Volontaires de Flandre

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Hierarchical Path: Seven Years War (Main Page) >> Armies >> French Army >> Volontaires de Flandre

Origin and History

The unit was created on August 1 1749 by the amalgamation of the Arquebusiers de Grassin (raised on January 1 1744), the Fusiliers de la Morlière (raised on October 16 1745), and the Volontaires Bretons (raised on October 30 1746).

In 1755, Mandrin, a brigand who had plundered several provinces of Southern France, had taken refuge in the Castle of Rochefort belonging to the King of Piedmont, located near Saint-Louis d'Aoste. A lieutenant-colonel of the Volontaires de Flandre seized the place and captured Mandrin who was brought back to Valence where he was executed on May 26. The King of Piedmont protested to the French Court for the violation of his territory. The Duc de Noailles was sent to the Piemontese Court in Turin to present his excuses to the King of Piedmont, thus avoiding the implication of this kingdom in the incoming war.

At the beginning of the Seven Years' War, the unit consisted 72 officers and 720 men, more precisely:

  • 12 mixed companies, each of
    • fusiliers
      • 3 officers
      • 5 NCOs
      • 1 drummer
      • 34 fusiliers
    • dragoons
      • 3 officers
      • 2 NCOs
      • 1 trumpeter
      • 17 dragoons


On March 27 1757, the unit was subdivided into two distinct units: the first one retaining its original name, while the second became known as Volontaires du Hainaut. The Volontaires de Flandre retained half of the brigade originating from the Volontaires Bretons and the entire brigade originating from the Fusiliers de la Morlière. Furthermore, each company received 10 additional dragoons. Therefore, by the end of March, the Volontaires de Flandre counted 462 men (including staff) and consisted of:

  • a staff
    • 1 colonel
    • 1 lieutenant-colonel
    • 1 major
    • 1 aide-major
    • 1 chaplain
    • 1 surgeon
  • 6 mixed companies, each of
    • fusiliers
      • 3 officers
      • 5 NCOs
      • 1 drummer
      • 34 fusiliers
    • dragoons
      • 3 officers
      • 2 NCOs
      • 1 trumpeter
      • 27 dragoons

In 1758, the unit was reinforced. By December 25, it counted 663 men (including staff) and consisted of:

  • staff:
    • 1 colonel
    • 1 lieutenant-colonel
    • 1 major
    • 1 aide-major
    • 1 alfiere (???)
    • 1 chaplain
    • 1 surgeon
  • 8 mixed companies, each consisting of:
    • for the infantry (3 officers and 40 men):
      • 1 captain
      • 1 captain in second
      • 1 lieutenant
      • 2 sergeants
      • 3 corporals
      • 3 sub corporals
      • 31 fusiliers
      • 1 drummer
    • for the dragoons:
      • 4 officers
      • 2 NCOs
      • 1 trumpeter
      • 32 dragoons

By November 22 1759, the unit counted 1,006 men (including staff) and consisted of:

  • staff (5 officers and 2 men)
    • 1 colonel
    • 1 lieutenant-colonel (without company)
    • 1 major
    • 1 aide-major of infantry
    • 1 aide-major of dragoons
    • 1 chaplain
    • 1 surgeon
  • 1 grenadier company
    • 3 officers
      • 1 captain
      • 1 lieutenant
      • 1 sub-lieutenant
    • 7 NCOs
      • 2 sergeants
      • 1 fourrier
      • 4 corporals
    • 1 drummer
    • 4 anspessades (lance corporals)
    • 48 grenadiers
  • 8 fusilier companies, each of
    • 3 officers
      • 1 captain
      • 1 lieutenant
      • 1 sub-lieutenant
    • 10 NCOs
      • 3 sergeants
      • 1 fourrier
      • 6 corporals
    • 1 drummer
    • 6 anspessades (lance corporals)
    • 54 fusiliers
  • 8 dragoon companies, each of
    • 4 officers
    • 3 NCOs
    • 1 drummer
    • 36 dragoons

In 1762, the regiment was amalgamated with the Volontaires du Dauphiné and renamed Légion de Flandre.

