The Austrian Imperial-Royal Army (Kaiserliche-Königliche Heer) 1805 – 1809:

(In)felix Austria Essay on the Austrian Army 1805-1809

By Enrico Acerbi


«Avant un mois nous serons à Vienne! » said Napoleon during his proclamation to the army, day of the Regensburg quarters, on April 24. On 13 May 1809, the French entered, for the second time, the Austrian capital city and seized it. Austrian forces were, at the time, considerably weakened; they lost 50.000 men dead, wounded or prisoners; lost also around 100 a large part of their depots and a considerable amount of horse-trained vehicles. Archduke Charles’ Army was split in two parts; repulsed inside Bohemia, behind its former line of ope-rations, were the most of that prince’s forces. Archduke John’s Army’s, quickly recalled towards Vienna, left Italy free for the French and Italian troops.

This long article has the target to examine the Austrian army after (during) the attempts of the Archduke Charles reform, from the beginning of 1809 till the end of the various campaigns which caused the collapse of the Austrian military organization. As introduction, however, it could be worthy of attention to examine the way taken by  Austrian military apparatus since the first reform that brought directly to the ruinous year 1805. It is a schematic summary useful to understand the following organization decreed in Vienna.

Common Text Abbreviations


Abteilung = unit (small unit in fact), detachment


Freikorps = Volunteers unit


Armeeoberkommando = general headquarters


Gebirgskanone = mountain gun


Artillerieregiment = artillery regiment


General Major = brigadier


Bataillon = battalion


Haubitze = howitzer


Infanteriebrigade = infantry brigade


Hofkriegsrat = Imperial War Council


Batterie = battery






Jäger = light infantry


Kompagnie = company




Detachement = detachment




Division = infantry division




division = cavalry division


Oberst = Colonel


Feldjägerbataillon = rifle battalion (light infantry)


Oberstleutnant = Lieutenant Colonel


Feld-Marschall = Field-marshal


Oberlieutenant = 1st Lieutenant


Feld-Marschall Leutnant= Field-marshal lieutenant




Freiwilligen = volunteer


cavalry Squadron (s)


Freiherr = Baron


= platoon

The Fatal Destiny of the Austrian Empire till the Horrible “Anno Neun”[1]

Table: All territorial properties, gains and losses are given in “geografischen Quadrat-Meilen” (Q.M.) or Square-Miles, that’s around 2,59 km2 .







Peace of Campo-Formio.

Austria cedes the Austrian Netherlands, Falkenstein, Lombardy, and Modena; gaining Venice, Istria, Dalmatia, and the Gulf of Cattaro.




Peace of Luneville.

Austria cedes Toscana, Fristhal, and the Etsch region. In return it gains Salzburg, Berchtesgaden, and part of Passau.





compensates Austria, which gains Trient and Brixen, the secundogenitur part of Eichstädt.




Purchase of Lindau and Rothenfels.





Exchange of Blumeneck and other small pieces of ground in Weingarten.





Peace of Preßburg.

Austria loses Venice, Istria, Dalmatia, the Gulf of Cattaro, Tyrol with Vorarlberg, Breisgau, and all Swabian manors; gaining Würzburg for the secundogenitur, the ‘Deutsch-meisterthum’ for an Austrian prince, and the guarantee for compensation for the house of Oesterreich-Este.





Franz II cedes the throne of the German Empire, and accepts the title of Emperor of Austria. Dissolving of Germany. Austrian-Würzburg joins the Confederation of the Rhine and acquires the ‘Reichsrittergüter’.




Gränzreceß with Italy.

The Isonzo becomes the Austrian border




Peace of Vienna.

Austria cedes the whole Krain, Friaul, Trieste, part of Croatia and Kärnten, the manor Rezuns, Salzburg, Berchtesgaden, Passau, the Inn quarter, part of the Hausruck, the whole of West Galicia, the Zamosc region, the Krakau region, and to Russia a part of East Galicia, later to decide on.



First Archduke Charles Reforms (as president of the Hofkriegsrat[2] : Jan. 9, 1801 – 1805)

Charles, now FM (Field-marshal) and Hofkriegsrat president, in 1801 wrote to the Emperor Franz: “In the case of an utter war we must purge every interference in the chain of command “ (the Staatsrate or the local states parliaments, various bureaus and so on) . The Emperor followed that suggestions and, on December 1801, created the Ministry of War (Kriegs-und Marine Ministerium) giving it to Charles and relegating the Hofkriegsrat in a second decisional line.

The Ministry concentrated all the financial matters related to the army and the war, in order to increase the inve-stments. On December 5th, 1801 the Emperor Franz ordered a new formation of the Army, which, on February 1st, 1802 began to be reformed, by cavalry and the light troops, with the:

1 --- disbanding of the 1800’s Light infantry battalions and raising of the Tiroler-Jäger-Regiment. Also disbanded were two old cavalry regiments, the Jäger zu Pferd and the Slavonische Grenz-Husaren-Regiment. Other cavalry units (3 reg. Cuirassiers, 3 Dragoons reg.; only the Szekler-Husaren-Regiment was retained)

2 ---  raising a third Uhlans regiment.

then followed other provisions:

3 --- artillery introduced the system of Line and Reserve batteries, now all commanded by artillery officers. Line artillery was formed with the former regiments-battalion guns (regiment = 4 pieces of 6 or 3 pdrs.; Grenadier battalion = 2 pieces of 6; Grenzers or Military Border units= 2 pieces of 6 or 3 pdrs. per battalion). The organisation of the Reserve batteries, however, was not easy (poor finances and lack of horses) and it was mandatory to call civilians fund-raisers to complete the reform.

4 --- the Pontoneers obtained 5 companies, while the Sappers and the Miners were now autonomous Corps; Pioneers, which were under the command of the General-Quartiermeisterstab (General Quartermaster), had to be raised only in the case of a war.

This table presents the new Archduke Charles peacetime army:




Grenadier Divisions






Line infantry regular regiments







Jäger regiments (Light infantry)





Border regiments (Grenzer)






Cuirassiers regiments






Dragoons regiments





Chevaulégers regiments





Hussars regiments





Hussars regiment




Uhlans regiments






Artillerie Rgt.







