Royal-Nassau Hussards

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Origin and History

The unit was created as a free corps as per the regulation of November 10 1756 for Guillaume Henri, Prince of Nassau-Saarbruck. It was initially named Volontaires de Nassau-Saarbruck. The unit then consisted of 2 squadrons. Each squadron consisting of 2 companies of 75 men each.

On April 7 1758, the unit was renamed Volontaires Royaux de Nassau. On June 14 of the same year, the unit became the Royal Nassau Regiment and was incorporated into the regular German light cavalry. It counted 600 men divided up into 4 squadrons of 150 troopers (the standard organisation for a hussar regiment). However this regiment was the only hussar regiment to have the prévôté privilege, adding 1 provost to its staff.

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

  • since November 18 1756: Guillaume Henri, Prince of Nassau-Saarbruck

The regiment kept the same organisation with the new regulation of 1764. It was disbanded in 1776.

Service during the War

Somewhere between August 23 and September 6 1757, the regiment joined the Army of Saxony, led by the Prince de Soubise, in the area of Erfurt and Eisenach. The regiment was considered of poor quality. At the end of the year, it took its winter-quarters in Stockstadt and Grossostheim in Hessen.

At the end of January 1758, the regiment was assigned to the army that Louis XV planned to send to Bohemia for joint operations with the Austrian Army. However, in February when the Allies launched their surprise winter offensive in Western Germany, the regiment had to retreat towards Düsseldorf and Deutz with the bulk of Broglie's Army. It passed the Rhine on April 3 and 4. In the first days of June, as a French army prepared for an offensive in Hesse, the regiment was part of a detachment under the command of the Duc de Broglie who followed up the Prince of Ysenburg during his retreat. By July, it had joined Soubise's Army assembling near Friedberg in Hesse. On July 16, Soubise sent the regiment along with Fischer's corps in a raid in Hessen-Kassel. On July 17, they surprised Marburg. On July 23, the regiment took part in the Combat of Sandershausen where it was initially placed in the second line. On July 24, the regiment reached Münden and almost captured the Prince of Ysenburg who was still in this town. Nevertheless, they captured some of his horses and found 8 guns abandoned by the Hessians after breaking down their carriages. The French continued to make prisoners. Royal Nassau Hussars then proceeded to Göttingen. On September 19, the regiment was part of Dumenil's Corps encamped at Warburg who retired to Kassel upon the approach of an Allied corps. On October 10, it was present at the Battle of Lutterberg where it was placed at the extreme left of the first line. It skirmished with Allied light troops but was not involved into any serious fighting during this battle.

By April 26 1759, the regiment was part of the Duc de Broglie's Corps. In June, at the beginning of the French offensive in Western Germany, the regiment was part of the “Right Reserve” under the command of the Duc de Broglie who had taken position at Friedberg in Hesse. On the evening of July 8, it accompanied Broglie in his raid on Minden. On the morning of July 9, the regiment discovered a float of timber which Broglie immediately used to pass the Weser at the head of 300 light troops. On August 1, the regiment took part in the Battle of Minden where it was attached to Broglie's Corps. By August 31, the regiment was attached to Broglie's reserve posted at Holzhausen. On September 22, the equipage and sick of the regiment were captured at Usingen by Luckner's Corps. On September 27, a party of the regiment was attacked by surprise by an Allied detachment (200 foot and 200 horse) at Neukirchen on the Solms River. On November 19, Broglie sent the regiment onto the Kinzig to support the manoeuvre of the Württemberger contingent. On November 29, a detachment of the regiment was driven back by the vanguard of the corps of the Hereditary Prince who was marching on Fulda to attack the Württemberger contingent. On Friday November 30, the Allied force under the Hereditary Prince launched a surprise attack on Fulda but the hussar regiment did not intervene in the affair.

