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"What are the Problems with huge Divisions?" Topic

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dogtail21 Sep 2022 6:20 a.m. PST

A Russian Division of 1805 has 18 bataillons, heavy and light Cavalry and an enormous amount of artillery. That is twice the size of a french division or a late prussian brigade. What are the problems that result from this size, are the regiments no equivalents of Brigades? And is heavy cavalry better placed in separate divisions?

advocate21 Sep 2022 7:27 a.m. PST

It sounds more like a corps than a division. Disadvantages would be reduced if it had experience of operating as a unit, with sub-commanders (albeit informal) who had worked together. Without such experience command is going to be very clumsily and liable to miscommunication.
If operating independently, it has all the tools required; in a larger force, everything is in penny packets and if combined, cavalry elements would be unused to working together.

14Bore21 Sep 2022 7:31 a.m. PST

Divisions in 1805 were more advanced hoc groups, 1812 gets more even, see my Borodino army in gallery

Prince Rupert of the Rhine21 Sep 2022 7:48 a.m. PST

Sounds like a Wargamer's dream (well 18 Bns of infatry is a bit much). Let's face it most of us like to have all the good stuff in one army so if I can find something that is a historical formation that lets me have have some heavy cav, light cav, artillery and infantry all mixed together that would be great.

I don't really want to have to paint a whole division of infantry, a whole division of heavy cavalry, a whole division of light cavalry and so on to have a historical formations. Really I want to paint 12 hussars, 12 Dragoons, 48 line infantry, 12 grenadiers and 2 cannon but stupid historical generals didn't use armies like these 😁

79thPA Supporting Member of TMP21 Sep 2022 8:19 a.m. PST

I don't think Russia had standing divisions in 1805.

A division of that size was probably unwieldy and difficult to move in concert.

MajorB21 Sep 2022 8:58 a.m. PST

PRoftheR: I don't understand your problem. My British Napoleonic army consists of
66 infantry battalions
4 rifle battalions
10 Portuguese cacadores battalions
10 heavy cavalry regiments
9 light cavalry regiments
12 artillery batteries

dogtail21 Sep 2022 9:27 a.m. PST

I like to paint French troops. As I want to field the Guard, I need an opponent that won´t crumple too fast. A division of 18 bataillons and 4 cavalry regiments would give this major formation the first moral test only after loosing 8 bataillons or Regiments.
As I like to use the composition of divisions as a tool for fog of war, I very much like the complexity of a russian divion.
As orders are not necessary within a division in my rule set (March Attack from Crusader publ.), I consider a house rule for the russian division.

I paint 6mm, so there is no problem. And I paint and game with French and Allies, my opponent plays Bavarians, we can mix everything up.

Allan F Mountford21 Sep 2022 11:09 a.m. PST

If you are refighting an historical action then use the actual OOB. If your rules cannot cope with the numbers you might question why you are using that particular ruleset.
French infantry regiments post-armistice in 1813 often had four battalions each, two regiments to a brigade and two brigades to a Division. 16 battalions plus three artillery batteries.
Nothing unusual about the numbers.

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP21 Sep 2022 11:13 a.m. PST

A Russian "division" of 1805 resembles an 1812 one only in name: it's not a permanent unit. It hasn't worked or trained together, and it has no staff. Think of every command difficulty you can imagine--then add a couple for good measure.

My guess on heavy cavalry--as a military historian and OOB analyst, not as a miniature wargamer--was that there was a huge advantage in mass. Notice how as the Napoleonic Wars go on you keep finding the heaviest cavalry concentrated at army level, and only light horse or sometimes dragoons in the infantry corps.

This is frustrating to miniature wargamers because many of us like to command infantry battalions and cavalry regiments, but also want to fight the great historic battles and have all the troop types and uniforms on the table at once. It would seem as though the best answer is troops in two scales, or at least two sets of rules using the same basing but very different levels of representation. So far, nothing like that seems to have really taken off. I suspect the elite companies in so many Napoleonic infantry units are part of the problem.

Glenn Pearce21 Sep 2022 11:27 a.m. PST

Hello dogtail!

