Monday 1 February 2010

In Search Of The French Grenadiers

The poll is now closed and the SYW/WAS project carried the day with 48% of the votes cast, with the eastern Renaissance holding a respectable second place with 24%. So expect to see, quite soon, a return to the SYW and a serious start on the French army. To that end I've just placed an order for the 192 figures I will need to complete a French division or column.

On the subject of the French, I'm reprinting here a good article by David Cookman with the permission of Jim Purky.

"In Search Of The French Grenadiers During the Seven Years War
By David Cookman

For some time I have been raising a Seven Years War French wargame army. In the course of this I have been finding out about the structure and makeup of the French forces, one aspect which intrigued me was an elusive formation called the royal grenadiers, or the Grenadiers Royaux. Only a few of my sources even mentioned this formation and even here, the references were fleeting. I tried a number of avenues to discover more information, but continually drew a blank. Then, with the help of a French work colleague, Robert Cholay, I wrote to the Musee de l'Armee in Paris and a couple of months later, I received a very complete and interesting reply from M. Stephane Bourdin. I enclose the translation of this reply below with some additional thoughts on grenadiers in the French army.

The Translation
In 1667 each company of infantry had attached a group of four men armed with hand grenades, and from 1671, each infantry battalion included a company of grenadiers. Their equipment included a sabre, a hatchet and a grenade pouch (containing between 12 and 15 grenades). With the introduction of the first regulation musket (complete with bayonet), however, the usage of the grenade declined.

During the War of the Polish Succession there was one company of grenadiers per battalion, but these were not kept after the peace. A royal ordonnance of the 15th September 1745 created 103 battalions of provincial militia; each battalion was composed of 8 companies of fusiliers (each of 70 men) and one company of 50 grenadiers, giving a total of 610 men, serving for six years.

The ordonnance of the 10th of April 1745 detached the companies of grenadiers from the battalions of militia and formed seven regiments (one battalion each) of grenadiers royaux (royal grenadiers), named after their colonels. An ordonnance of 28th January 1746 created in each militia battalion a new company of grenadiers - called the grenadiers postiches (false grenadiers) from whom the grenadiers royaux were recruited. On campaign the grenadiers postiches were attached to the regiments of the grenadiers royaux, which were two battalions strong.

An ordonnance of the 15th of February 1748 caused the creation of two additional regiments of grenadiers. All nine regiments were disbanded on the 6th of August 1748 to be reconstituted, this time at a strength of 11 regiments, on the 1st of March 1750. During the Seven Years War, the grenadiers postiches fought in the ranks of the grenadiers royaux and the regiments were disbanded as were the grenadiers royaux on the 30th September 1789.

The regiment of the grenadiers de France, which should not be confused with the regiments of the grenadiers royaux, had a different origin: they were not raised from the militia, but from the line infantry. In 1745 the ministry of d'Argenson imposed a minimum of two battalions to a regiment which resulted in the suppression of 18 regiments of infantry ( a regiment was formed of 12 companies of fusiliers and 1 company of grenadiers). The grenadier companies of the 18 disbanded regiments were formed into a special corps: the regiment of the grenadiers de France, commanded by a lieutenant-general and divided into four brigades of 12 companies each (1749).

At the same time, in the regiments of infantry which survived, a company of grenadiers per battalion was maintained.

The regiment of the grenadiers de France comprised in 1749: 2,160 grenadiers, 16 colonels and 8 lieutenant-colonels. It was controlled by an inspector-commandant: the marquis de Saint-Pern. For some time considered only as parade troops, the regiment of the grenadiers de France illustrated its bravery during the Seven Years War. An ordonnance of the 4th of August 1771 dissolved the grenadiers de France who were distributed amongst the 11 regiments of the grenadiers royaux or into the various provincial regiments.

Paralleling the infantry grenadiers, Louis XIV, in 1676, created a company of horse grenadiers (grenadiers a cheval) recruited from the cavalry and armed with a musket, pistol and sword. This company was attached to the Maison du Roi (king's household). Their motto was "Undique terror, undique lethum". After participating in the battles of Ramillies, Oudenarde (1708), Malplaquet (1709), Fontenoy (1745) and the Seven Years War, the company was disbanded on the 15th of December 1775.

