Austrian Line Infantry Organisation

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Introduction

At the end of the War of the Austrian Succession in 1748, the Austrian Army counted 61 infantry 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. It was resolved to disband 6 existing infantry regiments and to reduce the Slavonian units to only one battalion (Simbschen Infantry).

In 1749, the commission issued a regulation known as Regulament und Ordnung des K.-K. Fuß-Volcks …etc. (sic.). By this regulation, organisation was to be similar for all infantry regiments. Each regiment would count 4 battalions. During peacetime, one battalion of each regiment should always be mobilized.

More precisely, an infantry regiment (peacetime establishment) had an authorized strength of 2,408 men (2,000 for regiment stationed in Lombardy and Netherlands) and was organised as follows:

  • Regimental staff
    • 1 Obrist-Inhaber (colonel-proprietor)
    • 1 Obrist-Kommandant
    • 1 Obrist-Lieutenant
    • 1 Obrist-Wachtmeister (major)
    • 34 Lower staff, incl. 8 ensigns (NCO colour-bearers) and 10 field surgeons
  • 4 fusilier battalions, each of:
    • 4 fusilier companies, each of 3 officers (staff companies had 1 additional officer) and 133 men, more precisely:
      • 1 captain
      • 1 lieutenant
      • 1 second-lieutenant
      • 7 NCOs
      • 2 Fourierschützen (quartermaster orderlies)
      • 4 drummers and fifers
      • 10 Gefreite (1st class privates)
      • 1 Zimmermann (pioneer)
      • 110 fusiliers (109 fusiliers in staff-companies)
      • 2 x 3-pdr battalion guns
      • 1 ammunition cart
  • 2 grenadier companies, each of 3 officers and 97 men, more precisely:
    • 1 captain
    • 1 lieutenant
    • 1 second-lieutenant
    • 6 NCOs
    • 2 Fourierschützen (quartermaster orderlies)
    • 4 drummers and fifers
    • 2 Zimmerleute (pioneers)
    • 83 grenadiers
  • train
    • 6 x 4-horses provision wagons
    • 3 x 6-horses tent-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

On August 4 1753, an imperial decree reorganised recruitment. In the Hereditary Lands, a militia of 24,000 local men (between 17 and 40 years old) was raised to complement the line infantry regiments. These militia recruited new troops each 3 years. They trained on each Sunday and holidays. Furthermore, they assembled yearly during the month of November. A new unsuccessful attempt was also made to obtain monetary compensations for the replacement of missing militiamen.

Nevertheless, Austria failed to arrive at a system that could compete with Prussia’s much superior means to replace losses, despite all efforts to improve the armies resources for large scale replacement. As a result, at the beginning of 1755, General Daun estimated that the infantry stationed in the Hereditary Lands had a shortage of 20,000 men compared to its theoretical full strength; similarly 12,000 men were missing in infantry regiments stationed in Italy and 6,000 men in those stationed in the Austrian Netherlands. Some of the infantry regiments in Italy could field only 2 or 3 battalions. In an attempt to improve the overall situation, penalties were instigated to reduce desertion, care for the invalids improved and attachment to the colours promoted.

In September 1755, with war approaching, it was planned to raise 6,000 recruits in the German Hereditary Lands. However, that was insufficient to replenish the ranks of the army. It had to be completed by advertising inside and outside Austrian territories. With this additional measure, Austrian and Hungarian regiments were brought to almost full strength. However, German, Netherlander and Italian regiments did not reach their recruitment targets.

By June 1756, despite an increase of 26,000 men in the infantry, another 10,000 men were still necessary to bring this arm to full strength:

  • 1,200 men for the regiments of the German Hereditary Lands
  • 2,200 men for Hungarian regiments
  • 4,100 men for Netherlander regiments
  • 2,500 men for Italian regiments

Therefore, 4,000 additional men would have to be raised in 1756 in the German Hereditary Lands. Some German regiments were thus able to field supernumeraries.

A very different situation from Frederick’s Prussian Army, which entered the war ‘complete’ and could additionally draw from a large reserve of trained men.

