The Austrian Cavalry Gun in Comparison to the Horse Artillery of Other States
By: Karl Baron Smola, OberLieutenant in the Austrian Artillery
Translated by: Digby G. Smith, Thetford, 2010.
Translator's Note: The following is a translation of the article Streffleurs Österreichishe Militaerische Zeitschrift which was first published in 1827. The author of this paper has a rambling, convoluted, repetitive, quasi-esoteric style, often composing extremely complex sentences, each the length of a considerable paragraph. Despite the great temptation to apply some strict logic and discipline to the text, I have retained most of the meandering original, merely straightening it out occasionally, to make the meaning more clear. I have also inserted the dates of the actions referred to, in order to make the task of putting them in context easier for the reader.
The Austrian Cavalry Gun in Comparison to the Horse Artillery of Other States
The fate of the French Revolutionary artillerie volante – an attempt to mimic the Austrian cavalry gun – failed due to the extreme weight of the French Gribeauval guns, as is adequately explained in the latter part of this paper and will surely be of great interest to many readers.
The wars of this century have introduced new methods of employment and tactics for the artillery. This dictates that the most continuously mobile component of that arm – the cavalry artillery (sic) – must occupy a more vital role than even their own characteristics of boldness and speed allot them in the spirit of the new conduct of war.
Optimal agility, maneuverability and liveliness (high rate DGS) of fire are the hallmarks of this arm, and the common purpose of the organization of the artillery of all nations, as proven by the experiences of a series of campaigns.
To attempt a comparison of the Austrian cavalry artillery with the horse artillery presently to be found in most other states, can thus only be an investigation of the consequences of the main differences between them, which will be an interesting challenge.
A short presentation of the characteristics of our cavalry guns and of the horse artillery of other, leading states must be the initial step.
The Austrian cavalry guns are, as we know, the 6-pounder cannon and the 7-pounder howitzer. Their construction differs considerably from that of common field guns (foot artillery DGS), by the nature of their carriages, the trails of which contain the `Wurst` (sausage DGS), or `Pritsche` (bench DGS), which serves to carry the crew and some ammunition.
The lid of the bench is well upholstered and fitted with a back rest and front rest and provides space for the crew of 5 men, who use the two foot rails, suspended by straps from the walls of the carriage, for mounting and whilst riding.
The limber of this gun has no ammunition chest as for the common guns, because the `Protznagel` (towing spike DGS) is mounted in the dish on top of the axle.
By this method, when the gun is limbered up, the distance between the front and rear wheels is only 1` 3” (1 Viennese foot = 31,61 cm; 1 Viennese inch = 2,634 cm DGS) longer than that of a common 6-pounder, even though the carriage (of the cavalry gun DGS) is 2` longer.
The limber is always connected with the carriage by the doubled 12` long tow rope (`Schleppzeil` DGS), which, when limbered up, is wound around the front rest, in order to keep it out of the way.
Each gun is always accompanied by two pack horses, led by a mounted train soldier.
One pack saddle has 4 pouches, containing 20 ball cartridges or 10 shells. This ammunition, together with the 10 rounds in the bench, makes 44 ball cartridges with the gun, 5 canister (`Schrotbüchsen` DGS), 22 shells with a howitzer.
This makes it possible to do without the ammunition carts (or most of them) in combat. The few that do accompany the battery, can be held at a suitable distance, under cover of terrain features.
These ammunition carts – of which there is one per gun – are of the lightest construction in our artillery. In the 3-pounder common batteries they are drawn by two horses, here they are drawn by four. The lids – as with all artillery vehicles – are made of water-proof ticking.
On the `bridge` at the front rides a reserve gunner for each gun. For a cannon, the cart carries 80 ball cartridges and 16 grape; for a howitzer, it carries 40 grenades, 10 canister cartridges, 2 illuminating flares and 82 powder cartridges.
All five Field Artillery Regiments and the Bombardier Corps are trained to use the cavalry guns. Neither particular regiments nor companies are specialized for use with them.
The cavalry 6-pounders are crewed by 6 gunners, the cavalry howitzers by a bombardier and 6 gunners. Thus, with the cannon, the leading hand horse is ridden; with the howitzer this horse and the middle hand horse of the team of six are ridden.
The most reliable gunner of the crew is the gun commander (`der Vormeister`) – Nr 3 – and he is charged with managing the gun and the crew. In action he aims the gun, pierces the cartridge and applies the Brandel (This is the Austrian equivalent of the German word `die Schlagrohr` or igniter tube DGS). From the two men at the muzzle, one (Nr 1), who carries the filled cartridge satchel, places the cartridge in the muzzle; Nr 2 rams it home and swabs out the barrel after every other shot. Nr 4 fires the piece; Nr 5, at the trail, moves the trail with a hand spike, as ordered by the gun commander. The sixth man ferries ammunition from the cart, in his satchel, to the Nr 1 as required.
With the howitzer, the bombardier is the gun commander; the 6th and 7th men ferry the shells, as the Nr 1 has only powder cartridges in his satchel, which, like the canister, have been taken from the bench.
When moving position in an advance, the gun is dragged around after the limber, on the tow rope. The crew just follow the gun and limber it up, when needed, with the hand spike. To mount up, four men take post in pairs, on opposite sides of the trails of the gun, place one foot on the foot rails, clasp hands over the trails and swing themselves onto the bench, without hindering one another. At the same time, the fifth man supports himself on the limber and swings himself up onto the bench.
The ammunition carrier (Nr 6 DGS) is not involved in this procedure and mounts his horse from the right hand side of the team.
The rammer and the hand spike are kept in the hand through all these movements and the ammunition satchels are kept slung over the shoulder.
When nearing the new gun position, at the command `Dismount`, the men on the bench jump off to left and right before the horses have come to a halt. The unlimbered gun will be turned (towards the enemy DGS) by the tow rope as the team falls to the rear and the crew serve the gun as before.
Minor changes of position (maximum 100 paces) are undertaken on the tow rope, at a walk, with the crew following behind the gun.
The cavalry gun can move over considerable depressions with the crew mounted, even at a gallop. With steep gradients, the crew dismount but do not unlimber the gun. If the horses can surmount a ditch, so can the gun, if the tow rope is used. The pack horses can jump or clamber over obstacles. The gun team should never be allowed to jump.
A cavalry battery of 4 cannon and 2 howitzers is commanded by an officer. A senior bombardier or bombardier serves with the two howitzers, two artillery corporals serve with the four guns. The former (senior bombardier DGS) supervises the whole battery; if the battery is split up, he commands one half of it.
Each battery has an officer of the Military Train with it, or at least a sergeant, with two corporals and two lance-corporals. Of the NCOs, one is used to keep order with the pack horses, the other with the ammunition carts.
The tactical divisions of the cavalry batteries are limited to single guns, pairs of guns, half batteries or full batteries. Deployment is from column into line (to the front), or to a flank. Changes in the direction of march or of the front of a battery whilst firing and in the mutual support of several batteries, or of a detachment are allowed for.
When in action, the guns are 15 – 20 paces apart and the pack horses are 15 paces behind them. During heavy firing, the pack horses are advanced to the limber (? DGS). The Military Train NCO in charge of the pack horses will lead empty pack horses back to the ammunition carts to have them refilled.
The (battery DGS) commander always commands the leading gun in any manouevers; each NCO commands the leading gun of his section; they repeat each order they receive. The gun commander controls every movement that his gun makes, by shouting commands to the lead rider of the team; he checks distance and direction.
