La Ferronnaye Dragons
Origin and History
The regiment was raised in Philipppsburg on January 1, 1675 from the companies of M. de Fay.
During the War of the Polish Succession (1733-35), the regiment was in a the camp in Alsace in 1732. In 1733, it served on the Rhine.
During the War of the Austrian Succession (1740-48), the regiment took part in the invasion of Bohemia in 1741 and 1742. In 1743, it was back in France and stationed in Verdun. In 1744, it was stationed on the coasts of Bretagne. In 1746, it was initially stationed at Lorient before being transferred to Genoa. In 1748, it was stationed at Carpentras.
In 1749, the regiment was stationed at Nîmes; in 1750, at Besançon; in 1753, at Belfort; in 1754, at Gray; and in 1755, at Montauban.
In 1756, the regiment counted 4 squadrons and ranked 11th.
During the Seven Years' War, the regiment was under the command of:
- from February 1, 1749: Comte de la Ferronnaye
- from December 1, 1762 until 1770: Vicomte de Chabot
Service during the War
In 1756, at the outbreak of the war, the regiment was stationed at Belfort.
In 1757, the regiment was transferred to Besançon. By August 1, it was garrisoning Lons-le-Saunier in Franche-Comté.
At the beginning of the summer of 1758, the regiment joined the Army of the Lower Rhine now under the command of the Marquis de Contades. In Mid August, after the retreat of the Allied army to the right bank of the Rhine, the regiment, as part of Contades' Army, crossed the Rhine to follow the Allies. On August 20, it was encamped near Wesel where it formed part of the Reserve.
On April 13, 1759, the regiment took part in the Battle of Bergen where it formed part of the cavalry reserve deployed in the third line behind the Wartberg. In June, during the French offensive in Western Germany, the regiment was part of the Reserve of dragoons.
By the end of January 1760, the regiment had taken its winter-quarters in the first line of the French army. By mid March, the regiment was billeted in Gelnhausen and Wächtersbach, still in the first line. By May 23, it was part of the right vanguard of Broglie's Army. Early on June 24, the Légion Royale, supported by Du Roy Dragons and La Ferronnaye Dragons, attacked the Allied rearguard near Homberg and forced it to retire. By December 30, the regiment had taken its winter-quarters in Gotha.
On February 15, 1761, the regiment took part in the Combat of Langensalza where it captured a standard. A month later, on March 21, at the engagement of Grünberg, it was with the French mounted force, consisting mostly of dragoon regiments, who charged the retreating troops of the Hereditary Prince. The Brunswick infantry was completely destroyed. Many men were cut down and 6 battalions were taken prisoners. By mid-April, the regiment was posted in Aschaffenburg and Hanau. At the beginning of May, two squadrons of the regiment were allocated to the corps of the Prince Xavier Comte de Lusace, which assembled at Fulda. On September 2, Belzunce marched on Osterode where an Allied detachment under Freytag had taken position. Belzunce first took position between Einbeck and Seesen. He then advanced on Osterode, attacked Freytag at 7:00 a.m. and defeated him, taking 17 officers and 450 men prisoners. Only Du Roi (Cavalerie or Dragons?), La Ferronnaye Dragons and Royal-Nassau Hussards had time to directly took part in the combat. Belzunce pursued the Allies beyond Zellerfeld and then took position at Clausthal, the main town of the Harz mining district, seizing large quantity of silver. On November 13 a cavalry engagement took place between Luckner Hussars and Du Roy Dragons and La Ferronnaye Dragons. The French dragoons were forced to retire under the supporting fire of their infantry. During the same year, the regiment also took part in the capture of Ostende.
In March 1762, in preparation for the campaign in Western Germany, the regiment was attached to the Army of the Upper Rhine under the Prince de Soubise. On July 1, informed that a French Corps under M. de Rochambeau had taken position near Homberg/Efze to cover communications with Frankfurt, Ferdinand resolved to dislodge it. He instructed Granby to march from Hoof to Fritzlar with the British Grenadier Brigade, 15th Eliot's Light Horse, the Blues and 4 Hanoverian sqns. Eliot's Light Horse attacked the French outposts on the heights 4 km in front of Homberg. Meanwhile, Cavendish's hussars engaged the French who immediately struck their tents and got under arms. The French infantry deployed at the foot of the heights and in the hedges near the town while the French cavalry formed on the plain. To signal the beginning of the attack, Cavendish then discharged 3 guns. The French infantry marched by the left, covered by its cavalry. Granby tried to block their retreat. He sent forward Eliot's Light Horse who caught up with the rearguard. La Ferronnaye Dragons and Chamborant Hussards turned and charged Eliot's Light Horse and captured several prisoners. Colonel Hervey at the head of the Blues timely came to their support and managed to disentangle Eliot's Light Horse. However, Bourbonnais Infanterie contained the Allied cavalry and forced it to retire making some British prisoners. The situation of the two British cavalry regiments was critical until the Allied infantry came to their support. The French then resumed their retreat closely followed by the British Grenadiers and the Highlanders. In this action, Colonel Hervey, Colonel Erskine, Major Forbes, and Major Ainsley distinguished themselves. The Allies lost about 80 men killed, wounded or taken prisoners while the French lost a considerable number of men killed or wounded in addition to more than 250 men taken prisoners. By July 12, the regiment was posted on the Schwalm under M. de Rochambeau. From December 19, the entire French army still operating in Germany abandoned its cantonments and marched to Butzbach, converging on Frankfurt. Germany had to be evacuated by December 31. The regiment was sent to Landau.
