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History and Uniform of Le Regiment
de Languedoc, 1755-1760
The following is an extract from the book Military Uniforms in Canada, 1665-1970 by Jack L. Summers and Rene Chartrand (Ottawa: Canadian War Museum, 1981) and is reproduced here by the kind permission of the Canadian War Museum. Reprinting or duplication of the text or illustration without permission from the Canadian War Museum is prohibited.
Late in 1754, Britain dispatched two battalions of regulars, under the command of MajorGeneral Edward Braddock, to North America. When news of the British plans reached Paris, six battalions of French line infantry were ordered to proceed to New France to counter the British move. The battalions were from the regiments of Artois, Bourgogne, Bearn, Guyenne, La Reine, and Languedoc.
The French troops sailed for Canada early in May 1755, accompanied by their commander, Baron Dieskau, and the Marquis de Vaudreujl, who was to replace the ailing Duquesne as Governor of New France. During the voyage, eight companies of regulars were lost when the vessels Alcide and Lys were captured by the British and four companies of both the Languedoc and La Reine battalions were taken prisoner. The Artois and Bourgogne regiments disembarked at the fortress of Louisbourg, and the remaining four battalions proceeded to Quebec.
A full-strength French regular battalion of the period numbered thirty-one officers and 525 soldiers, divided into one grenadier and twelve fusilier companies. As the four companies lost to the Royal Navy were not replaced until late 1757, the regiment de Languedoc began its service in Canada badly under strength.
By the time Dieskau and his regulars had recovered trom the voyage, Braddock's British regiments had been shattered on the Monongahela River. Warned that a force of provincials under Sir William Johnson was advancing to sieze Crown Point, Dieskau assembled his regulars, militia, and Indians, and raced down Lake Champlain. Leaving most of his force at Ticonderoga, Dieskau moved south on Lake George with 1,500 men, including four companies of regulars, two from both the Languedoc and La Reine regiments, to find Sir William Johnson.
Johnson had established a fortified base 22 km (14 mi.) south of Lake George; he then cut a road north through the forest and camped with the bulk of his force where the road ended at the lake-shore. Moving overland, Dieskau's small force cut the road between the fortified base and the lake-side camp, and planned to attack the base. When a British force of about 1,000 provincials was sighted moving down the road from the advance camp to the base, Dieskau stationed his four companies of regulars on the road, and sent the Canadiens and Indians forward on the flanks. Johnson's provincials walked into the trap: fire caught them from both sides and a steady line of French regulars drove at them from the front. The provincials initially panicked, but recovered and fought a respectable withdrawal to the lake-side camp, which had been barricaded as well as it could be with boats, wagons, and fallen trees. This brisk encounter came to be known as "The Bloody Morning Scout."
That same afternoon, Dieskau's force stormed Johnson's hastily fortified camp, and for four hours the Battle of Lake George raged across the frail barricade of boats. A steady advance against a prepared position supported by guns was neither the Canadiens' nor the Indians' idea of fighting a war, and the brunt of this heavy fighting fell upon the companies of the Languedoc and La Reine. The barricade held; and the battered French regulars withdrew, leaving behind about half their number, including the badly wounded Baron Dieskau. This confused little battle among the lakes and forests was the regiment's first action in North America, the beginning of six years of continuous campaigning for the men of Languedoc.
The Marquis de Montcalm arrived early in the summer of 1756 to replace the unfortunate Dieskau. Under the leadership of this able commander the regiment de Languedoc took part in the capture of Fort William Henry in 1757, and in the successful defence of Ticonderoga in 1758.
When Montcalm drew up his army on the Plains of Abraham to face Wolfe's regulars on 13 September 1759, the Languedoc battalion stood third from the right in the French line of battle. The regiment also formed part of the French force that returned to Quebec in the spring of 1760 to defeat the British at the Battle of Sainte-Foy. The arrival of the British fleet broke the siege of Quebec, and Levis withdrew his troops to Montreal to carry on the unequal struggle. On September 8, the French capitulated; six days later, the Languedoc battalion embarked for France.