The advance against the enemy takes place all along the front, if the terrain permits, with intervals of 20 paces, at a trot, canter or gallop, as circumstances dictate.
(The author uses the terms `Trab`, `Galopp` and `Karriere` for these horse gaits DGS)
The batteries of the French Artillerie à cheval consist of 6 guns in three sections, each of two 6- or 8-pounder cannon, or two 24-pound howitzers, whose caliber is `1``` 10````` (? DGS) Viennese measure larger than that of the Austrian 7-pounder.
But, it seems that the 8-pounder cannon is preferred to the 6-pounder. Gun barrels and carriages are the same as for the Foot Artillery; a small ammunition chest (coffret) is located between the cheeks of the gun trail, which is taken out after unlimbering and is placed between the draught trails, behind the axle.
This chest holds 15 ball cartridges for an 8-pounder, 12 for a 6-pounder and 4 shells and 2 canister, together with the necessary powder cartridges, for a howitzer.
The guns and the ammunition wagons (caissons) have 6-horse teams. An ammunition wagon for an 8-pounder carries 82 ball and 10 grape cartridges; for a 6-pounder, it carries 126 ball and 14 grape cartridges. For a howitzer, it carries 72 shells and 3 canister cartridges. There are two ammunition wagons for every piece in the battery, a reserve gun carriage is provided for each 6-gun battery. There are 2 `chariots de division` with various tools for the artificers and spare fittings, and a field forge, all with 6-horse teams.
The crew of a gun consists of ten men. The pointeur (aimer) with 5 crew (`servans`) with the gun itself, 2 ammunition carriers and 2 horse-holders. Each gun is commanded by an NCO (chef de pièce) and each wagon by an artificer. The 10 men ride in pairs behind the gun; the 2 horse-holders form the middle rank of the crew.
It is a characteristic of the artillerie à cheval, that their guns are limbered only on the march. During action, they are moved on the prolong, whatever rate the team is moving at. The prolong is 13``` thick, doubled and 12` long.
The foot artillery use the prolong only for short distances, usually when retiring or crossing ditches.
On the command `dismount`, the files of the crew turn outwards, the dismounted gunners pass the reins of their horses over the necks of their mounts to the horse-holders, who remain mounted, as do the NCOs.
The gun proceeds another 30 paces and is turned on the limber; the two cartridge carriers run to the ammunition wagon, the others to the gun, where the loading tools are taken from the cheeks of the gun trail, the 2 hand spikes (leviers de pointage) are placed in the rings on the end of the trail and the 2 manoeuver spikes (leviers de manoeuvre) are placed in their rings across the middle of the carriage; they are used to move the gun forwards after each shot.
The two men at the gun muzzle both insert the cartridge. The man who fires the gun also serves the water bucket, which hangs from a hook next to one of the wheels and is used for cooling and cleaning out the barrel. The man at the rear of the trail stands between the hand spikes and moves the trail as directed. The fifth crewman takes turns at ferrying ammunition.
At every change of position of the gun, the tools are replaced in their hooks on the carriage, the crew then run to their horses, which are with the horse-holders, at the head of the gun team, at the limber and follow the gun.
The ammunition wagon stays with its gun; when advancing, it follows behind the crew, when retiring, it moves ahead of the gun.
On short changes of position, the gun crew walk behind the gun and the horse-holders follow behind them.
A battery of 6 guns is manned by a company of artillerie à cheval and moved by a company of train d`artillerie. The commander of the (artillery) company is also the commander of the battery; the two lieutenants each command an outer section, or a half battery if it is split. The central section is commanded by the sergeant major. The capitain en seconde of the artillery company does not accompany the guns into action, but commands the second ammunition wagon and the other vehicles of the battery.
The train officer and his 3 NCOs remain with the ammunition wagons. Of the 6 trumpeters, 4 are with the battery (1 with the commander) in action.
Guns are placed 30 paces apart, the ammunition wagons are 40 paces behind them.
The British Royal Horse Artillery (RHA) is organized in troops. In the early days of their existence, at the beginning of the Wars of the French Revolution, they were equipped with the lightest calibre 3- and 6-pounder cannon and 5 ½ inch light howitzers. In 1798 a troop of 6 guns had 2 light cannon, 2 light 12-pounders and 2 howitzers, until the light guns and the howitzers were systematized.
In 1813, in Spain, there were several troops (of RHA) equipped with 9-pounder cannon and heavy, 5 ½ inch howitzers. Some of these reverted to the old range of equipment later in the war.
The vital service of six of these troops (with the heavier pieces) at Waterloo, caused their adoption for the RHA. There were troops with five 9-pounders and a heavy howitzer, or five 6-pounders and a light howitzer, or six howitzers.
The 9-pounders and heavy howitzers with the Army of Occupation in France were pulled by 8-horse teams; their ammunition wagons and the light 6-pounders and light howitzers, were pulled by 2-horse teams.
In summer, and on good roads, these (8-horse) teams were reduced by a pair.
The reserve gun carriage, the tool wagon and the field forge, which accompany each battery, are pulled by 4-horse teams.
Despite the fact that the all-up weight of a 9-pounder with limber is 4,396 Viennese pounds (36 Viennese hundredweight; 1 Viennese pound = 560 grammes DGS), the excellent mechanical construction of the English vehicles (the standardized 5` diameter of all wheels on the guns, limbers and wagons, the thin iron axles, the metal bushes in the wheel hubs and other features), coupled with their strong teams, caused all eye-witnesses to agree that they possessed a splendid mobility.
The British artillery ammunition differs from that of other nations, in that the projectile and the powder charge are carried separately. Another novelty is that all gun calibers are equipped with spherical case shot (an invention of Colonel Shrapnel), a hollow sphere filled with lead shot.
For the 6-pounder there are 40 ball (8 of which are carried in a small box on the limber) and 10 grape rounds. For the 9-pounder there are 26 ball and 6 grape and each howitzer carries 16 shells and 4 canister.
A 6-pounder ammunition wagon (is of very distinctive design, being in the form of one two-wheeled limber towing a double limber DGS) carries (partly in the limber, partly in the two boxes on the vehicle itself) 92 ball, 18 grape and 20 Shrapnel shells. A 9-pounder ammunition wagon carries 62 ball, 10 grape and 12 Shrapnel shells. A light howitzer ammunition wagon carries 46 shells, 6 canister, 8 Shrapnel shells and 4 incendiary projectiles. That for a heavy howitzer carries 42 shells, 4 canister, 8 Shrapnel shells and 4 incendiaries.
For each piece there is a crew of two NCOs and 10 men. Of the latter, only 6 are mounted; two ride on the gun limber, two on the ammunition wagon, which accompanies the gun. The first pair unlimber the gun – which has already been turned to face the target – while the others (apart from the horse holder) dismount and hand over their horses.
Apart from the horse holder, only the second captain and one NCO from each gun are now still mounted. The unlimbered guns are 23 paces (19 yards) apart, the limbers are 15 paces behind them. The ammunition wagons, under command of the quartermaster sergeant, follow the guns at a convenient distance, in order to be able to re-supply them with ammunition as needed. This is done by exchanging the full limber of the wagon with the empty limber of the gun. The empty limber is then refilled from the boxes in the back of the wagon.
Prussian horse artillery use 6-pounder cannon and 7-pounder howitzers. The limber of a 6-pounder contains 48 ball and 12 grape cartridges; 10 shots fewer that that of a foot artillery piece. This is the only difference between them. The limber of a howitzer carries 15 shells and 5 canister rounds, with 30 powder cartridges*
* There is obviously a mathematical misprint here; I assume that there should have been 25 shells DGS.
