The Soisonnais Regiment was one of the four regiments that Rochambeau brought with him from France to America in 1780, and served with him throughout the American campaign. Some of the companies of the Soissonnais Regiment had to be left behind at Brest, due to lack of transports, but were probably brought to America later, in early 1781.
The Soissonnais Regiment was formed in 1598, taking its name from an old province of France. It served in the Seven Years’ War, distinguishing itself at the Battle of Langfeld. At Yorktown, the Soissonnais Regiment was brigaded with the Saintonge Regiment, under Major General le Comte de Viomenil.
With the other regiments of Rochambeau, it was taken on small boats from Newport to Providence in 1781, marching from there to Dobbs’ Ferry, New York, to join Washington’s forces. From there, they crossed the Hudson River, and marched through Ramapo, the Hackensack Valley, Newark, Perth Amboy, Trenton, Philadelphia, and Elkton to Baltimore or Annapolis. From there, they sailed on frigates and transports through Chesapeake Bay to the James River, near Williamsburg, Virginia. The ships were sent from the squadron of Admiral de Barras after it had slipped past the British to join the fleet of Admiral de Grasse in Lynn Haven Bay at the entrance to Chesapeake Bay.
The colonel of the Soissonnais Regiment was the Comte de Saint Maisme. The Comte de Noailles, brother in law of Lafayette, was second in command. At Yorktown on October 16, a British sortie temporarily captured two unfinished French trenches, and spiked some of the cannon. At dawn on the 16th, with the cry of “Vive le Roi,” Lafayette’s brother in law led the French counter attack to recapture the trenches.
Flag description: White Greek cross. Each of the four cantons is divided into two triangles by diagonals of the flag. First canton, upper triangle, black, lower triangle, red; second canton, upper triangle, red, lower triangle, black; third canton, upper triangle, black, lower triangle, red; fourth canton, upper triangle, red, lower triangle, black. Davis shows a photograph of an original of this flag.
The Régiment de Soissonnais has a long history in the French armed forces. The regiment fought at the Battle of Fontenoy in 1745, and the Battle of Yorktown in 1781 during the American Revolution.
1598 : Created from soldiers from the Perche region of France and they became the Régiment de Graville
1630 : renamed Régiment de Grancey
1707 : renamed Régiment de Chenelaye
1730 : renamed Régiment de Souvré
1743 : renamed Régiment de Lauragais
1745 : renamed Régiment de Ségur
1749 : renamed Régiment de Briqueville
1763 : renamed Régiment de Soissonnais
1791 : renamed 40e Régiment d’infanterie de ligne