Home Forums Horse and Musket Napoleonic 1805 Troop Quality

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    A recent refight got me wondering about troop quality in the 1805 campaign.  In your various opinions:

    What do you think the differences in troop qulaity between the French, the Austrians and the Russians should be (if any at all)?

    In the areas where you do think there is a difference, how big should that difference be?

    At which levels (individual / peloton / battalion / brigade / operational / strategic etc.) do you think the advantages should apply?

    Are there any objective grounds – not based on the subjective opinion of participants – (e.g. length and rigour of training / effective recruitment policies etc.) for justifying differences?



    For the most part I deal in high-level games, not tactical ones, and thus the net effects, and thereby the way I consider the issues is subject to that disposition. With that said…

    We know some concrete and macro level facts about the three armies going into the campaign:

    • The Austrians were under an active reorganization that had not completed. It impacted a very broad swath of how the army was organized, commanded, and functioned even at a tactical level.  There was also a political aspect that was at odds with any of these changes being completed coherently or within time for the campaign. The Austrians maintained a fairly static class system within the military ranks.

    • The French had been encamped on the channel coast for approximately two years, drilling in – for the period – oddly large organizational systems. And, we know that the number of veterans in this army was proportionally high. The French utilized a system of appointment, this meant a comparatively low ranking officer could be appointed to be in charge of a larger operation, effectively, holding authority above their rank.

    • The Russians were seemingly status-quo.

    With these as a premise we can look at the way the campaign played out and Wertingen is not a bad example, timely since you just played a scenario for it. This should allow us to see if the premises we have appear useful or not.

    Wertingen is a curious battle. The battle doesn’t actually start at Wertingen but at Hohenreichen where the French dragoons contact encamped Austrian infantry. The French successfully flush the Austrians who retreated upon Wertingen where the rest of their force was. The French cavalry massed opposite Wertingen, after a series of charges, pushed the Austrians to the high ground behind Wertingen where they couldn’t make much further progress. The French dragoons had horse artillery and committed it on ground higher than the Austrians. The Austrian infantry had 3-pdr battalion guns on lower ground. Murat and Lannes arrived with Oudinot’s elite division, nearly behind the Austrian position.

    So, what happened in the background and how do our premises play into this?

    • The instructions from Mack to Auffenberg were relatively vague based on the general assignment of running a reconnaissance-in-force to determine if reports of the French crossing the Danube were accurate. Despite sending Auffenberg on a mission to determine the accuracy of this, Mack had discouraged Auffenberg from believing the premise, i.e. “Go take a bunch of our scant resources and look over there for something you won’t find.”

    • Auffenberg’s Austrian command includes six battalions of grenadiers. The Austrian grenadiers were in a bad way due to the reorganization. One of Mack’s ideas for changing the army was that grenadier battalions would no longer be formed from grenadier companies of different regiments (each Austrian infantry regiment included two companies of grenadiers, thus a regiment did not have enough grenadiers to form a battalion (of six companies), Mack’s solution was that each grenadier battalion would be only four companies and only two of those companies would be grenadiers.

    • The Austrians continued the practice of including small parcels of cavalry with their infantry columns and the only artillery included were battalion guns that generally did not operate as a battery.

    Facing Auffenberg on the ground was Exelmans, who was a comparatively low ranking officer serving on Murat’s staff as an ADC. Under Exelmans’ command were two divisions of French dragoons. Exelmans’ appointment as the mission commander gave him authority over generals of division and allowed him to maintain control over the battlefield as more forces arrived. The French dragoon divisions each had a half battery of 8-pdr horse artillery.

    Exelmans was leading a substantial forward element that outclassed Auffenberg in two ways: artillery support and cavalry. Auffenberg had a small detachments of each küirassiers – which could not be expected to scout and were too few in number to combat the French cavalry, and chevaulégèrs – two few to scout the area sufficiently and again, not able to fight the masses of French dragoons. The Austrian artillery was smaller caliber, not organized as a battery, and fewer in number.

    Auffenberg was effectively operating alone. Mack was in Ulm, there were no other supporting elements ordered to coordinate with Auffenberg, and Mack had no intentions of sending any support. Compare this to the French command method Auffenberg was fighting against: Exelmans was running the forward French elements, but the region was not run by Exelmans. Murat and Lannes were coordinating forces behind Exelmans. When Exelmans pushed the Austrians out of Hohenreichen and fighting moved towards Wertingen, Mack remained stationary at Ulm, but Murat and Lannes pivoted their advance to Wertingen dynamically. Auffenberg declined initial reports of the fighting at Hohenreichen on the basis that they were not reported by a sufficiently high ranking officer. This meant that Auffenberg wasn’t prepared for the French advance on Wertingen despite having opportunity.

    When Lannes arrived with Oudinot’s infantry division, they were showing up behind the Austrian left flank. Oudinot’s infantry division was made up of converged elites that had been formed prior to crossing into Germany.

    The French and Austrian methods are pretty starkly contrasted here. The French are using significantly larger bodies of troops, in drastically greater coordination, and responding both to organizational needs and mission needs dynamically. Meanwhile, the Austrians are doing none of these things in this instance. The Austrians are also organized with proportionally less supporting arms. Conversely, the French are bringing up the main arm: infantry, secondarily as the finishing blow, while they used cavalry to set the battle’s location through maneuver, and artillery to support the cavalry in pinning the enemy.

    In short, in this campaign, but especially in this instance, the French are playing a drastically wider game than the Austrians.

    My general disposition is that the French would have a small edge in troop quality overall due to the training vs the reorganization, but the larger issues that decided the matter were clearly related to organizational structure, allotment of resources, and dynamic methods.


    The Bandit


    Excellently presented, well-reasoned “mini-essay”.
    I think it is very helpful and has important insights.
    Thank you!


    Well, based on my recent reading and exploration into 1805 it seems to me that all the paticipants fought hard and at the tactical level were pretty equal – up to say brigade / division.

    The difference was the higher level command of those men, the French generally seemed to have had better all arms co-ordination and leadership from the division upwards.   eg command unity in achieving mission objectives and perhaps battlefield awareness.

    Which I think agrees with Bandit’s far more detailed, better explained and demonstrated post.


    Great post Bandit, many thanks.

    The logic of that for wargaming seems to be that the French should enjoy a small tactical advantage at the unit level but that the scenarios themselves should typically favour the French.



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