Royal Vaisseaux Infanterie

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Origin and History

The regiment was initially raised for service at sea on March 13 1638, during the Franco-Spanish War (1635–59).

The same year (1638), the regiment took part in the naval battle of Gattari and was then disembarked to besiege Fontarabia. It then re-embarked and took part in the capture of two Spanish galleons at Laredo; in 1639, it took part in a naval combat in front of La Coruña. In 1640, the Cardinal de Richelieu became owner of the regiment who was sent to the Mediterranean. In 1641, it embarked for Tarragona and took part to operations on the Coasts of Catalonia. It then took part in the capture of Elne in Roussillon. In 1642, it participated in the conquest of Roussillon.

On August 30 1643, after the death of the Cardinal de Richelieu, the regiment was disbanded to the exception of its colonel company. However, it was re-established by the Cardinal de Mazarin the following year (on 10 March 1644) and named “Vaisseaux-Mazarin”. It assumed garrison duties in Perpignan till 1654.

In 1648, the disbanded Du Breuil Infanterie was incorporated into the regiment.

In June 1650, the regiment was renamed “Vaisseaux-Candale”. In 1652, the disbanded Candale Infanterie was incorporated into the regiment.

From 1654, the regiment took an active part in the operations in Roussillon and Catalonia. In 1654, it took part in the capture of Villefranche, in the relief of Roses, and in the siege of Puycerda; in 1655, in the capture of Cap de Quiers, Castillon and Cadagnes and in the combat of Solsone. In April 1658, the Cardinal de Mazarin re-acquired the regiment who became known again as “Vaisseaux-Mazarin”.

In 1659, the regiment returned to France where it assumed garrison duties in Provence.

In 1661, at the death of the Cardinal de Mazarin, the regiment was renamed “Vaisseaux-Provence”.

At the end of 1662, the regiment was increased from 10 to 12 companies.

In 1663, the regiment was sent to Italy to support the demand of reparation of Louis XIV against the Papal States. After the signature of the Treaty of Pisa, the regiment returned to France.

In 1664, eight companies of the regiment took part in the expedition against Djigelly in Algeria. This expedition aborted because of disease and the fleet returned to Toulon.

In 1667, at the beginning of the War of Devolution (1667–68), the regiment set off from Provence for Flanders where it took part in the sieges of Tournai, Douai and Lille, assuming garrison duties in Lille at the end of the campaign. A detachment of the regiment distinguished itself while escorting a convoy of boats on the Scarpe and the Scheldt. Because of this feat of arms, King Louis XIV decided to acquire the unit on 20 September 1669. The regiment then received the name of “Royal-Vaisseaux”.

In 1671, the regiment was increased to 70 (??) companies.

In 1672, at the outbreak of the Franco-Dutch War (1672–78), 30 companies of the regiment took part in all the sieges during the campaign in Holland. In 1673, the regiment took part in the siege of Maastricht; in 1674, in the conquest of Franche-Comté, in the Battle of Seneffe, in the capture of Remiremont and in the affair of Ensheim; in 1675, in the Combat of Turckheim, in the capture of Dinant, Huy and Limbourg; in 1676, in the sieges of Condé, Bouchain and Aire (3 companies were detached to defend Philisbourg). In 1677, the regiment took part in the siege of Valenciennes, in the relief of the army of the Duc d'Orléans at Saint-Omer, in the Battle of Cassel and in the sieges of Saint-Omer and Saint-Ghislain; in 1678, in the capture of Ghent and Ypres, in the Battle of Saint-Denis, in the capture of Kehl and in the investment of Strasbourg.

When peace was signed, the regiment to Besançon where it formed part of the garrison. In 1680, it was at Schlestadt; in 1681, in Brisach. It was then sent to occupy the Citadel of Casale in Italy. By 1683, the regiment was stationed in Aire. Its first battalion then took part in the siege of Courtrai while its second battalion joined the force blockading Luxembourg. In 1684, during the siege of Luxembourg, the regiment formed part of the corps of observation, before assuming garrison duties in Verdun.

In 1688, at the outbreak of the Nine Years' War (1688–97), the regiment took part in the sieges of Philisbourg, Mannheim and Franckenthal; in 1689, in the unsuccessful attack on Oberkirch; in 1690, in the campaign on the Rhine; in 1691, in the siege of Mons. In 1692, the regiment was increased to three battalions and took part in the siege of Namur and in the Battle of Steenkerque. In 1693, the regiment took part in the siege of Charleroi. In then served in Germany till the Peace of Riswyck.

