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"Elite Troops - who were they?" Topic


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Mark J Wilson02 Aug 2022 5:04 a.m. PST

If we're to avoid the usual mindless assumption that certain troops were elite because we want to believe they were so we can stack our wargames army with them and that one good day [a lucky die role] does not make an elite unit, how many units can post at least 3 occasions when they defeated superior enemy forces, or held out in the face of superior forces. This is a genuine question as I'm struggling to find the contemporary evidence for anybody much.

Robert Johnson02 Aug 2022 5:51 a.m. PST

Grenadiers and heavy cavalry were big men, well drilled and trained. Riflemen/jaegers/chasseurs were recruited from the best shots from the ranks.

Self-belief and a very limited degree of autonomy were instilled into them.

They were still only human though.

Mark J Wilson02 Aug 2022 6:05 a.m. PST

@ Robert Johnson, sadly this is exactly the sort of generalised 'evidence' I can't believe. I've know plenty of big men who are frankly a bit soft when confronted by little men with chips on their shoulders; British heavy cavalry clearly weren't well drilled; based on a comment attributed to Wellington this may have extended to all British cavalry; I could go on.

Personal logo ColCampbell Supporting Member of TMP02 Aug 2022 8:34 a.m. PST

The King's German Legion cavalry, both heavy and light, proved that they were "elite" on many battlefields during the Peninsular campaigns. Wellington preferred using the KGL hussar regiments over any of the British light cavalry regiments.

Jim

Personal logo 4th Cuirassier Supporting Member of TMP02 Aug 2022 9:03 a.m. PST

French voltigeurs were selected from the shortest blokes in the unit, so I can't think of a reason to uprate anything except their skirmishing skills.

Frederick Supporting Member of TMP02 Aug 2022 9:27 a.m. PST

There were some pretty tough units – the Old Guard grenadiers spring to mind – but as noted probably a lot fewer elite troops in reality than on the gaming table – and then there were units like the 57th Ligne – Le Terrible, "qui ne recule devant rien" (Napoleon's opinion) who were a line regiment but sure performed like an elite one!

Whirlwind02 Aug 2022 12:10 p.m. PST

how many units can post at least 3 occasions when they defeated superior enemy forces, or held out in the face of superior forces.

Well, with the proviso that I don't particularly agree that it is a good method of judging it, then you are going to get the following candidates:

Lots of British and Portuguese Regiments; the 10th Hussars are going to qualify for instance (Sahagun, Morales, Sorauren).
Tons of French Regiments are going to qualify; a decent proportion of Davout's Corps in 1809 will meet those criterion for example (Tegen-Hausen, Eggmuhl, Ratisbon, Wagram), as are lots of the regiments in Spain.
There are going to be some candidates amongst the Allies in 1813 too but it would be quite a bit of work to disentangle the units. But the Pavlov Grenadiers (for instance) will qualify (Czarnowo, Eylau, Klyastitsy, Borodino).

Old Glory Sponsoring Member of TMP02 Aug 2022 3:36 p.m. PST

Were not the elite companies in a French battalion placed there based on actual merit?

Russ Dunaway

42flanker02 Aug 2022 3:50 p.m. PST

I rather like the lexically opaque term 'crack troops' to describe experienced troops with a reputation based on having performed well in the past and who could be reliably expected to perform well in the future- as opposed to 'elite' troops whose reputation depended on selection criteria and lavished resources and with high morale based on a high estimation of their own worth.

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP02 Aug 2022 6:54 p.m. PST

For me, there are troop types--light infantry, heavy cavalry or whatever--and within those, there are sometimes subtypes with higher selection standards, better pay and--one hopes--more rigorous training. Those subtypes I usually feel rate some edge on the table.

When you start naming individual regiments, you go up against the limits of historical record-keeping, circumstances and time. As was pointed out above, lots of French regiments were really good after years of training under Davout at the Boulogne Camp. What were they like in October 1813? What were the fourth battalions like when they were packed off to Spain?

I think it was Young who argued for mythical armies to avoid endless arguments about the impossibility of ever routing the Umpteenth Foot, and I think he had a point.

