par Jean-Louis Vial
About French units of
The installation of the French army camp can seem complex but it results from a set of rules determined by the state of troops (number of brigades, squadrons, battalions) and seniority of regiments and captains of companies.
Dupain de Montesson at this purpose precised : "When all regiments of infantry, cavalry and dragoons camp, such that each one, following its seniority occupies the place that it must, according to its rank, either in first or second or third line; that's call to be camped in order of battle, because it's in the same order that they keep, when they " presents battle" to enemy or that ennemy comes to give us".
Therefore the French camp was established hierarchically from the right to the left and from the rear to the front of the camp. It was made on two, three or four lines according to the lie of the land. Places were attributed by the maréchal général des logis de l'armée, the classic layout put the cavalry on wings, the infantry in the middle and the King's House in second line. When the maréchal général des logis has determined the site of the camp he put the detachments of infantry, cavalry or dragoons that accompanied the vanguard in charge to delimit, with small stakes drived into the ground, the place that will occupied each battalions or squadrons, the width of streets, the place of tents.
The day before the battle the camp was reduced to the minimum, equipments remained behind, the disposition of troops was made according to the planned order of battle. That allowed for a well informed enemy to anticipate the day before the battle the tactical movements envisaged by its adversary.
We describe there the general dispositions of a French infantry battalion camp that consisted of sixteen fusilier companies of 40 men and one grenadier company of 45 men. This study is drew from works of Puységur, Dupain de Montesson, Ray de Saint Geniès, Chenevière and the instruction on 17 February 1753.
In the front of the battalion was placed on a same alignment the stacks of arms, situated at almost 10 pas (9m 75) of the line of the first tents called front of " bandières". Stacks of arms were opposite to each company and covered with a coarse linen or drill called coat of arms ( manteau d'armes ) to protect arms from inclemency. To construct a stack of arms the quartermaster from each company traced on ground a circle of approximately 8 pieds (2m 60) of circumference to place there guns of his company, soldiers diged around this circle a groove of approximately 3 pouces (8 cm) in depth and 1/ 2 pied (16.5 cm) in width, and they put earth in slope against the stack of arms, they filled in the groove with grass and drived small wood stakes of half foot in length into the middle of the groove to sustain the gun crooks and thus to isolate them from the humidity of the ground. They drived in center a stake of 8 pieds (2m 60) in length and 8 pouces in circumference along which they hung the coat of arms that formed a cone. This model of stack of arms were only built for instruction or stay camps. For temporary camps the circumference was simply, fitted with branchess intertwined on which rested crooks. There was one coat of arms by company and one more by battalion for the picket. The coat of arms measured 6 pieds in high and 1 pied 9 pouces in circumference in the superior part and 19 pieds in circumference by the low of which 2 pieds to cross the opening. Tents and coats of arms were marked in black character with the name of the regiment and the company number (instruction of 17 February 1753)
In the right part of the battalion camp there was the grenadier company, then farther at left were the colonel company and then that of the lieutenant-colonel also called in french "lieutenance" ( if this last commanded a company ) farther more the others fusilier companies. During campaigns regiment camped by brigade; the brigade was an unit regrouping two regiments, the older regiment occupied the right and its cadet the left, in this case the battalion situated to the left extremity of the brigade camped in reversed column, that was to tell that from left to right there was the grenadier company then the colonel company and the "lieutenance" ..... .
According to the instruction on 17
February 1753, tents of infantry measured 10 pieds 4 pouces
(3m 35) in lenght with the apse, 6 pieds (1m 95) width and 5
pieds 8 pouces (1m 84) heigh, they were sustained by two
wooden forked staks of 10 pieds and one strut of 8 pieds (2m
60) and stretched with 21 small stakes, the name of the
regiment had to be black registered on the linen. These
tents that were not roomy had to be able to lodge eight
soldiers, in practice they housed less, there was always
soldiers in service or invalids in companies .
Chenevière precised: " as all
tents of the infantry are not always equal, if it arrives
that some regiments by the size of its tents could not place
its apses in the space of the small street then they will
take one pied on each side of the great street".
The first tents of each company looked at the head of the camp, the last at the tail and others opposite the great streets, they were back to back keeping a space between them of one pas (1m approximately) called the small street. Only the grenadier company did'nt mount its tents according to this principle, its tents were side by side loocking at the exterior of the battalion camp also called great interval.
