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"Best non Guard unit in Napoleonic Wars during 1809-14" Topic

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Rosenberg24 Nov 2022 1:20 a.m. PST

Infantry ?

Robert Johnson24 Nov 2022 3:26 a.m. PST

Silly question, and unanswerable.

It's subjective anyway, and the "best" unit in 1809 may not have been the "best" unit a year later.

I know wargamers are obsessed with quantifying things, but troll

Personal logo 4th Cuirassier Supporting Member of TMP24 Nov 2022 3:31 a.m. PST

95th Rifles

Whirlwind24 Nov 2022 5:02 a.m. PST

It is more interesting to think about the criteria for this than the actual answers, I reckon. That said, 95th Rifles are going to be hard to beat for the infantry! The artillery will be quite hard to answer to because histories haven't always been as diligent in recording which batteries/troops were involved at specific moments.

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP24 Nov 2022 5:07 a.m. PST

57th Ligne.

Tirailleurs Corses.

Nine pound round24 Nov 2022 6:50 a.m. PST

Vistula Lancers

JMcCarroll24 Nov 2022 7:19 a.m. PST

Veterans in any division Davout commanded up to 1812.

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP24 Nov 2022 7:55 a.m. PST

I think we already did this this year.

TMP link

Next year, please ask for known very good units, with supporting evidence. That's a question we could provide answers to.

Frederick Supporting Member of TMP24 Nov 2022 8:03 a.m. PST

D'accord Le Terrible – 57th Ligne

noggin2nog24 Nov 2022 8:49 a.m. PST

The South Essex Regiment, specifically the Light Company.

14Bore24 Nov 2022 8:58 a.m. PST

Lists accomplishments of a few Russian cavalry units at the bottom
Military Order Cuirassiers
St Petersburg Dragoons
Pavograd Hussars
Mariupol Hussars
Loubny Hussars
Grodny Hussars

Personal logo Silurian Supporting Member of TMP24 Nov 2022 11:39 a.m. PST

While a tough question to answer, and certainly one where different parameters need to be applied, not a silly question at all. A good starting point for discussion.
And asking it doesn't make you a troll.

As one not that knowledgable in the period I'm interested in peoples answers.

Personal logo ColCampbell Supporting Member of TMP24 Nov 2022 12:36 p.m. PST

Kudoes to noggin2nog!!


MarbotsChasseurs24 Nov 2022 12:54 p.m. PST

26e Legere under the orders of Colonel Pouget.

Au pas de Charge24 Nov 2022 1:29 p.m. PST

The Swiss Infantry in French service took a beating and always came away covered in glory.

evilgong24 Nov 2022 2:28 p.m. PST

Persian Shah's guard zamburak camel-gunners.

Personal logo Old Contemptible Supporting Member of TMP24 Nov 2022 9:56 p.m. PST

95th Rifles

pfmodel25 Nov 2022 12:05 a.m. PST

The problem with trying to assess the best formation is we can only use battle reports as our data, which can be rather random. A great unit may find itself out of the action most of the time while a lesser unit may find itself in action and experience a number of lucky breaks. Soldiers can be some of the most superstitious people on the planet as they know that random events can affect even the most skilled and prepared and save the most inexperienced and foolish.

A better way of assessing a unit is to look at its training, equipment and quality of manpower. Battle experience can count as well, but another factor associated with battle experience is it can may a unit very cautious. A veteran unit may not break under pressure and if it is given an offensive mission which it knows it can achieve, it will be done effectively. On the other hand Veterans may be unwilling to pointlessly sacrifice themselves, while a pampered guard unit with fancy equipment, high pay and less experience may be more willing.

Saying that the 95th rifle has a very good reputation, which I have to assume was due to their training and equipment. Most Grenadiers Battalions of any army tend to be rather good as well. I would suggest most Kuraissiers Squadrons would also be rather good. Napoleon did warn his troops about Prussian Kuraissiers in 1806 and I expect there was a reason for this.

Personal logo 4th Cuirassier Supporting Member of TMP25 Nov 2022 2:02 a.m. PST

The 95th was taken out of the line altogether after 1815, which suggests that it was a cut above.

Probably one of the reasons it's so hard to think of Austrian, Russian, Prussian etc line units that were outstanding is that these armies lost most of their battles against the French. This makes it tough to point to individually-effective line units, because along with the guards (if any), they were usually being pwned.

Furthermore, when these armies did win battles, they generally only did so with a numerical advantage. So it's very hard to associate victory at, say, the battle of Laon with the performance of any individual Prussian unit, and point to that as the cause. The more obvious and better explanation for the outcome was that the Prussian force was twice the size of the French.

The 95th, the Light Division, the KGL (notably the light cavalry) etc don't suffer from this to anything like the same extent, because the majority of British and Anglo-Allied victories were won against equal or superior numbers. You therefore rarely have cause to wonder if the 95th were effective only because there were so many more of them than the enemy. Usually there were fewer of them.

