Help support TMP


"1806 Prussian battalion 'Reserves' question" Topic


26 Posts

All members in good standing are free to post here. Opinions expressed here are solely those of the posters, and have not been cleared with nor are they endorsed by The Miniatures Page.

For more information, see the TMP FAQ.


Back to the Napoleonic Discussion Message Board


Areas of Interest

Napoleonic

735 hits since 19 Aug 2019
©1994-2019 Bill Armintrout
Comments or corrections?

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP19 Aug 2019 12:16 p.m. PST

Having looked in Jany and Goltz, several regulations and various other places, I have not found the answer to this:

Each Prussian infantry battalion had 40 'reserves' attached & listed outside the companies, but I can't find out what they were used for: equalizing, skirmishing, simply filling in fallen ranks, detached sections or illness? [Or all of the above]

Do any of you folks who have access to references and/or speak German know where to find the answer to this?

Ruchel19 Aug 2019 12:43 p.m. PST

According to Peter Hofschröer's book on Prussian Napoleonic Tactics, those "reserves" are called "supernumeraries". Each Musketeer battalion had 50 supernumeraries o reserves, each Fusilier and Grenadier battalion had 40 supernumeraries.

"They were used to plug any gaps in the battle line caused by casualties".

Perhaps the author has used primary sources such as 1788 Regulations and subsequent revisions and modifications (1798, 1802, 1803). These sources are mentioned in the select bibliography.

von Winterfeldt19 Aug 2019 1:10 p.m. PST

can you give a quote or just point out the page and in what work of Jany?
Did he really term them reserves? Reservisten?

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP19 Aug 2019 1:56 p.m. PST

Perhaps the author has used primary sources such as 1788 Regulations and subsequent revisions and modifications (1798, 1802, 1803). These sources are mentioned in the select bibliography.

Hofschröer's book only mentions 32 'supernumeraries' from 1788. Later it is 40 when the fifth company is added, but from what I can tell, reserves is the German word used in the later regulations and Jany… 'Reservieren' as opposed to 'Überzählig.' [don't quote me on that.] The 1788 regulations may have used the latter.

VW: Osprey books rarely have page references to sources. My guess is the 1788 regulations. Hofschröer's book doesn't give a page number.

Oliver Schmidt20 Aug 2019 1:18 a.m. PST

Überkomplette = supernumeraries

There were 10 of them per company. In the field, they would form up within the ranks, even if the number of ill, detached or deserted men did not exceed 10.

See Jany, Gefechtsausbildung, pp. 23, 26, 99 (Anhang 8)

von Winterfeldt20 Aug 2019 3:21 a.m. PST

in case of 5 company organization it would be 50 Überkomplette for a musketeer battalion in 1806, 40 for the grenadier battalion and 40 for the Füsiliere, in case all would go according to this 10 Überkomplette per company organization

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP20 Aug 2019 4:09 a.m. PST

From Prussian Military Reforms 1786-1813, page 79:

'More significant was the adoption of the suggestion made by Knesebeck and Courbiere that there should be a successive increase in the number of natives in the regiments, and that the third battalion of each regiment also be constituted so as to be able to take the field. From August 17, 1805 each company and third battalion in the East and West Prussian and Warsaw Inspections would train five men over its established strength for four years, alternating them with the other reservists during the exercise period. In four years 320 men would be gained without any foreigners among them. When war broke out these men would form the depot, that is, a regimental reserve for the replacement of casualties. They would, however, compose the third battalion if it were made mobile, and the infirm soldiers normally in that unit would be shifted to the Land Reserve Battalions. On October 24, 1805 the system was extended to the forty-two third battalions of the army, while the sixteen regiments in the east began to train ten men over the regimental Etat (complement), in addition to the ten men over the complement of each battalion. So satisfied was the king with this arrangement, that the Emergency Commission was instructed to study means of applying it in the provinces not included in the canton system.'

