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Origin and History
The regiment was among the 37 regiments raised at the death of Philip IV of Spain in 1665, when Louis XIV resolved to renew his claims on Flanders, Artois and Hainaut. It was given to the Duc de Bourgogne in 1686. At the death of the dauphin, on June 8 1711, the regiment took the name of “Bretagne” when it was transferred to his son. On September 15 1751, the regiment was renamed “Bourgogne” at the birth of Louis XVI's elder brother.
During the War of the Polish Succession, the regiment served in the Duchy of Lorraine in 1733. In 1734, it was in Alsace, in 1735 at Clausen and Langres.
During the War of the Austrian Succession, the regiment initially operated in Westphalia in 1741. In 1742, it took part in the invasion of Bohemia. In 1743, it was back in Alsace, and in 1744 at Weissenbourg. From 1745 to 1748, it campaigned in Flanders.
After the war, the regiment was stationed at Saint-Quentin in 1749; Douai, in 1750; Ploërmel, in 1751; Charleville, in 1753; and Sarrelouis, in 1754.
The regiment counted 2 squadrons.
During the Seven Years' War, the Duc de Bourgogne was the Mestre de Camp of the regiment but the Mestre de Camp Lieutenant commanding the regiment was:
- since January 1748: Comte d'Helmstadt
- from February 10 1759 to October 26 1771: Duc de Cossé-Brissac
When the French Cavalry was reorganised on December 1 1761, the regiment was increased to 4 squadrons at Rethel, each of them consisting of 4 companies of 40 troopers, for a total of 640 troopers. The 2 additional squadrons came from Espinchal Cavalerie which was incorporated into Bourgogne Cavalerie.
Service during the War
In 1756, at the outbreak of the war, the regiment was stationed at Nancy.
Campaign of 1757
In the spring of 1757, the 2 sqns of the regiment, under the command of the Mestre de camp Lieutenant Comte d'Helmstadt and of Lieutenant-Colonel M. de Plouy, left its garrison of Nancy to join the great army assembling at Metz under the Maréchal d'Estrées for the planned invasion of Hanover. On April 20, the regiment arrived at Metz. In May, it reached Longwy from where it marched to the camp of Düsseldorf where 27 sqns had assembled. In the order of battle of the Army of Maréchal d'Estrées, the regiment was part of the first line of the right wing consisting of 19 sqns under the command of Lieutenant-General de Bercheny. The regiment was brigaded with Colonel Général Cavalerie (3 sqns) and Clermont-Prince Cavalerie (2 sqns).
Delayed by difficulties of supply in Westphalia, Maréchal d'Estrées could not launch his operations before the first days of June. His army assembled at Münster. On June 12, it passed the Ems river and halted at Warendorf. On June 20, it arrived at Bielefeld where it encamped.
By July 1, the regiment counted 278 cavalrymen fit for duty. On July 8, it left the camp of Bielefeld and reached the banks of the Weser with Maréchal d'Estrées who established his headquarters at the Abbey of Corvey. On July 16, he passed the Weser and immediately made contact with the Allied army. On July 22, d'Estrées was encamped at Halle, only 20 km from Hastenbeck where the Duke of Cumberland occupied strong positions with the Allied army, awaiting battle. The following days, the vanguards of both armies skirmished. On July 26, the regiment took part in the Battle of Hastenbeck where it was among the cavalry of the right wing. As for the rest of the French cavalry, the action of the regiment was impeded by the nature of the terrain. It remained stationed behind the line infantry. When the Allies retired, the regiment pursued them but halted on the banks of the Hameln River. The extreme fatigue of French troops, under arms since 3 days and 3 nights, forced d'Estrées to stop the advance of his cavalry. The victory of the French army opened the entire Electorate of Hanover to its occupation. However, despite this victory, Maréchal d'Estrées was sacrificed to court intrigues and replaced by the Maréchal Duc de Richelieu at the head of the army.
