Military Subjects: Organization, Strategy & Tactics



The Use of the Third Rank and Brigade Formations According to the Prussian Regulations of 1812

By Jeff Lewis

Brigade Formations: an Overview

The history of improvements in the military art during the eighteenth century is more one of improvements in the sophistication and professionalism of the command within armies than one of changes in technology. Much of what was seen in Napoleonic times was technologically achievable nearly a hundred years before, but the human command systems were previously not sufficient to cope. The major problem with lack of sophistication in command was the need to keep armies fairly small and their maneuvers simple, cavalry on the wings with the infantry in two (or more) lines in between was a simplification most easily handled by a small command.

This was linear warfare, an army drawn up in a fairly simple line across the battlefield, and although having reserves advance guards, and sometimes wings, the basic effect was a fairly long line where a retrograde movement by any one section caused a problem for all.

This weakness in such simple systems meant that they were not very flexible and smaller parts of the army were less able to cope with any problems they faced without dragging the rest of the army into the same delays. The most obvious way to address this was to create mini-armies of which a large army would be made up, where each of the mini- armies could handle its own problems to a reasonable degree and each ones delays need have less effect on their neighbors.

Such formations with a mixed force of all arms was in discussion well before 1806 within Prussia; being put forward in a formal discussion paper in 1801. The implementation of the idea did not come until 1806, just as the army was marching to war. With the hindsight gifted to armchair warriors it is quite easy to note that this reform would probably have been better left until the army had had some time to adjust and knock the kinks out of the new system. Some of the problems for the Prussians in the ensuing battles can be seen as due to a lack of cohesion within the different parts of the new structures, rather than an adherence to ‘linear’ tactics.

These problems were mainly addressed by laying out clearly and exactly how a Brigade was arranged and how its separate troops cooperated together, not merely as a pamphlet to Brigade commanders, but written straight into the Infantry Regulations every officer in the army was to carry. Here was regulated where each battalion stood, its distance from each other, and even its formation. In any future war the Prussian officers could be in no doubt where their particular unit was supposed to be, who it was to follow, and its role in the Brigade.

 

 

 

 

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