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"French Nap. Dragoon Tactics" Topic


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Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP06 Sep 2019 9:07 a.m. PST

Having some idea of travel times was really important to military men.

Among many others, Scharnhorst provided what he saw as the average travel time for mounted troops in his Officers' Handbook, 1800.

p.7 of the appendix.

Horses can gallop 2500 paces in 5 minutes
At the trot, 9000 paces in 30 minutes, or 4 English miles in 45 minutes

Those are the limits of a gallop and trot he recommends.

"…it is impossible, even when roads are good, to march more than 24 English miles in 12 hours without fatiguing the horses too much…not more than 32 English miles can be calculated upon in 24 hours; all horses will not be equal to this."

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP06 Sep 2019 11:13 a.m. PST

A single well trained humans can walk long distances, but a formation of men not so much, it's often just a few hours a day that can be used for actual marching, the rest is used for food, sleep and recuperation.

And even in down time, the cavalry can move faster as they can forage faster.

French march rates were excellent. The average daily march averaged between 10 and 22 miles. They averaged about 15 a day. If a forced march was required, the speed was not increased, but the length of time of the march itself. This was called 'doubling the etape'-etape was the French military term for the days march and/or the place where the march ended for the day. French forced marches could cover between 30 and 35 miles a day.

For example the forced march of Friant's division from Vienna to Austerlitz in December 1805 covered 70 miles in 36 hours without a halt. Another famous march was from Bautzen to Dresden in 1813 where the Guard marched 90 miles in three days, Marmont's and Victor's corps covering 120 miles in four days. The infantry marched in 'closed masses' on either side of the good road while the artillery used the road.

Massena's troops fought at Verona on 13 January 1797 then made a night march to reach Rivoli and a major battle the next day. They countermarched towards Mantua that night, marched all of 15 January to fight a battle outside of Mantua on the 16th. They marched 53 miles, fought three separate battles in four days.

Good infantry could actually march light cavalry into the ground over rough terrain and broken country, so the horse was not always an advantage.

Horse, as magnificent animals as their are, have to be well-cared for or they will break down or sicken and die. They can carry heavy loads across long distances at an average speed of 3-6 miles an hour. Horsemastership and good vets are as important, if not more so in a mounted unit (cavalry and artillery) than in an infantry outfit.

De Brack advised it was best to start and stop early in order to avoid the heat of the day.

4th Cuirassier06 Sep 2019 1:20 p.m. PST

The average daily march averaged between 10 and 22 miles. They averaged about 15 a day. If a forced march was required, the speed was not increased, but the length of time of the march itself. This was called 'doubling the etape'-etape was the French military term for the days march and/or the place where the march ended for the day. French forced marches could cover between 30 and 35 miles a day.

How do those who fight campaigns as opposed to one-off battles handle this?

I grew up on the Quarrie rules' guidelines of French = 16 miles a day, British = 14 miles, Prussians 12 miles etc. This creates the rather farcical situation that only the French can retreat from a battle, so back then we had a rule that you could march as far as you liked but you lost x% of your units for every hour beyond 8 that they marched. So you could march 30 miles if you wanted to, but you'd only have half your unit with you at the end.

Any other approaches used?

Zhmodikov06 Sep 2019 11:21 p.m. PST

Brechtel198 wrote:


I would suggest that Jomini knew next to nothing about cavalry tactics, infantry tactics, artillery, and staff operations and procedures.

I would say that Jomini didn't understand some basic principles of cavalry tactics, infantry tactics, and artillery tactics, and he is responsible for some misunderstanding of tactics among later historians (cavalry should charge at a trot only, the French infantry attacks against the British infantry failed because the French attacked in huge deep columns, etc.).

But, nevertheless, some of his attempts to explain the principles of tactics, however not correct in general, contain some interesting points, for example, his attempt to establish a general rule of the artillery employment in field battles:


Artillery of every kind used in battles must never forget that its main purpose is to strike the enemy troops, and not to reply to their batteries. However, as it is well not to leave the field free to the action of the enemy's cannons, it is useful to combat them to attract their fire: one may destine a third of the available artillery pieces for this purpose, but at least two thirds have to be directed to the cavalry and the infantry [of the enemy].

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP07 Sep 2019 8:17 a.m. PST

His comments on artillery employment demonstrate that he didn't understand French artillery doctrine and employment.

