The Chasseurs Britanniques
was corps of foreign
volunteers who fought for Great Britain during the Napoleonic Wars.
The regiment was formed out of the remnants of the Prince of
Conde's Army after its disbandment in 1800. The entered British
service in 1800 and continued to fight Great Britain until 1814
when it was disbanded after Napoleon's first abdication and exile
Origin of the Chasseurs Britanniques
With the start of the French Revolution, French Royalist forces
were raised to fight the French Revolutionary Armies. Mostly, these
were made up of emigres returning to fight for the deposed monarch.
Three small armies were formed. One of these, raised by the
, operated on the Upper Rhine. Initially operating with
the Austrians, the Army of Conde served under Russia before coming
into British service.
In British service
Initially, the Chasseurs were composed of French emigres. However,
as the Napoleonic wars continued, the ranks of the Chasseurs would
be replenished mainly from desserts from the French Army. In
British service, the Chasseurs Britanniques earned a reputation for
fighting well in battle. However, they had an equal reputation for
desertion, so much so that they could not be trusted to act as
picquets when in camp. In 1813 alone, the Chasseurs had 224
deserters out of a total strength of approximately 1,740 men.
Within three years of joining Wellington's army, nearly half of the
Chasseurs had deserted.
After being accepted in the British service, the royalists first
chance in battle as the Chasseurs Britanniques came in 1801 during
the Egyptian Campaign. Under the command of Colonel John Ramsey,
they took part in the Siege
. Following the Egyptian campaign, the
Chasseurs were withdrawn, first to Malta and then to
the Isle of
In 1803, while on the Isle of Wight, the Chasseurs Britanniques
were brought back up to war-strength with an influx of emigres.
From there, the Chasseurs were sent to Naples, before being
withdrawn to Sicily with the rest of the British forces in 1806.
The Chasseurs were assigned to Major-General John Stuart
expedition to Italy in 1806. Although they were not present for the
Battle of Maida
, the Chasseurs took
part in the capture of Regio on 9 July 1806. In addition to the
capture of Reggio, the Chasseurs were able to entice 300 French
prisoners to join their ranks.
In 1810, the Chasseurs Britanniques received orders to join
Wellington's army in the Peninsula. Arriving in Lisbon in January
1811, the Chassuers joined the Wellington's command in March. The
Chassuers served in the 1st Brigade of the Seventh
. As part of Wellington's Army, they saw action
in many of the major engagements of Peninsula campaign in 1811
through 1814, including the battles of Fuentes de Onoro, Ciudad Rodrigo, Salamanca, Vittorio, as well
as the fighting in the Pyrenees.
The Chasseur's final major battle was Orthez
. Assigned to escort the Duke of Angouleme
to Bordeaux, they
discovered that the city had turned Royalist and welcomed the Duke
and his escort.
While most of the Chasseurs served as line infantry under
Wellington, a detachment of Chasseurs Britanniques received orders
to report to the HMS
. The detachment was present aboard ship for the
Battle of Fort
, but does not appear to have been part of the landing
which culminated in the Burning of Washington, D.C.
With the end of hostilities after Napoleon's first abdication and
exile to Elba, the Chasseurs Britanniques were withdrawn from
France and brought back to Great Britain. The corps was disbanded
on 5 October 1814.
Uniform and traditions
The Chassuers Britanniques were originally uniformed in green coats
with yellow facings with grey trousers. Their equipment was all
Russian in pattern as, prior to entering British service, the
battalion had been in Russian service. The Chasseurs continued to
wear this uniform until its time on Isle of Wight. There, the
uniform was brought in line with the rest of the British Army. Gone
were the green and yellow coats, and in their place were red coats
with white facings and white pants. Officers' uniforms included
silver lace, while the other ranks had blue and white piping. The
uniform was topped off with a black shako with a plume. Grenadier
companies wore white plumes, while the light companies had a green
plume. The officers wore bicorn hats. As with many light
battalions, the Chasseurs had no colours.