Prussian Garde du Corps
Origin and History
The regiment was raised in October 1740 in Potsdam and initially consisted of one squadron of 178 men. Candidates for all ranks were selected from existing cavalry regiments. King Frederick II was Chef of this regiment.
In 1745, during the War of the Austrian Succession (1740-48), the regiment fought in the battles of Hohenfriedberg (June 4) and Soor (September 30).
Mark Brandenburg was the inspectorate of the regiment and its garrison places were Berlin, Charlottenburg and Potsdam. From 1753, it garrisoned only Potsdam.
At the beginning of the Seven Years' War, the regiment counted 1 squadron. In 1756, it was raised to 3 squadrons, mostly using men of the Saxon Gardedukorps, who had been captured at Pirna.
During the Seven Years' War, although Frederick II was the nominal Chef of the regiment, effective command was assumed by:
- from September 20, 1747: Colonel Hans August von Blumenthal (retired due to his wounds)
- from August 28, 1758: Rittmeister Wilhelm Dietrich von Wackenitz (promoted to colonel after his actions in the Battle of Zorndorf )
- from June 5, 1760 to December 23, 1773: Major Carl Heinrich von Schaetzel
The regiment was raised to 5 squadrons in 1798.
By 1806, the regiment was still known as “Gardes du Corps”. That year, on October 14, it was on the right wing at Auerstädt. Following the battle, it escaped to Eastern Prussia and joined l`Estocq's Corps. It then became the new 3rd Kürassiers.
Service during the War
On August 26, 1756, when the Prussian army launched the invasion of Saxony, the regiment was part of the centre column led by Frederick II. More precisely, it belonged to Keith's Corps. The centre column had concentrated at Brietzen and advanced unopposed upstream along the Elbe River by Torgau and Wittenberg, leaving Meissen to its left. On September 6, it encamped at Rothschönberg and finally reached Wilsdruf. On October 1, the regiment took part in the Battle of Lobositz where it was assigned to the cavalry brigade of Major-General Pennavaire in Kyau’s Division. During this battle, together with the Gens d'Armes and 2 squadrons of the Prinz von Preußen Cuirassiers, they overthrew 2 Austrian cavalry regiments, took 3 standards and captured the Austrian General Fürst Lobkowitz. After the surrender of the Saxon Army at Pirna at the end of October, the regiment was raised to 3 squadrons, mostly using men of the Saxon Gardedukorps.
In April 1757, the regiment was part of the Prussian army who proceeded to the invasion of Bohemia. On May 6, it took part in the Battle of Prague where its 1st squadron was deployed in the first line of the right wing under von Penavaire and its 2nd and 3rd were deployed to the west and south of Prague to contain the Austrians against the Sazawa. Its 2nd and 3rd squadrons then stayed for the siege of Prague while its 1st squadron followed Frederick and, on June 18, took part in the Battle of Kolin. Where it was deployed in the first line of the cavalry right wing under the Prince von Schönaich. At the end of August, the regiment was part of the small Prussian army hastily assembled at Dresden by Frederick to head towards Thuringia and to offer battle to the Franco-Imperial army invading Saxony. On August 30, it accompanied Frederick in the vanguard when the army left Dresden. On September 14, when Frederick was forced to divide his army to contain the French in the region of Magdeburg and to secure the Prussian magazines in the area of Torgau, the regiment remained with Frederick at Erfurt to observe the Franco-Imperial army. On November 5, at the Battle of Rossbach, the 3 squadrons of the regiment were deployed in the second line of the right wing under Major-General von Seydlitz. They broke the Austrian Trautmansdorf Cuirassiers and Bretlach Cuirassiers as well as 2 French regiments and took 2 pairs of kettle drums and 4 standards. On November 6 at Spielberg, during the pursuit, they took 2 howitzers and 5 cannon. On December 5 at the Battle of Leuthen, the regiment was deployed in Lentulus' Brigade in the first line of the cavalry right wing under Lieutenant-General von Zieten. It distinguished itself once more when, together with the Gens d'Armes, it broke the Jung-Modena Dragoons, took a number of colours and standards and 15 cannon.
