The Legion de Lauzun was a French Hussar regiment. Today, it is the 5th Hussar Regiment (5e régiment de hussards or 5e RH).
Formation under the Ancien Régime
The 5th Hussar Regiment was formed under the Ancien Régime. It was the last regiment created under the monarchy.
The regiment particularly distinguished itself during the American Revolutionary War.
September 1, 1778 : Creation of the Navy’s foreign volunteer corps, mainly composed of eight mixed legions to participate in the war against Great Britain. It was created by the naval minister Gabriel de Sartine, and ‘propriétaire‘ status had been granted to Armand Louis de Gontaut, duc de Lauzun.
The corps comprised three legions, each consisting of four companies of grenadiers, chasseurs and fusiliers, plus artillery, cavalry and pioneer detachments.
As with other “legions” of the 18th century, the intention was to create a miniature army which could campaign as a single entity. As indicated by the title, the corps was recruited primarily from German, Polish and Irish mercenaries. As the Volontaires Etrangers de la Marine, the new corps saw active service in Senegal in December 1778, as well as in the West Indies.
March 5, 1780 : The 2e Légion des Volontaires Étrangers de la Marine changed its name to the 2e Légion des Volontaires Étrangers de Lauzun, or the Légion de Lauzun. This unit was present in the United States of America from July 1780 to May 1783.
In early 1781, when the Expédition Particulière was being organized, most of the 1778 organization had been deployed to overseas posts. What remained in France, under the duc de Lauzun, was reconstituted as the Volontaires-étrangers de Lauzun, and was part of Rochambeau’s expedition.
September 14, 1783 : The unit became known as the Régiment de Hussards de Lauzun.
Lauzun’s Legion was made up of infantry, cavalry and artillery components (one company of grenadiers, one company of infantry, two squadrons of Hussars, and one company of gunners) and were recruited largely from foreign mercenaries.
After being posted to Senegal and the West Indies, Lauzun’s Legion served in the American War for Independence.
The corps’ principal engagements were at White Plains in 1781, and at the Siege of Yorktown in 1781.
The American War Of Independence
When the Legion arrived in America, they recruited from foreigners, mainly Hessian deserters. There were complaints about their conduct. Rochambeau sent Brigadier General Marquis de Choisy with Lauzun’s Legion in July 1780, as they marched from Rhode Island to Head of Elk, Maryland, traveled by water to Alexandria, Virginia, and marched to Glouster Courthouse. They spent the winter in Lebanon, Connecticut.
The Légion de Lauzun became famous during the Siege of Yorktown, mainly before Gloucester on October 3, 1781, where they chased down the British cavalry led by Colonel Banastre Tarleton.
The legion stayed in the United States of America, first in Hampton, Virginia, then in February 1782 in Charlotte Court House, Virginia, before they were moved in July 1782 to New York. The legion left the United States in May 1783.
In December 1780, two dozen Hussar horsemen deserted, leaving their winter quarters in Lebanon and fleeing into the woods to the south. The Legion itself may have wintered in Trumbull, Connecticut, according to Huldah Hawley. Mrs. Hawley said she cooked for the French for fear they would kill her, because her husband was a known Tory.
Lauzun’s Legion or “Hussars” encamped in present-day Abraham Nichols Park in Trumbull from June 28 to June 30, 1781.
The Legion, an advance party, was ordered to protect the exposed flank of the main army. They stayed 10 to 15 miles (16 to 24 km) ahead of and to the south flank of the main French army, while encamped in Newtown.
The army was marching south along the Washington–Rochambeau Revolutionary Route to reinforce American troops under the command of General George Washington at the Siege of Yorktown. French coins have since been found near the site of their camp in Abraham Nichols Park.
The legion was at Gloucester, Virginia, during the Siege of Yorktown. On October 4, 1781, French and British cavalry skirmished at Gloucester. The British cavalry commander, Banastre Tarleton, was unhorsed, and Lauzun’s Legion drove the British off the field, before being ordered to withdraw by the Marquis de Choisy. The Legion suffered three Hussars killed, and two officers and eleven Hussars wounded. Fifty British were killed or wounded, including Tarleton.
After the battle
Trumpeter of the Lauzun’s Legion c.1785
In December 1782, the Legion moved to Wilmington, Delaware.
On March 18, 1783, in Delaware, their cash payroll was stolen, but was recovered.
On May 9-11, 1783 the Legion embarked from Wilmington on five vessels, la Goire, la Danaë, l”Astree, l’Active, and Le St. James, arriving at Brest, France, about June 11.
On October 5, 1783, the Legion’s two artillery companies left Baltimore on the Duc de Lauzun, and the Pintade. The ships, guarded by two French frigates, arrived in Brest on November 10. While still in America, many soldiers had mustered out in Wilmington, Delaware, or deserted.
When the Legion transferred to America, it left behind its two fusilier companies. These companies were transferred to the West Indies.
In January and February 1782, these two fusilier companies went with French naval Captain Armand Guy Simon de Coëtnempren, Comte de Kersaint, with his 32-gun flagship Iphigénie and four lesser ships to Demerara, where they met with little opposition.
Detachments from the Régiment Armagnac and the Legion launched an assault against the British garrison at Demerara, compelling Governor Robert Kinston and his army detachment from the 28th Regiment of Foot to surrender. As a result, Essequebo surrendered to the French on February 1, and Berbice on February 5.
Return to France
The Régiment des Hussards de Lauzun, number 6 (a regular hussar regiment), was officially created on September 14, 1783 in Hennebont, when the Légion de Lauzun des États-Unis returned. Lauzun remained its proprietor until the French Revolution started.
The French Revolutionary Wars
When the revolutionary government declared war on Austria, the regiment fell completely apart, as the majority of its officers deserted and handed the regiment’s funds, supplies, and records over to the enemy. The regiment was then restructured.
On January 1, 1791, all French regiments were renamed by their type, and numbered by their seniority. The unit became 6th Hussar Regiment.
In June 1793, the regiment was renamed the 5th Hussar Regiment after the majority of its soldiers moved to the 4th Hussar Regiment.
The Napoleonic Wars
5th Hussar in 1808.
On May 12, 1814, the 5th Hussar Regiment became the Régiment des Hussards d’Angoulême
On April 22, 1815, the regiment became again the 5th Hussar Regiment.
On November 30, 1815, the 5th Hussar Regiment was dissolved, and recreated under the name Régiment des Hussards du Bas Rhin.
The 19th Century
In 1825, the regiment was renamed again to the 5th Regiment of Hussars.
In 1861, the regiment was involved in the French intervention in Mexico.
The Modern Age
In 1921, the regiment was dissolved.
In 1951, the regiment was recreated in Koblenz as the 5th Hussar Regiment.
In 1976, the regiment was transformed into the 3rd Dragoon Regiment.
In 1980, the regiment was recreated as the Reserve Regiment of the 5th Hussar Regiment.