On August 8, under the command of this new general, the regiment marched to Werden. On August 11, it camped near Linden; on August 23, at Mariensee; on August 24, at Rodewald. By August 27, the regiment was at the camp of Rethen when a terrible thunderstorm created havoc in the French camp. On August 28, the Maréchal de Richelieu ordered to lift camp. He then marched with his troops directly on the Allies, established behind the Wurme River, forcing them to retire. On August 31, the French army marched from Werden towards Walle where it encamped in two lines. The regiment was left behind at the camp of Werden along with 13 bns and 16 sqns under the command of M. de Brissac. Meanwhile, the Maréchal de Richelieu advanced on Kloster-Zeven where he forced the Allied army to capitulate, the Duke of Cumberland signing the convention of Kloster-Zeven.
The operations of Frederick II against the army of the Prince de Soubise and the Reichsarmee forced the Maréchal de Richelieu to modify his dispositions. He marched with his troops and brought them back in the Brunswick and Halberstadt countries. The army marched by division. On September 22, the division of M. de Brissac, consisting of 8 bns amd 16 sqns (including Bourgogne Cavalerie) arrived at Brunswick, after marching by Rethem and Zell. On September 26, an Allied corps under the command of Ferdinand of Brunswick approaching, Richelieu instructed M. de Brissac to leave Hachum at midnight, with 30 sqns (including Bourgogne) et 6 bns and to make a junction at daybreak with the corps of M. de Voyer who was marching on Osterwick. This manoeuvre intimidated the Prussians who retired behind Halberstadt. The regiment was placed on the right wing of the second line. On October 1, the main body of the French army was at Oscherleben. Richelieu then encamped in the area of Halberstadt in Prussian territory until November 5. When Richelieu was informed of the defeat inflicted to Soubise at the Battle of Rossbach, he resolved to move closer to this theatre of operation. Unfortunately, lack of provisions did not allow him to effect this movement before November 12. On November 7, Richelieu established his headquarters in Brunswick.
The violation of the convention of Kloster-Zeven by the Allies paralysed Richelieu's operations. Nevertheless, on November 20, he marched to Gifhorn. On November 22, he advanced to Uestzen where he established his headquarters. He then marched on Lüneburg and, on December 3, reached Zell. After an alarming Allied attack near Zell, Richelieu managed to assemble his troops, much weakened by long and difficult marches. The season suddenly became very harsh, tents were lacking and magazines had no more fodder. Hastening his march, Richelieu tried to pass the Aller with his troops in the night of November 23 to 24. However, the Allies closely pursuing his army, harassing his rearguard and constantly attacking it, delayed his movements. On November 24, bridges were thrown on the Aller under the protection of the French army deployed in order of battle. The Allies retired allowing the French to pass the Aller. Richelieu established himself in the City of Hanover and his troops installed themselves the Aller, the Ocker and the Leine. On December 29, Bourgogne Cavalerie, who had valiantly supported the fatigues of this tiresome winter campaign took his quarters at Blumenau.
Campaign of 1758
When the maréchal de Richelieu was recalled and replaced at the head of the French army by the Comte de Clermont, troops had taken their winter-quarters deployed in 4 lines. Bourgogne Cavalerie formed part of the fourth line placed under the command of M. de Goyon, The regiment was cantoned in Tecklenburg and counted 272 men.
On March 1, the French army began a general retreat towards the Weser and Hesse, closely followed by the Allies. It gradually assembled under the guns of Wesel on the Lower Rhine. By March 20, Bourgogne Cavalerie was cantoned at Wolbeck under the command of M. de Villemeur. On March 31, it encamped at Wesel, taking position in the first line of the right wing.
In the first days of April, all French troops repassed the Rhine at Wesel and established themselves between Cologne and Kleve. In these new positions, the regiments replenished their ranks. Discipline which had been very last in the previous campaign was slightly improved. The regiment was placed in the second line at Grevenbroich and Kaster.
