Monday, October 18, 2010

Battle of Kloster Kamp

October 16th was the 250th anniversary of the Battle of Kloster Kamp (also spelled Klosterkampen).France’s most daring commander in Europe during the Seven Years’ War, the Marshal de Castries, moved his army to repel the Hanoverian Erbprinz’s (hereditary prince’s) siege of Wesel. The Erbprinz had a very mixed army, with British regiments, Hanoverian regiments, Prussian regiments, and Hessian regiments. He decided to attack and scatter Castries’ army. General George Eliot, with most of the British regiments formed the advance guard for this night attack. The French army had only just arrived, but a detachment was sent out on patrol. It was drawn from the Regiment d’Auvergne and commanded by the Chevalier d’Assas. The Chevalier, who had outdistanced his men, heard a noise in the forest and before he could shout, he was a prisoner. To quote from M. Guzot’s History of France:

“He had advanced some distance from his men, and happened to stumble upon a large force of the enemy. The Prince of Brunswick was preparing to attack. All the muskets covered the young captain. “Stir, and thou’rt a dead man,” muttered threatening voices. Without replying, M. d’Assas collected all his strength and shouted, “Auvergne! Here are the foe!” At the same instant he fell pierced by twenty balls. [Accounts differ; but this is the tradition of the Assas family].”

Thus the scouting detachment was warned of its danger—by the death of its commander. It quickly aroused de Castries’ army, who was not surprised when the Erbprinz’s attack. The French army beat back the attackers, who retreated. D’Assas’s regiment, d’Auvergne, captured a cannon and a flag in the struggle. Wesel was saved from capture.

The picture depicts Captain d’Assas shouting to his men. He wears the uniform of the Regiment d’Auvergne (white coat and lining, white waistcoat, violet collar and cuffs, silver buttons and hat lace). D’Assas has been captured by Keith’s 87th Highlanders (short red coats, Black Watch tartan, green lapels and cuffs), who formed the advance guard. Whether the British or Hanoverians captured him is unknown, but this artist opted for the British.

Of note is the grenadier, armed with a bearskin cap. British grenadiers wore miter caps, except for the Highland Regiments (42nd “Black Watch”, Loudon’s 64th, Fraser’s 78th, Keith’s 87th, 88th), who wore bearskins. The location of the bayonets of the Highlanders is baffling, being all mounted on the same side as the broadsword.

The Highland sergeant is armed with a halberd, and the officer holds d’Assas’s sword. Both the Highland officer and the French officer wear gorgets, a curved piece of metal worn at the throat to indicate rank.

The mounted man is of the 6th Inniskilling Dragoons. He is fascinating, for he has lapels, which no dragoons had, and his coat tails have not been turned back to reveal the lining. However, dragoons did carry carbines, which this man has.