If we're allowed to go outside Europe, I'd give a shout out to American regular infantry, who seem to have held their own pretty consistently. I'd be tempted to suggest that this was because they didn't have any guards units pulling all the best material out of the line, but this can't be the whole story. The Austrians didn't either, and their line troops weren't especially proficient as a result (persistent yes). The British Guards recruited directly like any other foot regiment, including via drafts from the militia, yet seem to have been a cut above the other line units even though this was not because it was milking them of their best men.

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP25 Nov 2022 4:00 a.m. PST

Scott's Brigade at Chippawa.

The US Left Division at Lundy's Lane.

Hindman's US artillery battalion in the battles of the Niagara frontier in 1814. After the campaign, British officers remarked on the skill and accuracy of the American artillery, stating 'We thought you were French.'

The Left Division at the siege of Fort Erie.

Martin Rapier25 Nov 2022 4:12 a.m. PST

Who knows? And over five years in a period when far more soldiers died of disease than in battle, the same unit will be very different in 1809 to 1815.

I'm sure there were many instances of indivdual heroics, but in battles involving tens or hundreds of thousands of combatants, the performance of the odd battalion, squadron or battery is irrelevant. Whole divisions or corps, perhaps.

All Sir Garnett25 Nov 2022 4:45 a.m. PST

95th Rifles, followed by 5/60th…

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP25 Nov 2022 5:49 a.m. PST

The performance of single units I believe to be important. Not only in combat performance, but in training, unit cohesion, and leadership as well as management of the unit when not in combat.

On a larger scale, the French artillery arm suffered very heavy losses in manpower and material in Russia. By April 1813, through good management and training as well as leadership, the artillery was rebuilt and its combat performance and reputation as an arm was reestablished.

The same thing happened after Napoleon's return from Elba when Davout created the Armee du Nord out of the mess the Bourbons made of the army 'reorganization.'

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP25 Nov 2022 6:31 a.m. PST

Concur on the Swiss. Their stand at the Berezina was epic.

Personal logo Mserafin Supporting Member of TMP25 Nov 2022 11:04 a.m. PST

I think we should remember that a lot of the 95th's reputation comes from the 95th itself. Its officers offered to teach riflemen to read and write when they were in winter quarters. These literate riflemen then created a cottage industry of memoirs, so that a lot more information about their exploits was available than for other units (like the 5/60th, which had a large number of foreigners). So we think they were great largely due to availability bias, that is, we have a lot more information about them.

Not to knock the 95th, they were highly regarded outside the unit itself (particularly Wellington). But I suspect there were other units that were just as good, but not as well documented. I suspect this is particularly true for armies that spoke languages that are less commonly known in the west, like Russian.

Personal logo 4th Cuirassier Supporting Member of TMP25 Nov 2022 5:06 p.m. PST

The decision to take the Rifle regiments out of the line was not based on the proliferation of memoirs, however.

von Winterfeldt25 Nov 2022 11:32 p.m. PST

who knows all those units in different armies, by reading predominantly English or French sources, units from those nations will naturly pop up, as why 95th rifles in contrast to 5th battalion of 60th foot?
In my view the Prussian or Austrian Jger were at least on par with the rifled units in the British service, as for cavalry – the Szekler Hussars took part in the whole Napoleonic period in most campaigns, and then seemingly all those superb units of the smaller nations are ignored, in my view impossible to answer.

Rosenberg26 Nov 2022 10:12 a.m. PST

Well be subjective Mr Johnson.

Mark J Wilson27 Nov 2022 1:27 a.m. PST

I'm with Robert Johnson; silly question and the proliferation of British units just proves that the answer will be based more on patriotic sentiment than any military assessment.

von Winterfeldt27 Nov 2022 3:35 a.m. PST

He makes also a good point about the quality changes over the years, while the 9e lgre was one of the best units in the French army from 1800 1807, it was broken in the years in Spain, the whole French infantry which was one of the best in the world from 1796 to 1807 and needed artillery only as support ceased to exist in the later year where the artillery played a much more important part winning battles. Units of small numbers, like Prussian Jger could maintain their quality better by selective recruiting and training while the line units may vary during years of campaigning.

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP27 Nov 2022 5:15 a.m. PST

One aspect of the long wars is that the French were almost constantly engaged while the allies could 'take a break' to reorganize and retrain after being repeatedly defeated.

As for the artillery, the French artillery commanders, such as Senarmont and Drouot, realized the capabilities of the artillery arm and turned it into the equal on the battlefield of the infantry and cavalry as a combat arm and not merely a supporting arm. The allied armies never progressed as far with their artillery.

pbishop1227 Nov 2022 4:09 p.m. PST

Light Division. 43rd, 52nd, 95th

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