On May 30, the head of columns of the Allied army, under the command of Ferdinand of Brunswick, appeared in front of Emmerick, Wesel and Düsseldorf. In the night of June 1 to 2, they crossed the Rhine at Bienen, downstream from Emmerick, driving back the French detachments opposing them. These detachments retired on the main body of the French army. The Comte de Clermont immediately took position at Rheinherg where Bourgogne Cavalerie, previously detached to Xanthen with M. de Villemeur, joined the main body at Rheinberg and was placed on the right wing of the second line. Refusing to offer battle, Clermont lost precious time in useless manoeuvres. On June 10 and 12, the two armies cannonaded each other without tangible results. On the morning of June 15, French troops advanced on Neuss where they encamped. M. de Saint-Germain, established at Krefeld, was charged to cover this movement. On June 18, Clermont resolved to march to the enemy but he was stooped by the Landwehr Stream which interrupted his advance. On June 23, the Allies attacked the French army in the Battle of Krefeld where Bourgogne Cavalerie formed part of the second line of the right wing, under Sourches. Attacked in front and flank and deprived of its reserve, Clermont's Army suffered a total failure. Assembling all the cavalry, the Comte de Mortagne charged repeatedly to relieve the infantry. Bourgogne Cavalerie distinguished itself in heroic charges who costed the French cavalry a total of 26 officers killed and 156 wounded, 657 troopers killed and 458 wounded, 1294 horses killed and 385 wounded.
After this defeat, the French army retreated on Cologne and recouped its losses at the camp of Mungersdorf. The Comte de Clermont asked to be recalled and was replaced by the Marquis de Contades. Bourgogne Cavalerie was still encamped at Mungersdorf, forming part of the second line of the right wing along with Du Roy Cavalerie, Moustiers Cavalerie, Noé Cavalerie, Montcalm Cavalerie, Condé Cavalerie, Fumel Cavalerie, Harcourt Cavalerie and Royal-Roussillon Cavalerie.
When Contades took command of the army, he had been instructed by the Court at Versailles to march to the enemy and to reoccupy the left bank of the Erft while holding Cologne. Consequently, on July 14, he quitted his camp at Mungersdorf and advanced towards the Erft, pushing back the Allies and, after the vanguard combat of Gravenbroich, forced them to retire on Neuss. On July 25, Contades passed the Erft with his troops. On July 28, he encamped at Holtzweiller; on July 30, at Erkelenz; and on July 31, at Dahlen. During this march, Bourgogne Cavalerie was brigaded with Montcalm Cavalerie and Royal-Roussillon Cavalerie, under the command of M. de Plouy, lieutenant-colonel of the regiment and brigadier. This brigade formed part of the second line of the right wing.
In August, the Allies continuing their retreat towards the Rhine, Contades resolved to contest them the passage of the river. However, considerable floods paralysed his movements and prevented him to make contact with the retiring army before its crossing of the Rhine. On August 2, the French army decamped from Dahlen. On August 6, it passed the Niers. From August 12 to 19, after having camped at Krefeld, Haldenkirchen and Issum, it passed the Rhine downstream of Wesel on bridges made of boats and trestles. After the crossing, French troops advanced towards the Lippe and, on August 20, encamped at Recklinghausen. On August 27, a detachment of 10 bns and 12 sqns (including Bourgogne Cavalerie) cantoned at Hampke, in front of Halteren, under the command of M. de Nicolay.
In September, the French army manoeuvred on both banks of the Lippe, forcing the Allies to retire behind this river before the end of the month.
On October 7, the regiment marched to Ham to guard this position along with a small force of infantry (6 bns) under the command of M. de Maupeou while the French army continued its forward movement. In the last days of October, the entire French army retired on Ham and Lünen. Considering that it was too late in the season to advance into the Duchy of Paderborn, Contades withdrew on the Rhine. Consequently, on November 12, Bourgogne Cavalerie, who was occupying Lünen, took cantons at Recklinghausen then at Borkum. The entire French army repassed the Rhine at Wesel, Düsseldorf and Cologne to take its winter-quarters. Bourgogne Cavalerie established its quarters at Entzkirchen between Worungen and the mouth of the Sieg.