Bombardiers corps







In wartime, the total force to be reached was 433.387.

Practically these numbers were never reached (lack of finances). So at the beginning of 1805, the number of the retired soldiers was 97.152, that of the not-serving cavalrymen was 37.095 and, in the whole Monarchy lands, there was no single battery ready to operate. Moreover, in January 1809, it lacked still 13.076 men in order to complete the peacetime force. There were 186.446 infantrymen, 37.095 “sabres” and 11.124 artillerymen under the Vienna’s Colours.

A New General Staff

The Austrian Army was one of the first military organization to lay down separate orders even for the dressing of its general officers; note that by 1798 regulations (concerning the dress of both general officers and staff) those booklets contained rigid instructions not only for dress uniforms but also for service, court and town dress.

To the Hungarian cavalry generals were given a special uniform based on the hussar dressing style and this was often adopted by other cavalry generals, as they were also the colonels-in-chief of hussar regiments, with colours based on their regimental facings.

During the last half of 18th century and at the beginning of 19th, the Austrian general staff did not correspond to a modern applications of warfare. After the Hubertsburg peace which ended the Seven-Years war, the whole institutions of the army, in a great chaos, were reshaped by marshal Lacy's genius in one more modern appropriate form.

Finally, according to the general views of Charles, the general staff was separated in three sections, namely:

1)     the Adjutantur, with the general-quartermaster office as well as the school (as teacher) for future Staff officers;

2)     the Mappeurs or, how designated in the French army, “Géographes” engineers;

3)     others Officers commanded to the war archives (Kriegsarchiv).

This was the first aim of the reform: education of specialists staff officers.

In autumn 1804 ended the first period of the Charles’ Reforms. The Archduke, above all, dedicated his work mainly to administrative matters (lack of money!?) so the army was not ready to mobilize. However there was a Coalition, political heavy interferences, the hope to act with a strong Russian help and so on ....

The General Mack Period

In 1804 disagreements between Emperor Franz and his brother, the Archduke Charles, [3] led to general baron Karl Mack von Leiberich being appointed chief of the quartermaster general Staff and, after Mack's instigation, a number of regimental changes were ordered in preparation for the forthcoming campaign of 1805.  Charles however retained his charge as War Ministry and continued his plan to reform the army with:

A New Conscription System

With regard to the soldiers’ enrollment, the first reform began in 1802 (Imperial Patent on May 4, 1802), when was firstly stated a new way in timing the military period of duty, with the idea of a different service period from the previous “lifelong” one: some years in active duty, others in Reserve mode.

A consequence of this was the 1804 act (Conscription-Normale Oct. 23, 1804), when army complementary recruitment districts (in Galicia) acted side by side to those of the historical “German” [4]  hereditary countries, by which the Levy was put on a wider basis increasing the population suitable to military duty and with the limitation of a too large number of emancipations.

This was the second target of the Reform: every regimental conscription area could have permanent “supporting” districts (Hilfsbezirke) in order to straightforwardly reach the full military strenght of wartime (and peacetime too).

Every infantry regiment now recruited no more in a generic administrative province (Kreis) of the Empire, but in a stated District of Levy (Conscriptionsbezirk), which got the same number of its own regiment. This system will last till the Great War 1914-1918, practically unchanged. This made simplier all the conscription operations and faster the operations to mobilize troops. The Conscription director of the Bezirk was a General Staff officer of the same regiment.

For the supplement of the military strength, they now needed armies of same forces, in peace as in war, with only a few branches of the suitable armed forces obliged to have still long Duty times, in the interest of the military training. [5] Therefore the widespread lifelong Duty was abolished and began the gradual elimination of the older veteran soldiers.

Obviously the new system (like in all Austrian new “adventures”) needed a gradual and longtiming way to be mastered. So, in 1805, there was a substantial confusion in all attempts to re-constitute the wartime strenght of infantry units.

During 1805, the heavy political interferences caused the necessity to act time by time, approximatively, and this utterly weakened the military force of Austria. FML (Field-marshall lieutenant) Mack recognized the extreme need to gather all available resources, but it was hardly enough to make one ready army, however, to be reorganized from its roots. Infantry and cavalry had new arrangements. Only artillery maintained its organisation.

The cavalry regiments were to be organized on 4 divisions [6] of 3 squadrons each, but only some had 3 while many had only 2 effective sqns. Probably many thought the next campaign had to be fought mainly with (by) the Russian forces, the British money and the Austrian bravery. But this was not sufficient.

Revolution in Infantry Organization

The number of companies in each line infantry battalion was reduced from six to four with each “German” company established at a strength of 160 other ranks, 180 for the Hungarian companies and 120 for the elite Grenadier companies. This system, during the war, affected directly the army of Italy.

This was the first cause of the 1805 military failure. The need to organize all the line regiments caused: the weakest Austrian battalions of the napoleonic period.

The 'surplus' companies were used to form additional battalions giving the regiment a strength of five field battalions of fusiliers, each of four companies in strength, including the former depot (Kader) battalion and a sixth 'elite' battalion made up of the two Grenadier companies and two fusilier companies, redesignated Velite-Grenadiere; this last battalion was the depot battalion during peace time and had to be detached to the Army Reserve during war time.

The Grenadier divisions of each infantry regiment had been always formed into semi-permanent battalions to act as a tactical Elite reserve, except during the 1805 campaign when each regiment had its own Grenadier battalion.

This was the second cause of the 1805 military failure: the extreme weakness of spreading Elite units

Battalions were numbered 1 to 6, with the Grenadier battalion always receiving the number 5 for all regiments, and battalion-divisions and companies numbered consecutively through the regiment. The battalion’s artillery, which previously distributed three guns per battalion was now brigaded into a single six gun regimental battery. However the abolition of the battalion-regimental artillery was a reform not applied at all. See after.