The Russians used "columns" in 1805, so an ad hoc sort of system. Which lets you organize them anyway you want to.

However, at Austerlitz the columns consisted of one or two Divisions which in turn contained two to three brigades each. Each brigade contained two to four infantry regiments. Although a regiment was three battalions they often only fielded two. The cavalry and Russian Guard was placed in reserve. So a different organization. If you wanted to your Division could be as low as two brigades, two regiments, for 8 battalions or more if you wanted. Cavalry and artillery with separate commanders.

I also game in 6mm for over 40 years and presently only use "Ruse de Guerre" that I wrote for Baccus in their Polemos system. Although useable for other scales and basing systems they were specifically designed to maximize the advantages of 6mm. The game is based on cohesion so there is no moral tests instead cohesion tests. No requirement for formation changes as that is handled at a level below that of the players. No casualty counting and a very simple order and control system that actually puts a lot of players under the gun to make hard and fast decisions. If any of this interests you, you can obtain a PDF from the Wargame Vault for about $11 USD US. I'm also here to answer any questions you might have. The rules cover the wars in North America from 1754 to 1815, but we also use them for European Napoleonic's seamlessly.

Best regards,


Michman21 Sep 2022 12:14 p.m. PST

The Russians did not have semi-permanent "divisions" in 1805 as much as tactical "columns". Some examples from Austerlitz ….

1st Column
23 infantry battalions (12 musketeer, 9 grenadier, 2 jäger)
42 pieces of light artillery
3 Cossack hundreds
1 pioneer company

2nd Column
17 infantry battalions (8 musketeer, 7 grenadier, 2 jäger)
30 pieces of light artillery
2 dragoon squadrons & 1 Cossack hundred
1 pioneer company

3rd Column
18 infantry battalions (10 musketeer, 5 grenadier, 3 jäger)
30 pieces of light artillery
1 pioneer company

A column might be divided into an advanced guard (jäger, cavalry, pioneers), a main body and a reserve (these both composed of heavy infantry and artillery). The main body and reserve would be further divided into brigades (1 brigade = 2 to 3 regiments = 6 to 9 battalions).

The 4th Column, however, was composed of an Austro-Russian advanced guard, an Austrian "division", and a Russian "division" composed of 10 infantry battalions (5 musketeer, 5 grenadier) and 20 pieces of light artillery.

Eumelus Supporting Member of TMP21 Sep 2022 12:30 p.m. PST

According to the Osprey book on the Russian infantry, the switch from "Inspections" to "Divisions" occurred in 1806. The theoretical establishment was three infantry brigades of two regiments each (one brigade of jagers, two of musketeers and/or grenadiers), ten squadrons of heavy cavalry (i.e. two regiments of cuirassiers or dragoons), ten squadrons of light cavalry (one regiment of hussars or uhlans), and artillery.

According to most accounts of Eylau and Friedland that I've read, the cavalry of the divisions was detached and formed into army left and right "wings", so in practice these divisions may not have been as cumbersome as they seem at first. The six-regiment division remained the standard at least through 1812, though the regiments went to war with only two battalions each (while the second battalions filled up with recruits and followed on later).

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP21 Sep 2022 3:47 p.m. PST

My apologies. I'd simply forgotten they were still called columns in the Russian army in 1805, and that they'd renamed the inspections divisions the next year. I do know better. Mostly.

The gist of my comment, I'll stand by: nothing the Russians were using above brigade level in 1805 had the permanence or the staffing to be remotely equivalent to a French division or corps. By 1812, that had changed.

BTCTerrainman Supporting Member of TMP21 Sep 2022 5:36 p.m. PST

Along the line of what Eumelus posted, the 1806/1807 artillery complement usually included 6 guns for each regiment (either used as regimental artillery or battalion guns depending on the commander). So a light battery listed on the OOB handled 2 units and were dispersed as so. The divisional artillery assets usually included one or two 12lb batteries and usually a horse battery.

Michman21 Sep 2022 8:40 p.m. PST

To try to summarize for the Russians ….