Campaign of 1759
From January to May 1759, the regiment remained in its winter-quarters with the Army of the Lower Rhine under the temporary command of M. d'Armentières while the Marquis de Contades sojourned at the court. On February 10, the Duc de Cossé-Brissac took command of the regiment, replacing the Comte d'Helmstadt.
The successes of the Maréchal de Broglie, who had succeeded the Prince of Soubise in Westphalia, notably his victory in the Battle of Bergen, determined the Maréchal de Contades to pass the Rhine with his troops and to launch an offensive in Western Germany. On May 10, Bourgogne Cavalerie, who formed Plouy's Brigade with Colonel Général Cavalerie, Condé Cavalerie and Vogüé Cavalerie, left its camp of Aersen and marched by Marburg, Siegberg, Neukirchen. On June 2, the brigade arrived at the camp of Giessen, on the right bank of the Rhine. Plouy's Brigade was placed in the first line of the right wing. Lack of provisions determined the Maréchal de Contades to strike camp and to move offensively on Minden. Bourgogne Cavalerie marched throughout June. On June 4, it was at the camp of Walgern; on June, 6 at Wetter; on June 7, at Frankenberg; on June 10, at Korbach; and on June 14, it reached the camp of Meerhof. On June 23, the French army was massed in front of Schlangen and Lippspring; on June 24, it camped at Paderhorn; and on June 29, at Schlangen.
On July 1, the French army quitted its camp of Bielefeld, marched on Minden and took position. The manoeuvres of Ferdinand of Brunswick in July made a battle unavoidable. On August 1, the two armies clashed in the Battle of Minden where the regiment was deployed in the second line of the cavalry centre under the command of du Mesnil. Due to the disagreement of Broglie and Contades, and to the resistance of the Anglo-Hanovian infantry, the French army was decisively defeated. Bourgogne Cavalerie charged several times and suffered heavy losses. The French cavalry alone lost 128 officers, and 2011 men killed or wounded during this battle.
While the weakened French army retreated on Kassel and the Lahn, a small corps of 12 bns and 16 sqns (including Bourgogne Cavalerie) under the command of the Comte de Saint-Germain was charged to assume rearguard and to cover Hameln. On August 11, this corps repulsed an Allied attack after a rude combat. On August 13, Saint-Germain's Corps encamped at Lütternberg, from there it made a junction with the main army at the camp of Gross-Selheim, where the army had established itself after the crossing of the Edder. All cavalry units were placed in the second line.
In September, the French army struck camp at Gross-Selheim and marched to the new camp of Amarodt. Plouy's Brigade (6 sqns), consisting of Bourgogne Cavalerie, Noailles Cavalerie and Balincourt Cavalerie, took position on the first line of the left wing of the army. During October, the French army remained on the defensive. M. de Contades returned to Versailles and the Maréchal de Broglie assumed alone command of the army. On November 15, Bourgogne Cavalerie was transferred to the corps of M. d'Armentières on the Lower Rhine. At the beginning of December, this corps crossed to the left bank of the Rhine, the regiment took its winter-quarters at Sussbeck.
Campaign of 1760
Until May 21, the regiment remained in its winter-quarters. At this date, it left for Herd and Bruil to join the main body of the army under the command of the Maréchal de Broglie. It was placed in the first line of the centre, forming part of Plouy's Brigade (6 sqns) consisting of Bourgogne Cavalerie, Fumel Cavalerie and Charost Cavalerie. In June, the maréchal took his dispositions for the invasion of Hesse.
