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Desert Fox16 Jul 2019 7:26 a.m. PST

What percentage of a napoleonic unit* sent out to the skirmish line would…

…actually be on the skirmish line skirmishing?

…be in transit either to or from the skirmish line?

…be held in reserve behind the skirmish line?

*Unit in this case could be the battalion's light company, the third rankers, or an entire light battalion.

Thanks!

21eRegt16 Jul 2019 7:31 a.m. PST

My understanding is that so long as there was a formed body to rally back upon, the entire third rank or light company could go out in skirmish order. If a "light" battalion was deployed to skirmish at least a third would remained formed for rally protection.

khanscom16 Jul 2019 4:16 p.m. PST

Peter Hofschroer had a relevant article ("Prussian Infantry Tactics 1792- 1815, Pt. 3") in The Courier V.4, No.2.

"…Although the third rank was designated to perform a skirmish role, that does not mean that every man in the skirmish platoons fought in open order simultaneously. The Regulations (presumably of 1803, and revised in 1809 and 1812- kh)state:

The third rank fights here (when trying to delay an enemy line for a specific time- pah), assuming that the enemy does not press forward in too great a strength, only partly deployed, using from 1/3 to at the very most 2/3 of the total. If the entire third rank was to deploy without any reserve, it would soon use up all its ammunition (p. 100). The skirmish platoons of the third rank also had to keep at least part of its men in close order so that the skirmishers had a point to fall back on when rallying.

… each skirmish platoon would be around 60- 70 men strong and between 20 and 45 of them would be operating in loose order…"

Just a snippet of the article, but worth reading if you can find the issue.

Stoppage17 Jul 2019 2:57 a.m. PST

@Desert Fox

* could also be the end-files of an assault column (eg later Russians)

Oliver Schmidt17 Jul 2019 3:03 a.m. PST

For the French army, see this (1811)):

demi-brigade.org/tirdaven.htm

and this (1815):

demi-brigade.org/tirreien.htm

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP17 Jul 2019 6:40 a.m. PST

The French development of skirmish tactics began with the field maneuvers in Normandy in the mid-1770s.

The French would deploy whole battalions as skirmishers and they would be the fire support element in a major attack.

Some French commanders, such as Lannes at Jena, would deploy their front line as skirmishers.

The French would also deploy entire regiments in open/skirmish order when necessary.

Brownand17 Jul 2019 7:30 a.m. PST

Brechtel, do you mean that a whole regiment, of various battalions would be one skirmish line of various miles??

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP18 Jul 2019 3:43 a.m. PST

Depending on the situation entire battalions and sometimes regiments would be deployed in open/skirmish order as late as 1813.

von Winterfeldt18 Jul 2019 5:33 a.m. PST

there are two kinds of skirmishers, those who cover their battalion or regiment and those – where bigger units dissolve into skirmishing, the French describe them as grande bande.

However even those, there will be always part of the unit formed to provide rallying points in case those skirmishers get attacked by formed units.

Those "reserves" would also relieve those skirmishers who emptied their cartridge boxes.

SHaT198424 Jul 2019 6:14 p.m. PST

May as well ask what colour the moon is.
Commanders on the ground/ scene determine how many 'skirmishers' are required, and for what reason.

A more specific enquiry (period/ date/ nationality/ campaign) would elicit betters response, rather than a text book of jargon.
FWIW davew

Rittmester Supporting Member of TMP25 Jul 2019 3:09 a.m. PST

@Oliver
Thank you for very interesting links, especially the 1811.

It struck me when I read about the outlined principle how to defeat an enemy by fixing his attention towards one or two directions and then striking from another, that the principles for (infantry) fighting, find-fix-strike, haven't changed since then.

summerfield31 Jul 2019 3:32 p.m. PST

The principle of the universal soldier and no longer specialisation in the French Army into light and heavy infantry. The Legere Regts considered themselves as elites.

In wargaming terms you could permit one battalion per brigade to operate in skirmish order.
Stephen

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP31 Jul 2019 8:20 p.m. PST

The designations were line and light infantry, not light and heavy infantry.

And the 'principle of the universal soldier' if it even exists, seems to me to be one of the terms that is made up from time to time.

