Hessian Leib Dragoons

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Hierarchical Path: Seven Years War (Main Page) >> Armies >> Hesse-Kassel Army >> Hessian Leib Dragoons

Origin and History

Trooper of the Leib Dragoons after 1760 - Copyright: Franco Saudelli and Marco Pagan

The regiment was raised in 1688 as the “Wartensleben Dragoons” from 4 companies of the Roten Reuter (Red Cavalrymen) established by Landgräfin Sophie. The name remained in use throughout the history of the regiment. In 1690, the regiment became the property of Gräffendorf. Then from 1695, it belonged to the Erbprinz (Hereditary Prince) of Hessen-Kassel.

During the War of the Spanish Succession, on August 13 1704, the regiment took part in the Battle of Blenheim where, along with the Auerochs Dragoons, it furiously charged and succeeded in capturing the French Maréchal Tallard. On September 8 1706, the regiment also fought at Castiglione. Then on September 11 1709, it distinguished itself at the Battle of Malplaquet where it rode down the French infantry.

When Erbprinz Friedrich assumed the Swedish throne in 1721, the regiment changed its name to Königsdragoner (King's Dragoons).

During the War of the Austrian Succession, the regiment was attached to an Austrian corps.

In 1751, the regiment was renamed “Leib Dragoner”.

At the beginning of the Seven Years' War, the regiment consisted of 660 men formed in 4 squadrons.

During the Seven Years' War, the regiment was under the nominal command of:

  • since 1751: Landgrave Wilhelm VIII
  • from 1760 till 1785: Landgrave Friedrich II

During the Seven Years' War, the regiment was under the effective command of:

  • since 1752: Viktor August von Einsiedel
  • from 1760: Ernst Ludwig von Hanstein
  • from 1762 till 1764: Franz Heinrich von Ditfurth

During the French Revolutionary Wars, the regiment fought in Champagne, Brabant, Flanders and Westphalia before being disbanded in 1806.

Service during the War

On July 26 1757, during the French invasion of Hanover, the regiment took part in the Battle of Hastenbeck where it fought in the centre of the second line.

On May 26 1758, the regiment was with the corps of the Prince von Holstein in the camp of Dülmen. On May 31, this corps accompanied Ferdinand of Brunswick in his offensive on the west bank of the Rhine. On June 23, the regiment took part in the Battle of Krefeld where it was deployed on the right wing under the command of the Erbprinz (Hereditary Prince) of Brunswick. Towards the end of the battle, the regiment, which was part of von Urff Brigade, counter-charged the pursuing Royal-Carabiniers, allowing Holstein's remaining squadrons to deploy. After a number of successive furious charges and mêlées, the French cavalry was completely broken.

During the first half of 1759, the regiment formed part of the Allied army of Ferdinand of Brunswick. It was attached to Mostyn's Division in the first line of the cavalry right wing. On April 13, it took part in the Battle of Bergen where it formed part of the vanguard of the first column under Major-General von Gilsa. In mid June, the regiment was part of Wutginau's Corps which had taken position at Büren in Westphalia. On August 1, the regiment took part in the Battle of Minden where it was deployed in Wangenheim's Corps between Kutenhausen and the Weser, in the first line of the cavalry right wing under Major-General Reden.

On July 10 1760, the regiment was part of a column under Lieutenant-General von Oheimb sent by Ferdinand of Brunswick to support the Hereditary Prince engaged in a Combat near Corbach. Oheimb's column arrived too late to take part in the action.

On February 15 1761, the regiment took part in the Combat of Langensalza where it captured the Saxon Prinz Karl Infantry along with numerous colours and guns.

On April 19 1762, the regiment took part in the capture of Arensburg. On August 25, it was at the action near Grüningen. On August 30, it fought in the Combat of Nauheim. On September 11, it was at the action near Burggemünden.

Uniform

During the Seven Years War, the unit used a temporary field sign of oak leaves. The use of the field sign was due to the French cavalry having units with similar coat and facing colours.

1756 Uniform

Privates

Uniform - Source: Frédéric Aubert
Uniform Details
Headgear black tricorne laced yellow with a black cockade fastened with a white strap and a yellow button; red bobs in the lateral cornes
Neck stock black
Coat sky blue with 3 yellow buttons under the right lapel
Collar red
Shoulder&strap Left shoulder: red strap fastened with a yellow button
Right shoulder: yellow aiguillette
Lapels red, each with 6 buttons arranged 2-2-2
Cuffs red Swedish cuffs, each with 2 yellow buttons
Turnbacks red
Waistcoat blue
Breeches pale straw
Leather Equipment
Cross-belt white
Waist-belt white
Cartridge Box black
Scabbard black with white metal fittings
Foot gear black boots with white knee covers
Horse Furniture
Saddle-cloth red with yellow border decorated with a thin red stripe; the crowned cipher of Wilhelm VIII in gold in the rear corner
Sabretache red with yellow border decorated with a thin red stripe; the crowned cipher of Wilhelm VIII in gold in the
Blanket roll red


Troopers were armed with a straight steel hilted sword, two pistols and a carbine. The carbine was slung from the shoulder belt on a swivel hook.