If you want to say of a particular historical battle that certain troops appear to have been really on their game that day and this should be reflected in game conditions, well and good. That doesn't say anything about how they'll perform five years later, packed full of raw recruits and under a new colonel.

Personal logo Dal Gavan Supporting Member of TMP02 Aug 2022 7:38 p.m. PST

Mark, today's "elites" could be tomorrow's "failures". Lots of things affect morale, performance and mission success, and while training, leadership and confidence can give troops a boost, there's no guarantees. In many ways I agree with what Robert Piepenbrink wrote in his reply.

If you're looking at historical re-fights then the battle histories should point out the units/brigades that performed particularly well or particularly badly.

For general gaming then some units carry a reputation that, while "the sort of generalised 'evidence' I can't believe", are at least a baseline to start from.

Lilian02 Aug 2022 8:41 p.m. PST

Riflemen/jaegers/chasseurs were recruited from the best shots from the ranks.

the "chasseurs" were only the basic light infantrymen equivalent to the fusiliers in the line infantry, the elite companies were the carabiniers and the voltigeurs equivalent to grenadiers and voltigeurs of the line

Mark J Wilson03 Aug 2022 4:18 a.m. PST

@ Whirlwind, well at least you've provide few names and places. The 15th Hussars appear to have done more than average at Sahagun [not the 10th], Morales appears to be a victory for weight of British numbers and I can't find any mention of significant cavalry actions at either battle of Sorauren.

As to Davout's corps, they had nearly 2:1 numerical superiority at Tegenhausen, and I cannot find anything specific to suggest action beyond normal at Eggmuhl or Ratisbon; they were there, they fought. At Wagram they took a whole day to capture one village from a force less than half their size. I'd be more inclined to give them credit for Auerstadt where they faced 2:1 odds and won.

Please don't take this personally, you've provide more detail than anyone else, but I think it reinforces my point that defining troops as elite and giving them advantages under the rules is a dubious process based at lot more on prejudice than historical data.

Mark J Wilson03 Aug 2022 4:27 a.m. PST

@Robert Piepenbrink, define 'better' training, I'd say the proof is in action on the field for which you need the combat reports. As to selection standards, some of them seem quite interesting: – size, hair colour, the ability to read and write, at least the Austrian Grenadiers had to pass a marksmanship test, which seem quite uncommon.

I met Peter Young a couple of times, he was of course an 'elite' commando. Sadly we never discussed the issue in hand.

Mark J Wilson03 Aug 2022 4:31 a.m. PST

@Frederick I've saved you until last because you named the unnameable. As far as I can see the Old Guard Grenadiers, who very very rarely fought at all, never did anything to justify their reputation. Prove me wrong by all means, but I've yet to find any actual evidence.

Oliver Schmidt03 Aug 2022 4:34 a.m. PST

You could look at lists of rewards given to certain units.

Here for example those awarded for Marengo:

link

Murvihill03 Aug 2022 5:00 a.m. PST

By your criteria, I don't think any unit will qualify. Besides, by the time a regiment has fought three death-or-glory battles all the rank and file will be replaced, meaning it is not the same regiment at all.

Garth in the Park03 Aug 2022 5:02 a.m. PST

how many units can post at least 3 occasions when they defeated superior enemy forces, or held out in the face of superior forces.

That's going to be hard to establish, if by "units" you mean things like battalions or regiments. In an era when everybody fought in the same basic ranks and files, nobody was outnumbered at the point of contact, except in some extraordinary circumstance when you were on an exposed or enveloped flank.

If by "unit" you mean something bigger, like the valiant defense of a town by a brigade, that might be easier, but once you get up to that level, you're looking at composites of mulitple units, not all of which were doing the same lifting.

There might be some occasions where you can cite units that held off repeated assaults by waves of enemy units, who outnumbered them (in total) over the course of a day.

But all of this is situational. Were the defenders of Roark's Drift an "elite" unit? (Certainly nobody thought so, half an hour before that battle began!) But to achieve what they did, in wargame terms, you'd have to roll very high!

Didn't Boney himself once say that "even the best units run away sometimes" or something to that effect?

Put well-trained troops in an excellent position, keep them fed and give them plenty of ammo, and they'll perform wonders. Put the same unit in a terrible position, make them hungry, soaking wet, and low on ammo… and they won't look so elite.

