Napoleonic Wargame Club

Prussian performance
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Author:  Christian Hecht [ Fri Feb 02, 2018 8:12 pm ]
Post subject:  Prussian performance

Here compiled are some information I found while working through the Jena-Auerstedt campaign, it seems these could & should be incorporated into the game to work out the characteristics of the forces stronger. For now only some Prussia stuff has been found, the French seem here rather "normal".

- Infantry Fire
-- The Prussian line infantry didn't fire in 3 ranks with the 1st rank kneeling. The mobilization of 1805 tipped a change that only 2 ranks fire, even against cavalry just the 2nd & 3rd rank fired while the 1st knelt and lowered the bayonet. So the fire of the Prussians in 1806-07 can not be compared to the time they once were famous for their strong infantry fire.
-- The last change in the way fire was conducted was in late 1805 when the so called "Bataillenfeuer" was only used to start the fire combat. After this first simultaneous volley conducted by the first 2 ranks, the soldiers should continue to fire until signal is given to stop fire, in the process of firing the first should wait for the second and the second for the first soldier so that both fire together. That again is not comparable to the time when the Prussian were famous for their strong infantry fire.
-- Altpreußische musket was a bad design, Clausewitz stated that they were "the worst in Europe". There are various reasons for it.
1. They were polished what made the musket corrodible, although this was prohibited after the official regulations.
2. Exercising was done under the use of the heavy loading rods that degraded the musket.
3. Company commanders delayed replacing parts or complete muskets out of parsimony.
4. Altogether the caliber enlarged up to 2,04cm because of the mistreatment.
5. It had no sight.
6. Really bad was the steep so called Kolbenhals(gunstock) that complicated aiming immensely and increased the recoil. A Cabinet order of 6th January 1801 mentions that "no aiming takes place" and "the rifle as to be placed only horizontal against the shoulder, because the recoil is too strong and the people can't aim".
A firing test on a 6 foot tall and 100 foot wide wall showed:
Weapon 100 200 300 400paces
Altpreußisches 92 64 64 42
Altpreußisches(mit krummen Kolben) 150 100 68 42
Rothardtsches 145 97 56 67
Neupreußisches 149 105 58 32
Französisches 151 99 53 55
Englisches 94 116 75 55
Schwedisches 80 116 58 47
Rusisches 104 74 51 49
So of 200 shots on 100 paces only 92 hits while many others like the French give around 150, what is more than 50% better. The same Prussian musket with a curved gunstock showed similar values to others, so alone the bad gunstock made fire on short distance a lot less effect compared to the muskets of other nations. All Prussian units should get a different weapon than the standard musket to simulate this, it should use a fire value of 3 on one hex and 1 on 2 hexes.
7. Only benefit of the Prussian musket seems to have been a better & easier way of loading, what may have lead to a higher fire rate in theory, something that the Prussian army placed value on, but in practice may not have benefited that much as fire under in a real combat situation isn't comparable with fire on the parade ground. It is noted that the previous Prussian model was able to achieve 4-4.5 shots a minute, while the new 1787 achieved 5-6 shots a minute.
Conclusion of all the above mentioned points is that either the fire value should be lowered, or if one argues the higher loading speed counters the lack of aiming, that in this case the ammo loss value should be raise by at least 3 %.
-- A second Prussian musket should be added if possible to simulate the Rothardsche musket, that musket was in its performance in lien with the other nations musket. It was used by the four Garde-Bataillone, both bat. of IR18 König, and the Grenadier-Battalion Rabiel(formed from the Grenadier companies of IR18/27).

- Cavalry
-- As the Prussian Cuirassier had no breastplates, unlike the French, should they differ in performance from the French? This could be done by either lowering their quality to lose the +20% bonus of A quality units or by designating them as Dragoons to only get +10% instead of +20% combat bonus from being a cuirassier unit. On the other hand it is often said that the French for not that good cavalry men so that French & Prussian Cuirassier units are rated equally might already be a depiction that fits the historical circumstances.

- Skirmishing
-- 1803 Hohenlohe put out regulations for the regiments from Lower-Silesia, who he also commanded in 1806, to use the 3rd rank as skirmishers. But his regulations appeared more as an advise for certain situations and not something that should be done under all circumstance. Even his own regiment did not seem to utilize the 3rd rank in 1806 in that way. Instead the 3rd rank seem to have been used as a reserve in place of a missing 2nd "Treffen"(2nd line of units behind the 1st main line of units), and this was also practiced a lot in the Winter1805/06. Still some attempts were made here and there to utilize the 3rd rank as skirmishers but the mass did not do it. For the Battle of Saalfeld its mentioned that only few regiments did use the 3rd rank as skirmishers, under them IR Zweifel.
In seems it was not before July 1807 when the King ordered the use of the 3rd rank as Schützen in which the current Schützen contingent went in and in addition 20-30 men per company were drilled as Schützen to fill losses of the Schützen. This was made active by Cabinet order of 20th November 1807.
So it can be concluded that denying the use of skirmishers by the Prussian line & even grenadier infantry is OK, also because they have separate Schützen units with better rifles that can be used for skirmishing.
Now regarding the Schützen for skirmishing, often they were also not used for it, either they had been taken away from a unit to do patrol duty or secure something or provide flank protection, or the CO himself did not use them it that way. Jany publication about the Prussian infantry has some reports about the battle of Jena-Auerstedt, and here one Co mentions that the Schützen of the battalion were uses to close the gap to the neighboring battalion in which the bat. guns should have been place but who dropped out because they had broken down.
So one can conclude that a rather conservative if not to say restricted use of Schützen units seems to depict the historical situations also better.
Altogether the Prussian neglected the art of skirmishing drastically and paid the price for it as the French Tiraileurs and artillery put a heavy toll especially on Grawerts Division of Hohenlohe and contributed strongly to sending the Prussians running.

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