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The Soldiers of Hesse Nassau: Appendix I – Uniforms of the contingents of Hesse-Darmstadt and Nassau

The Soldiers of Hesse Nassau: Appendix I – Uniforms of the contingents of Hesse-Darmstadt and Nassau

The Soldiers of Hesse Nassau: Appendix I

Translated by Greg Gorsuch


FROM 1806 TO 1813.[1]

Contingent of Hesse-Darmstadt


Since 1803, the Hessian infantry consisted of three brigades, each made up of three battalions:  the first two battalions were called Musketeers and the third Fusiliers; the Musketeers wore the blue coat and the Fusiliers the green coat; for the rest, the dress was common in all the brigades which differed from each other by the special distinctive colour of the lapels, the collar, the cuffs and the shoulder straps; this colour was:

For the brigade of the Guard……………………. red,
        — of the Landgrave……………… light blue,
        — of the Crown Prince…………. yellow.

The coat was adorned with numerous buttonholes of white braid (in silver, for officers): 7 on each side of the lapels and 2 below, 2 on the facings, 2 on the pocket tabs, 2 on the waist buttons; turn backs of the coat, red for the three brigades, united by a small rectangular patch of the distinctive colour. Little noticeable white vest; white breeches and high black gaiters with copper buttons. Hat of the Prussian model, trimmed in white, garnished with red and white poufs and a spherical pompom in the colour of the company. Bag suspended from a strap passed over the right shoulder, as in Prussia; white leather kit; black cartridge pouch, decorated with a round copper plate with the heraldic lion of Darmstadt.

It was in this uniform that the Hessian infantry took part in the 1806-1807 Campaign against Prussia and Sweden: the experience of the war led to several modifications to the uniform. First, the hair ceased to be carried in queue as it had been until then; the two battalions of fusiliers having been charged at the battle of Jena by the French hussars who took them for Prussians because of their hats trimmed in white, this white border to the hats was removed and the officers received a high red plume, black at its upper end. The officers wore henceforth silver epaulettes of the French model, and, in campaign dress, blue breeches in boots à la Suvorov; the troop’s bag was attached with two straps as in the French army; the pompom took the form of a small plume, always in the colour of the company; the soldiers’ hat was decorated with the national cockade, worn until then by the officers only; finally, the troop received a scabbard for the bayonet.

In 1808, the officers stopped wearing the belt buckled around the waist: their saber was attached to a harness passed over the right shoulder. For the marches, the troops were equipped with a blue pantaloon and short black gaiters.

When the Crown Prince Regiment left for Spain, it was formed like the French regiments with two battalions of six companies, including one of grenadiers and one of voltigeurs: it had, consequently, to incorporate in its two battalions of musketeers in blue clothes its battalion of fusiliers in green clothes… Until the wearing of these green clothes distributed in all the companies, the motley appearance of the regiment was of an unsatisfactory effect and excited the discontent of Marshal Lefebvre, when the latter passed in Orleans the review of the two Hessian battalions on their way to Spain… The green dress soon disappeared in all the troops of Darmstadt and the fusiliers took the blue dress of the infantry: the musketeers and the fusiliers were distinguished by the ornamentation of the turn backs: a white grenade for the former and a hunting horn for the latter.

The uniform of the Crown Prince regiment underwent numerous modifications in Spain which brought it closer to that of the French troops: the shako replaced the hat; it was provided with a white metal plate, in the shape of a heart, decorated with the heraldic lion of Darmstadt; the grenadiers took the red plume, the red cord with shako and the green epaulettes and cord with the green epaulettes with yellow turning; the companies of the center, or of fusiliers, had the black plume, the white cord with the shako: they kept the shoulder straps, but the latter of yellow, the distinctive colour of the regiment. The lapels of the coat were fixed only for the full dress and the buttonholes of white braid disappeared, except on the lapels; finally, the gaiters were cut à la Hungary and adorned with a yellow border. The white breeches had given way to blue breeches, and, for marching, to blue trousers, or maroon – the cloth of the latter colour being very common in Spain. The officers wore the blue coat with a single row of buttons; they wore as a badge of service the silver gorget with the lion of Darmstadt in gold and kept the hat until 1814.