Catherine's reign
--- Recruiting unit by unit
--- Casernes by ~12 terriitorial, variously sized "divisions" of infantry & cavalry, with light artillery assigned to the infantry (2 pieces per battalion)
--- Mobilization unit by unit
--- Increasing use of heavy field artillery in companies controlled by higher commands
--- Tactical formations in wings, columns, lines/bodies – increasingly with cavalry separated from infantry

1797 to 1806
--- Recruiting unit by unit
--- Casernes by ~14 terriitorial, variously sized "inspections" of infantry & cavalry, with light artillery (2 pieces per battalion) grouped in artillery companies, but still usually assigned to infantry units
--- Mobilization unit by unit
--- Heavy artillery in companies controlled by higher commands
--- Tactical formations in wings, columns, lines/bodies – cavalry generally separated from infantry

1806 to 1809
--- Recruiting unit by unit (to 1808)
--- Casernes by ~20 numbered, variously sized "divisions" of infantry & cavalry & light and heavy artillery companies
--- Mobilization by division
--- Heavy artillery in large batteries controlled by higher commands, light artillery usually with infantry units
--- Tactical formations in wings,columns, lines/bodies generally built with divisions – cavalry separated from infantry

1809 to 1817
--- Recruiting through divisional depots (from 1808)
--- Casernes by ~25 numbered, standard sized "divisions" and several "corps" of infantry & light and heavy artillery companies – with separate cavalry divisions and corps – with separate reserve artillery brigades
--- Mobilization by corps
--- Heavy artillery in large batteries controlled by higher commands, light artillery usually with infantry units
--- Tactical formations usually by corps and divisions

witteridderludo21 Sep 2022 10:54 p.m. PST

Russian division went in the field with only 12 battalions, only the 1st and 3rd battalions marched while the 2nd was the depot.
At one point in the 1812 campaign iirc the depot battalions were gathered in their own separate division(s)
They had no cavalry at infantry division level.

14Bore22 Sep 2022 2:03 a.m. PST

Prior to Borodino, each corp had a cavalry Regiment. What went where I have the list of and sometimes put my oob that way. Borodino they pulled them out

Personal logo 4th Cuirassier Supporting Member of TMP22 Sep 2022 3:00 a.m. PST

@ MajorB

Lot of cavalry there for a British army? At 500ish men per battalion you've got 33,000 infantry, plus 8,000 cavalry of which 55% heavy which is 20%. Did a British army ever manage that much – or do you just not field them all?

Michman22 Sep 2022 4:09 a.m. PST

The "standard" Russian 1812 infantry division as fielded for the campaign was :
--- 1st brigade : 1st & 3rd battalions of 2 infantry regiments (each battalion of 1 grenadier & 3 musketeer companies)
--- 2nd brigade : 1st & 3rd battalions of 2 infantry regiments (each battalion of 1 grenadier & 3 musketeer companies)
--- 3rd brigade : 1st & 3rd battalions of 2 jäger regiments (each battalion of 1 grenadier & 3 jäger companies)
--- artillery brigade : 2 light artillery companies (total 16 6-lber guns and 8 12-lber unicorns) & 1 battery artillery company * (8 12-lber guns and 4 24-lber unicorns)
--- 2 combined grenadier battalions * (each composed of 3 grenadier companies of the 2nd battalions of the division's regiments, 2 companies from infantry and 1 company from jäger)
* usually served detached from the division

There were 25 infantry divisions (numbered 3 through 27), of which many were not "standard" in some way :
--- 8th, 10th, 16th & 22nd (serving in the Danube army), 6th & 21st (serving in Finland), 25th (serving in Saint-Petersburg), 13th (serving in the Crimea), and 19th & 20th (in the Caucasus and Georgia) infantry divisions fielded all three battalions of each regiment and did not form combined grenadier battalions
--- 23rd infantry division lacked 2 regiments, 1 infantry and 1 jäger
--- 16th infantry division left 1/2 of its force to garrison Serbia
--- 19th and 20th (Caucasus & Georgia) infantry divisions were substantially non-standard
--- 25th (Saint Petersburg) had 3 marine regiments in place of 3 infantry regiments

