Wittmer Infanterie

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Origin and History

The regiment was created by a Lettre de cachet issued on December 5, 1673. Even though this regiment was considered a Swiss regiment, an entire company belonged to the town of Mulhouse (a free town allied to Switzerland). The command of this company was always assumed by a gentleman of this town. During the last years of its existence, this regiment consisted almost entirely of French subjects from the District of Sudgau, the County of Ferrette, the region of Jura, the Principality of Montbéliard and the District of Delamont.

In 1676, during the Franco-Dutch War (1672–78), the new regiment took part in the siege of Bouchain; in 1677, in the siege of Valenciennes and in the Battle of Cassel; and in 1678, in the siege of Ghent and Ypres, in the investment of Mons and in the Battle of Saint-Denis.

In 1684, the regiment formed part of the army who covered the siege of Luxembourg.

In 1689, at the outbreak of the Nine Years' War (1688-97), the regiment took part in the Battle of Walcourt; in 1690, in the Battle of Fleurus; in 1691, in the siege of Mons and in the Combat of Leuze; in 1692, in the capture of Namur and in the Battle of Steenkerque; in 1693, in the Battle of Landen and in the siege of Charleroi; in 1695, in the bombardment of Bruxelles; and in 1697, in the siege of Ath.

In 1701, at the outbreak of the War of the Spanish Succession (1701-13), the regiment was attached to the corps who occupied the places of the Spanish Netherlands in the name of Philip V. In 1702, it took part in the affair of Nijmegen; in 1703, in the Battle of Ekeren; in 1704, in the defence of Termonde; in 1706, in the Battle of Ramillies; in 1708, in the Battle of Oudenarde; in 1709, in the Battle of Malplaquet; in 1710, in the defence of Aire; in 1711, in the combat of Arleux; and in 1712, in the siege of Douai, Le Quesnoy and Bouchain.

In 1733, during the War of the Polish Succession (1733-35), the regiment served on the Rhine. In 1734, it took part in the siege of Philisbourg. In 1735, it garrisoned Stenay while its grenadiers took part in the Battle of Klausen.

In 1736, the regiment was stationed in Valenciennes where it remained until 1741.

In 1741, during the War of the Austrian Succession (1740-48), the regiment garrisoned Valenciennes and Lille. In 1743, two of its battalion were at Valenciennes and the third was at Condé. In 1744, it occupied Longwy and Montmédy. In 1745, the third battalion occupied Maubeuge while the two other ones took part in the siege of Tournai, guarded the bridge on the Scheldt during the Battle of Fontenoy and participated in the capture of Oudenarde, Ostend and Nieuport. In 1746, it was at the sieges of Bruxelles and Antwerp, and at the Battle of Rocoux. In 1747, the regiment was sent to Bretagne. In 1748, it took part in the siege of Maastricht.

served in Flanders from 1744 to 1748.

The regiment counted two battalions and had prévôté (provostship).

During the Seven Years' War, the regiment ranked 55th and was under the command of:

  • from October 3, 1734: Jean-Baptiste-André Wittmer
  • from November 13 ,1757 till March 11, 1781: Christian-Frédéric-Dagobert Comte de Waldner de Freudenstein

Service during the War

Somewhere between August 23 and September 6 ,1757, the regiment joined the Army of Saxony, led by the Prince de Soubise, in the area of Erfurt and Eisenach for the planned reconquest of Saxony. On September 27, it was brigaded with Touraine Infanterie under M. de Waldner in the first line of the left wing of the Franco-Imperial Army. On November 5, under the Comte de Lorges, it took part in the disastrous Battle of Rossbach where it was placed in the second line of the centre. In this battle, it lost Lieutenants Prebel , Appenthal and Buren, killed; Lieutenant-Colonel Paraviccini, Commandant Galatti, Captains Perrier, Suriet, Bize, Zinck, Reynold, and 6 lieutenants wounded. At the end of the year, it took its winter-quarters in Offenbach in Hessen.

In March 1758, when the Allies launched their surprise winter offensive in western Germany, the regiment retreated towards Düsseldorf and Deutz with the bulk of Broglie's Army. It passed the Rhine on April 3 and 4. In the first days of June, as a French army prepared for an offensive in Hesse, the regiment was part of a detachment under the command of Broglie who followed up Ysenburg during his retreat. By July, it had joined Soubise's Army assembling near Friedberg in Hessen. On July 23, the regiment took part in the Combat of Sandershausen where it was placed in the first line of the right wing and was engaged against the Hessian units occupying the Ellenbach Woods. In the morning of September 27, the regiment entered into Kassel to prevent its capture by an Allied Army under the command of Oberg. On October 10, it was present at the Battle of Lutterberg where it was placed in the centre of the second line.

On April 12, 1759, as part of Broglie's Army, the regiment bivouacked near Bergen. Broglie immediately deployed it in the orchards near the village. On April 13, the regiment took part in the Battle of Bergen where it formed part of the first line of the right wing under the command of Prince Camille de Lorraine. The regiment was among the infantry entrenched in the village of Bergen. In June, at the beginning of the French offensive in western Germany, the regiment was part of the “Right Reserve” under the command of the Duc de Broglie who had taken position at Friedberg in Hessen. On August 1, the regiment was at the Battle of Minden where it was deployed in the first line of Broglie's Corps. In this battle, the regiment lost Captains Jassaud and Hans and Ensign Carli, killed; and Lieutenant-Colonel Paraviccini, Major Milliet, wounded. On October 19, the regiment was part of the force sent by Contades to reinforce d'Armentières on the Lower Rhine.

