Infantry Tactics and Combat
during the Napoleonic Wars.

~ Part 2 ~
"If you had seen one day of war, you would pray to God
that you would never see another." - Napoleon

1. Introduction.
Columns and lines of French infantry.
Battle of Eylau, 1807 2. Lines.
Depth of Line >
The Thin Red Line >
The French and Two Ranks >
3. Columns.
Advantages of Columns >
Disadvantages of Columns >
Multi-battalion Columns >
4. Ordre-Mixte.
5. Squares Against Cavalry.
Solid Squares >
Egyptian Squares >
Multi-battalion Squares >
Squares in Combat 1 >
Squares in Combat 2 >
Squares in Combat 3 >
Cavalry Break Into Square >
Artillery vs Square >
Line and Column vs Cavalry >
The Rare Thing >
Miscallenous >.
6. Skirmishers, skirmishing.
French Skirmishers >
Russian Skirmishers >
British Skirmishers >
Prussian and Austrian Skirmishers >
Rifles >

The infantrymen were either
formed at open or closed files.

Lines, Columns and Squares
and Intervals Between Troops.

Any officer and general had to master the tactical maneuvers and formations. They had to have a grasp of the terrain and be able to quickly estimate distance in order to execute a given formation. Constant and repetitive practice was essential. The infantrymen were either formed at open or closed files:

  • - closed files: primary and fundamental order in which the troops are drawn up
  • - open files: used in some combat situations, in skirmish, and in some cases of inspections

    Company of French infantry.
Napoleonic Wars. Picture: company of French infantry, when formed in closed files stood elbow-to-elbow, 3-ranks deep. The files touch lightly without crowding. The intervals between 1st, 2nd and 3rd rank were 0,325 m.
    These intervales varied from army to army:
    French infantry - 0.325 m
    Russian infantry - 0.35 m
    British infantry - 0.63 m
    Prussian infantry - 0.66 m
    Austrian infantry - 1.25 m The interval between the 3rd rank and the NCOs and officers behind was 1,3 m or 2 paces. It was when the battalion was formed either in line (see below) or in column with full or half-intervals. Only when the battalion column was formed "closed in mass". the interval was 1 pace.

    Several companies formed battalion.
    Infantry fought by battalion, the battalion being its basic tactical unit and the unit by which generals of that period reckoned the strength of their infantry. Too small battalion multiply the number of commanders and weakens the line by increasing the number of intervals. Too large battalion is too clumsy in the advance and evolutions. Usually if the battalion had fewer companies they were stronger.
    Strength of battalion during campaign was below the theoretical strength. For example the French battalion of 1808 had on paper 840 men. However, there were sick men left in hospital, others were still trained in depot, some were wounded and killed in battle, others were missing, etc. Therefore the battalion in the field was often 400-600 men strong. Generally, the Guard battalions in France, Britain, and Russia, were stronger than the non-guard battalions.

  • Russian battalion 400-600 men in 4 companies (8 platoons called Vsvod)
  • Prussian battalion 500-700 men in 4 companies (8 platoons called Züg)
  • Austrian battalion 650-1100 men in 6 companies (4 Züg. each)
  • French battalion 1808-1815, 450-800 men in 6 companies (6 platoons called Peloton)
  • French battalion before 1808, 450-1000 men in 9 companies
  • British battalion 450-1000 men in 10 companies

    The battalion could be formed in:

  • line
  • column
  • square
  • skirmish chain (open order)

    French battalion of 6 companies
formed in line. Picture: French battalion of 1808-15 formed in line. Two of the six companies were flank companies, also called elite companies (grenadiers and voltigeurs). The four remaining companies were so-called centre companies (fusiliers).
    When the Chef of Battalion gives order "Forward !": the left and right battalion guide ("guide generaux") and the first rank of fanion's (or flag's) guard place themselves 6 paces ahead of the line of battalion. They set up the alignement of the battalion. Then the Chef of Battalion gives second order: "March !" and the entire battalion starts marching If there are several battalions advancing side by side the intervals between them are 15,6 m.

    Space between 1st, 2nd and 3rd rank:
    French infantry - 0.325 m
    Russian infantry - 0.35 m
    British infantry - 0.63 m
    Prussian infantry - 0.66 m
    Austrian infantry - 1.25 m

    French battalion of 6 companies
formed in column. Picture: French battalion of 1808-15 formed in column by division. The front of this column was on division (division here means 2 companies
    The distance, interval, between the divisions could be equal to company's front, or less.

    Battalion lines, columns and squares. Usually the distance between battalions was such that they had space to deploy from columns into lines. According to the regulations the minimum distance between battalions was 15.6 m or just the distance of company (platoon). The small intervals were essential if the troops planned to move even a short distance without causing disorder.

    The intervals between first and second line of battalions were between 100 and 400 paces.

  • - in 1806 in the Battle of Jena, Napoleon ordered his battalions to deploy in two lines with no more than 250 paces between the lines. The distances depended on particular situation on the battlefield and on terrain.
  • - in 1813 at Dennewitz, Prussian Geeral. Krafft deployed his brigade in two lines, with 300-400 paces between the lines. Very often the Prussian brigades were formed in three lines.
  • - in 1814 at Craonne, the Russians deployed their infantry in 3 lines. In the first line stood 14 battalions, 500 yards behind them were 7 battalions, and in third line, 1000 yards behind the first, stood 9 battalions.

    Theoretically if any of the battalions of first line was broken the battalions from the second line would counterattack the enemy from the flanks. Quite often however the broken battalion of first line run toward the second line and disordered it. Also the sight of own troops fleeing in panic was enough for the nerves of troops in the second line.

  • - in 1809 at Wagram, Austrian 47th Vogelsang Regiment broke and fled toward the second line. They disordered the second line and together run to the rear before the artillery halted the pursuing French.
  • - in 1813 at Dennewitz, two battalions of Prussian 2nd Kurmark Landwehr expended their ammunition in a firefight and fell back disordering the troops in second line.
  • In 1809 at Wagram, the French 24th Light broke Austrians and pursued them. The victors had scattered "in small platoons" and groups and then were counter-attacked by Austrian infantry of second line. The Austrians [Argenteau Infantry] captured regimental Eagle and crushed the groups of French soldiers.
  • - one of the most successful uses of second line was at Waterloo. The first echelon of the French Middle Guard broke through Wellington's first line, then was counterattacked by the second line (Chasse's Netherlands division) and fled down the slope.
  • ~

    "The movements in column went well, but battalions moving at the double in line
    with bayonets fixed were still very uneven and fell into bad disorder.
    The soldiers were not experienced enough yet to follow
    their marker with their eyes only,
    but instead turned their heads to the side as well.
    Once a few had turned their heads,
    their bodies could no longer walk in a straight line,
    steps became undeven and the whole line broke up
    as files either collided or diverged."
    - Dezydery Chlapowski "Memoirs ..."

    "The French, particularly, have never been able
    to march steadily in deployed lines."
    - General Jomini

    The line had been standard during the XVIII Century but lost popularity after the French triumphs with columns during the Revolutionary Wars. The difficulty with advancing lines was their sensitivity to terrain and order. The irregularities of the terrain caused the ranks to become ragged, the battalion bowed in the middle and sometimes broke completely in half. A line of two battalions on a battlefield would be halting to dress more frequently than one battalion. The long line made the troop more difficult to manoeuvre and to turn. For these reasons, commanders used lines only for short distances and over open terrain with no serious obstacles.

    It was easier to attack with several battalion columns than with several battalion lines. General Antoine Henri Jomini wrote: "I have also seen attempts made to march deployed battalions in checkerwise order. They succeeded well; whilst marches of the same battalions in continous lines did not. The French, particularly, have never been able to march steadily in deployed lines... It maybe employed in the first stages of the movement forward, to make it more easy, and the rear battalions would then come into line with the leading ones before reaching the enemy ... for we must not forget that in the checkered order there are not two lines, but a single one, which is broken, to avoid the wavering and disorder observed in the marches of continous lines...
    Suppose the attempt made to bring up 20 or 30 battalions in line, while firing either by file or by company, to the assault of a well defended position; it is not very probable they would ever reach the desired point, or if they did, it would be in about as good order as a flock of sheep."
    Chlapowski writes: "He [General Dabrowski] took some battalions [of Polish infantry] out into the countryside and ordered them to perform certain manoeuvers. The movements in column went well, but battalions moving at the double in line with bayonets fixed were still very uneven and fell into bad disorder. The soldiers were not experienced enough yet to follow their marker with their eyes only, but instead turned their heads to the side as well. Once a few had turned their heads, their bodies could no longer walk in a straight line, steps became undeven and the whole line broke up as files either collided or diverged." (Chlapowski/Simmons - p 15)


    Fig. 1:
    French infantry.
    ... bataillon de première ligne qui exécute le passage des lignes en retraite...

    Fig. 2:
    French infantry.
    ... bataillon qui, après avoir traversé la seconde ligne...

    Fig. 3:
    French infantry.
    ...bataillon de seconde ligne doublant les sections de pied ferme pour donner passage à la première ligne.


    Fig. 1
    French infantry.
    - Line forming column on the right flank.

    Fig. 2
    French infantry.
    - Line forming column on the centre.

    Fig. 3
    French infantry.
    - Line forming column on the left flank.




    Fig. 19
    Russian infantry
    - Deployment of closed column into line.
    (Source: Zhmodikov - "Tactics of the Russian Army in the Napoleonic Wars" Vol II)
    To deploy a column of platoons in line, Khatov recommended forming a column of divisions first and only then deploying it into line. Rear divisions (a division consisted of 2 platoons) were to march by files to the right or left and then forward into alignment with the front division. He admonished readers against deploying under heavy enemy fire. Closed column of divisions formed on the right could be deployed into line either on the 2nd division, as shown in Fig. 19; either on the 3rd division; either to the left; either to the right.


    Depth of Line.
    In most European armies when casualties were heavy
    the men were drawn from the 3rd rank and placed
    into the 1st and 2nd rank to maintain the proper
    frontage of the company.

    Long before Napoleonic wars the line of infantry was 4 and 5 ranks deep formation. Improving quality of firearms made possible to 'lighten' the line. In 1703 the British went from 4-rank deep lines to only 3-rank deep. The rest of Europe followed them. The Prussians were the next in 1740, the French in 1754 and the Austrians in 1757. By the end of XVIII century all armies formed their infantry on 3-ranks.

    In most European armies of the Napoleonic Wars, when casualties were heavy the men were drawn from the 3rd rank and placed into the 1st and 2nd rank to maintain the proper frontage of the company. Sometimes the 3rd rank would disappear completely. According the French Regulations of 1791, Ecole de Peloton p. 101, once company was reduced below 12 files it was to be formed on 2 ranks.

    The 2-rank system was first introduced by the Prussians during the Seven Years War. The intention was to bring more muskets to bear but soon was discovered that cavalry could easily rout such thin formation. Fortescue's summary of infantry tactics of the Seven Years War: "The number of ranks was left unfixed, being increased or reduced according to the frontage required, but probably seldom exceeded 3 and was occasionally reduced to two."

    In 1794 Austrian General Mack's Instructionspunkte recommended that the 3rd rank be used to extend the infantry line and was dictated by circumstances and terrain.

    During the Napoleonic Wars some German armies had their infantry formed on 2 ranks only. For example until 1809 the Wirtembergian light troops were formed on 2 ranks. In Prussia and Austria the 3rd rankers were extensivelly used as skirmishers and often were detached from their companies. Until 1807 in Russia all jager regiments were formed on 2 ranks.

    The Thin Red Line.
    "The [British] infantry, although on system formed 3 deep,
    like the other nations of Europe,
    is more frequently drawn up in 2 ranks"
    - General Foy

    Officially the British infantry was formed in 3 ranks. However during the Napoleonic Wars they had their infantry formed on 2 ranks only. (At Waterloo most of their battalions were formed on 4 ranks.)
    French General Foy wrote: "The [British] infantry, although on system formed 3 deep, like the other nations of Europe, is more frequently drawn up in 2 ranks; but when making or receiving a charge, it is frequently formed four deep. Sometimes it has made offensive movements, and even charged columns, when in open order."

    The British tactics was much influenced by the American experience. In that period there was a great deal of bickering about the makeup of the British infantry. "The basic tactical requirement in North America was for a looser, more flexible system, based on small bodies of men fighting in rough lines, often of one rank and never more than two; the 3rd rank had never been of great value as far as fire power was concerned, and in thick country it became a positive menace." (Warminster - "The British Infantry 1660-1945" publ. in 1983)
    Already in 1759, Wolfe was issuing instructions in America on a single and 2-rank line formation for his infantry. General Abercromby used two ranks at Alexandria in 1801. General Moore at Corunna also used two lines.