The small box (Affütenkasten) between the gun trails holds small utensils and some cartridges. A battery has six cannon and two howitzers, two shell and two cartridge wagons. A cartridge wagon contains 152 ball and 18 grape cartridges; a shell wagon holds 66 shells, 18 canister, 1 incendiary, 2 flare rounds and 124 powder cartridges. Only one shell wagon follows the battery into action; the other vehicles stay in cover behind the battery, out of range of the enemy gunfire.
The battery is divided into half batteries, then into two-gun sections. The crew of a cannon consists of 1 NCO (gun commander) and 9 gunners; that of a howitzer has an NCO, two bombardiers and 8 gunners, all of whom are mounted. Each battery is accompanied by a reserve group of two NCOs and 18 gunners (all mounted) with 8 reserve draught horses. One gunner from each crew drives the ammunition wagon, two men are horse-holders. With a cannon, one man ferries the ammunition to the gun; on a howitzer, two men carry out this task.
The man aiming the piece inserts the igniter tube and pours in the powder; he carries the fuses and the powder flask in a leather pouch.
To unlimber the piece, the NCO and all men, except the horse-holder, dismount, the latter takes the horses back 30 paces behind the gun. Four men hold the walls of the trails, the NCO holds the limber ring, 2 others turn the gun`s wheels to unlimber the piece. The limbers drive back 8 paces. The mop and hand spikes are taken from the trails, and loading and aiming the piece begin.
To limber up whilst advancing, the crew turn the gun around and hitch it to the limber, which has been brought forward. At the same time, the horse-holder brings the horses forward and the crew mount. The long tow rope is used less in the horse artillery than in the foot artillery, only on very short changes of gun positions, when it is not worth the gunners mounting their horses.
We have too few details of Russian HA to be able to write an article. Suffice it to say that it is very similar to that of Prussia, that the teams are splendid and that the skill of the crews exceeds that of most other (nations).
The Swedish HA consists of 16 pieces; three of the crew ride the three hand horses of the gun team, one man sits on the limber and the NCO, the two horse-holders and the other two gun crew ride behind the piece.
A correct evaluation of the mobility of the Austrian cavalry gun, in comparison to the horse artillery of other nations can only be made, if we establish its speed in short, but very fast movements, its ability to overcome terrain obstacles and its durability in maintaining lower speed over longer distances.
If we accept equality of strength of the teams involved, and by accepting similarity of the mechanical aspects of the gun as a vehicle, the load per horse will give us the best assessment of the power / weight ratio.
The critics of our cavalry guns in foreign countries, base their claims that conventional horse artillery is better on the false premise of the all-up weights of their fully-equipped pieces and the Austrian gun. They assess the weight of the five men on the bench – and the sixth – or 6th and 7th - riding on the team horses of the howitzer as being excess weight.
By use of this table of weight comparison, taken from the French `Aide mémoire à l`usage des officiers d`Artillerie`, 5th Edition, Paris 1819 and the British `The Bombardier and Pocket Gunner`, by Adye, London and the Prussian `Artillerie für alle Waffen`, by Major von Decker, 2nd edition 1826, we can see that this has to be corrected.
The Austrian cavalry cannon, including the weight of the five gunners riding on the trails, is:
The Austrian cavalry howitzer, including the weight of the five gunners riding on the trails, is:
It is, however, 222 V P heavier than the French howitzer. The Austrian 6-pounder gun is also 230 V P heavier than the French 6-pounder.
NB There follow two pages of technical data of various artillery pieces, which are folded over in the Google version available on the web and which I have been unable to include in this translation DGS.
The weight of the load of a packhorse accompanying the Austrian cavalry cannon is 175 VP; that accompanying a cavalry howitzer is 179 VP. An empty pack saddle weighs 45 VP.
The weight of a loaded ammunition cart of an Austrian cavalry piece, including the weight of the driver, is just over 17 hundredweight. It is thus about 10 hundredweight lighter than an English (mostly 4-horse) ammunition wagon. It is 15 Viennese hundredweight lighter than the Prussian item and 9 lighter that the 6-horse French vehicle.
This comparison with the drawn weights of the vehicles of the horse artilleries of the major powers shows that the Austrian cavalry gun, by virtue of the light weight of the barrel and the carriage, even with the added load of the five-man crew, is no less agile than any of the others. Allowing the same mechanical standards as possessed by the other vehicles, and not requiring any major changes, is considerably better than some of them.
When limbered up, the guns of the Artillerie à cheval need no more pulling power than the Austrian cavalry gun, but the fact that it has to be moved on the prolong at all speeds, leads to the rapid tiring and ruination of the horse team and the slowing of the movements, not to mention certain other disadvantages of that equipment.
Due to the great differences in the mechanical features of the British RHA equipment, the load to be pulled has only limited relevance to its manoueverabilty when compared to our vehicle. However, the large wheel size used in the British horse artillery, gives them decided advantages in mobility, when compared to that of the Austrians and Prussians, which are rather similar in size.
The Austrian cavalry cannon, on the other hand, has the considerable advantage over the latter, in that the heaviest weight is in the middle of the carriage, thus equally distributed between the axles. The Prussian piece, has a box of 60 cartridges on the front axle, which causes the front pair of wheels to dig deep into soft ground and makes crossing ditches difficult. As the limber spike is directly over its axle, it also does not make it a long vehicle, as the distance between the front and rear axles is only 8` 11” Viennese feet (VF); the Prussian 6-pounder`s inter-axle length is 9` 2” VF or 9` 3” Rhenish feet.
The weight of the Prussian gun is considerably increased by the load of the greater ammunition supply carried, but the increase in the towed weight in comparison to the Austrian cavalry cannon is so much of a factor, that the latter can carry 50 more cartridges than the Prussian piece, without being any the less mobile.
The weight of the gunner on the leading hand horse is too insignificant to reduce the speed of the piece, if one considers the strength of the artillery draught horse. The leading horses cannot exert as much pull on the gun as the others, which reduces the effect of the weight of the load on them. This may also be equalised by the efforts of a well-trained crew of drivers, who spur their horses on to greater efforts, especially at the faster gaits. But one must also remember that a rider must sometimes apply all his efforts to keeping his seat. For how little time is needed to teach a driver these skills, and what would a horse artillery achieve with such unschooled riders? Neither is this an obstacle to the carriage of the forage needed for the team for a day. A day`s ration of oats is tied to the shafts in front of the axle of a cavalry cannon; the hay hangs in nets from the collar hames, or, for pack horses, on the pack saddle.
The Austrian cavalry gun is not only lighter by design, but 6 ½ hundredweight of its load is mobile. This is an added advantage when crossing major ditches, steep slopes or swampy ground. By dismounting the crew, and having them help push the vehicle, the gun can often cross obstacles, which would be impossible for a horse artillery piece (regardless of its mobility) to traverse, even with the use of a considerable amount of time.
If the steepness of the side of a ditch dictates the use of the tow rope, this will be achieved in less time than that needed for a Prussian gun, whose crew must first dismount, hand over their horses and unlimber the gun, in order to connect the tow rope. They must then carry out that process in reverse to limber up the gun again.
The Artillerie à cheval would be the swiftest to cross such an obstacle, as they always move on the prolong, but the ammunition wagons, which follow each gun, would thus block such defiles for following pieces.
