- - - Rate of Fire >
- - - Target Practice and Accuracy Tests >
- - - Musket's Accuracy in Combat >
- - - French Methods of Musket Fire >
- - - Prussian Methods of Musket Fire >
- - - Russian Methods of Musket Fire >
2. "The enormous din and rattle of 500 muskets
- - is completely beyond imagination." - Colonel Elting
- - - 1st, 2nd and 3rd Rank During the Firefight >
- - - Gun Smoke >
- - - Length of Firefight >
- - - Friendly Fire >
- - - Firefight on Pratzen Heights (Austerlitz's Climax) >
- - - Comparison of Wounds Caused by Bayonets and Other Weapons >
- - - Bayonet Attack >
- - - Bayonet Fight >
- - - Masters of Bayonet >
4. Esprit de corps .
- - - Skulkers >
- - - Panic >
With few exceptions, most armies in history have been built around a core of infantry.
During the Napoleonic Wars, the infantry was armed with muskets, rifles, bayonets and short sabers.
The primary weapon of napoleonic infantryman was smoothbore musket.
During the Napoleonic period the drill manual distinguished
using his iron ramrod (the cartridge paper served as wadding
to keep powder and ball in place)
The most popular musket of Napoleonic Wars was the French 'Charleville' musket model 1777 (AN IX), with overall length 151.5 cm, (barrel length 114 cm), triangular bayonet 45.6 cm and a short saber. Some of the elements of the 1777 Charleville model are the finger ridges on the trigger guard, the brass frizzen, and the cheek piece carved in the stock's butt with a straighten frizzen cover and slightly different front band. The 1777 Charleville was considered by most Europeans as the best musket in the world. These smoothbore muskets were named after the armory in Ardenne, France. It was also distributed to the Americans, and later became the basis for the pattern of the Springfield Musket 1795. They are 60 1/2 inches, with a 45 inch barrel, and have "U.S." stamped on the butt stock.
Ammunition to the Charleville Musket was kept in the black cartridge box. One white leather belt went over the left shoulder to support the cartridge box on the right hip. Other belt supported the short saber and bayonet. When the saber was taken away from some troops, the bayonet was transferred to the other belt. The natural color of the leather belts was buff, but they were whitened with pipeclay. The infantryman's cross belts were characteristic of the Napoleonic period. (Officers wore no crossbelts).
During prolonged firing the soldier had often to clear the vent with a pin carried on his
pouch belt, and clean the barrel which often fouled after 50 or 60 shots. Cartridges were
spoiled by humidity. In wet weather men who failed to keep them dry, or to cap or wrap up
their lock plates, were incapable of firing a shot.
General Jomini wrote "This is important question of the influence of musket fire in battles is not new: it dates from the reign of Frederick the Great, and particularly from the battle of Mollwitz, which he gained - it was said - because his infantrymen, by the use of cylindrical rammers in loading their muskets, were able to fire 3 shots per minute more than their enemies." (Before 1730 all European armies used wooden ramrods, the Prussians were the first to adopt the iron ramrod.)
The ratio of musket fire was 1-6 shots per minute, depending on quality of weapon, training and time taken for aiming. Marshal Maurice de Saxe wrote: "Light infantry should be able to fire 6 shots a minute, but under the stress of battle 4 should be allowed for." During firing the flint knocks the frizzen up exposing the priming pan and dropping sparks into it. The priming flares, making him flinch. The sparks pass through the touchhole to ignite the main charge.
Certainly there was no systematic training exercise in life fire, but rather shooting
competitions. Napoleon's Grande Armee had target matches, bands played and prizes being
given to the winners. The target shooting competitions for the entire army were not low cost
Target pracice was an annual affair where few rounds were fired "so the soldier could learn
not to be afraid of the tremendous kick of his musket."
(Nafziger - "Imperial Bayonets" p 30)
There were lead allowance for yearly exercises in life fire training.
By today's standards, muskets are not very accurate
due to the windage (gap) between the projectile and the barrel. Depending on the type and
calibre, it could hit a man's torso at up to 200-300 paces, though it was only reliably
accurate to about 50-100 paces.
