First, through out this second source the unit is referred to as "Volontaires du Luxembourg" or as the "Volontaires de Luxembourg". No mention is ever made of the "Legion of Luxembourg". There are several references to the unit and its military activity in various different regions of the world but, never is there a reference to the unit as anything other than as the "Volunteers of Luxembourg".
(Note: There is the question of whether or not the unit is properly referred to as the "Volontaires du Luxembourg" or as the "Volontaires de Luxembourg". Both forms are used in the text cited above, but, the former reference seems to be used more often. Thus, for the time being, it will be the form relied upon by this post writer to refer to the unit.)
Second, the source seems to speak more directly concerning the ethnic make-up of the unit. The source states "like other corps, such as...the Volontaires du Luxembourg, nearly all units raised in France for colonial service during the war were largely composed of foreigners, usually Germans", (Chartrand and Back, The French Army...., pp. 13-14). This conforms with the reference to the "Volunteers" in Dr. Lewis's work, Neptune's Militia, p. 34, where it states that though the unit was part of the French Army and though the unit's commands were probably given in French, there were a significant minority of men who spoke Dutch or German as their mother language.
The source cites that the "Volontaires du Luxembourg" made an unsuccessful attempt to capture Jersey, the Channel Islands, on January 5, 1781. But, it also notes that almost exactly two years earlier, on May 1, 1779, the "Volontaires du Nassau" made a likewise unsuccessful attempt to capture the same set of islands (Chartrand and Back, The French Army...., p.3). This second unit of the French Army, "Volontaires du Nassau", was rather short-lived, being formed on December 10, 1778 and disbanded on August 15, 1779, seemingly around for just long enough to make the unsuccessful assault on Jersey. Their uniform consisted of a "...dark blue coat with orange collar, cuffs and lapels and white metal buttons" (Chartrand and Back, The French Army.... p. 34). The uniform of the "Volontaires du Luxembourg" was a "...blue coat with white collar, cuffs and lapels and yellow metal buttons" (Chartrand and Back, The French Army..., p. 34). More than likely, this was the uniform the unit wore while they served as marines on board the frigate South Carolina.
This last reference to the "Volontaires du Luxembourg" and the "Volontaires du Nassau" may just seem like a simple comparison due to similarities of unit names or both units being employed, at different times during the American War for Independence, in assaults on the same objective - the Isle of Jersey in the English Channel. But, in reality, there is a much closer, more direct connection between these two Units of the French Army. The connection lies between the commanding officers of these two units. The commanding officer of the "Volontaires du Luxembourg" was Anne Paul Emmanuel Sigismund de Montmorency, the Chevalier de Luxembourg. According to Dr. Lewis's work, Neptune's Militia, (page 20) he was "...scion of one of the most distinguished Old Regime families". Hereafter, this individual, of considerable importance to the story of the frigate L'Indien/South Carolina, will be referred to as the Chevalier de Luxembourg. The other commanding officer, the commander of the "Volontaires du Nassau", was Charles Henry Otto de Nassau-Siegen, the Prince de Nassau. Both of these men were of the French nobility. Both of them were from well-distinguished families that had served the French Crown long and well. And, both of them hungered for glory, renown, riches, and power within France itself.
The years after the French & Indian War were years of great change for the kingdom of France and her empire. The French army and navy that faced the British during the earlier war were completely different from the military forces that the French Crown fielded during the American War for Independence. But, in many ways, the system employed by Bourbon France was slow to change. So, even though their military was changing to adapt to the more modern European scene, they still held onto older forms that had developed from much earlier times.
According to Dr. Lewis's work, Neptune's Militia, page 20, "Bourbon France in those years was rapidly modernizing its armed forces, but they still manifested numerous throwbacks to an earlier age. It was possible, for example, for private citizens, at least wealthy ones, to raise their own troops for the king's service, a practice reminiscent of medieval knights and their retainers. How common this was by the late eighteenth century is hard to say, but it certainly was frequent enough not to provoke attention by its peculiarity. To serve one's king in such a fashion had numerous benefits. The crown rewarded such martial fidelity with financial and other compensations. Moreover, faithful servants who provided troops could appoint officers for their units as they saw fit, thus creating a private patronage system. In addition, owners of personal regiments could decide what projects would be fit for their troops and could keep the fruits of whatever conquests might come their way."
