One of the more enigmatic units of the American Revolution is Lauzun’s Legion of the French Army. It arrived in Rhode Island in July 1780 as part of Rocheambeau’s French expeditionary force. After spending a year in Rhode Island, the Legion and other parts of the French expeditionary force marched southward, eventually participating in the Yorktown campaign that doomed any chance the British had for a victory in the American Revolution. Just what sub-units were in Lauzun’s Legion are not well known. After some research (thanks to some very good information courtesy of the Internet), I have found the following out about the Legion’s component units. Not exactly original research, but it will save someone who is looking for the organization of this unit some time.
The first component of the Legion were two hussar squadrons, known in English as the 1st Squadron of Hussars and the 2nd Squadron of Hussars. Both squadrons were supposed to have 150 men each, but it looks like the 1st Squadron arrived with 159 men from France and the 2nd Squadron arrived with 136 men from France. These seem to have been the only men in the hussar squadrons as no French reinforcements were sent for the hussars and few locally (that is in North America) men joined these two squadrons. The two squadrons were commanded by Colonel Robert Dillon, whose family commanded Dillon’s Regiment (infantry).
The infantry component of the Legion was supposed to contain a grenadier company of 100 men, a chasseur company of 170 men, and two line infantry (fusilier) companies of 170 men each. There was a shortage of transport ships when Rocheambeau’s force left France, so some of the infantry component were left behind (along with some other French units). The Grenadier Company sailed with 116 men and later was reinforced with 11 men from the Barrois Regiment (as replacements). The Chasseur Company seems to have sailed with 99 men, and was later augmented with 12 men from the Barrois Regiment. The two infantry companies did not sail and remained in France.
The final component was an artillery company of four guns with 86 men from France who were reinforced with 24 men from the Barrois Regiment. The original establishment of the artillery company was supposed to be 171 men, so about half were left behind, which is probably why the artillery company got such a large number of the recruits originally from the Barrois Regiment. The guns consisted of four 4-pdr smoothbore cannons.
Additional men were recruited for the Legion in North America. At least 74 men joined the Legion in the Americas, 59 before Yorktown and 24 after Yorktown. If you really want to see where these men went, you’ll have to dig through the below links. These American recruits, often men born in Europe, helped make up for the Legion’s high desertion losses. Normally a unit would have an annual desertion rate of 5%, but the Legion suffered a 13% desertion rate while in the Americas; high but not that high when compared to other free corps type units which had been recruited in the Seven Years’ War.
Many sources, especially the Osprey book, on the French in the American Revolution, detail the uniforms worn by the Legion, but here are a few additional notes I came across. The line infantry and chasseurs work a black cocked hate with white tape (and not a helmet). The grenadiers wore a bearskin hat without a front plate. The artillerists work a dark blue coat like the regular French Artillery, but with lemon yellow facings.
Here are some links to follow to find out more:
From an unknown source:
From an unknown source:
What one of the 4-pounder cannon probably looked like: