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The Napoleon Series > Military Information > Organization, Strategy & Tactics

A Brief History of the 12th Chasseurs à Cheval

By Francois Lo Presti

The 6th Chasseurs à Cheval Regiment was created in 1779. It was renamed Chasseurs des Ardennes on 8 January 1784 but kept the 6th rank of the chasseurs à cheval formations. Joachim Murat enlisted in this Regiment on 23 February 1787. In 1788, the Regiment was renamed Chasseurs de Champagne but was retrograded to rank 12 of the Chasseurs à Cheval. With the decree of the 1st January 1791, they took the name 12th Regiment of Chasseurs à Cheval. The military history of the 12th Regiment of Chasseurs à Cheval during the Revolution and Empire wars began in 1791 with one Grouchy and ended in 1815 with another Grouchy.

Jacques (future Abdallah) Menou was named colonel of the Regiment on 21 October 1791. Emmanuel Grouchy, the future marshal, was promoted lieutenant-colonel of the Regiment on 18 December 1791. Grouchy left the Regiment on 1 February 1792.

The Regiment was assigned to the Armée du Nord from 1792 to 1794. Murat was absent from the Regiment from 8 February to March 1792. On March 23, 1792, d'Urre de Molans was named lieutenant-colonel of this Regiment.

At the declaration of the war in April 1792, they were sent to the Army of the Center (also called Armée des Ardennes) along with the 3rd, 9th, and 11th Chasseurs à Cheval Regiments. Menou was promoted maréchal de camp at the beginning of May. Eight days later, on May 16, d'Urre de Molans became colonel. In September, a squadron " franc " linked to the Regiment was created in which two sous-lieutenant were promoted (Watier Saint-Alphone in September, and Murat in October). On November 1792, a legion franche was incorporated into the Regiment; in this unit was present the future general Delaroche who was at this time only a sous-lieutenant. On March 1793, they fought in front of Liège and at the fight of Saint-Trond, then at the seizure of Courtrai. Joachim Murat left definitely the Regiment on April 14, 1793 when he became aide de camp of general d'Urre (himself named general on April 7). On May 13, 1793, they still were in the Armée des Ardennes (included in the Armée du Nord). On 13 May 1794, the 12th was probably at the fight of Grand-Reng since Boisset, an officer of the Regiment was the commander of the Cavalry under Duhesme. In June they fought at Fleurus.

In July 1794 they were re-assigned to the Armée de Sambre-et-Meuse (division Tilly?). At the beginning of the campaign of Germany (still under Jourdan) they had 636 men. They fought at Kreutznach (9 November 1794). On 3 September 1796, the Regiment, now assigned to the Division Championnet, Armée de Sambre-et-Meuse) fought at the battle of Wurzburg.

Quinette de Cernay became chef díescadrons surnuméraire in the 12th Chasseurs, on 6 July 1797 and they served in the following armies (1798-1801): Armées de Mayence, du Danube, and du Rhin. The 12th Chasseurs were commanded by François Offenstein since 31 July 1799 and by the chef de brigade Jean-Marie Defrance since 14 March 1800. Defrance left the Regiment in February 1805 when he became general de brigade. Under Defrance, the Regiment fought as part of the Cavalry reserve (Nansouty) of the Armée du Rhin since 7 April 1800, and were at Stockach, Moesskirch, Memmingen. The Regiment was sent to the division Vandamme on 11 May and went with Lorge to Italy on 15 May. They crossed the Saint-Gothard on 28 May, and fought under Digonet at Bellinzona on 30 May. The Regiment was then assigned to Duvigneau's Brigade in the army's reserve on 6 June and fought at Spinetta and Marengo.

The Regiment returned to France with its colonel on 3 July. On July 31, the Regiment became part of the 2nd Armée de Réserve (later Armée des Grisons). At the end of November 1800, it was part of the Cavalry division lead by Laboissière. It crossed the Splüngen on 9 December and was in Basel on 5 March 1801. Then it was sent to the Armée d'Helvétie under Monchoisy. The Regiment was in garrison in Vesoul on 14 August 1801 and in Belfort on 20 February 1802. While there the Regiment was in the Light Cavalry division (Bourcier) of the Armée des Côtes de l'Océan. Paultre de Lamotte was promoted to major of the 12th Chasseurs à Cheval on 15 December 1803. The Regiment stayed with this army until 1805.