The two Hessian infantry regiments that remained in Germany (Guard Regiment and du Corps Regiment) kept their organization in three battalions, one of which was fusiliers, each battalion comprising four companies; they kept all the white buttonholes of their coat, but replaced the shoulder straps with blue shoulder pads, edged in the distinctive colour and without a loop. They had neither grenadiers nor voltigeurs; the companies were differentiated by the colour of the pompom, with uniformly red tassel, but whose base was:

white for the 1st company,
black 2nd
blue 3rd
red 4th

In the 2nd Battalion, the upper part of the spherical base of the pompom was white, the lower part

yellow for the 1st company,
black 2nd
blue 3rd
and red 4th

The sabre strap had run colour of the base of the pompom.

The shako cord had just been adopted for the two regiments when the war of 1809 with Austria broke out:  only a small number of this new headgear could be distributed to the troops before the end of the campaign; when the Guard Regiment made its solemn return to Darmstadt on 21 January 1810, its battalions were formed into five companies “the last of which carried the shako”.

It is in this dress that the Hessian regiments of the Guard and du Corps fought valiantly in our ranks in 1809, 1812 and 1813 until the Battle of Leipzig.


The Light Horse Regiment raised in 1790 by the Landgrave of Hesse received the green coat, with a red collar trimmed with black tabs with black cuffs and facings; buttonholes of white braid enhanced the uniform on the collar tabs and on the lapels; on the facings and under the waist buttons were three rows of white V-shaped braid; red lining; black collar, yellow breeches and English-style helmet; green shabracque edged in black and piped in white, with white initials in the rear corners; fawn leather kit.

The helmet had its metal parts in copper for the troops, in silver metal for the officers; trimmed with a black chenille and the sovereign’s initial L, it was decorated with a black plume for the riders, black with a red base for the officers, red with a black base for the trumpets:  the latter wore lapels bordered with a white braid, but without buttonholes.

In 1809, the headgear resembled the Bavarian chenille helmet; the coat was shortened, the kit turned black; the breeches, green with red piping; the shabracque was bordered by a black braid framed by a double white braid.  The Hessian light horse also wore the gray pants called Charivari buttoned on the sides to the waist, and red shoulder straps trimmed in white; the officers had silver epaulettes.

We have seen that the regiment figured with honor before Graudenz and Stralsund in 1807, then with glory in Essling and Wagram in 1809; finally, it distinguished itself in this uniform at the Berezina, in 1812 before being almost completely destroyed in 1813 at Jüterbock.


The Hessian artillery wore since 1803 the dark blue coat and breeches, with black collar, lapels, and facings, piped in red; the same buttonholes of white braid as the infantry; the shoulder straps the same as the background colour with red piping; white pimples; black gaiters with red braid and copper buttons.  Hat – replaced in 1808 by the cordless shako, with white metal fittings (visor ring, chin straps, heart-shaped crest) and red pompom surmounted by a black plume; white kit.

The half-battery sent to Spain in 1808 had received the red cordon for the shako and Marshal Lefebvre armed all the gunners with a fusil and an infantry cartridge pouch.  The officer’s buttonholes were silver; their epaulettes, of silver, of the French model; their sash mixed with red sole and silver, the national colours of Darmstadt; their black hats wore a black plume with a red base.

The Hessian artillerymen distinguished themselves in all the great battles of Spain: in Medellin (where the captures made of the Spaniards provided them with black or brown pants), in Talavera, in Almonacid, in Ocaña, before being taken prisoner by the English when the latter captured Badajoz.


The four flags of the Regiment of the Guard had been given to it in 1790 and were carried against France the campaigns of the Revolution, from 1792 to 1797 on the Mein, the Middle Rhine and the Lahn, then those of 1798-1799 on the Lech, in the army commanded by Archduke Charles.  After the entry of the Grand Duchy of Hesse-Darmstadt into the Confederation of the Rhine, the Guard Regiment raised its four flags during the campaigns of 1806-1807 against Prussia and Sweden, of 1809 against Austria and of 1812 against Russia. Only two flags followed the regiment in 1813 into Saxony and Silesia: at the disastrous battle of Leipzig, they were destroyed and their debris buried.

Here is the description of these flags, all four of which were the same model: white silk flag, bearing in the center the silver heraldic lion of Darmstadt, striped in red, on a blue escutcheon surrounded by two green laurel branches attached by a red ribbon; above the lion, a rose banner with the motto Pro Patria, surmounted by a crown enhanced with red. At the four angles, between two laurel branches, the double golden initial LL surmounted by a crown.  Silver flaming grenade on the middle of each of the four edges. Golden spearhead, with double initial LL. Silver tie with red and blue threads.