    The French and Two Ranks.
    From 1791 on peace footing the French
    would frequently drill in 2 ranks.

    The French infantry was formed on 3 ranks. They however experimented with the 2-ranks in 1775-1776 and again in 1788. Already from 1791 on peace footing they would frequently drill in 2 ranks. During campaign, when casualties were heavy, the men were drawn from the 3rd rank and placed into the 1st and 2nd rank to maintain the proper frontage of the company. According the French Regulations of 1791, Ecole de Peloton p. 101, once company was reduced below 12 files it was to be formed on 2 ranks.

    In October 1813, Napoleon wanted to increase the length of the battleline of his depleted infantry by 30 % and on October 13th 1813 was issued order: " ... Emperor orders the entire infantry of the army to form up in 2 ranks instead of 3, in that his Majesty regarded that the fire and the bayonet of the 3rd rank useless." Thus in the Battle of Leipzig the French infantry was formed on 2 ranks. But Ney's infantry was still formed on 3 ranks, he believed in deep formations. According to George Nafziger however this reoganization of infantry in the midst of a hard fought campaign "may or may not have occured." ( Nafziger - "Imperial Bayonets" p 60)

    On secondary theaters of war, in Spain and Italy, the French kept their infantry formed on 3 ranks. Napoleon's orders needed time to arrive from Leipzig in Germany to the remote Spain and not every general was convinced to the new formation.

    French Marshal Ney's "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.
    It would be better, therefore, after the two first ranks have fired, to charge boldly with the bayonet, and by an act of vigour force the enemy to retreat. The German soldier, formed by the severest discipline, is cooler than any other. Under such circumstances he would, in the end, obtain the advantage in this kind of firing, if it lasted long... These observatons are of a nature to urge colonels... to prepare and drill their men to attacks by main strength...a French commander ought never to hesitate in marching against the enemy with the bayonet, if the ground is at all adapted to a charge in line with one or more battalions at a time." (This is interesting that although Ney recommended two ranks, in 1813 at Leipzig he formed his own infantry on 3 ranks.)

    Examples of napoleonic infantry being formed on 2 ranks in combat:

  • - In 1812 losses during the retreat from Russia were so heavy that two battalions of 3rd Regiment of Grenadiers (Dutchmen), the Young Guard and the Hessians fought at Krasne formed on 2 ranks.
  • - In 1814 many of the French battalions were so weak (for example II Corps had 52 out of 53 battalions of only 198 men each) that they were forced to form on 2 ranks.
  • - In 1815 at Waterloo 2 battalions of 85th Line were deployed near a big battery when Scots Greys attacked them. The 2 battalions were quickly combined into one bigger square. Although the square of 85th Line were formed only on 2 ranks rather than 3 or 4, they repulsed the charging British heavy dragoons with easy.
  • - In 1809 at Wagram, the French Guard infantry while being under fire from 50 Austrian guns deployed from 3 into 1-rank deep line.

  • ~

    "I will tell you the story of almost every attack in column.
    As the column moves forward and draws near the enemy
    the officers give the word 'close up'.
    The mechanical and sheepish instinct which leads every man
    to move nearer to his nighbour because he thinks that by doing so
    he shelters himself from danger makes the men only too willing
    to obey the command. The men crowd one another and the ranks get mixed;
    very soon only the front rank and the outside files have any freedom of movement.
    The column has become a tumultuous mass incapable of evolution."
    - General Comte de Guibert, French army

    "Columns don't break through lines unless with superior artillery."
    - Napoleon
    "Not once did the Austrians withstand them [French]
    but fell immediately into disorder,
    despite the fact that they were in column,
    and the French in line."- Chlapowski, 1809

    Infantry columns on the battlefield.
Russians versus Austrians in 1812.
Picture by Oleg Parkhaiev, Russia. There were several types of columns used by the infantry:

  • - marching column, used on the roads for transiting long distances
  • - columns used on the battlefield. These were described by their width and intervals. Columns were the most handy formation for marches and maneuvering on the battlefield. They were not intended as assault formations except under special circumstances. Though Guibert intended the column as a means of moving rapidly to the point of attack, where it would deploy into line to engage the enemy with fire, followed with a bayonet advance, it was often driven straight at the enemy lines.


    Fig. 1
    French infantry.
    - Line forming column on the right flank.

    Fig. 2
    French infantry.
    - Line forming column on the centre.

    Fig. 3
    French infantry.
    - Line forming column on the left flank.




    Fig. 1
    French infantry.
    - ... bataillon en bataille, formant la colonne d’attaque....

    Fig. 2
    French infantry.
    - ... le déploiement de la colonne d’attaque...




    Fig. 23
    Russian infantry
    1 - attack column
    2 - closed column
    (Source: Zhmodikov - "Tactics of the Russian Army in the Napoleonic Wars" Vol II)
    'Battalion attack column' was in principle the same as 'battalion column formed on the center' prescribed by Kutuzov in 1805 and described by Khatov. It was to be formed in the same ways. The only difference was that, in battalion attack column, the distance between its successive parts was prescribed exactly as equal to a half of the frontage of a platoon. See Fig. 23.


    Fig. 17
    French infantry
    Deployment of a colonne d'attaque to a line, forming on the centre which was the quickest method of forming a line from a column.
    (Source: Nafziger - "Imperial Bayonets" 1996)


    Fig. 16
    French infantry
    Deployment from a colonne par peloton to a line forming to one flank. It was the slowest method of deploying.
    (Source: Nafziger - "Imperial Bayonets" 1996)

    Napoleon's Decree of 1808 stated that when the grenadier and voltigeur companies were present, the battalion of 6 companies would act by divisions. If the flank companies (grenadiers and voltigeurs) were detached from their parent battalion, the battalion would act by platoons, with each company constituting a "platoon". Such column would have front on one company (instead of two) and be 12 ranks deep (instead of 9 ranks). The diagram below is for battalion of 6 companies.

    Columns were called by their frontage and depth. The frontage could be either division (here means just 2 companies) or platoon (means 1 company). The company was an administrative unit, the tactical unit was the platoon (peloton). The French company consisted of one platoon.

    French battalion columns 1808-1815.
Each battalion of 6 companies. Examples:
    colonne par division de distance entiere means column by division (frontage) with full intervals (depth)
    colonne par division de demi-distance means column by division (frontage) with half intervals (depth).

    "The battalion column was a handy formation, capable of quick maneuver to its front, flanks, or rear; some officers described it as able to move like a single soldier. ... If the columns did come under enemy fire, it was best to have them in what the Reglament called a 'column of attack', which had twice as much distance between its divisions as the 'closed' column ... Once within striking distance, the column closed up, then went for the enemy line at the double with the bayonet ..." (- Colonel Elting)

    In wargaming ( and popular literature the fight between two columns is a common thing. The front ranks of columns fight each other, while the rear ranks pushed at each other almost like rugby players. :-)
    The rear ranks also prevent those in front ranks from running away by their physical presence. This type of combat has little to do with reality and historical accuracy.

      Infantry attack with columns:
      - columns (with full or half intervals) begin their advance. Moving too fast caused disorder in the ranks, and was very difficult for the drummers to keep up. Fields freshly cultivated or after rain were obstacles when a fast advance was required. In August 1813 at Katzbach, the Prussians struggled in deep mud "which sucked the shoes off the landwehr". Moving too slow resulted in heavier casualties from artillery fire.
      - columns get under artillery fire. If only a single cannonball hit the column, several men fell badly demoralizing those around them. It created disorder and could even bring the column to a halt. Once halted, even if there has been little damage, the column never moved as strongly and willingly again. After few delays, men become morally spent, all impetus is lost and the attack might better off be called off for the day. According to Quistorp at Hagelberg (1813) a shell fired by French howitzer exploded among the advancing II Battalion of 7th Kurmark Landwehr. The men immediately "turned around." Two other Landwehr battalions halted their advance.
      "The [British] artillery [at Coa] attached to the Reserve instantly opened fire upon it [French infantry columns] and such was the excellence of the practice, that the enemy's column, after a heavy loss, withdrew before it had been able to fire a musket." (Summerville - "March of Death" 129)
      If the column continue its advance, the stress or excitement can be such that they will start running. Breath of some men could run short already after 50-100 paces. Others were better runners. It created disorder and the column became a mob. Only few troops managed to keep their cool, and advance in orderly manner despite all odds.
      Most often the cannonbals passed over the columns. Most often the canister passed over the column or hit the ground before it. (In 1806 at Auerstadt the French 111th Line captured Prussian battery despite 6 volleys of canister.) Some of the shells' fuses were eiether cut too long or too short and the shells bursted prematurely. If the fuse was too long it was "snuffed out" by enemy's infantryman and the shell didn't explode. The shells if hurriedly produced proved unreliable. In 1813 at Lutzen approx. 1/3 of the French shells fired failed to explode. (Elting - "Swords Around a Throne" p 263)
      - columns get within musket range. When under musket fire whatever bullets were hitting the troop, if any at all, it influenced the morale of the men. In such moment they went into a crouch with their heads bowed as if walking into the wind. Sometimes the sight of a column advancing with great vigor was too much for the defender. He opened fire at too great distance, killing no one, and began wavering. Chlapowski writes: "Not once did the Austrians withstand them [French] but fell immediately into disorder, despite the fact that they were in column, and the French in line."
      battalion of Young Guard Voltigeurs
formed in colonne masse. 
Source: Once the enemy began wavering, the NCOs of the battalion column would tight the ranks up for the charge. The man wants company and in his hour of greatest danger his herd instinct drives him toward his fellows. This is natural. The compact column made danger more endurable. The moral impulse was stronger as one felt better supported from behind. The strength of this column was in the threat of the bayonets and the shock power of the compact formation. Every man close at hand was an aid in helping the individual soldier choke down the fear which might otherwise have stopped him.
      The weakness of this type of column lied in the fact that officers had much less control over it. They were normally placed behind the companies, now there was no space for them and they took positions on the sides. It left the whole center of the column out of their control, turning it into mob and moving easily only forward, according to the impulses and threats.
      - however, if the enemy kept his cool and opened fire only at close range, the officers instead of tightening the column, they deployed it into line and opened fire. As soon as the enemy began wavering under the fire they charged with bayonets. In 1805 at Austerlitz, French columns advanced with great coolness and at slow pace. The Russian infantry fired at long range but the French continued their march until they were 100 paces away from the enemy. They halted and opened fire, then "formed in several lines" and rapidly moved forward. The enemy fled. Captain Bonnet described similar infantry attack at Borodino; after few minutes the Russian skirmishers arrived in good order a little to the left "... and a dense column to our right. I deploy my battalion and, without firing, march straight at the column. It recoils. When carrying out this movement we were so exposed to grapeshot from the guns in the village that I saw my battalion falling and being breached like a crenellated wall. But still we went on."

    Very often however the men followed impulses rather than officers' orders. The column would halt was was unable to deploy into line as the cowards in the rear of the column were unwilling to leave their perveived safety. Instead they huddled behind the front-rankers or even some individuals dropped on the ground as if they were hit by a sack full of bricks.
    British soldier Blakeney wrote after Albuera: "I saw their [French] officers endeavouring to deploy their columns, but all to no purpose. For as soon as the third of a company got out, they would immediately run back in order to be covered by the front of the column". The cowards took cover behind the brave creating gaps in the line. If the enemy noticed such behavior and attacked with bayonet, they would simply fall apart.

    There were various scenarios of the infantry combat and sometimes cavalry or/and artillery intervened. In 1813 at Dennewitz, Marshal Ney attacked with infantry, artillery and cavalry. In the head marched skirmishers, behind battalion columns of French and Italian infantry drawn from Morand's and Fontanelli's divisions. These masses were supported by cavalry and artillery. Ney advanced to within 80 paces of the lines of Prussian 4th East Prussian Regiment and 5th Reserve Regiment. The 3rd East Prussian Landwehr Reg. was in second line but soon joined the firefight.
    The French and Italians deployed from columns into lines and an incredible musketry began. In the same time 2 squadrons of Prussian Death's Head Hussars Regiment (1st Leib) attacked and halted the French cavalry while Prussian artillery poured canister after canister into the French. Ney's troops were beaten back.

    Advantages of columns.
    Column was an excellent device for
    bringing men more rapidly into action.