One is firing totally differently in battle than on the drill ground. In training the pressure upon the infantryman was to give satisfaction to his officer, whereas the man engaging the enemy was of necessity pretty much on his own, and the pressure on him was to remain alive, if possible. The stress level on battlefield was tremendous.
Don't believe every story written by the old veterans trying to impress their
families and friends. Sergeant Wheeler of the British 51st Regiment of Foot left a
very graphic account of a total annihilation of entire squadron of cuirassiers from one musket
volley at Waterloo. He writes: "There were nearly a hundred of them, all
cuirassiers. ... We saw them coming and were prepared, we opened our fire, the work was done
in an instant. By the time we had loaded and the smoke had cleared away, one and only one,
solitary individual was seen running over the brow in our front.
One other was saved by Cpt. Ross from being put to death by some of the Brunswickers.
I went to see what effectour fire had, and never before beheld such a sight in as short a
space, as about an hundred men and horses could be huddled together, there they lay."
Generally the first salvo fired at close range caused far the greatest damage.
Effectiveness of muskets was low due to several factors:
(In 1876 in the Battle of Rosebud, Crook's troops, 43 officers and 1,000 other ranks armed with modern carbines and rifles, repulsed several charges made by 800 mounted Sioux warriors. The Indians attacked with "an enthusiasm for battle seldom seen." (- Gregory Michno) The battle raged for six hours, the soldiers had expended 25,000 rounds of ammunition, the Indian lost 102 killed and wounded. It gives a rate of 250 rounds/1 casualty.
According to George Nafziger "The system of fire used by the French ... had been established by the Regulation of 1764. It was based on the 3-rank peloton (company). The Regulation of 1791 had established a 2-rank voluntary firing system to supplement it, because fire from the third rank had proven impractical when the troops were wearing backpacks. In this situation the 3rd rank loaded muskets and passed them forward.
The French infantry was taught to fire:
French Marshal Ney described the different modes of firing in his
"Military Studies - Instructions for the Troops composing the Left Corps" in the section
"Observations upon different modes of firing" on pages 99-101: "The firing of 2 ranks,
or file firing, is, with the exception of a very few movements, absolutely the only kind of
firing which offers much greater advantages to infantry ... Most infantry officers must have remarked the almost insurmountable difficulty they find in
stopping file-firing during battle, after it has once begun, especially
when the enemy is well within shot; and this firing, in spite of the command given by the
field officers, resembles general discharges.
The Prussian infantry of 1792 used several different firing techniques.
Zhmodikov described methods of fire used by the Russian infantry: "One had to try to train soldiers to load and fire their muskets at
least 3 times per minute." The recruits were trained to fire directly forward and obliquely to the left and right by files. The first and second rank fired their first shots, file-by-file and then loaded and
fired as quickly as possible. Each man in the second rank, having fired his musket, passed it to the man in the 3rd rank standing behind it, took his musket, fired, loaded it,
fired again and then returned it to the man in the 3rd rank and took his own musket from him,
and so on. Men in the 3rd rank did not fire at all. They only loaded muskets and passed them
on to the second rank. This method was borrowed from the French
and often caused confusion. The infantry was trained to fire volleys by:
"The enormous din and rattle of 500 muskets
Picture: Polish infantry in firefight. By Giseppe Rava, Italy. >
To modern man, long accustomed to repeating and automatic firearms, one, two, or even
three rounds per minute is nothing to write home about. However,
once one comes to grips with the idea of 600 men, packed into front of about 200 paces,
able to fire anywhere from 1000 to 3000 rounds per minute, then the image alters drastically,
even in the eyes of a modern soldier.
The intricacies of the tactics demanded a high level of skill on the part of the soldiers.
Drill developed by Maurice [of Nassau] and further extended by Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden enabled
maneuver and rate of fire unknown before. "This promise of tactical effectivenes lured
French officers to the Netherlands and northern Germany, where they learned the great
streess that the Dutch and Swedes placed on drill. ... Under the direction of Maurice of
Nassau, Dutch infantry learned to maneuver precisely under fire. Although the square Spanish
formations of 16th century could present a strong face to all four directions, they had done
so at the cost of wasting manpower, for relatively few weapons could be brought to bear to
Concentrated firepower was essential because of the poor accuracy of the smoothbore muskets
used during Napoleonic Wars. During firing in three ranks, "elbow-to-elbow", the infantrymen
were struggling for space to load, aim and fire their muskets.
