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"1866 Battalion or Brigade deployement: Help!" Topic

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paperbattles15 Feb 2024 12:52 p.m. PST

I focused a lot about uniforms of this period and now it's time to focus how to deploy my future papersoldiers. This period (1866) could be considered as a Hybrid.
The battalion were still fighting in close formations but with some loose array.

For example an Italian Brigade was on 2 regiment, each with 4 battalions, i.e 8 battalions per brigare; each battalion 4 companies, i.e 32 companies/brigade.

Now first question:
1) did a battalion fight in close formation on 3 ranks, arrayed in a long line, or is a different way^

2) how did a brigade/regiment advance ? and how it deployed for battle? was still a very long line or a deeper formation?

Every comment or help is welcome. Thanks

Decebalus16 Feb 2024 5:54 a.m. PST

I found this old article interesting, but it is only about french and german bataillon deployment.

PDF link

Personal logo Old Contemptible Supporting Member of TMP16 Feb 2024 1:02 p.m. PST

"They Died For Glory" explains formations. Any set of FPW rules should explain it.

Personal logo Dye4minis Supporting Member of TMP16 Feb 2024 11:47 p.m. PST

Helion has at least two books on the 1866 (7 weeks war). At least one covers a named action in great detail. My copies ate not handy at the moment but if you go to their website, they should be easy to spot!

That 1866 conflict is interesting in that the Prussians were outnumbered yet crushed the Austrians and (not so much known) the Austrians and Italians in the south.

From memory, there was lots of skirmishing before the main bodies engaged. Terrain played a major role- channelized, rolling wooded hills and several small villages helped slow advances but once defenders routed, (Austrians mostly), the mobility and the Prussian discipline became a steam roller. Interesting period! I bought figures in 10mm for it.

NapStein16 Feb 2024 11:58 p.m. PST

For those understanding German has been published a newer book highly recommended – it covers the Bohemian campaign from the point of strategic and tactical view. Just go to link

And referring to the Italians, aren't there any regulations for the infantry and the other army troops? These documents are a must for your research.

Greetings from Berlin
Markus Stein

paperbattles17 Feb 2024 3:56 a.m. PST

@NApStein thank you very much for your info. I bought it. I can't wait. It seems to be very complete and interesting and VERY useful for my German, that I like very much. I will make a report on my blog when I get it; it seems it is about also the Italian part (it is written by an Hungarian)

@Dye4minis: I checked but they focus just on the Prussian Austrian part of the conflict.

@Old Contemptible: I checked but I am afraid I will not go for it, preferring some technical book. Thanks in any way.

@Decebalus: thanks for the link. it was indeed useful to understand the pre-1869 French tactic that was the same of Austrians and Italians in 1866: a coloums/line attack, mainly on bayonet with final hit between units.

By the way I found an article written by Giovanni Cerino-Badone ( I know this author because of his very detailled articles on WSS in Piedmont), written in Italian (sorry for English speakers) under the title "L'esercito imperiale asburgico 1859-1866" where he points out the tactical details of Austrian Army from 1848 till 1866 as well as Italian and Prussian.
The article describes the Piedmontese (until 1861 hence ITalian) tactics similar to the French (they fought together in Crimea and in 1859). The Austian as well, impressed by the Frecnh in 1859, adopted in 1863 a new tactic called "Stosstaktik" adding both Armies a lot of light infantry (Bersaglieri and Jaegers)… Thanks to this article I found an interesting source "Studi Tattici sulla Battaglia di Custoza 1866" edited in 1892 in Turin, that I am going to study… so I hope on my blog to increase this part and provide you better details.

paperbattles17 Feb 2024 5:02 a.m. PST



laretenue17 Feb 2024 12:31 p.m. PST

Didn't Austrian infantry Battalions have six Companies each, and thus three Divisions?

hornblaeser18 Feb 2024 11:16 a.m. PST

What exactly are you asking? there are doctrinal and organisational differences between the piedmonte, austrian, and french armies.
Principally the austrians had a brigade structire of two echelons of three battallions each, with the front in divisional columns with skirmishers out, and the second columns in battallion columns. The french had a more loose structure, with often more loose structures as they had more skrmishers, but as far as iknow less training in skirmishing than the austrians.

paperbattles19 Feb 2024 2:37 a.m. PST

@laretenue: I thought Austrians had 3 divisions on 6 companies. Than (see my blog) I read that in 1863 the Emperor and the Minister "decided" to go for a 2 Divisions (always on 6 companies) . This is an important detail that I would love to to know if confirmed or not.

@horblaser I ma not very interested in French because I am reproducing the 1866 Terza Guerra di Indipendenza between Italians and Austrians. The Italians (former Piedmontese) had the same skirmishing as the Austrian with the Bersaglieri.
Could you tell me: did the Austrian had a 3 divisions front or a 2 division front (always on 6 companies) according to the note that the structure changed in 1863?

paperbattles20 Feb 2024 5:51 a.m. PST

so in this way?

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP20 Feb 2024 10:40 p.m. PST

The Austrians had used the division mass from the Napoleonic wars through the 1866 war. A battalion of six companies would divide into three divisions [two companies each] and operate in that fashion almost exclusively. The term of divisions within a battalion was always referring to two companies operating together. There were no battalions divided into 'two divisions.'
Those would be called wings.

All the after actions reports and memoirs I have read describe this tactical organization. Often the divisions would act independently, rather than in concert. I see this splitting of battalions into two parts described often, but it was rarely used. The division masses did operate in company-wide columns at times.

paperbattles21 Feb 2024 8:19 a.m. PST

@McLaddie: thanks for your explanations.I think the info I got (from 1863 2 divisions per battalion) has to be wrong.

