Prussian Napoleonic Tactics 1792-1815 Paperback – Oct 18 2011
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About the Author
Peter Hofschröer is a qualified historian and linguist specializing in the Napoleonic Wars. His two-volume work 1815: The Waterloo Campaign received the 1999 Napoleonic Society of America Literary Award. He is a well-known contributor to various academic and hobby magazines, is a fellow of the International Napoleonic Society and has been twice awarded the Bismarck Memorial Medal. His previous works include Campaign 25: Leipzig 1813.
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Page 36: "In fact, Prussian tactics at Jena cannot have failed completely, since the army held off twice their numbers for eight hours, inflicting around 6.500 casualties on the French for 10,000 of their own."
Page 40: The greatest mistake the Prussians made at Jena was not in using `outdated' battle-drills, but in fighting the battle in the first place; given their disadvantages of both numbers and terrain, they would have been wiser to engage in a holding action while making an orderly withdrawal."
At Auerstedt, the Prussians were defeated by inferior numbers "due to Davout's skilful tactical handling of the situation in which all he had to do was stay put in the morning fog and hold his ground, while the same fog caused the Prussian advance to fall into confusion. Finally, he profited from a lack of proper battlefield management by the Prussians, due in part to the mortal wounding of their commander-in-chief..."
The Author gives the last word to Pascal Bressonett "the French General Staff historian of 1806 who commented that "The elementary tactics used by the Prussians were thus sufficient to be measured against our own"."
The Contents are -
P04: The Legacy of Frederick the Great
.The received wisdom - the counter-argument; The late Frederician army - weapons and their employment; Inlander and Auslander
P10: The Early reforms, 1783-92
.Line infantry; light troops; cavalry; artillery
P16: The Experience of the Revolutionary Wars
.Valmy, 1792; Frisange, Pirmasens and Kaiserslautern, 1793; Mollendorf in the Palatinate, 1794
P28: The Ten-Year Peace
.New regulations - the Commission for Experimentation
P30: The War of 1806
. The army in 1806; Tactical aspects of Jena and Auerstedt
P41: The Later Reforms, 1807-15
.The 1812 infantry regulations: movement - weapons drill -skirmishing; Columns and square formations; All-arms brigades; The campaigns of 1813-14; The cavalry: Lieberwolkwitz, 1814; The artillery; Waterloo: the Army of the Lower Rhine, 1815
P62: Select Bibliography [1 French title, the rest all in German]
The Colour Plates
A: Musketeer Battalion in Line, 1792. This shows the battalion in three-lines, stretching diagonally across the page, with two vignettes - #1, one of the two battalion guns and crew which were deployed on the right of the battalion; #2, the end of the battalion line, showing the officer and two senior NCOs closing the three ranks.
B: Musketeer Battalion in `crescent', c.1806. This shows the end of the battalion line deployed - 1, with the flanking division deployed at an angle of 45 degrees, used when stationary, to face-off threatening enemy troops while preparing to retire; 2, with the flank division deployed at 90 degrees (to the rear) while withdrawing, to protect the line from envelopment. The vignette is of the `refused division' of a company in line giving fire.
C: Fusilier Battalion, c.1806, with flank platoons deploying as skirmishers. The battalion is deployed in a line at the bottom of the page with dotted lines showing the two flanking companies having deployed forward (to the middle of the page), and then the ½ companies deployed further forward (to the top of the page) in a dispersed formation of pairs of men skirmishing, with officers and NCOs in support. There are two vignettes, #1 shows a pair of skirmishers, one firing, the second loading; #2, an officer and bugler.
D: Battalion in Column of Attack passing through a defile, 1812. I have always wondered exactly what a `defile' was - here it is a gap between two wooded areas - so I now assume it just means a narrow passage between two obstacles. Anyway, here we see the read two divisions of the battalion approaching the defile, while the preceding divisions have formed into a column to march through the gap. The plate id divided to show that the front of the column has now formed back into lines at the bottom of the page, As described, the divisions when in line have turned inwards (they were organised in lines of pairs of divisions) to form the columns to march through the gap; on the other side the columns turn outwards to form the successive lines again. This means that the front and rear ranks (of the three lines of each division) have changed places.
E: Prussian Cavalry. This is a diagram of the cavalry manoeuvre at Liebertwolkwitz, 14 October 1813, with oblongs representing the units (or `clouds' for the Hussars and Dragoons). There is a vignette of a pair of Dragoons skirmishing. At the bottom of the page is a box showing a diagram of a squadron in line formation.
F: East Prussian Brigade in Attack Formation (1812 regulations). This is a diagram (little boxes showingthe separate divisions and troops) of a brigade on manoeuvres.
G: East Prussian Brigade Deployed to Meet Cavalry (1812 Regulations). This is another colourful diagram, showing - #1, Brigade deployment from formation shown on Plate F; #2, Battalion `square' formation, "after Hartwig"
H: Two Prussian Brigades Attack Towards Plancenoit, 18 June 1815. This is a very colourful diagram, with a vignette of a Colour Party of regular musketeers attacking.
There are a few monochrome illustrations and maps supporting the text, but the rest of the illustrations are primarily in colour, including many pages of plans and diagrams from the original manuals, as well as many uniforms. This volume is one of the best illustrated Ospreys that I have seen.
My expectations were disappointed. He barely touches the issue and I'm not sure why. Is the material not available? Clearly, something happened in 1806. I could guess, but since I can't translate German I would rather have my guess confirmed by documentation or disproved. What Mr. Hofschroer write is meaningful information and quite detailed. If you want to know how a battalion went for column to line or the positions of Officers, NCO, and Specialists this is a good source.
I'm always astounded by claims that weather decided the event - as though the French were fighting on a bright sunny day whilst the Prussians were lost in dense fog; or the French were decimated by the horrendous winter of 1812 whilst the Russians pursuing them must have brought a sunny warm front with them. Rather silly I think. Each army laboured under the same conditions, each responding well or poorly to them.
There must have been a serious failure of Prussian leadership and tactics employed at Jena-Auerstat for the army to have disintegrated the way it did. Certainly, other factors came to bear, but the use of the resources at hand by the Prussian commanders and their application of the tactics they were accustomed to using must have played a major part in the disaster.