Mark J Wilson03 Aug 2022 6:43 a.m. PST

@Garth in the Park, re Rourkes Drift or maybe your rules don't give adequate advantage to being behind cover and having no route for escape.

My definition of a unit would be the one pretty much everyone uses to define their elites, the regiment. Personally I don't believe in elite troops, I think it's a mirage created by a lot of hot air and a bit of wish fulfillment, but I wanted to give those who do more research than me the opportunity to find any actual examples. To me if a unit fought well in one battle that is the equivalent of throwing good dice in one game, but a real elite unit would consistently do better than average if it existed.

Mark J Wilson03 Aug 2022 6:46 a.m. PST

@Oliver Schmidt, ah Battle Honours, I know a bit about how they're awarded, at least in the British army, having seen correspondence between the War Office and my old regiment about the ones we might have for WW2. Let's just say it doesn't fill me with confidence in the system.

enfant perdus03 Aug 2022 2:01 p.m. PST

One thing I try to consider is how they were viewed by their contemporaries, both friends and enemies. If your friends think you're a cut above and so do your enemies, chances are you're at least a little better than the average.

Michman04 Aug 2022 2:33 a.m. PST

Russian Musketeer/Infantry 12-company regiments chose their "best men", with minimum 2 years experience, to enter their Grenadier companies (2 companies under Paul or 1 man in six, initially 1 battalion of 4 companies under Alexander or 1 man in 3, later 3 companies 1 from each battalion or 1 man in 4).

Typically, each year every Musketeer/Infantry regiment would choose about 5 of their grenadiers, now with minimum 4 years service, to send to Grenadier regiments – about 30 men/year for each Grenadier regiment. After 2 years, these could be chosen for a Grenadier or Flank company in a Grenadier regiment.

Typically , each year every Grenadier regiment would choose about 9 of their (flank) grenadiers, now with minimum 8 years service, to send to Guard Heavy Infantry regiments – about 30 men/year for each Guard Heavy Infantry regiment.

Additionally, individuals could be "promoted" for specific acts of courage, etc. Rarely, there would be an appeal for "volunteers" from among the Imperial family's own serfs (living on their personal properties).

So minimum 8 years service and 4 separate rounds of selection made a typical Russian Heavy Infantry guardsman. They could be counted upon not to break, even if canonded for hours, and to launch a resolute bayonet attack after taking 50% casulaties. As to tactial precision, flexible maneuvering and marksmanship, they were still Russian Heavy Infantry, for all their selections.

The Life-Guard Jäger, by contrast, was manned by a mix of selectees from the Jäger regiments which had no Grenadier companies until 1810 and no Grenadier/Carabiner regiments until 1815 – plus – selected conscripts, typically from the Baltic and Karelia regions. This may explain why they were really no better than good Army Jäger and probably not as good as the best Army Jäger (such as the 5th and 20th Jäger regiments).

Personal logo 4th Cuirassier Supporting Member of TMP04 Aug 2022 2:57 a.m. PST

@ Garth in the Park

Didn't Boney himself once say that "even the best units run away sometimes" or something to that effect?

I thought that was Wellington, but I am sure Boney would have agreed 100%.

Robert Johnson04 Aug 2022 11:41 a.m. PST

It would appear that there is no correct opinion.

Having served in the forces you must have some insight into what makes elite units elite, so why are you asking us instead of asking 3 Para or the SAS?

Whirlwind04 Aug 2022 12:30 p.m. PST

My definition of a unit would be the one pretty much everyone uses to define their elites, the regiment. Personally I don't believe in elite troops, I think it's a mirage created by a lot of hot air and a bit of wish fulfillment, but I wanted to give those who do more research than me the opportunity to find any actual examples. To me if a unit fought well in one battle that is the equivalent of throwing good dice in one game, but a real elite unit would consistently do better than average if it existed.

I will get back to you in a few days about some of the details of regiments, but your standards are unfair: indeed, it is not clear that actual present-day UKSF would meet them. Your criterion above is 'to do consistently better than average' but actually just defeating equal numbers of troops is definitionally better than average, not the desperate assaults and heroic last stands you seem to be asking for in the specifics?

