Mestre de camp Général Cavalerie

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Hierarchical Path: Seven Years War (Main Page) >> Armies >> French Army >> Mestre de camp Général Cavalerie

Origin and History

Mestre de camp Général Cavalerie after the reorganisation of 1761 - Source: Raspe 1762 from User:Zahn's collection

From the first attempt at regimental organisation in 1635 until the definitive institution of permanent regiment in 1671, several persons successively assumed the charge of mestre de camp général of the French cavalry. Each of them had his own regiment and each was entitled to designate his regiment as "Mestre de Camp Cavalerie".

The regiment which would later be known under the permanent designation of "Mestre de Camp Cavalerie" had been originally raised by César de Cambout de Coislin on January 24, 1638. It was part of the 36 cavalry regiments organised according to an ordonnance dated the same day.

In 1638, during the Thirty Years' War (1618-1648), the regiment took part in the siege of Saint-Omer; in 1639, in the siege of Hesdin; in 1640, in the siege of Arras; in 1641, in the siege of Aire; in 1643, in the battles of Rocroi and Thionville; and in 1644, in the siege of Gravelines. In 1646, it garrisoned Béthune. In 1648, it took part in the Battle of Lens.

In 1648, the regiment was reduced to free companies as several other cavalry regiments.

On January 1, 1657, Armand de Cambout, Duc de Coislin re-established the regiment. In 1657, it took part in the sieges of Montmédy, Saint-Venant, Ardres and Mardyck; in 1658, in the Battle of the Dunes and in the capture of Dunkerque, Bergues, Gravelines, Oudenarde and Ypres.

On April 18, 1661, the regiment was disbanded with the exception of a single company. On December 5, 1665, when the Duc de Coislin became mestre de camp général the regiment was re-established and designated as Mestre-de-camp-général Cavalerie, a title that it would retain until 1790. It now ranked second in the French Line Cavalry. In 1666, the regiment (9 companies) spent the entire year at the training camp on the plateau of Compiègne.

In 1667, at the outbreak of the War of Devolution (1667-68), the regiment campaigned in Flanders; and in 1668, in Franche-Comté. At the end of the war, it was reduced once more to a single company.

In 1672, at the outbreak of the Franco-Dutch War (1672-78), the regiment (6 companies organised in 2 squadrons) took part in the siege of Duisburg; and in 1673, in the siege of Maastricht. In 1674, the regiment participated in the conquest of Franche-Comté and was at the sieges of Besançon and Dôle. It then fought in the Battle of Seneffe where it distinguished itself. In 1675, the regiment was at the capture of Liège, Dinant, Huy and Limbourg; in 1676, at the capture of Condé, Bouchain and Aire and in 1677, at the sieges of Valenciennes and Cambrai, and at the capture Saint-Omer and at the relief of Charleroi. In 1678, it was at the capture of Ghent and Ypres and at the Battle of Saint-Denis.

In 1681, the regiment operated in Alsace. In 1684, it was at the investment of Luxembourg and in 1688 at the camp on the Saône.

In 1688, at the beginning of the Nine Years' War (1688-97), the regiment was at the capture of Philippsburg, Mannheim and Frankenthal; in 1689, at the Combat of Walcourt; in 1691, at the siege of Mons and at the Combat of Leuze; in 1692, at the capture of Namur and at the Battle of Steenkerque; in 1693, at the Battle of Landen and at the capture of Charleroi; in 1695, at the bombardment of Bruxelles; and in 1697, in the siege of Ath.

In 1701, at the beginning of the War of the Spanish Succession (1701-13), the regiment was sent to the Low Countries. In 1702, it took part in the Combat of Nijmegen; in 1703, it was at the sieges of Alt-Breisach and Landau]], and fought in the Combat of the Speyerbach. In 1704, it took part in the disastrous Battle of Blenheim. In 1706, it campaigned on the Rhine, In 1707, it took part in Villars's advance in Franconia and Swabia. In 1708, it campaigned in Flanders. In 1709, it took part in the Battle of Malplaquet. In 1711, it campaigned in Flanders. In 1713, it campaigned on the Rhine and was at the sieges of Landau and Freiburg.

