Austrian Dragoons Organisation

From Project Seven Years War
Jump to: navigation, search

Hierarchical Path: Seven Years War (Main Page) >> Armies >> Austrian Army >> Austrian Dragoons Organisation

Composition and Organisation

In 1748, at the end of the War of the Austrian Succession, the Austrian Army counted 14 dragoon regiments.

In February 1748, a military commission assembled under the supervision of Prince Charles of Lorraine to reform the army. This commission also included Prince Wenzel von Liechtenstein, the president of the War Council Field-Marshal Count Joseph Harrach, FZM Count Leopold Daun and GdC Count Salaburg.

Two dragoon regiments were disbanded thus reducing the number of dragoon regiments to 12. Their peacetime establishment consisted of 1 horse-grenadier company and of 12 so called Ordinari companies for a total of 817 men and 505 horses, thus being kept on a somewhat lower state of readiness than the cuirassiers.. A dragoon regiment was organised as follows:

  • Regimental staff
    • 1 Obrist-Inhaber (colonel-proprietor)
    • 1 Obrist-Kommandant
    • 1 Obrist-Lieutenant
    • 1 Obrist-Wachtmeister (major)
    • 14 lower staff (including 6 field-surgeons)
  • 6 dragoon squadrons, each of:
    • 2 Ordinari companies, each of 3 officers and 72 troopers, more precisely:
      • 1 captain
      • 1 lieutenant
      • 1 Fahnrich (officer standard bearer)
      • 1 Fourier
      • 4 other NCO
      • 1 drummer
      • 1 saddler or 1 farrier
      • 65 troopers
  • 1 horse-grenadier company of 3 officers and 97 horse-grenadiers, more precisely:
    • 3 officers
    • 1 Fourier
    • 5 other NCO
    • 1 trumpeter
    • 1 saddler
    • 1 farrier
    • 88 horse-grenadiers
  • train
    • 4 x 4-horses provision wagons
    • 1 x 4-horses field-forge
    • 2 large wagons for the colonel
    • 1 large wagon for each staff officer
    • 1 small wagon for each other officer

N.B.: as with the infantry, the 4 staff officers of a regiment each held a position within their own company, thus reducing 4 companies by 1.

At the beginning of 1755, on average, each cavalry regiment had a shortage of only 95 men and 170 horses. Purchase of horses was undertaken.

By the end of June 1756, dragoon regiments raised in the Hereditary Lands were still missing a total of 162 men and 213 horses. Therefore 1,300 recruits were raised in the Hereditary Lands to replenish the ranks of the cavalry (cuirassier and dragoon regiments). The delivery of the necessary horses was expected in August.

At the outbreak of the Seven Years' War, the Austrian Army counted 12 dragoon regiments, each of 817 men for a total of 9,804 men.

Wartime Organisation

When taking to the field, the grenadier company was to be formed, and 2 dragoon companies were to form 1 squadron. Authorised strength was 6 squadrons with a total of 36 officers and 864 dragoons (excluding lower staff) and 1 company of horse-grenadiers with a 100 men, for a grand-total of 1,014 men – 1 less then the cuirassiers for the lack of a kettledrummer. With 2 companies forming 1 squadron, it should be assumed that the 2nd companies standard was returned to the arsenal of the regiment, since a squadron carried only one standard during campaigns.

N.B.: Several publications elsewhere agree with the overall 1,000 but often include breakdowns of the 1768/1769 reorganisations which add to a false total between 1,200 and 1,300 men. The above breakdown derives from the Großer Generalstab History (see reference below) and should be the authentic organisation during the Seven Years' War.

This organisation remained basically unaltered for most of the war, aside from a few minor changes. In 1759, the staff companies Hauptmann position (captain-proprietor) was assigned to a lieutenant-captain, and the Fähnerich position to a designated standard bearer of NCO rank, while the Fähnerich would now serve as second lieutenant (Unterlieutenant). With individual regiments, size though, could have been increased after being converted from ‘dragoon’ into ‘chevauxleger’.

