As it’s Christmas, I thought I’d share with you what is possibly the most festive all all regiments, the French Mestre de Camp Général Dragoons in their Santa hats?! 🙂
The regiment was first raised in 1674 as the Tessé Dragoons, but in 1684 became the Mestre de Camp Général Dragoons (not to be confused with the Mestre de Camp Général Cavalry Regiment) and retained that title until the Revolution, when it became the 2nd Dragoons.
The regiment was almost constantly engaged in central Europe against the Pragmatic Army throughout the War of Austrian Succession. However, during the Seven Years War it was only engaged on campaign from 1757 to 1759, during which time it fought at the Battle of Hastenbeck (dismounted) and at the Battle of Krefeld. After Krefeld the regiment was withdrawn to France on coastal-defence duties.
French dragoon regiments during this period were much stronger than the vast majority of the heavy cavalry regiments. Each dragoon regiment had four squadrons, each of four companies, for a total of 694 men at full strength (including officers and regimental staff), increasing slightly in 1757 to 710 men. This means that for Tricorn, I represent each dragoon regiment as a separate unit of 12 figures.
At the start of the Seven Years War, there were sixteen regular dragoon regiments. Twelve of these wore red coats, while four regiments wore blue coats. Headgear for the regular dragoons was either a cocked hat or the distinctive pokalem stocking-cap, which was a traditional item of dress for the dragoons. A seventeenth regular dragoon regiment was created in 1762 from the Schomberg Volunteer Dragoons and their very different uniform of green coat and brass helmets would eventually become the standard pattern of dress for all French dragoon regiments.
French dragoons were unusual during this period in that they were still mostly used for scouting and flanking and were expected to routinely fight on foot. In almost all other armies, the dragoons had become a medium-heavy class of shock cavalry. The French dragoons therefore, were armed with infantry-pattern muskets and bayonets and retained buckled leather gaiters (known as bottines) to theoretically allow ease of movement when fighting dismounted. However, shortly after the start of the Seven Years War, bottines were rapidly replaced by shoes and white canvas gaiters when a unit was fighting on foot.
Most of the red-coated dragoon regiments started the Seven Years war with plain red coats and waistcoats, though these were heavily decorated with white buttonhole lace on the breast, cuffs, pockets and waistcoats, white metal buttons and a white aiguillette on the right shoulder. Regiments were therefore identified by the colour/pattern of the lace band around the edge of the horse furniture and the upper edge of the turn-up of the pokalem. In the case of the Mestre de Camp Général Dragoons, the lace edge during the 1740s was plain white , though during the 1750s changed to plain black. The regiment also had a badge on the horse furniture, showing three crossed standards in red, white and blue.
Then in 1757, most dragoon regiments had a facing colour added to their cuffs and the pokalem turn-up. For the Mestre de Camp Général Regiment, the new facing colour was white. The lace edge-colour also changed back to white, which at this scale is impossible to see on white facings, making the cuffs and pokalem turn-up just look plain white.
The observant will therefore have noticed that I’ve painted this regiment in the uniform it wore just as it was being withdrawn from front-line combat… I just really liked the look of a regiment of Santas…
Each squadron carried a swallow-tailed, gold-fringed guidon of the same pattern for each squadron. This was blue on the obverse, scattered with small gold fleurs-de-lys, superimposed with the usual golden sun-badge and a white scroll bearing the motto ‘NEC PLURIBUS IMPAR’. The reverse was plain white with the motto ‘VICTORIA PINGET’ (some sources show this motto in a scroll).
The musicians’ livery for the regiment isn’t known for certain. The arms of the Colonel, Marie François Henri de Franquetot, Comte de Coigny were red, with a yellow horizontal central band, three yellow crescents (two above and one below) and three blue stars superimposed on the yellow band. With the dominant armorial colours being yellow and red, coats in these colours would seem to be as good a fit as any. As it happens, I’ve since discovered that the first uniform for the Tessé Dragoons was a yellow coat with red cuffs, so this (accidentally) links back to the regiment’s past.
Anyway, have a Very Merry Christmas! I hope that unlike mine, your family gives you lots of what you ACTUALLY want for Christmas (models, books, etc) and that you manage to get some Christmas wargaming in. We’ll be doing out Christmas refight of Warburg on the 27th, so more of that soon. Cheers!