In any case, 'eliteness' in wargames rules has specific numeric calibration, even if rules don't make this explicit. You would have to judge it for every separate set of rules since the odds of defeating a single numerically equal units and defeating two units of whatever strength work differently in different games. Whatever, the numerical levels typically used imply a much lower standard for elite status than you are thinking of.

Also, you would have to be consistent: logically you would have to say that there is no such thing as poor troops either, or at least that the standard of proof would have to be equally as high (routed in 3+ 'should have won' instances'); French +1, Spanish 0 is the same in most rules as French 0, Spanish -1 (T&Cs apply depending on how the rules work – hello DBx!)

Even your own example (modern SAS) aren't that much better in terms of raw stats (it would be something like a 25% advantage in personal characteristics). Since we know that the selection criteria for Napoleonic elites and subsequent training after selection is nothing like that for modern UKSF, then we know the individual effect size would be smaller, and considerably so.

Whirlwind04 Aug 2022 12:40 p.m. PST

@ Whirlwind, well at least you've provide few names and places. The 15th Hussars appear to have done more than average at Sahagun [not the 10th], Morales appears to be a victory for weight of British numbers and I can't find any mention of significant cavalry actions at either battle of Sorauren.

Apologies, got myself in a muddle. I was thinking of the 10th at Benavente; as you say 15th at Sahagun. The numbers were equal at Morales but against 'heavier' units.

As to Davout's corps, they had nearly 2:1 numerical superiority at Tegenhausen, and I cannot find anything specific to suggest action beyond normal at Eggmuhl or Ratisbon; they were there, they fought. At Wagram they took a whole day to capture one village from a force less than half their size. I'd be more inclined to give them credit for Auerstadt where they faced 2:1 odds and won.

Apologies, I wasn't completely clear here. What I was getting at was that amongst the units of Davout's Corps there would likely be some candidates, not that the entire Corps would be called elite. So the numerical advantage at Teugen-Hausen certainly didn't apply to all units at all stages at that battle.

Please don't take this personally, you've provide more detail than anyone else, but I think it reinforces my point that defining troops as elite and giving them advantages under the rules is a dubious process based at lot more on prejudice than historical data.

Nothing taken personally :-) … it is an interesting challenge but I don't think even if I find some candidates that meet all your criteria, it would prove they were elite: it would be more likely to show a solid regiment that by chance got into some serious scrapes and happened to roll lucky more than others.

My own standard of 'elite' in terms of understanding the Napoleonic Wars, or any conflict, is much more prosaic: were the personnel rigorously selected and/or were they given specific additional and arduous training? This being different from the confidence that units got through consistent success and easy mastery of the basics through repetition. For instance, the 95th and the 60th in my view would start off as elite (from rigorous selection and training), become both elite and veteran (as they gained successful experience but did not suffer heavy losses), and then become veteran alone (since the replacement troops when losses became higher weren't selected or trained to the same high standards). The Imperial Guard has a much more complicated story but it too would show lots of similar variation.

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP04 Aug 2022 9:28 p.m. PST

Sometimes I'd define "better" training as "any" Mark. The sheer lack of musketry and close-order drill practice at some times and places in the Napoleonic Wars is heartbreaking.

But you seem to have set up a standard to "prove" there are no elite units, rather than asking how they'd be created. The level of detail you demand as proof of elite status is rarely available, few units, however brave and competent, would have had the opportunity to demonstrate it three times, and--as has been pointed out before--any unit which achieved them would likely be a different unit afterward.

Whirlwind's point about the lack of evidence for poor units is also valid.

Yet contemporary commanders clearly felt some units or unit types were superior to others. Were all the people who actually fought and won Napoleonic battles living in a sea of ignorance about them, which you will now kindly dispel?

Mark J Wilson05 Aug 2022 8:29 a.m. PST

@Robert Johnson

I do have my own ideas and it certainly doesn't accord with some of the units in the UK forces who consider themselves elite.

Mark J Wilson05 Aug 2022 8:31 a.m. PST

@ Michman

The process you describe certainly makes them Veterans and I'd expect veterans to be steadier under fire. I'm not convinced that is the same as elite.