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP31 Jul 2019 9:46 p.m. PST

May as well ask what colour the moon is.
Commanders on the ground/ scene determine how many 'skirmishers' are required, and for what reason.

I second SHaT1984 in this, though I think the answer is a little more manageable than the colour of the moon.

The bottom line is that commanders throughout the Napoleonic wars deployed as many skirmishers as they dared and felt were necessary.

There were several methods of skirmishing used throughout the wars.

Certainly, the French infantry en masse simply broke down into a swarm was seen during the Revolutionary Wars, but they were still doing it in 1810 as described by Pelet at Bussaco, which he lamented.

With training, the 3rd rank was used as recommended by Ney in 1803 and used by several armies such as the Prussians at Jena and on through the reforms and 1812-1815 campaigns. In most cases the formed troops left behind were considered the supports/reserves for the skirmishers. The von Sanitz Brigade deployed most of its third rank.

There were flank companies and designated men, volunteers and such too, usually deployed without reserves, as with 3rd rank deployments. At Jena, the Prussian Hohenlohe regiment threw out 'several' groups of volunteers to support their 100 schutzen during the battle

At Jena, the Prussians deployed about 20-25% of their infantry as skirmishers.

Regardless of the army, the general practice was to first deploy the specialists and then reinforce with line troops as Davout's 1811 instructions describe.

Deployment practices varied. Some military men recommended 1/3 of a skirmish deployment be held in support, others up to 1/2 or more. Some felt a single support group in the middle was best, while others saw having supports on the flanks of the skirmish line. A third line reserve was also described and at times only 1/3rd of the deployed skirmishers were on the skirmish line at any one time.

Deploying one or several companies, such as the 88th Wallace at Bussaco, was done. He also deployed several files before that to support his light company. Whatever was seen as necessary.

The commander decided how many skirmishers to deploy and what methods as suggested by Oliver's 1811 and 1815 examples. Colburg in 1794 deployed nearly his entire army's third rank as skirmishers--successfully. With Colburg in mind, it is something that Archduke Charles did not recommend in his 1796 instructions. It was a theme with the Austrians, 'don't deploy too many skirmishers.'

Kutuzov's Jager 1798 instructions taught skirmishers being deployed in files of three, not the typical two. Even in 1812, Barclay's Army skirmishers deployed in teams of three while the other army at Borodino did not.

At Bautzen in 1813, The Pavlov Grenadiers' three battalions all deployed as skirmishers in woods for the entire day. [I have this image of the Grenadiers ducking tree limbs wearing their mitres all day long.]

At Vitoria, Hill had 1/6 of his infantry in the Right Column deployed as skirmishers [3,300 of 20,000] which moved nearly a mile a head of the formed divisions.

It depended on the commander. All armies from 1792 to 1815 had regulation provisions for line infantry skirmishing. The real issue was how many could you afford to deploy. Archduke Charles insisted that,

One always must observe the basic rule that only a small portion of the troops may be employed as skirmishers while the main body must be kept as a reserve in closed order to decide the issue.

This misuse [of entire units as skirmishers] must be opposed because it weakens the impetus of the attack.

In 1812, FM Schwarzenberg ordered that

"In open ground, 20-30 skirmishers will be enough to hold enemy skirmishers from the front of the battalion or mass". He conceded, however, "In restricted ground they can be increased to one third of the battalion, but the remianing two thirds must remain closed up in one or more reserves depending on terrain."

And yet, you find these kinds of reports throughout the Austrian campaign by an officer in 3rd battalion IR63 Bianchi , published in Mitteilungen des kuk Heeresmuseum (1902-1907) describes masses deploying skirmishers at Valeggio in February 1814:

GM Baron Stutterheim rode up and ordered us to form division masses, then to wheel to the left and march off towards the enemy; muskets were to be loaded on the march. The masses were drawn up in a chequer board arrangement with IR63 on the left. "Our masses sent out skirmishers (from IR3 Erzherzog Karl, IR4 Deutchmeister and IR63); the four guns, which were attached to our brigade, unlimbered and took up their firing positions and now the firing was general. The enemy deployed gradually across a longer front and forced us to dissolve the masses into open order skirmish lines."

