Corps du Génie
Origin and History
Before 1744, engineers formed a corps directly depending of the king and independent from the Ministry of War: the Ingénieurs du Roi. They were placed under the authority of a director general of fortifications. At the death of Claude François Bidal, Marquis d’Asfeld in March 1743, the charge of director general of fortifications was suppressed. the fortifications corps was replaced by the war office qhich would soon become, in 1755, the fortifications and artillery office. By an ordonnance issued on February 7, 1744, the state secretary of war, the Comte d’Argenson, attached engineers to the war ministry.
In 1755, Louis Charles de Bourbon, Comte d’Eu possessed the charge of Grand maître de l’artillerie transmitted by his father, while his brother Louis Auguste de Bourbon, Prince des Dombes received the charge of Colonel Général des Suisses. The death of the latter in a duel on September 30 1755, gave to the State Secretary of War d'Argenson an unexpected opportunity of unification. His brother's charged was proposed to the Comte d’Eu on condition that he ceded back to the king the charge of Grand maître et Capitaine général de l’artillerie de France. The ordonnance of December 8, 1755, created the Corps Royal de l’Artillerie et du Génie by the incorporation of engineers officers in the artillery. This unification did not go without many complaints from both corps.
In March 1758, the Maréchal de Belle Isle succeeded to d'Argenson at the head of secretariat of war. Belle Isle was not favorable to the reunion of the artillery and engineers which he qualified of hoche-pot (stew). Accordingly, on May 5, 1758, he published an ordonnance creating the Corps des Ingénieurs thus giving back their autonomy to the engineers and to the artillery.
Even though they had recovered their autonomy in 1758, engineers had no troops. Indeed, miner and sapper companies had remained attached to the artillery. This situation was the source of many difficulties and conflicts. On March 10, 1759, an ordonnance temporarily corrected this defect when the six sapper companies were removed from artillery brigades and were transferred, along with the miner companies, into the renamed "Corps du Génie" but they continued to rank after the Corps Royal de l'Artillerie. Meanwhile, worker companies, who were simply following the artillery, were integrated in the artillery brigades to replace the sappers.
After the reorganisation of March 1759, the corps consisted of:
- Ingénieurs ordinaires du Roi:
- 20 directors of fortifications
- 20 provincial departments
- 90 Ingénieurs en chef
- 190 Ingénieurs ordinaires
- 6 companies of miners, each of:
- 6 officers
- 8 NCOs
- 2 drummers
- 50 men
- 6 companies of sappers, each of:
- 4 officers
- 6 NCOs
- 1 drummer
- 53 men
On February 27, 1760, the companies of sappers were reintegrated into the Corps Royal de l'Artillerie.
On December 21, 1761, the companies of miners were reintegrated into the Corps Royal de l'Artillerie.
During the Seven Years' War, engineers were placed directly under the authority of the Minister of War. When serving with the army, they were subordinated to the commander-in-chief of tha army.
Service during the War
From 1756 to May 1758, engineers followed the artillery battalion to which they belonged (for details, see service of the various battalion of the Corps Royal de l'Artillerie). Afterwards, they returned to French places.
From May 1758, engineers received a uniform quite similar to the one of the Corps Royal de l'Artillerie but with black velvet cuffs to distinguished them from artillerymen.
The unit probably had no colours.
This article incorporates texts from the following books which are now in the public domain:
- Grosser Generalstab Kriegsgeschichtliche Abteilung II: Die Kriege Friedrichs des Grossen, Part 3 Der siebenjährige Krieg 1756-1763, Vol. 5 Hastenbeck und Roßbach, Berlin, 1903, Appendix 10
- Susane, Louis: Histoire de l'ancienne infanterie française, J. Corréard, Paris, 1849-1856, Tome 6, pp. 206-210
Jean-Louis Vial for most of the information provided