Perhaps he should have read du Teil?

Artillery can be in reserve as it certainly was, but it isn't held in reserve to conduct counterbattery fire.

Zhmodikov07 Sep 2019 10:53 p.m. PST

Brechtel198 wrote:


His comments on artillery employment demonstrate that he didn't understand French artillery doctrine and employment.
Perhaps he should have read du Teil?
Artillery can be in reserve as it certainly was, but it isn't held in reserve to conduct counterbattery fire.

Du Teil wrote his De l'usage de l'artillerie nouvelle dans la guerre de campagne in 1770-s (published in 1778), Jomini wrote his Tableau analytique des principales combinaisons de la guerre in 1810s and 1820s. Would you like to say that nothing had changed in the principles of artillery employment in 40+ years?
I don't say that Jomini's comments are correct, I say that there are interesting points in his arguments, for example, that artillery could try to attract to itself the fire of the enemy artillery by firing at this artillery.
Du Teil wrote that, in general, the artillery should fire at the enemy troops, not at the enemy artillery, and that firing at the enemy battery is a waste of ammunition in vain, but he also said that sometimes a battery should fire at the enemy artillery, either when the friendly troops were too much troubled by the enemy artillery, or when it is indispensable in order "to support or to protect the friendly troops", but he didn't go into details, such as what part of the artillery should do this, and what kind of results he expected.
Jomini tried to establish a general rule and a certain proportion, and his attempt is not correct, because this proportion depend on circumstances, but he explains what kind of results he expected from firing at the enemy artillery.

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP08 Sep 2019 5:06 a.m. PST

Du Teil's doctrinal publication was the general guidance for French artillery employment and was in use for the period. It was also one of the publications from which Napoleon was taught and he both du Teil's-as instructor and commander.

Du Teil's publication covered more than merely when and how to use counterbattery fire and what the primary targets of field artillery should be in combat.

Jomini's 'general rule' is nonsense and quite succinctly demonstrates his ignorance of French artillery procedures, employment and general practice. And the basic tenet of French artillery employment was infantry/artillery cooperation which was taught in the excellent French artillery schools and practiced in the field through experience.

The idea of artillery drawing the opponent's artillery fire is ridiculous.

And Jomini showed his ignorance because he lacked both the training and experience needed to make common sense 'recommendation' on any combat arm, especially the artillery. He believed that he did, but that was because of his arrogant and egotistical personality.

von Winterfeldt08 Sep 2019 7:14 a.m. PST

I read Du Teil, I cannot find anything Brechtel claims – of course he would postulate that artillery is firing not on guns, the bulk or artillery then were battalion guns and they did not perform counter battery fire, this was done later quite commonly as numerous battle field reports demonstrate – and here Jomini has a point – but what a way to go from cavalry tactics of Dragoons.

Zhmodikov08 Sep 2019 10:01 p.m. PST

Brechtel198,
I think we should either start a new thread or to continue this discussion in one of the previous threads on artillery tactics.
What do you think?

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP09 Sep 2019 3:00 a.m. PST

Whatever you want to do. I'll support whatever you believe we should do.

Whirlwind09 Sep 2019 11:59 p.m. PST

How do those who fight campaigns as opposed to one-off battles handle this?

I grew up on the Quarrie rules' guidelines of French = 16 miles a day, British = 14 miles, Prussians 12 miles etc. This creates the rather farcical situation that only the French can retreat from a battle, so back then we had a rule that you could march as far as you liked but you lost x% of your units for every hour beyond 8 that they marched. So you could march 30 miles if you wanted to, but you'd only have half your unit with you at the end.

Any other approaches used?

In the campaigns I have used using the Polemos rules, then any force can move up to 30 miles a day in theory but moving so far uses proportionally more PIPs / Tempo Points, so it is very rare that more than one force will manage this on any given day and it is inefficient to do so if lots of parts of the armies are moving on a given day. Armies with better commanders will on average move a bit faster, since that skill is expressed strategically in more tempo points.

A long time ago when I used the Quarrie rules, we ruled that, following Petre's comments about the Austrians (who are the slowest in the rules) that "their only rapid movements were in retreat", that all armies could use the French rates when retreating.

4th Cuirassier10 Sep 2019 1:54 a.m. PST

@ Whirlwind

I'm going to start a new thread on this.

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