The Piedmont regiment, 3 battalions

Remote origins of the Régiment de Piémont

The most remote origins of the Piedmont regiment can be found in 1494, when the 'Bandes de Piémont' were founded to support the French pretensions on Milan and Naples1. These probably also consisted of about 4,000 men 'from Picardie' who were sent to Italy and probably arrived there. The 'gens de pied delá les monts' then really became a mixed French-Italian unit when on 21 February 1495 the Milanese Condottiere Jean Jacques Trivulzio left the Neapolitan army and joined the French. After the French campaign broke down the French had only the town of Asti left by 1496. Here Trivulce held out with his band and some French cavalry till 1498. Then Louis XII invaded Italy with 8,000 men. The next year he appointed Trivulce governor of Milan and incorporated his troops in the French army.

The fortunes of the men that were to become the Piedmont regiment then went up and down till they reached their lowest point when after 1528 they were reduced to some soldiers guarding the passes of the Alps. In 1534 François I organized his legions and re-organized his 'vieilles bandes', amongst whom we need to count the predecessors of the Piedmont regiment. In 1542 France attacked Rousillion and used 6,000 men under Colonel Charles de Cossé, sieur de Brissac. From the fact that on 22 May 1542 Charles de Brissac had been appointed as Captain and Colonel-General of the 'Gens de pied delá les monts' we can deduce that these men were from the troops in Piedmont. This attack failed and his army returned to Italy.

On 1 May 1543 Jean de Taix was commissioned to hold the office. In 1544 the infantry of the Comte d'Enghien that fought in the battle of Cérisolles consisted of 4,000 men of the old 'bandes françoises' under colonel De Tais; the Swiss battalion of 3,000 men and six other companies. Later that year the principal theatre of the war moved to France and so did De Taix with 6,000 French of the old Bandes and 6,000 Italians. On 1 October 1544 Jean de Taix became Colonel General of the infantry on both sides of the Alps. Because De Taix was himself in the north of France that same day Captain Guillaume de Villefranche was appointed as Mestre de Camp in Piémont, to command there in absence of the Colonel General. Villefranche however remained in the North of France till 1546.

On 29 April 1547 M. de Bonnivet was appointed as colonel-general of the troops in Italy, and no Mestre de Camp was appointed over them. It was only on 14 January 1552 that a Mestre de Camp named Montluc was appointed there. In March 1552 part of these left and occupied Metz, Toul, Verdun ad Luxembourg and so became part of the 'Bandes de Champagne'. In 1557 the Duc de Guise started a march on Naples, but had to return to France because of the defeat at Saint Quentin. The 3 April 1559 treaty of Cateau Cambrésis put an end to the wars in Italy. Sixteen companies of infantry re-passed the Alps and were established in the Provence and Dauphiné. In Italy only 10 companies were left.

The Bandes Noires de Piémont

The ten companies left in Italy in 1559 were to guard Turin, Quiers, Pignerol, Chivasso and Villanova-d'Asti under the command of Brissac. These companies were named the 'Bandes Noires' and had black flags with a white cross. On 3 October 1561 Timoléon de Cossé comte de Brissac got a formal appointment as Colonel General of the infantry on the other side of the Alps. At the start of the civil wars these companies left Italy in October 1562 and marched to Lyon, where the Duc de Nemours was assembling an army2.

The companies however remained a distinct body of troops named régiment de Brissac. In November 1562 it was called to the royal army near Paris, and on 19 December it played a decisive role in the Battle of Dreux. The regiment then marched to Dauphiné and in 1563 it turned to Normandy and remained there till 1567. It then marched to Paris in September were it was amalgamated into a corps of 6,000 men under Brissac. Under him three Mestres de Camp commanded; De Honoux; De Muns and De la Barthe. Antoine de Saint Jean de Honoux was Mestre de Camp of the 10 Bandes Noires de Piémont. After the Battle of Saint Denis on 10 November the Bandes Noires marched to Dauphiné and then marched to Champagne, arriving there in January 1568.

In 1569 Brissac's units were in the Battle of Jarnac and distinguished themselves there. Later that year the unit was employed in the siege of Mussidan, and lost its colonel general Timoléon de Brissac on 28 April. In May 1569 Philippe Strozzi became colonel general of all French infantry except the 'vieilles bandes de Piémont, who were only 10 or 12 companies'. On 27 May these were given to the young Comte de Brissac, who 'had to content himself with those of Piémont and the title Colonel-General du Piedmont'. It's this date of 27 May 1569 that is therefore often considered to be the starting point of the independent existence of the Piedmont regiment.

The Piedmont regiment

Meanwhile the Piedmont regiment also had its own Mestre de Camp. La Rivière-Puytaillé only commanded a few days because he soon got his own regiment. He was succeeded by Honoux, who had been lieutenant to Brissac's colonel for a long time. On 21 June the Comte de Lude arrived before Nyort with four companies who 'were of the regiment of the late Comte de Brissac, which was now named regiment d'Onoux for its colonel'. On 2 July 1569 the siege failed and thereafter Onoux was left to guard Saint Maixent with some companies of his regiment. The Calvinists bypassed Saint Maixent and on 24 July they started the siege of Poitiers, where the other companies of Onoux' regiment were. Onoux then succeeded in entering the besieged town of Poitiers with some of his companies. During the siege Onoux was killed, and succeeded by De Lisle, who died only a few days later. After that Captain la Rade commanded the unit. On 7 September 1569 the Calvinists lifted the siege of Poitiers.