Mark J Wilson05 Aug 2022 8:44 a.m. PST

@ Whirlwind.

A good point, if you assume that for infantry most combats degenerate into a stalemate then getting a result is better than average thus elite. This moves the goalposts but I don't think avoids the need for them. I also agree that the lack of evidence for poor troops applies.

It is precisely because elite is given a numerical advantage in most rules that I think we should be able to find evidence of that advantage in the history books.

I do however think that you and @Robert Piepenbrink have a point regarding training because as Roberts observes some Napoleonic troops had so little. Plenty however seem to me to have been trained to a fairly common standard.

Mark J Wilson05 Aug 2022 8:51 a.m. PST

@ Robert Piepenbrink
"Yet contemporary commanders clearly felt some units or unit types were superior to others. Were all the people who actually fought and won Napoleonic battles living in a sea of ignorance about them, which you will now kindly dispel?"

The answer to this is yes and no. I'm quite sure that some commanders went into action massively ignorant as to how badly their troops were going to perform. Am I going to dispel their ignorance, I can't they're dead. Am I going to dispel anyone else's ignorance, I don't know, probably not most people don't like changing their minds and besides I have no idea if I'm right. I'm just asking a question and as a scientist by training I'm trying to require a semi objective criteria of proof. I will admit that without that proof I will remain more skeptical than agnostic on the topic, but as to dispelling ignorance that depends on other people.

Personal logo 4th Cuirassier Supporting Member of TMP05 Aug 2022 11:05 a.m. PST

From a wargamey perspective, isn't veteran vs elite a distinction without a difference? They either perform better than others or they don't. Whether that's because they're guardsmen or because they're experienced is sort of incidental.

Robert Johnson05 Aug 2022 1:35 p.m. PST

From a wargamey perspective, this is an exercise in futility.

From a science perspective, I'm sure Mr Wilson is familiar with empirical evidence. Quite how empirical evidence can be applied to a somewhat abstract concept as elite soldiers is in abeyance. At least until such time as we are provided with some parameters to work within. As it stands, all we receive as feedback is the automatic rejection of any opinions posited by other posters as fallacies.

From a personal perspective, I'm beginning to suspect a bridge somewhere is missing its resident.

sidley05 Aug 2022 1:50 p.m. PST

Well there could be levels of elite. So French Old Guard we would all agree are elite. Also most agree the Young Guard were not elite despite the title. However are the Middle Guard elite? Well,probably.

In the Austrian army, the Grenadiers and especially the Hungarians, can be considered elite. Ney had a high opinion of the Hungarian Grenadiers. The 1st, 4th, 12th and 31st were considered good regiments. But does that make them elite or simply better than the rest of the army?

So when we ask ‘elite' are we saying compared to the rest of all the Napoleonic armies or ‘elite' within their own army?

Mark J Wilson06 Aug 2022 8:03 a.m. PST

@ 4th Cuirassier

I'd certainly find a distinction between elite and veteran, By implication elite are better than average. From my reading and from discussing with old comrades who fought in WW2 I think the difference between raw and veteran is that with increased experience comes increased firmness in the face of adversity [until combat fatigue sets in] but also an increased disinclination to take risks. I's express this fairly simply in rules terms by having raw troops add when winning and deduct when losing, while veterans add when losing and deduct when winning.

Mark J Wilson06 Aug 2022 8:07 a.m. PST

@ Sidley

I'm looking at this form a rules perspective so if elite exists they are going to get a bonus of some sort in at least some situations, so it is relative to their opponents as well as their friends.

My point in asking for evidence was started by a discussion concerning the Old Guard when someone other than me pointed out just how infrequently they actually fought. I'm sure they were considered elite, by all sides, but where is the empirical evidence.

Mark J Wilson06 Aug 2022 8:14 a.m. PST

@ robert johnson

I'm confused by the concept of being elite as an abstract concept. If elite troops get +1 on assorted die roles this is a concrete factor. I don't see why this is futile question. I realise it's one that challenges the conventional paradigm and as I've said above I don't know whether I'm right, in fact I'll go further; I know I'm wrong because I can never have access to all the accurate information. I just wondered if better historian than me had some information.

