Napoleon Series Archive 2004

Re: French Massed Cavalry Charges

Bill,

There was no permanence to Lichtenstein's 'organization', the units had not worked together for any period of time, and Austrian cavalry, as good as it was (and it was excellent), had no tradition of acting in mass.

Further, Lichtenstein isn't my idea of a go-for-broke cavalry commander and he didn't control his command well nor did he employ it to best advantage.

I cannot overemphasize how important permanence of organization, organizational structure, and above all, unit cohesion is to a unit's performance and the ability to sustain losses and stay combat effective. The Austrian army at the beginning of the 1805 campaign was a 'collection of regiments' with no permanent organization, and the staff to support it, above the regimental level.

There was a permanent general staff, but it was very small, had to be greatly augmented when the army mobilized, and although Austrian staff officers were well-trained, the staffs didn't work well, were not well thought of in the army, and didn't go low enough in the operational chain to be a truly effective 'system.' Even in 1809 when the Austrians did realize that a permanent corps structure was necessary, there were no staffs at the division level which threw all of the work back on the corps and army staffs, which is counter-productive.

For an excellent modern study see Eysturlid's book on the Archduke Charles. There is also a lot of good information in Boycott-Brown's The Road to Rivoli which is well-researched and doesn't speak well of the Austrian officer corps as a whole. Interestingly, both of these books agree with Rothenberg's assessment of the same subject.

Sincerely,
Kevin

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