Prussian flag from Prussian flag from
Prussian Army of the Napoleonic Wars
1805 - 1815
"Traditionally, Prussia was Soldaten und Beamtenstaat, a state of soldiers and bureaucracy, a state formed by and for war ..." - Alfred Turney
"By the time of his death, Frederick's army was the envy of Europe,
and his concepts ... much copied. [By 1806 ] however, it remained
rooted in the past: a fossil preserved in Baltic amber."
- Charles Summerville
Frederick was the man of whom Napoleon said upon his triumphant entry into Prussia:
"If he were alive, we would not be here."

1. Introduction: Brief History of Prussia.
2. Glory Years of the Prussian Army.
3. Decline of the Army.
4. Reforms of 1807-1812.
5. Prussian Army in 1812.
6. Prussian Army in 1813-1815.
7. Prussian General Staff.

The defeat of the Prussian army by Napoleon
shocked the Prussian establishment, which had
felt invincible after the victories of Frederick the Great.
Scharnhorst, Gneisenau, Grolman, and Boyen, began
to reform the army.
The reformers were dismayed by the populace's indifferent
reaction to the 1806 defeats. When Napoleon rode into Berlin
he was greeted by crowds which, were as enthusiastic as
those that had welcomed him in Paris.

The Prussians had surrendered and Frederick the Great's
sword and sash were sent to Paris as trophies.
France occupied Prussia, and Napoleon treated
Prussia and her King worse than he had treated
any conquered country before. The French occupation
angered many Prussians.
In comparison to 1806, the Prussian populace in 1813
was supportive of the war, and thousands of volunteers
joined the army. Prussian troops won several battles
and proved vital at the Battles of Leipzig and Waterloo.

After Napoleon's defeat and abdication,
Prussia and Russia proposed to partition France,
while Austria and Great Britain strove for
and pushed through a lenient treatment of France.

Brandeburg Gate in Berlin.
Photo by Carl Johnson.
Picture: The Brandenburg Gate in Berlin.
Atop the gate is the Quadriga, with Viktoria,
the goddess of victory driving the Quadriga.
After the 1806 Prussian defeat at Jena-Auerstedt,
Napoleon took the Quadriga to Paris.
After Napoleon's defeat in 1814 and the
Prussian Parisian occupation,
the Quadriga was restored to Berlin.


"Prussia had originally been an insignificant speck
on the south-eastern rim of the Baltic ..."
- Christopher Summerville

Introduction: Brief History of Prussia.
"During the 18th century, Prussia ascended to the position
of third European great power..." -

Prussia began as a small territory in what was later called West and East Prussia, which is now Warmia-Masuria of northern Poland, the Kaliningrad exclave of Russia, and the Klaipeda Region of Lithuania. The region was largely populated by Old Prussians, a Baltic people related to the Lithuanians and Latvians.

Teutonic Knights In 1226 Polish Duke, Konrad I, invited the Teutonic Knights, a German military order of crusading knights headquartered in Acre, to conquer the Baltic tribes on his borders. However, during 60 years of struggles against the Old Prussians, the Teutonic Knights created an independent state which came to control Prussia. The Knights were eventually defeated by Polish troops at Grunwald (1410) and were forced to acknowledge the sovereignty of the Polish king Casimir IV Jagiellon in the Peace of Thorn in 1466, losing western Prussia to Poland in the process.

In 1525 Grand Master Albert I Hohenzollern became a Lutheran Protestant and secularized the Order's remaining Prussian territories into the Duchy of Prussia. For the first time, these lands, the area east of the mouth of the Vistula river were in the hands of a branch of the Hohenzollern family. Furthermore, with the dissolution of the Order, Albert could now marry and produce offspring.
The unification of Brandenberg and Prussia came two generations later.

Hohenzollern pay homage 
to the Polish King. 
Painting by J. Matejko. Frederick William went to Warsaw in 1641 to render homage to King Wladyslaw IV Vasa of Poland for the Duchy of Prussia, which was still held in fief from the Polish crown.

Taking advantage of the difficult position of Poland vis-á-vis Sweden in the Northern Wars, and his friendly relations with Russia during a series of Russo-Polish wars, Frederick William later managed to obtain a discharge from his obligations as a vassal to the Polish king; he was finally given independent control of Prussia in 1657. It was one of the turning points in the history of Prussia.

