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Re: French Dragoons in Attack: masters

As to the use of firearms John Tincey in his Osprey book on Blenheim says that "French cavalry tactics were to advance at a slow and controlled pace, to halt and fire their pistols at close range, before charging home with the sword" (similar to French cavalry tactics a hundred years later a Leipzig). So what you said about the Dragoons may apply to French horse in general.
This set might in part be inspired by John Wootton's painting of the battle of Blenheim: (French Dragoons in action on the left, but note that most seem to be using pistols, not muskets)
The John Wootton painting is an interesting one. As a source it is probably only partially helpful, but nonetheless it does show French dragoons in action as you have observed. I believe that the painting was executed by Wootton in the early 1740s, so some decades after Blenheim. It is reasonable to assume nevertheless that Wootton would have had personal first hand discussions with old soldiers who were present on the day, and will also have had some access to actual uniforms etc.

A painting such as this takes some looking at, and there are some points of interest that immediately jump out. These include, for instance, the large body of Horse wearing cuirasses just above the prominent central figure in pearl grey...who looks for all the world like an abandoned French infantry Ensign bearing a white colonel's colour! The armoured cavakry appear to be English Horse, but may be painted as such based on a later version of these troops: they are wearing cuirasses which were not authorised for British Horse until 1707 and may not have been worn much even then; and are riding horses with docked tails. The blue-coated infantry in the foreground are presumably Dutch Guards, but could equally be Hessians...or Prussians??

All very intriguing.

Re: French Dragoons in Attack: masters

Yes the Wootton painting is a very interesting one, isn't it? Alas, it poses more questions than it answers.
The infantry in blue coats shouldn't be Dutch guards (they were not present at Blenheim, to the best of my knowledge). They also shouldn't be Prussians (no regiments had yellow cuffs according to all available sources, all had red distinctions). That would leave infantry from Anhalt-Bernburg (Hessian, but also not present at Blenheim).
The cavalry looks British, but as you have pointed out, they shouldn't have been equipped with a cuirass at that time and it should have been worn under the coat (I have some doubts about this practice though). This would leave the Danish Livregiment Ryttere, which was present at Blenheim.
The French Dragoons are also most interesting: Yellow coats, red cuffs and a cap with a red bag + possibly fur lining? Who might they be? There weren't that many dragoon regiments so oufitted, which leaves La Lande (not present), Listenois (present, but had blue distinctions and were on the other side of the battlefield with the Elector of Bavaria), Lesparre (not present) and Mestre de Camp General (who had yellow uniforms - red cuffs, yellow bag and fur lining on the cap - but should have switched to a red uniform with blue distinctions well before the battle).
The big question always is, how accurate was the painter in depicting the troops? As you said he may have shown uniforms from a later period, this happens quite often. Unfortunately, these paintings are as close as we get to the true thing. Any written documents, orders, recollections tend to be as conclusive or inconclusive as the paintings. Perhaps Jan van Huchtenburgh may be the most reliable painter here as he actually did accompany Eugene on his campaigns.

Re: French Dragoons in Attack: masters

Great uniform and order-of-battle analysis there, Flambeau. Thank you!

Large-scale paintings of battles in the first half of the C18th were often allegorical and painted to a commission, so the depiction of Blenheim here needs to bear in mind the questions (a) who was Wootton trying to impress/please and (b) who paid him to carry out this work? Candidates would clearly include the Georgian Royal Household and leading noblemen, including the House of the Duke of Marlborough.

Whatever the case, I'm now working out which unit of yellow-coated French dragoons will feature in my French WoSS armies!

Re: French Dragoons in Attack: masters

Thank you, Minuteman.
That is indeed the crucial question with regard to most paintings. We have to keep in mind that these were commercial products, executed to please the client. So there's always the danger of something fanciful being added to the painting. That said, they remain a valuable source of information.
As to yellow dragoons: Lesparre were present at Oudenaarde, Listenois at Blenheim and Malplaquet, and Mestre de Camp Général at all four of Marlborough's major battles (if we assume they retained their old uniforms). Some time ago I made a list of all regiments that participated in these battles from the available orders of battle to see which ones I might paint, comes in handy :slightly_smiling_face:.
Letrun's book on the French dragoons (Vol. 1, 1669-1749) is a good source of information and well worth buying.
For anyone interested in something else here's a link to the order of battle of Almanza

Re: French Dragoons in Attack: masters

Thank you Flambeau. I have literally, in the last couple of days, taken delivery of the Letrun book on French dragoons, and it is a gold-mine of information.

All we need now are some sets of Strelets French dragoons to purchase and paint!