Voluntarios á caballo de Castilla
Origin and History
The Voluntarios á caballo de Castilla were raised in the Province of Castile in 1762, in preparation for the war with Portugal. Each of its three companies consisted of:
- 1 captain (the most senior captain acted as commander of the entire unit)
- 1 lieutenant
- 1 sub-lieutenant (alférez)
- 2 sergeants
- 3 corporals
- 35 mounted soldiers
During the Seven Years' War, the unit was under the command of:
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In 1763, several independent cavalry units from Castile were integrated into the regiment. A few years after the war, on March 10, 1766, the Voluntarios á caballo de Castilla, the Voluntarios á caballo de Aragon, the Voluntarios á caballo de Andalucia and the Voluntarios á caballo de Extremadura were all combined in a single unit: the 'Voluntarios de España.
Service during the War
In 1762, the newly created units of Voluntarios á caballo were placed under the command of Colonel Don Ladislao Hábor and assigned to the vanguard of the Spanish army for the planned invasion of Portugal. They distinguished themselves at the capture of Bragança (May 17) and Chavez (May 22). On July 6, they reconnoitred the region of Almeida. From August 16 to August 25, they took part in the siege and capture of Almeida. The Anglo-Portuguese forces then concentrated along the Tagus to cover Lisbon and fortified their positions, known as Das-Talladas. On September 29, suspecting that the Anglo-Portuguese had an outpost at Monte Gordo on the right bank of the Albito River, only 25 km from the Franco-Spanish positions at Castelo Branco, the commander sent Colonel Hábor with the Voluntarios á caballo and a engineer officer to reconnoitre the neighbourhood. On October 2, when the Franco-Spanish army advanced in four columns towards Salgueiro do Campo, Sarnadas São Simão, Estreito, Sarzedas, Vila Velha de Rodão and Perdigão, the Voluntarios á caballo were distributed among these columns. The Count de Maceda’s column drove the Allies out of their positions at Sarzedas; the Count de la Ricla’s column attacked the heights of Vila Velha, dislodged their defenders, forced them to take refuge into the castle and took them prisoners on October 3; the Marquis de la Torre’s column approached the entrenched camp of Das-Talladas but, judging the position too strong, retired. After these operations all 'Voluntarios á caballo took up cantonments at Escalos de Cima along with the foot units of Voluntarios de Aragon and Voluntarios de Cataluña, all under the command of Don Alejandro O’Reylli. On October 28, four Allied regiments under General Hamilton tried to surprise this light corps in its cantonments. However, Hamilton’s force was spotted and the Voluntarios á caballo had enough time to mount. The Spanish light troops then launched an attack and drove back the enemy. For his conduct, Colonel Hábor was promoted to brigadier. After the signature of the peace of Fontainebleau, on November 3, all troops retired to Spain and the units of Voluntarios á caballo returned to their respective provinces.
Soldiers did not wear uniforms but they were each given a blue anguarina (a type of loose coat with sleeves but no collar or waist, which usually reaches the thighs, it was worn above other clothes tightly fitted to the body; this type of coat originated from Hungary and was initially called a Hungarina) with red distinctives..
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This article is mostly made of abridged and adapted excerpts translated from the following book which is now in the public domain:
- Clonard, Conde de, Historia Orgánica de las Armas de Infantería y Caballería, vol. XVI, Madrid, 1851-62, pp. 100-109