Such firefight sucked in other battalions.
Napoleonic infantry was formed on 3 ranks. A 600-men strong battalion had 200 men in the first, 200 in second and 200 men in the third rank. The first two ranks loaded and fired, while - theoretically - the 3rd rank had to load their muskets and then give them to those in 2nd rank.
In reality it was very difficult to keep them doing this under fire. They would become excited once the battle commenced and would blaze away through the first two ranks. Passing the barrels of their muskets over the shoulders of 2nd rank, the muzzles were very near the ears and heads of the first rank. The loud discharge, heat and powder so close to ears, head and eyes were quite disturbing for the first rank. Sometimes fingers and elbows were shot away, and if the bursting percussion caps were too close to the ears of 2nd and 1st rankers their eardrums could be damaged.
Gouvion St. Cyr claimed that 1 in 4 casualties were inflicted by own 3rd rank.
For these reasons they not suppose to fire.
Theoretically the men of 1st rank would be kneeling and firing - it gave more space for
those standing in the 2nd rank. Some veterans (for example Tanski) declared that they
never saw among the French troops kneeling and firing soldiers as was prescribed by
instructions. If they were kneeling and firing it was difficult to get them stand up
and advance. Kneeling soldier presented a much smaller target for the enemy and he
wanted to keep this advantage as long as he could.
Most experts considered kneeling 1st rank good only for the infantry formed in square against cavalry.
"Burning black powder gave off dense grey-white smoke with a distinct bad-egg stink,
and on a damp or still day the smoke hung about ..." (- Professor Richard Holmes)
The smoke obscured all vision and aiming, that is picking out an individual target was
virtually impossible. Until wind cleared the battlefield the soldiers knew little about
their position in line or the situation.
The length of the firefight varied, see examples below (from the shortest to the longest ones).
The soldier's senses were overloaded by what was going on around him, he was anxious
as all men are, no matter how poor or excellent troops they are. (I am talking about real
combat and real soldiers and not about armchair generals' wargaming.) Stress does funny
things to humans, stomachs knot and arses twitch. :-)
The Battle of Austerlitz took place on the Dec 2nd 1805, exactly one year after Napoleon's crowning as Emperor of the French. Napoleon had been seeking a battle for a few days, which the Russians and Austrians were trying to avoid, since Kutuzov was awaiting the arrival of strong reinforcements. Pressed by the Tsar of Russia and the Austrian chief of staff the allied army decided to attack Napoleon. Their attack failed and Napoleon took the initiative in his own hands. Napoleon had strong centre, under Generals Vandamme and St. Hilaire climb the Pratzen Heights, the key position on the battlefield and smash the Allies. (see map below)
Kutuzov and part of Russian staff rode forward with Jurczik's Austrian brigade. As they drew closer against the French center and began to deploy, the French placed 6 heavy guns behind the 36th Line Regiment (3 pieces on either end of the regiment) and waited. Both sides deployed in almost a mirror image of each other. On north flank Vandamme sent one battalion of 10th Light but the attackers wavered and the Austrian grenadiers counterattacked. The French were driven off to the northwest. Grenadiers' victory was short-lived as Boye's dragoons (part of 3rd Dragoon Division) charged and surrounded them. The grenadiers were captured "almost to a man". The Austrian VI/23rd Infantry instead of coming to the grenadiers' rescue they threw their muskets and fled in panic. (Goetz - "1805: Auserlitz" p 184)
On the southern flank appeared Kamenski's brigade, the Russians were unaware of the situation further north. The French II/10th Light (750 muskets) exchanged volleys with two Russian battalions (total of 1,000 muskets). Both sides held ground however the Russians suffered heavier casualties than the French. More battalions drew into line adjacent to the ones already in firefight. Now came the dreadful battle picture. Generals were galloping hither and thither - the infantrymen were all in their places, and you might have heard the rattle of several thousand ramrods as they drove home and "thugged" upon the little globes and cones of lead. Now began to appear the countless flashes, and the long fiery sheets of the muskets, and the rattle of the volleys, mingled with the thunder of the guns. Approx. 3,000 Frenchmen stood in line and fired at 3.000 Russians. After 20 minutes of this firefight and after the Austrian brigade under Jurczik fell back the Russians began wavering.