I think Napoleonic wargame rules maintain a completely unrealistic restrictions on the use and numbers of skirmishers because such combat is messy, less decisive in game terms [being entirely attrition combat], much for the same reasons that Pelet wrote this after Bussaco:

I cannot express how much aversion I have always had for skirmishing. It is difficult to imagine how much it costs in casualties or, as this day—drop by drop.Two new attacks against the position, just like the first, would not have been more deadly. I could not resist saying a few words. The skirmishing ended on our side and the enemy started it again. As a matter of fact, it was extremely difficult to stop bickering except by withdrawing our troops, and this was not without inconvenience for either advantageous terrain or the morale of the army.

If anyone says that such-and-such army couldn't deploy skirmishers, or only specialists or only X numbers for ANY of the wars 1792-1815, they wouldn't be describing the historical record.

Stoppage01 Aug 2019 3:40 a.m. PST

@McLaddie – nice summary

The enemy deployed gradually across a longer front and forced us to dissolve the masses into open order skirmish lines

Interesting game-play idea there!

Whirlwind01 Aug 2019 5:55 a.m. PST

Good post McLaddie.

Sparta01 Aug 2019 6:46 a.m. PST

McLaddie hits the nail on the head. All troops should bealloed to skirmish, although quality should vary, generally the better the troops, the better they are at skirmishing The rules should handle skirmish combat in some way, especially the deployment of half or full batallions into skirmish order.

Brownand02 Aug 2019 3:44 a.m. PST

In wargames rules whole battalions can skirmish and you see a battalion expand its (line) frontage doubled or tripled.
Is this a correct representation of a battalion skirmishing?
Imho the skirmish frontage should almost be the same as (as explained above) the normal line frontage; correct?

von Winterfeldt02 Aug 2019 5:35 a.m. PST

Not necessarily, it will depend how many of those in the battalion will be dissolved into skirmishing, for the sake of simplicity, two skirmishers form an entity.

For example for the Prussian light infantry Füsiliere from 1788 – 1807 – the usual amount of skirmishers employed would be about a quarter strength, due to tactical circumstance this could be doubled, the rest would stay in formation.

A quarter or a sxith strengh skirmishers should be able to cover the rest of the formed battalion.

In case more than one battalion would be used for skirimishing it would all depend on the tactical tasks on the spot, the terrain and the available units as well as training.

By the way a battalion of the Saxon Leibgrenadier Garde was thrown into the woods to support the Saxon Jäger in 1813, they found out that the plate on the bearskin caps proved a too obvious distinction and they put them up the other way round.

Also Grenadiers in mitre caps put their caps on the other way round when on out post duty.

huevans01102 Aug 2019 6:16 a.m. PST

With training, the 3rd rank was used as recommended by Ney in 1803 and used by several armies such as the Prussians at Jena and on through the reforms and 1812-1815 campaigns. In most cases the formed troops left behind were considered the supports/reserves for the skirmishers. The von Sanitz Brigade deployed most of its third rank.

There were flank companies and designated men, volunteers and such too, usually deployed without reserves, as with 3rd rank deployments. At Jena, the Prussian Hohenlohe regiment threw out 'several' groups of volunteers to support their 100 schutzen during the battle

At Jena, the Prussians deployed about 20-25% of their infantry as skirmishers.

Pretty much busts the old myth that the Jena Prussians couldn't / didn't skirmish!

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP02 Aug 2019 7:11 a.m. PST

One of the interesting aspects of skirmishing during the period is that the Prussians, etc., wrote regulations for that practice and then trained to the regulations.

The French developed the practice through experimentation and battlefield application, and then wrote regulations about the subject.

That alone clearly demonstrates the difference between what the French developed and what the allied armies did.

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP02 Aug 2019 7:15 a.m. PST

Pretty much busts the old myth that the Jena Prussians couldn't / didn't skirmish!

Yep. It is amazing how much easily accessible history is simply ignored. Sanitz's skirmishers pushed the French out of the surrounding woods before being outflanked and squashed. Sanitz had a composite battalion of 'volunteers' specifically for light duty.

