Swiss Infantry Organisation

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Introduction

At the outbreak of the Seven Years’ War, the French Army counted ten Swiss regiments. An additional regiment, Eptingen Infanterie was raised in February 1758. According to the ordonnance of April 1, 1756, each Swiss regiment had two battalions of 6 companies each. Their organisation differed from the organisation of the French infantry regiments.

Composition and Organisation of a Brigade

The brigade was a formation which existed only in time of war. French and foreign regiments consisted of 1, 2 and more rarely 3 or 4 battalions. This made for very small combat units. Therefore, 2 to 4 infantry regiments were grouped into a single brigade consisting of 5 or 6 battalions.

The brigade was placed under the command of the senior officer who ranked as brigadier or, when several brigadiers were present, by the most senior brigadier. The rank of brigadier was created in 1667 during the reign of Louis XIV. It was suppressed by the regulation of March 7 1788. The brigadier had no specific uniform and wore the uniform of his own regiment.

In contemporary relations, most of the time only the brigade was referred to. Since the brigade was designated by the name of its senior regiment, we often lose track of the position or progression of certain infantry regiments “lost” because they were incorporated within a brigade. Usually foreign regiments were grouped into distinct brigades (Swiss brigades, German brigades, etc.). Two senior regiments were not usually incorporated into the same brigade but would rather be associated to more recent regiments.

Composition and Organisation of a Regiment

Regiments were ranked according to their seniority. This was THE rule regulating precedence in the French army of this period. However, they were always designated by a name.

Regimental Staff

The regulation of January 1 1755 had restored the privilege of the colonel and lieutenant-colonel to command the two senior companies, this permission had previously been abolished in February 1749.

Organisation of a Battalion

Swiss regiments counted 6 companies per battalion. Therefore, each of these battalions totalled (excluding staff) 30 officers and 690 men.

Organisation of a Company

A company consisted of:

  • 5 officers
    • 1 captain
    • 1 captain-lieutenant
    • 1 lieutenant
    • 1 sub-lieutenants
    • 1 ensign
  • 10 NCOs
    • 3 sergeants
    • 1 fourrier
    • 1 standard-bearer
    • 1 captain of arms
    • 4 corporals
  • 1 provost
  • 4 ansepessades (lance-corporals)
  • 100 soldiers (including grenadiers)
  • 2 drummers

In wartime, the grenadiers were converged in grenadier companies.

References

Grosser Generalstab Kriegsgeschichtliche Abteilung II: Die Kriege Friedrichs des Grossen, Part 3 Der siebenjährige Krieg 1756-1763, Vol. 5 Hastenbeck und Roßbach, Berlin, 1903, Appendix 10

Vial, Jean-Louis: Nec Pluribus Impar