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"Myth of the big Austrian battalion?" Topic

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Garde de Paris25 Oct 2020 10:31 a.m. PST

I wonder is anyone can confirm that – as in the Age of Reason wargame rules – we should build Prussian battalions of 12 figures, but Austrian battalions a 18?

This was our habit back in the last century, but Dorn/Engelmann data, and Osprey about the Austrians, suggest tha their battalions should be the same – 12. These battalions actually fought in "blocks" of 4, with the Prussian 5-company battalion mixing into 4 units. 5 colours formed in the center of the battalion for battle, and on company commander was a "spare."

In the 7YW, the Austrians went to war with (primarily) battalions of 6 companys, but formed for actual battle in 4 "blocks."

The only difference I can find for wargaming is that the Austrians had about half the number of sergeants as the Prussians. I used to paint 48-figure Old Glory 15 battalions with 2 sergeants for the Austrians, and 4 for the Prussians.


von Schwartz25 Oct 2020 11:07 a.m. PST

Actually 16 figures is more accurate.
According to Kronoskaf, those numbers are about right. I crunched the numbers up and down and back and forth and, not taking into account attrition, 12 figs per Prussian and 16 figs per Austrian are about as close as we can get assuming 1 fig = 50 soldiers.
I have not used many different sets of rules for SYW and Napoleonic periods but those that I have used seemed to concur that the Austrians had, at least on paper, larger battalions.
BTW, while we're on the subject, as regarding Grenz units. Using Kronoskaf once again for the SYW, they give the usual organization of 6 – 100 man companies with 2 companies of Grenadiers and 2 companies of sharpshooters. However when you get to the Napoleonic period there is no mention of the Grenadiers or sharpshooters, what happened to them?

Augustus25 Oct 2020 11:43 a.m. PST

I have my doubts anything approaching true organization was reflected off of paper. On paper, sure. In reality…I wonder if mobs were milling about trying not to be blown away by artillery while preserving as much of their expensive uniforms as possible.

advocate25 Oct 2020 1:17 p.m. PST

A bit pessimistic I'd have thought, Augustus. Though I might agree that the last army to descend to that state in a battle would be the winner. As for preserving their uniforms: 3 months of campaigning would tend to do more damage than a day of battle ;) (assuming the soldier himself survives).

advocate25 Oct 2020 1:19 p.m. PST

As to the OP. You'd have to study the strength of the units of campaign, but all things being equal, a unit is going to reduce at the same rate whether larger or smaller, so a big battalion will remain relatively large throughout the year.

rmaker25 Oct 2020 1:19 p.m. PST

the Austrians went to war with (primarily) battalions of 6 companys, but formed for actual battle in 4 "blocks."

What's happening here is the dichotomy between administrative and tactical organizations. Regiments and companies are administrative, brigades, battalions, and platoons are tactical.

Garde de Paris25 Oct 2020 1:36 p.m. PST

As I look at Kronoskaf, I see an Austrian battalion as having 2408 men. Divide by 18 companies gets 133 per company, then multiply by 6 for a line battalion, gets 802.

Kronoskaf says Prussians has 1832 men, in 12 companies of 152 each. A five-company battalion would be 763 men.

802 is only 5% larger than 763.

My 48 figure Prussian battalion would have had 1 figure represesnting 15.9 men. My Austrian battalion of 48 would have been one figure for 16.7 men. That is not really one full man different!

Prussians seemed to rebuild faster, usually fighting on interior lines, backing into fortresses and the like.

18 figures for Austrians vs 12 for Prussian means an Austrian battalion is 50% larger! Not born out by Krnoskaf numbers?


Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP25 Oct 2020 4:02 p.m. PST

However when you get to the Napoleonic period there is no mention of the Grenadiers or sharpshooters, what happened to them?

von Schwartz: I have seen references to them through 1809.

An example of Grenzer Actions from Vaníček's volume 4:

On the 16th of April, the Gradiskaner Grenz were in the Radetzky Brigade, which formed the vanguard of the fifth army corps. On the Isar at Landshut an honorable fight began against the Bavarians, who wanted to prevent the passage there. The Gradiskaners opened a brisk fire on the bridge. The sharfschützen from 8 Companies were stationed in the houses on the Austrian side. The afternoon passed with the General Radetzky adding two companies of sharfschützen to the Gradiskaners in the avant-garde…

Stoppage26 Oct 2020 4:11 a.m. PST
robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP26 Oct 2020 4:17 p.m. PST

I hate to say it, but even if we had the field strength of every battalion in every battle for both the Austrian and Prussian armies, unless the ratio between them was constant, we'd still basically be reduced to picking favorite battles or campaigns. Nothing wrong with that, but it means we'd frequently be off for whatever battle we were fighting.

My inclination for SYW-size big battles is to go by standard frontages or strengths so you don't get a stand for every battalion, but for every 500 men or whatever. Does it really matter if at Hochkirch one side's 30,000 infantry are formed in 50 600 man battalions and the others in 60 500 man units?

When you get down to more the Plains of Abraham or Battle of Chippewa level of horse & musket fighting, you can individually mount your figures and adjust unit sizes, but Frederick and Daun shouldn't be concerned with such things.

von Schwartz26 Oct 2020 5:06 p.m. PST

Very interesting, but I think we are getting a little too deep into the weeds here. What is wrong with 12 and 16 figure battalions, 600 vs 800? I know there is going to be attrition, but if you base them the same, i.e. all based taking attrition into account or all based per book, the attrition is really a non-issue.
Simple solution, base them all per book, it's easier to remove stands/figures than it is to add them.

AICUSV28 Oct 2020 4:16 p.m. PST

I gave up trying to figure out a balanced organization where 1 figure = so many men. I set my organization as 4 bases = a battalion. And then base other formations on frontage ratios. May not be 100% accurate but so far appears to work for most rule sets.

Ray – remember victory goes to the best dressed army

von Schwartz28 Oct 2020 4:30 p.m. PST

I've always said the best painted army wins…which explains my Win/Loss ratio.

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