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The Napoleon Series > Military Information > Organization, Strategy & Tactics

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

By Jeff Lewis


This work is based on sections four and five within the Prussian Regulations of 1812; these sections cover usage of the third rank and Brigade formations. They are chosen as they illustrate many important points about the Prussian army and additionally about the course of actual combat during this era. In my own explanations I have assumed the reader is reasonably familiar with generalities of the battles, armies and tactics of the era and have not provided any expansion on them, for example the battles of Jena and Auerstadt. That said I do believe the sections provided here from the Prussian regulations can be studied with effect even by those almost entirely new to these fascinating times. Indeed in part they may provide an excellent foundation in the realities of Napoleonic tactics.

The translations provided here are for the ease of general reference for those uncomfortable reading in German. The translations are not professional translations and will contain mistakes, they should not be relied upon for serious study. The original text is therefore also provided.


Frederick the Great, for better or worse, is credited with bringing linear warfare to its perfection in the mid Eighteenth Century . The regulations he had written for the Prussian Infantry becoming the principles on which most other European trained armies exercised their Infantry. A popular, and by now hopefully rather outdated, view is that in the late Eighteenth Century the Prussian army rotted from within ignoring further developments in the military arts. The antics of Saldern consuming much time and effort over which of two march speeds, a mere one step per minute in difference, was the most effective, have been retold in several books as a symptom of everything that was wrong with the Prussian army. The shattering of the Prussian army in 1806 has previously been put across as a catastrophic watershed only after which consideration of reform took place, the new modern Prussian army emerging in 1813 having adopted wholesale the French principles of war.

In actual fact the Prussian army always contained a number of forward looking men of high rank and many of the reforms seen together in 1813 were already in hand before the fateful battles of 1806. This is most clearly the case with that of the usage of the third rank and the Brigade Formations.

The inclusion in 1812 of the instruction on usage of the third rank and on Brigade Formations does not indicate that this was the first time the Prussians had thought about these topics.� It was rather ensuring that all officers had in their pockets a guide to exactly what was expected of their command and how to achieve it.



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