Prince of Essling20 Aug 2019 5:17 a.m. PST

Also see Hans – Karl Weiss post at Napoleon series Forum link

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP20 Aug 2019 9:27 a.m. PST

Rachel, Oliver, vW and Prince E. Thank you for all that.

The "Überkomplette" threw me. The English is 'almost or about complete' which didn't help much. Specific military terms, particularly 200 year old terms, don't translate well at times… and of course, the Germans love to create compound words…


Brechtel: I didn't ask about the 'reserve' system, but rather the organization within a battalion.

Note that Knesebeck and Courbiere's suggest was begun in just two inspectorates and none of the reserves created where part of the battalion organization, but rather either assigned to depots or shifted to the Land Reserve Battalions… which were more like the later landwehr.

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP20 Aug 2019 9:33 a.m. PST

You're welcome.

4th Cuirassier20 Aug 2019 9:54 a.m. PST

Überkomplette is literally "over-completes" (plural noun), rather than "almost" (fast) or "about" (ungefaehr), surely?

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP20 Aug 2019 11:09 a.m. PST

Überkomplette is literally "over-completes" (plural noun), rather than "almost" (fast) or "about" (ungefaehr), surely?

You'd think, but that isn't the definition the translators or dictionaries give… again, this is 1806, but one of many, many head-scratchers for me, at least.

von Winterfeldt20 Aug 2019 11:49 a.m. PST

sure without consulting any German sources the information about the Prussian army will remain superficial.

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP20 Aug 2019 12:46 p.m. PST

sure without consulting any German sources the information about the Prussian army will remain superficial.

Well, yeah, but I am semi-literate when it comes to German, so consulting the German sources is the challenge in finding those 'little details' among the sources.

My son speaks fluent German, but isn't up on Napoleonic German, so can help most of the time, but sometimes not.

von Winterfeldt20 Aug 2019 1:23 p.m. PST

still you put in the effort to try to consult them, what a contrast to those who solely use English sources about the Prussian army – and still maintain the illusion that they are experts on that topic, what would be the outcome just using German sources for the British army??

Gunfreak Supporting Member of TMP20 Aug 2019 2:14 p.m. PST

what would be the outcome just using German sources for the British army??

Something like this.
https://youtu.be/lS17OJZcKhU

SHaT198420 Aug 2019 4:31 p.m. PST

This thread is like that video. Off key and off target.
Did Hofschroer really write that? ABout this topic?

My understanding, as little as it is, and supported by "From August 17, 1805 each company and third battalion in the East and West Prussian and Warsaw Inspections would train five men over its established strength for four years, alternating them with the other reservists during the exercise period".

Was the Germanic conscription method of making all eligible men perform military duty and training, by attending (was it 90 days?) annually their units. This 'instruction' gave the regiments a further call above their stated number, meaning prepared at war time to enter service.

They did not loll about waiting for a spot to fill and not permanently at barracks. They were the trained 'reserve' who became full time soldiers 'for the duration' when needed (ie 1806).

I'd say it came down to the capacity of the regiments/ military system to train sufficient soldiers, but not have to bear the cost of them in peace time.

Britain had militia, the German world rotated training conscripts after the 'service till you die' requirement had ended.
FWIW, dave

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP20 Aug 2019 9:07 p.m. PST

This thread is like that video. Off key and off target.
Did Hofschroer really write that? About this topic?

SHaT1984:
The question was:

Each Prussian infantry battalion had 40 'reserves' attached & listed outside the companies

Well, first the answers weren't off target except for Brechtel's information dump. I wasn't asking about the 'reservist program' from 1805. I was asking about part of a permanent battalion compliment beginning in 1788 referred to as reserves or 'supernumeraries.' From me the German wasn't clear as to term or uses. Yes, Hofschroer did mention them on page 12 of the Osprey book on "Prussian Napoleonic Tactics." He got it from the 1788 Prussian Infantry Regulations.

And only a portion of those those depot 'reservists' and none of the "Land Reserve Battalions" saw action in 1806 from what I understand.

von Winterfeldt20 Aug 2019 11:48 p.m. PST

Exactly Oliver's answer was spot on and explained.