Like the Regiment of the Guard, the Regiment du Corps received in 1790 the flags which it carried during the Confederation of the Rhine; it first fought under their folds against France from 1792 to 1793 on the Mein, and from 1793 to 1797 in Holland and Lahn; then, at our side, against the Prussians and the Swedes in 1806-1807 and against the Austrians in 1809: in this last campaign, the second flag of the 2nd Battalion was taken from Aderklaa by the enemy grenadiers when they captured this village from the Hessian infantry; the other flag of the 2nd Battalion was saved by the standard bearer, who hid in a house and did not leave it until the French had recaptured Aderklaa. The du Corps Regiment no longer possessed more than three flags; it took them to Russia where one of them had his shaft broken by a cannonball at the battle of Krasnoi.  The Hessians saved all their flags during the terrible retreat, thanks to the courage and vigilance of Prince Emile:

In February 1813″  writes Kloss, standard bearer in the Guard Regiment “I brought in a car to the grand ducal palace and personally handed over to the Grand Duke Louis I, 7 flags: 4 of the Guard Regiment and 3 of du Corps Regiment.”[2]

In 1813, the regiment took only two flags: the white (that of the company du Corps) and the second flag of the 1st Battalion: both were torn and buried in the ditches of Leipzig to avoid their capture by the enemy.

The flag of the company du Corps was white, with a black and red cross of Saint Andrew, bearing at the four angles, on a white ground, the double initial LL crowned and embraced by a double branch of laurel.  Same central decoration, same tie and same as with the flags of the Guard Regiment. Grenades and red flames in the middle of the four edges.

The other three flags of du Corps Regiment were in black silk and had the same attributes and decoration as the previous one.

As for the Crown Prince Regiment, it had received new flags in 1804 and led them to Prussia and Pomerania in 1806-1807; it was taken to Spain, in 1808, the second flag of the 1st Battalion and the first flag of the 2nd: both fell into the hands of the English in 1812, after Wellington’s assault and capture of Badajoz:  they are currently suspended as trophies in the “Hall of Flags” at Greenwich.

The flag of the du Corps Company of the “Crown Prince Regiment was white, with black and yellow cross of Saint-Andrew; same attributes as on other Hessian flags, with silver flaming grenades in the middle of the edges.

The other three flags were black, with the yellow cross of Saint-Andrew, the regiment’s distinctive colour, same decoration and same attributes as above.

All these flags were carried by the regiments of Darmstadt until 1814, when the change in the policy of their government led to their replacement: the Hessian infantry thus saw the disappearance of the glorious flags which they had so valiantly fought in the ranks of the French imperial army.

Fusilier battalions did not have flags; none were assigned to them when the Fusiliers of the Guard and the du Corps Fusiliers were united, first in provisional a regiment, then in the final regiment; only in 1814, that is to say after the dissolution of the Confederation of the Rhine, did the Regiment of Fusiliers receive its first flag.


Contingent of Nassau.


When it was organized in 1803, the Nassau infantry consisted of four battalions:  the 1st Battalion du Corps“(known as the Todenwarth Battalion) and the 4th Battalion formed the troops of Nassau-Usingen, and the 2nd and 3rd Battalions those of Nassau-Weilburg.

The Todenwarth Battalion wore a short dark green coat with a red collar and facings edged with yellow, and red turn backs, closed with a line of yellow buttons and trimmed with two buttonholes of red shoulder braid edged with yellow: white pants and black gaiters. The helmet of the Bavarian model with black wool chenille and large black plume, with copper metal parts bearing a grenade as an attribute on the front; set in fawn leather and black giberne with copper decoration.

The other three battalions also wore the green coat: red collar, facings and lining, of various colours: they were also differentiated by the colour of the buttons; as for headgear, a hat, and soon after, the shako.

The 3rd Battalion, called de Chasseurs, kept the hat longer than the others; its kit was black and its best marksmen had a carbine as their weapon.

Hair was worn in queue until 1806. From that time on, epaulettes and French-style horns were adopted by the troops of Nassau, as well as the gold sword knot for officers (29 October 1806) and the rank insignia of non-commissioned officers (15 October 1807).