  • - Column was the simplest of all formations and the fastest to advance and maneuver, an excellent device for bringing men more rapidly into action. The speed mattered as it was important to minimize the amount of time spent under artillery fire while advancing against the enemy.
  • - Column advanced without problems over every terrain and in various speeds. In contrast tthe long line required 'redressing' - the faster the movement and the more obstacles (bushes, fences, ditches, wounded and killed men and horses) the more disordered the line became.
  • - It was much easier and faster to turn a battalion column (1-2 companies front) than battalion formed in line (6-10 companies). The battalion column could veer more easily out of the axis of artillery fire.
  • - Because of column's narrow front it was easier to pass through a broken or wooded terrain. In villages and towns only columns were able to move. For example the Austrian village of Aspern comprised 2 parallel streets, each wide enough to permit only a "platoon" to deploy.
  • - The compact column was steadier than hollow square against cavalry. There were numerous cases where even poorly trained troops formed in compact mass repulsed the best cavalry. For example the Austrian landwehr repulsed Napoleon's Guard Chasseurs-a-Cheval in 1809 at Wagram. Such column brushed off the cavalry and continued its quick advance. The square could also advance but it was slower than the realy quick attack column.

    Disadvantages of columns.
    "Columns don't break through lines
    unless with superior artillery." - Napoleon

  • - column was defficient in firepower, only the front ranks could use their muskets effectively. The column had no chance in a musket duel against the line.
  • - columns were vulnerable to artillery fire. To minimize casualties the columns often took cover. See examples:
    - - - at Austerlitz some of the French columns were kept hidden behind a hill (Lannes')
    - - - at Friedland Ney's columns of French infantry stood in the wood
    - - - at Friedland upon arriving Victor's I Corps was placed in a fold of the terrain
    - - - at Ligny some French columns laid down in tall grass and corn-fields.
    - - - at Borodino, the Polish Vistula Legion were ordered to lay on the ground. Officers remained standing.
    - - - at Wagram, Austrian jäger battalion took cover in a drainage ditch.
    - - - at Wagram mass of 2.000 Austrian infantry was sheltered behind the earthen dike.
    - - - at Wagram the Austrian 47th Regiment laid down on the ground
    - - - at Wagram Austrian General Radetzky kept hundreds of infantrymen
    - - - in the safety of dry moat around the tower near Neusiedel.
    - - - at Katzbach, Prussian 7th Brigade (6,500 men) lay behind the heights Christianhohe,
    - - - at Ligny approx. 24-36 Prussian battalions were deployed in dead ground
    - - - in tall crops. Other battalions had been allowed to sit down (23rd Regiment.)

    Multi-battalion columns.
    Macdonald's monstrous column at Wagram
    was the largest column of the Napoleonic Wars.

    There were also multi-battalion columns. The size of column however was not as decisive as one may think. There were cases where smaller column defeated a larger column, small but brave troop routed big masses.

    Below are examples of multi-battalion 'columns' used during the Napoleonic Wars. In 1809 at Wagram, French Marshal Macdonald had formed his three infantry divisions (8,000 men in 23 battalions) in a huge 'column'. It was the largest column of the Napoleonic Wars. It can be however argued that it was in fact a large hollow rectangle or mixed-order formation, not the massive column so often described.

    Macdonald's column at Wagram. Macdonald's troops were formed as follow: the front of the formation consisted of 8 battalions, formed in two lines. On one flank were 8 btns. in column and on another flank were 4 battalions also in column. Three battalions were formed in columns side by side, formed the rear.

    Macdonald later wrote that "I was far from thinking that this demonstration was to be the main attack on the enemy's centre". This unusual formation was not adopted because the infantrymen were inexperienced but because of the probability that it would be attacked from three sides. Conspicious on his white charger,
    Napoleon had ridden through Austrian fire to be present when column moved out towards Sussenbrunn, flags flying, drums beating the charge and the men cheering. The Austrians opened up with everything they had. Soon 15 French guns were disabled and within an hour the column was reduced to little more than half-strength. Macdonald continued forward and dented the Austrian line but could not break it. (Rothenburg - "The Emperor's Last Victory" pp 191-193)

    Surprisingly only 1,500 - 3.000 reached the Austrian positions. Approx. 6.000-9.000 were wounded, killed, or lied on the ground as if they were hit. Once the danger passed they either joined their battalions or run to the rear. Such things took place virtually in every battle and in every army. (Even the iron-disciplined Prussian infantrymen of Frederick experienced it too. In 1757 at Prague, a Prussian officer was wounded and crawled away behind a hill where he was astounded to encounter a "great number of officers and NCOs. Some were wounded, but most were just looking for cover.")

    Ney's column at Friedland In 1807 at Friedland, French Marshal Ney formed Marchand's infantry division (five regiments) into one deep closed column. Bison's division was formed in echelon on the left. They were ordered to move quickly and attack Russian flank. Russian artillery "positioned behind the town on the heights of the opposite bank, caused them severe losses. This fire was made more dangerous by the fact that the gunners, separated from us by the river, could aim their guns in safety, knowing that our infantry could not attack them." (- Baron de Marbot)

    The Russian cavalry charged and drove Ney's divisions back in disorder. It forced Bison's division (four regiments) to deploy and repulse the attackers. Marchand halted the flight of his troops and joined Bison's division. Under the cover of numerous skirmishers they formed their troops in mixed order (lines and columns). Russian lines and columns advanced against them and a huge fusillade began. Before it ended the Russian cavalry again charged and again Marchand's and Bision's regiments fled.

    Napoleon intervened with Dupont's infantry division and stabilized the situation. Dupont advanced rapidly from Posthenen, the French cavalry divisions drove back the Russian cavalry, and finally the artillery under Senarmont advanced a mass of guns to case-shot range. The Russian defence collapsed in a few minutes. Ney's exhausted infantry were able to pursue the broken Russian regiments into the streets of Friedland. Dupont distinguished himself for the second time by fording the mill-stream and assailing the left flank of the Russian centre. This offered very stubborn resistance, but the French forced the line backwards, and the battle was over.

    The heavy infantry columns were also used at Waterloo.
    Before 2 pm four infantry divisions of d'Erlon's corps began their advance. As they reached the line of guns of the Grand Battery, the firing ceased and the infantry formed up their battalions in lines, with every battalion sending forward its voltigeurs as skirmishers. Behind the skirmishers marched entire battalions. Each division formed one block of 8-10 battalions. The battalions averaged 480-580 men, or 400-485 without the voltigeurs, each covering a front of 80-120 m. In the beginning of the advance the gaps between divisions were about approx. 160-240 m. As these divisions advanced the intervals shrinked considerably.
    The marching soldiers flattened the fields of rye "whose crops "had stood almost as tall as a man." Riding at the front of the four divisions was Marshal Ney and General d’Erlon, with their staff.

    Infantry columns formed at Waterloo 
by Marshal Ney and General d'Erlon Actually there were not four divisional columns but only two. The two other were brigade-size formations. On the left one brigade of Allix/Quiot's division (General Allix was replaced by Quiot) attacked La Haye Sainte, while another brigade crossed the hedge and the road behind.

    Dozelot’s division almost reached the hedge, while Marcgnet’ division was within 50 m of the crest. One brigade of Durutte’s division was far behind and climbing the slope while the other marched towards Papelotte.

  • ~

    Napoleon recommended to his generals that they
    have several battalions in lines and several
    in columns by division (frontage 2 companies)
    with half intervals.

    Ordre mixte
    Napoleon advocated the use of both lines and columns
    in the attack by acting in concert.

    Frenchman Guibert developed the mixed order (ordre mixte). He advocated the use of both lines and columns in the attack by acting in concert. The lines suppose to give the necessary firepower and the columns brought their depth and strength. But it was Napoleon who introduced this system by employing it in 1796 at the Battle of Tagliamento and during the passage over the Isonzo River.

    Most often the mixed order consisted of 1-2 battalions in line and 1-2 battalions in columns. Sometimes the formation was larger. Napoleon recommended to his generals that they have several battalions in lines and several in columns by division (frontage 2 companies) with half intervals. The half-intervals - in this case the length of platoon - enabled to quickly form squares against cavalry and to maneuver rapidly.

    Source: Nafziger - Imperial Bayonets Picture: Suchet's infantry division at Jena 1806.




    Source: Nafziger - Imperial Bayonets Picture: Morand's infantry division at Borodino 1812. Morand's division was made of 13th Light, 17th and 30th Line Infantry Regiment.





    Picture: division of attack formation prescribed by Marshal Soult for General Vandamme's command at Austerlitz. In the first line was artillery, in the next were six battalions formed in lines (incl. 2 light battalions), and as reserve were four battalions formed in columns. (Source: Nosworthy - "With Musket, Cannon, and Sword.")




    "However, probably the most notable use of mixed order during this period occured during the critical point of the Batttle of Marengo, when General Desaix, attempting to thwart the advancing column of victorious Austrian infantry, deployed three French infantry demi-brigades in echelon refused towards the right.
    As discussed, the 9th legere in the front most echelon had only its central battalion in line, the 30th de ligne slightly behind had its two battalions in line, while the 59th de ligne was deployed exactly like the 9th legere in front."
    (Source: Nosworthy - "With Musket, Cannon, and Sword." pp 116-117. Published in 1996 by Sarpedon, New York.)



    Map of battle of Albuera.
French infantry vs 
Spanish infantry. In 1811 at Albuera, the French used the mixed order. They advanced with vigor with Girard's division (8 battalions) leading the attack. Despite all odds the Spanish thin line under José Pascual de Zayas held fast. They brought the leading French division to a halt and a tremendous firefight developed. The smoke and the anxiety resulted in a friendly fire; in the beginning some of the redcoats fired in the backs of the Spanish infantry before they realized their mistake. (By opening fire on the Polish uhlans they also shot many of Zayas' brave men in the back.)
    Napier writes: "I supposed the mutual firing between a British and Spanish regiment happened when the Fusiliers were mounting the hill. I had understood Colonel Robert Arbuthnot so, and that he rode between both parties; the writer of the Strictures says he has Sir Robert's letter contradicting the fact. Nevertheless, that such an event did take place at one period of this battle, is proved by the contradictory evidence as to which party fired upon the other." (Napier - "History of the War in the Peninsula 1807-1814" Vol V, p 319)
    "... the 29th Foot who, rather unwisely, began firing on the dispersed lancers: most of the shots passing the horsemen harmlessly by and striking the rear ranks of Zayas' formation instead. Nevertheless, the pertinacious Spaniards stood their ground and almost certainly saved Beresford from disaster." (Gates - "The Spanish Ulcer" p 259)


    At Waterloo "A body of cuirassiers made repeated attacks
    on the square formed by the 5th Line Battalion [KGL];
    after each unsuccessful charge, they retired into
    a hollow where they were protected from the fire
    of the square, while the commanding officer, with great
    coolness remained in observation on a little rising ground,
    moving his horse about, and watching for a favourable
    opportunity to renew the attack."
    - Beamish, "History of the King's German Legion"

    Squares against cavalry.
    If infantry was formed on 2 lines of squares
    and was supported by artillery "I cannot imagine
    what cavalry would be able to accomplish against them"
    - General Thiebault's manual, 1813

    Advancing square of 
the Young Guard Voltigeurs. 
Source: Whenever officers saw that enemy's cavalry was moving forward and making preparations for attack they started forming squares. Such movements of cavalry were already noticed at approx. 1-1.5 km. through field glasses.

    According to French regulations of 1791 if the infantry was in line it sould be able to form square in 100 sec. If they were in attack column (colonne d'attaque) 30 sec. were enough.
    At Leipzig the Austrian "5th Jager Battalion formed square at a run (!), delivered a volley, and waited its fate with bayonets at the ready." (Nafziger - "Napoleon at Leipzig" p 229)

    Square could be also formed from column with full or half intervals. Actually to form a square was easier from a column with intervals than from line. It was expected that average trained battalion will form a hollow square in 2-3 min. In battle the infantry will need 4-6 min. To form a square from 2 battalions took approx. twice longer time. The better trained and accustomed to battle conditions infantry needed shorter time than raw troops.

    To form a square of equal faces took up to 2 times as long as forming an oblong.

    In 1811 Marshal Davout instructed that the distances between squares should be 120 paces.
    Usually 100-200 paces behind the squares stood own cavalry. These horsemen counterattacked when the situation required it. The most famous cavalry counterattacks were at Eylau, Borodino, and Waterloo.


    Fig. 20
    French infantry
    - battalion of 6 companies forming square from line.
    Source: Nafziger - "Imperial Bayonets"
    This particular manoeuvre was the longest way of converting from line to square.









    Fig. 21
    French infantry
    - battalion of 6 companies forming square from column
    Source: Nafziger - "Imperial Bayonets"
    The square is formed from column on centre companies.






    Fig. 24
    Russian infantry
    - square formed from attack column.
    (Source: Zhmodikov - "Tactics of the Russian Army in the Napoleonic Wars" Vol II)
    Two different types of battalion squares were prescribed in the Russian regulations: simple square and 'square against cavalry.' Simple square is shown in Fig. 20 (below).
    The simple square could be formed from line on the center or on the 2nd division or 3rd division, from column of attack, or from column of divisions. The square against cavalry, was formed from line or from column of attack as shown in Fig. 24. The 'square against cavalry' could also be formed from a column of divisions: 1st and 2nd platoons formed the front part; the 3rd and 5th formed the right side; the 4th and 6th formed the left side; and the 7th and 8th platoons formed the rear part.

