Prussian Artillery Train

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Field Artillery Train

In 1753 Dieskau initiated an improvement to the state of readiness of the artillery for war. The entire park, till then concentrated in Berlin and Breslau (Silesia), was now distributed also to Königsberg (Prussia) with 48 pieces, Stettin (Pomerania) with 24 pieces and Magdeburg (Altmark) with 72 pieces.

The country’s estates provision of train personnel and horses were now kept in a register, thus, making the process of mobilization much easier and faster. The entire artillery train including 110 pontoons (70 stored in Berlin and 40 in the Silesian fortresses of Glogau and Neisse) and the munition wagons of the artillery and infantry amounted to 2,209 servants and 5,034 horses.

Infantry ammunition was scaled at 120 rounds per man. 60 rounds were carried by the soldier, 60 more on 4-horse-draught so entitled ‘blue wagons’. One such munitions wagon would load 15,000 musket rounds or 21,000 cavalry carbine rounds. The 1756 train was scaled at 431 such wagons for 124 battalions that were to take to the field. The cavalry had no munitions supply except for the hussars. For each hussar trooper, a 150 rounds supply was carried on the wagons in addition to the 25 rounds carried by the men.

Siege Artillery Train

The horse-draught for the siege guns, as well as ammunition, was to be pooled on demand from the country people – i.e. was entirely civilian – as it was the custom with all armies at that time.

The heavy 24-pdr barrel, carried on a sort of platform-wagon (Sattelwagen), had a 16-horse draught, and its carriage a 10-horse draught. The heavy 12-pdr cannon had a 12-horse draught, the 50-pdr siege mortar had 10-horse and the 10-pdr howitzer, a 8-horse draught.

Colonel Tempelhof illustrates the dimensions of a model siege train scaled at 80 pieces by excluding the above mentioned stone-mortars. Such a train required 1,812 horses including ready ammunition of around a 100 rounds a piece, replacement carriages, tools, etc.. He estimated that the ammunition supply (powder , shots, infantry rounds, hand grenades, etc.) for a siege operation lasting 30 days would require some 5,792 four-horse-draught peasant wagons to be set in motion in order to feed the want of ammunitions. As Christopher Duffy aptly mentions, a siege was indeed ‘a hungry beast’. In Tempelhof’s calculation, each cannon and mortar is assumed to fire a moderate 50 rounds, and the howitzers 60 rounds a day. The total of draught horses that would need to be pooled for this purpose would add up to 26,580 by his calculation.

The Prussian army captured the greater part of the Austrian army’s train after the battle of Leuthen (December 5 1757). Total captured wagons was over 4,000 or an estimated 16,000 horses at an average of 4 horses per wagon. Part of this train should be considered as army assets and, thus – legitimate booty – while other parts were certainly Silesian peasant wagons to be sent home. A significant surplus must have been left in any case which enabled Frederick to lay siege to Olmütz early in 1758. The distance between the main base of Neisse to Olmütz is around 20 common German miles, or 10 marches (the German mile employed is 7.4 km scaled at 4 minutes to an equator arc or 4 nautical miles). Usually, 2 to 3 such miles were the accepted rate of advance per day for a train during this period, depending on time of season and road conditions. More often even less. once the route of march had to pass numerous defiles where no more than a single wagon could pass in file. This being a tight calculation without including the custom rest every fourth day to avoid fatigue.

The historic train under the command of general Fouqué was divided into 4 divisions or echelons. The first departed from Neisse May 6 and the 3 others at a rate of one every next day. By May 20 all had arrived at Olmütz. The distance between the Neisse main base and Olmütz was indeed exceptionally long and serves as a proof of Prussia’s extraordinary skill to deal with logistical challenges. Just the 20 mortars with a calculated want of 50 rounds a day, would require around 1,700 wagons just for carrying the bomb-shells. No more then 12 could be loaded on a single 4-horse peasant wagon (Tempelhof). At other times, the enormous want of draught animals for feeding a high intensity siege in this part of Europe, where no navigable rivers could be used, would have been beyond the capability of even the most fertile European regions of the time. For the sake of comparison, this number of wagons would equal the entire provisions train of bread and flour for a Prussian army of some 100.000 men, estimated at the Prussian usual 18 days of bread supply for any land gaining operations. Tempelhof’s calculations, however, are the learnings from the Seven Years' War experience, written well after the war. The historic siege failed because of a number of miscalculations, among which false calculation on the consumption of ammunition, notwithstanding the damage inflicted by the active Austrian light troops harassing the overextended Prussian lines of communications.


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Gohlke, W.; Versuche zur Erleichterung des Feldgeschütze im 17. und 18. Jahrhundert, Zeitschrift für historische Waffenkunde, 1906-8, p. 92-93

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Hüttemann, Bernd, Das Erscheinungsbild und die Gefechtsformen der preußischen Artillerie im 7-jährigen Krieg, Paderborn 1993

Jany, Curt, Geschichte der Preußischen Armee vom 15. Jahrhundert bis 1914 Volume II, Die Armee Friedrichs des Großen 1740 - 1763. Reprint Osnabrück 1967 of the 1928-1937 edition

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Smith, Digby; The Prussian Army - to 1815, Schiffer Publishing, 2004

Tempelhof, Georg Friedrich von, Geschichte des siebenjährigen Krieges in Deutschland zwischen dem Könige von Preussen und der Kaiserin Königin mit ihren Alliirten als eine Fortsetzung der Geschichte Lloyd, J. F. Unger, Berlin, 1783-1801


Christian Rogge and Digby Smith for the initial version of this article