In 1701, Frederick William's son, Elector Frederick III, upgraded Prussia from a duchy to a kingdom, and crowned himself King Frederick I. To avoid offending Leopold I, emperor of the Holy Roman Empire where most of his lands lay, Frederick was only allowed to title himself "King in Prussia", not "King of Prussia". However, Brandenburg was treated in practice as part of the Prussian kingdom rather than a separate state. ( - 2008)

Map: growth of Prussia 
in 1600-1795 "The aggrandizement of Prussia continued under Frederick's grandson, Frederick II, the 'Great' who enlarged his domain with territories plundered from the ancient Kingdom of Poland. This trend continued unabated until 1795, when Poland literally disappeared off the map: gobbled up by her three powerful neighbours, Prussia, Russia, and Austria.
For her part Prussia took Posen (Poznan today), and Danzig (Gdansk today), adding them to Pomerania to form 'West Prussia'; plus the province of Mazovia, including the capital of Warsaw, which was added to Silesia (acquired in the 1740s) to form 'South Prussia.' Meanwhile, the original Baltic duchy of Prussia was renamed 'East Prussia'. ... " (Summerville - "Napoleon's Polish Gamble" p 4)

Despite its overwhelmingly German character, Prussia's annexations of Polish territory in the Partitions of Poland brought a large Polish population that resisted the German government and in several areas constituted the majority of the population (i.e. Province of Posen: 62% Polish, 38% German). Silesia was a Polish stronghold. It first belonged to Poland and then to Bohemia. In the 17th century it fell under Austrian political influence, only to be conquered by Prussia in the 1740s. The greater part of these lands have been germanized by sales and grants of public domains to Prussian colonists and by measures against the Polish inhabitants.


If the Frenchmen excel them (Germans) in vivacity of onslaught,
if the Englishmen are their superiors in toughness of resistance,
the Germans excel all other European nations in that general
fitness for military duty which makes them good soldiers under
all circumstances.

Glory Years of the Prussian Army.
In 1740s Prussia had the 4th largest army in Europe,
even though her lands stood at 10th in order of size
and only 13th in population !
Frederick the Great imposed so spartan discipline
that 400 officers "are said to have asked to resign".

Prussian King Frederick II In 1740s Prussia owned 85.000 troops which gave her the 4th largest army in Europe, even though her lands stood at 10th in order of size and only 13th in population !

It means that it was possible for an agricultural state of few millions of inhabitants, on a small territory, without a fleet or direct maritime commerce, and with comparatively little manufacturing industry, to maintain, in some respects, the position of a great European power. Truly amazing.

The army was magnificent. Frederick had devised Europe's first-ever battle-scale maneuvers in 1743, which gave his generals invaluable peacetime experience in directing large scale bodies of troops." (Duffy - "Instrument of War" Vol I p 117)

The Prussian, as well as the German in general, makes capital stuff for a soldier. They are, withal, among the most pugnacious people in the world, enjoying war for its own sake, and often enough going to look for it abroad, when they cannot have it at home.
From the Landsknechte of the middle age to the present foreign legions of France and England, the Germans have always furnished the great mass of those mercenaries who fight for the sake of fighting.
"If the French excel them in agility and vivacity of onslaught, if the English are their superiors in toughness of resistance, the Germans certainly excel all other European nations in that general fitness for military duty which makes them good soldiers under all circumstances." (Source: "The Armies of Europe" in Putnam's Monthly, No. XXXII, publ. in 1855)

Foreign generals and observers admired the Prussian military machine of 18th Century. Austrian commander, Prince Eugene of Savoy, reported that "the Prussian troops are the best of the German forces. The rest are pretty well useless." The Prussian army enjoyed reputation as one of the best trained, the most disciplined and one of the best led (Frederick the Great, Zieten, Seydlitz and other generals).
The Prussians wore simpler dress than the French army with its many lackeys, cooks, courtesans, actors and chaplains, friseurs and valets, chests full of perfumes, hair nets, sun shades and parrots.

Achtung ! - 
The Prussians are coming ! Frederick the Great imposed so spartan discipline that 400 officers "are said to have asked to resign". Frederick's troops fought with great success against the Russians, French, Germans, Swedes and Austrians.

The Prussians could march off to the battlefield in perfect order in a holy silence. The state of affairs which prevailed in the French army was somehow different, there was a near riot when even the small troop had to turn out. So this is not surprising that France had suffered a certain loss of prestige through her shocking defeats in the war against Frederick's army.

The Prussian infantry was magnificent, marching in calm and silent lines under a withering fire. They moved doggedly forward until the enemy began to mass in terrified flocks around their colors. When the drums were playing "Ich bin ja Herr in deiner Macht !" it made a massive impression on everyone. One eyewitness wrote "I have never been able to hear that melody without the deepest emotion."
The best part of the army however was the cavalry. One dragoon regiment routed 20 battalions and captured 66 colors ! In 1745 at Soor 26 Prussian squadrons routed 45 enemy squadrons deployed on a hilltop. Only the engineers and artillery were the weak link of Frederick's army.