There is confusion about "Reservisten", Krümper, Überkomplette.

The infantry regiment had a fixed strength, addtional to that, and this has nothing to do with reserves, they took into the field Überkomplette (a long tradition starting with Frederick the Great or even earlier) – so they were there on the spot when needed, that is soldiers dropping out due to disease, fatigue, exhaustion and battle field casualties.

Additional to that "reserves" were trained, that is they did not go into the field but from that pool of trained soldiers additional battalions could be formed in the case of need, or indeed reserve regiments as could be seen in the Liberation Wars.

Well Deleted by Moderator you see what happens when you just consult sources like Elting, it will lead you in a cul de sac.

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP21 Aug 2019 4:29 a.m. PST

If you were paying attention other source material on the Prussians was consulted. The source for my answer on this thread was Shanahan.

Have you read, or do you actually have, the following:

-Prussian Military Reforms 1786-1813 by William Shanahan (published 1966).

-The Enlightened Soldier by Charles White (published 1989).

-Yorck and the Era of Prussian Reform by Peter Paret (published 1966).

-Clausewitz and the State by Peter Paret (published 1976).

-The Politics of the Prussian Army by Gordon Craig (published 1956).

All of them are excellent references and the authors did extensive research into the Prussian army, including credible German sources in German.

Charles White is an authority on Scharnhorst and has done archival research in Germany.

William Shanahan also did archival research in Germany.

The bibliographies of all five books have extensive German source material. So, if you're going to criticize them, first at least take a look at them. If not, then criticism of the authors not being 'German' is ludicrous and disingenuous.

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP21 Aug 2019 5:38 a.m. PST

Some years ago there was a complaint on one of the forums that the source material for John Elting's Swords Around A Throne was overwhelmingly French.

That was both ludicrous and ignorant as the book is an organization history of the Grande Armee. What type of source material should have been used? The author of that statement couldn't answer that simple question.

It is an apt illustration, however, as to how far inherent bias goes to criticize a book with which one doesn't agree or like. And it has continued as far as people not liking the author or the subject of a book.

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP21 Aug 2019 7:08 a.m. PST

Brechtel198:

All of those sources are 1. secondary sources, 2. thirty to sixty years old [i.e. before the internet] and 3. most importantly, do not address my question--at all.

Why you feel you need to dump all this extraneous information, repeating the same sources whenever a question on Prussia comes up, strikes me as being caught on the rails and unable to even recognize another track line.

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP21 Aug 2019 7:42 a.m. PST

All of the sources listed on this thread are secondary sources, except for the regulations, unless of course you believe Jany, for example, to be a primary source.

I brought the subject up because another poster broached the issue of sources.

The age of a source is not relevant if the material is accurate. And of you're judging sources by age alone, then Jany has to be in that category, does it not?

Perhaps you should find a good historiography class and enroll. I took an excellent one in grad school. It was very helpful when evaluating source material, primary or secondary.

If you don't agree and cannot answer except with derogatory personal comments, then don't post anything in reply to my postings.

Seems to me to be a reasonable course of action.

Stoppage21 Aug 2019 7:53 a.m. PST

Possibly not pertinent but:

As the Russians seemed to follow Prussian methods pretty closely…

I am sure that in one the Zhmodikov/Nafziger books there is mention of the over-complement being deployed as a separate section in the rear (rather like the drum battery) and then being doled out as necessary

Jcfrog Supporting Member of TMP22 Aug 2019 1:31 a.m. PST

Why the hassle? 40 men per bn, as normaly we are interested in campaigns, not parades, these woukd be very quickly replacing sick and absent guys. No big deal.

von Winterfeldt22 Aug 2019 6:56 a.m. PST

actually 50 for the musketeer battalion along with the battalion in the field, by this you could maintain regular strength longer and you would have trained soldiers on the spot – actually in my view not a bad idea.

Sorry - only verified members can post on the forums.