The soldiers used a string for the alignment of the camp
Even if it would lack some tents by the weakness of the company, in this case soldiers left emptiy places in the center, neither at the head nor at the tail.
Since the ordonnance of 1749 there were two flags by battalions, placed at 5 pas (5m approximately) before the first tents, opposite the great street of the center. Each of these flags was kept by a soldier, holding his sword in hand and having its loaded gun, nearby posed on small two wooden forked stacks drived into ground.
From January 1757 the infantry was provided with a regimental artillery composed of one 4-pounder gun also called Swedish cannon by battalion. This piece and its limber were probably placed before the first tents on the alignment of the stack of arms of the great street, between the colonel company and that of the lieutenant. Each piece was served by a crew of sixteen gunners, eight were pulled out the regiment and eight were stemmed from the Royal Artillery Corps ( I don't know where install their tents possibly behind their artillery pieces).
The arm stand was build at the right part of the battalion camp, across the tents of grenadiers, one pas before the first stack of arms.The arm stand was used to keep the arms of soldiers that were at work. It was built with two wooden forcked stacks and one strut, sometimes sheltered with branches and that served to pose the arms of the forty eight fusiliers appointed for different services and that was called picket.
A guard consisting of sixteen fusiliers, one men from each company, was posted at hundred pas before the battalion camp.
Kitchens of soldiers were at 10 pas in behind the company tents, the vivandiers were at 10 pas behind the kitchens with their horses, wagons, kitchens, woods and forage arranged around their tents. There was three vivandiers by battalion that lodge in three similar tents those of the troop. There was one kitchen built by company and one more for the drummers. Kitchens measured approximately 3 pas in lenght and 4 pieds in width, according to the lie of the land the soldiers diged a pit of 2 pied 3 or 4 pouces deep, they put earth in slope against the next kitchen. They were built opposite of the small street that separate companies.
On the same alignment of kitchen, behind the first companies of the right there were the three tents of the battalions' drummers and the sixth tent of the grenadier company.
Then the lieutenant camp placed at twenty pas from vivandiers, each lieutenant camped behind his company, in the interval of these twenty pas they install their servant, their horses, their kitchen, their wood and forage.
To twenty pas back there were the tents of captains and their servants similarly camped.
Finally in the rear of the camp, the headquarters at fifty pas back from the captains. The colonel and colonel lieutenant in the center, the first at right and the second at left of the interval of the middle of the battalion. The major at right on the alignment of the grenadier company and the aide-major at left behind the last company of fusiliers. The surgeon between the colonel and the major, the chaplain between the lieutenant-colonel and the aide-major. Superior officers had theoretically to lodge in their camp, if there was in their camp a house they can lodge there. They lodged in far more spacious tents than for troop, round or square, with camp bed, chairs, table..., and if the army had to stay they made construct wooden shacks.
Tents of superior and subordinate officers looked at the head of the camp and those of servants and lackeys looked at rear or sideways.
Chenevière precised that for all the officer horses of one infantry battalion it was necessary to have 150 stakes of 5 pieds lenght .
Chapels were placed in the center of the regiment, near the guard of the camp in first or second line.
Butcheries were at 50 pas back the headquarter.
The latrines were dug at 150 or 200 pas before the battalion of the first line and at 100 pas back the headquarters of the last line, they had a shelter with two forcked stacks of 4 1/2 pieds lenght and a strut of 12 pieds lenght.
The Commissariat had to provide wood, oil and wicks for lamps....
During bad season in winter quarters the hostilities were suspended or limited to skirmishes by hussars or light troops. During this period " les troupes se baraquent" troops "shacked" them that was to tell that they lodge in rudimentary wooden constructions. These huts were built on a piece of 7-8 pieds lenght and of 6-7 pieds wide, soldiers drived four large forcked stacks that carried four large sticks to sustain a cover made with straw or branches as walls. During the winter 1759-1760, the abundant and precocious arrival of snow had not allowed to build sufficient huts so soldiers alternateed day in tents and day in shacks.
When the army camped on two or three lines, wagons and mules that transported powder and rifle balls for each brigade were placed between lines, protected by a sentry sword in hand, when the army camped along one line they were gathered near the ward corps at the head of the camp.