Officers

The officers had gold trim rather than yellow lace on their tricorne. They also wore a silver sash interwoven with small red striping and a brass gorget. They wore the same uniform as the troopers with the following exception:

  • gold laced buttonholes
  • no turnback
  • gold aiguillette

In campaign a simpler coat was worn without decorated buttonhole.

NCOs

NCOs wore the same uniform as the troopers with the following exception:

  • red cuffs edged gold with 2 yellow buttons

Musicians

Drummers were uniformed in reverse colours with infantry chevrons along the sleeves and "swallow nests" on the shoulders. They were usually mounted on grey or white horses.

The drum barrels should be similar to the infantry which were of polished brass and were decorated with the Hessian lion surrounded by a laurel wreath with a crown above. The Hessian lion was striped red and white with a red tongue on a royal blue background. The drum cords were white and, for this dragoon regiment, the rim would likely have been a pattern of alternating white, red and blue diagonal stripes.

1761 Uniform

Privates

Uniform - Source: Frédéric Aubert
Uniform Details
Headgear black tricorne laced yellow with a black cockade fastened with a white strap and a yellow button; red bobs in the lateral cornes
Neck stock black
Coat sky blue with 3 yellow buttons under the right lapel
Collar red
Shoulder&strap Left shoulder: red strap fastened with a yellow button
Right shoulder: yellow aiguillette
Lapels red, each with 6 buttons arranged 2-2-2
Cuffs red Swedish cuffs, each with 2 yellow buttons
Turnbacks red
Waistcoat pale straw
Breeches pale straw
Leather Equipment
Cross-belt white
Waist-belt white
Cartridge Box black
Scabbard black with white metal fittings
Foot gear black boots with white knee covers
Horse Furniture
Saddle-cloth red with yellow border decorated with a thin red stripe; the crowned cipher of Friedrich II in gold in the rear corner
Sabretache red with yellow border decorated with a thin red stripe; the crowned cipher of Friedrich II in gold in the rear corner in the center
Blanket roll red


Troopers were armed with a straight steel hilted sword, two pistols and a carbine. The carbine was slung from the shoulder belt on a swivel hook.

Officers

The officers had gold trim rather than yellow lace on their tricorne. They also wore a silver sash interwoven with small red striping and a brass gorget. They wore the same uniform as the troopers with the following exception:

  • gold laced buttonholes
  • no turnback
  • gold aiguillette

In campaign a simpler coat was worn without decorated buttonhole.

NCOs

NCOs wore the same uniform as the troopers with the following exception:

  • red cuffs edged gold with 2 yellow buttons

Musicians

Drummers were uniformed in reverse colours with infantry chevrons along the sleeves and "swallow nests" on the shoulders. They were usually mounted on grey or white horses.

The drum barrels should be similar to the infantry which were of polished brass and were decorated with the Hessian lion surrounded by a laurel wreath with a crown above. The Hessian lion was striped red and white with a red tongue on a royal blue background. The drum cords were white and, for this dragoon regiment, the rim would likely have been a pattern of alternating white, red and blue diagonal stripes.

Colours

The flag poles were red. The standards had gold fringe, a gilt finial, red/white/blue cords with silver tassels. The regiment carried a white Leib (colonel) standard and three regimental standards.

Leib standard: white field; centre device consisting of the armed Hessian lion in gold.

Squadron standard: blue field (red after the Seven Years' War); centre device consisting of the armed Hessian lion in gold.

Leib Standard - Source: Frédéric Aubert
Squadron Standard – Source: Frédéric Aubert

References

Henry, Mark: Hessian Army of the 7 Years War, Seven Years War Association Journal Vol. VII No. 3

Noeske, Rolf: Die Heere der kriegführenden Staaten 1756-1763, 1. Ergänzung Hessen-Kassel, Edited and published by KLIO-Landesgruppe Baden-Württemberg e.V., Magstadt 1989

Pengel & Hurt: German States in the Seven Years War 1740 to 1762, Imperial Press

Raab, Karl: Die Standarten der Hessen-Casselschen Kavallerie 1760-1786 in Alte une neue Zinnfiguren, vol. 7 march-April 1976, pp. 67-68

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

Schirmer, Friedrich: Die Heere der kriegführenden Staaten 1756 - 1763. KLIO-Landesgruppe Baden-Württemberg e.V., Magstadt, 1989

Trenkle, K.: Nix wie weg… die Hesse komme, Verlanganstalt Marburg

Witzel, Rudolf: Hessen Kassels Regimenter in der Allierten Armee 1762, bearb. u. hrsg. von Ingo Kroll, Norderstedt 2007

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