Volontaires du Hainaut

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Hierarchical Path: Seven Years War (Main Page) >> Armies >> French Army >> Volontaires du Hainaut

Origin and History

The unit was created on March 27 1757, when the Volontaires de Flandre were 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 had been formed in August 1749 by the amalgamation of the Arquebusiers de Grassin (raised on January 1 1744), Fusiliers de la Morlière (raised on October 16 1745), and Volontaires Bretons (raised on October 30 1746). The newly formed Volontaires du Hainaut received half of the brigade originating from the former Volontaires Bretons and the entire brigade originating from the Arquebusiers de Grassin.

By the end of March 1757, the Volontaires du Hainaut counted 462 men (including staff) and consisted of:

  • a staff of 4 officers and 2 men
  • 6 mixed companies (each of 6 officers, 40 fusiliers and 30 dragoons)

On February 25 1758, the unit was reinforced, it then counted 663 men (including staff) and consisted of:

  • a staff consisting of:
    • 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 and 35 men (no details given)

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

  • a staff of 5 officers and 2 men
  • 1 grenadier company (3 officers and 60 grenadiers)
  • 8 fusilier companies (each of 3 officers and 70 fusiliers)
  • 8 dragoon companies (each of 4 officers and 40 fusiliers)

In December 1762, the unit incorporated the Volontaires d'Austrasie.

On March 1 1763, the unit was renamed Légion du Hainaut.

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

  • since March 27 1757: Colonel François Henri Thiersaint, Baron de Bourgmary
  • from December 15 1758 till March 1763: Colonel Thomas Auguste le Roy de Grandmaison

In 1768, the Légion du Hainaut was renamed Légion de Lorraine which was finally disbanded in 1776.

Service during the War

In 1757, as part of the Army of the Lower Rhine, the regiment was among the light troops of the army of the Comte d'Estrées for the planned invasion of Hanover. On March 23 of the same year, 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's vanguard near Bergen and Fringheim. On July 23, the unit was part of the corps of the Marquis de Vogüé, consisting of 14 grenadier companies, the Volontaires de Flandre and the Volontaires de Hainaut, who occupied the heights of Apseste. On July 26, the unit took part in the Battle of Hastenbeck. It was in the vanguard of the column under Chevert who accomplished the flanking movement to attack the Hanoverian left wing in the woods. On December 12 at Garssen, during the Allied counter-offensive in Hanover, the unit skirmished the whole day against an Allied detachment under the command of Luckner. At the end of the year, it took its winter-quarters in the third line of the French army in Schosselburg.

In 1758, 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 the army of the Comte de Clermont on June 2. Until June 12, it remained in this camp where it formed part of the Reserve. On June 28, some companies were part of a small detachment, under the command of M. de Boccard, occupying Roermond. Boccard surrendered the town to the Hereditary Prince of Brunswick, obtaining the honours of war and retiring to Liège.

From June 1759, the unit (estimated at 657 men) took part in the French offensive in Western Germany. On July 15, it occupied the village of Hille near Minden along with the Volontaires de Hallet. On July 28, they were attacked and driven out of Lübbecke by an Allied corps of 6,000 men under the Hereditary Prince of Brunswick. During their retreat, Bercheny Hussards, Turpin Hussards, the Volontaire de Prague and the Volontaires de Muret came to their support and pushed back the Allied detachment pursuing them. By August 31, the unit was attached to Chabot's Light Corps. By September 25, the unit was deployed at Wieseck 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. On May 25, the unit was part of Prince Xavier's right reserve who advanced towards Lohr. On June 20, Prince Xavier sent Bercheny Hussards and the Volontaires du Hainaut forward from Schlüchtern to reconnoitre the movements of the Hereditary Prince. In the morning, Bercheny Hussards were attacked by Luckner's White Hussars. The dragoons of the Volontaires du Hainaut were sent to the rescue and together with Bercheny Hussards, they drove back Luckner's White Hussars, taking 50 prisoners. On July 31, the Saxon Contingent along with La Marck Brigade drove Kielmansegg's Corps out of its defensive positions. The Volontaires du Hainaut, Volontaires d'Austrasie and the dragoons then pursued Kielmansegg. On November 17, 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. By December 30, the unit had taken its winter-quarters in Wanfried.

To do: campaigns from 1761 to 1762

Uniform

Uniform of the Fusiliers

Privates

Uniform in 1757 - Source: Jean-Louis Vial of Nec Pluribus Impar
Uniform Details as per
Etat Militaire of 1758, 1759, 1760 and 1761,
and La Chesnaye's 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 3 white buttons under the right lapel and 3 white laced buttonholes under the left lapel
Collar black (none as per Raspe)
Shoulder Straps n/a
Lapels black with white buttons and white laced buttonholes
Pockets vertical pockets, each with 3 white buttons and 3 white laced buttonholes
Cuffs black, 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 (white as per Taccoli)
Waistbelt natural leather (white as per Taccoli)
Cartridge Box black
Bayonet Scabbard black
Scabbard black


Armaments consisted of a musket, a bayonet and a sword.

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 blue sash under the coat around the waist
  • no laced buttonholes on the waistcoat

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 black with white buttons, black lapels and cuffs, blue waistcoat; white breeches; helmet à la Schomberg (this might be the strange helmet illustrated in Raspe's publication of 1762).

For his part, Mouillard illustrates the dragoon uniform as follows: blue coat lined blue and edged with a white braid; black collar edged white; black cuffs à la hongroise edged white; no lapels; blue waistcoat and breeches; blue schabraque and housings edged white; helmet à la Schomberg.

Colours

The unit retained the original colours of the Arquebusiers de Grassin.

Colonel Colour: probably white with a white cross decorated with the crowned royal cipher in gold; and maybe with a white St. Andrew cross in each canton.

Ordonnance Colours: white cross decorated with the crowned royal cipher in gold; each cantons wore a black St. Andrew cross decorated with a golden sun; the cross delimiting 2 red (upper and lower) triangles and 2 green triangles (left and right) in opposition.

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

Dragoon guidons were fringed in gold with:

  • obverse: green filed; centre device consisting of a golden royal sun;
  • reverse: red filed; centre device consisting of the crowned royal cipher in gold.
Guidon - Source: Jean-Louis Vial of Nec Pluribus Impar

References

This article is mostly a translation Jean-Louis Vial's article “Volontaires du Hainaut 1757-1763” published on his website Nec Pluribus Impar. The article also incorporates texts from the following books which are now in the public domain:

  • Pajol, Charles P. V.: Les Guerres sous Louis XV, vol. VII, Paris, 1891, pp. 235, 239
  • Taccoli, Alfonso: Teatro Militare dell' Europa, Part 1, vol. 2; Madrid, March 1760, pp. 145, 147

Other sources

Bunel, Arnaud: Vexillologie française

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

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

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.