In March 1758, the regiment took part in the invasion of Moravia. From May 27 to July 2, it covered the unsuccessful Siege of Olmütz. On August 10, the regiment was part of the corps who accompanied Frederick when he marched from Silesia to join Dohna to contain the Russian invasion of Brandenburg. On Tuesday August 22, this corps made a junction with Dohna at Manschnow. On August 25, the regiment fought in the Battle of Zorndorf where it formed part of the first line of the cavalry left wing. It charged over the Zubern-Grund and into the milling mass of disordered Russian infantry, casting it into irretrievable confusion, and taking a number of colours and cannon. On September 2, a week after that battle, when it became clear that the Russian army was slowly retiring towards Landsberg, Frederick assembled the corps that he had brought with him from Silesia and left for Saxony where his help was badly needed. By September 11, his army had reached the area north of Dresden. On October 7, the regiment marched to Bautzen. On October 10, the regiment took part in the Battle of Hochkirch where it was deployed in the centre of the first line in Zieten's Cavalry Brigade.
In 1759, the regiment did not take part in any significant action.
From July 13 to 22, 1760, the regiment took part in the unsuccessful Siege of Dresden. On August 15, it was at the Battle of Liegnitz but did not take part in the engagement. On November 3, it took part in the bloody Battle of Torgau where it suffered heavy losses.
In campaign, the uniform of the Gardes du Corps was similar to those of the other Cuirassier regiments of the Prussian army. In court service, they were distinguished only by a red supravest edged with silver laces, bearing an eight-pointed silver star on the chest.
In 1756, when the Saxon Garde du Corps was forcibly incorporated into the Prussian Gardes du Corps, it kept its original uniform.
|Headgear||black tricorne (no lace) with a black cockade fastened with a small white button and white pompoms
N.B.: for combat, the tricorne was reinforced with an iron cap
|Coat||off-white trimmed with the regimental lace (red braid with a central silver stripe)
|Waistcoat||red trimmed with a blue lace bordered with 2 silver stripes|
|Breeches||white (buff leather in campaign)|
Troopers were armed with a heavy straight-bladed sword, a pair of pistols and a musket. They wore a silver breastplate edged red and fastened by leather straps. The musket strap was white edged with the regimental lace.
The NCOs wore the same uniform as the privates with the following exceptions:
- black within white pompoms in the lateral "cornes" of the tricorne
- silver lace with a red stripe to the top and back of the cuffs
The officers wore the same uniform as the privates with the following exceptions:
- black tricorne (no lace) with a black cockade fastened with a silver strap and a small white button and black within silver pompoms
- silver regimental lace
- silver breastplate edged in silver metal with straps covered in silver plates; silver crowned Prussian crest in trophies of arms on the top centre of the breastplate
- silver and black silk waist sash
- silver and black sword strap
- holster covers and the shabraque bore a crowned, eight-pointed star within braid edging
- cartouche lids bore a crowned, eight-pointed star
N.B.: silver embroidered buttonholes and a golden aiguillette on the right shoulder decorated the red full dress uniform but were not present on the service uniform.
Musicians wore the same uniform as the privates with the following exceptions:
- black tricorne bordered with red feathers and one black within white pompom in each lateral corne
- a lace specific to the musicians bordering the collar (narrow lace), cuffs (wide lace), coat edges (wide lace) and decorating the shoulders and sleeves (narrow lace)
- hanging sleeves bordered with the musician lace (narrow lace)
The musician laces were:
- narrow lace: a silver braid with a central red stripe
- wide lace: a silver braid with 2 red stripes
Musicians did not wear breastplate.
The aprons of the kettle-drums were red with silver speckles, laced and fringed in silver and decoated with silver tassels.
In 1741 the regiment was presented with a standard in the model of a vexillum measuring 50 cm by 50 cm. This standard had a silver eagle instead of the usual spear point; the cloth hung from silver chains. The pole of the standard was a white tournament lance reinforced with iron hinges.
The standard bearers had silver standard bandoliers with a red central stripe, fringed in silver.
The vexillum had a white field fringed in silver; with a silver central medallion carrying an armed black eagle surmounted by a silver scroll edged gold bearing the motto "Pro Gloria et Patria" and surrounded by a crowned laurel wreath. Decoration in each corner (crowns, laurel wreaths and “FR” ciphers on a white medallion).
On February 29 1757 two new "standards" were presented to the Saxon Garde du Corps squadrons forcibly incorporated into the Prussian Garde du Corps. These new standards were simply tournament lances without vexilla. If these junior squadrons ever received vexilla, it probably wasn't before 1775.
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Anon.: Uniformes Prussiens et Saxons, circa 1757
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N.B.: the section Service during the War is mostly derived from our articles depicting the various campaigns, battles and sieges.
Digby Smith for the initial version of this article.