Grenadiers During the Seven Years War
During the Seven Years War the grenadiers de France and the grenadiers royaux made themselves famous from 1757. The two distinct corps of troops marched together in a single formation. Four regiments of grenadiers royaux (each 2 battalions strong) [(Aulan - later to become Le Camus in 1759), Bergeret ( which became Narbonne in 1759), Modene and Chantilly] and the four battalions of the grenadiers de France formed a corps of 12 battalions of grenadiers, placed trom 1757 to 1760 under the command of the marquis de Saint-Pern. As for the regiment of Solar, as often as not it acted as escort to the geographical staff carrying out reconnaissance.

At the battle of Hastenbeck the grenadiers de France were placed on the right wing. The forces of Saint-Pern participated in the march on the Lower Elbe, the capitulation of Klosterhaven and the occupation of Hanover and Brunswick.
In 1758, during which year the two battalions of the Solar regiment were made prisoner in Minden (14th March), the grenadiers royaux, grenadiers de France, and the carabiniers passed Lippe on the 29th of September and pillaged the camp of Borck, under the command of Saint-Pern.

In 1759 the corps of grenadiers was integrated into the Army of the Lower Rhine, under the command of the marquis de Contades. On the 1st of August 1759 the grenadiers de France attacked in Ihe first line at Todtenhausen (Battle of Minden), being driven back by Brunswick troops and enduring a three hour cannonade which caused heavy casualties. This French defeat was followed by the evacuation of Westphalia and Hesse. On the 17th of August, the second battalion of the regiment Narbonne surrendered after being isolated and attacked at Nienbourg.

In 1760 the grenadiers participated in the occupation of the south of Hanover and Hesse. Twelve companies of grenadiers royaux, commanded by the viscount of Narbonne, were beseiged by 12,000 of the enemy in Fritzlar on the 12th of February 1761. Narbonne only capitulated on the l5th of February and Louis XV accorded him the right, henceforth, to call himself the viscount de Narbonne-Fritzlar. In 1761 the regiments of Cambis, La Tresne, Ailly, L'Espinasse, Longaunay and Puysegur (ex-Modene) served under the orders of the Duc de Broglie. The grenadiers of de Broglie's army participated in the battle of Vellinghausen, where they made up the left column and captured the chateau of Nadel. Then, on the 16th of July 1761 the grenadiers de France were charged with covering the retreat of the duke.

During the campaign of 1762, the regiments of Le Camus, Narbonne, La Roche-Lambert (ex-Puysegur), Argentre (ex Chantilly) and l'Espinasse were grouped in the army of Soubise and d'Estrees, whereas the regiments of Cambis and Ailly were integrated into the Army of the Lower Rhine under the command of the prince de Conde. The grenadiers of Soubise fought at Wilhelmstadt (24th June 1762). Conde gave battle at Johannisberg (30th August) and was aided by Stainville, who arrived at the head of the four battalions of the grenadiers de France, six battalions of the grenadiers royaux, and three regiments of dragoons.

The regiments of the grenadiers royaux who did not fight in Germany were cantoned on the coasts of France and the regiment of Chabrillant was sent to Minorca.

Additional Information
The grenadiers, considered as the elite of the infantry, were always chosen for their robustness and height. They were differentiated from the other infantrymen by wearing moustaches and receiving a larger salary. They were always brought together for a month each year at a military training ground, where their equipment was kept, for military exercises. The intendant carried out a review of the troops and their equipment. In 1765 the 11 regiments of the grenadiers royaux took the name of the province where they were raised and no longer took the name of their colonel.
The uniform of the grenadiers royaux (controlled by the ordonnance of 25th November 1746 - Funcken page 65, illustration 19) resembled that of the French line infantry: a coat of grey-white with buttons of copper or tin, vest and trousers in grey-white cloth, black gaiters for parade or white for ordinary service, epaulettes. Headgear was a black tricorn edged in silver. The grenadiers de France wore a blue coat with red turnbacks and a silver epaulette; their headgear was a fur cap decorated with a copper plate (Funcken page 63, illustration 39).

Flags:The Grenadiers de France had a white cross with the crowned arms of France in the center. Two quarters had a gold fleur de lis on a dark background, the other two quarters had flaming grenades on a light blue background (Funcken page 64, illustration 65) . The standard of the grenadiers royaux (Funcken page 65 illustration 65) had a white cross covered in gold fleur de lis, the crowned arms of France in the center, and four blue quarters.