At the beginning of the 1805 campaign, this re-organisation was, however, only partially completed and many regiments, particularly those stationed away far from the main field army, retained the former organisation, while many regiments were forced to undertake changes during the mobilisation, with the subsequent ensuing chaos.

At this point some questions raise among the researchers:

1- Was it a typical Austrian disposition to have good rules with the quite impossibilty practical application of them? (this happened also in 1809 with the army Corps).

2- Who really was general Mack: a genius who acted in wrong times or a true military donkey?

The Vanguard Duties

With the dissolution of the (poor and somehow unuseful) light infantry battalions, in 1801, was formed a regular Jäger regiment from the cadres of existing troops and titled the “Tyroler-Jäger-Regiment”, establishing itself with three battalions each of six companies organised in the same manner as the line infantry fusiliers.

The third Austrian weak-point was the incapacity to answer to the necessity to raise fast and mobile reconnaissance units, tirailleurs like the french Légère.

At beginning the Jägers operated as independent battalions, assigned to different brigades as required, and soon proved their worth in the field. In 1805 the regiment was officially taken into the line, given the number 64 and had an exclusive recruitment inside the Tyrol .

The Greater Mack Mistake

One more dynamic reform was that of the Verpflegsanstalten (supply centers), which FML Mack imagined as reshaped after the French example. As Napoleon did, therefore, Mack applied the requisition system over the seized territory instead of the previous food magazines organization. In few time he decided to shrink the army Train to an half of its force.

The natural consequence of this latter rule was that they anyway raised defective transport units or “Trainwesens”, and they also gave to private enterprises not only the management of the army Train, but also the renting of the carriages for line and reserve artillery.

This was the fourth Austrian weak-point : a complete chaos in the Supply lines.

In vain Archduke Charles braced himself, with all his energy, against this pernicious project, which could have been executed in a more favourable moment, anyway not under very unfavourable circumstances, as in mobilization period, when there were a real danger of damaging the whole army within few months. Mack's influence, however, was already greater; and his suggested army reorganization (Heeresorganisation) became effective thanks the imperial acts (Handbillets) of Persenburg, June 14th, enforced on August 1st, with the new standards which had to be accepted everywhere.

Charles wrote: “In political respect one must suppose once again that, FML Mack, have got data and special instructions, without whose knowledge it will be impossible to judge the eccentric way of his ruling!”

So Mack went to war, Napoleon did the residual tasks at Austerlitz.

This table is a short compendium of the Austrian military Reforms (from 1805) which led till the “Great powerful army” of 1809.




former or detail




New regulations for cavalry (Graf Grünne)

Deployment in 3 ranks

abolished. Now in 2 ranks.

August 1

Reduction of the infantry and cavalry baggage Train

4-horse drawn Wagen


4-horse drawn Wagen

(inf/cav division)

August 1

Mack Reform

Inf.battalions of 6 comp.

+ 2 comp. grenadiers

regiment = 20 comp. 3 batt.

+ Grenadiers div.

Inf. battalions of 4 comp.

Regiment = 5 battalions

20 companies


Pioniers Vorschrift


Pioniers comp. + 2 men

60 men armed


infantry in Italy


Regiments with 4 batt. + 1 Grenadier battalion with regiments


2 regiments + 1 battery 3 pdr.

(Cavalry brig. had no artillery)


New organization of the Supreme Command

Ministerial Kanzlei

(GM graf Grünne)

Correspondance with Hofkriegsrat, private mail of the Supreme Commander, with Allies, with Enemies, management of the common funding



(FML Zach)

Registrations of operations, Military Diaries, military acts.



(ObstLt Piccard)

Army lists, task tables, Army/divisions orders.



(FML baron Skal)

Supplies (food, uniforms, Train, medical, territorial service etc.)


February 10

Supreme Command

New rank ?

Archduke Charles as Generalissimus

October 20

Wiener Neustadt Academy


new organization



September 1


New Dienstreglement for infantry

end of the year

New organization in field

Regiments in 5 batt.

3 battalions (I and II with 6 coys, III with 4), 2 grenadiers comp. – 1-2 depot comp.



New artillery system


batteries (brigade, position and reserve)


Light infantry

disbanding the light battalions

raising the Jäger (Feldjäger) batt.



cask helmets for infantry

substitution with Shakos


Remounts for cavalry

various places

all to Wiener-Neustadt Central Armee Equitation Institut




new Confinien-Werbung Act




new raising of Academy cadets coys

May 12

Reserve-Anstalt Act


extension of the military service duty. Men in Reserve status.

June 9

Imperial Patent


Formation of the Landwehr force



New organization in field

Armies split in Treffen, Wings, divisions and brigades

Army Corps (2 inf. Div. + 3rd Div. with Light cavalry and 2-3 batt. of light troops)


Hungarian recruitment


new rules (Werb-Instruction)

The Generalissimus Period

In 1806 Archduke Charles regained control of the army administration and promptly began to push through his reforms in an attempt to bring some degree of modernisation to the K.K.[7] Armee.  On February 10, 1806, Charles wrote to his brother, the Emperor Franz:

“After the last unhappy events and a peace gained with so big sacrifices, it is necessary, with the highest urgency, to bring the war power of the Monarchy in such a condition that it could become a reliable protection for my hereditary country, after measuring the resources in men and finances, distinguished by order and training. The first step for reaching this purpose I think, Yours Grace, I have to act in the quality of a Generalissimus,[8] at the top of my complete army.”

This was a steady Charles’ idea, that of concentrating the Supreme Command in a single hand.  Charles was aware that the French victories had been gained as France had one chief and one commander (not Coalitions, not Hofkriegsrat, no politics).

Charles choose three men in order to upgrade his “1805 battered” army: a political and military Adjutant, the FML Earl Philipp Grünne, the general quartermaster Mayer and his personal generaladjutant baron Wimpffen. They put in forced retirement not less than 25 high generals, in the first month of 1806; the substitutes were younger and more ready to learn new ways of warfare. They organized a new Hofkriegsrat which could manage military matters in a very fast way. The whole army received a fixed deployment or “Ordre de Bataille” also for peacetime, gradually raising new “Corps” staffs, which had to recruit troops in their areas and which could swiftly activate (mobilize) units in early wartime.