The Prussians and Saxons light infantry and 'volunteers' droved the French out of Issenstadt and the surrounding woods at one point.

Yet, the myth survives. It is simpler, easier to digest.

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP02 Aug 2019 7:22 a.m. PST

That alone clearly demonstrates the difference between what the French developed and what the allied armies did.

Brechtel198

What makes you think that experience didn't dictate the Prussian regulations in the 1788 or that the French in 1792+ didn't train to regulations before gaining experience? There were the French 1777 regulations which were then copied in the early 1790's Provisional Instructions included instructions for light infantry actions.

von Winterfeldt03 Aug 2019 3:42 a.m. PST

on top Prussian skirmishers of that period were trained at attack and defend villages, to attack and defend fortresses (using their special role of light infantry) to occupy any ground as fast as possible, trained to shoot at targets and much more.
Why they did fail in 1806 – it is a complex story

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP03 Aug 2019 7:21 a.m. PST

Why they did fail in 1806 – it is a complex story

Yeah, and who wants complex?

von Winterfeldt03 Aug 2019 8:26 a.m. PST

true – back to Prussian Army fighting in 7YW lines and shot to pieces by French skirmishers

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP03 Aug 2019 12:10 p.m. PST

If you take a look at Bressonet, it is quite clear that the French and Prussians did not fight the same way, nor were they organized similarly.

The Prussians used specialized light infantry units, and while the French also had their light infantry regiments, French line infantry were also more than capable of fighting in open order/as tirailleurs. The Prussian line infantry was not.

The Prussians still used battalion guns, which the French had abolished in 1798-1800. The Prussians also organized divisions of all arms, which the French had abandoned in 1796-1800. The French also trained their artillery and infantry together so that they would 'cooperate' in combat, the Prussians did not.

The French at Jena did shoot apart Grawert's division, the French fighting in open order under cover while Grawert's division was in the open in front of Vierzehnheilegen.

Stoppage03 Aug 2019 1:34 p.m. PST

@Brechtel – just when I was really enjoying this post you've popped in some of your 'material' and changed the tone.


French line infantry were also more than capable of fighting in open order/as tirailleurs.

I am sure that there were too.

The Prussian line infantry was not. (capable of fighting in open order/as tirailleurs)

This has been gone through – the third rank was used for skirmishing tasks. I assume that tirailleur is synonymous with jaeger.


The French also trained their artillery and infantry together so that they would 'cooperate' in combat, the Prussians did not.

The Prussians didn't need to – they had integral infantry guns.


I think we need to 'elevate our sights' a little higher – we seem to be getting lost in the weeds at too low a level. The capabilities of all the combatants was very similar (at battalion/squadron/battery level).

The major difference between the ancien regime and the French was at the grand-tactical and higher level – especially how the different arms were used.

Your point about infantry/artillery cooperation probably lives at divisional level.

An analysis of Jena/Auerstadt at this divisional level would probably explain more than that at battalion level.

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP03 Aug 2019 2:20 p.m. PST

The Prussians used specialized light infantry units, and while the French also had their light infantry regiments, French line infantry were also more than capable of fighting in open order/as tirailleurs. The Prussian line infantry was not.

IF you actually read Bressonet, at Jena and Auerstadt, there are several instances of Prussian and Saxon line infantry skirmishing whether you think they were 'capable' or not.

The Prussian battalion guns were grouped together into batteries at both battles. The question was about skirmish methods and numbers, not army organization or battalion guns.

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP03 Aug 2019 4:30 p.m. PST

IF you actually read Bressonet…

That insult is completely uncalled for and also nothing but nonsense.

And if you read Bressonet, you'll see that there was a difference in the skirmishing abilities of the French and Prussians. That is the point of the posting.

And they weren't very effective, now were they? And the subject most certainly is appropriate to a discussion on skirmishing, as the French supported their skirmishers with artillery. And as infantry/artillery cooperation was the French practice, and not the Prussian practice, that clearly demonstrates a difference in how they each operated.

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP03 Aug 2019 5:34 p.m. PST

And they weren't very effective, now were they? And the subject most certainly is appropriate to a discussion on skirmishing, as the French supported their skirmishers with artillery.