It is not as easy as one might imagine to overturn an Austrian cavalry gun, due to its construction. The top of the bench is only 1` 9” above the trails, or 3` 10” above the ground with wheels of 51” diameter. The centre of gravity of the vehicle and its wide wheelbase, mean that such risk is minimal, even on rough ground. In the almost half a century of service since the introduction of the cavalry gun, there have been very few such occurrances. If we compare these accidents with those suffered, not nearly so rarely, by the mounted horse gunner – especially when we consider that the majority of these men are mounted for the first time at mobilization – then a comparison of such casualties would surely be in our favour. But the gunner is made of sterner stuff than to be cowed into fearful behaviour by such risks when riding or driving.
The design of artillery equipment, a gun, or an entire battery, which is stationary in action or on a retreat under enemy fire, must be carefully thought through in order to minimize any negative effects it may have. All components must be extremely robust and the drivers must be adequately trained, in order to avoid any such accidents.
In respect of design, the British RHA vehicles are excellent by virtue of the quality and workmanship of their vehicles, the quality, suitability and longevity of their harness, with its strong trail ropes, by the abolition of the mobile wooden trail wagon and carriage steps, are insulated against many risks – often minor in themselves – which threaten the crews of some other artillery vehicles.
The Austrian cavalry guns are capable of enduring the most extreme marches and raiding parties, has been well documented on many occasions. On 13 November 1805, the five divisions of the Klenau Chevauxlegers and Blankenstein Hussars, under Colonels Graf Kinsky and Wartensleben, broke through the 15,000 strong corps of Marshal Augereau and saved their entire cavalry battery. In the amazing space of seven days (according to Army Order of 9 December 1805, from GHQ Körmend) they covered more than 60 Austrian Meiles (1 Meile = 7,585 yards DGS) from Vorarlberg back to Saatz County in Bohemia, having lost only a corporal and 15 gunners and not one gun was lost.
Another reliable proof of the similar endurance of both types of cavalry artillery is shown by the exploits of a battery, made up of two Russian 6-pounder horse artillery pieces and two Austrian cavalry howitzers, which accompanied the Streifkorps of LG Freiherr von Thielemann in the last wars. It accomplished everything that one could ask of horse artillery in terms of endurance. These two howitzers, from the 8th Battery of Klenau`s corps, were specially requested by LG Thielemann, to accompany his corps, which consisted of 5 squadrons of light Austrian cavalry, several Cossack Pulks, a detachment of Russian and Prussian hussars and Freiwilliger Jäger (mounted Prussian volunteers DGS). They set off shortly after the battle of Dresden (26-27 August 1813 DGS) and the artillery accompanied the cavalry for their entire adventure until their entry into Darmstadt at the end of November. This small corps moved mostly off-road, mainly at night and frequently cross-country, with it often being necessary to move the guns over obstacles by levering them along with tree branches thrust through the spokes of the wheels. The two howitzers were able to keep up with the column at all times. The only exception was when a gun carriage, damaged in action, had to be exchanged on 16 October, near Leipzig, when the Austrian Main Reserve was in the neighbourhood. On 18 October, after taking several detours to avoid enemy-held towns, the howitzer rejoined the Streifkorps on the battlefield. When they rejoined Thielemann`s corps, the ammunition wagons had only 2-horse teams; the teams were only brought back up to strength after the battle of Kulm (29-30 August DGS). After a two-month trek, they arrived back in the Main Reserve with three, 4-horse ammunition wagons, the riding and pack-horses complete. Of the original 25 horses, only three had survived the combat losses and the severity of the marches, but they had always been able to replace their losses by requisitioning local horses.
The flattering reports of LG Thielemann and of the commander of the two howitzrs (now Oberleutnant Heironymus Kroh, 3th Field Artillery Regiment) and the presentation of military awards by LG Orlow, later Chef of the regiment are proof of the considerable services that the detachment was able to provide, which would not have been the case if they had not possessed the necessary endurance.
An arm like the artillery, which can only open fire after unlimbering, must measure its participation in the battle from the first shot. The moment of unlimbering is a time of greatest danger, for at that point, the gun presents an extended target, which is easy for the enemy gunner to hit. A careful comparison of exactly what goes on in the Austrian cavalry battery and a battery of horse artillery, from arriving at the point of unlimbering to the firing of the first shot, will show the unbiased reader which of the two is first to fire.
Our cavalry cannon halts; the commands `Halt!` `Dismount!` `Front!` `Gun commander fire!` are given almost without a pause and are as rapidly executed. The gunners jump off even before the horses have stopped; the carriage is unhooked from the limber and turned to face the enemy as the limber goes to the rear; the cartridge is loaded and the first shot is fired.
The Prussian gunners dismount, hand their horses over to the horse-holder, run to the gun, unlimber it and turn it with the dismounted hand spikes. Now the rammer and aiming spike are dismounted and the serving of the piece begins. Prussian Captain Gräffer gives the time that it takes to dismount and unlimber is 22 seconds, while the foot artillery takes only 14 seconds.
Perhaps the loss of time might be reduced if the guns were to be turned around whilst still limbered up - as happens with the British RHA – and only then would the gun be unlimbered. But this cannot be done in all stretches of terrain and executing the turning movement under enemy fire is extremely dangerous, as Clausewitz points out, using the example of the battle of Krefeld (23 June 1758 DGS) where a battery lost many horses and fell into confusion.
Even the Artillerie à cheval is not as fast at unlimbering as the Austrian cavalry artillery, regardless of the fact that by carrying the coffret of ammunition on the trails of the gun carriage, they claim to have eliminated much of the pain of unlimbering. Moving the gun on the tow rope has its own disadvantages. This is mainly because the loading tools and the hand spikes have first to be untied and placed into their rings. This is almost exactly the case with the British RHA, where the two men on the limber jump off and unlimber after the turn, while the others dismount and hand over their horses.
This gaining of vital time is doubled when advancing to a new position, when the time which elapses from thee last shot in the old position to the first in the new location, is greater for the horse artillery due to the need to limber the gun up. The limber of our cavalry gun trots forward and pulls the gun around with the tow rope. The crew lifts up the limber trail and is mounted in a flash. With well trained gunners and drivers, this takes only ten seconds – less than half this if the gun is withdrawing.
In a Prussian battery, the tools are fastened to the carriage; the limbers come forwards and only then can the carriage trail be lifted, the gun turned and limbered up. The riding horses have been brought up the 30 paces in the mean-time, the crew mount up and follow the gun. But how many of the difficulties of mounting and dismounting, limbering and unlimbering, are not increased by enemy fire, the shot and shell, the effect of the thunder of the guns on raw horses – as most must be, when we consider the very low peace-time strengths of the artillery teams? The efficiency of our cavalry guns is unaffected by these factors, for the team horses – the factor common to both artillery types – are easier to calm down if they are not used to being under fire.
The most convincing proof of the advantages of our methods, are given by the record of the battery attached to LG Thielemann`s Streifkorps. Although this combined battery was in action under fire 15 to 20 times and changed position seven times at the trot or the canter (for example in the clash at Zeitz on 4 June 1813), it never happened that the two Russian guns, whose crews were well trained and mounted, were ever first into the new position or fired the first shot from that new position. This – it is to be remembered – when, in the time it takes to fire three howitzer shells, a gun can fire five shots, due to the faster loading procedure. In a skirmish on the road to Merseburg, just the opposite occurred, in that the battery was forced to withdraw to evade a superior enemy attack. Despite being held up by an incident with one of the pack horses, the two howitzers were far ahead of the pair of guns (which had limbered up at the same time) and some of the Russian pieces` gunners were almost cut off by the enemy due to being delayed in mounting up and were only saved by a counter-charge by our cavalry.