In 1807 and 1808 were published the new “Reglements” for the troop-training and finally Austria had also its “légère” with the raising of the Feldjäger battalions. The serious problem of lack of horses was managed creating the Equitationsinstitut and the system of the Pferde-depots (horses depots), which had to gather and keep all kind of cavalry equipments. As for infantry, Charles created also the Landwehr (territorial) army, a “shield” against invaders (Schutze des Landes gegen Invasionen) and other.

The Charles Conscription System improved

When, in 1806, the Emperor Franz abdicated his title of Holy Roman Empire Emperor, Austria suspended the recruitments from the historical electoral (German) areas. In order to enroll again the “now foreign” citizens in its army, in 1807, they created the “Borders Levy” (Confinen-Werbung, instead of the former Reichs-Werbung), but the support of this additional Levy was unsatisfactory and unuseful. [9] Austria had to recruit soldiers mainly in its national lands, but volunteers were always welcome (from Netherlands, Rhinelands, Bavaria, Saxony, Italy and from all the previous lost territories.)

So, in order to reach the stated military strength, a Supreme Resolution Act (June 12, 1806) created the Reserve (Reserve-Anstalt). Its organization was strictly tracked by Charles himself, ending in 1808 with the creation of the Landwehr.

Every regiment had to maintain a force of 2 battalions as Reserve-Mannschaft (each with 600-700 men), which could have been asked to enroll again in the case of war. Every man of the Reserve had his Legitimationskarte and the Reserve Duty period now lasted from 17 till 40 years. [10]

This Reform, in 1809, was extended also into Hungary (neue Werbe-Instruction für Ungarn), where the recruitment was still free (voluntary). Now the Magyars were enrolled in the Counties areas, numbered with the same regiment numbers as in the hereditary lands. Insurrectio national units (a sort of Hungarian Landwehr already present since the end of the 18th Century) and the Grenzregiments of the Military Border maintained their own historical systems.

Charles then passed to his old project: the “shield against invaders”. But it was more probable that he would try to turn round the French prohibition to the Austrian rearmament by exploiting the territorial areas as the already existing Hungarian model. Basing on his personal experience in raising an own Legion (thanks to his faithful Bohemians) Charles suggested to raise a national defensive army force, similar to the Magyar Insurrectio army.

This was the first step along the stairway which would have had to bring to the rebirth of the imperial army. The provision for the Landwehr caused minimal alarm in France, as the system was structured as defensive. In addition, the new territorial army would have had to regulate the control and the command over the volunteers units (Freiwillige), which were various and numerous in the Austrian tradition.

The orders to establish the raising of the Landwehr were issued with the Imperial Patent of 9th June 1808. This act made compulsory the service in the militia, for all males of the hereditary lands (Austria, Moravia, Bohemia, Silesia and Galicia) aged between 18 and 45, unless exempted or already serving with the reserve units.  In four provinces, Upper and Lower Austria, Bohemia and Inner Austria, were planned 170 battalions, however, actually, only around 70 battalions took the field. Each province was subdivided into districts, each required to raise between one and five battalions of six companies, organised as the line infantry and under the command of retired officers of the regular army or “self-commissioned” nobles and landowners.

Although some “Freikorps”, or volunteer battalions, were initially a military element completely separate from the Landwehr, being recruited from willing volunteers who signed only for the duration of the war, these units soon began to give the best recruits to the Landwehr, which, in fact, became the Cadre corps, around which the whole system operated.  Napoleon strongly disagreed with this “secondary” army system and one of the clauses of the Vienna Treaty was the total Abolition of the Landwehr armies.

A New (or Maybe a Reverse Thread) Infantry

Considering the persistent lack of resources the Generalissimus did not think anyway to increase the standing army by the creation of new troops units. His first (tactical) provision was to change the structure of the infantry regiments back to that formally used before Mack's reforms. Regiments now consisted of two field battalions each of six-companies and a depot battalion of two companies, increased to four in 1808.

This was the second step towards rearmament:Austrian battalions retook their former fire power.

The two elite Grenadier companies of each regiment were again brigaded together and combined with Grenadier divisions of other regiments to form Grenadier battalions, during war time. The third step for the effectiveness: return of the Elite reserve (similar to the French Guards units)

Whenever called to war standing, the regiment raised four additional companies, two being drafted into the third battalion, giving the unit three full field battalions and the remaining two forming the cadre of a new depot battalion, the fourth. However, during the 1809 campaign, several regiments augmented this fourth battalions and a few even had five field battalions serving in different armies. Battalions were numbered 1 to 3, divisions 1 to 9 and companies 1 to 18 consecutively through the regiment and was introduced a new administrative unit, the zug (similar to the modern platoon) which was a quarter-company, or the half of an half-company.

This was the fourth trial to reach the best efficiency in campaign: the target to create small detachments with “smart” NCOs (Zugsführern, which actually wasn’t yet a regular army rank) able to act by own initiative. (“à la prussienne” or as Prussians did).

A New Artillery and a New Mobility

In 1807 Archduke Charles withdrew definitively the regimental and battalion guns from infantry to form brigade batteries, except for the Grenzer regiments which continued to maintain two light artillery pieces per battalion. This was the fifth goal to reach: a new artillery system able to concentrate pieces forming Grand Batteries (as French did).

The historical two Garrison regiments (5th and 6th) were disbanded in 1807; the 1st Garrison regiment (Nr. 5) forming the 1st and 2nd Garrison battalions and the 2nd Garrison regiment (Nr. 6), forming the 3rd and 4th. [11]

Charles, in 1808, continued with his light infantry’s reform by raising seven new battalions, formed by experienced officers and N.C.O.s coming from existing regular battalions and from recruits found in Tyrol, among the skilled marksmen taken from other infantry regiments and the various estates throughout the Bohemian, Galician and Moravian regions; this virtually eradicating the skilled hunters from the countryside, as some prominent landowners complained. In 1809 was raised an eleventh Jäger battalion. However, in order to fill the companies to full strength, only nine battalions were in the field that year. In order to emphasize their battle mission, rather than their wood hunters origin, they were called as Field (Feld) hunters (Jäger).

