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(Russian, eger’; from German Jäger, “hunter, rifleman”), an arm of light infantry in several European armies of the 18th and 19th centuries.
The name “chasseurs” was first used in 1674 in the Brandenburg army, where it was applied to outstanding riflemen. In the middle of the 18th century special teams of riflemen were formed in the Prussian army from former foresters. As an arm of the infantry they became common during the Seven Years’ War of 1756–63 in the French, Prussian, and Austrian armies. Chasseurs operated in extended order and carried on aimed fire. They were used in support of cavalry actions, on the flank, and during close and wide envelopments. They were armed with rifles, daggers, and knives. In the Napoleonic army the so-called voltigeurs performed the role of chasseurs. By the middle of the 19th century they had ceased to be a specialized arm, and their designation was kept simply because of tradition.
In Russia the first chasseur-type battalion was formed by P. A. Rumiantsev in 1761 during the Seven Years’ War. In the 1760’s chasseur teams were formed in all infantry regiments. In 1770 detached chasseur battalions were formed, and in 1785 they were joined in corps (detachments of four battalions apiece). In 1797 they were reformed into chasseur regiments. In 1812 the Russian army had two guards and 50 army chasseur regiments. In 1825 some of them received the title “chasseur carabineer regiments.” In 1856 the chasseur regiments were reformed into infantry regiments and the carabineer regiments became grenadiers. In the early 20th century the Russian army had one Chasseur Life Guards Regiment.
In the 18th and 19th centuries the Prussian, Austrian, Spanish, Portuguese, and Belgian armies also had cavalry chasseurs, which were used for reconnaissance actions, raids, and searches. Chasseur cavalry teams were formed in light cavalry regiments in Russia in 1788. From 1789 to 1796 the Russian army had two to four chasseur cavalry regiments and from 1812 to 1833 it had eight or nine.