Defrance became general on 1st February 1805. On 24 March 1805, Guyon became colonel of this Regiment. Guyon fought in Austria, but missed Austerlitz, and Prussia. The Regiment fought at Auerstaedt being part of the Vialannes Cavalry Brigade of the 3rd Corps. Guyon missed Auerstadt also. Guyon fought in Poland in 1807 with his Regiment at Eylau which, along with the 1st and 2nd Chasseurs à Cheval, formed Maurlaz's Light Cavalry Brigade of Davout's 3rd Corps.

Detachments of the 12th Chasseurs à Cheval were incorporated into the 2nd Provisional Regiment of Chasseurs à Cheval in the 2nd Corps de la Gironde in Spain (1808). Guyon was in the Armée d'Allemagne in the Brigade Beaupré from 12 October 1808 to 30 March 1809. Jaquinot took command of the brigade on 30 March. This brigade consisted of the 1st, 2nd, and 12th Chasseurs à Cheval. This brigade was part of a provisional corps commanded by Marshal Lannes from 19 to 29 April. During this time they fought against the Austrian general Thierry at Abensberg. The 12th Regiment was present, along with the 11th Regiment of Chasseurs à Cheval and the 5th Hussards, in the Brigade Pajol at the battle of Wagram. Guyon was part of the Corps d'observation d'Allemagne in 1810 and in Italy in 1811. Guyon was named general de brigade on 6 August 1811.

However as with many other French regiments, some squadrons of the 12th Chasseurs à Cheval were also present in Spain in the Light Cavalry Brigade of General Wathier under Marshal Bessières. They fought at Fuentes de Onoro on 3 May 1811.

The 1st (under De Livremont) and the 3rd (under Montaglas) Squadrons of the 12th Regiment (596 men) were present in Russia in 1812 led by Colonel Ghigny. They were part of the 7th Brigade, commanded by General Saint-Geniès, of General Wathiez de Saint-Alphonse's 2nd Light Cavalry Division in the Montbrun's 2nd Cavalry Corps.

During 1813, the 12th Chasseurs à Cheval were in Montbrun's 2nd Light Cavalry Division of Sebastiani's 2nd Cavalry Corps. On July 1813, the Regiment was in Dommanget's 2nd Brigade of Roussel díHurbal's Division of the 2nd Cavalry Corps, along with the 1st Chevau-Légers Lanciers and the 11th Chasseurs à Cheval. As part of Gérard's Brigade of Roussel díHurbal's Division of Sebastiani's 2nd Cavalry Corps, they fought at Leipzig and Hanau.

The Regiment fought at Waterloo under a colonel whoís name was Grouchy. They were disbanded by Louis XVIII in 1815.

Several future generals were enlisted soldiers of the Regiment: Boisset (present from 8 April 1779 to May-June 1794), Delaroche (present from 16 November 1792 to 31 dec. 1794), Dery (from 6 October 1788 to 1802 ?), Fornier díAlbe (from 14 September 1788 to 20 December 1791), Giraud, Grouchy, Murat, Offenstein, Paultre de Lamotte , Quinette de Cernay, Scheglinsky, díUrre, and Watier Saint-Alphonse.


Hollins, Dave & Derek Stone, "The Battle of Wurzburg" The Age of Napoleon #20.

Comte de Margon. Historique du 8è Régiment de Chasseurs René-Lallemant: Verdun;1889.

Six, George. Dictionnaire Biographique des Généraux et Amiraux de la Révolution et de l'Empire ed. Saffroy: Paris; 1934.

Tradition Magazine #42-43, July-August 1990; Histoire et Collection: Paris.

Zins, Ronald. Le Maréchal Lannes: Favori de Napoléon, ed. Le Temps Traversé: Entremont-le-Vieux, France; 1994.


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