King Frederick the Great, used the army to enter upon a period of conquest. His victory at Mollwitz made a great sensation in Europe. It had never been supposed that the untried Prussian troops could resist the veterans of Austria. King of France, Louis XV, when he heard of Frederick's invasion of Silesia, said: "The man is mad." Frederick's camp was sought by envoys from almost every court of Europe, and amongst them, on the part of France, came Marshal Belleisle.

1757 Battle of Leuthen: it was a decisive victory for Frederick the Great that ensured his control over Silesia. This is important battle from military point of view as Frederick used Oblique Order. This is a tactic where an attacking army refocuses its forces to attack enemy flank. The commander would intentionally weaken one portion of the line to concentrate their troops elsewhere. They would then create an angled or oblique formation, refuse the weakened flank and attack the strongest flank of the enemy with a concentration of force. First recorded use of the tactic similar to oblique order was at the Battle of Leuctra, when the Thebans defeated the Spartans ( This tactics required disciplined and well trained troops able to execute complex maneuvers.

1757 Battle of Rossbach. The French commander, Marshal Prince de Soubise (54,000 men), was not over-anxious to measure his strength with Frederick the Great, but his generals were eager for battle and confident of success. Their only doubt was whether they could win any glory by destroying so small Prussian force (22,000 men); their only fear lest he should retreat and escape them.
In early afternoon the order was given and in 30 minutes tents were struck and the Prussian army was in marching order. The movement of Frederick's forces was masked by low hills, so the French could see that the Prussians were doing something, without being able to tell what it was. Fancying them to be in flight, and fearing lest the prey should escape, they rushed forward in disorderly haste. Soon the French were mounting the lower slopes of the Janusberg, when suddenly Prussian cavalry appeared and swept down on them. The charge was utterly unexpected. In 30 minutes the French were flying in wild disorder.
About 3,500 Prussian horsemen had defeated an entire army of two combined superpowers. Frederick was heard to say "I won the battle of Rossbach with most of my infantry having their muskets shouldered." This battle is considered one of his greatest masterpieces due to destroying a combined French and German army twice its size with negligible casualties: 550 Prussians and 5,000 French and Germans.

The importance of the Seven Years' War was an epoch in the history of Europe lies chiefly in its bearing on the question of German unity. The war resulted in placing the young Prussian kingdom on a footing of equality with the world powers (France, Russia, Britain, Austria) and so raising up within Germany a rival and counterpoise to Austria. It thus laid the foundations of the unification of Germany, which could never have been effected as long as the Austrian supremacy remained unbroken. For though Austria, before the time of Frederick the Great, was undisputably the greatest of German powers, she was after all more foreign than German. Her external interests in Hungary, Italy, and elsewhere were too extensive for her to care much for the union of Germany.

Map of Europe in 1756. Prussia's allies were: Britain, Brunswick, Hannover, and Hesse-Kassel.
The war involved all of the major European powers, causing 900,000 to 1,400,000 deaths. It enveloped both European and colonial theatres.

Frederick the Great was succeeded by Frederick Wilhelm II. Under his rule Prussia became even larger by the partitions of Poland of 1793 and 1795 but also underwent a period of eclipse. The failure to reform and the lack of preparedness after the death of Frederick the Great in 1786, and the real efficiency in the field was sacrificed to precision on the parade-ground led to the decline of the army.

Frederick William III, 
King of Prussia Frederick William III of Prussia succeeded the throne in 1796. He married Louise of Mecklenburg, a princess noted for her beauty. Napoleon dealt with Prussia very harshly, despite the pregnant Queen's personal interview with the French emperor. Prussia lost all its Polish territories, as well as all territory west of the Elbe River, and had to pay for French troops to occupy key strong points within the Kingdom. Too distrustful to delegate his responsibility to his ministers, Frederick William was too infirm of will to strike out and follow a consistent course for himself. In the following years the reformers encouraged Friedrich Wilhelm's interest in designing the new uniforms to keep him from interfering with their more radical measures.

Defeated by the French Revolutionary army, Prussia withdrew from the coalition and remained neutral until 1806.