With your sentence "The division masses did operate in company-wide columns at times."means that the front of a division was 1 company? so 168 men on 1 row or 2 rows? or 3 rows per company?

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP24 Feb 2024 9:22 p.m. PST

I understand that it was three rows for a company. The Division Masses would be company wide or half company. So @ 56 files or 28 files. That seems to have been the way they maneuvered and attacked. A small frontage of 50 or fewer yards. As I said, the Division Mass was detailed in the reforms of Archduke Charles 1809 reforms and where consistently used through the 1866 war. Their Shock Tactics only dictated how the Division Mass was to be used, rather than changing the common formations. I looked at your diagrams and don't see six company battalions. Is that what you are showing? The six companies operated as three division masses of two companies each. Even in a Battalion column, that would be the organization. Most battles saw the Austrians going into combat with Division Mass columns.

Some sources say it was the Battalion Mass that was used. It wasn't. It was an awkward formation of waiting, not one used for combat. I have seen too many histories that consistently describe the Austrians battalions operating in wings or half-battalions, which they rarely ever did. Even Wawro in his book on the 1866 war has the Austrians operating in half-battalions. How he or anyone could come to that conclusion if they read even one Austrian 1866 AAR or memoir, I don't know.

Ian Dury25 Feb 2024 12:32 p.m. PST

I have Theodor Fontane's, ‘The German War of 1866' – a near contemporary (1870) and highly detailed account by a highly respected war correspondent and author and in my opinion the best book on the war. Fontane interviewed many Austrian officers for the book, and he definitely states that a ‘Division Mass' was two companies, not a half battalion. Overstated Ernst Heidrich in his slightly later (1902) detailed monograph ‘The Battle for the Swiepwald' says the same.
Hope that helps!

Ian Dury25 Feb 2024 2:36 p.m. PST

Isn't autocorrect wonderful – ‘Overstated Ernst Heidrich' should of course read ‘OBERST Ernst Heidrich'…….

paperbattles26 Feb 2024 2:44 a.m. PST

@McLaddie: thanks a lot for your help. I will prepare, accoding to your suggestions a new diagram following the ideas you told me. Just out of clearness: if a division was on 2 companies, one company was after the other, in a total 6 rows formation (56 men wide). correct?

@Ian Dury. Thanksa lot for confirmig the "Division mass" on 2 companies (one after the other)

PS: any idea how the Italian battalions fought in 1866? Sad to say, I found here in Italy a lot of reports of that war but with few details on tactical issues. The only source I found is that Italians fought like French (in 1859) i.e. according to the "Furia Francese" while Bersaglieri formed a "chain line" splitting in 4 (quadriglie) men units dotted on the battleground…

Stalkey and Co26 Feb 2024 9:36 a.m. PST

I would invest in Bruce Weigle's rules, "1866".

All his rules have loads of tactical notes and tons of bibliographical data – if you are interested in the period, these are must buys even if you don't want to use his rules.

paperbattles26 Feb 2024 11:01 a.m. PST

@Stakley. Thanks a lot. With some difficulties I was able to find a copy of the rules and I bought them. I will make a report on them on my blog and using them as well . Thanks again

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP28 Feb 2024 7:57 a.m. PST

McLaddie: thanks a lot for your help. I will prepare, accoding to your suggestions a new diagram following the ideas you told me. Just out of clearness: if a division was on 2 companies, one company was after the other, in a total 6 rows formation (56 men wide). correct?

That seems to be the case. Bruce Weigle's 1866 rules are excellent. Great resource.

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP29 Feb 2024 11:40 p.m. PST


Here is what Bruce W. writes in his 1866 rules. He does a better job at explaining than I did:

What changed was the emphasis on the mass formations (often confusing called "columns" in English language sources) in the assault, and the near-extinction of the line except in purely defensive fights. Two company masses abreast, each of of four double ranks, formed the Division mass (about 25m wide by 22m deep), while three Divisions made a battalion mass--formed as six double ranks (about 50m wide by 40m deep). The division mass was the normal fighting formation.

While the dimensions of the Division mass did not change, the interval between the Divisions could vary when the battalion was deployed in line (a Divisions-Massen-Linie) from just a few meters when the battalion was in a closed line of Divisions, to about 50-70m in the open mass formation… The battalion mass was the usual maneuver unit, but there was also a battalion column, used for marching cross-country. This formation would either spread out into Division-Mass-Linie or compress into a battalion mas when the regiment assumed its battle formation, backing up the lead Division masses. P.97

The translated Austrian AARs and memoires I read from the battles of Nachod, Skalitz, and Trautenau all had the Division masses operating in the open formation, each seeming to operate separately from the descriptions, but probably just the narratives being Division mass-centric.

paperbattles01 Mar 2024 6:30 a.m. PST

@Mc Laddie, thanks a lot for your help;

Two company masses abreast, each of of four double ranks, formed the Division mass (about 25m wide by 22m deep)

so this is the division mass?

, while three Divisions made a battalion mass--formed as six double ranks (about 50m wide by 40m deep).and this the battalion mass?

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP01 Mar 2024 11:39 a.m. PST

Looks right to me. However, the battalion masse would have the division masses one behind the other. What you have in the lower illustration is closed division masses in line.

paperbattles02 Mar 2024 7:20 a.m. PST

"the battalion masse would have the division masses one behind the other"

in this way?

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP04 Mar 2024 9:55 p.m. PST

Hi. From what I know, that is one iteration of the Battalion Mass. When Bruce mentions the battalion column, that is a Battalion mass with one company behind the other with a one company front.

Sparta03 Apr 2024 6:04 a.m. PST

It is quite interesting that there is not that much of a difference between the Austrian division mass and the prussian company column. Differences in these formations agree often used to explain the tactical outcome. It would seem that the use of skirmishers rather than the close order formations used were the main difference?

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