    Generally square was a formation wherein the center was occupied only by few men (commander, color-bearer, wounded etc.) Ensign Gronow of British 1st Foot Guard writes: "Our squares presented a shocking sight. Inside we were nearly suffocated by the smoke and smell from burnt cartridges. It was impossible to move a yard without treading upon a wounded comrade, or upon the bodies of the dead; and the load groans of the wounded and dying was most appaling. At 4 o'clock our square was a perfect hospital, being full of dead, dying, and mutilated bodies." Wellington himself took refuge in this square. He appeared very "thoughtful and pale."

    In square's corners would be posted marksmen and pick up cavalry officers and trumpeters. Sometimes individual cannon was posted in the front corner of the square. The roaring gun made proper impact not only on the charging cavalry but also on own infantry. However if the ammunition wagon was hit and exploded it created havoc. If the square decided to move (attack or withdrew) the guns and wagons hindered its movements and could cause disorder.

    The presence of artillery greatly increased the chances of success against cavalry. There were however very few cases where the cavalry routed the artillery and broke the squares. In 1813 at Hanau, 8 French squares supported with 18 guns were routed by 20 squadrons of Bavarian cavalry. In 1813 at Dresden, the Saxon cuirassiers rode through the village of Alt-Franken and advanced against 2 battalions of Austrian infantry. Although the Austrians formed squares and were supported with 2 guns, the Saxons broke them and took prisoner all men and guns. (Due to rain the Austrian infantry were unable to fire many muskets.)

    Solid squares.
    Differing from the hollow square,
    the solid square was a dense formation.

    The development of the attack column during the Revolutionary Wars introduced a solid square (also called closed column). Differing from the hollow square, the solid square was a dense formation, formed by having the companies closing the intervals and having the men on the sides and the rear turn to face outwards.
    The best thing about the solid square was that it was easier and faster to form than the hollow square. The square could move forward or retreat, but it was difficult to maneuver with it. The worst thing was its great vulnerability to artillery fire.
    Prussian square.
Source: Nafziger - Imperial Bayonets - The Prussians formed their battalions (4 companies each) rather in closed columns than hollow squares. Their regulations issued in 1812 (Exercir Reglement fur die Infanterie) eliminated the hollow square in favour of a dense column formed from the Angriffscolonne.
    - The Austrians formed their battalions in so-called divisionsmasses. Two companies broke into 4 half-companies, aligned themselves behind the other, and closed their ranks up to about 3 feet between the half-companies. In 1809 the masses withstood all attacks of the French cavalry. Even the second rate Landwehr succeeded against chasseurs of Napoleon's Imperial Guard, Napoleon's personal escort. Klenau's infantrymen were slowly retiring and Massena sent Lasalle's light cavalry division in pursuit. Lasalle led from the front, saber in hand, against one of infantry squares. The square stood behind a moat and repulsed Lasalle's men with a musket volley. Lasalle was wounded in the chest and 2 hours later he was dead. Marulaz tried to avenge Lasalle and led a hussar regiment against the square. Colonel of the hussars was hit and Marulaz was wounded. The defiant square slowly retired.

    'Egyptian squares.'
    It was a rectangle formation
    with only 3-rank deep walls.

    In Egypt, Napoleon's army faced the fierce but undisciplined Mamelukes. Although heavily outnumbered Napoleon realised that the only enemy's troops of any worth were their cavalry so he arranged his troops in large divisional squares with the front and rear made up of a demi-brigade each and the third demi-brigade of the division making up the two sides of the square. The squares had 3-rank deep walls. Cavalry and baggage hid within these squares. The large squares repelled the Mamelukes with artillery fire supporting.
    Against the more disciplined and heavier European cavalry, squares with 4- and 6-ranks deep walls were more suitable.

    Multi-battalion squares.
    "It is agreed that the regimental square is the best for the defensive
    and the battalion square [the smaller] for the offensive."

    Forming square of 4 battalions 
Source: Nafziger - Imperial Bayonets General Jomini: "It is agreed that the regimental square is the best for the defensive and the battalion square for the offensive." The larger the square the more firepower it had and the more diffcult to break it. But the large square required more time to form and moved slower. The large hollow squares (2-12 battalions in size) were used by the defending infantry.

    The small, hollow or solid, squares (of battalion size) were used for the offensive. They were formed quicker and moved faster. The were only few cases when the large and slow squares were used offensively. It happened in 1790s in Egypt and in early 1813 in Germany. In both cases the French cavalry was much weaker in numbers and quality than enemy's horse.
    In 1813 at Lutzen, French 20th Infantry Division under General Compans was formed in one huge square and advanced against enemy by Starsiedel. In the same battle, French six brigades were formed in 6 large squares and advanced against the enemy.
    In 1813 at Smielkendorf, General Borstell organized the Prussian 5th Brigade into one square of 6 ranks with the cannons in the center. (Nafziger "Napoleon's Dresden Campaign" p 119)

    Multi-battalionn squares were also formed when the battalions were very weak. In 1813 at Leipzig, battalions of Russian II Infantry Corps were only 100-200 men each. When they formed squares they were so small that there was no place for senior officers and for the wounded inside them.

    Russian huge square on the road to Krasne.
Campaign of 1812.  Picture by Oleg Parhaiev. One of the largest squares ever formed was at Krasne (Krasnoie, Krasnoye) in August 1812. Russian General Neverovski's force consisted of 10-16 infantry battalions, 4 squadrons of Harkov Dragoons, 3-4 Cossack regiments and 8-12 heavy guns. They were attacked by overwhelming numbers of French, Polish and German cavalry under Marshal Murat. Already in the beginning all dragoons and two Cossack regiments were routed by 9th (?) Polish Uhlans and fled. Seven guns were captured and five fled with the dragoons.
    Neverovski formed his inexperienced infantry in one large square (other sources mention two squares) and slowly retreated along the highway. According to the Russians “40 attacks” of Murat’s cavalry were repulsed, while a Polish historian Marian Kukiel gives “30 charges” as being repulsed. The infantry square was able to reach the city of Smolensk where they “shot the gates behind.” De Segur wrote that Neverovski retreated “like a lion” and Murat made comment that he never saw such tough infantry before. Napoleon and Marshal Ney however criticized Murat for his tactics.

    Squares in combat (part 1).
    The cavalry-vs-square it was morale thing only.

    French cuirassiers attack
Nassauers at Waterloo. When cavalry had chosen its objective and was ready to move, it set out at a walk, officers in front, their sabers unseathed. If, at this moment, the infantrymen in the square started to fidget a bit too much, the cavalry officers could risk acceleration the pace to a trot. Should the musket volley be fired badly - too soon or too high - the cavalry could pass to a gallop, and then the infantrymen, in all probability, would lose their nerve, break their ranks and flee. The result would be massacre.

    For the squares, the first attacks were usually the ones that came closest to causing panic. "The first time a body of cuirassiers approached the square into which I had ridden, the men - all young soldiers - seemed to be very alarmed. They fired high and with little effect, and in one of the angles there was just as much hesitation as made me feel exceedingly uncomfortable" - wrote an officer of British Royal Engineers at Waterloo.

    If the square was broken very many infantrymen were killed and wounded, many lost fingers and hands as they sought to protect themselves from sabers by holding their muskets over their heads. Others threw themselves down. Horses were unwilling to step upon prone body. The excited cavalry usually passed over their heads, they quickly rose to their feet and either run to the rear or fired at attackers' backs. This is what the Russian infantry did at Eylau, the British at Waterloo, and the Prussians at Strigau. Kincaid writes: "[at Waterloo] hundreds of the [alles] infantry threw themselves down and pretended to be dead, while the cavalry galloped over them, and then got up and ran away... I never saw such a scene in all my life.".

    However, the infantry square was THE best formation against cavalry. The square presented rows of bayonets ahead of them and no horseman armed with saber would have been able to strike at them without exposing himself and his horse to the sharp points of bayonets. Horses were unwilling to impale themselves on bayonets.
    Prussian colonel Muffling mentions that in 1814 three newly raised Russian battalions were attacked by French cuirassiers. The Russians delivered volley at 60 paces killing not a single man or horse. The cuirassiers however turned back and retired !
    A British officer writes: "[At Waterloo] No actual dash was made upon us [our square]. Now and then an individual more daring than the rest would ride up to the bayonets, wave his sword about and bully; but the mass held aloof, pulling up within 5 or 6 yards ..." (- Mark Adkin)

    There were four popular methods of cavalry attacks on the square.
    - the attacking cavalry is divided into two troops. The infantry emptied their muskets on the smaller troop, while the other troop charged before the infantry could reload.
    - attack in echelons. The infantry emptied their muskets on the first echelon, while the second echelon was on them. In 1809 at Wagram Colbert's 'Infernal Brigade' (9th Hussars, 7th and 20th Chasseurs), rushed against Austrian infantry. The 7th Chasseurs was greeted with musket volley and fell back. Colbert was seriously wounded. The 20th Chasseurs moved against the square that had just repulsed the 7th. Despite having emptied their muskets the infantrymen were standing firm. The chasseurs however attacked and broke the square. Other square was broken by the 9th Hussars.
    - part of cavalry dismounted (for better aiming) and approached the square in skirmish order. The main body waited for any sign of weakness of the square. Lewis described how the French cuirassiers at Waterloo fired at his square: "They fired on us with their carbines, then immediately do an about-turn while a comrade at my side collapses with a bullet full in the stomach and blood coming out of him as from a stuck pig."
    - cavalry attacked combined with artillery

    Squares in combat (part 2).
    The cavalryman instinctively "ducked"
    under fire becoming smaller target.

    Russian infantry formed squares 
and repulsed French dragoons. It was a horrifying thing for the infantry to see cavalry riding straight at them. Their eyes were popping out of their heads, jaws dropping, alarm bells ringing, hearts beating well out from their chests. In such moment the fire discipline and aiming were important.
    According to G.Beskrovniy of Russia; "When cavalry is attacking the formed front, all officers must tell to their men they must not fire without the command, and when the command is given, every soldier must take aim without hurry and then shoot. The regiment's commander allows the cavalry to approach to 150 paces and gives a command to fire." (At Borodino many battalions fired at 50-60 paces.)

    Usually there were more horses killed and wounded than riders. The cavalryman instinctively "ducked" under fire becoming smaller target. Horse is a bigger target than man anyway.

  • - In 1815 at Quatre Brass, one horse was hit with 7 bullets while the rider was untouched.
  • - In 1809 at Wagram, chasseurs of Napoleon's Guard attacked a square formed by Austrian landwehr. The Austrians delivered volley, 10 men and 10 horses were the casualties. It was enough for the guardsmen as the Landwehr stood firm.
  • - In 1806 at Prenzlow, a small Prussian square (400 men) repulsed 7 attacks of 2,000 French dragoons, each time delivering a volley at 20-30 paces. The dragoons lost only 10-15 horses but the square held fast and it was enough to discourage the attackers.
  • - In 1813 at Gohrde, the 3rd KGL Hussars lost 98 men and 138 horses.
  • - In 1813 at Dennewitz, one squadron of Prussian dragoons received volley at 30 paces and lost 28 men and 41 horses.

    A fast moving horse when hit and falling required several paces to fall down. Therefore it was unwise to fire at less than approx. 12 paces. Otherwise the square was hit by falling and kicking (if wounded) horses. One horse could make a big gap in the wall of square, bowling and wounding the men. If the volley is delivered at 12-25 paces, it will raise up a rampart of dead and wounded men and horses which will probably suffice to repulse the charge. However an infantry square rarely reserves its fire so long; and if the fire is delivered at any considerable distance, no such effect will be produced.

    In many cases the infantry began to shuffle what created the neglecting of firing. In 1815 at Waterloo, Captain Scriba was in a large square formed by two Hannoverians battalions. He heard the pistol-armed commander of one of the squares threaten to shoot anyone who fired before the order was given. Scriba saw the French cuirassiers under Colonel Crabbe move forward at a trot, take a few losses caused by the massed fire from the squares, and then, still 40-50 paces away, change direction and disappear without even trying to attack.
    "Scriba's recruits, most of them boys and young men in their first battle, watched the departure of the French cavalry with relieved shouts of "Hurrah !", but their joy was at the expense of Sir Hew Ross' men, positioned a little farther on ... As the cuirassiers came back down from the ridge, they suddenly found themselves in the midst of the battery, and many gunners were cut to pieces before they could run to the nearest squares ..." (Barbero - "The Battle" pp 123, 181)

    Squares in combat (part 3).
    "a cavalry charge against infantry in square
    would be thrown back 99 times out of 100."
    - Mark Adkin

    Russian Foot Guards repulsed French cuirassiers
at Borodino. Picture by Chagadayev. According to Mark Adkin "a cavalry charge against infantry in square would be thrown back 99 times out of 100." Simple mathematics was against the cavalry when they attacked a square. An average strength battalion with 600 men formed a square 3 ranks deep, this meant that on one side were some 150 soldiers, all of whom could fire and contributed bayonets to the hedge. They covered a frontage of about 25 m (50 men x 0.5 m). The most cavalrymen that the enemy could bring to face them were 50 in 2 ranks (25 men x 1 m).
    But only the men in first rank could attack at a time, some 6 muskets + bayonets confronted a single lance or saber. The man with saber could not strike the infantrymen behind the bayonets - he did not have the reach. A lancer had a better chance although he was still outnumbered by 6 to 1. Either the lancer or his horse was far more likely to be spiked than he was to inflict any damage at all."

