Saint-Ignon Dragoons

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Origin and History

De Ligne Dragoons - Copyright: Harald Skala

This dragoon regiment was created in 1725 by combining the two Walloon regiments: Westerloo and Ferdinand de Ligne. The latter had served at the sieges of the fortresses of Lille and Le Quesnoy during the War of the Spanish Succession.

During the War of the Polish Succession, the regiment made the campaigns on the Rhine in 1734 and 1735 as part of the Army of Prince Eugène de Savoie.

During the War of the Austrian Succession, the regiment was at the Battle of Dettingen in 1743. In 1744 and 1745, it was part of the army operating in Germany. In 1746, as part of General Tripp's Corps, it fought in an encounter near Ramillies in Brabant and in the Battle of Rocoux. In 1747, it took part in the Battle of Lauffeld. After these campaigns, the regiment retired into the Netherlands where it took its quarters in Brabant and Hainaut.

The regiment counted 6 squadrons and a company of horse grenadiers. For battles, the latter was usually converged with other similar companies to form an elite unit.

On February 1 1758, the new proprietor of the regiment, Christian Philipp Fürst zu Löwenstein-Wertheim, received the authorisation to raise 12 additional companies of light dragoons (the Jung-Löwenstein Light Dragoons) which were initially attached to the present regiment even though they had their own staff and their own commander.

On January 14 1759, the Jung-Löwenstein Light Dragoons received 8 additional companies, bringing their total strength to 10 squadrons. On March 22, these light dragoons were transformed into an independent regiment of chevauxlegers, the Jung-Löwenstein Chevauxlegers.

In 1760, the Saint-Ignon regiment was also transformed into a Chevauxlegers Regiment.

De Ligne Dragoons - Copyright: Harald Skala
De Ligne Dragoons - Source: Treuenfest

During the Seven Years' War, the regiment inhaber was:

  • from 1732: Ferdinand Prince de Ligne
  • from 1757: Benedikt Count Daun (created his own cuirassier regiment in 1758)
  • from 1758: Christian Philipp Fürst zu Löwenstein-Wertheim (created his own dragoon regiment the same year)
  • from 1759 to May 9 1779: Josef Count Saint-Ignon

During the Seven Years' War, the regiment was commanded by:

  • since 1751: Théodore Lefèvre
  • from 1757: Jacob Franz Count Thiennes (killed at the battle of Hochkirch in October 1758)
  • from 1758: Carl Chevalier de la Marlière Thoricout
  • from 1760 to 1768: Carl Alexander Baron von Bietagh

In 1765, the regiment was reinstated as a Dragoon Regiment.

Service during the War

In June 1756, at the beginning of the war, the regiment was stationed in the Netherlands and counted about 1,000 men and 1,000 horses. In December, it marched towards Bohemia through Germany.

Attack of de Ligne Dragoons at Kolin - Source: Treuenfest

In February 1757, the regiment reached Bohemia. During the months of March, April and May, it distinguished itself in various small and large engagements. On June 15, it was with Field-Marshal Count Daun's army at the camp of Planian. On June 18, it fought in the Battle of Kolin with extraordinary courage. It was deployed in the second line of the cavalry right wing in O'Donell's Division. As the right wing of the Austrian army threatened the Prussians and more cuirassier regiments were used to break the Prussian infantry squares and were repeatedly thrown back by the incredible resistance of the Prussian infantry, Colonel Count Thiennes, commander of the regiment, received Daun's authorisation to launch an attack with his dragoons. Daun would have said to Thiennes “Mais vous ne ferez pas grand chose avec vos blancs becs.” (but you won't accomplish much with your greenhorns) and Thiennes would have reported these words to his dragoons. The attack completely succeeded and decided of the outcome of the battle to the advantage of the Austrian army. Count Thiennes and his officers fought bravely at the head of their unit. The losses of the regiment were important, more than 500 dragoons remained on the field with several of their officers among which Ficquelmont and Aspremont. Several others died of their wounds. In a certain squadron all officers were killed or wounded and Corporal Pforzheim had to take command. He did it with such distinction that he was promoted lieutenant on the battlefield. In memory of this bloody and glorious day, the regiment received from Empress Maria Theresa the strange privilege to wear no mustach (blanc bec meaning “beardless”). The grateful empress sent four standards that she personally embroidered with scenes depicting the Battle of Kolin. On November 22, the regiment took part in the Battle of Breslau where it was deployed in Benedikt Daun's Brigade in the second line of the right wing under Prince Esterházy. On December 5 at the Battle of Leuthen, the regiment was deployed in Daun's Brigade in the second line of the cavalry right wing under General Lucchesi. In December, after the terrible defeat of Leuthen, it retired from Silesia and took its winter-quarters in Chrast (unknown location) in Bohemia.