During the summer campaign, on July 10, the regiment was probably attached to Prince Camille's Cavalry Corps who arrived too late to take part in the Combat of Corbach where Ferdinand of Brunswick and the Hereditary Prince were defeated and forced to retire to Sachsenhausen. On July 24, the regiment was at the capture of Wetterburg which forced Ferdinand of Brunswick to retire on Nauemburg. On July 26, the French won another victory on Ferdinand at the combat of Iringhausen, near Kassel. On July 31, while the Maréchal de Broglie made himself master of Kassel, Bourgogne Cavalerie fought at the Battle of Warburg under the Chevalier de Muy (not corroborated by our other sources on this battle).
In August, the regiment was engaged in various skirmishes. On August 22, it followed the army on its march to Immenhausen. On September 9, it took part in a general forage and encamped on the right of Kassel. From there, the Maréchal de Broglie retired on Warburg with his army. At the end of September, Bourgogne Cavalerie was sent to Cologne on the Lower Rhine. It took its winter-quarters at Munster-Eyfeld, with Zulpich as supply centre. Fodder was requisitioned in the neighbouring country.
Campaign of 1761
At the opening of the campaign, Bourgogne Cavalerie formed part of the Army of the Lower Rhine under the command of the Maréchal Prince de Soubise. The regiment was placed on the second line and brigaded with Moustiers Cavalerie and Talleyrand Cavalerie. On June 10, it was at Wesel. It was also present at the victorious combat of Siddinghausen. On July 25, the regiment formed part of the corps of 32,000 men detached by Soubise to reinforce Broglie's Army of the Upper Rhine after the Battle of Vellinghausen. The regiment remained with this army until the end of the campaign. On November 19, it was at Mülhausen. On December 9, it arrived at Mengeskirchen where it took its winter-quarters.
Campaign of 1762
The regiment did not take part in the campaign of 1762 in Germany. In January, it returned to France where it replenished its ranks at Rethel-Mazarin.
|Headgear||black tricorne (reinforced with an iron skullcap for combat) laced silver, with a black cockade on the left side fastened with a black silk strap and a small pewter button|
|Neck stock||probably a black cravate|
|Coat||blue lined red and a pewter button on each side at the small of the back
|Waistcoat||buff leather jerkin fastened with hooks and eyes bordered with the regimental lace|
|Greatcoat||blue lined red|
Troopers were armed with a carbine, two pistols and a sabre. They were also supposed to wear a breastplate under their coat during battle but this regulation was not always followed.
Evolution of the uniform during the war
Throughout the war the French cavalry uniform seemed to have evolved significantly. Our only source for the uniform at the start of the conflict is the Etat Général des Troupes Françoises of 1753. The first pictorial evidence comes from Raspe in 1761. Here we present various interpretations of the evolution of the uniform.
Lienhart and Humbert show the following differences in 1757:
- blue shoulder strap with a pewter button
Raspe's illustration depicting the uniform towards the end of 1760 shows the following evolutions:
- a white cockade on the tricorne
- each lapel edged with the regimental lace and having 7 pewter buttons
- coat lined blue, and consequently blue turnbacks, edged with the regimental lace
- turnbacks attached with a small pewter button
- blue waistcoat edged with the regimental lace and blue breeches (maybe the “dressed uniform”)
N.B.: by 1758 the regimental lace seems to have been aurore (light orange) flecked with white small squares
Officers wore uniforms similar to those of the troopers with the following distinctions:
- Maréchal des logis: silver laced tricorne, housing bordered with a 2,7 cm silver lace
- brigadier: double silver lace on the cuffs
No information available yet.
Regimental standards (4 silken standards, both sides identical): blue field fringed and embroidered in gold; bordered with golden fleurs de lys; golden trophies in each corner; centre device (embroidered in gold) consisting of a phoenix spreading its wings over a pyre with the motto “In Regnum & Pugnax”
This article 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, p. 343-344
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)
Raspe, Gabriel Nicolas: Recueil de toutes les troupes qui forment les armées françoises, Nuremberg 1761
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
N.B.: the section Service during the War is a translation of a text written by Jean-Louis Vial of Nec Pluribus Impar.