"At Jena, the Prussian army performed the finest
and most spectacular maneuvers, but I soon put
a stop to this tomfoolery and taught them that
to fight and to execute dazzling maneuvers and
wear splendid uniforms were very different matters."
- Napoleon

Decline of the Army: defeats at Jena and Auerstadt
[by 1806] The Prussian Army, however, remained rooted in the past:
a fossil preserved in Baltic amber."- Charles Summerville

In 1806 Napoleon was very interested in the Prussian army. Officer Chlapowski of Napoleon's Guard Lancers writes: "... the Emperor asked me about very many things. He fired questions at me as if I was sitting an exam. He already knew from our conversations ... that I had served in the Prussian amry, so he asked about my studies there, about my military instructors, about the organization of the artillery and of the whole Prussian army, and finally he asked how many Poles were likely to be in the corps which was still in East Prussia beyond the Vistula under General Lestoq. I could not answer this question but pointed out that most of his corps must be Lithuanians, as it had been mainly recruited in Lithuania. At that time, since the last partition [of Poland] the whole district of Augustow belonged to Prussia.
I also explained that in Lithuania only the gentry were Polish, and the people Lithuanians. He did not know anything about Lithuania ... The Emperor listened patiently and carefully to all these details. ... [he] asked me about the [Prussian] military academies. How far did they go in the study of mathematics ? He was surprised at the elementary level at which they stopped. Didn't they teach applied geometry ? I myself had not learned this, but only later studied it in Paris." (Chlapowski/Simmons - "Memoirs of a Polish Lancer" p 12-13)

In 1806 the Prussian army consisted of 200,000 men: 133,000 infantrymen, 39,600 cavalrymen and 10,000 artillerymen and few thousands of engineers, garrisons, reserves etc.

. . . . . . . . . 2 Guard infantry regiments (2 battalions each)
. . . . . . . . . 58 infantry regiments (2 battalions each)
. . . . . . . . . 1 jager regiment (3 battalions)
. . . . . . . . . 27 grenadier battalions
. . . . . . . . . 24 fusilier battalions
. . . . . . . . . 13 cuirassier regiments (5 squadrons each)
. . . . . . . . . 14 dragoon regiments (10 x 5 squadrons and 2 x 10 squadrons)
. . . . . . . . . 9 hussar regiments (10 squadrons each)
. . . . . . . . . 1 'Towarzysze' regiment (10 + 5 squadrons)
. . . . . . . . . 4 foot artillery regiments (36 12pdr batteries of 8 guns)
. . . . . . . . . 1 horse artillery regiment (20 6pdr batteries of 8 guns)
. . . . . . . . . reserve (2 10pdr mortar batteries, 1 light mortar battery, 4 7pdr howitzer batteries
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8 6pdr batteries)

Napoleon was not impressed with the king of Prussia: "When I went to see the king of Prussia Friedrich Wilhelm III, instead of a library I found he had a large room, like an arsenal, furnished with shelves and pegs, in which were placed fifty or sixty jackets of various cuts ... He attached more importance to the cut of a dragoon or a hussar uniform than would have been necessary for the salvation of a kingdom. At Jena, his [Prussian] army performed the finest and most spectacular maneuvers, but I soon put a stop to this tomfoolery and taught them that to fight and to execute dazzling maneuvers and wear splendid uniforms were very different matters. If the French army had been commanded by a tailor, the king of Prussia would certainly have gained the day."

Napoleon's efforts to get Prussia to close its ports to British goods in 1806 had revealed a problem. When Prussia agreed, the British navy retaliated by seizing 700 Prussian merchant ships in port or at sea and blocking their access to the North Sea. Facing economic collapse, the Prussian king then turned his anger on Napoleon, rescinding their agreements and ordering the French out. That in turn led to war.

Queen of Prussia
and the infantry in 1806.
Picture by Knotel "When in August 1806, Prussia mobilized her army for a war against France, she did with all the confidence that was due to the inheritors of the traditions of Frederick the Great. There was never a moment of doubt that Prussian arms would triumph, and it was with this attitude, that her soldiers met the French in the twin battles of Jena and Auerstadt on October 14."
Up to that time, the Prussian Army had proudly reflected the image of Frederick's glory, but it was this in itself which was one of the principal defects in the military system. A cult of reverence, in regard to anything that was connected with Frederick, dominated military thought. Any measure which had sufficed under the Great Soldier-King, was considered good enough for his heirs, irrespective of the forward movement of military science and the revolutionary principles of warfare, which had been demonstrated in Europe since 1792.
Tradition was clung to as if it were a means to glory and success. The fact that the 1780 pattern of musket was one of the worst in Europe, or that the Commander-in-Chief, the Duke of Brunswick, and the Senior Royal Advisor, von Mollendorf, were not the men they had been, was little considered. The state of the Prussian Army at that time was well summed up by Clausewitz when he remarked that '... for Prussia, the cost of anachronism was to be high." ( - David Nash - "The Prussian Army 1808-15" p 5)

Prussian order of battle: Jena 1806 (Saxons excluded)
Commander: GL von Ruchel
(GL General-Lieutenant , GM General-Major)
Advance Guard
- GL von Winning
Main Body
Light Brigade
- - - - - Jager Company
- - - - - 27th Infantry Regiment [2 battalions]
- - - - - half of 7th Hussar Regiment [5 squadrons]
- - - - - half of XIX 6pdr Foot Battery
Light Brigade
- - - - - Jager Company
- - - - - I and II Fusilier Battalion
- - - - - 3rd Hussar Regiment [10 squadrons]
- - - - - half of XI 6pdr Horse Battery