Russian General Langeron writes: "Soon, the French lines initiated a very sharp and very murderous fire of musket and canister upon the brigade of Kamensky which in a moment had many men rendered hors de combat. (Kamensky's brigade) answered with a less sharp and badly directed fire, the majority of our soldiers fired in the air ... in justice I ought to say that despite the superior number of the enemy, despite their little experience of war and the effect on them of an unforseen attack on their rear, despite the noise of gunfire, which many of them were hearing for the first time, they maintained themselves admirably for nearly 2 hours and in these two hours more than half of the two regiments were left dead." (Langeron - "Journal inedit de la Campagne de 105; Austerlitz" p 75)
General Langeron (see picture) arrived, placed himself at the head of Russian grenadiers and
led them in bayonet charge. This attack was successful and one grenadier battalion captured
2 guns and almost reached Pratzen. St.Hilaire led counter-attack, he drove the grenadiers
back, recaptured the guns and took the Russian positions. Langeron sent officer to Kutuzov
asking for reinforcements.
GdD Vandamme (see picture) attacked Kollowrath and Miloradovich on the Pratzen Heights. According to Robert Goetz "for at least an hour, intense fighting raged across the entire length of the Pratzen Heights" Vandamme's divisional battery took active part in it firing canister at the whitecoats.
The Austrians wavered and when few squadrons of French dragoons charged from the flank, they
broke and fled. The dargoons captured hundreds of prisoners and sabered Austrian and Russian
gunners. Once Kollowrath's northern flank was falling back, his center began crumbling.
Around 11 AM Kollowrath ordered all his forces to withdraw.
Only Kamenski's brigade still kept fighting. The French brought up fresh 43rd Line and attacked Kamenski's one flank while Boye's dragoons charged against the other flank. Kamenski received support from couple of squadrons of Russian dragoons but it was too little too late. Almost surrounded and with 1,230 killed and wounded (!) Kamenski's brigade began withdrawal. The brave Fanagoria Grenadiers broke through encicrlement and moved toward Littawa.
According to Robert Goetz the fighting on the Pratzen Heights had marked the climax of
the Battle of Austerlitz. Sergei Mihailovich Kamenski-I demonstrated "excellent initiative,
which was rare among allied commanders during the day of battle."
(In June 1806 Kamenski-I was promoted to the rank of general-lieutenant).
The good performance of the French made the Austrians' brave attempts futile.
On picture: European infantry before the era of bayonet. The infantrymen were armed with long pikes and firearms. In the 1600s the Swedish infantry was considered as the best in the World. They were tall and strong men, disciplined, well-trained, and led by great generals. This picture comes from the movie "Potop" (The Deluge) 1974-5, directed by J. Hoffman. Time: 315 min. (short version 155 min.) This movie had an academy award nomination but didn't win.
A bayonet (from French "baïonnette") is a knife - or dagger- shaped weapon designed to fit on or over the muzzle of a rifle or similar weapon. It is a close combat weapon. It was introduced to the French army at the town of Bayonne in France in 1647.
The first bayonets were simple spear-like daggers with conical handles that were slipped directly into the musket barrel. An obvious disadvantage to these plug bayonets was that the musket could not be used as a firearm while the bayonet was in place. A solution was found with the development of the socket bayonet. This had a hollow socket that slipped over the outside of the musket barrel and had the blade off-set to the side. The weapon could now be loaded and fired with the bayonet attached.
The invention of a bayonet transformed the weapon into a pike without detriment to its use
as a firearm. Thereupon the pikemen disappeared and the infantry became uniform in character,
all armed with the flintlock and the bayonet.
A trial with badly-fitting socket or zigzag bayonets was made after the battle of Fleurus,
1690, in the presence of King Louis XIV. Shortly after the peace of Ryswick (1697), the English and Germans abolished the pike and introduced these bayonets.
Loading was made easier by the invention of an iron ramrod, which was first adopted by the Prussian army in 1719.