Both of these units of the French Army, which was fully engaged against Great Britain, the traditional foe of France, were effectively privately-owned military forces. The names of each unit betrays to whom the unit belonged - "Volontaires de Luxembourg" to the Chevalier de Luxembourg and the "Volontaires du Nassau" to the Prince de Nassau". The "Volontaires du Nassau" is the slightly older unit, being formed on December 10, 1778. But, it was also a very short-lived unit, being disbanded on August 15, 1779 (Chartrand and Back, The French Army..., page 14). The "Volontaires du Luxembourg" were formed after the "Volontaires du Nassau" were disbanded but, lasted, in French military service, until it was transferred into Dutch colonial service on April 30, 1782 (Chartrand and Back, The French Army..., page 34).
This convoluted story begins with the Prince du Nassau becoming famous in France for conceiving of an assault on the island of Jersey in the English Channel. The Channel Islands consist of the larger, main islands of Jersey, Guernsey, Alderney, and Sark along with several smaller islands, among them Herm, Lithou, and Jethou. The island of Jersey is particularly visible from the mainland of France, which is located about ten miles away. As noted in Dr. Lewis's work, Neptune's Militia, page 22, even though these islands are ethnically French, they served as a constant reminder of England's once-powerful presence on the mainland of Europe. The numerous wars fought between England and France during the late seventeenth century and until the Seven Year's War in the mid-eighteenth century, these islands constituted "...minor but persistent military objectives of the French military" (Lewis, p. 22).
According to Dr. Lewis's work, Neptune's Militia, page 22, the Prince du Nassau hoped "...to launch a swift descent upon the islands at the beginning of the war, expecting to be rewarded with governorship of the new possessions, among other things". This would seem to indicate that the Prince du Nassau conceived of the idea of the assault first and may well have been rewarded with permission to raise the "Volontaires du Nassau", which he did in late 1778, the unit being offically commissioned on December 10, 1778. According to a chronology of the French Army in the American War of Independence located in Chartrand and Back, The French Army..., page 3, the "...unsuccessful French raid on Jersey, Channel Islands..." was made on May 1, 1779 and the only listed participating French unit was the "Volontaires du Nassau". But, Dr. Lewis's work, Neptune's Militia, page 22, states that "...circumstances frustrated the Jersey descent in 1779..." Thus, it is unclear as to whether the assualt took place and failed or if there were some types of "circumstances" that hindered the completion of the mission and it was subsequently dropped as a viable operation.
The passage above (Lewis, page 20) quotes that only wealthy individuals could afford to raise troops, primarily due to the fact that they had to pay for these same troops. The Prince du Nassau was authorized to raise as many as six thousand troops and when the assault either failed or was cancelled, he realized that his privately-owned regiment was going to result in the consumption of his personal estate. Dr. Lewis's work, Neptune's Militia, page 22, states that this realization occurred to the Prince du Nassau in either 1779 or 1780. But, Chartrand and Back, The French Army..., page 34, states that the "Volontaires du Nassau" were decommissioned on August 15, 1779. If all of the information contained and cited here is factual, then it would appear that the "Volontaires du Nassau" were raised for the sole purpose of the "swift descent upon the islands", the plan conceived of by their commanding officer, the Prince du Nassau.
With the realization by the Prince du Nassau of the financial straits that he faced, there was a way out - he could dispose of his privately-owned regiment. According to Dr. Lewis's work, Neptune's Militia, page 21, "...these warrior entrepreneurs could even sell their troops to other citizens or governments should they choose". It was through this method of "pawning off" his "Volontaires du Nassau" that the Prince du Nassau sought his avenue of financial relief. Again, according to Dr. Lewis's work, Neptune's Militia, page 22, the Prince du Nassau chose several different routes to relieve his situation. He detached a portion of his forces to participate in a French expedition to North America. He directly sold over 1,300 of his troops to the French Crown. He also ordered some companies to serve the French king in coastal garrisons. Finally, and most cogent to the story line here, he sold the remainder to the other French nobleman relevant to our story - the Chevalier du Luxembourg.