Infantry Brigade
- - - - - 9th Infantry Regiment [1 battalion]
- - - - - 23rd Infantry Regiment [1 battalion]
- - - - - X Grenadier Battalion
Infantry Brigade
- - - - - 29th Infantry Regiment [1 battalion]
- - - - - 43rd Infantry Regiment [1 battalion]
- - - - - IX Grenadier Battalion
Infantry Brigade
- - - - - 10th Infantry Regiment [2 battalions]
- - - - - 37th Infantry Regiment [2 battalions]
- - - - - XVIII Fusilier Battalion
Cavalry Brigade
- - - - - 5th Cuirassier Regiment [5 squadrons]
- - - - - 4th Dragoon Regiment [5 squadrons]
- - - - - half of 7th Hussar Regiment [5 squadrons]
- - - - - 12pdr Foot Battery
- - - - - half of XIX 6pdr Foot Battery
- - - - - half of 6pdr Foot Battery
- - - - - half of XI 6pdr Horse Battery

The French army, honed to a fine edge by the brilliantly conducted previous campaign in Bavaria and Austria, secured the total annihilation of the Prussian army and state in precisely one month, from October 6 to November 6. It was a remarkable demonstration of what the French military system could accomplish under Napoleon's guidance. Prussia was broken and dismembered by the war. Her army was ruined, she had no money, and she had lost half of her former possessions.

Napoleon's plan of this campaign was beautiful. To base himself on the Rhine River and Upper Danube and simply advance north - eastwards on Berlin would, perhaps, be the easiest for Napoleon, but it would offer no strategical advantages; for if he met and defeated the Prussians on this west-east line, he would simply drive them backwards on their supports, and then on Russians, whose advance from Poland was expected.

To turn the Thuringian Forest Mountains by an advance from his right, was a less safe movement; but, it offered great advantages.

First of all Napoleon would threaten the Prussian supply lines, line of retreat, and line of communications with Berlin.
Secondly, Napoleon would separate the Prussians and the advancing strong Russian Army. The danger with this maneuver was this that the Prussians by a rapid advance through the Thuringian Forest Mountains against his communication line, might sever him from France !

In the last days of September the Prussian army was spread over a front of 190 miles. The Saxons had not yet completed their mobilisation. Within few days the Prussians shortened their front to 85 miles in a direct line. At the same time Napoleon had huge army already assembled on a front of 38 miles. At last Napoleon's real plan had dawned on the Prussian headquarters. Advance guards were sent in the direction of the Thuringian Forest. The Prussians also detached small corps from Ruchel's force against Napoleon's supply lines. By doing this they weakened their own main army.

Battle of Jena, 1806 Heavy fighting began when elements of Napoleon's main force encountered Prussian troops near Jena. The Battle of Jena cost Napoleon approx. 5,000 men, but the Prussians had a staggering 25,000 casualties.

At Auerstadt Marshal Davout's also crushed the enemy. Napoleon initially did not believe that Davout's single corps had defeated the Prussian main body unaided, and responded to the first report by saying "Tell your Marshal he is seeing double". As matters became clearer, however, the Emperor was unstinting in his praise.

The Prussian garrison of Stettin 
surrenders to French hussars. "The whole campaign was epitomised by the surrender of Hohenlohe's army at Prenzla, where Murat was able to bluff a vastly superior force into laying down its arms. Twenty-nine thousand men under L'Estocq managed to link up with the Russian army in East Prussia, but by the end of November 1806, the majority of the Prussian Army had surrendered and Frederick the Great's sword and sash were on their way to Les Invalides as trophies. The basic material of the old army, the private soldier, was sound, but internal weaknesses had meant that the Prussian army was out-thought as well as outfought." (Robert Mantle - "Prussian Reserve Infantry: 1813-15")

Peter Hofschroer gives three main reasons for why Prussia was defeated in 1806.

  • Not joining Austria and Russia in 1805 in the Third Coalition. This combination would most likely have led to Napoleon's defeat.
  • Going to war against France in 1806 without the direct support of another great power. The Prussian army should have adopted a defensive strategy until the arrival of the Russians.
  • Dividing the army into three in the face of the enemy. Nobody was really in charge and King Frederick William III lacked the authority to impose his will.