The bayonet has developed almost mystic prominence over the centuries. The charge of troops intent on carrying a defended post by bayonet was considered a heroic, undeniable act of courage which, once begun, must prevail.
With the increase of fire power however the use of bayonet dramatically decreased. For example during During General Grant's bloody campaign against Confederate General Lee in 1864, Union medical directors recorded only 37 bayonet wounds. Of the several hundred thousand wounded men treated in Union hospitals over the course of the war, surgeons noted only 922 bayonet wounds.
During 20th century the German army developed more types of bayonet than all other armies combined. There was undeniably psychological value to the infantry in carrying a bayonet, even if in practice it was seldom used. Bayonets continued to be commonly issued in the Second World War.
"As it turnes out, firearms and not bayonets caused the greatest amount of wounds on the battlefield. At Malplaquet, for example, the best evidence indicates that 2/3 of the wounds received by French troops came from the enemy's fusils, with only about 2 % were inflicted by bayonets. Of the men wounded by gunfire, 60 % had been struck in the left sde, the side facing the enemy as a soldier stood in line to fire himself.
Looking at a larger sample of veterans admitted to the Invalides in 1715, Corvisier arrived at the
following breakdown of wounds:
In 1807 during the war between France and Russia and Prussia, chirurg Dominique Jean Larrey studied wounded on one battlefield and found most were caused by artillery and muskets. Only 2 % of all wounds were caused by bayonets.
The damage inflicted during "bayonet assault" was most often executed by bullets.
Larrey studied one particularly vicious close combat between the Russians and the French and
The wounds from bayonets were most often inflicted during pursuit or during attack on flank of enemy and not in frontal clash. Most men could more easily kill an enemy who was running away. Perhaps the sudden release of stress, when the enemy turned his back, so that he could be struck without risk, turned his emotion into elation and rage. But during pursuit the victorious troops became disorganized and vulnerable to counterattack.
"The earliest French bayonet attack occured no later than 1677 at the siege of Valenciennes,
where, after an enemy cavalry charge 'the musketeers, having put their bayonets in their
fusils, marched at them and with grenades and bayonets, chased them back in the town.'
In another use of the plug bayonet, dragoons beat back enemy forces at a river near the same
town in 1684. ...
Attack with cold steel was popular not only in France. In 1777 British General Burgoyne wrote: "The officers will take all proper opportunities to inculcate in the mens’ minds a reliance on the bayonet; men of their bodily strength and even a coward may be their match in firing. But the bayonet in the hands of the valiant is irresistible."
During bayonet attack the troops advanced either in silence or with noise. The sense of
hearing has one of the most disturbing effect on men of all senses. The noise made by the
attackers would most often intimidate and confuse the enemy.
(In the ancient times the troops beat on the drums all at once and the sound produced was
most eerie and terrifying. Or they roared while holding their shields in front of their
mouths so the sound is much louder.
The French regulations from 1805 stated that bayonet attack is to be used
"as a coup de grace against enemy that is disorganized by fire",
physically and emotionally worn down.
This was achieved by:
There were some differences in regulations between the French, Prussian, British and Russians,
but basically it was about weakening the enemy, physically and emotionally, before contact
was made. For example the British in Peninsula were usually deployed on reverse slope, safe from
artillery and musket fire, while the advancing French troops were exposed to the full
effect of cannonade and were exhausted by marching uphill, through a broken terrain.
The enemy was invisible. In such situation the French failed more often than not, so did
the British in similar situations.
Sometimes the French attack uphill, against all odds, was a success. Colonel Waller, (British 2nd Division) witnessed a
French attack against Picton's "Fighting Division" in 1810 at Bussaco: "At this moment
were seen the heads of the several columns, three I think, in number and deploying into
line with the most beautiful precision, celerity and gallantry. As they formed on the
plateau, they were cannonaded from our position and the regiment of Portuguese... threw
in some volleys of musketry into the enemy's columns in a flank direction, but the (Portugese)
regiment was quickly driven into the position ... the (French) columns advanced in despite
of a tremendous fire of grape and musketry from our troops in position in the rocks, and
overcoming all opposition although repeatedly charged by Lightburne's Brigade, or rather
the whole of Picton's Division, they advanced and fairly drove the British right wing from the
rocky part of this position.")
