Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Organization of the French Cavalry in the 17th Century

Prior to the reign of Louis XIII the company, commanded by a captain and averaging 100 maîtres, was the largest basic tactical organization.

Under Louis XIII the horse was organized for combat in squadrons of 200 men (2 companies; apparently because that was the largest number of troopers that could be controlled by voice command).

In 1634, there were 91 100-man companies of cavalry and 7 companies of carabins. In 1635, the companies were formed into 24 regiments of cavalry, 1 of carabins, and 6 of dragoons, each commanded by a mestre de camp. There were, besides, the 16 Weimarian cavalry regiments. The total was 22,000 horse. The French regiments consisted of 2 squadrons, each of 2 companies (Dussieux, Armée, 2:58-59). The inference is that the French cavalry regiments were 400-men strong. This tallies with the total strength of the cavalry establishment, since the Weimarian regiments were usually stronger than their French counterparts.

In 1636, there were 36 French regiments of 9 companies (8 of light cavalry, 1 of musketeers [so says Dussieux, probably meaning carabins]). A short time later 9 new French regiments were formed, and the number of foreign regiments had risen to 25. There were thus 70 regiments altogether. There were 70-170 regiments of cavalry in the period 1638-1659 (ibid., 59).

In 1668, an important reorganization of the cavalry was begun by Turenne and the chevalier de Fourilles. At the same time the duc de Lauzun reorganized the dragoons.

In 1670 the squadron organization was temporarily re-adopted, but the cavalry was definitively organized into regiments by the ordinance of 4 February 1672, which established the regiment as consisting of 6 companies in 2 3-company squadrons. There were 66 regiments altogether.

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