The sixth Charles’ original provision, made to create a fast moving infantry, capable of cover and support tasks so was: the raising of the Feldjäger battalions (bataillons de Tirailleurs) assigned to Vanguard units as very mobile units.

Imperial Austrian Cavalry

It is universally known that Austria had a famous (and expensive) cavalry, master of acting as support, escort, reconnaissance branch. They were the core of the vanguard units. But that wonderful and skilled cavalry was compltely unable to maneuver and perform in great masses (cavalry brigades, even divisions), unlike the French cavalry, which trained itself to learn this.

In the far 1792, at the beginning of the French revolutionary wars, the cavalry of the K.K. Armee consisted of thirty-five regiments: two carabiniers, nine cuirassiers, six dragoons, seven chevauleger, nine hussars, one uhlan regiment and a halfregiment of Stabs-dragoner (General Staff dragoons). It was an heritage of the Maria-Theresia’s cavalry; the branch had a lot of historical regiments, which did the same things in battle.

It became essential to reform and to gather together the units, and the first simplification was the reorganisation of 1798. Then the carabinier regiments were absorbed into the cuirassiers, while a further “armored” regiment born, bringing the total to twelve. Dragoons and chevaulegers were combined into a single branch and two new regiments formed. The hussars were brought up to twelve regiments, a new uhlan regiment raised and a single regiment of “Chasseurs à cheval” (Jäger-zu-Pferde) brought into being.

Even if Archduke Charles was not a cavalry specialist, he agreed to modernize the noble branch of the army. First of all it was necessary to eliminate the “afoot cavalry” (Dragoons), which often had acted like a sort of “light infantry” moving fastly with horses. In 1798 Austria organized its first true light cavalry (the Light dragoons), which comprised the former Chevaulégers regiments. However that early experience led under poor training (lack of time for the 1799 and 1800 campaigns) did not prove to be worthy.

A second simplification happened in 1801, under some crisis in the imperial finances. Cavalry was again re-organised, the cuirassier regiments reduced to eight, whilst the dragoons regiments were again divided into dragoons and chevaulegers; the mounted Jäger regiment was disbanded, as was also one hussars regiment. The Stabs-dragoner regiment was reduced to a single division (2 squadrons). After that provisions Austria waited till 1809 to see the birth of a third uhlan regiment.

Gradually the Austrians became to consider to train the Dragoons as heavy cavalry mounted with firearms, leaving to Chevaulegers (hussars and uhlans too) the light cavalry tasks. Unluckily, after the 1805 “fiasco”, lacking horses (remounts) Vienna was forced, in 1806, to reduce heavy cavalry, cuirassiers and dragoons, to “ghost” regiments each with only two divisions (two-squadrons each), with other two Depot-divisions in wartime.

Chevaulegers, hussars and uhlans (which all maneuvered in the same way, differentiating themselves only for their own ethnic and traditional composition, as per recruitment) had eight squadrons in four divisions, with the exception of the Grenz-Husaren-Regiment “Szekler” Nr. 11, which maintained only six squadrons. The depot squadrons remained as in the previous times. The heavy cavalry squadrons now consisted of 135 men (they were 150) and the light cavalry squadrons of 150 troopers (they were 180).

Probably one of the several causes of the 1809 failures was the presence of weaker cavalry units (with few reserve horses available), which dramatically increased the difficulty to train and to manoeuver as large (brigade) masses. This will be primarily manifest at the great cavalry battle of the Bavarian 1809 campaign: Alt-Eglofsheim.

Each cavalry squadron was now divided into two Flügels (wings), or half-squadrons, and each “Flügel” in turn into two “züge” (platoons). The cavalry divisions were numbered 1 to 4 consecutively and the squadrons 1 to 8 consecutively, with each “Flügel” numbered 1 and 2 within its own squadron. The “züge”, however, were numbered by their rank in the line. Therefore the 1st Squadron had “züge” 1, 3, 5 and 7, the 2nd Squadron the “züge” 2, 4, 6, and 8, and accordingly through the whole regiment. As in infantry, the regiments were named after their Proprietors commanders (Inhaber) and each division and squadron therein named after their commanding officer.

The “Guns” and Charles Reforms

The organization of the Austrian artillery underwent very few changes, since the Seven Years War, and was a so intricate branch to even reach a point similar to a complete disorder. In 1792 there existed three Feld-Artillerie-Regimenten (artillery regiments), a Bombardier Corps (bombers), an Artillerie-Fusilier-Bataillon, the Artillerie-Feldzeugamt (ordnance workshops) and the Garnison-Artillerie-Districten Batteries (fortress artillery).

The Field Artillery Regiments were purely administrative bodies, the personnel and ordnance being split into non-permanent companies, assigned to the infantry as battalion’s artillery and to the cavalry as brigade’s batteries, with the surplus guns assigned to the Artillery Reserve.

The Bombardier-Corps and Artillerie-Fusilier-Bataillon, with certain elements of the Garrison Artillery, provided the men and guns for the Artillery Reserve, and the Feldzeugamt was responsible for the maintenance of the ordnance.

Archduke Charles had got firsthand experience of the more efficient artillery system of the French army and in 1806 started to reorganize and modernise the Austrian artillery administration using his experience. So he considered necessary a totally new a modern system, “à la Française”, which involved transports.

First, in 1806, regimental artillery companies were withdrawn and the various artillery units reorganised to form four regiments (each of four battalions). Each artillery battalion consisted of four companies or batteries. The more skilled gunners from the Bombardier-Corps were reorganised into five companies and distributed throughout the artillery to manage and supervise the howitzers workings.

The Artillerie-Feldzeugamt was retained, but its personnel was distributed as required and the Garrison artillery was redesignated the Gewehr-Fabrique-Corps, responsible for all garrison artillery and fortifications.