In 1733, at the outbreak of War of the Polish Succession (1733-35), the regiment was sent to Italy and was at the capture of Gera d'Adda, Pizzighetone and the Castle of Milan. In 1734, it contributed to the capture of Tortone, and fought in the battles of Parma and Guastalla, distinguishing itself in this last battle. In 1735, it was at the capture of Gonzague, Reggiolo and Revere.

In 1735, the regiment formed part of the garrison of Belfort.

In 1741, at the beginning of the War of the Austrian Succession (1740-48), the regiment took part in the invasion of Bohemia and fought in the Combat of Sahay. On June 27, 1743, it fought in the battle of Dettingen. In 1744, it was at Weissenburg, Augenheim and at the siege of Freiburg. In 1745, the regiment fought in the Battle of Fontenoy (May 11) and also saw action at the capture of Tournai. In 1746, it was at the capture of Bruxelles and fought at Rocoux on October 11. On July 2, 1747, it took part in the battle of Lauffeld, where it greatly distinguished itself. In 1748, it was at the siege of Maastricht.

At the end of 1748, the regiment was sent to Moulins. In 1750, it was quartered in Schlestadt; in 1751, in Lons-le-Saulnier; in 1753, in Haguenau; and in 1754, in Jussey.

The regiment counted 2 squadrons.

During the Seven Years' War, the regiment ranked 2nd among the line cavalry and was under the nominal command of the successive mestre-de-camp-général:

  • from May 4, 1748: Armand, Marquis de Béthune
  • from April 16, 1759 to March 7, 1783: Charles-Eugène-Gabriel de La Croix, Marquis de Castries

However, the regiment was under the effective command of:

  • from May 4, 1748: Louis de Vaucresson de Cornainville
  • from May 7, 1760 to July 19, 1763: François-Joseph Marquis de Clermont-Tonnerre

When the French Cavalry was reorganised on December 1, 1761, the regiment was increased to 4 squadrons, each of them consisting of 4 companies of 40 troopers, for a total of 640 troopers. The 2 additional squadrons came from Seyssel Cavalerie which was incorporated into Mestre de Camp Général Cavalerie. The effective incorporation took place on April 4, 1763.

Service during the War

Trooper of the Mestre de camp Général Cavalerie in 1750 - Courtesy of The New York Public Library

In 1756, the regiment was stationed at Verdun.

In 1757, the regiment was initially stationed in Sedan. It joined joined the Army of the Lower Rhine commanded by the Maréchal d'Estrées for the planned invasion of Hanover. From April 27 to June 17, it was part of the Reserve under the Prince de Soubise. On July 26, the regiment took part in the Battle of Hastenbeck where it was among the cavalry of the left wing. After the Convention of Kloster-Zeven, it followed the main body, led by the Maréchal de Richelieu, who encamped at Halberstadt in Prussian territory from September 28 to November 5. The regiment was placed on the left wing of the first line. At the end of the year, it took its winter-quarters in Kleve on the Lower Rhine, in the fourth line of the French Army.

In March 1758, during the Allied winter offensive in Western Germany led by Ferdinand of Brunswick, the regiment was part of the French garrison of Minden which was attacked by an Allied corps under General Kilmansegg. On March 15, the garrison of Minden surrendered without opposing any serious resistance. However, the regiment was soon exchanged. From March 30 to April 4, it was with Clermont's Army in the camp of Wesel on the Lower Rhine, in the first line of the right wing. In April, when Clermont redeployed his army along the Rhine, the regiment was stationed at Kleve, Donsbrüggen, Nütterden, Zyfflich and Niel; between Kleve and the German-Dutch border. After the successful crossing of the Rhine by Ferdinand's Army on May 31, the regiment retired towards Rheinberg where it joined Clermont's Army on June 2. It remained in this camp until June 12 and was placed on the right wing of the first line. On June 23, the regiment took part in the Battle of Krefeld where it was placed on the left wing of the first line, under FitzJames. In Mid August, after Ferdinand's retreat to the east bank of the Rhine, the regiment, as part of the Army of the Lower Rhine now under Contades, recrossed the Rhine to follow the Allied army. On August 20, it was encamped near Wesel where it was placed on the left wing of the first line.