This advantage of our Austrian cavalry gun is important in all cases and sometimes decisive. If even a mere 30 seconds can be saved when changing battery positions, there will have been times when a (cavalry) battery, which has just unlimbered, is attacked by enemy cavalry and can reply, whereas a horse artillery battery could not even get off a shot.
In as much as the maneuverability of the artillery depends upon the agility of the individual gun, the advantages of the Austrian cavalry gun over horse artillery has already been mentioned. If we allow equal levels of training in all parts of a battery and equality of teams, the cavalry gun, by virtue of its speed of movement and its ability to do without its ammunition wagons, is still ahead. Also, the greater the number of vehicles, the longer the column and the more possibilities there are for confusion. Our cavalry gun is better than those of the horse artilleries, who carry a sufficient supply of ammunition in the limbers. The reasonably lightly laden pack horses can follow the gun over all types of terrain and do not extend the column of the battery nearly as much as the double columns of the gun crews. Where fast movement is needed, the ammunition wagons can mostly be left in rear, or a reduced number can follow the battery, without extending the column of march too much.
The Artillerie à cheval, in contrast, could never be separated from their ammunition wagons and risking running short of ammunition, until the recent introduction of the ammunition box on the limber under the new system. The positioning of those ammunition wagons behind their guns in the columns of march caused their own disadvantages.
The length of the column of a section of a battery of Artillerie à cheval – three guns on tow ropes and behind each one the two ranks of the gunners and a 6-horse ammunition wagon – is thus twice that of a battery of cavalry artillery. One may thus assume, that our cavalry guns would be able to deploy out of the column of march into line with far more ease and in the same time.
The number of riding horses with such a horse artillery battery, compared with those present with an Austrian cavalry battery, leaves no doubt as to which would present the enemy with more targets. The Artillerie à cheval, which offer the enemy gunners an even more dangerous target with their ammunition wagon, is thus more exposed than any other.
If we only consider the effects of enemy fire on long-term battle-worthiness alone, before receiving a replacement, then our Austrian cavalry battery has the characteristic of retaining its original effectiveness longer, of being more mobile and of having a higher rate of fire. The mounted gunners (of a horse artillery battery DGS) who lose their mounts in combat, may, of course, mount the horses of the gun team, or – in the Prussian system – sit on the limber box; in the RHA, they can sit on the seats of the ammunition wagon. But, even if we accept that these solutions were thought of in advance, the extra load on the horses will adversely affect the speed of movement (of the battery DGS) over time.
If a mounted gunner loses his horse for any reason, it is likely that he will become separated from his gun for the duration of the combat. The Austrian gunner will only be robbed of his transport, it his gun becomes immobilized, an event which would also prevent a mounted gunner from participating in the battle. But he is in no worse a situation than the latter who has lost his horse. If he is not used as a replacement for a member of the crew of another gun, he may mount one of the two hand horses with each gun. If needed, six men can sit on the bench of the gun, or he might find a seat on the nearby ammunition cart.
The rarity of the damage of a carriage, compared to the much greater likelihood of the loss of one or more horses in combat, is another advantage of our system. If a horse artillery battery should come under hostile grape or small arms fire, their situation will be even worse. As the number of gunners in a horse artillery battery is greater by half (than that of the Austrian cavalry battery DGS) they are exposed to greater loss. But the same numerical loss of crew members will have the same effects on both crews, as the smaller size of the Austrian crew is a feature of the gun`s design. Our cavalry cannon can be crewed and fired at the normal rate by four men, if the Nr 2 loads the cartridge and Nr 5 fires the piece, for these four men are enough for loading, unlimbering and limbering the gun.
A French piece cannot keep up a lively rate of fire with fewer than eight men, because they (excluding the horse holders) need more men to ferry the rounds to the gun from the ammunition wagon, which is a long way from the piece. The former supposes a loss of over a third of the gun crew; that is why, even in the earlier campaigns, every horse artillery battery was followed by 20 mounted reserve gunners, whereas we found that we needed only six, even though there was room for more to ride on the carts.
Loss of team horse affects all batteries using the same strength of teams in the same degree. Our cavalry batteries have sufficient replacements for the gun team in their reserve horse pool and even in the lead horses of the ammunition cart teams. Thus we may expect the usually acceptable mobility from such a gun with a team reduced to four horses over reasonable terrain, as that status will only be of limited duration. Our cavalry batteries can thus easily do without the luxury that the horse artillery batteries have, of using the riding horses of the crew to replace lost draught horses. The effectiveness of this measure is also clearly limited by the fact that riding horses are smaller and more lightly built than team horses, are not trained to work in a team and must still carry their riders, if they are not to increase the load of the gun. The cavalry gun team can expect much more help from its pack horses, which are of heavier build, carry no more load then a ridden horse and are trained to work in draught. But the need to resort to this has not been found – except for very short periods – where draught horses, wounded by the harness have had to be replaced. In areas where it is unlikely that replacement horses can be requisitioned, the pool of reserve horses will be increased. But then, under these circumstances, the horse artillery batteries will need twice as many replacements.
This disadvantage of horse artillery batteries to incur heavier losses in combat and the subsequent loss of mobility when compared to a foot battery, or the same number of horses compared to our cavalry battery, is unanimously acknowledged by even their keenest supporters. `Avez-vous determiné le point ou vous voulez penetrer, qu`elle avance qu`elle volez, quelle écrase, mais guardez-vous de l`éxposer au feu d`une artillerie nombreuse.` Clement advised the commanders of the Artillerie à cheval.
The gravity of this weakness of horse artillery, cannot be washed away by the assurances that they should never be used for firing for long periods. The instances where they have been under effective cannon fire, even when part of the advanced or rear guard, defence of a vital point etc, until the arrival of the main body, are more numerous – as Decker states - `they can often only be of use to the cavalry that they accompany, by attracting enemy fire away from that cavalry and onto themselves.`
If, as implied in their vital role, they were to be used as part of the artillery reserve, to achieve a decision at the most important point, it is most likely that most of the enemy artillery would pick this battery as their target, rather than the accompanying foot artillery, as they can be sure that they will have achieved their intended aim before they would have been made un-combat-worthy.
The Austrian cavalry batteries are not designed to be exposed to long-term artillery conflicts either, but they are no more vulnerable that the common (foot DGS) batteries and in these circumstances, should be used for the quick replacement of the empty pack horse ammunition from the ammunition carts. Neither do they offer more horses as targets to enemy fire then the Prussian 6-pounder foot battery or the Austrian 12-pounder common battery, whose guns also have 6-horse teams.
The Austrian battle reports from the last campaign contain many examples, where such batteries defended themselves famously against superior enemy artillery fire, without suffering more than other batteries under the same circumstances, or were unable to fulfill their tactical mission. One example of this is the story of the clash at Unter-Leuchling (this clash is better known as that of Schneidhart and Dünzling, part of the battle of Thann, on 19 April DGS) in 1809, taken from the work `Der Krieg von 1809 zwischen Österreich und Frankreich`, by an Austrian general: `While FML Fürst Rosenberg tried to extract himself from his disadvantageous position at Dinzlingen (sic), he received the order for the IV Corps to cover the road from Eckmühl to Eglofsheim. He thus tried to reach Unter-Leuchling, where the terrain was favourable to him, and where he hoped to join up with the III Corps and the grenadiers. To support Oberst Steyrer, and in order to cover his movement, he sent off, at great haste, the Regiment Vincent Chevauxlegers, 1 battalion Reuss-Greitz and a cavalry battery under General Stutterheim, through Päring to protect the flank of his march.
