

From June 1759, the brigade took part in the French offensive in Western Germany. On August 1, it fought in the Battle of Minden. By December 30, the brigade had taken its winter-quarters in Offenbach.

By the end of January 1760, the brigade had taken its winter-quarters in the third line of the French army along the Rhine and the Main from its mouth. By mid March, the regiment was billeted in Offenbach, still in the third line. By May 23, the brigade was part of Broglie's Army. It took part in the storming of the entrenchments of Cassel. It also participated in the Combat of Corbach and in the Battle of Warburg.

In 1761, the brigade took part in the defence of Cassel and in the Battle of Vellinghausen where Captain Langlois de Rémont and Lieutenant Loysel Le Gaucher were wounded. A detachment of the brigade, under the command of Captain de Baroille, distinguished itself at the defence of Belle-Isle.

On September 21, 1762, the brigade took part in the Combat of Amöneburg where Lieutenant Dromes was killed.

Detachment sent to India

An ordonnance, dated November 10 1756, stipulated that a detachment of the regiment along with engineers (for a total of 150 men) would be sent to India. Upon arrival in India, this detachment would be augmented to 300 men under the command of a lieutenant-colonel and of a captain-aide-major, and organised in three companies of 100 men each (excluding officers). A company would consist of:

  • 1 captain
  • 1 second captain
  • 1 first lieutenant
  • 1 second lieutenant
  • 3 sergeants
  • 4 corporals
  • 4 anspessades (lance-corporals)
  • 88 gunners or bombardiers
  • 1 drummer

Uniform

In 1722, the entire artillery adopted the blue uniform with red as its distinctive colour.

Artillerymen

Uniform in 1758 - Source: Kronoskaf
Uniform Details as per
Etrennes militaires, La Chesnaye, and Etat militaire 1758,
and Etat militaire 1761
Headgear black tricorne laced gold with a black cockade
Neck stock black
Coat blue lined red with copper buttons down to the pockets on the right side and 1 copper button on each side at the small of the back
Collar red with a copper button on the right side and a buttonhole on the left
Shoulder Straps yellow epaulets fringed yellow on each side
Lapels none
Pockets horizontal pockets, each with 6 copper buttons
Cuffs red, each with 3 copper buttons (4 copper buttons from 1761)
Turnbacks none officially (red from 1760, fastened with aurore fleurs de lys)
Waistcoat red lined white with 2 rows of copper buttons grouped 2 by 2 with 3 copper buttons on each pocket
Breeches red
Gaiters red socks and white gaiters
Leather Equipment
Crossbelt natural leather
Waistbelt natural leather
Cartridge Box natural leather
Bayonet Scabbard n/a
Scabbard n/a


Armaments consisted of a musket and a bayonet. Fusiliers carried a sword (brass hilt).

Miners

Miners wore uniform similar to those of the artillerymen with the following exceptions:

  • iron grey waistcoat lined white
  • iron grey breeches

Workers

Workers wore uniform similar to those of the artillerymen with the following exceptions:

  • iron grey coat

The decree of February 17 1760 brought the following modifications to their uniforms:

  • red lapels with 5 small copper buttons
  • yellow buttonholes and small red cuffs on the waistcoat

Sappers

Sappers wore uniform similar to those of the artillerymen until March 1759. From then till February 1760, while they belonged to the Corps des ingénieurs, they supposedly wore uniform similar to those of the artillerymen with the following exceptions:

  • royal blue coat
  • black cuffs (made of velvet for officers) with 5 copper buttons
  • 5 copper buttons on each pocket

Officers

According to the decree of January 19 1747, artillery officers wore uniforms similar to those of the artillerymen with the following exceptions:

  • ansepessades: cuffs edged yellow
  • corporals: cuffs edged yellow and ornamented with 3 yellow frogs
  • sergeants: cuffs edged gold and ornamented with 3 golden frogs

Theorically, golden braids and buttonholes were forbidden but the regulation was not always followed, especially for the waistcoat which were often ornamented with golden buttonholes.

Sergeants were carried halberds (2,10 m.) till the decree of October 31 1758 when they were replaced by muskets. Nevertheless the tradition of carrying halbergs probably persisted throughout the war.

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

Since 1753, each battalion or brigade carried 1 colonel colour and 1 ordonnance colour.

Colonel colour: white field with a white cross sown with golden fleurs de lys.

Ordonnance colours: aurore (pale orange) and green opposed cantons; white cross sown with golden fleurs de lys.

Colonel Colour - Source: Kronoskaf
Ordonnance Colour - Source: Kronoskaf

References

This article incorporates texts from the following books which are now in the public domain:

  • Susane, Louis: Histoire de l'ancienne infanterie française, J. Corréard, Paris, 1849-1856, Tome 6, pp. 178-251

Other sources

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

Louis XV: Ordonnance du roi concernant le Corps de Troupes que Sa Majesté destine à faire passer aux Indes Orientales - Du 10 novembre 1756

Menguy, Patrice: Les Sujets du Bien Aimé

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

Pajol, Charles P. V.: Les Guerres sous Louis XV, vol. VII, Paris, 1891, pp. 38, 156-164

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

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

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.