Murvihill06 Aug 2022 8:16 a.m. PST

Rather than trying to identify individual units that performed well, I'd give classes of units that were better trained or recruited from veterans a bonus, then let the dice decide which of the regiments within those classes were elite. Also, troops that were poorly trained would get a negative modifier.

Last Hussar06 Aug 2022 1:23 p.m. PST

It's a good question – how do we know that a unit we class as 'elite' etc in a battle actually is? Maybe they did the real life equivalent of 'rolling well'.

Personal logo Dal Gavan Supporting Member of TMP06 Aug 2022 5:30 p.m. PST

Personally I don't believe in elite troops, I think it's a mirage created by a lot of hot air and a bit of wish fulfillment,

Fair enough. I agree in so far as I doubt there is any unit that can always live up to the reputation of being an elite unit. But that takes me back to my original point- any unit can be elite, or "un-elite" (apologies for butchering the language), on any particular day.

The problem is that a scientific approach isn't likely to give a definitive answer considering the number of variables and the group dynamics at work at any particular time. A unit may have earned a very good reputation and been deemed as elite over a long period of time, only to be very "un-elite" in its next battle. So for wargames purposes things are simplified and units with reputations as elite troops- Napoleon's Old Guard, for example- are given various bonuses to reflect their reputations. The converse is true, eg Bylandt's Brigade at Waterloo. Later research can throw doubts on good and bad reputations and the "OLD GUARD Weren't So Good" types of debates constantly arise.

In the end a unit's performance in a battle is subject to so many variables that it's basically just chance, strongly influenced by training, experience, motivation, leadership, etc. So there's a range of probabilities thaty can be expected- and a chance (or more) of a result well outside the performance bell curve. Is the CO having a bad day, so his orders make no sense? Has the unit got Butterworth belly raging because a cook didn't wash his hands thoroughly after a trip to the toilet? Have they got substandard ammo'? Are the men in a bad mood and they decide to take it out on the enemy? Did the unit just receive a large reinforcement of poorly-trained and badly motivated troops? If you want a games mechanism to reflect that then you could always have either:

1. Units with reputation do a roll at their first morale check or combat roll to see if they maintain that reputation, improve on a reputation or not live up to it, or

2. You do a similar roll for each elite or poor unit at the start of the game.

Not everything is amenable to scientific practice and theorising. Ask anyone who's ever used transportable satellite communications about how often, in practice, antenna theory parts company with the immediate reality. Or better yet, how often reality and Reliability, Availability and Maintainability statistical analysis outcomes ever approach reality.

Erzherzog Johann06 Aug 2022 9:44 p.m. PST

So if 'elite' is something of a myth, what of the 57e Regt de Ligne, which not only gained a reputation, but lived up to it?

I read an article once that looked at an exchange during the ACW, which I think is relevant to the question of 'elite', in terms of both training and steadiness under fire, which seem to me the key ingredients of elite status. The article described a situation that occurred when two companies came upon each other at close range. After an extended firefight, there was a total of one casualty. The conclusion was that because people don't instinctively want to kill each other, they tended to shoot high. This could potentially be scary for the enemy and 'look busy' to the NCOs. The article also referred to a survey that asked US soldiers what they did in combat and few mentioned their weapon; they mostly referred to digging, waiting etc.

Successfully convincing your soldiers to overcome this reluctance to kill would make that unit significantly more lethal and therefore potentially elite.

Cheers,
John

Mark J Wilson07 Aug 2022 2:20 a.m. PST

@ Dal Gavan.

I agree with every word you wrote, but surely the conclusion is that with all those variables how do we so surely pick a few of the units we like and call them elite; for ever and ever Amen and give them a dice advantage.

Mark J Wilson07 Aug 2022 2:25 a.m. PST

@ E Johann

I'll look up the 57e Ligne, but on the rest I'm with you, I'm pretty sure I've read the same article and if not I've read others to the same effect; but did the sort of training given to Napoleonic soldiers as opposed to modern SF do anything to make them more lethal. Did close order drill achieve anything but an increase in mobility.