`General Stutterheim was at once attacked by the enemy as he emerged from a woods by Dinzlingen (sic), to advance on a dairy called Schierendhof. `This attack itself was not serious, but the enemy soon sent a column of infantry through the woods against the Austrian left flank, which was about to reach the village of Päring, before the Austrians. `The battalion Reuss-Greitz was at once sent against them and the light cavalry Regiment Vincent slowly withdrew upon it.
`The cannonade became lively, with three enemy batteries competing against the single Austrian one. `When (the Austrians DGS) reached Päring, they saw the Duke of Auerstädt`s right column abandon its advance against III Corps and turn towards IV Corps, so that this column came into contact with that of the left flank.
`The French hurried towards Päring; the Austrian battery, advantageously posted on a hill above the village, slowed this advance down, but could not stop it. `The Reuss-Greitz battalion resisted for some time, but the certainty, that they would be surrounded from all sides, forced them to withdraw. `Now the Austrians saw strong columns, coming from Langwart, to join up with the Duke of Auerstädt. It was Marshal the Duke of Danzig, with Deroy`s (Bavarian DGS) division.
`The IV Corps, threatened by the enemy on its march from the camp at Dinzlingen, had to be protected by the troops sent to cover this movement, in order to win the time to reach the heights of Unter-Leuchling. `This detachment fell back slowly. They were attacked by much stronger forces, came under artillery grape fire and were trapped in a murderous, very one-sided struggle. `The battery with this advanced guard was commended by Lieutenant Zadrazill (who died a hero`s death in the battle of Aspern on 22 May 1809, still not fully recovered from a sabre cut to the head, inflicted in the clash at Eckmühl, on 22 April), one of the most brave and steady officers of this heroic arm; his battery put up a very courageous fight. This fine officer defended himself against the ever-increasing array of enemy guns, with as much skill as bravery.
`The Regiment Vincent, which had been exposed to the heaviest artillery fire for three hours, conducted its withdrawal slowly, by alternate detachments, as if they were on the parade ground. They lost over 80 horses. `Their steady conduct held the following Bavarian cavalry in check; they did not attempt to charge them.
`It was only due to this heated struggle, that IV Corps was able to extract itself from its difficult position and reach the position at Unter-Leuchling. They had scarcely taken post there, when the enemy deployed against them; the cannonade began at about eleven o`clock. The French set up several batteries by a wood on a hill in front of their right flank and fired into the right flank of Lieutenant Zadrazill`s battery, which was on the dominant height left of Unter-Leuchling and was engaging the Bavarians and the cavalry. As his fire was almost not being answered, he turned his guns against the superior crossfire with admirable presence of mind. `In a few moments, he lost his entire crew and the horses of his battery, which had to be quickly replaced, so that this important point, covering the flank of Fürst Rosenberg`s position, could be held until a 12-pounder battery could be sent up in support.`
The cavalry battery crew and teams in this clash could be rapidly replaced, whereas a horse artillery battery would probably have been reduced to a state of having to be withdrawn after the first clash with the three-to-one stronger enemy, however brave the commander may have been.
If enemy cavalry should be able to capture a battery whilst it is engaged in firing - which presupposes the rare case of the absence of a force covering the battery - the Austrian cavalry artillery is the one most likely to be able to continue functioning, as the enemy has no time to carry off the captured guns. The rescue of the riding horses of a horse artillery battery by the flight of the horse holders is always doubtful and, if the guns are lost, is not considered here.
But the ever-present danger of the loss of a considerable part of them, would hinder the (horse artillery) battery taking further part in the combat in the same way that a cavalry battery could. Due to the rarity of such cases, we will not discuss here the possibility that cavalry artillery would be at a disadvantage when compared with horse artillery, had not that claim been made in that well known work `Der Artillerie für Alle Waffen` by Hauptmann Decker, Berlin 1816. This assertion is based on a false premise, as we are able to demonstrate, by use of the accounts of the most reliable eye-witnesses.
According to the above-mentioned work, `the gunners ride on the Wurst wagon. `In the clash at Arbisau on 17 September 1813, one such battery was deployed on the plain; they were charged by enemy cavalry before that could even get off a shot and confusion ensued. Despite the fact that the Prussian Neumark Dragoons cut the battery free again, they could only participate in the combat with two cavalry guns, as the others had been converted to foot artillery pieces. ` Had this been a horse artillery battery, this would not have been the case. The horse holders would probably have fled, as they are practically defenceless, but they would have returned after the danger had passed.`
It did not need an enemy attack to reduce the battery concerned in this incident to the status of foot artillery, as it was the 7th 6-pounder Common (foot DGS) Battery, of eight foot guns, and half the 1st Cavalry Battery, both of FZM Heironymus Colloredo`s corps.
After leaving the heights of Strissowitz as the corps advanced in the direction of Auschine and Arbisau, they had unlimbered in order to fire at the advancing enemy columns and their guns, when the Feldzeugmeister ordered them to limber up again and to advance some hundreds of paces at a trot and redeploy. There was a detachment of enemy lancers hidden in some extensive thickets on the right flank of the battery; they rode through a chain of Tirailleurs and fell upon the unsuspecting battery, which was in the act of unlimbering. The prompt counter-attack of some troops of Prussian cavalry and a detachment of the Hessen-Homburg Hussars, stopped the lancers before they had ridden halfway along the front of the battery, on whose left wing the three cavalry guns were deployed. Our cavalry re-took two of the three limbers of the common battery, which had been taken at the front of the battery in the first moments on the unlimbering process. But the common battery also lost many men and horses from the enemy cannon fire, which greeted our charging cavalry. They were, however, quickly able to replace their losses, from the Reserve Park, which was nearby and played a full part in the action. The half cavalry battery, to which the lancers did not get, lost no men to them, thanks to the prompt action of the Prussian dragoons, and took full part in the battle. That evening, they rejoined the other half of their battery.
If another confirmation of the real events of that day is required, we find it on page 5 of the official published account of the `Relazion der Gefechte von 17. und 18. November 1813 bei Arbisau und Kinnitz`. Perhaps the distant observer was misled by the speed of deployment of the common battery, which also parted them from their infantry escort, into thinking that they must have been a cavalry battery.
It is often claimed that one of the advantages of horse artillery over our cavalry battery, is that the crews of the former can not only defend themselves but also their guns against attacks by enemy cavalry. The relative merits of demanding that gunners should cut their way through enemy cavalry is as easily judged as the chances of their succeeding, if they are matched against good cavalry. If we take the case of the mounted gunner and compare him with, for example, Prussia, where a gunner, train soldier and cavalryman are trained over a three-year period, then it will be clear that neither he, nor his draught horse, will be any match for a trained cavalryman. Added to this, the loss of mounted gunners in such combats, has too many negative effects on the operation of the battery for it to be advisable. The cavalryman is much more adept in the use of his weapon and also is usually in the majority in such instances. The Prussian Major von Decker (author of `Die Gefechtslehre der Beiden Verbundenen Waffen` Tactical Instructions for the Two Combined Arms) said this about the matter: `Horse artillery is only capable of defending itself, when it has unlimbered and is ready to fire – and then only to the front, or to the right and left, as far as their guns may be turned. They are completely helpless when their guns are limbered up, for their efforts at self defence with their drawn sabers will be minimal, due to their lack of unity and their small numbers. `The horse artillery must therefore be given an escort of cavalry, which will protect them in such instances. It must be ever ready to come to their aid, because enemy cavalry may appear at any time. It is thus axiomatic for the principles of the rules of combat for both arms, that the horse artillery must never be left without protection, whether at rest or on the move. It is thus necessary for the horse artillery to be allocated a permanent escort, which will stay with them at least for complete phases of a campaign. It should not be changed too often and never on a day-by-day basis. The situations in which horse artillery can find itself on campaign fall into two categories: usual and unusual.