There were also with the 1st or 2nd Western armies :
--- 1st & 2nd grenadier divisions (organized similarly to "standard" divisions, but with 6 grenadier regiments each)
--- a guards infantry division (substantially non-standard)
--- a combined grenadier division (composed of the 12 combined grenadier battalions of 6 divisions)
--- note : the combined grenadier battalions with the 1st and 2nd Western armies were disbanded after Borodino

To round out the active infantry divisions :
--- 28th and 29th (serving in Siberia) garrison infantry divisions composed of garrison units
--- 30th through 37th replacement infantry divisions composed of 3-company battalions (the "center" companies of the 2nd battaions of the 1st & 2nd grenadier divisions and the 3rd, 4th, 5th, 7th, 9th, 11th, 12th, 14th, 15th, 17th, 18th, 23rd, 24th, 26th & 27th infantry divisions) – fielded by brigades (typically of 6 battalions), mostly to fortresses

dogtail22 Sep 2022 5:25 a.m. PST

I am hugely impressed by the wealth of information that is provided here at TMP.
Vielen, vielen Dank!

I will try out the 18 btl division without the heavy and light cavalry. I still like the idea of a russian formation that is very hard to remove from the battlefield.
And there will be a grenadier and a guard formation. My aim is to replay a kind of 1813 campaign in Germany, starting with full size formations. But it depends on the commitment of my oppenent, as always.
Thanks a lot!

MajorB22 Sep 2022 8:48 a.m. PST

Did a British army ever manage that much – or do you just not field them all?

I don't field them all, except at Vittoria in 1813, where the British had 10 heavy cavalry regiments and there were 3 Portuguese heavy cavalry regiments.

14Bore22 Sep 2022 11:15 a.m. PST

Ah, by by 1813 Russian Regiments were often down to 1 Battalion, if you go by real numbers. Again on my Borodino 1st Western Army I figured out how much down Corps were except the guard which was at full strength.

Erzherzog Johann22 Sep 2022 2:39 p.m. PST

"As orders are not necessary within a division in my rule set (March Attack from Crusader publ.)" …

I think I'd find a set of rules that had no reflection of command and control within a unit as big as "18 bataillons, heavy and light Cavalry and an enormous amount of artillery" quite problematic and I'd definitely want a house rule', if not a different rule set entirely. I would expect that a Russian division of that size would have serious problems doing much more that stand still.


dogtail22 Sep 2022 3:56 p.m. PST

@Erzherzog Johann: As a player of "March Attack" I take on the role of a Corps commander, and I don´t think you need to give orders within a division if the Division or Prussian Brigade is made up only of Infantry, Artillery (and some Landwehr cavalry).
With heavy cavalry within the Division it obviously gets a little bit more complicated, that is why I started the thread. But it makes sense to me that Cuirassiers are kind of wasted if they act only in local affairs.
My plan for using the russian troops is quite easy: "I do not intend to run around like a wet hen". I will use my artillery and counter attack. Maybe I put up some earthworks…
And of course March Attack allows you to give out orders for your brigades. It is up to the players how much detail he puts into his orders, a part of the game I really like.

Erzherzog Johann22 Sep 2022 6:50 p.m. PST

I'm not knocking your preferred rule set. Well, I confess it may have sounded like I was . . .

What I mean is that you probably need that house rule you mentioned. Coordination of multiple arms was difficult, nigh on impossible. The rules should make it so.


dogtail22 Sep 2022 8:13 p.m. PST

This is only the second time that I read about the impossibility of combined warfare/coordination of multiple arms, bravo, I wholeheartly agree.
I don´t need specific rules for every situation:
"Every player should try to have a clear idea of how and why he will use his troops, and he should consider wether the intended maneouvre could be expected to take place in reality."
I don´t want to be a 10 000 feet General. I rather prepare for the unexpected by having reserves.
"Any game can be misused, and to cover every possible occurence would need a vast increase in the size of the rules, causing the essential points to become lost in the detail." (from "Kriegsspiel")

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