At the beginning of 1758, the regiment suffered additional losses from sickness. In July, it marched to the camp of Olmütz. By August 2, the regiment served in the first line of the Austrian Main Army under the command of Daun near Jaromirs. Daun was following up the Prussian army retiring through Bohemia after the failure of the Prussian invasion of Moravia. The regiment then marched to Saxony where it once more fought with distinction at Stolpen. In October it fought at the Battle of Hochkirch where it was deployed in Loudon's Corps, to the southwest of Hochkirch. When Forcade Infantry tried to come to the rescue of the struggling grenadiers deployed on the right wing of the Prussian positions, the regiment attacked them in rear and overwhelmed them. At the end of the battle, Colonel Count Thiennes, the courageous commander of the regiment, remained on the field with several of his officers and troopers.

In July 1759, the regiment was in Silesia where, under Feldmarshall Lieutenant Loudon, it took part in the combat of Freiberg on July 22. On November 20, 4 squadrons of the regiment took part in the Battle of Maxen where they were attached to Brentano's Corps initially posted at Röhrsdorf, 5 km north of Maxen, where they demonstrated once more their bravery and suffered heavy casualties.

In 1760, the regiment operated in Moravia and Hungary, taking part in the engagement of Skalitz and successfully escorting a food supply convoy through enemy occupied territory. On November 3, the day of the Battle of Torgau, a large part of the regiment was encircled and captured in a wood by the Prussians. After its exchange, the regiment was immediately assigned to advanced posts.

In 1761, 400 men of the regiment took part in an attack on Bülow's detachment near Hartmannsdorf in Silesia.

In 1762, the regiment took part in the Battle of Burkersdorf on July 21 and in the Battle of Reichenbach on August 16.

In March 1763, the regiment left Bohemia and returned to the Netherlands where it took its quarters in Ghent and Mons.

Uniform

From its creation in 1725 to the outbreak of the Seven Years War, the regiment wore its original red uniform with black distinctives. At the beginning of the Seven Years War, it then adopted a green uniform with “Pompadour red” (dark red) distinctives.

A decree of 1757 specified that all dragoon regiments should now wear dark blue coats. The regiment had begun to implement the change. At Kolin, most of its troopers still wore the green uniform but some wore the blue one. After the defeat of Leuthen the standardisation of the uniforms was soon abandoned and the regiment retained its green uniforms throughout the war.

Privates

Uniform in 1762 - Source: Richard Couture
Uniform Details
as per the Albertina Handschrift of 1762

completed with other sources where necessary
Headgear
Trooper black tricorne (no lace) with a black cockade fastened with a small yellow button
Grenadier bearskin
Neckstock black
Coat green with 3 yellow buttons under the lapel on the right side
Collar none
Shoulder strap both shoulders: red fastened with a yellow button
right shoulder: red aiguillette
Lapels red with 7 yellow buttons
Pockets horizontal pockets each with 3 yellow buttons
Cuffs red with 3 yellow buttons
Turnbacks red
Waistcoat red with two rows of 7 yellow buttons and horizontal pockets (each with 3 yellow buttons)
Breeches straw
Leather Equipment
Crossbelt white (according to the illustration of the Bautzener Bilderhandschrift of 1762)
Waistbelt white
Cartridge Box black leather
Scabbard brown leather
Footgear black boots
Horse Furniture
Saddlecloth green laced with a wide red braid decorated with white squares (according to the illustration of the Bautzener Bilderhandschrift of 1762)
Housings green laced with a wide red braid decorated with white squares (according to the illustration of the Bautzener Bilderhandschrift of 1762)
Blanket roll red and white (according to the illustration of the Bautzener Bilderhandschrift of 1762)


Troopers were armed with a sword, a pair of pistols, a musket and a bayonet.