A new Handlanger-Corps (workers) was formed into eight companies or four divisions, to provide labour for the gun placements, formerly provided by infantry or extra artillery personnel. These companies were distributed throughout the batteries as required.

In 1808 was adopted also the British Congreve Rocket System and each of the four artillery regiments formed its Feuerwerkscompagnie.

The Pieces

Prior to 1807 the regimental artillery contingents usually consisted of 3 pdr light field guns, assigned to line infantry regiments serving in Italy and in the Military Border, the 6 pdr field guns were assigned to the remaining line regiments and a mix of 6 pdr, 12 pdr field guns and 7 pdr howitzers assigned to the artillery Reserve, which was an unofficial formation distributed at the discretion of the field commanders. Cavalry had its Kavallerie-Batterien, usually made of four 3 pdr field guns, distributed on a regimental basis when in campaign.

In 1807 artillery was reorganised into:

-        the Brigade batteries, assigned one to each infantry brigade, (3 pdr or 6 pdr field guns)

-        the Position batteries (heavier guns) which were distributed to Divisions, whilst each cavalry brigade was assigned a Kavallerie-Batterie.

Battery Composition 1807-13


Field Guns


3 pdr Brigade Batterie

8 x 3 pdr


6 pdr Brigade Batterie

8 x 6 pdr


6 pdr Positions-Batterie

4 x 6 pdr

2 x 7 pdr

12 pdr Positions-Batterie

4 x 12 pdr

2 x 7 pdr

3 pdr Kavallerie-Batterie

4 x 3 pdr

2 x 7 pdr

6 pdr Kavallerie-Batterie

4 x 6 pdr

2 x 7 pdr

Artillery Military Train

The reform of the military transports (Train) was probably the most important reform of Archduke Charles. It was a totally new system were the former civil Train, became militarized.  All transports, draft horses and drivers for artillery were now provided by the new Militar-Fuhrwesens-Korps, where most of the draft animals and personnel were recruited on a civilian contract basis for each campaign.

In 1808 the Fuhrwesen were officially taken into the army with an established strength and were organised on a regimental basis around the park division. Then, for the first time, the officers received rank as commissioned officers.

The corps was divided into small divisions of around 80 - 200 men and horses, dependant on their duties, and distributed throughout the artillery. The Fuhrwesenkorps-Artillerie-Bespannungsdivisionen attached to each battery of foot artillery were commanded by a Rittmeister (captain) or Oberleutnant (1st lieutenant), assisted by an Unterleutnant (2nd lieutenant), two Wachtmeisters (sergeants), and a Corporal with 80 drivers. The Fuhrwesenkorps-Artillerie-Reitendedivisionen, attached to the cavalry batteries, had a similar command staff but with 200 drivers.

The 3 pdr and 6 pdr field guns and the smaller ammunition wagons required four draft horses, while the larger pieces and wagons, along with the cavalry guns, needed six to mobilize. However, by 1809, most guns were served by six-horse teams, for greater speed and mobility.

The “Minds” (Technical Troops)

The technical corps of the Austrian Army was divided into two sections: the Engineer Corps, consisting of engineers, sappers and miners under the General Director of Engineers, and the Pioneer Corps, made up of the pioneers and pontooners under the jurisdiction of the General Quartermaster's Department.

Because of the eight-year training period required, and the reluctance of educated young noblemen to enlist with the technical corps, the Engineer Corps was always maintained at full strength and consisted of ten general officers, General-Directeurs, Pro-Directeurs, Inspecteurs and Genie-Generals, six Ingenieurs-Obersten, twelve Ingenieurs-Oberstleutnants, ten Ingenieursmajors, thirty Ingenieurshauptmann and 106 Ingenieurs-Hauptleutnants and Oberleutnants. These officers were distributed as commanders and advisory officers to the Sappeurs-Korps (sappers) and Mineurs-Korps (miners), the former consisting of three companies and the latter of four companies, (each corps being under the command of a Sappeur/Mineurmajor with a captain commanding each company assisted by a lieutenant).

Companies consisted of about 120 men directed by two Sappeur/Mineurfeldwebel, two Sappeur/Minenmeister, two Sappeur/Minenführer with the equivalent ranks of corporal, lance-corporal and gefreiter. The troopers were called Ober-, Alt, and Jungsappeur/Mineur (1st, senior and junior sappers). Recruits for the engineer departments had previously been drawn from the infantry. However, after 1798, they were carefully selected from civilian craftsmen and the better infantry volunteers and had to pass intelligence tests and examinations, be physically fit and able to read and write German fluently before they were allowed to join the corps.

The Pioneers (Pionniers-Korps) and Pontoons (Pontoniers-Korps) had previously been raised only in the event of war, but in 1792 were established two battalions of pioneers and one battalion of pontoniers, each with six companies of 120 men.

In addition to the above there existed a single battalion of 'boat-handlers', the Czaikisten-bataillon (in German Tschaikisten or Titler), a “Grenzer” unit responsible for patrolling and maintaining security of the river Danube near the Turkish border, which, in war time, were assigned to assist the pontooner units.

The name was taken from the 'Tschaike', a type of small, swift, shallow-draft sailing boat, armed with heavy cannon and ideal for river patrol duties. In 1809 the battalion consisted of three divisions, each of two companies of about 180 all ranks.

Charles Reforms

In 1807 the Engineer and Quartermasters' Department technical units were combined to form a single administrative block under the Director General of Engineers, although each corps remained separate with its own specific duties.

The engineers (Ingenieur-Korps) continued to supply the experienced and technically trained officers to all departments; the sappers (Sappeur-Korps) were responsible for fortifications, and the miners (Mineur-Korps) for defensive and offensive works. The pioneers' duties generally overlapped the latter, but continued to have special responsibility for the construction of artillery sites and field works, whereas the Pontonier Korps was responsible for the pontoon trains and all bridging works.

By 1809 each of the Sappeur and Mineur Korps were fielding five, and later six, companies of 120 men, and the Pontonier battalion had six companies each of 125 men serving 300 pontoon wagons. The Pioneer Korps, requiring less training than the sappers, had been increased to nine divisions, each of two companies, with about 200 men per company.