The adoption of a uniform dress by French infantry regiments of the line was a gradual process. It began around 1670, and colonels were given great latitude in selecting colours and patterns of clothing and equipment.
The first known general order on dress for French infantry appeared on 10 March 1729. Its primary purpose was to reduce expenses by standardizing the pattern and quality of equipment. The instructions were very general and left most details to the discretion of the colonels.1 The basic grey-white cloth adopted by most regiments (probably because it was less costly than coloured material) remained the traditional colour for French infantry uniforms until the Revolution.
In 1755, soldiers of the French line infantry wore a greyish-white woollen justaucorps of military pattern. This long single-breasted garment fell to just above the knee. The back was split by a centre vent, which enabled the front and back corners of each skirt to be fastened up, thereby providing greater freedom of movement. The small collar could be worn either up or down, depending on the weather and the whim of the commanding officer. The sleeves ended in deep turn-back cuffs. Pocket flaps were set on the point of the hip.
Individual regiments were identified by the colour of the collar, cuffs, and waistcoat, the shape of the pocket flaps, the colour of buttons and hat braid, and the arrangement of buttons on the pocket flaps and coat cuffs.
Greyish-white woollen breeches, buckled below the knee, were worn with grey or white stockings and black leather shoes with metal buckles. White linen gaiters, worn on parade or with campaign dress, ended an inch or two above the knee, and were fastened below the knee by a black strap.
A mid-thigh-length, collarless waistcoat or veste with long sleeves was worn under the frock-coat or as an outer garment for drills, fatigues, undress order, and when on campaign in warm weather. Its colour varied according to the unit. The black felt tricorn was cocked high in front, and worn well down on the brow. It was ornamented with a black or white ribbon cockade, and edged with gold or silver lace. A black neckcloth and white collarless shirt completed the soldier's dress.
The dress distinctions of the regiment de Languedoc on European service were blue collar, cuffs, and waistcoat, brass buttons, and false-gold hat lace. The justaucorps had deep shield-shaped pocket flaps with a row of three buttons set along the front and back vertical edges of the flap. Four but-tons were set along the edge of the coat cuffs.
When the first six battalions of French regular infantry were posted to Canada in 1755, a special issue of clothing conforming to Ministry of the Navy specifications was made up in France, shipped to Canada, and issued to the troops when they arrived.
The clothing differed slightly from the standard pattern. The Canadian-issue jusraucorps was collarless, and the distinctive colour of cuffs, waistcoat, buttons, arid hat lace for some regiments differed from that prescribed by army regulations. In the case of the Languedoc battalion, however, the only difference from their European issue was the lack of a collar on the justaucorps.
There is no evidence of further special Canadian issues of clothing subsequent to that of 1755. It is assumed, therefore, that future clothing issues for regiments posted to Canada were of standard European pattern, and that by 1757 most soldiers were issued European uniforms complete with prescribed regimental distinctions.
The soldier's equipment consisted of a tan leather waist-belt to which was attached a double frog for the brown leather, brass-tipped bayonet and sword scabbards. A tan leather cross-belt supported a brown ammunition pouch on the right hip. All belt buckles and fittings were of brass.
Private soldiers and corporals were armed with a musket and bayonet, and a short straight sword with brass fittings.
The illustration depicts a 1758 officer of the regiment de Languedoc in full dress. His uniform is the same colour and pattern as that of the soldiers, but made of better material. The hat brim and blue waistcoat are trimmed with fine gold lace.
He wears the gilt gorget of officers on duty. His hair is powdered and neatly tied back with a black bow; a white neckcloth and shirt frill are visible above the top of the waistcoat. On formal parade, the officer carried an espontoon or half pike, and a gilt-mounted straight sword hung from a tan leather sword-belt.
Copyright: Canadian War Museum