    It was not easy to break a square even for quality cavalry.
    On Oct 16th 1813 at Leipzig, part of Raievski's Grenadier Corps (10 btns. of 1st Grenadier Division) formed themselves near Auenhain Sheep-Farm in one line of squares. On each flank of the grenadiers stood cuirassier regiment. Several thousands of French cuirassiers and dragoons led by Latour-Maubourg, Bordesoulle and others, charged and routed Russian cuirassiers. They also overrun artillery and cut down the gunners. The Russian grenadiers however they held their ground. These lads fired volleys into the seried ranks of heavy cavalry. The Frenchmen rode up to the bayonets, waved their swords about, fired pistols and retired. Mikhailovski-Danilevski wrote that the grenadiers stood "like a boulder in the middle of the indignant mass." In this combat General Raievski 'The Hero of Borodino' was wounded.
    Edward Costello of 95th Rifles writes: "The 14th Dragoons were in the act of charging a body of French infantry, who had, however, thrown themselves into square. The cavalry cheered forward in gallant style, but the French, veteran-like stood firm to meet the onset, pouring in, at the same time, a close running fire that emptied many saddles. Ltn-Col. Talbot, who headed the charge, fell almost immediately together with the quarter-master and from 16 to 18 privates. After the unavailing attempt to shake the square, the cavalry was obliged to retire ... An attempt was made to annoy them with our guns ... our shots were attended with very little effect." (Costello - "The Peninsular and Waterloo Campaigns" p 31)
    In 1815 at Ligny, II Battalion of 1.Westphalian Landwehr formed square on top of a hill near Brye. The Landwehr was charged three times by cuirassiers and heavy cavalry of Napoleon's Old Guard. Each time the Landwehr fired volley and the cavalry retired with casualties. Below several more examples.

  • In 1809 at Wagram, Austrian Landwehr repulsed
    - - Chasseurs of Napoleon's Imperial Guard.
  • In 1815 at Ligny, Prussian Landwehr repulsed
    - - Dragoons of Napoleon's Imperial Guard.
  • In 1812 at Borodino, French 84th Line Infantry repulsed
    - - several charges of Russian Lifeguard Hussars.

    Approx. 1 % (10 % ?) of cavalry charges against infantry in square would be successful. Some of the most successful cavalry charges were at Dresden, Garcia Hernandez, Hanau, Fere Champenoise and Mockern (Leipzig.) Below few more examples.

  • In 1812 at Kliastitzi, Russian Tambov Regiment awaited the cavalry. The French charged and received volley that emptied only "a few saddles". Before the infantry could reload their muskets the cavalry were upon them. The square was broken.
  • In 1813 in Dresden, Russian Grodno and Loubny Hussars broke square of 5th Voltigeurs of the Young Guard, killing, wounding and taking prisoner 310 guardsmen. The Grodno Hussars broke also another square of the Young Guard. (Source: Plotho - "Der Krieg" Vol II). [But in February 1813 in Kalish the Russian Alexandria Hussars were unable to break three weak Saxon grenadier companies !]
  • In May 1813 at Michelsdorf, 15 squadrons of Prussian cavalry> (Silesian Cuirassiers, East Prussian Cuirassiers, Silesian Uhlans and Guard Light Cavalry Regiment) attacked the French 16th Division. The Silesian cuirassiers crushed the partially formed French square, the East Prussian cuirassiers moved between Michelsdorf and Hainau, routing all formed bodies of infantry they found. The other cavalry units captured six guns and cut the gunners. The 16th Division broke and fled in a bloody rout to Michelsdorf.
  • Few miles north of Leipzig, near Mockern, Prussian General von Yorck attacked with battalion of the elite Leib Regiment, 2 squadrons of Brandenburg Hussars and 1 sq. of horse volunteer-jagers who until now stood in a hollow ground and were unseen to the French. Behind them advanced Brandenburg Uhlans. Once they came closer to the French infantry the 308 Brandenburg Hussars "wheeled out" and charged. The French formed two squares and fired. The salvo made little impression on the hussars, they broke and pursued the infantry. The frightened infantry ran towards own artillery and thus masking their fire. In effect the entire battery was captured. Regiment of Wirtembergian cavalry struck the Prussians on the left flank but was immediately charged by 2 sq. of Prussian Uhlans (342 men). The Prussian uhlans and hussars broke two regiments of Wirtembergians and captured 9 guns. During pursuit they met battalion of 1st Marine Infantry Regiment and slashed it to pieces. The uhlans continued their brilliant charge and broke several other squares !
    It was a disaster for Marmont's infantry.
    Jurgass sent forward 1st West Prussia Dragoons, Lithuania Dragoons and several regiments of Landwehr cavalry. Total of 2.000-3.000 of cavalry flooded French positions. The dragoons attacked French cavalry, broke them and pursued towards Gohlis. They also captured 4 guns and took prisoners. Another group of cavalry, dragoons and Landwehr, attacked battalion deployed in line and broke it by attacking one flank. Battalions of 1st and 3rd Marine Infantry formed squares and attempted to halt the Prussians. But the Mecklenburg hussars took them from the rear while from the front attacked Prussian infantry. The marines broke in the instant, lost a flag and 700 prisoners. The 2nd Leib Hussar Regiment took 2 French flags and 2 guns, and the Landwehr and national cavalry captured several guns. The 7th and 8th Brigade continued their advance behind the victorious cavalry, but there was little or no resistance from Marmont's troops.

    Group of cavalrymen break into the square.
    "Although several [French] cavalrymen
    managed to break into the square,
    they were all bayoneted."
    - Regimental history of Prussian 28th Regiment

    French cavalry attacking Prussian infantry.  
Battle of Etoges, 1814.
Picture by W. Kossak If musket fire made no impression on the charging cavalry, some squares would 'waver'. The men became anxious and some frightened souls abandoned their front rank and moved behind their comrades in second and third rank. It created small gaps in wall of the square.

    If the cavalrymen were determined enough they would move into such gap and break into center of the square. Only equally determined infantry might still be able to close the gap and bayonet the bravados. It took place in 1812 at Krasne, and in 1815 at Quatre Bras. More examples below:

  • - in 1805 at Austerlitz, "A lieutenant of the Mamelukes managed to hack his way into the square of [Russian] Semenovski Lifeguard Regiment, suffering multiple bayonet wounds and having his horse killed beneath him. His comrades immediately exploited the breach in the square, breaking it and sending the battalion fleeing ... leaving 10 men and their standard in the hands of the Mamelukes." (Goetz - "1805: Austerlitz" p 229)
  • - in 1815 at Fleurus. A single square of Prussian fusiliers threw back 3 cavalry charges. Several cavalrymen however managed to break into the center of the square but were bayoneted. The regimental history of the 28th Infantry (a former Berg regiment) described what happened: "Although several cavalrymen managed to break into the square, they were all bayoneted. Even after such a show of resistance, the enemy tried to persuade the troops to change sides.
    General Letort General Letort, commander of the French Guard Dragoons, recognised the Fusiliers by their Berg uniform. He thought that, since the hopelessness of their position would be obvious to them, their loyalty might waver. He rode up and demanded they desert the Prussian army. A shot rang out and Letort fell dead from his saddle. Fusilier Kaufmann of the 12th Company had leapt out of the square and given the enemy general his answer, in powder and lead. The battalion continued to withdraw but just before it reached the wood, the enemy cavalry approached again. The 10th Company faced front while the others continued their movement. At this critical moment, the full force of the enemy cavalry charge it home."

    Artillery vs Square.
    The Russians fired canister, throwing the French square into disorder.
    Two squadrons of Lifeguard Horse Regiment then charged
    and broke the square. (- Battle of Austerlitz, 1805)

    The easiest way to break the square was to bring horse artillery and blast the infantry away. In 1813 at Dennewitz, two Prussian batteries coordinated their action with III/4th Reserve Infantry "completely deployed as skirmishers" (- G. Nafziger "Napoleon's Dresden Campaign" p 266) Two Wirtembergian battalions formed in squares were broken by canister fire and suffered horrible casualties. (One square lost 531, only 70 escaped !)

    To bring the guns close to the square however was not as easy as it seems. Often the cavalry made continuous charges and counter-charges against the enemy's horsemen, any batteries would have been overrun as each wave of horsemen was forced, or merely retired, to reform in the rear. With no close friendly infantry to seek cover with the gunners would have been slaughtered or have to mount up and abandon their pieces in the heart of the enemy position. The only other alternative, that of continually limbering and moving downslope, then returning and unlimbering again would hardly be practical.

    Furthermore, coordination between artillery and cavalry was a more difficult matter and it was not frequently done. The guns needed time to arrive, unlimber, load and open fire. The situation on battlefield however changed quickly and before the guns were ready, enemy's cavalry counter-attacked. The cannons were lost and the gunners were either scattered or cut down.

    Below are examples of successful coordination between cavalry and horse artillery in breaking the square.

  • - In 1813 at Dresden, Austrian cavalry was away from their infantry. The French brought up their horse artillery and heavy cavalry. It was raining and the infantry was unable to use their muskets. A French general called upon Austrian square to surrender. The whitecoats refused - no cavalry will break them. But when the French unlimbered their cannons the Austrians laid down their arms.
  • - In 1815 at Quatre Bras, French horse battery opened canister fire at British 33rd Foot 1st Yorkshire -West Riding. The redcoats broke up and fled to Bossu Wood.
  • - On 7th March 1814 at Reggio Emilia, a squadron of Austrian Radetzky hussars charged Italian chasseurs-a-cheval and threw them back. Few companies of Italian and French voltigeurs, abandoned to their fate, formed a small square. They held off the hussars until the Austrians brought up artillery. After few discharges approx. 300 voltigeurs surrendered.
  • - In 1805 at Austerlitz, Russian battery and a cavalry regiment broke French square under Mjr. Bigarre and took its Eagle. Bigarre wrote "... Cpt. Vincent, who proceded my scouts, discovered on the reverse slope a considerable mass of cavalry... I went in person to see what this column was. Hardly were we on the plateau that dominated the two reverse slopes, than we saw them advancing at a fast trot to meet us. I returned to the battalion and ordered it form square." It was Russian Lifeguard Horse Regiment (3 squadrons) thundering toward the square. The cavalrymen closed on the square, circled it, lost several men adn horses and left. A horse battery under the command of Lt.-Col. Kozen had advanced and unlimbered its cannons 200 m from the French. They fired 5 rounds of canister at the square and inflicted serious casualties. The French were thrown into disorder. Col. Olenin-I led 2 other squadrons of Lifeguard Horse Regiment and broke the square. The French suffered 218 killed and wounded, Bigarre received 25 saber wounds, the standard-bearer 20 saber wounds. Russian guardsman Gavrilov saw the Eagle on the ground so he jumped off his horse and picked it up before bayonets pierced him into his left and right side. Privates Ushakov, Omelchenko and Glazunov rode in and with their swords fend off the infantrymen. They brought the Eagle to overjoyed Grand Duke.

    Line and column vs cavalry.
    "The most welcomed sight
    for the attacking cavalry."

    French cuirassiers vs Russian infantry. Infantry formed in line or column (not in square) was the most welcomed sight for attacking cavalry. The line was attacked from one or both flanks where the musket fire was the weakest. In vast majority of cases the line was routed and the men hotly pursued.