During the Seven Years' War, the unit was under the successive commands of:

  • since August 1 1749: La Morlière
  • from February 1759 until 1770: Chevalier de Jeaucourt (promoted to lieutenant-colonel on March 20, 1759; to colonel on May 22, 1759; and to brigadier on July 25, 1762)

N.B.: contrarily to what is mentioned in several sources, the Comte de Preyssac and M. d'Escouloubre never commanded the unit.

The Légion de Flandre was disbanded in 1776.

Service during the War

In 1757, the regiment was part of the light troops of the Army of the Lower Rhine under the Comte d'Estrées for the planned invasion of Hanover. By March 23, it consisted of 6 mixed companies (43 fusiliers and 33 dragoons each) for a total of 420 men. On July 21, the unit was part of the Comte de Maillebois' vanguard near Bergen and Fringheim. On July 23, the unit was part of the corps of the Marquis de Vogüé (14 grenadier companies, the Volontaires de Flandre and the Volontaires du Hainaut)) who occupied the heights of Apseste. On July 26, the unit took part in the Battle of Hastenbeck where it was in the vanguard of the column under Chevert who accomplished the flanking movement to attack the Hanoverian left wing in the woods. At the end of the year, the unit took its winter-quarters in the third line of the French Army in Stadthagen.

In April 1758, when the Comte de Clermont redeployed his army along the Rhine, the unit was stationed in the area of Cologne and Deutz. After the successful crossing of the Rhine by the Allied Army of Ferdinand of Brunswick on May 31, the unit retired towards Rheinberg where it joined Clermont's Army on June 2. It remained in this camp until June 12. On June 23, the unit was present at the Battle of Krefeld. In Mid August, after Ferdinand's retreat to the east bank of the Rhine, the unit, as part of the Army of the Lower Rhine now under the Marquis de Contades, recrossed the Rhine to follow the Allies. On August 20, it was encamped near Wesel where it formed part of the Reserve. At the beginning of October, the regiment was attached to Chevert's Corps which was sent to reinforce the Army of the Prince de Soubise in Hesse. On October 10, it was at the Battle of Lutterberg where it formed part of Chevert's Corps which won the day by turning the Allied left flank.

On March 13 1759, upon Broglie's request, d'Armentières sent forward a corps (1,400 foot and 1,200 horse, including the Volontaires de Flandres) under the command of d'Auvet. This corps took post at Hachenburg with detachments at Siegen. By May 10, the unit was part of the combined corps under the command of d'Auvet and de Ségur who had taken position near Deutz on the right bank of the Rhine. From June, the unit (estimated at 657 men) took part in the French offensive in Western Germany. On August 17, it was occupying an advanced positions in front of Naumburg with the Volontaires de Hallet when they were forced to retire into the woods towards Fritzlar by the advance of an Allied corps under the command of the Hereditary Prince of Brunswick. By August 31, the unit was attached to Chabot's Corps of light troops. By September 25, the unit was deployed at Grossen-Buseck near Annerod.

By the end of January 1760, the unit had taken its winter-quarters in the third line of the French Army along the Rhine and the Main from its mouth. By May 23, the unit was part of a detachment under the command of MM. d'Amezaga, Duc de Fronsac, Thianges. By May 25, 900 men of the unit were part of Saint-Germain's left reserve. By June 21, the unit had taken position at Schwerte to protect Saint-Germain's lines of communication. On the night of June 21 to 22, the unit reconnoitred the region between Schwerte and Iserlohn. On July 4, it advanced from Schwerte towards Meschede and Freienohl. On July 6, it moved forward to Brilon. On July 10, the unit took part in the Combat of Corbach where it was attached to Lieutenant-General Comte de Saint-Germain's detachment who force marched to reach the battlefield. By July 23, the unit was at Wasbeck under the personal command of the Duc the Broglie. On November 17, when Prince Xavier's Corps retired towards its winter-quarters, the unit was left behind under Lieutenant-General de Vaux as part of the garrison of Göttingen.