On January 3, 1760, the regiment was part of the force under M. de Voyer who occupied the town of Dillenburg. On January 7, Ferdinand of Brunswick, wanting to dislodge this force, established on his right flank, marched to Gladenbach where he joined Wangenheim's Corps and then advanced in three columns against Dillenburg. The Allied centre column advanced directly on Dillenburg and attacked Waldner Infanterie whose Lieutenant-Colonel Paraviccini was severely wounded. During this action, the Allies took about 700 prisoners. A few companies managed to escape and continued to serve in Germany. By May 23, the regiment was assigned to garrison duty in various places of western Germany. By December 30, the regiment had taken its winter-quarters in Frankfurt.

On June 24, 1762, the regiment took part in the Battle of Wilhelmsthal where eight of its officers were taken prisoners. On September 21, it fought in the Combat of Amöneburg.

Uniform

The following description has been verified against the manuscript "Troupes du Roi, Infanterie française et étrangère, année 1757, tome I" and Taccoli's book published in 1760.

Privates

Uniform in 1758 - Source: rf-figuren
Uniform Details as per
Etrennes Militaires 1756 and 1758

completed where necessary as per the manuscript of 1757 and Taccoli's plate
Headgear
Musketeer black tricorne laced silver
Grenadier black tricorne laced silver

towards 1759, bearskins became increasingly common among grenadiers of the French Army. Indded Taccoli depicts a grenadier of this regiment wearing a black bearskin

Neck stock black
Coat red lined blue with 12 pewter buttons (arranged 3-3-3-3) down to the waist on the right side and 12 blue trimmed buttonholes on the left side
Collar none (blue in 1760)
Shoulder Straps red fastened with a pewter button
Lapels none
Pockets vertical pockets, each probably with 3 pewter buttons (horizontal with 3 pewter buttons in 1760)

N.B.: the manuscript of 1757 illustrates horizontal pockets, each with 3 pewter buttons

Cuffs blue, each with 3 pewter buttons
Turnbacks none but the skirts of the coat could easily be turned back for action, thus exposing the blue lining
Waistcoat blue with two rows of small pewter buttons and white laced buttonholes on both sides (madder red in 1760 with 12 pewter buttons on the right side and 12 white buttonholes, in 4 groups of 3, on the left side)
Breeches blue (Taccoli illustrates red breeches)
Gaiters white
Leather Equipment
Crossbelt natural leather (white as per Taccoli)
Waistbelt natural leather (white as per Taccoli)
Cartridge Box natural leather
Bayonet Scabbard black with a white metal tip
Scabbard brown


Armaments consisted of a musket and a bayonet. Fusiliers carried a sword (brass hilt) while the grenadiers had a sabre.

Officers

n/a

Musicians

An illustration entitled "Swiss troops' uniforms of the late 18th Century by an unknown master" kept at the Musée de Penthes, illustrate an officer, a private and a musician of Waldner Infanterie around 1776. At this time the uniform was quite different from the 1758 uniform. However, it is interesting to note the differences of the uniforms of musicians compared to those of privates:

  • laced with a white braid decorated with red and blue rhombuses along the seams and edges
  • yellow cuffs with 2 buttons and 2 buttonloops (arranged vertically on each cuff)
  • yellow swallow nests laced (same braid as above) along the edges
  • yellow lapels (probably not yet introduced in 1758)

Since Waldner was colonel of the regiment until 1783, we can reasonably assume that the musicians of the regiment were similarly distinguished from the privates in 1758. Thus applying the above mentioned differences (except lapels) to the 1758 uniform would probably be a good approximation.

Under Colonel Waldner, the drum casing was decorated with blue, white, red and black flames and with the Colonel's coat of arms (white field with 3 blue mountains each with a red eagle at its top) while rims or hoops were decorated with blue, red and black stripes.

Colours

Under Colonel Wittmer:

  • Colonel colour: white field with a white cross; centre device depicting a storm on a body of water dominated by mountains with an allegory of the wind blowing and a sun shining
  • Ordonnance colours: white cross; each canton carrying 7 flames (green, yellow, red, blue, red, yellow, black)
Colonel Colour - Source: PMPdeL
Ordonnance Colour - Source: PMPdeL

Under Colonel Waldner:

  • Colonel colour: white field with a white cross; centre device depicting a storm on a body of water dominated by mountains with an allegory of the wind blowing and a sun shining; the whole surmounted by a white scroll bearing the motto "Vis Nulla Revelet"
  • Ordonnance colours: white cross; each canton carrying 4 flames (red, black, white, green)
Colonel Colour - Source: PMPdeL
Ordonnance Colour - Source: PMPdeL

References

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

  • Susane, Louis: Histoire de l'ancienne infanterie française, J. Corréard, Paris, 1849-1856, Tome 6, pp. 388-395

Other sources

Anon.: Manuscript Troupes du Roi, Infanterie française et étrangère, année 1757, tome I, Musée de l'Armée, Paris

Bunel, Arnaud: Vexillologie militaire européenne] - Régiment de Vigier (Suisse)

Chartrand, René: Louis XV's Army (3): Foreign Infantry, Osprey Men-at-Arms Series No. 304

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

Pajol, Charles P. V.: Les Guerres sous Louis XV, vol. VII, Paris, 1891

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

Taccoli, Alfonso: Teatro Militare dell' Europa, Part 1, vol. 2; Madrid, March 1760

Unknown master: Swiss troops uniforms of the late 18th Century, Musée de Penthes, Genève

Vial, J. L.: Nec Pluribus Impar

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

Acknowledgments

Reggie Davis for the description of the uniforms of musicians.