By May 23 1760, the regiment was part of the centre vanguard of Broglie's Army. On June 24, the regiment harassed the Allied garrison who had evacuated Homberg and captured prisoners and several wagons. On August 8, an Allied detachment under Luckner attacked Einbeck, forcing the Volontaires d'Austrasie to retire to Harste where they were soon joined by a dragoon rgt and the Royal-Nassau Hussards. By September 17, the regiment acted as a detachment to protect forage activities. M. de Stainville left Dingelstädt with the Volontaires de Schomberg, Bercheny Hussards and Royal-Nassau Hussards and marched towards Halberstadt. From October 15 to 24, Stainville scoured the Hanoverian countryside before returning to Heiligenstadt (present-day Heilbad Heiligenstadt). On November 12, a detachment of the regiment under the command of M. de Schwartz was attacked by Luckner. Being outnumbered, the detachment retired on a detachment of Orléans Dragons led by M. de Pons. The two French detachments were then able to retire on Stainville's Corps at Duderstadt without being pursued. By December 30, the regiment had taken its winter-quarters in Siegen and surroundings.

To do: campaigns from 1761 to 1762

Uniform

Privates

Uniform in 1758
Source: Frédéric Aubert
Uniform Details as per
the Etat Militaire of 1761

completed when necessary as per Raspe
Headgear black felt mirliton laced with a white and aurore (light orange) braid; with a black flame laced with an identical braid; decorated with a fleur de lys (not illustrated by Raspe) and a white plume
Pelisse red lined with white sheepskin
Fur trim black sheepskin along coat edges and cuffs
Lace 5 (12 as per Raspe) white brandebourgs
Buttons 1 row of 5 (12 as per Raspe) large pewter buttons between two rows of 5 (12 as per Raspe) small pewter buttons
Dolman royal blue with 5 (12 as per Raspe) white brandebourgs and 1 row of 5 (12 as per Raspe) large pewter buttons between two rows of 5 (12 as per Raspe) small pewter buttons
Collar ventre de biche (light buff)
Cuffs ventre de biche (light buff) pointed Hungarian cuffs
Pockets probably edged white
Breeches royal blue chashkiry with natural deerskin scharawades
Greatcoat white
Leather Equipment
Crossbelt white leather with a large yellow copper buckle
Waist-sash orange and white with a red leather belt with 3 iron rings and an iron buckle
Cartridge box black leather
Scabbard black with pewter fittings
Boots black leather Hungarian boots
Horse Furniture
Saddlecloth red bordered with a white and ogange braid and decorated with fleurs de lys in the corners
Sabretache red bordered with a white and orange braid and decorated with a crowned lion


Troopers were armed with a short, curved sabre, two pistols and a musket.

Officers

Officers wore uniforms similar to those of the privates with the following differences:

  • silver fleur de lys on the mirliton
  • silver braids and buttons
  • pelisse lined with fox fur and trimmed with peau de gorge de renard (probably white fox belly fur)

Musicians

Uniform of the Royal-Nassau Hussards musicians -
Source: Jean-Louis Vial Nec Pluribus Impar

Information in this section is taken from Jean-Louis Vial's excellent website Nec Pluribus Impar with his kind authorisation. The translation is from John Boadle.

Trumpeters and drummers wore the Prince of Nassau's livery.

The hussars possessed kettle-drummers, attached to the senior company. On campaign they did not follow their regiments but remained in the depot, so were not found on the battlefield (the regulations of 1762 did away with kettle-drummers). The coats of the drummers and the uniforms of the trumpeters were in the colours of the regimental proprietors. Their dress was in the normal 'French' cut of the time rather than the hussar style, which lasted until the latter days of the 'ancien régime', when trumpeters dressed in Hungarian style appeared. The trumpeters and drummers wore normal cavalry breeches and boots. The harness of the drum horses was also in normal 'French' style.

While the rest of the regiment had moustaches, musicians were completely shaved. They were usually mounted on grey horses.

Trumpets had richly laced and fringed banners with cords ended by knots on the upper part.

Colours

The regiment had swallow-tailed silken guidons fringed in gold and silver.

Obverse: aurore (light orange) field; centre device consisting of the arms of the House of Nassau (a gold lion and a number of small gold rectangles on a blue field)

Reverse: blue field; centre device consisting of a silver royal sun surmounted by a scroll bearing the royal motto “Nec Pluribus Impar”.

Royal Nassau Hussars Regimental Standard – Source: Frédéric Aubert from an original plate by Gilbert Noury


References

Menguy, Patrice: Les Sujets du Bien Aimé (a website who has unfortunately disappeared from the web)

Recueil de toutes les troupes qui forment les armées françoises, Nuremberg: Gabriel Nicolas Raspe, 1761

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

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 who has kindly authorised us to translate and use part of the articles of his website Nec Pluribus Impar