Regiments of the Grenadier Royaux
The information that follows conforms to a general format: each regiment is headed by its original name, followed by its name changes. A list of locations or battles for each regiment follows (French spellings are mostly used). All of these regiments were raised in 1745 and disbanded in December 1762. Note that, as normal, not all the information is consistent from source to source!

d'Espagnac lde Bergeret March 1750, de Narbonne Feb 1759
Flandre, Audenarde, Termonde, Ath, Bruxelles, Anvers, Rocoux 1746; Laufeldt - 1747; Maastricht - 1748; Germany - 1757 (in addition see main text).
de Bruslard [d'Aulan, February 1759; de Lespinasse 1760]
Flandre - 1745-48; coasts of Aunis & Saintonge 1756-62.
de Modene [Le Camus 1761]
Alpes. Acqui, Serraville, Tortone, Asti, Casal. Plaisance, Edone - 1746; Provence, Col de l'Assiette 1747; Germany - 1757; Hastenbeck, Hanover, Crefeld - 1758; Minden- 1759; Corbach, Warburg - 1760.
de Coincy [de Cambis 1761]
Flandre, Mons, Charleroi, Namur, Rocoux - 1746; Laufeldt, Bergen-op-Zoom - 1747; Alpes - 1748; On the coasts - 1756-62.
de Bautteville [de Chatillon March 1747, de Longaunay 1759]
Flandre, Anvers, Rocoux - 1746; Flandre (maritime), Laufeldt 1747; Maastrict - 1748; On the coasts - 1756-60; Germany - 1760.
de Latour [ de Chantilly March 1746]
Flandre, Anvers, Namur, Rocoux- 1746; Anvers, Bergen-op-Zoom -1747; Maastrict- 1748; Germany - 1757; Hastenbeck, Hanover, Crefeld - 1758; Minden 1759; Corbach, Warburg - 1760; Vellinghausen - 1761.
de Valfonds [de Prugues May 1747, d'Ally May 1757]
Flandre, Fontenoy, Tournai, Audenarde, Termonde, Ath - 1745; Bruxelles - 1746; Flandre 1746-48; On the coasts 1757-60; Germany - 1761 -62.
d'Aulan [ Le Camus February 1759, de Puysegur 1761]
Flandre, Laufeldt - 1747; Maastrict - 1748; coast of Aunis 1756-62. de
Chabrillant - defense of the coasts during both wars.
de Solar - defense of the coasts during both wars.
de Longaunay [La Tresne, March 1746]
Flandre, Bruxelles 1746; Anvers, Namur, Rocoux, Laufeldt, Bergen-op-7,oom - 1747; Maastricht - 1748; On the coasts 1756-60; Germany, Vellinghausen 1761.

French Deployment of Grenadiers
The grenadiers of the grenadiers royaux and the grenadiers de France were normally brigaded together and used as a battlefield reserve - either to deliver the final blow or to cover a withdrawal. In this role they were frequently associated with the carabiniers and gendarmes who were also in the reserve. The grenadier companies from the normal line regiments were also brigaded on occaision to form elite units, these could be used as normal close order troops but, in Europe at least, seem to have been used more frequently as skirmishers to cover the army's deployment or to harass the enemy from difficult terrain (battle maps of Sandershausen and descriptions of Hastenbeck et al suggest this).

A further indication of this use of the grenadiers is that preceding the war, training camps experimented with light infantry tactics using the regimental grenadiers. De Broglie also raised companies of chasseurs from the line infantry who could be detached to serve with the grenadiers in a skirmishing role. Some sources say that the grenadiers a cheval were raised from the infantry grenadiers and not the cavalry. Kennet states that the grenadier royaux drew recruits from the grenadier companies of line regiments and that the grenadiers de France, in turn, drew recruits from the grenadiers royaux.

List of Sources
S. Bourdin: Letter to the Author January 9, 1996.
Christopher Duffy: The Military Experience in the Age of Reason Routledge & Keegan Paul, 1987.
L. & F. Funcken: L'Uniforme et les Armes des Soldats de la Guerre en Dentelle. Volume I, Caterman, Paris 1987.
J. Gebelin: Histoire des Milices Provinciales (1688-1791) Le Tirage au Sort Sous L'Ancien Regime; Hachette, Paris 1882.
Lee Kennen: The French Armies in the Seven Years War Duke University Press 1967.
The Nafziger Collection. Orders of Battle 1600-1945: The Seven Years War Section.
Brent Nosworthy: The Anatomy of Victory - Battle Tactics 1689-1763. Hippocrene Books 1992.
R.D. Pengel & G.R. Hurt: French Infantry Regiments 1740-1762 Imperial Press 1993.
J.L. Sanchez Martin: The Battle Maps of the SYW Volume II The Seven Years War Study Group, 1992.
General Susane: Histoire de l'Infantrie Francaise, Volume II Paris 1876"


  1. damn fine work, invaluable!!!!!


  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.