  • - In 1815 at Quatre Brass, French chasseurs-a-cheval charged against advancing British Foot Guards formed in line. Approx. 500 redcoats were killed and wounded, while the rest fled to Bossu Wood.
  • - In 1811 at Albuera, British Colborne's Brigade (formed in line), were attacked by Polish Vistula uhlans and French hussars and totally destroyed, losing 5-6 standards and hundreds of prisoners.
  • - In 1815 at Waterloo, the 8th Battalion of KGL, all veterans of the Spanish wars, got into difficulty when, preparing to fight advancing French infantry, they were surprised by the arrival of French cuirassiers. Since a firefight between square vs line would have been decidedly unequal, with all the advantage going to the French, the Germans decided to deploy into line. The French infantry opened their ranks to allow some cuirassiers to pass through. The German line was smashed, their colonel was killed and their Color was captured.
  • - In 1805 at Austerlitz, Colonel Pourailly inexplicably ordered 24th Light Regiment to deploy both battalions in line despite the presence of Russian cavalry. The Russians charged it, the Lifeguard Horse Regiment struck the French on their left, while the Lifeguard Hussars attacked their right. The French broke and fled, bandoning their Eagle that, unseen, was trampled under the hooves and feet. The fleeing battalions passed through Napoleon's headquarters in ther panic flight. De Segur wrote: "The unfortunate fellows were quite distracted with fear and could listen to nothing; in reply to our reproaches for thus deserting the field of battle and their Emperor they shouted mechanically 'Vive l'Empereur !' while they fled faster than ever." Napoleon only remarked "Let them go."
  • - In 1807 near Eylau, French 46th Line marched in snow while being fired upon by the Russian artillery and skirmishers. It didn’t stop them from crossing their bayonets with the Russian infantry and the famous 18th Line (nicknamed "The Brave") hurried to support their comrades. Meanwhile the S.Petersburg Dragoons moved around own infantry and began deploying into charge. The 18th Line suddenly saw a dark mass of cavalry coming at them and leaving no time for forming the square. The French infantry wavered and fired. The dragoons attacked from the front and from the rear and the infantry lost any order. A desperate struggle was around the French standard. Trooper Podvorotny drove the French standard-bearer to the ground and seized the Eagle. Trooper Deriagin and others cut down the escort of the standard, Adjutant Fomine, dragoon Erofeiev and trumpeter Logvinov were also involved in this bloody struggle.
    Marshal Soult Marshal Soult’s Journal of the IV Corps: “The 18th Regiment was near to arriving at the summit, when a large body of enemy cavalry surrounded it, charged it, repulsed it.” Colonel Langlois wrote that General Lavasseur, all the senior officers, as well as large number of officers and soldiers of this regiment were seriously wounded and, the worst of all, the Eagle was lost. The damage was indeed enormous: 44 officers killed, wounded and captured as prisoners - including Lavasseur, Ravier and Pelleport. The 18th also lost more than 500 other ranks, including several hundred prisoners. The situation could develop into a slaughter if not the charge by the 13th Chasseurs who saved the 18e Ligne. This regiment was so shaken that it was kept in reserve when the Battle of Eylau was fought. The losses of the dragoons were only 20 men killed and 18 wounded. The French army Bulletin dated 9 Feb. 1807 tried to downplay the loss of the regiment’s Eagle and the Emperor ordered that the 18th Line be given replacement eagle.

    Receiving the attacking cavalry while formed in column was also not the best solution.

  • In mid May 1813 column of French infantry was crossing a stream near the town of Bishofsverda. The Russian Harkov Dragoons sprung forward and fling themselves upon the enemy. The column was broken and suffered 100 casualties. (Bogdanovich M. - “Istoriya Voiny 1813 Goda” St. Petersburg 1863, Vol 1, p 228)
  • - In 1814 at Brienne, General Vasilchikov led 3rd Dragoon Division (Panchulidsev’s), 2nd Hussar Division (Lanskoi’s) and Cossacks against the French infantry division commanded by GdD Duhesme. The infantry received them in columns instead of squares. Unable to withstand the attack they began to fall back and colided with the infantry division of Young Guard and both divisions fell back. Vasilchikov’s cavalry also overran two batteries before they could deploy and fire. One of these batteries was dragged away as a trophy. (Petre F. L. - “Napoleon at Bay, 1814” London, on page 23 Petre gives 8 guns as being lost to the Russian cavalry)
    Prussian officer Muffling participated in this attack and wrote: “We rode into the Young Guard and our right wing got as far as the Reserve … We captured two batteries and the enemy fell into the greatest disorder.” Only the gathering darkness saved the Young Guard and Duhesme’s division from a complete disaster.
  • In the battle of Berezina in 1812, battalions of Russian 18th Infantry Division stood in the wood. (There were two small meadows, open patches, in the wood, in which the infantry was posted.) The Russians were formed in columns and did not expect cavalry attack because of the forest cover. General Doumerc struck the Russians with the 4th, 7th, and 14th Cuirassier Regiment (totalling 450 men). The cuirassiers passed through the brush and woods, reformed, and fallen on the enemy. They sabered 500-750 men and took 2,000 prisoners.
  • - In 1807 at Friedland, General Bison’s infantry division was formed in two lines of battalion columns, which were in the act of forming squares when the Russian cavalry struck them with impetuosity. (Elting J.R., Esposito V. - “A Military History and Atlas of the Napoleonic Wars”, Frederick A. Praeger Inc., New York 1964, description to Map 81)
    The division fled to the rear with little or no resistance to the Russians. Seeing the panick, General Marchand’s division lost their cool too and raced to the woods. Only “three infantry regiments” were able to form squares and stand firm amid the chaos. According to Shikanov, it was the Russian guard cavalry and Cossacks who attacked GdD Marchand’s infantry division and General Latour-Mauborg’s dragoon division. The 69th Line was swept away and its both battalion commanders, the regimental commander Colonel Frirjon, and many officers were the casualties. Other regiments panicked. Only the counterattack conducted by General Latour-Mauborg’s dragoons and the approach of General Dupont’s infantry saved them from a total destruction.
    The Eagle-bearer of 69th was sabered but falling down he covered the Eagle with his body. The Russians somehow didn’t pick it up or maybe there was no time to do it as the French dragoons counterattacked. Later on on this area was Russian Pernau Infantry and they found the Eagle. The French sources also claim that the 69th Line was destroyed by cavalry and not by infantry.

    There were however rare cases where the column or line of infantry withstood the cavalry attack.

  • - in 1800 at Marengo, French 72th Demi-Brigade was attacked by Austrian cavalry from the front and rear. There was no time to form square and the 3rd rank faced about and warned off the cavalry in the rear, while the 1st and 2nd rank repulsed those in the front.
  • - in 1813 a German (Hannoverian) battalion was attacked by French cavalry. Having no time to form square they fought in line. These brave lads delivered volley at close range and attacked with cold steel. Surprised by tenacitry of infantry and shattered by casualties, the horsemen fled.
  • - in 1815 at Quatre Bras, a landwehr battalion formed in line repulsed French cavalry. According to Best report: "... the Luneburg Battalion had laid down in the ditch along the main road. ... Just as the enemy came into range, the Luneburg Battalion stood up and fired from 30 paces with such effect that the larger part of the enemy fell with many them killed. ... The fire was so well directed that only a few enemy cavalry survived, several falling only 5 to 6 paces from us."

    The Rare Thing.
    "Infantry charging cavalry was thing rarely attempted.
    It demanded great resolution." ( - James Arnold )

    There were few instances where the infantry actually executed bayonet charges against cavalry.

  • - In 1813 a German (Hanoverian) battalion was attacked by French cavalry. Having no time to form square they fought in line. The brave lads delivered volley at close range and immediately attacked with cold steel. The cavalry fled.
  • - According to l'Houssaye, in 1814 at Craonne, two regiments of Russian infantry attacked French dragoons led by Grouchy. The boldness of the infantry were enough to drive back the dragoons on to the battery which they had just captured. Grouchy was wounded.
  • - In 1809 at Aspern-Essling, "Instead of losing momentum by ordering a square, he [Saint-Hilaire] commanded the trusty 105th Line to face to the flank, told the drummers to beat the pas de charge, and advanced against the enemy horsemen. Infantry charging cavalry was thing rarely attempted. It demanded great resolution. ... The 105th met the challenge and drove off the startled Austrian cuirassiers." (Arnold - "Napoleon Conquers Austria" p 70)
  • - In 1811 at El Bodon, British 5th Foot attacked French cavalry.
  • - In May 1813 at Diehmen, allies' cavalry attacked square of French 52nd Line twice. The 52nd and 137th Line actually reformed into columns, and advanced at the "pas de charge" against the Russian cavalry. The cavalry faced with the startling and unusal situation, withdrew. (Nafziger - "Lutzen and Bautzen" p 201) Other sources mention the 53rd instead of 137th.
  • - In 1812 at Borodino, columns of Russian Ismailovsk Lifeguard received French cuirassiers with volley and then attacked with bayonets. Officer Shimanski of this regiment doesn't mention the bayonet charge, he wrote that only some soldiers left the ranks and fired at the backs of the fleeing French. The Russian 'Pernau' Infantry Regiment repulsed cavalry attack and then itself charged the cavalry with bayonets. Unable to catch them some men in the front rank threw their musket with bayonets as javelins at the backs of the cavalrymen ! (Zhmodikov - "Tactics of the Russian Army in the Napoleonic Wars" Vol. II)
  • - In 1813 near Katzbach, French IV/34th Line "found a force of Prussian uhlans had charged into and captured the park of the French XI Corps. When only about one-sixth of their muskets would fire because of the day long rain the IV/34th Line charged, in a battalion mass, against the cavalry, drove it away, and recaptured the XI Corps park. They do not appear to have suffered any appreciable losses." (Nafziger - "Imperial Bayonets" p 42)
  • - In 1814 at Vauchamps, two companies of the Prussian Silesian Schutzen (240 riflemen) found themselves with a single squadron of Polish Guard Lancers sitting on their line of escape from the disaster that was befalling on their brigade. The Schutzen formed a column and charged forward cutting their way through the enemy cavalry.


    There were cases where the infantry has spent night in squares. For example Dedem writes how in 1812 his infantry "were making 30 to 35 miles a day, and in the evening we lay down regularly in square, having two ranks alternatingly on their feet and one sitting down." After the battle of Shevardino some French battalions spent part of the night in squares.

    In 1813 at Bautzen the French "slept in squares by division" on the fields around Klix. It prevented Russian and Prussian cavalry to make a surprise attack. In 1815 after the battle of Ligny some French battalions bivouacked drawn up in squares and with one rank under arms.

    One of the most confusing situations involving squares took place in 1807 at Heilsberg. The French infantry was formed in hollow squares, with Russian prisoners inside them and was attacked by the Russian and Prussian cavalry.

  • ~

    The skirmishers acted in 2s and only fired one at a time
    so that one was always loaded. The intervals between twos
    were several paces. They used terrain, trees and buildings
    as a cover. Their target were enemy's skirmishers, gunners
    and officers. Skirmishing required energy, stamina,
    imagination and innitiative.

    The American riflemen were armed with rifles, war axes
    and Indian scalping knives. They had the air of men
    to whom cleanliness was a virtue unknown. It "gave them
    an air of wilderness and savageness which in Italy would
    cause them to pass for the brigands of the Appenines."
    - John Richardson

    French light infantry,
by Giuseppe Rava. "Skirmishers are infantry who are stationed ahead or to the sides of a larger body of friendly troops. They are usually placed in a skirmish line to either harass enemy troops or to protect their own troops from similar attacks by the enemy. Skirmishers are generally lightly armed and lightly armored in order to move quickly across the battlefield. In ancient and medieval warfare, skirmishers typically carried bows, jawelins, and sometimes carried light shields. Acting as light infantry with their light arms and minimal armor, they could run ahead of the main battle line, fire a volley of arrows, slingshots or javelins, and retreat behind their main battle line before the clash of the opposing main forces. The aims of skirmishing were to disrupt enemy formations by causing casualties before the main battle, and to tempt the opposing infantry into attacking prematurely, throwing their organization into disarray." (-

    Skirmishing was not new in Europe, During the Napoleonic Wars the opposing armies would march their infantry in column formations and deploy them in a line, shoulder to shoulder in three ranks. In front of these columns and lines moved skirmishers. All infantrymen were trained in skirmishing.

    The skirmishers acted in 2s. The intervals between pairs were: in the French army 15 paces, in Austrian 6 paces, in Russian 5 paces. The intervals could change depending on tactical situation and available space. In 1815 at Quatre Bras the Duke of Brunswick deployed his Jager Battalion in a ditch near Gemioncourt. The jagers were in groups of 4 at intervals of six paces. They had put their large hats on the bushes in front of them. It attracted a lot of musket fire from French voltigeurs. :-)

    French infantry in skirmish 
order at Somosierra.
Picture by W.Kossak. As the battle continued the lines and columns fed the skirmish lines or broke down into skirmish lines themselves. The skirmishers used terrain, trees and buildings as a cover. Their primary target were enemy's officers, trumpeters, drummers, gunners, and skirmishers. The skirmishers also annoyed the flanks of the enemy and created terror when succeeded on appearing at the rear.

