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


French Colonels and Colonels-in-Chief (1789): Infantry Regiments

French Infantry 1789
Image from the Collection of Tony Broughton

By Stephen Millar

In 1789, the infantry of King Louis XVI’s army in was composed of 107 regiments. Twenty-three of these units were recruited outside France and were referred to as ‘foreign regiments’. Infantry Regiment Numbers 64, 67, 98, 100 and 106 had vacancies.

Several of these regiments possessed a colonel-in-chief – who was usually connected with a royal family – but the remaining units had ‘field’ colonels. While some of these infantry officers came from families holding peerages (de Saulx and de Choiseul, for example) most of them came from the middle or lower nobility.

Not all of the commanders were ‘paper colonels’ – a few of them (Charles-Francois-Joseph, comte de Flechin de Wamin and Donatien-Marie-Joseph de Vimeur, vicomte de Rochambeau, for example) had recent field experience in the ancient regime’s last big war (the American Revolutionary War).

A small number of these officers (Charles-Cesar de Fay, comte de Latour-Maubourg, for example) continued their military service under the Empire.

The Etat Militaire de France pour l’annee 1789 (edited by Mark Webb) proved to be an invaluable starting-point for this research.





Placed on the Napoleon Series: April - August 2007


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