Prussian Infantry Regimental Colonels-in-Chief: 1792 - 1806
When the Prussian Army went to war against Napoleon in October 1806, it was considered by many to be the finest army in Europe. Harsh training and hard campaigning under King Friedrich II and his generals had created one of history's most effective military machines. In terms of middle eighteenth-century warfare, the Prussian Army was second to none.
Therein lay the problem: in 1806, the strategy, tactics and command-and-control of Prussia's old 'Frederickan' system confronted those of France's new 'Napoleonic' system. Despite some deficiencies in the cavalry arm, the Prussian infantry was still as solid as it was at Leuthen or Rossbach in 1757 (its performance at Vierzehnheiligen during the Battle of Jena was proof of that). However, what hampered the Prussian Army the most in the Jena-Auerstadt Campaign was not its' slow rate of march, lack of sufficient light infantry, or outmoded divisional system, but rather a general absence of effective command.
The majority of the senior officer corps was elderly, often indecisive or dangerously over-confident. Strategic planning lacked clear goals; initiative failed at crucial moments. Coordination with their Saxon ally was poor (the Saxon contingent almost quit the campaign over a lack of supplies) and unit deployment especially Ruchel's corps at Jena and Oranien's division at Auerstadt often made a bad tactical situation even worse.
The cavalry had 39,673 men formed in 255 squadrons. There were 13 five-squadron cuirassier regiments, 12 five-squadron dragoon regiments, two 10-squadron dragoon regiments ('Konigin' Nr. 5 and 'Auer' Nr. 6) and nine 10-squadron hussar regiments. The remaining units were a single five-squadron hussar 'battalion', a 10-squadron 'Towarczys' regiment and a five-squadron 'Towarczys' 'battalion'.
The field artillery consisted of 10,165 men in 71 eight-gun batteries. There were four foot artillery regiments (36 12pdr batteries), one horse artillery regiment (20 6-pdr batteries) and two 10-pdr mortar batteries. Eight 6-pdr batteries, four 7-pdr howitzer batteries and one light mortar battery were in reserve.
It is interesting to consider that Prussia may have lost the Jena-Auerstadt Campaign with a single general officer's bad decision: Generalleutnant Wilhelm-Heinrich-Adolf von Kalckreuth's refusal to commit his two reserve divisions at the Battle of Auerstadt. At Auerstadt, Marshal Davout's seriously-outnumbered III Corps astride the Prussian Army's line of retreathad withstood a terrible pounding in the morning by Schmettau's, Wartensleben's and Oranien's divisions. By early afternoon
However, neither King Friedrich-Wilhelm III nor his senior military advisor Generalfeldmarschall von Mollendorf assumed command and the Prussians lost their opportunity. Davout ordered his exhausted troops to advance and Scharnhorst issued an order for a general retreat (covered by Kuhnheim's and Arnim's divisions).
After the disaster of 1806, King Friedrich-Wilhelm III created the 1807 Military Reform Commission to modernize what was left of the Prussian army (under the terms of the 1808 Treaty of Paris, Prussia's army was limited to 42,000 men for ten years, leaving the military with six independent brigades based on the remaining Prussian provinces). From 1808-1813, the army's organization, recruitment and tactics were overhauled; by early 1813, the regular infantry consisted of 12 re-named and re-numbered line regiments (1st East Prussian Infantry Regiment [ex-Infantry Regiment Nr. 1] to 2nd Silesian Infantry Regiment [ex-Infantry Regiment Nr. 12]).
Several months prior to the 1813 Campaign, a new Foot Guard regiment was raised; 39 new reserve infantry battalions were formed into one additional line regiment (12th Brandenburg Infantry Regiment) and 12 reserve regiments (1st Reserve Infantry Regiment to 12th Reserve Infantry Regiment). The reserve regiments became part of the regular Prussian army on 25.03.1815.
There is often conflicting information about officer promotion dates. In 1792, only two officers held the rank of Generalfeldmarschall in the Prussian army: Ferdinand, Duke of Braunschweig-Wolfenbuttel (1721-1792) promoted in 1758 and Karl-Wilhelm-Ferdinand, Duke of Braunschweig-Luneburg-Wolfenbuttel (09.10.1735-10.11.1806) promoted in 1787. In the years 1793-1813, a further six generals were awarded this rank:
Placed on the Napoleon Series: April - August 2005