In June 1759, during the offensive in Western Germany, the regiment was part of the main army under the command of the Marquis de Contades and was deployed in the first line of the cavalry left wing. On August 1, the regiment took part in the Battle of Minden where it was deployed in the first line of the cavalry centre under the command of the Duc de FitzJames. On August 15, during the French retreat, the regiment, who had suffered heavily at Minden and was now too weak to serve adequately, was sent to the rear at Marburg where it arrived on August 19.

From 1760, the regiment served on the Atlantic coasts, at Couëron, Savenay, Machecoul, Nantes, Ancenis and Ch[ateaubriant.

Uniform

Troopers

Uniform in 1758 - Copyright Kronoskaf
Uniform Details as per
the Etat Général des Troupes Françoises of 1753 and Etat Militaire of 1761
completed when necessary as per Rousselot
Headgear black tricorne (reinforced with an iron skullcap for combat) laced gold, with a black cockade on the left side fastened with a black silk strap and a small copper button
Neck stock black cravate
Coat iron grey lined iron grey
Collar none
Shoulder straps regimental lace on the left shoulder; golden aiguillette on the right shoulder.
Lapels black, each with 8 copper buttons arranged 2 by 2
Pockets horizontal pockets, each with 4 copper buttons
Cuffs black cuffs, each with 4 copper buttons
Turnbacks iron grey
Gloves buff
Waistcoat buff leather jacket with copper buttons
Breeches kid (goat leather)
Greatcoat iron grey lined red
Leather Equipment
Crossbelt yellow leather
Waistbelt yellow leather
Cartridge Box red leather
Scabbard black leather
Footgear black soft boots
Horse Furniture
Saddlecloth red bordered with a red, black, blue and "aurore" (light orange) striped braid and decorated with an embroidered stack of 5 standards (1 white, flanked by 2 red, flanked by 2 blue)
Housings red bordered with a red, black, blue and "aurore" (light orange) striped braid and decorated with an embroidered stack of 5 standards (1 white, flanked by 2 red, flanked by 2 blue)
Blanket roll n/a


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

Lienhart and Humbert show the following differences:

  • a black and gold cord attached to the left shoulder strap and the upper button of the left lapel
  • red turnbacks
  • a simple braid made of alternating blue and aurore squares as regimental lace

Raspe's illustration depicting the uniform towards the end of 1760 shows the following evolutions:

  • white lace at the tricorne and a white cockade for the troopers
  • black collar
  • coat (and consequently turnbacks) and waistcoat edged with the regimental lace
  • iron grey waistcoat and breeches (maybe the “dressed uniform”)
  • white waistbelt

Raspe's illustration depicting the uniform after the reorganisation of December 1761 shows the following evolutions:

  • black collar
  • white coat
  • only 3 buttons on each cuff
  • waistcoat edged with the regimental lace (red waistcoat for officers)

Officers

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

Musicians

House of Béthune

Until April 1759, trumpeters and kettle drummers probably wore a green uniform heavily laced with a braid consisting of 4 stripes (red, black, blue and light orange) and with yellow buttons. The kettle drummers wore a white turban with red and yellow plumes.

House of Castries

Until April 1759, trumpeters and kettle drummers probably wore the livery of the House of Castries. Unfortunately for the moment, we have no information on this livery.

Standards

Regimental standards (4 silken standards): red field bordered and fringed in gold.

  • obverse: sown with golden flames; centre device consisting of a golden royal sun with the royal motto “Nec Pluribus Impar” in gold.
  • reverse: sown with golden flames.

N.B.: the regiment did not carry any white standard.

Tentative Reconstruction
Regimental Standard - Copyright: Kronoskaf

References

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

  • Susane, Louis: Histoire de la cavalerie française, Vol. 2, J. Hetzel et Cie, Paris, 1874, pp. 12-24
  • Pajol, Charles P. V.: Les Guerres sous Louis XV, vol. VII, Paris, 1891, pp. 321-322

Other sources

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

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

Mouillard, Lucien: Les Régiments sous Louis XV; Paris 1882

Raspe, Gabriel Nicolaus: 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

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