    The skirmishers used a lot of ammunition. Once the cartrdige box was empty the skirmisher went to the ammunition wagon. It would in many cases mean being withdrawn from the front line. Also the musket didn't allow for continuous firing for many hours. Russian officer Davidov noted in 1808 that many skirmishers used to spend their ammunition very quickly or throw it out in order to leave the firing line. One general said that a number of soldiers is lost to "temporary desertion" while skirmishing. But officer F.N. Glinka wrote that in 1813 after Bautzen: "...Colonel Kern wanted to relieve a chain of skirmishers, who fought for several hours. They responded: don't relieve us ! We can fight till the evening; just give us cartridges !"

    The greatest danger to skirmishers came from the cavalry. Beskrovnyi writes; "[when cavalry attack the skirmishers] The officer ... collects his men into groups of about 10 men. They stand back to back and continue firing and thrust their bayonets into the enemy cavalrymen, and everyone should be confident that the battalion or the regiment will come to their aid in a short time."

  • - In September 1813 near Göhrde, Tettenborn's Cossacks caught nearly all enemy skirmishers of Pecheux's division, defeating their supporting masses [‘Unterstützungsmasse’] one after the other.
  • - In 1812 at Borodino, skirmishers of Russian 19th Jager Regiment were attacked by French cavalry. Colonel Vuich ordered them to lay down on the ground. The cavalrymen rode over them making little or no harm. The jagers stood up and fired at the French.
  • - In 1812 at Berezina, a big number of jagers and line infantrymen were thrown into skirmishing in the overgrown terrain. They were shattered by French cuirassiers and 1,500 were taken prisoners ! (Riehn - "1812: Napoleon's Russian Campaign" p 384)

    French skirmishers.
    The mercurial French infantryman had a quick wit,
    alertness, and skill and lightness for running.

    Tirailleur means sharpshooter, a skirmisher in French. The French tirailleurs acted in twos and only fired one at a time so that one was always loaded. The intervals between twos were 15 paces.
    The French infantry had a quick wit, alertness, and skill and lightness for running, crawling and jumping. They enjoyed great reputation as skirmishers and rightly so. George Nafziger wrote that only the French can lay claim to the universal employment of their line infantry as skirmishers. General Duhesme proposed to rely only on skirmishers and small columns, claiming that the French are suited for this type of combat.

    Company of infantry deployed into skirmish chain (tirailleurs de marche et de combat) acted in concert with parent battalion for which they scouted on the march and covered during battle. They were used to repulse the first posts of the enemy, and to probe his position. The object was to throw back the enemy skirmishers onto his attacking troops and - if possible - to carry disorder to its columns.
    Each French company of infantry was divided into 2 sections, but when skirmishing it was divided into 3 sections: left, right and center. The skirmishers of the left and right section had their bayonets removed when on the skirmish line. Only the center section had their bayonets fixed. When they were in open field and threatened by cavalry, the skirmish line formed a clump, or a circle, rallying on the center section in the rear.

    According to Marshal Davout's instructions issued in 1811, when a company was send forward to act as tirailleurs it first marched 200 paces away from the battalion. Here the center section halted while the left and right section of the company marched forward a further 100 paces.

  • - The centre section was under captain and acted as a principal reserve for the skirmish chain.
    It consisted of 1 captain, 1 sergeant major, 1 sergeant, 2 corporals and 40 privates (total: 45 men).
    The communications were maintained by using NCOs as runners.
  • - The left section was under lieutenant and deployed its 1st and 2nd rank (total: 26 men)
    as skirmishers, with the 3rd rank being held in reserve. With the reserve were 1 lieutenant,
    1 drummer or trumpeter, 1 sergeant, 3 corporals and 13 privates (total: 19 men).
    The reserve furnished replacements and also formed rallying point when attacked by cavalry.
  • - The right section was under lieutenant and also deployed its 1st and 2nd rank (total: 26 men)
    as skirmishers, with the 3rd rank being held in reserve. With the reserve were 1 lieutenant,
    1 drummer or trumpeter, 1 sergeant, 3 corporals and 13 privates (total: 19 men).
    The reserve furnished replacements and formed rallying point when attacked by cavalry.

    Several companies or even battalions could be employed as skirmishers (tirailleurs en grande bande). The tiralleurs en grande bande acted in large numbers, stormed or defended a position, or turned the flank of the enemy. The large skirmish formations were usually supported by columns and artillery. At Friedland General Oudinot had deployed 2 full battalions as skirmishers into the Sortlack Wood. In 1814 at La Rothiere four French battalions were formed in skirmish order by La Giberie to anticipate any attack which might develop in the rear of the wood. The French on occasion deployed even entire divisions [!] in skirmish formations. (Nafziger - "Imperial Bayonets" 1996 p 111)
    In 1806 at Jena, the French 16th Light Infantry advanced left in front towards the woods: its third battalion advanced en tirailleurs (in skirmish order) towards the wood, the first and second battalion, marching still in column, went past the right of the woods and deployed into line in the plain at musket range from the Prussian battery.

    There is a myth, however, that only the French were capable of using entire battalions in skirmish order. In 1813 at Hagelberg the IV Battalion of Prussian 3rd Kurmark Landwehr deployed into skirmish formation and advanced forward together with two other battalion formed in columns screened by their own skirmishers. In the end of battle approx. 300 Prussian skirmishers pursued 2 battalions of French infantry (total 1.000 men). These skirmishers were joined by Cossacks and Russian guns and the French halted and surrendered. In 1812 at Borodino the Russians employed entire brigades of jagers as skirmishers. In 1813 at Dresden, Russian General Roth had several jager battalions of his Advance Guard in skirmish line along the Landgraben canal. At Borodino, Polish 16th Division fought in the wooded area near Utica having 2/3 of its strength fully in skirmish order. In 1813 at Leipzig, Prince Poniatowski deployed 6 Polish battalions into a thick skirmish line.)

    A Prussian officer described the French tirailleurs and their methods of skirmish combat (1806): "However, from a great distance, the bullets of French skirmishers already reached us; they were placed formidably in the front of us laying in the field and bushes; we were unacquainted with such tactics; the bullets appeared to come from the air. To be under such fire without seeing the enemy made a bad impression of our soldiers. Then, because of the unfamiliarity with this sort of fighting, they lost confidence in their muskets and immediately felt the superiority of the adversary. They therefore suffered, already being in a critical position, very quickly in bravery, endurance and calmness and could not wait for the time to fire themselves which soon proved to be to our disadvantage."

    Other examples:

  • - In 1806 at Jena, French skirmishers took on enemy's line infantry deployed in open field. Maude described this action: "Now followed one of the most extraordinary and pitiful incidents in military history. This line of magnificent infantry, some 20,000 strong, stood out in the open for 2 hours whilst exposed to the merciless case and skirmishing fire of the French, who behind garden walls offered no mark at all for their return fire. In places the fronts of the companies were only marked by individual files still loading and firing, whilst their comrades lay dead and dying around them." (Maude - "The Jena Campaign, 1806" p 156)
  • - Petre described on p 137 in "Napoleon's Conquest of Prussia" another action of French tirailleurs at Jena: "Harassed by a galling fire from the swarms of skirmishers in and on either side of Vierzehnheilegen and unable to return it, the Prussian infantry was already shaken and demoralised before it was ready to begin volley firing. Even when it did begin, the fire had little effect on the French skirmishers, adepts as they were in finding cover in the gardens and potato fields or behind the walls of the village." and on p 178: "The Prussian attacks on Vierzehnheilegen were a good example of the impossibility of succeeding with the parade-ground tactics of the Seven Years War. The unhappy Prussians, attempting solemnly to form line before opening fire, were decimated by the fire of the French, ensconced behind the walls of the village and the gardens, or hidden in the furrows of the potato fields."
  • - Englishman Sir F. Ponsonby was an involuntary witness to French skirmishing at Waterloo. He found himself wounded and immobilized in a sector of battlefield occupied by French skirmishers. One of these threatened to kill him and demanded his money; Ponsonby let himself be searched .... A second skirmisher with the same intentions arrived but left disappointed after an even more meticulous search of colonel's person. Stll later, another skirmisher came by and decided to use the immobile Ponsonby as a screen ! He stayed for a long time, reloading and firing over Ponsonby's body again and again, and conversing with great gaiety all the while.
  • - At Waterloo after one of the attacks on Hougoumont, many French skirmishers instead of withdrawing to their own lines, climbed the slope in the direction of the British and German positions, concealing themselves amid the high-standing grain. British battery of 6 9pdrs under Lt.-Col. Webber-Smith suffered casualties when the French tirailleurs opened fire. In the course of a few minutes, many gunners and horses were hit, and Webber-Smith had to give orders to limber up the guns and very quickly abandon the position.
  • - At Waterloo the enormous number of French skirmishers in action, together with the intensity of an artillery fire, had caused an unusual pessimism to spread among the British officers. Col. Gould confessed that he found this situation desperate. Not the least of his reasons was his belief that the only road through the forest would be bottled up in an instant. Captain Mercer: "It does indeed look very bad... Meantime gloomy reflections arose in my mind, for though I did not choose to betray myself (as we spoke before the men), yet I could not help thinking that our affairs were rather desperate, and that some catastrophe was at hand. In this case I made up my mind to spike my guns and retreat over the fields ..."
  • - In April 1813 at Halle, General Maison detached a battalion of French 153rd Line to the Giermeritz farm, on an island formed by two branches of the Saal River. The battalion's voltigeurs took up a position where their fire began picking off the Prussian gunners serving the guns in the earthwork on the far side of the river. The 2 6pdr cannons and 1 howitzer were hurriedly withdrawn due the voltigeurs' fire.
  • - In 1813 at Dennewitz, French tirailleurs came out of the village and drove back Prussian Horse Battery Nr. 6. They also attacked Prussian Foot Battery Nr. 16 and took 4 guns.
  • - In 1805 at Austerlitz "The Hussars, excellent ones of Hessen-Homburg, had many men and horses killed by the French skirmishers ..." (Amon von Treuenfest - "Geschichte des k.k. 11 Huszaren-Regimentes" p 233)
  • - In 1813 at Kulm the Prussian 9th 'Silesian' Landwehr found itself under heavy skirmish fire. The Landwehr "turned heel and broke."

    Russian skirmishers.
    The Russian skirmishers were trained to use terrain features,
    to fire from standing, kneeling or lying position. However
    Russian Gen. Barclay de Tolly considered the French skirmishers
    superior to the Russians in agility and marksmanship and
    more effective in the woods.

    5th Jagers in 1805
and 1st Jagers in 1809.
Author ???? The quality of Russian skirmishers varied. It was said that until 1806 they were below European average. During the numerous wars (vs French, Poles, Turks and Swedes) they improved greatly and matched the French in 1813 and 1814. However the opinions about their quality were mixed. The Prussians, who fought the Russians in 1812, considered the jägers to be competent skirmishers. According to von Clausewitz the jägers at Borodino fought in the skirmish line with great dexterity. (Clausewitz - "The Campaign of 1812 in Russia" 1992, pp 162-157)

    Russian commander Chichagov however claimed that Russian infantrymen (not specifically jagers) had not enough wit and adroitness to fight in skirmish order. Barclay de Tolly considered the French skirmishers superior to the Russians in agility and marksmanship and more effective in the woods. Only after 1812 the abilities of French skirmishers significantly declined.
    Admirers of the skirmish tactics were Suvorov and Kutusov. Kutusov wrote several sets of notes on light infantry already in the 1780s.

    Jägers (light infantry) were usually the ones sent to skirmish. If there was insufficient number of jägers, the line infantry and eventhualy the grenadiers sent their own skirmishers. The troops were sent to skirmish by platoons or companies, which relieved each other in turn, or by entire battalions and regiments. For example a day before the Battle of Eylau, the Arkhangel Musketier Regiment was deployed as skirmishers to cover the withdrawal of the 4th Division. In August 1812 at Krasne, the whole 49th Jager Regiment was placed in front of the village in skirmish order.

    There were however disagreements in the Russian army about the use of large number of skirmishers. Published in 1811 "On Jager Training" recommended the use of entire jager battalion (of 8 platoons) in skirmish order. The grenadier and strelki platoon were kept in reserve behind both flanks of the skirmish line formed by the remaining six jager platoons.
    The skirmish line was formed this way: the soldiers of first rank formed the front chain, the soldiers of second rank formed the second chain, while the third rank formed a reserve behind the center. The skirmishers acted in pairs with 2 or 5 paces intervals between pairs, maneuvered according to drum signals and moved at a run (150-200 paces per minute). They were trained to use terrain features, to fire from standing, kneeling or lying position.