In 1809, the 1st and the 4th Battalion formed the 1st Regiment of Infantry of Nassau, the 2nd and 3rd Battalions, the 2nd Regiment: the infantry of Nassau then received the light gray breeches, with flap trimmed with Hungarian black braids, and short black gaiters. The green coat with copper buttons had the collar and the facings in black, the turn back in fawn, and all those parts of the uniform edged with an orange braid; the collar and the facings were decorated with two buttonholes of orange braid. White vest, fawn leather work, light gray coat. It was decided that the grenadiers would receive the chenille helmet of the former Todenwarth Battalion, with the red plume and red fringed epaulettes like that of the French grenadiers. When the 2nd Regiment left for Spain, its 2nd Company of grenadiers had the helmet: but this headdress seemed so inconvenient that it was replaced, in 1810, by a furry cap in the shape of a busby, adorned with a flame, plume and a red cord. As for the 1st Regiment, its grenadiers carried to the Peninsula the shako of the French model with red plume and cord:  the busby adopted by the 2nd Regiment was soon also adopted by the 1st.

This outfit was changed in 1810: the green coat with a black collar and facings was thence forth piped in yellow and lost its stripes and orange buttonholes, the vest became green, and the gray breeches gave way to long green pants piped in yellow, with flap trimmed with yellow Hungarian braid. The voltigeurs had the green epaulet with yellow turnings; decorated with a brass hunting horn with the regimental number in the center; the shakos of the companies of fusiliers, or of the center, had no other distinction than the pompom and a copper plate representing a bundle of weapons in the center of which stands out, in an oval medallion, the number of the regiment; their shoulders were the same colour as the background, piped yellow.  The officers wore gold epaulettes of the French model and the sword suspended from a harness passing over the right shoulder:  this harness was decorated with a plaque bearing the arms of Nassau. The kit, which remained in yellow leather, remained the hallmark of the Nassau infantry.

The sappers received a vast apron of yellow skin and gloves à la Crispin:  of the same colour, a red armband with two crossed yellow axes, the epaulettes and the furry bonnet of the grenadiers.  The drummers had the drum apron in yellow skin, large yellow Brandenburg frogs stepped on the front of the coat, a triple braid of the same colour above the facings, and the swallow’s nest epaulets braided in yellow.

It should be remembered here that the act of the Confederation of the Rhine stipulated the formation of an infantry brigade to be provided jointly by the princes and duke of Nassau, the princes of Arenberg, of Salm-Salm, Salm-Kyrburg, Hohenzollern-Elchingen, Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen, Isenberg, Lichtenstein and the Leyen: the government of Nassau undertook to constitute the federal contingents of these different principalities (except those of Hohenzollern and Isenberg which were distinctly incorporated into the regiments of Nassau): all these small contingents therefore wore, during the wars of the First Empire, the uniform that we have just described above.


Raised in 1805, the regiment of chasseurs à cheval of Nassau has also been called by the name of hussars” or light horse. It received the general dress of the hussars, dolman, breeches and dark green pelisse, collar and facings of the same; white braids with dolman and pelisse, white lézardes with white metal, black chenille and green plume; Hungarian boots trimmed in white; black sabretache with the initials F.M. in white metal, surmounted by a crown.

In 1810, the officers of the chasseurs à cheval in Nassau adopted the red pants; the troop abandoned the breeches and took the green trousers; the green flame busby replaced the chenille helmet; black leather pouch banner for the troops, silver braid for the officers; gray coat, the colour of that of the infantry; finally, shabracque in black sheepskin.

The government of Nassau only possessed cavalry during the Confederation of the Rhine period; the regiment of chasseurs à cheval which had brilliantly distinguished itself in Spain, dissolved in 1814, was in fact neither reformed nor replaced.


Each of the four battalions of Nassau had a yellow silk flag in the middle of which was the heraldic lion of the duchy, edged in gold on a blue silk escutcheon, below a golden crown embossed with red: this central motif was embraced by a double green branch of laurel. The Princesses of Nassau and the Ladies of their Court had executed with their own hands all the embroidery of the flags handed over to the infantry troops of the Duchy.

[1] According to Knötel, Uniformenkunde and Handbuch – and the Histories of the German regiments.

[2] Fr. Becke, Geschichte der Grossherzoglich Hessischen Fahnen, p. 113.