On 1 January 1570 the regiment tried to surprise La Rochelle, but failed. It was then in the 15 June battle of Sainte Gemme, where it lost 500 men. This was followed by a peace treaty and in 1572 it was mentioned as a garrison in Abbeville. In 1575 the regiment was in the Battle of Dormans, in 1577 in the siege of La Charité-sur-Loire, and in 1579 it was vainly sent to retain the Marquisate de Saluces. In 1584 the Comte de Brissac jr. declared for the Ligue. His regiment was therefore taken away from him and definitely took the name régiment de Piémont.

The Piedmont regiment in the Nine Years War

During the Nine Years War the regiment de Piemont started under the command of Claude-Hyacinthe de Faverges Marquis de Rébé d'Arques, who had been appointed on 14 February 1680. The regiment started with the Sieges of Philippsbourg and Mannheim. Meanwhile its second battalion was somewhat more to the north. In 1689 it was also on different fronts. In 1690 it was united, but missed the Battle of Fleurus. In 1691 it also did not see any significant action. In 1692 its three battalions had the honor to open the Siege of Namur. After this siege it ended the campaign on the Moselle and wintered in Namur.

In 1693 the regiment fought on the extreme left flank at Neerwinden. Its colonel Marquis de Rébé was heavily wounded and would die of his wounds one year later. Furthermore the major, 13 captains and 12 lieutenants or ensigns were killed along with 345 soldiers. The regiment then again suffered heavy losses in the Siege of Charleroi. On 20 August Paul Sigismond de Montmorency-Luxembourg Duc de Chatillion was appointed as colonel. In 1694 nothing special happened. In 1695 one of its battalions entered Namur, which was under threat of siege. It thus saw the loss of that place after its other battalions had vainly tried to take Brussel. In 1696 nothing significant was done. In 1697 was involved in the siege of Ath, but did not actually participate. On 8 March 1700 Chrétien-Louis de Montmorency chevalier de Luxembourg was appointed as colonel of the regiment.

The Piedmont regiment in the War of the Spanish Succession

In 1701 the first battalion of the Piedmont passed the Alps and fought at Chiari. Its other battalions arrived in Italy in January 1702. In May it helped in lifting the blockade of Mantua and conquering Castiglione. On 26 July 1702 the Piedmont regiment played an important role in the Battle of Santa Vittoria. In the 15 August 1702 Battle of Luzzara the Piedmont was again on the extreme left. The Piedmont and the Royal-Vaisseaux held their post at the left flank, but Piedmont lost its Lieutenant-colonel M. de Losel, who replaced by Georges de Chartreix on 24 September. At the end of the campaign the Piedmont wintered in Modena.

In 1703 the Piedmont was in the expedition to Tyrol and contributed to the conquest of Arco and Nago. Later it went to Piedmont and captured Asti and Villanova-d'Asti. It wintered in Montferrato. In 1704 the Piedmont started with the siege of Robbio. On 15 June its three battalions opened the siege of Vercelli, which was followed by that of Ivrea. After that the siege of Verrua begun and lasted till April 1705. I do not know any particulars, but the regiment probably suffered significant losses during this long siege. During the siege Anne-Jacques de Bullion marquis de Fervaques was appointed as colonel on 16 March. Next was the Siege of Chivasso and later the second siege of Asti. During the latter Imperial cavalry raided the camp and inflicted heavy losses. The regiment wintered at Barzolo in Lombardy.

On 18 April 1706 the Piedmont re-joined the army and fought at Calcinato on the extreme right. The grenadier companies went to the siege of Turin and arrived there at the end of August. They were employed in one of the assaults on the half-moon and suffered so much loss that only about 30 survived. The day after this slaughter the rest of the regiment arrived. On 7 September it was in the defense of the lines of Turin against Eugen with only 819 men and was forced to retreat. At the end of the year the Piedmont wintered in the Provence.

The Piedmont went to Flanders in 1707 and after an uneventful campaign it wintered in Quesnoy. On 26 May 1708 the Piedmont was in camp at Soignies with three battalions3. At the battle of Oudenaarde it was in the line just left of the Picardie. It lost 10 captains and three lieutenants in this battle. During the Siege of Lille the remnants of the Piedmont were at Escanaf. They wintered in Amiens.

In 1709 the Piemont regiment participated in all the maneuvers that led to the Battle of Malplaquet. Here it lost its lieutenant-colonel De Féligonde, three captains and two lieutenants. On 28 September 1709 Jacob de Péissant was appointed as the new lieutenant-colonel. After the battle the Piedmont entered Valenciennes, and it remained there till March 1710. It then went to reinforce the garrison of Douai. After this place surrendered the Piedmont joined the main force.

On 26 January 1711 Louis-Antoine-Armand de Gramont duc de Louvigny was appointed as colonel. The Piedmont would stay in Saint-Omer the whole year. In 1712 it was in the Battle of Denain and the conquest of Marchiennes, Douai, Quesnoy and Bouchain. In 1713 the Piedmont regiment was in the last siege of Landau. Here lieutenant-colonel de Périssant was wounded. It then went on to the conquest of the works before Freiburg. It ended the War of the Spanish Succession by opening the trenches for the Siege of Freiburg in the night of 30 September - 1 October. After the peace the regiment de Nuaillé was incorporated on 20 September 1714.

Notes

1) Histoire de l'ancienne infanterie française v. 2 page 314 is the basis for this description of the Piedmont regiment.
2) That's why some also have 1562 as the date of its foundation
3) Ordre de bataille sous son altesse le prince et Duc de Bourgogne au camp de Soigny le 26 May 1708.