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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 to Elba.

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 Prince of Conde, 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 of Alexandria. Following the Egyptian campaign, the Chasseurs were withdrawn, first to Maltamarker and then to the Isle of Wightmarker.

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 From there, the Chasseurs were sent to Naples, before being withdrawn to Sicily with the rest of the British forces in 1806.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's 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 Division. 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, Salamancamarker, 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 Ramillies. The detachment was present aboard ship for the Battle of Fort McHenry, 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.


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