Other interpretations

Raspe shows green shoulder straps and does not illustrate any button on the cuffs.

The Bautzener Bilderhandschrift shows a laced tricorne.

In 1760, when the unit became a Chevauleger Regiment. The headgear was probably changed to a casquet for the troopers while officers retained the tricorne as illustrated in the Bautzen Manuscript. This casquet was similar to the one worn by Austrian Jägers.

Officers

The officers (according to the Bautzener Bilderhandschrift of 1762) wore the same uniform with the following exceptions:

  • tricorne laced gold with a green and white cockade
  • gold aiguillette on the right shoulder
  • red saddlecloth and sabretache both laced in green and fringed in gold

Musicians

Drummers of the regiments of dragoons usually wore the same uniform as the troopers but heavily laced with yellow and black braids or a uniform with inverted colours. In the case of this regiment, we have not yet found evidence in favour of one or the other of these possibilities.

Colours

Leib Standard: no information available yet

Regimental Standard (these are the four standards given to the regiment by Maria Theresa after the battle of Kolin in 1757): Swallow tailed pennant with a flagpole striped in black and yellow.

  • Obverse: green silk, golden fringe, with various scenes of the battle of Kolin in a central frame:
    1. the goddess of war holding a rose with the motto “Qui s'y frotte, s'y pique.”
    2. the breaking of the Prussian squares with the motto “Plus ils coûtent, plus ils sont précieux!”
    3. a Prussian battery taken at Neudorf by the regiment with the motto “C'est en vain qu'ils la protègent.”
    4. an attack against the Prussian Garde du Corps with the motto “Ah! Que n'en a-t-il davantage!”
  • Reverse: red silk and folden fringe

References

This article incorporates texts from the following book which is now in the public domain:

  • Thürheim, Andreas; Die Reiter-Regiment der k. k. österreichischen Armee, vol. 1 - Die Cürassiere und Dragoner, F.B. Geitler, Wien: 1862, pp. 347-393

Other sources

Bleckwenn, Hans; Die Regimenter der Kaiserin, Gedanken zur "Albertina Handschrift" 1762 des Heeresgeschichtlichen Museums Wien, Köln: 1967

Brauer, H.M., Uniformbogen and Fahnentafeln, plate 95

Donath, Rudolf, Die Kaiserliche und Kaiserlich-Königliche Österreichische Armee 1618-1918, 2. Aufl., Simbach/Inn 1979, Teil III Blatt 2

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

Grosser Generalstab, Die Kriege Friedrichs des Grossen, Hiller, Berlin, 1830-1913

Klimek, St.; Oesterreichische Kavalleriestandarten aus dem 18. Jahrhundert im Heeresmuseum zu Wien, Die Zinnfigur, Clio: 1927

Kornauth, Friedrich, Das Heer Maria Theresias: Faksimile-Ausgabe der Albertina-Handschrift, "Dessins des Uniformes des Troupes I.I. et R.R. de l'année 1762", Wien: 1973

Raspe, Accurate Vorstellung der sämtlichen KAYSERLICH KOENIGLICHEN ARMEEN zur eigentlichen Kentnis der UNIFORM von jedem Regimente. Nebst beygefügter Geschichte, worinne von der Stiftung, denen Chefs, der Staercke, und den wichtigsten Thaten jedes Regiments Nachricht gegeben wird., Nürnberg: 1762

Schirmer, Friedrich, Die Heere der kriegführenden Staaten 1756-1763, hrsg. von der KLIO-Landesgruppe Baden-Württemberg, überarb. u. aktual. Neuauflage 1989

Skala H., Österreichische Militärgeschichte

Thadden, Franz-Lorenz v., Die theresianische Kavallerie - II. Teil, Die Zinnfigur, Klio, 1968

Thümmler, L.-H., Die Österreichiches Armee im Siebenjährigen Krieg: Die Bautzener Bilderhandschrift aus dem Jahre 1762, Berlin 1993

Zahn, Michael, Oesterreichische Kürassier und Dragoner Standarten in Siebenjährigen Krieges, Zusammenstellung, 1988