In 1701, at the outbreak of the War of the Spanish Succession, the regiment took part in the Battle of Chiari; in 1702, in the combat of Cremona and in the Battle of Luzzara; in 1703, in the combat of Stradella, in the action of Castelnuovo de Bormia, in the expedition in Trentino, in the capture of Bersello, Nago and Arco and in the combat de San Sebastiano; in 1704, in the sieges of Asti, Ivrea, Vercelli and Verrua; in 1705, in the capture of Verrua, in the siege of Chivasso, in the combat of Cassano and in the capture of Soncino; in 1706, in the Battle of Calcinato, in the siege of Turin and in the disastrous Battle of Turin. In 1707, the regiment campaigned in Spain where it took part in the Battle of Almansa, in the siege of Lerida and in the storming of Cuidad Rodrigo. In 1708, one battalion returned to France where it took part in the defence of Lille. The two other battalions remained in Spain and took part in the siege of Tortosa. At the end of 1709, the three battalions of the regiment were reunited in Flanders. In 1711, the regiment took part in the combat of Arleux and in the attack on the camp of Hordain; in 1712, in the Battle of Denain, in the sieges of Douai, Le Quesnoy and Bouchain. In 1713, it served on the Rhine, covering the operations of the sieges of Landau and of Freiburg.

In 1714, the regiment was reduced to two battalions. In 1715, it incorporated men from the disbanded Valouze Infanterie.

In 1719, the regiment served in the Pyrenees, taking part in the sieges of Fontarabia, Castelleone, San Sebastian and Urgell.

In 1734, at the outbreak of the War of the Polish Succession (1733-34), the regiment was increased to three battalions. On the Rhine, it took part in the attack on the Lines of Ettlingen and in the siege of Philisbourg. In 1735, it fought in the combat of Klausen. By the end of 1735, it was stationed in Saint-Omer.

During the War of the Austrian Succession, the regiment initially served on the Rhine in 1741. In 1742, it was at Linz. On May 11 1745, it took part in the battle of Fontenoy where it lost more than 30 officers. In 1746, it fought in the Battle of Rocoux; in 1747, in the Battle of Lauffeld, losing 12 officers. In 1748, it was stationed in Saint-Omer.

During the following years, the regiment occupied Aire, Lille and Cambrai. In 1753, it took part in the training camp of Mézières. It was then stationed in Condé and Le Quesnoy.

On the eve of the Seven Years' War, the regiment counted two battalions and had prévôté (provostship).

During the Seven Years' War, the regiment ranked 26th. The King was the nominal colonel of the regiment. However, the real commander was the colonel-lieutenant. During the Seven Years's War, the regiment was commanded by:

  • since August 7 1747: François Aymery de Durfort, Comte de Civrac
  • November 30 1761 to July 28 1773: Anne Pierre , Marquis de Montesquiou

Service during the War

In 1756, the regiment was stationed in Granville. A detachment of 50 men under the Chevalier d'Eyragues was posted in the Chaussey Island where, on July 19, it was attacked by a British force. To defend the islans, d'Eyragues could count only on a small fort and on a single iron cannon. For his defence, he obtained the honours of war and his detachment was brought back to the continent. The regiment then spent the winter at Coutances and Bayeux.

By August 1 1757, the regiment was stationed at Valognes in Lower Normandy. Later the same year, it was transferred to the coast of Saintonge.

In 1758, the regiment was stationed in Bretagne. On September 11, a few companies took part in the Combat of Saint-Cast where Captain La Canorgue was killed. Later, the unit garrisoned the towns of Dinan, Niort, La Rochelle and Bayonne.

In 1762, the regiment was part of the Auxiliary Corps sent to the King of Spain to assist him in the planned invasion of Portugal.

In 1763, the regiment returned to France where it initially occupied the places of Montlouis and Villefranche. In May, it was transferred to Toulouse.

Uniform

Privates

Uniform in 1758 - Source: Kronoskaf
Uniform Details as per
Etrennes militaires 1758
and Etat militaire 1761
Headgear
Musketeer black tricorne laced gold with a black cockade
Grenadier black tricorne laced gold with a black cockade

towards 1759, bearskins became increasingly common among grenadiers

Neck stock black
Coat grey-white
Collar none in 1758 (blue in 1761)
Shoulder Straps n/a
Lapels none
Pockets double vertical pockets (3 copper buttons on each single pocket)
Cuffs royal blue, each with 6 copper buttons
Turnbacks none
Waistcoat red
Breeches grey-white
Gaiters white
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) while the grenadiers had a sabre.

Officers

n/a

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

The colonel flag was white with a white cross. The ordonnance flags had a white cross with golden fleurs de lys and with a ship in the middle and yellow, green, red and black quarters. The ordonnance flags remained unchanged from 1649 to 1791.

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 5, pp. 126-143
  • Pajol, Charles P. V., Les Guerres sous Louis XV, vol. VII, Paris, 1891
  • Poli, Oscar de: Royal-Vaisseaux, Paris: Editions du Conseil héraldique de France, 1885

Other sources

Evrard, P.: Praetiriti Fides

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

Menguy, Patrice: Les Sujets du Bien Aimé (a great website which has unfortunately disappeared)

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

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

Sommaire des forces armées Françaises à l'intérieur et à l'extérieur de la France - 1er Août 1757, Service Historique de l'armée de terre

Vial, J. L.: Nec Pluribus Impar