The Chevalier du Luxembourg was a French nobleman of equal social status and financial means to that of the Prince du Nassau. He came from a very old, well-established family who had served the Crown of France well and long. Like, the Prince du Nassau, the Chevalier du Luxembourg was one of those vassals of the French Crown who had his own privately-owned regiment - the Legion of Luxembourg or the "Volontaires du Luxembourg". It is unclear exactly when the "Volontaires du Luxembourg" were raised. Chartrand and Back, The French Army..., page 14, indicates that this unit was raised at some point during 1780. But, later in the text, it states that the unit was commissioned on October 1, 1780 (Chartrand and Back, The French Army..., page 34).
(Note: The date of the disbanding of the "Volontaires du Luxembourg" is in question. Chartrand and Back, The French Army..., page 14, indicates that the unit was disbanded in 1782, sometime after it was transferred into Dutch colonial service. But, according to Dr. Lewis's work, Neptune's Militia, page 205, n.17, "...there is some indication that the Legion of Luxembourg (English equivalent for the 'Volontaires du Luxembourg') was disbanded in 1789.)
The Chevalier du Luxembourg seems to have not only purchased some of the troops of the "Volontaires du Nassau" from the Prince du Nassau, but also his vision for the conquest of the Channel Islands. If he, the Chevalier du Luxembourg, could accomplish what the Prince du Nassau had failed at, then he could conceivably expect various substantial rewards from the French Crown. Also, the Chevalier du Luxembourg's brother had died in June 1780, leaving the Chevalier as the Prince du Luxembourg (Lewis, p. 26). This, too, must have encouraged him to forge ahead with his aspirations of greatness.
The role of the "Volontaires du Luxembourg" in the failed assault on the Channel Island of Jersey is well-documented historically and was recounted in some detail in a much earlier post (dated 11/26/14) dealing with the Volunteers of Luxembourg. The assault took place on January 5, 1781 and was quickly defeated by the English forces that were stationed on the island. This surrender led to the imprisonment of the surviving officers, NCOs, and enlisted men of the "Volontaires du Luxembourg" in England.
Being that the war was in its sixth year at this point in time, the system of prisoner exchange between France and Britain was functioning effectively and efficiently. This smooth functioning may also have been a factor of the geographical proximity of the two countries to each other. This was still a point in history when the level of a soldier's rank played a huge role in the length of time a soldier spent in prisoner status. According to Dr. Lewis's work, Neptune's Militia,page 28, "most of the Jersey officers returned to the continent within three months, but the soldiers from the Legion only found their way back later." Most of the NCOs and enlisted men who were eventually released from prison in England and then returned to France, missed the August 4, 1781 sailing of the frigate South Carolina. But, these troop still had a purpose within the Chevalier du Luxembourg's plans. Again, according to Dr. Lewis's work, Neptune's Militia, page 110, " Most of the legionnaires had participated in the unsuccessful invasion of Jersey in January 1781. After a short imprisonment in England, these veterans had been exchanged and returned to France, the majority arriving too late to be reassigned to duty aboard the frigate before she left Holland. However, many reached home in time to be reassembled and hired by the prince to the Dutch government for service in Cape Town and the Indian Ocean." Chartrand and Back, The French Army..., page 18, states that certain French Army units were sent to Cape Town, South Africa to reinforce the Dutch garrison there. "They were joined by the 'Volontaires du Luxembourg' in May 1782 - a French colonial corps transferred to Dutch colonial service the previous month. The troops in South Africa saw no action."
(Note: According to Dr. Lewis's work, Neptune's Militia, page 28, the Chevalier du Luxembourg had planned on personally leading the "Volontaires du Luxembourg" in the actual assault on Jersey but, had missed the invasion, and his subsequent imprisonment in England along with his men, reportedly due to illness.)