During the Napoleonic Wars there were very many bayonet attacks.
The majority of bayonet attacks ended up with one side fleeing before any contact was made.
Usually it was an attack, a charge, but there was no bayonet fighting.
The actual bayonet fight most often took place not in an open terrain but in:
There were only few bayonet fights between large bodies of troops in the open.
These were cases where the defender’s musket fire having failed to prevent the attacker from
closing, was compelled to yield his ground after the attacker closed with him.
In each of these three instances described below, the Prussian infantry were on the defensive,
could not stop the attacking French with their defensive fire, stood their ground and fought
it out with cold steel until finally being compelled to retire.
The first action involved part of Morand's Division during fight on 14 Oct 1806.
The second action involved a battalion of the 48th Line in the same battle, and the third
action on the same day at Jena where one of the battalions of the 16th Light was involved.
Bayonet fights between individual soldiers and small troops were more common than
between battalions. For example, there were numerous bayonet fights in Peninsula,
between the French and British-German troops. Individual soldiers, group of soldiers and
even entire companies charged and fought with cold steel. The British sources give numerous
examples of their superiority in this type of combat, and the French authors make exactly
the same claims about their own troops.
Generally the larger the units were the lesser probability of bayonet fight.
Bayonet fights between large bodies of troops in open field were rare.
Only when bravery AND CIRCUMSTANCES were equal the actual bayonet fight took place.
To understand the effect of moral of the attacker vs that of the defender
you have to understand the moral effects that would happen between two forces about to fight.
General Antoine Henri Jomini (1769-1869) served in the French and Russian armies and participated in numerous battles. He wrote that he never saw a bayonet fight in open field between two formed bodies of troops. Jomini: "In fact, in real combats of infantry I have never seen any thing but battalions deployed commencing to fire by company, and finally by file, or else columns marching firmly against the enemy, who either retired without awaiting the columns, or repulsed them before actual collision took place, or themselves moved out to meet the advance. I have seen melees of infantry in defiles and in villages, where the heads of columns came in actual collision and thrust each other with the bayonet; but I never saw such a thing on a regular field of battle."
Masters of Bayonet: Grenadiers.
Grenadiers were originally soldiers who specialized in throwing grenades.
"The earliest references to these grenade-throwing soldiers are from Austria and Spain. ...
However, the great King Louis XIV, of France finalized the concept of the Grenadier as an
official type of soldier and company throughout his army ... By 1670, 29 of Louis's regiments
had grenadier companies. Shortly after France's lead almost all of Europe went grenadier
crazy. ... " (- Robert Sulentic)
The height of the European vogue for grenade-throwing heavyweight infantry was in the 1700s.
During the Napoleonic Wars every army had grenadiers, these were troops more suited for assault with cold steel than others. They were the tallest and strongest men. Tall man has longer arms and can outstretch his opponent armed with the same weapon. But not only physical stamina and height mattered in bayonet fight. Bravery and discipline were even more important. For these reasons Napoleon, Frederick the Great and others required from their grenadiers being battle-hardened men, selected only from the bravest soldiers. Nobody messed with them.
In 1812 at Borodino, Westphalian infantry met Russian grenadiers marching with fixed bayonets. As one of the Russian officers recalled: "When they saw us, they melted down as quickly as snow in the spring !" In 1813 at Teplitz the skirmishers of 2nd Grenadier Division allowed the French skirmishers to come up close to them and then, they charged with bayonets driving the enemy away.
The Hungarian grenadiers (<-- see picture) of the Austrian army were considered as being very good fighters and is not surprising that they gripped the enemy imagination. Often a defeated party of Austrian infantry was likely to be reported as battalions of those mustachioed Hungarians. For example in the official report after the battle of Engen (May 1800) the French claimed to have pushed 8 battalions of the Hungarians out of a wood, although there was none.
French General Kellerman claimed to have captured 6.000 Hungarian grenadiers at Marengo, yet there were at most 3.000 in the last phase and none were Hungarian.
In 1805 in the Battle of Austerlitz, several battalions of Russian and Austrian infantry attacked the village of Sokolnitz. French Colonel Pouget estimated the enemy strength at "12.000 Russian Grenadiers."
