Saturday, January 14, 2023

Hessen-Darmstadt Chevaulegers


The origins of the Regiment date back to 1791. Ludwig X became Ladgraf of Hessen-Darmstadt in 1790, and was concerned about the lack of a cavalry arm in his small but well respected army. He ordered the creation of a new Light Cavalry regiment, the Hessen-Darmstadt Leichte Kavallerie Regiment.  By 1792 the Regiment was up to 4 squadrons, and when Hessen-Darmstadt joined the 1st Coalition against Revolutionary France that year, the regiment particiapated in a number of actions through 1795, generally performing with distinction. Hessen-Darmstadt thereafter adopted a policy of armed Neutrality, and sat out the wars from 1796 - 1805. In 1806, Hessen-Darmstatdt was one of the founding members of the Confederation of the Rhine, with the state being elevated to a Grand Duchy, and Ludwig assuming the title of Grossherzog Ludwig 1. With that came a renaming of the Regiment as  the Gardes-Chevauleger Regiment. In late 1806, part of the Regimnent was senty to support French forces in Prussia, where it acquired several stains on its reputation, including a duel involving the commander of a 50 man detachment escorting 3,000 Prussian prisoners of War, the confusion caused by which allowed almost half of them to escape, and then the looting of a supply train of flour! By 1807, the regiment was back in better form, serving first under Marshal Lefebvre around Danzig, and later participating in the siege of Swedish held Stralsund, and the capture of the associated island of Rugen. Marshal Lefebvre commented "... they shall say no more brave as a Frenchman, but shall now say brave as a Hessian!"


In 1809, the three squadrons of the regiment were brigaded with the Baden Light Dragoons as part of the light cavalry Division of Maraluz, during which they participated in many minor engagements, Marshal Davout commenting "France could not be better served than by these troops". In 1812, the regiment was increased to 4 squadrons and served in Russia as part of the 31st Brigade in the IX Cavalry Corps under General Fournier. They again fought with distinction in actions around Smolensk and Borodino. The regiment famously participated, in company with the Baden Hussars, in the Death Ride at the crossing of the Berezina, their charges holding off the Russian cavalry and allowing the escape of many French and allied soldiers. Only 88 men and officers made it back to their depot in January of 1813. The regiment was recruited back up to a strength of 4 squadrons, and formed part of General Beaumont's cavalry Division in the VI Corps, It fought at Dresden, and sustained heavy casualties there. It was subsequently sent to oppose the Swedes, Russians, and Prussians in Pomerania, and fought against them until after the battle of Leipzig in November, whereupon the regiment returned home, Hessen-Darmstadt having switcher her support to the Allies opposing Napoleon. The regiment saw no action in 1814, but formed part of the Hessians serving in the Allied III Army Corps under the Crown prince of Wurttemburg. It operated on the Rhine, ultimately confronting General Rapp's Frenchmen, who were ultimately compelled to retreat to the fortress of Strassbourg. 


From 1790 to 1808, the Chevaulegers wore a helmet (kasket) similar to that worn by the British Dragoons in the 1770's and 1780's. Starting in 1806, a new helmet similar to the Bavarian Raupenhelm was introduced; the transition was probably complete by the end of 1808. A somewhat shorter version was introduced in 1812. The jacket was grass green with black cuffs and lapels, and was extensively ornamented with white lace. The collar and turnbacks were bright red. Shoulder straps were red piped in white. the breeches were originally straw colored, but were changed to grass green in 1809. Unusually, the belts and ammunition pouch were all buff leather. Saddlecloths were grass green, with black border, piped white on the inside edge. Trumpeters wore the same uniform as the men, but with a red tip to the plume, and (possibly) black "swallows nests" on the shoulders, piped white. Trumpet cords were red, probably mixed with white. Officers wore much the same uniform as the men, but with silver metal on the raupenhelm in place of brass, silver lace in place of white, and the silver mixed with red sash of the Hessen-Darmstadt officer corps. The uniform information come from Rawkin's book on the Army of Hessen-Darmstadt, which devotes over 30 pages to this unit. 


The chevaulegers were never issued any flags. I have been eager to have a unit of these fellows for quite some time, but their uniform is fairly unique, and as far as I know, no one has ever done them in 25/28 mm before. Lucas and Piano Wargames have now corrected that deficiency in fine style! 


I chose to mount the regiment on light bay horses, chiefly because it contrasted well with the uniform; the trumpeter rides a grey. I think they look quite magnificent!

21 comments:

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    1. Thanks, Jon. It's a regiment I have been eager to do for a long time!

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  2. Fantastic job on this elegant and splendid regiment!

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  3. Beautiful looking regiment Peter. Very nice sculpts indeed.

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    1. They are superb sculpts, and the castings are almost completely flash free.

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  4. Jolly fine-looking chaps, Peter .....for Germans! I do like the colour of their horses too - might have to copy that at some stage. I have Napoleonic cavalry on the painting desk too at the moment, but in my case, its French Line Lancers that arrived on 25 Dec!

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    1. Thanks, Keith. Und was is los mit der Deutsche? :-)
      I use the same system for painting horses that Joe does, originally posted by "Mr. Tin" over 20 years ago. I can't find it on line anymore, so I guard my printout carefully!
      The Chevau-leger lanciers are another favorite uniform; I have always especially liked the light blue facings of the 5th regiment, which for me have invariably been tigers on the (miniature) battlefield. The colors of all 6 regiments look good, though. I really dislike the Imperial Livery, so mine all have the trumpeters in reversed colors and white caterpillar crests, with the Elite company in scarlet crests.

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  5. Those are really excellent indeed. Try painting that detail on 10mm :-)

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    1. I think not! :-)
      Thus far, I plan to stick with 25/28's for everything

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  6. Great job Peter. I'm keen to clear some space in my painting queue so I can get stuck into these myself. The think I particularly like are the horses, which seem like quite robust figures with some beautiful detail.

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    1. Lucas does great horses, and they are indeed very substantial!

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  7. They look a very dashing unit Peter. Lovely touch with the monogram on the shabraques.

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  8. I couldn't fault them, excellent work.

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  9. Wonderful definitely on my to buy list, been waiting for these for some years! :)

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    1. And great history there too cheers!

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    2. Glad you like them, Mark! I had been waiting for someone to do this unit as well. All of the Wurttemburgers and Hessians are listed for sale on his website now.

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  10. Such nice models, an excellent paint job on them. I might like these more than the ones I painted for the Retreat from Moscow range. Certainly more dashing!

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    1. Thanks, joe. I don't recall seeing the Retreat models, but I would think they were pretty swaddled up!

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