Brechtel: I can not see how you can say they weren't very effective if you have read Bressonet, perceived insult or not.

Bressonet documents:

the Prussian lights and line chasing the French out of Isserstadt and the surrounding woods.

Stanitz's brigade driving the French out of the surrounding woods to their front.

The lights being supported by artillery around Vierzehnheiligen when Tauentzien's Advance Guard defeated the French 5th Corps' first attempt to take the village.

Napoleon sending Vedel's brigade to deal with Prussian Fusiliers and the remains of two Saxon battalions who were annoying Lannes right flank.

@ 2,000 of Ney's elite companies and leger occupiing the 200 yards of woods [the Holzchen] between Isserstadt and
Vierzehnheiligen. The Prussians drove them out and the French did not return. Bressonet says they avoided the woods after that.

Now, considering that the Prussians were outnumbered 2:1 or better at each point of the battle, don't those actions denote some effectiveness?

No, the Prussian light infantry and line infantry were not as good as the French… certainly not as experienced.

No, the Prussians didn't use the same combined tactics the French did. The Prussians had difficulty coordinating their artillery, infantry and cavalry…but they did alright individually.

So there were differences… which was not my focus at all, only that the Prussians did skirmish, light AND line, and they had successes, however fleeting.

It's all in Bressonet.

von Winterfeldt03 Aug 2019 11:11 p.m. PST

So there were differences… which was not my focus at all, only that the Prussians did skirmish, light AND line, and they had successes, however fleeting.

absolutely true – you can read it in any good book about the 1806 campaign such as Bressonnet, Höpfner, Lettow – Vorbeck, Jany, you won't find this in Elting though, who completely fails in describing French and Prussian tactics.

von Winterfeldt03 Aug 2019 11:17 p.m. PST

Just a quote from Bressonnet


"At Saalfeld, at Auerstedt, and at Jena the French carried the victory. However despite they were commanded by men like Lannes, Davout and Napoléon, and even at Jena with superior numbers, this victory wasn't gained other than by a fierce struggle.
The proof of this fierceness is to be found firstly by the numbers of casualties sustained by the Grande Armée. Suchet's division for example, suffered at the 14th of October a third of its effective strength as casualties. (…) Finally Davout's corps was reduced by a third at the evening of the same day. Also, secondly, by the length of this struggle; lasting about 10 hours, at Auerstedt and at Jena."

p. 362

Zhmodikov04 Aug 2019 9:29 p.m. PST

McLaddie wrote:


Kutuzov's Jager 1798 instructions taught skirmishers being deployed in files of three, not the typical two. Even in 1812, Barclay's Army skirmishers deployed in teams of three while the other army at Borodino did not.

Kutuzov's jager instructions appeared in 1786, and skirmishers were to be deployed in pairs (until 1807, the jagers were to be formed in two ranks while they were in close order formation).

There is an instruction dated 1811, which prescribed that skirmishers from line infantry battalions should be deployed in groups of three men, but I have found no evidence that skirmishers were ever deployed in such a way in any battle.

The Pavlovsky Grenadier Regiment fighting in skirmish order at Bautzen is mentioned by George Cathcart:


A gallant attack was made at this time by three battalions of the Pavlofsky regiment, who were then grenadiers, but have since been made guards. They were led forward in line through the broken ground and coppice wood à pas de charge, preserving their line and formation with as much regularity as such ground would permit, and arrived in sufficiently close and good order to enable them to drive all before them, with considerable loss to the enemy.

their own subsequent loss was far more severe when extended as light infantry in the wood and maintaining the ground they had gained, their conspicuous brass grenadier-caps rendering them ill adapted for that particular duty. However, during the whole day they maintained their ground, until the final retreat was ordered, and were then obliged to leave behind them in the wood a very large proportion of killed and wounded to the mercy of the enemy.

Cathcart G., Commentaries on the War in Russia and Germany in 1812 and 1813. London, 1850, p. 161-162.