However, during the Spring of 1758, each regiment was ordered to take 1 squadron out of the line to create a so called ‘depository’ company, as well as a ‘garrison’ company. The ‘depository’ company was to serve as a store of recruits for the regiment, and to receive the sick and lightly wounded, also all of the dispensable baggage of the regiment was to be located there. That ‘depository’ company was also to receive 100 remounts as the field-squadrons reserve of horses, and was to be set up at a suitable distance in the rear of the army. The ‘garrison’ company was to be employed to escort the transports and other rear activities.

Thus, from 1758 on, the dragoons formed 5 so called ‘field-squadrons’ and 1 company of horse grenadiers in line of battle. Thus 5 squadrons with a book strength 750 – that’s somewhat less than the standard 5 squadrons of the Prussian cuirassiers and dragoons with a wartime book strength of about 200 men per squadron.

In 1759, the Rittmeister (captain) of each of the four staff companies was replaced by a lieutenant-captain and the standards were entrusted to standard-bearers instead of the former Fahnrich.

In the Winter of 1761/1762, the overall strength of a regiment (1,014 men) was reduced to some 850 men as a result of Austria’s dwindling financial resources.

The chevauxlegers: During the course of the war, several regiments had been converted from dragoons into so-called chevauxlegers by being equipped with lighter horses. This conversion usually took place during winter in preparation for the upcoming campaign. A good number would have been returned into dragoons at later stages during the war. The individual regiments histories below will provide the details.

The horse grenadiers of the dragoon regiments of an army would often be combined into larger corps of elite cavalry along with the carabiniers. Size of these units varied during the war for as any kind of permanent brigading has apparently not been the custom.

Drill

In the cavalry, much against the inclinations of most officers, there was still an exaggerated emphasis on foot exercises with troopers deploying in 3 ranks; dragoons with fixed bayonets. Marching, firing and even forming square as the infantry were still practised.

When mounted, cavalry usually deployed in 3 ranks but it could also deploys in 2 ranks. A distance of 5 paces was usually maintained between each rank. The spacing was reduced when facing the enemy. Files were disposed knee to knee.

Tactically, a squadron was organised in 3 Züge. Furthermore, each company of horse grenadiers was organised in 3 or 4 Züge, even though it counted less men than a complete squadron.

When a regiment was deployed in the first line, a distance of 10 paces was maintained between its squadrons. This distance increased to 30 or even 50 paces for regiment deployed in the second line.

A well trained cavalry regiment was able to move and change formation in several ways: front march, counter-march, wheeling by squadron, company or Züge to form in line or column. Ranks could be doubled by inserting half ranks. Oblique march was not covered by the regulations but seems to have been used for deployment.

Long movements were made at the small or strong trot. Gallop was used only for attacks. Typically, a squadron would move towards the enemy at the small trot from a distance of 200 paces, accelerating to strong trot for 20 paces before charging at gallop for the last 20 to 30 paces.

References

  • Großer Generalstab, Kriegsgeschichtliche Abteilung II (Publisher). Die Kriege Friedrichs des Großen. Dritter Teil: Der Siebenjährige Krieg 1756–1763.
    • Vol. 1 Pirna und Lobositz, Berlin, 1901, pp. 130-134, 145-147, 150; App. 2
    • Vol. 2 to 13, Berlin 1901 - 1914
  • Kessel, Eberhard: Das Ende des Siebenjährigen Krieges 1760-1763, comissioned by the (German Army) Research Departement of Military History [Militärgeschichtliches Forschungsamt – MGFA], edited by Thomas Lindner, Paderborn 2007 – the recent reedit of the missing volumes of the early 20th c. Großer Generalstab publications above
  • Duffy, Chrisopher:, The Army of Maria Theresia, Doncaster 1990
  • Anonymous: Die Reiter-Regimenter der k.k. östereichischen Armee, vol I: Die Kürassiere und Dragoner. 2nd edition, Vienna 1866