    Prussian troops after
the defeats at Jena
and Auerstadt. "... just after the victories of Jena and Auerstadt, in which Napoleon destroyed the Prussian army and shook the Prussian state to its core, was to be something of a turning point. The Prussians were shocked and insulted by the French victories, but they also saw them as proof of the superiority of France and her political culture.
    When Napoleon rode into Berlin he was greeted by crowds which, according to one French officer, were as enthusiastic as those that had welcomed him in Paris on his triumphant return from Austerlitz the previous year. 'An undefinable feeling, a mixture of pain, admiration and curiosity agitated the crowds which pressed forward as he passed,' in the words of one eyewitness ...
    Napoleon treated Prussia and her King worse than he had treated any conquered country before.
    At Tilsit he publicly humiliated Frederick by refusing to negotiate with him, and by treatening Queen Louise, who had come in person to plead her country's cause, with insulting gallantry. He did not bother to negotiate, merely summoning the Prussian Minister Goltz to let him know his intentions. He told the Minister that he had thought of giving the throne of Prussia to his own brother Jerome, but out of regard for Tzar Alexander, who had begged him to spare Frederick, he had graciously decided to leave him in possession of it. But he diminished his realm by taking away most of the territory seized by Prussia from Poland ... " (Zamoyski - "Moscow 1812" p 43)

  • ~

    "The schooling of subaltern officers, of captains
    and battalion commanders is exemplary and still
    an object of envy and imitation by our neighbours,
    but what about the schooling of generals ?
    Where is the opportunity to be trained as a general,
    i.e. as an independent commander of all arms ?."
    - Massenbach

    Reforms of 1807-1812.
    Corps System and People's Army.

    "After the disaster of 1806, there was a widespread sense of outrage at the way in which the Prussian Army had been humiliated. Public and political pressures caused the King, Frederick William III, to make some move towards setting up a board of enquiry to determine the causes of defeat and with the wider object of reforming the army. The first steps towards these objectives were taken on July 15, 1807, when the King requested Graf Lottum and Major-General v.Scharnhorst to head the newly established Military Reorganization Commission. Under their influence, the places within the Commission were soon filled with a mixture of reactionaries and visionaries including Konen, von Massenbuch, von Borstell, von Bronikowski, and, more significantly, Boyen, Gneisenau and a young captain of artillery named Clausewitz." ( Nash - "The Prussian Army 1808-15" p 5)

    The Convention of Paris in 1808 restricted the Prussian army to 36.000 men (many sources give 42.000 men.) However it seems that the army had been never actually reduced to less than 45,000 men.
    It was the third humiliation Prussia suffered (first was defeat at Jena and Auerstadt, and the second was reduction of her territory after the Tilsit Treaty). In this situation the reformers modified their organization tables to produce 6 brigades:

  • - East Prussia Brigade
  • - West Prussia Brigade
  • - Brandenburg Brigade
  • - Lower Silesia Brigade
  • - Upper Silesia Brigade
  • - Pommerania brigade

    A new system of officer selection and promotions was introduced. The Military Schools of Artillery and Engineers were founded. Traditional punishments such as flogging and running the gauntlet were abolished. In the end of 1808 the Prussian Ministry of War was founded. In January 1812 new official training regulations were issued.

    "The most important series of measures taken by the reformers sought to increase Prussian military power in contravention of the Treaty of Paris. On June 6, 1809, a small commission ... set to work on the question of conscription. Their work culminated in a report appealing for universal service which was rejected by the King on February 5 1810, but which was ultimately destined to be the framework of the famous Boyen conscription laws of Sept 1814.
    The original idea of the 'Krumper' seems to have been provided by Scharnhorst who, on July 31 1807, suggested that each company and squadron should discharge 20 trained men and should take in equal number of new recruits. This led to a Cabinet Order requiring each of these units to send 5 men on furlough each month and to replace this wastage with untrained recruits. Although this measure was put into practice, it was not done consistently throughout the years. ...
    It has been suggested that the Krumper' system allowed the army to triple its size in 1813, but this is not true. The scheme met with opposition at many points - commanding officers were often reluctant to part with good men and therefore continually discharged the worst, or none at all. By March 1812, the army, together with its trained reserves, still only numbered 65,675 all ranks, which nonetheless, was a sizeable increase over the 42,000 permitted." (Nash - "The Prussian Army" p 8)

    Digby-Smith writes: "By dint of much creative thinking, however, Scharnhorst and other members of the Prussian General Staff had invented the Krumper System by which each regiment called up a certain number of recruits, gave them basic military training, and then discharged them again in order to call up and train another batch, so that the 42,000 ceiling imposed by Napoleon was never exceeded." (Digby-Smith, - p 35)

    In 1812 the Prussian army was small:
    . . . . . 12 infantry regiments (the 8th was Guard).
    . . . . . 6 grenadier battalions
    . . . . . 1 (Guard) jäger battalion
    . . . . . 1 (East-Prussian) jäger battalion
    . . . . . 1 (Silesian) schützen battalion
    . . . . . 4 cuirassier regiments (the 3rd was Guard)
    . . . . . 6 dragoon regiments
    . . . . . 6 hussar regiments
    . . . . . 3 uhlan regiments (and squadron of Garde-Uhlanen)

    In 1812 was issued 'Exerzir-Reglement fur die Artillerie der Koniglich Preussischen Armee'. It had one section on the use of the combined arms within brigades. The brigade consisted of all arms - infantry, cavalry, artillery, engineers and staff.

