During the 17th and 18th centuries the nobility has only two vocations: the ecclesiastical status or military career. In this two cases birth and fortune conditioned the rank and the advancement. In the great families the older become military and the cadet religious. The passage of a status to one other was possible, but more rarely the plurality of offices and their benefits.

But nobility provided more gentlemen that there was post to fill in the army. Especially ending of wars entailed the dismissal of a great part of troops and officers. Some officers returned at Royal's Court but most of them returned to the life of provincial squire.

The officers whose scientific erudition was sufficient and to which this provincial life was too tedious or these whose advancement was too slow, choosed a career as artillery officer, engineer or wars "commissaire". Contrarily to the other corps of army the venality and the hereditary of the offices had been suppressed on 1st april 1716 for artillery officers and engineers.The repurchase of these offices was paid with notes and the bankruptcy of the Law's system reduced to nothingness a lot of fortunes.

The selection was made for engineers by a preliminary examination and then a professional teaching practice during 2 or 3 years and finally a definitive examination with an employment reserved in the infantry in case of failure, and for artillery officers the selection was made by a training in specialized schools. At the difference with the other corps if the progression in the engineers and artillery corps was made by seniority it was also made according to the competence as stipulated this ordonnance of 1729 for the artillery service " none subaltern whatever seniority he has, will hope to obtain a new rank if he has not suitable intelligence and capacity."

The seven years war marked for the artillery the end of a military tactic, essentially based on the siege war. In this respect the conflict with Frédéric the Great was rich teatching, he brought the artillery on the battlefield equiping all its infantry regiments with two light 6-pounders pieces and one light 3-pounder (howitzer) and creating in april 1759 a horse artillery battalion this last was created in France in 1792 only. But it was certainly the Austro-Hungarian army that from 1753 used in service an homogeneous system of artillery that inspired Gribeauval.This war marked also the end of the Lavallière's system which by the ordonnance of october 1732 imposed the standardization of calibers and the width of axle, dispite that pieces remained too heavy, too difficult to operate and ill-adapted to the evolution of conflicts.

The adoption of the Gribeauval's system in 1765 which foreshadowed the artillery of Napoleonian's campaigns provoked fights for domination between partisans of new or past system and that found its term only in 1776 when Gribeauval become General Lieutenant and First Inspector of the Artillery.

Note finally that the artillery of the Ancient Regime remained very dependent from the "Intendance" (supply corps or commissariat) especially for its transport. It did not possessed again military train, this last was provided it by Commissariat that settled markets with civil entrepreneurs or requisitioned horses to local populations. The Commissariat officer de Beaumont in his manuscript wrote" the Commissariat officer has to accept with discernement the excessive demands of the artillery corps whose officers responsible of the "détail" often ask three time more than it was necessary for carriages, horses and that never accelerates the service but only impoverishes the country."


battery of artillery in 1745 (according to Moltzheim)


8 December 1755: The office of Great Master of the artillery was suppressed and a new office of First General Inspector of the artillery was created.Until this ordonnance there was a duality of commandment between the War Minister and the Great Master of the artillery that entailed very often authority conflicts. But it was difficult to abolish privileges and it was this year 1755 which brought an opportunity.The Comte d' Eu possessed at this time the office of Great Master of the artillery transmitted by its father while its brother the Prince des Dombes was provided with the office of Colonel Général of Swiss, the death of the Prince des Dombes in 1755 allowed to the War Minister M.d'Argenson an opportunity for unification.
M.d'Argenson proposed to the Comte d' Eu the office of his brother, provided that he gave to the King that of Great Master of the artillery. In the same time the minister took the opportunity to creat the Royal Corps of Artillery and Engineers meeting artillery officers and engineers.Quickly the war overcame this "hoche-pot *" as called by the Marshal de Belle-Ile and about it Le Pelletier in his memories wrote: " by the meeting of the three corps, a morning, unsuspectingly we became engineer, infantry officer and artillery officer" , Le Pelletier made allusion to the first reorganisation of 1720 that united the Royal regiment of bombardiers, miners and companies of pioneers to the Royal Artillery infantry regiment and finally that of 1755 that united engineers.
(hoche-pot:* : culinary, meeting of different meat: ox,sheep...)

The staff-officers of the artillery ceased to be called "commissaires" and took denominations of ranks that were in the army:

Lieutenant d'artillerie des départements

--> Lieutenant colonel

Commissaires provinciaux

--> Capitaine en pied (capitaine en premier)

Commissaire ordinaire

--> Capitaine en second

Commissaire extraordinaire

--> 1er Lieutenant

Officier pointeur

--> 1er Lieutenant

A lieutenant-colonel of Artillery or Engineers had the rank of infantry colonel of infantry , the first captain of each artillery, miner or pioneer battalion had rank of infantry lieutenant-colonel, the first lieutenants, lieutenants in second and sublieutenants of artillery, miner or pioneer battalions hade rank of first lieutenant of infantry.

The Royal Corps of Artillery and Engineers consited of: an headquarters of 31 officers, 5 artillery battalions of 10 companies each , 5 companies of pioneers, 5 companies of miners and 300 ordinary King's Engineers. The companies of artillery consisted of 72 men, those of pioneers of 40 men and those of miners of 50 men.