Peacetime force of the Austrian Army (1802-1809)


Troops (March 1809)


Grenadier Divisions






Line infantry regiments



2 Dep.




(en 1802










Garrison battalions





Military Border regiments  (Grenzer)

2 + 1







7 *



(en 1802




































Bombardier Corps






Handlanger battalion






* (6 plus 1 Reserve [Depot] squadron)

Wartime Force of the Austrian Army 1805 (Coalition)

Troops (Oct. 9, 1805)



















354.922 [12]

The Army of 1809

Therefore, the operation of raising the new military force had to be aimed towards another, less expensive, way. The Generalissimus found his goal in the establishment of the Landwehr, with which, in wartime, it could be used large masses of Wehrfahigen (fit to Duty) men, without arising substantial expenses during peacetime. Generally supported by the Archdukes John and Maximilian, Charles created this quite new institution, which probably did not correspond fully to his hopes, during the 1809 war, needing only a little bit longer time of preparation.

So Austria entered into war with one of the most powerful military force (in numbers of fighters), an effort which hardly seemed possible and which surprised the world. In the first month of this year the field units of the army counted 321.469 men with 36.560 sabres,[13] where Fuhrwesen, garrison artillery, Border Cordon troops and Marines (Marineinfanterie) were not included.[14]

For the supplement of the war force and the formation of replacements were available:

- The first reserve of the German infantry units: 59.800 men

- The second reserve of the German infantry units:  73.600 men

For self-replacement of the Hungarian regiments, the Landstag of Bratislava (Pressburg) had granted on August 31, 1808, 20.000 recruits by whom 11.000 were committed for immediate employment. The first 12.000 men were actived and put in march columns, with the Order of February 2, 1809. Cavalry had a Reserve of 2.760 horses.

If one deducts roughly 8.000 soldiers serving the depots, remained available, for offensive operations, 360.000 men and 39.000 horses [15], whereas 109.280 men, the remainder of the Reserves and of the Hungarian recruits, were retained part in the depots, part still in the homeland eventually to replace troops in campaign.

Charles’ Second Army

For the defence of the inner lands of the monarchy, first acted the Depots of the field regiments, were possible, with an average strength, according to the new system, calculated in 54.000 men and 5.000 horses.

In a second time acted the new-established Landwehr, around 152.219 man, as soon as organized. The Hungarian Insurrectio started with 50.000 men and 20.000 horses, while the new formations mobilized in the Military Border should have been 44.303 men and 171 horses strong.

This improved a second line army, actually called the "Sedentärtruppen", around 300.522 men and 25.171 horses (maybe ?). In effect reliable data about the rough number of the not-organized reserves, Landwehr and Hungarian Insurrectio are currently still lacking.

The Emperor had to procure, obviously, weapons, clothes and pieces of equipment for these large masses of soldiers. If one considers that the army of 1805 had been poor in supplies, in every moment of that war, it must astonish that few years of peacetime could have succeeded in equipping, at least, the troops ready for the campaign. Supplies were accumulated even for the Sedentärformationen, but they were not sufficient for activate such large masses; particularly there existed a perceptible lack of rifles and ammunition.

A “Conscriptionsgesetz” of 1807 had regulated the gathering of the horses needed by the army. Certainly, the horses amounts present in the countrylands was right abundant, but there were lot of difficulties to “enroll” the carriage animals and, in general, even more for the train and for the cavalry remounts. The money for purchasing them abroad was absent (by this reason several cavalry regiments had been dissolved in the time) and the low number of riders, at the time, was a sensitive disadvantage towards the probably future French opponent

In any case Austria entered the war with the most powerful army of all its times, but with a lethal disorganization in its services.

A Lost opportunity. Why Archduke Charles Lost the 1809 War.

Out of the numerous arrangements which were early studied in 1808, with few exceptions, in this period there happened also another important attempt to improve the tactical arrangements and training of the whole army, indirectly revising the Mack “mistakes of the past”.

It was the introduction of the Corps-System by which Archduke Charles entirely erased the old traditions of Treffen (battlelines), Wings, Reserve Corps and so on. He wanted to give to the army this tactically deployment modelling it on what was applied in France. The aim was also the complete remake of the 1798 system of the large Legions, a primitive form of dividing armies in group of Divisions.

The new Corps were formed by 28 battalions, 16 squadrons, 10 artillery batteries and 2 companies of pioneers. As for infantry 2 or 3 regiments (each with 3 battalions) formed a brigade and two brigades (generally) formed a Line Division under a Feldmarschalleutnant. With light infantry and light cavalry it was usually formed the Light brigade or Avant-garde brigade (generally with 2-3 battalions and 1 light cavalry regiment), while two Light brigades formed a Light Division. So the army Corps were composed by 2 Line Divisions and one Light Division, ... in theory.

The Corps commander, so, could have had at disposition a small linear army to be led under the tactical old and well-known principles; the Line Divisions represented the “corps de bataille” (or the old Treffen) while the Light Division was employed for service of vanguard; there were also special “Corps de Réserve”, acting as strategical reserve force.

This rigid Ordre de Bataille put into evidence that Austrian Staff had not comprised the real nature of the new French Corps-system, having almost abandoned the aim to eventually create operative divisions capable to act as independent bodies, as the French did in campaign.

As an other proof of weakness subsequently appeared that the army commanders put nearly no value on the preservation of the Corps structure. The column formation, practiced in the former wars, emerged again without particular consideration for the new deployment in field. Also within the Corps the originally settled “Ordre de bataille” changed time by time, in spite of the Generalissimus orders, who forbade this arbitrary actions.

It was a problem of a new system with old Generals.

But the decisive characteristic, which stressed the Archduke, was the necessity to model the Order of battle according to the topographic characteristic of the battlefields (mostly hills and rough terrains in Bavaria as in Italy). So Charles early granted, grunting, his permission to some free arrangements, protected by sufficient cavalry and artillery mass batteries, while in Bohemia, in late April, he turned back on his steps.