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP05 Aug 2019 2:56 a.m. PST

Just a quote from Bressonnet

"At Saalfeld, at Auerstedt, and at Jena the French carried the victory. However despite they were commanded by men like Lannes, Davout and Napoléon, and even at Jena with superior numbers, this victory wasn't gained other than by a fierce struggle.
The proof of this fierceness is to be found firstly by the numbers of casualties sustained by the Grande Armée. Suchet's division for example, suffered at the 14th of October a third of its effective strength as casualties. (…) Finally Davout's corps was reduced by a third at the evening of the same day. Also, secondly, by the length of this struggle; lasting about 10 hours, at Auerstedt and at Jena."

p. 362

No one is saying that the Prussians didn't fight hard and that the French losses were not significant.

What is the point is that the Prussians did not employ skirmishers in the manner that the French did and that the Prussian tactics were not as flexible as those of the French.

All uses of skirmishers by the different armies are not equal.

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP05 Aug 2019 4:21 a.m. PST

Further, the French deployed whole battalions as tirailleurs en grande at both Jena and Auerstadt. At Jena, three battalions of light infantry were so deployed (the three battalions of the 16th Legere) and at Auerstadt the 1st Battalion of the 48th Ligne.

Did the Prussians do so? The answer is a resounding 'no.'

Further, Lannes first line at Jena that was facing Grawert's advance was deployed in open order and used every piece of cover and concealment that was available.

'In the 'Conclusions' of Bressonet's work, the author addresses the two types of tirailleurs employed by the French army and how that employment differed dramatically from the Prussians.'-page 44 of Scott Bowden's translation of Bressonet's work.

Again the use of skirmishers differed among the different armies of the period-in short, all skirmishers were not equal.

von Winterfeldt05 Aug 2019 4:38 a.m. PST

fortunately I am in line with such people who know their stuff like McLaddie, in case people like to learn more just look in the archives, I won't waste my time to engage in fruitless tit for tats and move on.

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP05 Aug 2019 8:21 a.m. PST

Brechtel198:

I never suggested that all skirmishers were equal, you wrote:

The Prussians used specialized light infantry units, and while the French also had their light infantry regiments, French line infantry were also more than capable of fighting in open order/as tirailleurs. The Prussian line infantry was not.

I was pointing out that a great many Prussian and Saxon line troops [beyond the Schutzen] did skirmish and that the Prussian skirmishers had some successes on the battlefield. Whether they 'did it the same' as the French or were 'just as good' were not the issues raised by your comment.

On page 44 Bressonet describes in detail the French methods of skirmishing…He does not describe the Prussian and Saxon methods at all.

In his conclusion, he writes p.333

One the Prussian side, some battalions were covered by Tirailleurs, but others did not make use of them. Was there , at theat time, a difference in doctrine? Had the Tirailleurs disappeared from the Prussian Army, where they had been used at the end of the previous century> It is not thus, and we are going to explain how this question of Tirailleurs was seen by both armies.
[This annoyed me about Bowden's translation. All skirmishers, regardless of type or origin were called Tirailleurs. which masked what was going on.]

After several cogent pages on the subject of French compared to Prussian skirmishing Bressonet concludes on page 337:

The basic tactic used by the Prussians was therefore good enough to measure up to the French. As we have said in the beginning there must not have been considerable differences between the two elementary tactics for the two armies to be almost at equilibrium.

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP05 Aug 2019 9:14 a.m. PST

The bottom line is not merely the use of skirmishers, but how they were employed by both sides. And that is the difference as has been mentioned.

How many times did the Prussians employ entire battalions in skirmish or open order or deploy a front line in skirmish open order.

The answer is 'none.'

Not so for the French.

The French first experimented with large numbers of skirmishers in conjuction with troops in open order in the Normandy maneuvers in the mid-1770s. The Prussians never did this at all.

Employing skirmishers in front of a battalion is one thing-employing whole battalions as skirmishers is quite another.

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP05 Aug 2019 12:05 p.m. PST

How many times did the Prussians employ entire battalions in skirmish or open order or deploy a front line in skirmish open order.

The answer is 'none.'The bottom line is not merely the use of skirmishers, but how they were employed by both sides.

That is fine for your bottom line, but That isn't the comment you made previously. THAT is the one I was responding to, and that was the only bottom line I was addressing. However, 'None' is NOT the answer Bressonet comes to, regardless.