`To the former we would classify marches and camps not in direct vicinity of the enemy and those combats in which the horse artillery is up to meeting the demands of the tactical situation in which they find themselves. As unusual, we would consider situations where the horse artillery is exposed to a superior enemy. For the usual case, the cavalry escort is adequate, for the unusual case, the cavalry escort has to intervene to prevent the loss of the battery. Experience will very soon teach the escort, that the tactical situation appears much more threatening than it in fact is and that the commanding officer possesses a number of assets to reduce the risk, without threatening his ability to carry out his duty.` Thus, if an escort of adequate strength is essential for a horse artillery or cavalry battery, our plan will have the great advantage, that the savings in men, horses and weapons for one battery, will be enough to form two or three troops of cavalry, with which they will have a better protection against enemy attack, even when unlimbering and whilst firing, with the same amount of protection as a horse artillery battery could provide with its gunners.
There would seem to be no advantage in removing the gunners from their guns. In the battle of Brienne (29 January 1814 DGS) two divisions of the Austrian Hussar Regiment Erzherzog Joseph captured seven guns of a detachment of Artillerie à cheval, which were in the act of moving from the right wing to the left wing, without an escort. They held on to these guns, despite an attempt to re-take them by the Cuirassiers (sic) of the Guard. The gunners had cut through the tow ropes and fled with the limbers. Would the guns not have been able to be saved on a terrain which allowed for cavalry action? Even if this involved some effort from the gunners, who would surely have aided this effort, had they not been absent? (In this same victory, the Schwarzenberg Ulans took a second battery of Artillerie à cheval, but with some considerable loss.)
It is obvious that the mounted gunner, in the specific, but unusual, case of the absence of an escort, has the advantage over the Austrian (gunner DGS) as far as his personal defence against single enemies. But could not the latter, even if not having a sabre, make good use of a pistol in such a situation, which he could carry, plus a few cartridges, in his gunner`s equipment, like the Austrian Miners, without difficulty. (A fine example of such an action can be found after the clash at Eckmühl (22 April DGS) 1809. A French Chasseur charged a cavalry gun, which, having been the last in the retreat, had been abandoned by its escort. He was in the act of cutting the traces and capturing the gun, when brave Gunner Tamm, of the 4th Regiment, knocked him from his horse with a hand spike and drove across the fields to rejoin his battery on the road.
From our comparison of the speeds with which our cavalry cannon and the gun of a horse artillery battery can withdraw after firing the last shot, the claim that the possession of a horse lends courage to the mounted gunner, to enable him to stay longer in the firing line and allow the enemy to come closer, whereas the Austrian gunner would be convinced that both he and his gun would be lost, has been negated by this example (from 1809 DGS).
In those actions, where the artillery should not be too exposed, their withdrawal is covered by the other troops and, in most cases, depends upon the movement of those troops. In cases when a decisive effect is needed, the cold-bloodenness of the horse artilleryman and of our cavalry gunner, can only be assured by their trust in their discharge of grape in their dangerous predicament. This self confidence in their weapons is certainly of greater value than that to be engendered by showing them their horses close at hand. `The last discharges are the most lethal,` said an experienced gunner, `they probably ensure victory, but certainly ensure the courage of those who fire them.`
The Saxon cavalry, the brave French cuirassiers covered the ground with their dead before the Austrian battery at Aspern, yet not a gun was lost, even though some brave individuals were captured or cut down in the gun lines themselves.
The fate of an Austrian gunner is bound up with that of his gun. To defend himself, he is forced to carry out his duty; in the extreme case, he must, according to his oath, die at his piece. But, should enemy cavalry, by some chance, break into the battery, he is also prepared for it. The six-man crew are adequately protected by the wheels and the gun carriage at the first instant of a cavalry assault, while the drivers dismount and take cover between their horses. If friendly cavalry succeeds in overthrowing that of the enemy, the gunners will have the satisfaction of sending another volley of grape after them.
The ease with which a gunner may be trained up on the cavalry gun – without scrimping on his other, equally important, training – is a decided advantage, when compared with the training of a horse artilleryman (especially when one considers the short term of service). This training includes equitation, care of the horse and cavalry weapon drill, which will take up most of the available time. Thus, our cavalry battery will never run short of replacements in the course of a war, and will not need a large pool of specially-trained experts to be maintained. The man will quickly be able to be effective in the battery, in the trenches and in the fortress.
For these reasons, no regiment or company of the Austrian artillery is specially trained to operate the cavalry batteries exclusively. Even if it should happen that some battalions were to be trained with an emphasis on duty in the cavalry battery, the more care taken to ensure the skilful operation of this type of weapon, would not preclude the training of such men in all other specialities of the artillery in peacetime. It is thus possible to consider the physical strength and moral attitude of candidates, when selecting men for duty in a cavalry battery. This selectivity and raised status, makes duty in such a battery more attractive for potential candidates, even if it physically harder. Thus veterans are proud to be able to recount that they served in action in a cavalry battery. This has been established over a considerable period of time.
Service in action with both forms of cavalry artillery is strenuous, but the gunners in our cavalry batteries can recover while their gun is being moved, no trivial advantage on long marches following furious action. When pulling into a camp site after a march, the cavalry gunner is not required to care for his horse, a task which reduces the free time of the mounted gunner. He will thus be less tired and will be more alert in looking after his gun and the ammunition.
Some foreign writers have consider the low number of officers and NCOs in our cavalry batteries to be an organizational weakness, especially when the need for them to maneuver at speed is considered and the higher number of officers and NCOs in the common batteries is noted. It seems risky to consign the fate of these high-value assets to the hands of so few men. The foot artillery batteries of most other armies are commanded by a captain, and each section of two – or at most – three guns will have an officer commanding it and an NCO (if not two) with each piece. The British and French horse artillery batteries both have a second captain and several NCOs as a reserve. An Austrian cavalry battery is commanded by a subaltern. Until the increase in the artillery officers` establishment of 1816, Oberfeuerwerker (senior artillery NCOs DGS) were nominated to be battery commanders as a rule. The number and duties of the lower ranks was mentioned at the start of this piece. The fact that so many years of active service experience has not caused this to be changed, can only reflect great credit on the lower-ranking battery commanders, their training and proven reliability. The present state of the establishment of the corps of artillery would accommodate more senior ranks. By replacing the impracticable drummers of the cavalry batteries with trumpeters, each such battery had at least one, without increasing the strength of the artillery company. This move was seen as necessary to allow commanders to control the movements of several batteries under a single command. It was also needed to increase the esprit de corps of this special type of unit.
Concerns of economy will force the choice of the most cost-effective organization in every state. The following table shows the relative costs of a mobilized Austrian cavalry battery and the horse artillery batteries of other states.
KEY: C – Captain; S – Subaltern; SN – Senior NCO; JN – Junior NCO; T – trumpeter; G – gunners; NCO – NCOs, senior and junior; D – drivers.