    In 1812 Prussia "... as an 'ally' of France, has been ordered to provide the French Grand Army with a 30.000-man contingent to protect its left wing, in the same way as the Austrians are to protect its right. This had caused the Berlin court to put out secret feelers to Vienna - feelers which, after three no less ruinous defeats, have fallen on deaf ears. Even so, just to make sure there are no misunderstandings, Marshal Oudinot is ordered to occupy Berlin with his 30,000-strong II Corps, while Narbonne at the same time is sent there to exercise his old-style diplomacy on a traumatized Prussian court." (Britten Austin - "1812: The March on Moscow" p 27)

    "The regiments mobilised for this campaign weere all (except the Leib-Regiment) 'composite' units, each consisting of infantry battalions and cavalry squadrons drawn from two parent regiments. In this way the invaluable training experience of service in the field was imparted to twice as many regiments as actually participated in the campaign. " (Digby-Smith, - p 35)

    "Prussia's contribution to the French invasion of Russia was 20,842 men, grouped into 'combined regiments' drawn from all six brigades. They were commanded by Yorck, who had vociferously opposed many army reforms, with another conservative, Kleist as his second-in-command. This Corps was assigned to the left wing of the invasion, under the command of Marshal Macdonald, operating along the Baltic coast with St Petersburg as the objective. The advance bogged down around Riga, while the central army group, under Napoleon's command, disintegrated; Macdonald had to pull back before overwhelming Russian forces.
    During this retreat, Yorck's force became detached from the main body and surrounded. Clausewitz and Baron Stein, a former minister who had been expelled from Prussia on Napoleon's orders, open negotiations with Yorck, who finally signed the Covention of Tauroggen on December 30 1812, joining forces with the Russians and advancing with them into East Prussia." (- Robert Mantle)

  • ~

    "That the morale of the majority of the Prussian army
    withstood the rigours of the field and the shock of
    Ligny was due to the high quality of leadership
    at all levels." - Mark Adkin

    Prussian Army in 1813-1815.
    Katzbach - Leipzig - Laon - Ligny - Waterloo

    Prussian army 
enter France in 1814. Under the noses of French spies Prussia developed a reserve army capable of taking the field.
    On March 1st 1813 were established so-called Reserve Battalions. They were considered as part of their parent regiments and were made of reservists and raw recruits. The officers and NCOs were supplied by the parent regiments. The 39 Reserve Battalions formed twelve Reserve Regiments. In March 1814 these units were assigned numbers in line.

    Scharnhorst also persuaded King Friedrich Wilhelm III to institute a national militia called Landwehr. The Landwehr accepted men aged 25 to 40, too old and weak for the army. They were equipped not by the central goverment and ministry of war but by provinces.

    The Prussian troops in 1813-1814 were of four types:

  • regular
  • reserve
  • volunteers
  • Landwehr

    The regiments were formed in brigades. Each brigade had infantry, cavalry and artillery. When in 1813 the brigades were strenghtened with newly raised troops, and although still designated 'brigades', they were in fact 'divisions'. The regiments and brigades were well trained but iIt was apparent that the army needed more experience on multi-brigade level.
    In 1813 at Dennewitz the Prussian 3rd and 4th Brigade became completely mixed up before their officers were able to put order.
    In 1813 at Weinberg Defile the Prussian 2nd and 7th Brigade became entangled while executing a deployment into battle formation.
    Despite its shorcomings the Prussian army distinguished itself at Katzbach, Dennewitz, Leipzig, and Laon. All the battles were victories. At Waterloo the Prussian army was instrumental in the ultimate defeat of Napoleon.

    Prussian Landwehr Infantry The landwehr in Prussia was first formed by a royal edict of 17 March 1813, which called up all men capable of bearing arms between the ages of 18 and 45, and not serving in the regular army, for the defence of the country.