Not only the French had vivid imagination. Some British authors promoted the French line grenadiers into the grenadiers of Imperial Guard. According to Sir Oman's "A History of the Peninsula War" Vol IV at Fuentes de Onoro the British defeated the Imperial Guard, which is a pure fiction. The same author places the French Guard in the Battle of El Bodon.
The grenadiers were the tallest and strongest infantrymen. They were at least 5'3" tall and
such men consisted only small part of the male population. "According to calculations made
in France in 1778 only 1 Frenchman in 30 stood 5'3" or more tall, while a stipulated height
of 5'3" would have required a population base of 79,000 souls to produce 400 men."
(Duffy - "Instrument of War" Vol I p 197)
(Many veterans of the first battalion of 1st Grenadier Regiment of the Old Guard had 184-cm height and participated in up to 20 campaigns. Approx. 30 % of them were awarded with Legion d'Honneur for bravery. The were called the Oldest of the Old.)
In 1814 Chateaubriand saw them: "I do not believe that human faces have ever worn such threatening expressions. These Grenadiers covered with scars, these conquerors of Europe, were forced to salute an old king, a veteran of years and not of war ... [some] drew the corners of their mouths into grimaces of scorn and rage ..."
Mr Hayden writes: "More dreadful-looking fellows I had never seen. They had the look of thoroughbread, veteran, disciplined banditti."
With the number of cannons and infantry firepower steadily increasing the role of grenadiers decreased.
In 1812 in the Battle of Borodino, the French artillery heavily bombarded Vorontzov's 2nd Converged Grenadier Division. When asked where are his grenadiers, Vorontzov sadly replied: "All are over there, lying dead."
PHOTOS: Grenadiers of 20th century.
Comments from visitors:
M. Townsend (UK): "One point which may or may not be of interest, the last British battle where bayonets were used, was during the 1982 Falkland's war. The Scot's Guards were given the order to fix bayonets before charging Argentine positions on Mount Tumbledown."
D.Murray: "The Highland infantry fixed bayonets and fought hand to hand with a Shi’ite militia in Iraq in 2004. At least 20 militiamen were believed killed in more than 3 hours of fighting."
M.Lee (China): "Sorry for my poor English. The Japanese infantrymen did kill with bayonets my people. You can find on the net pictures of smiling soldiers conducting bayonet practice on chinese male prisoners."
K.Filipkowski (Poland): In the Kosciusko Uprising the
Polish farmers were armed with war scytes (they lacked muskets and bayonets).
In the battle of Raclawice they overthrew Russian infantry
(armed with muskets and bayonets) and captured several cannons.
The blade of the scythe was transformed so that it extended upright from
the staff. These troops were called kosynierzy from kosa scythe.
Esprit de corps .
Picture: Highlanders in combat, by Dmitrii Zgonnik of Ukraine.
Despite the intangible nature of morale, improvements in material factors (such as remuneration,
food and shelter) can improve the morale. However, history is filled with stories of the self-will and determination
of a poorly supplied army maintaining morale to the very end. Morale of troops can benefit from:
Not all men are equally brave, even within the same battalion there are the bravehearts, the cowards and those in between.
Colonel of US Army S.L.A. Marshall showed how many soldiers, in the heat of combat, exhibit
"posturing" which is identical to behavior exhibited throughout the animal world. The idea
is to look and sound aggressive without actually attacking to kill. In combat this might mean
shooting without aiming, wildly, over the enemy's heads, shouting, etc.
To the casual eye (e.g. watching archival combat footage) this looks like true combat, but
it's not. Marshall discovered this behavior through interviews with countless US soldiers who
admitted (with much guilt) what they had done.
Surprise played an important role on the battlefield. Even the fine troops when surprised
could be broken. In 1805 at Austerlitz, the French I/14th Line Regiment advanced to occupy
Pratzen. As they neared the village, the "battalion was surprised by the sudden appearance"
of Russian battalion (Novgorod Musketeers) "rising from the ravine ... and opening fire"
on the French. "Taken completely off guard, the I/14th Line broke and fled in the direction of Puntowitz" with their colonel riding after them.
(Goetz - "1805: Austerlitz" p 155)
Fighting enemy to the front and to the side could also break morale of the best troops.