Employing skirmishers in front of a battalion is one thing-employing whole battalions as skirmishers is quite another.

Yes it is. And Stanitz deploying 1/3 of his three [probably four] battalions as skirmishers [the third line] is quite another. Kinda equals out to a @battalion, don't it? But it is different.

Deploying 'large numbers' of skirmishers was always the issue throughout the wars--how many to deploy?

Wu Tian06 Aug 2019 1:55 a.m. PST

@McLaddie
Some very interesting posts. Besides, I believe you might be annoyed by Bressonel too.

Du côté des Prussiens, certains bataillons se couvrent de tirailleurs, d'autres n'en font point usage.

Existait-il à ce sujet, en 1806, une différence de doctrine? Les tirailleurs avaient ils en partie disparu de l'armée prussienne, où ils étaient en usage à la fin du siècle précédent? Il n'en est rien, et nous allons indiquer comment était entendue cette question des tirailleurs dans les deux armées.


Études tactiques sur la campagne de 1806, p. 369.

link

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP06 Aug 2019 3:17 a.m. PST

you won't find this in Elting though, who completely fails in describing French and Prussian tactics.

All this statement illustrates, besides innate pro-Prussian bias, is general ignorance of the period, particularly of the Grande Armee.

Further, there is a repeated failure to source the more prejudicial postings and that clearly illustrates that perspective.

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP06 Aug 2019 4:26 a.m. PST

And Stanitz deploying 1/3 of his three [probably four] battalions as skirmishers [the third line] is quite another. Kinda equals out to a @battalion, don't it? But it is different.

But it isn't a battalion. It's parts of three or four battalions who may or may not have worked together before-probably had not.

That means that they weren't a cohesive unit as the French battalions deployed as skirmishers were, with a single commander for each battalion.

And that is a major difference between the Prussian Army and the Grande Armee.

Mike the Analyst06 Aug 2019 6:24 a.m. PST

British practice was to combine the light companies of a brigade into a de-facto unit giving it greater effectiveness and cohesion.

Stoppage06 Aug 2019 6:26 a.m. PST

Are there any good examples of a French infantry brigade being covered by a legere battalion 'en grande bande' engaging a Prussian/Austrian/Russian infantry brigade being covered by individual battalions' skirmishing elements?

Can conclusions be drawn from these examples?

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP06 Aug 2019 6:31 a.m. PST

British practice was to combine the light companies of a brigade into a de-facto unit giving it greater effectiveness and cohesion.

And that's the point-it was standard practice and they were trained to do it by whatever means.

The French developed standard practice with their employment of skirmishers.

The Prussians of 1806 did not.

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP06 Aug 2019 6:34 a.m. PST

Are there any good examples of a French infantry brigade being covered by a legere battalion 'en grande bande' engaging a Prussian/Austrian/Russian infantry brigade being covered by individual battalions' skirmishing elements?

When the French deployed battalions and regiments as skirmishers in open order, those units would become a principal maneuver element and probably would not be employed covering a brigade in formation. The brigades voltigeur companies would be used to do that.

I'm not saying it couldn't or wouldn't be done as usual with tactics it depended on the situation, but usually battalions deployed in open order would be part of a first line defensively or used to maneuver against an objective or to fight in difficult terrain, which as a forest.

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP06 Aug 2019 8:09 a.m. PST

But it isn't a battalion. It's parts of three or four battalions who may or may not have worked together before-probably had not.

That means that they weren't a cohesive unit as the French battalions deployed as skirmishers were, with a single commander for each battalion.

Brechtel:

Does it? How do you know how 'cohesive' the force was? And Prussian practice was to have a single commander for the 'battalion-sized' force of skirmishers.

Regardless of how 'cohesive' the force was, they did chase the French skirmishers out of the surrounding woods.

You are so intent on establishing the differences between the French and Prussians that you consistently misrepresent the Prussians. [Innate pro-French bias as opposed to an innate pro-Prussian bias]

The French developed standard practice with their employment of skirmishers. The Prussians of 1806 did not.

