French Role


The original Régiment de Saintonge, raised in the province of the same name, was formed on September 4, 1684 from the ancient regiment of Navarre. Just prior to the American Revolution, from 1763 to 1768, the unit served at Cayenne in the West Indies, and then returned to France. In 1775, while, based at Toul, the regiment was enlarged from one to two battalions by the incorporation of the regiment of Cambresis. By 1779 the regiment was designated the 85éme regiment of the French line.

After being selected in 1780 by the Count de Rochambeau to participate in the French expeditionary force to America, the regiment sailed from Brest in May, arriving at Newport in August, where it spent the following winter. The regiment departed from Providence on the long march south on June 21, 1781, finally arriving before the British fortifications at Yorktown in late September. The Saintonge regiment distinguished itself, with the rest of Rochambeau's French army, at the siege of Yorktown. Following the surrender of Cornwallis in October 1781, the Saintonge regiment wintered near Yorktown, then marched north the following June to return to Providence, arriving there in mid-November 1782. During the American campaign the regiment was commanded by Adam Phillipe Jarreck, the Count de Custine, who would later lose his head during the French Revolution.

The Régiment de Saintonge marched from Providence to Boston in December 1782, departing the United States to sail for the French Antilles. They finally returned to Brest in July 1783. At the time of the regiment's departure for the Antilles, Count de Custine was succeeded as Colonel by the Viscount de Rochambeau, son of the Count de Rochambeau, the commander of the French expeditionary forces. In 1791 the 85éme Saintonge regiment, under a new French regimental nomenclature, became the 82éme Regiment of Infantry.