The uniform did not change with the new regulation of 1757.
|Headgear||red fatigue cap with a red turn-up edged with a light blue braid|
or 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 white button
|Neck stock||black cravate|
|Coat||red lined red with white buttons and white laced buttonholes down to the pockets and a white button on each side at the small of the back
|Waistcoat||red with white buttons on the right side and white laced buttonholes on both sides|
N.B.: the fatigue cap was supposed to be worn only for the king's review, for foraging or when the regiment's chief ordered to wear it. In fact, dragoons often wore their fatigue cap during campaigns.
Troopers were armed with a musket, a bayonet, a pistol and a sabre. Carabiniers were armed with a rifle instead of a musket.
Evolution of the uniform during the war
Throughout the war the French dragoon uniform seems to have evolved significantly. Our only primary sources for the uniform at the start of the conflict are the Etat Général des Troupes Françoises of 1753, and the Etrennes Militaires of 1758. The first primary pictorial evidence comes from Raspe in 1761. Here we present various interpretations of the evolution of the uniform.
Raspe's publication illustrating the uniform towards the end of 1760 shows the following evolutions:
- a black bearskin with a red bag and tassel instead of a tricorne
- no laced buttonholes on the coat, pocket flaps, cuffs and waistcoat
- no buttons on the cuffs
- black cavalry boots
Raspe's publication illustrating the uniform towards the end of 1761 shows a uniform corresponding to our description from 1757 but with a white cockade at the tricorne.
In December 1762, a regulation introduced a brand new green uniform with ventre de biche as the distinctive colour.
The uniforms of the officers were similar to those of the troopers with the following differences:
- the coat was made of Elbeuf woollen cloth (or of a woollen cloth of identical quality)
- linings were made of woollen cloth as well
- no braids on the coat or waistcoat but only silver buttonholes with silver plated wooden buttons
- Raspe publication illustrates plain red coat and waistcoat without edging or laced buttonholes at the end of 1760
- Raspe publication illustrates a uniform corresponding to our description but with red breeches at the end of 1761
- red breeches
- saddle cloth and housings bordered with a silver braid (5.41 cm wide for captains and 4.06 cm wide for lieutenants)
- standard cavalry officer sword (gilt copper hilt, 83.92 cm long)
Officers were also armed with a musket and a bayonet and carried a cartridge pouch containing 6 cartridges. This musket was shorter than the muskets carried by troopers.
The maréchaux-des-logis and sergeants had similar uniforms made of Romorantin woolen cloth. Their coats and waistcoats had no silver buttonholes. They carried sabres like the maréchaux-des-logis of the cavalry regiments. Their saddle-clothes and housings were bordered with a 2.7 cm wide silver braid.
Drummers wore a coat similar to the one worn by the musicians of the cavalry. Musicians were always shaved and had no moustache. They were usually mounted on grey horses.
The livery worn by the musicians is unfortunately unknown.
Regimental guidons (4 silken swallow-tailed guidons): blue field embroidered and fringed in gold;
- obverse: centre device consisting of a golden scroll bearing the motto “NEC PLURIBUS IMPAR”
- reverse: centre device consisting of a silver rooster at the arms of the House of Hôpital-Vitry with a scroll bearing the motto “VIRGIL & AUDAX”
This article incorporates texts from the following book which is now in the public domain::
- Pajol, Charles P. V.: Les Guerres sous Louis XV, vol. VII, Paris, 1891, p. 432-433
Funcken, Liliane and Fred: 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
Raspe, Gabriel Nicolas: Recueil de toutes les troupes qui forment les armées françoises, Nuremberg 1762
Rogge, Christian: The French & Allied Armies in Germany during the Seven Years War, Frankfurt, 2006
Service Historique de l'armée de terre: Sommaire des forces armées Françaises à l'intérieur et à l'extérieur de la France - 1er Août 1757
N.B.: the section Service during the War is partly derived from our articles depicting the various campaigns, battles and sieges.