Flank attack holds special qualities and more often than not will break the enemy.
In 1809 at Teugen, the French 57th Line Regiment (nicknamed 'The Terrible" for their
bravery in combat) brushed enemy's first line away and descended into a hollow ground.
They then climbed again and showed up in front of main line of Austrian infantry.
It was still quite a great distance but the Austrians and French opened artillery and
During lengthy musketry the infantry battalion would shrink toward its center and gaps appeared in the line. The gaps were caused by casualties and by cowards taking cover behind their braver comrades. Often the 3-rank deep line degenerated into a disordered "column".
The falling of the dead, and the moaning of the wounded caused a great deal of additional stress. A man who fell threw all his neighbors into great deal of confusion. Taking the wounded to the rear was a favorite skulker activity. Five wounded walked to the rear by 2-10 troopers weakened the line and its power fire. It must be a problem in every army, including Napoleon's famous Grande Armee. (Ancient Romans decimated their cowardly troops.)
In 1809 the Emperor issued orders prohibiting leaving the ranks under the excuse of carrying
the wounded. The strict directive stated that no one could leave the ranks to succor the
The situation on battlefield was fluid and fast moving, men were under tremendous stress and
troops could be overcome with panick in any moment.
Often those who started the run, and thereby spread the fear,
which started the panic, had a legitimate or at least a reasonable excuse for the action.
Panic gathered volume like a snowball, although among the fleeing troops were always those who were willing to fight. These lads usually attached themselves to other battalions, which were coming up. It led to some troops being mixed in battle adding more to the chaos.
According to Geeorge Nafziger "not a shot was fired at them, nor was a single Frenchman seen." (- "Imperial Bayonets" 1996 p 164)
Chlapowski writes: "At midnight we were woken by a great uproar from behind Marshal Davout's corps on the right. The Emperor and all his staff mounted up and he sent some of us off in the direction of the shouting. We came back over the next half to three quarters of an hour with reports that many of our soldiers were running about without their weapons, shouting that Archduke John was upon us. But the Emperor was not disturbed by these stories ... It turned out that this nonsense had been started by French soldiers foraging for food and hay in the night, who had run across some Bavarian soldiers doing the same thing, and on hearing them speaking German had fled in panic spreading the rumor which had eventually reached us." (Chlapowski - "Memoirs of a Polish Lancer" p 87, translated by Tim Simmons)
Sources and Links.
Lahoussaye - "1814"
Barbero - "The Battle; A New History of Waterloo."
Beskrovniy - "Materials of Russian Military History", Military Publishing House of The Armed Forces of the USSR, Moscow, 1947. Chapter 11. The War of Year 1812. The Manual For Infantry Officers
In the Day Of Battle. (quoting from "The Centenary of the War Ministry",
S.Petersburg, 1903. Volume 4)
Costello - "The Peninsular and Waterloo Campaigns"
Nosworthy - "With Musket, Cannon and Sword: Battle Tactics of Napoleon and His Enemies"
Nosworthy - "The Anatomy of Victory"
Rothenberg - "The Napoleonic Wars (History of Warfare)"
Elting - "Swords Around a Throne: Napoleon's Grand Armee"
Nafziger - "Imperial Bayonets: Tactics of the Napoleonic Battery, Battalion and Brigade
as Found in Contemporary Regulations".
Nafziger - "Napoleon's Invasion of Russia" 1998
Chandler - "The Campaigns of Napoleon"
Muir - "Tactics and the Experience of Battle in the Age of Napoleon"
Esposito, Elting - "A Military History..."
Adkin- "Waterloo Companion"
Zhmodikov - "Tactics of the Russian army in Napoleonic Wars"
Picture of Bavarian infantry by Dmitrii Zgonnik of Ukraine.
Picture of French light infantry in combat by Dmitrii Zgonnik.
Pictures of French Bayonet.
Chess News: Who's afraid of the Bayonet Attack?
"I bayoneted people. It was me or them"
French musket Charleville.
Prussian musket 1809.
British musket Brown Bess.
Brown Bess Musket Misconceptions.
American Kentucky Rifle.
The Kentucky Rifle.
Napoleon, His Army and Enemies