To do: campaign of 1761

Uniform

Uniform of the Fusiliers

Privates

Uniform in 1757 - Source: Richard Couture adapted from a template by Jean-Louis Vial
Uniform Details as per
Etat Militaire of 1758, 1760 and 1761,
and the Abrégé du Dictionnaire Militaire of 1759

completed where necessary as per Taccoli and Raspe
Headgear black tricorne laced silver with a white or black cockade
Neck stock black
Coat blue lined blue with 2 white buttons under the right lapel and 2 white laced buttonholes under the left lapel
Collar none
Shoulder Straps n/a
Lapels red with white buttons and white laced buttonholes
Pockets vertical pockets, each with 3 white buttons
Cuffs red, each with 3 white buttons and 3 white laced buttonholes
Turnbacks blue
Waistcoat blue with white buttons and white laced buttonholes
Breeches white
Gaiters white or black
Leather Equipment
Crossbelt natural leather
Waistbelt natural leather
Cartridge Box black
Bayonet Scabbard black
Scabbard black


Armaments consisted of a musket, a bayonet and a sword (brass hilt).

Officers

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

  • silver laced buttonholes
  • no turnbacks
  • a silver epaulette on the left shoulder
  • a silver and black sash under the coat around the waist

NCOs

no information found yet

Musicians

no information found yet

Uniform of the Dragoons

Although dragoons are not mentioned in the contemporary Etats Militaires, Pajol describes the following uniform for dragoons:

blue coat lined blue with red collar, lapels and cuffs, blue waistcoat; red housings and schabraque bordered with a blue braid; helmet à la Schomberg.

This might be the strange helmet illustrated in Raspe's publication of 1762.

Uniform in 1759 - Source: Frédéric Aubert


Colours

Colonel flag before 1759: probably white with a white cross (the standard infantry colonel flag).

Ordonnance flag before 1759: not mentioned in the 'États Militaires', Pajol mentions white cross with the first and second cantons half yellow and half blue and the third and fourth cantons half blue and half yellow.

Colonel Colour - Source: Kronoskaf
Ordonnance Colour - Source: Kronoskaf

Colonel flag between 1759 and 1770: white with a white cross with, in the center, a golden leopard (emblem of Charles Leopold de Jaucourt) surmounted by a golden crown.

Ordonnance flag between 1759 and 1770: white cross with the first and second cantons half yellow and half blue and the third and fourth cantons half blue and half yellow, with, in the center, a golden leopard (emblem of Charles Leopold de Jaucourt) surmounted by a golden crown.

Colonel Colour in 1759 - Source: Frédéric Aubert from an original plate by Gilbert Noury
Ordonnance Colour in 1759 - Source: Frédéric Aubert from an original plate by Gilbert Noury

Regimental guidon for the dragons of the Volontaires de Flandre in 1759: not mentioned in the 'États Militaires' but, following the colours of the infantry flag, we have made this proposal:

  • obverse: blue field; centre device consisting of a golden leopard (emblem of Charles Leopold de Jaucourt) surmounted by a golden crown
  • reverse: yellow field; centre device consisting of a golden royal sun surmounted by a red scroll bearing the motto “NEC PLURIBUS IMPAR”
Standard of the Dragons of the Volontaires de Flandre in 1759 - Source: Frédéric Aubert from an original plate by Gilbert Noury


References

This article incorporates texts from the following books which are now in the public domain:

  • 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 1
  • Pajol, Charles P. V.: Les Guerres sous Louis XV, vol. IV, Paris, 1891, p. 20
  • Pajol, Charles P. V.: Les Guerres sous Louis XV, vol. VII, Paris, 1891, pp. 235-236
  • Taccoli, Alfonso: Teatro Militare dell' Europa, Part 1, vol. 2; Madrid, March 1760, pp. 145, 147

Other sources

Bacquet, Capitaine d’infanterie: L’infanterie française au XVIIIe siècle – L’organisation, Paris: Berger-Levrault, 1907, p. 57

Funcken, L. and F.: Les uniformes de la guerre en dentelle

Menguy, Patrice: Les Sujets du Bien Aimé a website who unfortunately is not online anymore

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

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

Service Historique de l'armée de terre - Archives du génie, article 15, section 1, §5, pièce 23

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

Raspe, Gabriel Nicolas: Recueil de toutes les troupes qui forment les armées françoises, Nuremberg 1762

N.B.: the section Service during the War is mostly derived from our articles depicting the various campaigns, battles and sieges.