However the whole Reform was not born to let generals play with their little armies. The main idea was to have large autonomous Corps, each with their own train, artillery and engineers parks following the troops. Forced to manoeuver those Corps in narrow areas, forced to use the few roads and trails available (under heavy rains in Bavaria), trains and parks often crossed together on the roads, produced traffic jams and, when they were forced to withdraw, they lost huge quantities of materials along the retreat’s ways.

Deepening more the evaluation of the military train problems can be observed that if, in 1805, supplies arrived chaotically or did not arrive at all, in 1809 the early defeats caused the lost of large quantities of materials in the jammed roads and caused also the necessity to split the army of Germany in two groups, also because there was no space to allow all to move in order.

The experience had clearly shown that French troops knew how to manage days of campaigning without depots and supplies; it can be overlooked and admired their art to live by requisitions from the countryside. They, however, not only managed the food requisition, but even knew how stock unnecessary supplies to make Center of Operations, limiting to the minimum the food usage. Austrian did not so.

The army arrangement in large operative independent unities required a new organization with moving depots; each independent Corps had its own carriage park with bread, rusk, oat and hay, and, as permanently subordinates, some supply columns. The Corps commanders now had to be familiar with the Supply chains, had to dispose the daily transports (Tagesstaffeln) of the supply trains. The bad communications demanded the accumulation of several depots behind the lines, and the utter changes in the operative plans caused deadly confusion. Under these circumstances it would have been better if the Army command had reserved itself the leading of the depots, occasionally sending separate columns to supply the corps.

This was a major fault in the Charles Army reorganization, which probably led directly to the campaigns’ defeats. Charles had reformed the old stationary Austrian supply system raising a new, reasonably mobile structure, smaller than the old one and split among the Corps. But Napoléon (and Eugène) were still faster in moving, manoeuvering and supplying and Charles did not have any hope to beat the French other than in immobile field deployment or by exploiting some exceptional leaks in the enemy logistic system (remember the bridges at Aspern).

So he won Napoléon when the “Empereur” was unable to maneuver, having the wide Danube on his back, but failed to win the final decisive static battle at Wagram. This was the sunset of the Austrian military star, a great mind (maybe a lesser commander in field) and the Generalissimus went back to his estates.


Angeli Moriz, Von, Erzherzog Carl von Österreich als Feldherr und Heeresorganisator: Im Auftrage seiner Söhne, der Herren Erzherzoge Albrecht und Wilhelm, dann seiner Enkel, der Herren Erzherzoge Friedrich und Eugen; nach österreichischen Original-acten dargestellt, 5 vol., W. Braumüller, 1897.

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[1] Source: Franz Müller "Die kaiserl. königl. österreichische Armee, seit Errichtung der stehenden Kriegsheere bis auf die neueste Zeit" 2. Band (Prag,1845) pp. 399-402

[2] The Hofkriegsrat was the Court Council of War of the Habsburg Monarchy, which had a Chief and other higher generals.

[3] From England encouraged and from Russia pushed ahead, with the Präliminarvertrag of November 4, 1804, Emperor Franz, as well as the chancellor count Ludwig Cobenzl, wished a new war, while Archduke Charles tried to soften the Diplomats by taking all opportunities to explain, more and more, that a well-being Monarchy demanded only one good peace system, basing on Diplomacy.

[4] When speaking upon the Austrian empire, treat the term “German” referring to imperial citizens resident in the Cisleithanian countries, mostly of German languages (such as Rhinelands, Bohemia, Austria, Tyrol and Styria, but also Moravia, Silesia and Galicia). The Transleithanian countries, Hungary and the Military border (i.e. Croatia) used the word “hungarian” .

[5] However there was also a lifetime Duty reserved to vagabonds.

[6] Maybe it’s important to remember that a division was also a small units of two squadrons (cavalry).

[7] K.K. (Kaiserliche-königliche) or better K.k. (since the second k was less important) meant Imperial-royal and was the official prefix for all the Imperial organizations (military included). Note the difference with the late K.u.K. (after the Ausgleich Act of 1867) which meant Kaiserliche-und-Königliche (Imperial and Royal) when the king of Hungary charge (König) was separated from the Emperor’s charge (Kaiser) and when the second letter K became a capital letter. The use of the K.K. caused also the nickname “Kaiserlichs” which italians and french troops gave to Austrians from 1794.

[8] A new rank ? Not at all. This was the supreme commander rank of prince Suvorov in 1799 when led an Austro-russian coalition in Italy.

[9] The mercenary nature of these soldiers and the promise of a less severe treatment (maybe corporal punishments) if they should had entered the Austrian ranks, in addition with a more lax discipline made the “foreigners” (Ausländer) very poor soldiers. During the campaign in Bavaria in 1809, whenever an opportunity arose, indeed, a lot of foreigners deserted.

[10] Note the 40 German and galizian regiments had to keep Reserve men not only for their own use, but also for the rest of the military branches, whenever needed.

[11] In 1809, following the loss of territories following Bonaparte's victory, eight line regiments were disbanded Nrs. 13, 23, 38, 43, 45, 46, 50 and 55, these numbers remaining vacant until Nrs. 13, 23, 38, and 43 were reformed with recruitments in the new Italian territorial gains of 1814.

[12] Note the number is lower than the peacetime force value of 1809  - also if adding a total of around 13.000 artillerymen not present in the table. This could be a sign of the Austrian military weakness under general Mack leadership.

[13] The source of these numbers (a bit different from the above table) is K. A. F. A. 1809, Hauptarmee, 1, 41, 47. in Krieg 1809 – band I – Regensburg. The Grenzregimenter are counted into the infantry total. The starting force of the Army was 244.259 men with  32.145 horses. The number of the Absenten available for the war was 57.818 men and 1700 horses.

[14] For a total of 21.320 men and 9.461 horses.

[15] Active 313.469 men, 36.560 horses. Recruitment of the German infantry 33.120 men, Recruitment of the Hungarian infantry 11.000 men. Cavalry Reserve 2760 men and 2760 horses. In total 360.349 men, 39.320 horses.


Placed on the Napoleon Series: February 2010