1st march 1756: creation of 4 invalid gunner companies. They served in fortified town of the kingdom, insuring maintains and security of pieces and dépôts.

1st december 1756: the Royal Corps of Artillery and Engineers was increased to a sixth battalion of artillery, a sixth company of pioneers and a sixth company of miners.
The six battalions of artillery consisted of 16 companies of 50 men. (2 companies of sappers, 9 companies of gunners, 5 companies of bombarders).
The headquarters of each battalion consited of: 1 colonel-commander, 1 lieutenant-colonel, 1 aide-major, 1 sub aide-major, 1 chaplain, 1 surgeon. The colonel and the lieutenant-colonel were without companies.

20st january 1757: this ordonnance established a light piece of artillery said "Swedish piece" in each infantry battalion. In this period the infantry of Frédéric II was endowed with three piece per battalion, the marshal of Belle Isle in 1758 wrote to Mr. de Crémille "It is not natural that our infantry combat against the prussian infantry with a disproportion of more half". The Swedian piece necessitated sixteen gunners, eight were pulled out from artillery and 8 were stemmed from the regiment.

24th february 1757: ordonnance for the service of the Royal Corps of Artillery and Engineers.

6th april 1757: suppression the 11 controller clerks established for the service of the artillery in the different departments. Creation of an office of commissaire général of the Royal Corps of Artillery and Engineers. Creation of 11 commissaires of wars subordinated to the provincial Commissariat officers.

5th may 1758: engineers left the artillery and form a separate corps called Engineer Corps. The first part of this ordonnance determine number, qualities and prerogatives of men that were admitted in the engineers corps: there was 300 King's ordinary engineers: 20 directors of fortifications, 90 chief engineers and 190 ordinary engineers. The selected men were trained in Mézières's school, there they had rank of lieutenant in second with 700 livres of wage, they stayed there during 2 years and then, if they were knowledgeable, entered in the Engineers Corps. All engineers had rank of lieutenant of infantry since the day of his patent. "

5th november 1758: the six battalions of the Royal Artillery Corps are converted into six brigades. Each brigade consisted of 8 companies of 100 men ( 5 companies of gunners, 2 companies of bombarders and 1 company of sappers). The companies of miners and pioneers are placed outside of the brigades of artillery but always belong to the artillery.

The ancient departments of the artillery are suppressed and the territory was shared in 22 directions of artillery.

10th march 1759: the companies of sappers were pulled off the artillery brigades and they passed with the companies of miners to the Engineers Corps but they still held rank in the Royal Artillery. The companies of pioneers integrated the brigades of artillery in replacement of the sappers. In 1759 the Royal Artillery Corps consited of 636 officers: 1 director, 6 inspectors, 6 chiefs of brigade, 28 colonels, 33 lieutenants colonels , 111 captains in first, 109 captains in second, 120 lieutenants in first, 126 lieutenants in second, 96 sublieutenants.

27th february 1760: the sappers companies reintegrated the artillery brigades and the pioneers companies were placed behind each brigade of artillery.

5th November 1761: creation of 3 brigades for the service of the navy and the safety of coast, they were assigned to the ports of Toulon, Brest and Rochefort. Each brigade consisted of 8 companies of 100 men (7 companies of gunners and 1 company of bombarders). The brigade from Rochefort was suppressed on 5 March 1764, those of Toulon and Brest are suppressed on 25 March 1765.

21th december 1761: the six brigades of artillery were increased of 2 companies of gunners , passing then to10 companies in each brigades. The companies of miners left the Engineers Corps and reintegrated the Artillery where they were placed behind each brigade. The brigades were called by the name of their commander.

8th december 1762: creation of a brigade of 8 companies for the service of the colonies.

Organization of the Artillery Corps during the Seven Years War


The staff officer of each battalion or brigade consisted of (Etat militaire 1758,1759): 1 colonel , 1 lieutenant-colonel, 1 major, 1 sub aide major, 1 chaplain and 1 surgeon.

Organization of a company of gunners:

1 captain

2 Sergeants (3 in 1759 , 6 in 1760)

1 captain in 2nd

2 Corporals (3 in 1759 , 6 in 1760)

1 1st lieutenant

2 Ansepessades (3 in 1759 , 6 in 1760)

1 lieutenant in 2nd

43 gunners (40 in 1759 , 79 in 1760)

2 sub lieutenant

1 Drummer (1 in 1759 , 3 in 1760)

Organization of a company of sapers :

1 captain

3 Sergeants

1 1st Lieutenant

3 Corporals

3 Ansepessades

50 Sappers

1 Drummer

Organization of a company of miners :

1 Captain

4 Sergeants

1 Captain in 2nd

4 Corporals

1 first Lieutenant

4 Ansepessades

1 Lieutenant in 2nd

46 Miners or Apprentices

2 sublieutenants

2 Drummers

Organization of a company of pioneers :

1 Captain

3 worker masters

1 1st Lieutenant

3 sub-workers masters

1 Lieutenant in 2nd

25 workers

1 sub Lieutenant

8 Apprentices

1 Drummer

The artillery had an independent administrative organization with its own wars ordinary treasurer.

Gunners served in the service, that was to say they worked in the manufacture, the control and the administration of pieces, powders and the equipment of the artillery as well as on the battlefield.