term for "hunter") is the designation given to certain regiments of French
(Chasseurs à pied
) or light cavalry
(Chasseurs à cheval
) troops, trained for rapid action. There were many military units during the American Civil War that wore the French chasseur uniform, like the 14th Brooklyn
. These regiments were made up entirely of American citizens, but reflected the fashion during the 1860s for French military tactics and uniforms.
Chasseurs à pied
The name Chasseurs à pied
(light infantry) was originally used for infantry units in the French Army recruited from hunters or woodsmen
. Recognized for their marksmanship and skirmishing skills, the chasseurs were comparable to the German Jäger
or the British light infantry
. The Chasseurs à Pied
, as the marksmen
of the French army, were regarded as elite light companies and regiments
The elite mountain infantry of the French Army. Trained to operate in mountainous terrain and in urban warfare.
Chasseurs à cheval
The Chasseurs à Cheval
, (light cavalry) were generally not held in as high esteem as their infantry counterparts, or the identically armed light cavalry units of hussars
. During the French occupation of Algeria regiments of Chasseurs d'Afrique
were raised. These were light cavalry recruited originally from French volunteers and subsequently from the French settlers in North Africa doing their military service. As such they were the mounted equivalent of the Zouaves
Modern French Army
The modern French Army comprises bataillons of Chasseurs à pied
(mechanized infantry : 16e BC),Chasseurs-Alpins
(mountain troops : 7e, 13e, 27e BCA) and regiments of Chasseurs à cheval
(1er-2e RCh and 4e RCh : light armored regiments). In addition one regiment of Chasseurs d'Afrique
(training unit : 1er RCA) has been re-raised to commemorate this branch of the French cavalry. Since May 1943 there has been a "Régiment de Chasseurs Parachutistes" (1er RCP).
All of these units have different traditions :
- Bataillons de chasseurs are light infantry units created after 1838. Some of these battalions were converted to specialized mountain units as Bataillons de Chasseurs Alpins in 1888, as an answer to the Italian Alpine (Alpini) regiments stationed along the Alpine frontier.
- Régiments de chasseurs are units of the "Arme Blindée Cavalerie" : armoured units. The basic organic unit is called regiment and not bataillon to avoid confusing cavalry and infantry chasseurs.
- The airborne infantry units called Régiments de chasseurs parachutistes were created in 1943 with airborne troops from the French Airforce (GIA or Groupe d'Infanterie de l'Air), who were transferred into the Army.
Although the traditions of these different branches of the French Army are very different, there is still a tendency to confuse one with the other. For example when World War I veteran Léon Weil died, the AFP press agency stated that he was a member of the 5th "Regiment de Chasseurs Alpins". It was in fact the 5th Bataillon.