The savings of horses – average of 70 per battery – would allow the Austrian army on mobilization to mount three to four light cavalry regiments with the horses not used for the artillery.
The officers – and most of the NCOs of horse artillery regiments are mounted in peace time and also cost as much as in the cavalry. In the light of the nature of the duties of NCOs of all cavalry artillery, this seems to be a very minor cost saving – when compared to the cavalry - particularly when one considers that the major qualities required of an artillery horse are that it is calm under fire and in the commotion which surrounds the gun lines. The mounted gunners need their horses to be as calm as anyone else`s. Confusion when mounting and dismounting, the chance that a horse-holder might lose control of a horse, when trying to control three or four at once, are inevitable consequences of such a policy. Such economic considerations in peacetime inevitably have negative effects on the performance of a battery in time of war.
But, exactly these economic considerations have led all states – apart from Russia – to reduce the levels of horses in artillery batteries to the bare minimum in peace time that permits the unit to practice its drill.
The costs of maintaining the minimum (but inadequate) riding and draught horses for a horse artillery battery would cover the provision of the entire horse needs of an Austrian cavalry battery. This is an advantage of our system, which has effects on operational matters.
The great costs of a horse artillery battery are half as much again as for a battery of the same number of common guns, as well as their having the disadvantage of higher casualties when under enemy fire, have led all nations to limit their numbers.
This reasoning and the fact that lighter calibre batteries have greater speed, have led to the introduction of so-called mobile batteries in several countries. Britain has now converted all her 6-, 9-pounder and howitzer batteries – apart from the RHA - to this mode. The excellent mechanical and technical properties of their material allow them to mount six men on the ammunition wagon and two on the limber of the gun and the NCO. This battery, not intended to move as fast, or with the same agility as a horse battery, differs neither in the construction of the carriages nor the vehicles of the RHA, only in the draught teams. The guns use a pair fewer horses, the ammunition wagons use 6-horse teams.
The Swedish mobile battery carries two men on the limber, two on the gun carriage and three on the hand horses. In Bavaria, these batteries have replaced the horse artillery; five men sit on the lid of the ammunition wagon, two on the limber and one rides on a hand horse of the gun team.
In Prussia and several smaller states, in order to achieve greater speed of movement, arrangements have been made to carry the crew on the limber and the hand horses.
All the artilleries of the continent have had to accept a lower speed of movement of the mobile batteries, when compared to that of the horse artillery, by virtue of the greater weight caused by mounting the crew on the vehicles. That of the British has the added drawback, that all vehicles have to accompany the guns forward and be exposed to enemy fire, although they do not need to do this because of the ammunition, at least, no more so than do the RHA. Similarly, a horse artillery battery will probably get off the first shot after unlimbering before a mobile battery, whose crew have to dismount from the ammunition wagon and run to the gun.
The lower costs of mobile artillery, the savings made by not having to provide mounts for the gunners, the avoidance of all the confusion associated with them and the reduction of targets offered to enemy fire are the advantages of this arm over horse artillery.
From the foregoing comparisons, it will be seen the Austrian cavalry battery possesses all the advantages of both horse and mobile artillery of the other powers, with none of their disadvantages. It has the speed and staying power in strenuous movements and the agility of horse artillery. As with them, it can operate without its artillery wagon. Added to these factors, it is not more expensive in its equipment or its upkeep than horse artillery, neither does it offer the enemy more targets than they do.
The unbiased author, who compared it as being the equivalent – or even being worse than with the mobile artillery because of its organization, may possibly be excused for the reason that he was misinformed about it. This view is shared by many foreign writers. The widespread misconception, that our cavalry battery gunners ride on their ammunition wagons, like the Bavarians and the French in their old Artillerie volante, may be found among the most respected authors. Take `Manuel de l`artilleur` by Duturbie, 5th Edition, Clement`s `Essai sur l`artillerie à cheval` of 1809, the `Organiztion und Taktik der Artillerie` by Grävenitz, Berlin 1824, the `Beiträge zur Gefechtslehre der Artillerie` by Gräffe, Berlin 1824, in the already-quoted `Artillerie für alle Waffen` by Hauptmann von Decker, Berlin 1816, in Dupin`s `Force militair de la Grande-Bretagne`, Volume II page 156, and in Comte M. Dumas` `Precis des évenemens militaries, campagne de 1799` Paris 1816, Volume I page 414. This is all the more odd, because such a vehicle has never existed in the Austrian artillery. We do not have to list the obvious advantages of the real situation as apposed to this fiction.
The honour of supporting the suggested introduction of the cavalry gun, and its introduction into service in 1778, belongs to Austrian General-Feldzeugmeister Theodor Frieherr von Rouvroy, who died in the last war against the Turks. Rouvroy was the artillery commander to the immortal hero Loudon and fought in the most stunning of his operations. In the following years, there were 64 cavalry pieces, including 16 howitzers, with the army in Bohemia and Moravia. This not-inconsiderable component shows the importance placed on these new weapons. Since then, the experiences of sixteen campaigns, including some hard tests of their design, has proved their worth and no major design modifications have had to be introduced. Some of the improvements introduced – the improvement of the ammunition transport, the draught team of the howitzer – refute the charge that all such suggestions were rejected.
The completely unique design of the cavalry gun is the bases of its originality. Other European continental powers, who tried to copy it, like France in 1792, encountered insoluble problems, caused by the differences of their artillery systems to ours. Factors such as the longer gun barrels, heavier weights, stronger powder charges all demanded heavier gun carriages. These proved to be insurmountable problems to the aim of achieving the desired speed and mobility with the gun crew mounted on the carriage.
For these reasons, the gun carriages of the artillerie volante of the old French Republic, were built too lightly – to provide the acceptable degree of comfort for the crew - and were too fragile. The ammunition wagons needed six or eight-horse teams, equipped with the Wurst saddle top, on which half the 13-man crew, then considered to be necessary to man the gun - rode. The pressures of lack of time meant that it was not possible to produce more than a quarter of the Wurst wagons that were needed for the new weapon system. Thus, on its first appearance, the system was more horse artillery than anything else.
The utterly different construction of the vehicles of the artillerie volante, compared to that of the Austrian cavalry guns, shows how their conversion to horse artillery was inevitable, although a new writer (Artillerie für alle Waffen, 2nd Part, 1st Edition) has claimed that this conversion came about due to the campaign experiences of the French army, which proved the negative value of the Austrian cavalry gun, when compared with horse artillery.
King Frederick II (the Great DGS) of Prussia introduced the first horse artillery – a brigade of ten guns – in 1759. By the time of the outbreak of the wars of the French Revolution, it had deteriorated into a sorry state. The era of the introduction of horse artillery of the Prussian model in all other European countries, lies in the last decade of the last century.
In France, the artillerie volante was converted to horse artillery in 1793. The RHA was formed in England in the same year. The first Russian companies were formed in 1794, although Russian dragoon regiments had regimental guns with them in the Seven Years` War. Since this time, horse artillery has proved itself to be essential to the armed forces of all nations. The French army owes several of its most important victories to their use of them as reserve artillery.
In most recent times, all nations have concentrated on the optimal improvement of every feature of the weapons. Especially in the Russian army, they have been trained to such a state of perfection, that they carry the seeds of great deeds in future wars.
It was this writer`s aim to establish - by the examination of the proven advantages of the Austrian cavalry gun, in comparison with existing horse artillery – the superiority of the former, this without prejudicing the debate about the thorny question of whether we need horse artillery as well as mobile artillery.
Karl Baron Smola
Placed on the Napoleon Series: June 2010
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