Robert Johnson07 Aug 2022 4:27 a.m. PST

I really have no idea why this concerns you so much. In a set of rules it's just another mechanism for, crudely, differentiating how troops may behave IN THE GAME.

Personally I believe that a body of men willing to stand in a line to be shot at in the open takes a different type of courage to that displayed by modern SF.

If you haven't read Grossman's 'On Killing' you should find some answers in that.

Personal logo Dal Gavan Supporting Member of TMP07 Aug 2022 5:41 a.m. PST

Mark, it comes back to what you're gaming. If you do historical battles then you can use the historical records. Troops that behaved in an exceptional manner- exceptionally well or poorly- will be mentioned, along with what they did to stand out. If you're doing scenarios then you may accept units with a big reputation, like the 57e Ligne John mentioned, or test them before or in the game to see if they live up to the reputation (or down to it, as the case may be).

In most periods and rules there will be troops with reputations, such as Guards, Highlanders or Landwehr, and rules to match the reputations. Like most aspects of the hobby it's up to you to tweak and modify the rules to fit your opinion of what is most likely/realistic/probable and test the changes out, either in a game against others- who can offer their opinions and help you clarify your ideas- or by soloing different scenarios.

If you do then I'd be interested in the results.

PS

Did close order drill achieve anything but an increase in mobility

Nobody likes drill, mainly because they don't understand the purpose. The two most widely understood (by non-military personnel) reasons are:

1. It teaches troops to respond immediately and correctly to a given order.
2. It allows the NCO's, WO's and subunit officers to judge the level of motivation and discipline of the troops.

The most important one is not as well recognised or understood, even by some junior soldiers and officers- it teaches self discipline. If, after hours on the parade ground, in high heat or pouring rain, you can still put in full effort and not drop your bundle, then when it really matters you'll still be focussed on the job to be done, not your own discomfort/wants/distractions.

Whirlwind07 Aug 2022 7:15 a.m. PST

@Mark,

How about 1/5 Foot? Its performance at Rolica, El Bodon and Salamanca would seem to meet your threshold?

von Winterfeldt07 Aug 2022 8:01 a.m. PST

In Napoleonic time drill played quite a big part – without it you wouldn't be able to load a gund or much in step, where all should have the identical stride.

I find it however quite difficult how to asses units – there all is in a flow and composition of units is changing all the time, like Frederick the Great Army in 1755 – was in most perfect order but one year of war brought a lot down.

There are elite companies, but then again – those could and had been watered down – when losses occured in substantial fashion.

Look at inspection reports, like those of Clinton and it is interesting what he had to say about the attitude and performance of some elite units.

Mark J Wilson08 Aug 2022 5:55 a.m. PST

Folks, Thanks to everyone for their comments. You've all helped me a lot.

Erzherzog Johann08 Aug 2022 5:45 p.m. PST

I think it was Lasalle I that had a category for Prussian Landwehr. The first time the battalion came into a combat situation, you diced to see which actual category they be for the rest of the game. It might, with weighting, have been a useful rule to extend to all troops :~)

Cheers,
John

StillSenneffe09 Aug 2022 4:25 a.m. PST

A very interesting discussion with some excellent points. When trying to judge the quality/status of a unit there are quite a lot of factors beyond its combat record to take into account.

One, and the Old Guard springs immediately to mind, is the combat record of the unit's officers and men- which may not be the same as their units. IIRC many of the soldiers and all of the officers who joined Old Guard regiments wore the Legion d'Honneur before they ever set foot in a Guard barracks. However many battles the Guard units themselves had fought in, the presence of so many veterans, many of them decorated, within their ranks would have given them strong combat potential.

Secondly, care over peacetime recruitment, training and leadership could make a very big difference. The Saxon heavy cavalry of 1812-13, which put in some pretty impressive performances in battle were units of this kind. They actually had relatively little prior combat experience- one unit fought in the 1806 campaign and the other in 1809. By no means combat veterans but the were very well trained and led.

There are other factors such as reputation/expectation being passed down the years. Obviously particularly strong in armies with long unbroken unit histories. But I recall that the Austrian Walloon Dragoons strove to maintain their elite reputation long after they stopped being Walloon, and their battlefield performance seemed largely to support it

Thanks again for a thought-provoking thread.

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