Yet, when the frigate South Carolina set sail from the Texel, Holland on August 4, 1781, she had a full, more than three companies-full, complement of marines on board her. These marines were drawn from the "Volontaires du Luxembourg". These must have been personnel of the "Volontaires" who missed the invasion of Jersey, Channel Islands and thus missed either death or imprisonment in England. But, who were these troops that were certainly of the "Volontaires du Luxembourg" but, still managed to be assigned to the frigate South Carolina before she sailed from the Texel? According to Dr. Lewis's work, Neptune's Militia, page 28, when the Chevalier du Luxembourg received word of the failed attempt against the Jersey, he eagerly sought out willing and available officers and still available units form the "Volontaires du Luxembourg" and quickly dispatched them to Dunkirk, France. British intelligence supposedly knew of these units moving towards Dunkirk. These intelligence sources referred to these men as "...the debris of the Legion, a judgment based on their facility in missing the Jersey invasion." In other words, they may well have been described in this manner because they managed to miss the invasion or were not assigned to take part in it and thus missed death or capture.
One of the most interesting aspects of the "Volontaires du Luxembourg" is their rather infamous notoriety in France during the period of their existence as a cohesive unit. According to Dr. Lewis's work, Neptune's Militia, page 27, "while the courage of the Legion of Luxembourg was never questioned during this affair (the invasion of Jersey), the quality of the troops was. Described as a contingent of deserters and prisoners, no French town had wanted these soldiers stationed within their limits during preparations for the invasion. One French observer commented in disgust that the Luxembourg soldiers were so depraved that they robbed their own sick. Some coastal towns even posted guards to watch the Legion when it camped within their walls." Once the frigate South Carolina was at sea, Commodore Gillon had to deal with this unusual "esprit de corps" frequently. According to Dr. Lewis's work, Neptune's Militia, page 39, when the frigate South Carolina was nearly a month out of the Texel, Holland, Commodore Gillon realized why "...the idle marines...had had such a bad reputation in France before boarding the ship. When not fighting with sailors or among themselves, the Luxembourg legionnaires found time to insult officers verbally or threaten them with their weapons, get drunk, and engage in thievery. Gillon faced no unique challenge here, and he dealt with these discipline problems sharply, handing out punishments that ranged from floggings of 150 lashes, to beatings with the flat of a cutlass, to merely being placed in irons." These types of discipline problems could be the answer as to why Commodore Gillon was so quick to post sick crew men to hospitals whenever he put entered a port and then slip out of port without ever reclaiming his men - thus possibly leaving behind some of the troublesome marines.
This was the case in St. Croix, Tenerife in the Canary Islands. The frigate South Carolina entered the harbor there on November 2, 1781 with a number of sick on board the frigate. Commodore Alexander Gillon sought and obtained permission from the port's commandant to post his sick to the military hospital located there. According to Dr. Lewis's work, Neptune's Militia, page 46, Commodore Gillon then proceeded to place 107 men in hospital there - almost twenty percent of the total crew strength of the frigate South Carolina. When he chose to slip out of harbor at 2:00AM on November 24, 1781, he left about thirty men behind in the hospital. Again, according to Dr. Lewis's work, Neptune's Militia, page 47, "the Commodore sent ashore ten rancid knapsacks belonging to some of the soldiers, but nothing more".
(Note: According to Dr. Lewis's work, Neptune's Militia, page 186, n. 21, at St. Croix, Tenerife in the Canary Islands, at least two officers also left the frigate South Carolina. They were Captain Antoine Augustin Dufaquet, the Chevalier des Varennes, commanding officer of the 2nd company of the "Volontaires du Luxembourg" and 2nd Lieutenant M. de Vaumagueroux. There is no clear indication whether these officers chose to leave the frigate or if they were discharged from their services on board the frigate South Carolina by Commodore Gillon. The implication seems to be that these officers voluntarily chose to leave the frigate but, there is no absolute definition as to what happened. The "Volontaires du Luxembourg" also lost another officer - 2nd Lieutenant M. de Lalain, who was considered too sick to continue to voyage across the Atlantic Ocean. The Chevalier Francois Etienne Laurant D'Aubry continued as the overall commanding officer of the "Volontaires du Luxembourg" but, the names of any other fellow officers from this point on during the cruise of the frigate South Carolina were purely conjectural.)