Kevin: You don't seem to know that much about the Prussians and their 'standard practices', certainly less than the French practices. The Prussians did indeed have standard practices, in place longer than 1804 which is when the French established their voltigeur companies. Before then, there wasn't a standard set of methods other than their specialist Leger regiments.

How about we simply delineate the skirmish practices of the two armies rather than continue with these faux difference attempts. That is what Bressonet did.

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP06 Aug 2019 6:07 p.m. PST

The following four books are useful when attempting to study the Prussian army of 1806:

-Yorck and the Era of Prussian Reform, 1807-1815 by Peter Paret.

-Prussian Military Reforms 1786-1813 by William Shananhan.

-The Enlightened Soldier: Scharnhorst and the Militarische Gesellschaft in Berlin, 1801-1805 by Charles White.

-The Politics of the Prussian Army by Gordon Craig.

All four emphasize the fact that the Prussian Army that took the field against the Grande Armee in 1806 was essentially Frederick the Great's army. There had been some reform done, guided by Scharnhorst, but those reforms were too little, too late.

The first three volumes emphasize the fact that the Prussian light infantry arm was insufficient to fight the French on their terms. In short, Prussian tactical methods, especially in light infantry fell below the standard set by the French since 1792.

Paret makes the case that while the Prussians did increase their light infantry arm prior to 1806, it was noted by General von Hopfner that ‘the fusiliers trained for duty in the field much like the heavy infantry; in one case as in the other, hilly terrain was avoided as far as possible' and that ‘the riflemen lacked any training in extended order.' Further, General von Witzleben noted that ‘the tirailleur system was little known in our army.'

Paret also notes that the skirmisher was ‘practically ignored' in the French Reglement of 1791. And while skirmishers are mentioned in the French Reglement of 1778 and the Provisional Reglement of 1792, the French attitude towards skirmishers and fighting in open or extended order was considered ‘natural' and didn't need detailed regulations.

The conclusion to the French approach to tirailleurs' employment was that they gave their skirmishers a ‘minimum of instruction' and the Prussian approach to the problem was to regulate the ‘movement' of skirmishers ‘schematically.' And in the employment of light troops, the Prussians concentrated their use on the ‘little war' while the French preferred to integrate light troops on the battlefield with line troops and concentrate on the larger scale actions to win. French General Duhesme's remark that the French had only light infantry by the end of 1793 rings true.

Shanahan remarks that ‘…the Prussian light infantry was not numerous enough to meet the army's requirements, and like other units, had perfected individual training at the expense of cooperation.' However, he also states that the Prussian light infantry were among the best trained infantrymen in the army.

However, the fusilier battalions were only created the year after Frederick the Great's death in 1787. But this was still far short of what the army actually required as light infantry.

White concentrates on Scharnhorst's contributions to the army and the training, organization, and employment of light infantry forms an important contribution from Scharnhorst. He had to fight against an ingrained prejudice of the use of light infantry in extended or open order as the greater part of the Prussian officer corps believed that ‘skirmishing was politically suspect and militarily unnecessary.

Lieutenant Alexander Christian von Beulwitz wrote a detailed study, ‘On Light Infantry' and he recommended that the number of fusilier battalions be increased. However, he also believed that ‘a line battalion is not suited for dispersed action' and light infantry should never be integrated with line infantry.

Scharnhorst also admired the combined arms concept of the French, which emphasized infantry/artillery cooperation on the battlefield. He would witness that himself at Auerstadt in 1806. Scharnhorst disagreed vehemently with the belief of allied officers who stated that the jager and fusilier units ‘had always done the work of the French tirailleurs.' He urged that reforms be at least attempted and some Prussian units ‘adopted' French tactical methods, but they were not adopted by the army as a whole, especially the French use of light infantry which proved to be superior in 1806.

It should be noted that all four historians listed above used German/Prussian primary source material in their work and all of them came to the same basic conclusion on the Prussian army of 1806, and the three mentioned in the text above came to the same conclusions on the Prussian use of light infantry in 1806, especially White and Paret.

MiniPigs06 Aug 2019 7:05 p.m. PST

Were there any troops in the French army that were more likely to be used for skirmishing such as the Etrangere regiments?

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