Wartime Organisation

At the outbreak of the Seven Years' War, the Austrian Army included 126,610 line infantrymen:

    • 44 infantry regiments of 2,408 men for a total of 105,952 men
    • 10 infantry regiments of 2,000 men for a total of 20,000 men
    • 1 battalion of 658 men for a total of 658 men (the Slavonian regiment Simbschen Infantry entered the Seven Years' War with a single battalion, being augmented to regulation size only in early in 1757)

When the Austrian Army mobilised in the Summer of 1756, each regiment was to arrive at its assigned destination with 3 battalions. Its fourth battalion was to remain behind and serve as a reserve depot for the regiment. This fourth battalion was then entitled "Garrison Battalion", while the 3 other battalions of the regiment now formed as 2 so called "Field Battalions", each of 6 coys, by disbanding the third battalion.

Total book strength of a regular 1756 "Field Battalion" was 18 officers and 798 men; the 4 coys "Garrison Battalion" had a regular strength of 12 officers and 532 men.

Notes on variants, augmentation, and changes of organisation

Summer 1756, as mentioned above, the 2 national-Italian as well as 16 German and Hungarian regiments stationed in Italy and the Netherlands had a smaller establishments, for lack of enough recruits. Their fusilier companies counted 3 officers and only 113 men for a total of 18 officers and 678 men per battalion. The 4 National-Netherlander battalions attached to the French army in 1757 (one battalion from each of these regiments: Los Rios, Sachsen-Gotha, de Ligne and d'Arberg) took to the field with 5 companies each of 2 officers / 112 men and a single grenadier company with some 90 men. During the course of the war, their garrison battalions were eventually disbanded altogether, as a result of insufficient replacement. The 4 National-Netherlander regiments, thus being organised with 3 battalions of 4 coys each throughout most of the Seven Years' War.

During 1757 – in response to the successful Prussian early invasion of Bohemia – a good number of the regiments garrison battalions had been ordered to the field. They were really converged battalions, created by combining 6 coys of 2 or 3 regiments. Most of the 3 battalion regiments listed in the Kolin order of battle would have fielded such a 3rd battalion. The 3rd battalion of Moltke Infantry, for example, was formed of 4 companies of Moltke Infantry and and 2 companies of Kheul Infantry.

Winter 1757/58, the regiments were ordered to raise "Depositories" in strength of 1 or 2 officers and a 100 to 200 NCO and men, that were to serve as a regiments store of recruits, and to receive the sick and lightly wounded. They were to be set up at a suitable distance in the rear of the army. Also all of a regiments dispensable baggage was to be located there. For example, by September 1758, the "Depositories" of 43 regiments with more then 6,900 men were located at Prague.

Spring 1758, all of the armies "Garrison Battalions", that had for the most part been sucked into the field army during the preceding campaign, were to be re-raised and organised in 6 companies like the 2 "Field Battalions". In contrast to the "Depositories", they were to be employed to escort the transports and other rear activities. At the same time each fusilier company was somewhat increased to a total of 140 men, including officers.

Each regiment was now organised in 2 companies of grenadiers and 3 battalions of fusiliers of 6 companies each, for a total of 24 officers and 816 men per battalion. With regard to the "Field-Battalions", the re-organisation of 1758 would basically remain unaltered till the end of the war, to the exception of the 4 Netherlander regiments, which eventually organised in 3 battalions with 4 companies. However, as a result of severe losses, the number of battalions in some regiments had temporally been reduced during the course of the one or other campaign.

Winter 1761/1762, overall strength of the regiments had to be reduced as a result of Austria’s dwindling financial resources. Each regiments 3rd Garrison-Battalion was cut down to the 4 companies establishment of 1756 in order to reduce costs.

The grenadiers often formed in ad hoc battalions of between 4 to 8 companies for special tasks. Often, the grenadiers of the entire armies 1st and 2nd line regiments were converged into a so called "Grenadier Corps" of elites only. Size and composition greatly varied throughout campaigns.

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, 150; App. 4
    • 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
  • Riedmatten, R. H.: Das K.K. Feldbataillon als taktischer Verband im 7-jährigen Krieg (The I.R. Field Battalion as a tactical unit during the 7 Years War) published in Schirmer, Friedrich in Die Heere der kriegführenden Staaten 1756 - 1763. Edited and published by KLIO-Landesgruppe Baden-Württemberg e.V., Magstadt, 1989