    Barclay de Tolly was against using large number of skirmishers. In 1812 he wrote: "in the beginning of a battle one is to push out as few skirmishers as possible, but to keep small reserves, to refresh the men in the chain and [to keep] the rest behind formed in column. Heavy losses cannot be attributed to skillful actions of the enemy, but to excessive numbers of skirmishers confronted to the enemy fire."
    In 1812 at Berezina a big number of jagers and line infantrymen were thrown into skirmishing in the overgrown terrain. They were shattered by French cuirassiers and 1,500 were taken prisoners ! (Riehn - "1812: Napoleon's Russian Campaign" p 384)
    In 1813 de Tolly prescribed forming only 1/3 of the whole number of men sent to skirmish. (Zhmodikov - "Tactics of the Russian Army" Vol. II p 29)

    British skirmishers.
    A British officer wrote after Waterloo that
    the French skirmishers were on the whole
    much more effective in this type of fighting
    than the British skirmishers.

    The British well-drilled regulars were humiliated by American farmers, militia and Indians fighting in lose order. The american experience made a profound impact and resulted in tactical and organizational changes in the British army. But still the quality of the British skirmishers (except the 60th and 95th Regiment) was below their French counterparts.
    French General Foy wrote: "Several regiments of the line, such as the [British] 43rd, the 51st, the 52nd etc., are called light infantry regiments. These corps, as well as the light companies of the battalions, have nothing light about them but the name; for they are armed and with some slight change in the decorations, clothed like the rest of the infantry. It was considered that the English soldier did not possess sufficient intelligence and address to combine with the regular duty of the line the service of inspiration of the sharpshooter."

    A Royal Scots officer wrote after Waterloo, that the French skirmishers were better trained, and on the whole much more effective in this type of fighting than the British skirmishers. (Barbero - "The Battle" p 255)

    Moyle Sherer of the 34th Foot wrote on the British skirmishers: "Not a soul….was in the village, but a wood a few hundred yards to its left, and the ravines above it, were filled with French light infantry. I, with my company, was soon engaged in smart skirmishing among the ravines, and lost about 11 men, killed and wounded, out of thirty-eight.
    The English do not skirmish so well as the Germans or the French; and it is really hard work to make them preserve their proper extended order, cover themselves, and not throw away their fire; and in the performance of this duty, an officer is, I think, far more exposed that in line fighting." (Rory Muir- "Tactics and the Experience of Battle in the Age of Napoleon")

    The best British skirmishers were from the 95th Rifles and KGL light battalions, all armed with rifles. The British Light Division was arguably one of the best light troops in Europe. In September 1813 the French commander in Spain, Marshal Soult, wrote to the Minister of War that British sharpshooters were killing the French officers in a fast rate: "the losses of officers are so out of proportion with the losses in soldiers".

    Prussian and Austrian skirmishers.
    "The physical ability and high intelligence of the common man
    enables the French to profit form all advantages offered by
    the terrain and the general situation, while the phlegmatic
    Germans ... form on open ground and do nothing but what their
    officer orders them to do." - General Scharnhorst

    Many Prussians and Austrians generals were not in favor of skirmishing and skirmishers. For example von Freytag-Loringhoven wrote: "The Prussian infantry at one time took the Frederician maxim of marching boldly upon the enemy too literally, and insisted that skirmishing is the mark of a coward."
    They were wrong, skirmishing required energy, stamina, imagination and innitiative. Some Prussian generals understood it, Gen. Scharnhorst writes: "It is also worth some consideration that light troops offer the greatest opportunity for the training of good and useful officers, because daily actions accustom them to danger, and by being left to rely more on their own judgment they are taught how to tear themselves from the machine-like process of their profession. All previous teaching is as useless as it is inapplicable, and therefore the officers’ boldness, judgment, and independence grow almost daily."

    In 1813-1815 the Prussian skirmishers performed well. A member of the Prussian 12th Brigade writes: "We moved up via Meusdorf and the brickworks against Probstheida. The first thing that hit our skirmishers - of which I was one - was an artillery crossfire. It didn't take long for us to be scattered. We reformed and threw ourselves into a sunken road up against the loopholed garden wall of the village. We waited until the French had fired a full volley at our main body, jumped out of the road and rushed forward to take half the village. The surprised French fell back before us, abandoning a battery of 10 guns in the centre of the village." (Digby-Smith - "1813: Leipzig" p 195)
    In 1815 during the battle of Ligny Bünau's battalion (II/19th Infantry) had spent much of the day fighting either in skirmish order or in small battle groups. The skirmishers often had to crawl through gaps in the fences and hedges or very quickly move from one place to another. If all Prussian infantry was like Bünau's battalion, Ligny would probably never fall into French hands.

    The most common way to provide skirmishers in the Prussian and Austrian army was to pull out the men of 3rd rank of the battalion and send them forward. The Prussian Jagers, Schutzen and fusiliers were light infantry and often fought as skirmishers. Troopers from the 3rd rank of musketeers (line infantry) could also operate as skirmishers or as reserve behind light infantry.
    The 3rd rankers were sometimes formed into independent platoons (commanded by 1 officer and 3 NCOs) or even into battalions. Such platoons and battalions of 3rd rankers musketeers were always formed on 2 ranks. Sometimes entire battalion would deploy in skirmish order. In 1813 at Dennewitz two Prussian batteries coordinated their action with III/4th Reserve Infantry "completely deployed as kirmishers" ( Nafziger - "Napoleon's Dresden Campaign" p 266)

    The Austrians had a long tradition of having excellent light troops. Austria was a wooded, mountainous country with long borders. It was a perfect place for light troops and skirmish formations. The Austrian light troops were superb during 1700-1800 and only before Napoleonic Wars their quality decreased. In 1813 at Dresden the Austrians used their skirmishers in an interesting way; the Erzherzog Rainier Regiment sent skirmishers forward and between flankers (horse skirmishers) drawn from a hussar regiment.
    French General "Duhesme states clearly that, in his experience, the French light infantry was heavily outnumbered, and that the Austrians made effective use of their light infantry by passing them down the flanks of the French battalions, which they then attacked while hiding behind such terrain features as might be found. Indeed, Brossier commented in 1800 that the Austrian attacks in 1792 were always accompanied by a cloud of skirmishers. This would indicate that it was the Austrians who taught the French how to skirmish.
    There are some discrepancies, however, in the suggestion that the French were always outnumbered. Duhesme ... goes on to say that 'in truth, by the end of 1793, it can be said that the French armies had nothing but light infantry." (Nafziger - "Imperial Bayonets")

    Rifles were more accurate weapons than muskets
    but needed longer time to load.

    Baker Rifle The musket ball was a loose fit in the barrel. Consequently on firing the ball bounced off the sides of the barrel when fired and the final direction on leaving the muzzle was unpredictable. The rifle used a spiral groove cut into the barrel to spin a bullet, thus improving accuracy and range of the projectile. The word "rifle" originally referred to the grooving, which was called "rifling."

    Russian musket and rifle. The rifles were far more suited for skirmishers than line troops, as accuracy not speed of fire was the nature of skirmish duty, and the riflemen were deadly proficient at their task. Rifles were more accurate weapons than muskets.
    At Tourcoing the Tyroleans and Austrian light infantry brought the French "to despair by their rifle fire". According to E. G. Prühs (Pruhs - "Die Schlacht bei Waterloo" publ. 1983) in 1815 at Waterloo the Hannovarian jägers of Graf von Kielmannsegge's brigade fought against French skirmishers. The French suffered 40 killed and wounded, while the jägers had only 20 casualties.

    The English Baker rifle was probably the most accurate of all firearms during the Napoleonic Wars. On the training ground and under perfect conditions 100 % hits were recorded at 100 paces. However some of the claims about superiority and universality of rifles make little sense. If they were so superior then why the musket, not the rifle, remained the weapon of British infantry for decades after Napoleonic wars.

    The weaknesses of rifles were:
    - they needed long time to load (very unpopular with troops fighting in open field)
    - needed good clean before it could be fired again
    - they easily became fouled

    - France
    The French armed with rifles only the elite companies but after several months the carabiniers demanded their usual muskets back. In 1793 the (French) Comité de la Convention formed one battalion of carabiniers armed with rifles they were disband the same year. French military theorists thought that giving the infantrymen long range weapons, rifles, would mean they shot rather than go forward with the bayonet. In the following years there were rifles issued only to NCOs and officers of light and line infantry.

    - Portugal
    Portugal had several battalions of light infantry, called Cacadores, armed with rifles. These served well in Wellington's army in Peninsula.

    - Russia
    The Russians also used rifles. Between 1803 and 1812 the factories in Toula (Tula) issued 20,000 rifles. Part of every jager regiment was armed with rifles. In June 1808, however, the rifle was withdrawn and used only by NCOs and 12 marksmen in each jager company. The rifle had barrel with 8 grooves, it was 66-cm long and of 16.51 mm caliber. It weight (without bayonet) was 4.09 kg and its total length with the sword-bayonet was 153.7 cm. In 1812-1815 in every Russian jager battalion all NCOs and 48 privates (best marksmen) were armed with rifles. These rifles were either of Russian production or were supplied by England, Russia's ally.

    - Prussia.
    According to Oliver Schmidt there was a Prussian production of rifles, and over the years slowly the Jägers and Schützen were equipped with them. Freiwillige Jägers brought their own rifles, of different calibers, so everybody had to make his own balls and cartridges.
    Basically, I would say there was not big difference between the offcial pattern and the privately made ones. The advantage of having many (or, best, only) rifles of the same pattern within a unit are that it s easier to have spare parts for repair at hand, and the same caliber eases ammunitiopn supply a lot. I haven't got data at hand about fire rate and range, there will have been no significant difference between Prussian and other rifles.

    - Britain
    The English Baker rifle was probably the most accurate of all firearms during the Napoleonic Wars. On the training ground and under perfect conditions 100 % hits were recorded at 100 paces. At Waterloo approx. 4.000 men of Wellington's army were armed with Baker rifles:
    - 2 light btns. and 3 light companies of line btns. of King German Legion - armed with Baker rifles
    - 2 btns. and 2 companies of British 95th 'Rifles' Regiment - armed with Baker rifles
    - 1 btn. of Brunswick Advance Guard - armed with a type of hunting rifle and a non-standard weapons
    - 4 jager companies (2 of Orange-Nassau and 2 of 1st Hannoverian Brigade) - armed with a type of hunting rifle and a non-standard weapons
    - 2 light companies of Hannoverian btns. (1 of Luneburg and 1 of Grubenhagen)- armed with a type of hunting rifle and a non-standard weapons
    The most famous rifle-armed units in that time were the British 95th Rifles (The Grasshoppers) and the King's German Legion light battalions (The Green Rascals.)

    - USA
    The legendary American "Kentucky-rifle" owed its berth to German and Swiss immigrants in Pennsylvania. It entered folklore as the favoured weapon of the hawk-eyed American frontiersmen. This weapon was also used in the war of 1812 between USA and Great Britain. After 1808 the USA army had a single Regiment of Riflemen. In 1814 the 2nd, 3rd and 4th Regiment of Riflemen were organized, the original regiment becoming the 1st. Due to shortages of green cloth the 2nd, 3rd and 4th received a plain grey uniforms.
    Additionally the riflemen of the senior regiment carried scalping knives and tomahawks.
    The privates of the American Kentucky Rifle Regiment were described by British Major John Richardson: "Their appearance was miserable to the last degree. They had the air of men to whom cleanliness was a virtue unknown. They were covered by slouch hats, worn by constant use, beneath which their long hair fell matted and uncombed over their cheeks ... thrust axes and knives of enormous length gave them an air of wilderness and savageness which in Italy would cause them to pass for the brigands of the Appenines."

  • Sources and Links.

    Barbero - "The Battle"
    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)
    Nosworthy - "With Musket, Cannon and Sword..."
    Rothenberg - "The Napoleonic Wars (History of Warfare)"
    Elting - "Swords Around a Throne: Napoleon's Grand Armee"
    Zhmodikov - "Tactics of the Russian Army in the Napoleonic Wars" Vol. II
    Chlapowski - "Memoirs of a Polish Lancer"
    Nafziger - "Imperial Bayonets...". 1996
    Bowden - "Napoleon's Grandee Armee of 1813"
    Nosworthy - "The Anatomy of Victory"
    Arnold - "Napoleon Conquers Austria"
    Chandler - "The Campaigns of Napoleon"
    Muir - "Tactics and the Experience of Battle in the Age of Napoleon"
    Chlapowski - "Mamoirs of a Polish Lancer" (translated by Tim Simmons)
    Esposito, Elting - "A Military History..."
    "A Reappraisal of Column Versus Line in the Peninsular War - Oman and Historiography" link
    Plates: règlement concernant l'exercice et les manoeuvres de l'infanterie du 1er août 1791 (Imprimé à Metz : 1793)
    Infantry Tactics.
    Civil War (USA) Infantry Tactics.
    Roman Infantry Tactics.
    German Infantry Tactics.

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