    Loraine Petre writes: "A decree of the king established the landwehr, based on the model of that of Austria of 1809. ... As the impoverished state of Prussian finances precluded much assistance from the State, the expense of equipment had to fall on the men themselves, or their villages. ... At first, the front rank was often armed with pikes or scythes, and it was only as French muskets were taken from the battlefields that the men were armed with yet another pattern of firearm. There was a great dearth of officers, as most of the half-pay officers still fit for service were required for the reserve battalions. All sorts of officials, many of them very unsuitable as military officers, joined, and it was only later on that men of some experience were got from the 'volunteer-jagers, etc. Naturally, the landwehr, as a whole, was at first of no great military value, though their initial worth was in some corps (Yorck's and Bulow's especially) enhanced by long marches and still more by early successes." (Petre - "Napoleon at War" p 114)

    Prussian Landwehr in 1813
    Landwehr Infantry
    Landwehr Cavalry
    East Prussia
    West Prussia
    5 Regiments [20 battalions]
    3 Regiments [11 battalions]
    3 Regiments [12 battalions]
    3 Regiments [12 battalions]
    7 Regiments [26 battalions]
    17 Regiments [68 battalions]
    5 Regiments [16 squadrons]
    3 Regiments [9 squadrons]
    3 Regiments [12 squadrons]
    2 Regiments [8 squadrons]
    7 Regiments [28 squadrons]
    10 Regiments [40 squadrons]

    Prussia had numerous units made of volunteers. They were well equipped since they were from wealthier families, and one of the conditions of service was that they provided the weapons, shakos and green uniforms. The weapon was frequently the family's hunting rifle.

    The volunteer-jagers were formed into small detachments (100-150 men each) that were allotted to infantry and cavalry units. The purpose of this was to give foundation for a military education that would enable these men to fulfil the duties of NCOs or officers, at a later date. In September 1813 the following regular units had a detachment of volunteer-jagers (freiwilligen-jagers) as part of their established strength:
    - 1st and 2nd Foot Guard Regiment
    - Guard Jager Battalion
    - Silesian Schutzen Battalion
    - all grenadier battalions
    - 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th Infantry Regiment
    - 7th, 8th, 9th, 11th, and 12th Infantry Regiment
    - 1st and 5th Reserve Infantry Regiment
    - Lutzow's Free Corps
    - Garde du Corps (Garde zu Pferde)
    - Guard Light Cavalry Regiment
    - 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Cuirassier Regiment
    - 1st and 2nd Uhlan Regiment
    - 1st, 2nd, 4th, 5th Dragoon Regiment
    - 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th Hussar Regiment
    - 3rd West Prussia Landwehr Cavalry Regiment

    There were also so-called free corps. These troops are evidence of the intense patriotism that existed at that time in Prussia. The most famous of these units was the Lutzow's Freikorps. The Lützow Free Corps (Lützowsches Freikorps) was a voluntary force formed in February 1813 and named after its commander Ludwig von Lutzow. Lützow had fought in 1806 at Auerstadt and in 1807 at Kolberg with Schill making raids upon the French beseigers. In 1808, he had taken part in Schill's raid.
    In February 1813, only few days after King Frederick Wilhelm's call for volunteers, Lützow presented his king with a petition, begging that he might raise an independent corps. He laid stress that some of these men would also come from other German states eager to serve the Prussian cause. Though Napoleon chose to brand them as brigands, there is ample evidence to prove that they were part of the Prussian army, and subject to military law as it pertained to regular combattants." ( - Gary Shively)

    Lützow Free Corps consisted mostly of students, writers and academics from all over Germany, who had volunteered to fight against the French. The volunteers had to equip and supply themselves by their own means. The volunteers adopted black as the color of their units. Lutzow's Free Corps consisted of 2900 infantry, 600 cavalry, and 120 artillery. The volunteers fought in several battles, operating first independently in the rear of the French troops, later as a regular unit in the allied armies. After the peace of 1814 the corps was dissolved, the infantry becoming the 25th Regiment, the cavalry the 6th Uhlans.

    Lutzow's Freikorps Lutzow's Freikorps Left: Lutzow's Free Corps in 1813-15. Picture by Knotel.
    From left to right:
    - musketier
    - officer of jagers
    - jager
    - private of volunteer-jagers

    Right: Lutzow's Free Corps in 1813-15. Picture by Knotel.
    From left to right:
    - officer of volunteer-jagers
    - jager
    - hussar
    - officer of hussars


    Prussian Army in June 1813
    Artillery and Engineers
    40,890 infantry
    29,600 reserve infantry
    11,400 'ersatz' infantry
    6,460 foreign infantry
    4,550 volunteer infantry
    20,400 garrison infantry
    12,000 cavalry
    1,350 provincial cavalry
    2,400 volunteer cavalry
    3,460 cavalry depots
    16,180 artillery
    1,300 engineers

    "The rapid expansion of the [Prussian] army at this time created problems of major significance. Of prime importance was a general shortage of fire arms. The British Government supplied 113,000 muskets..." (Nash - "The Prussian Army 1808-1815" p 12)

    Prussian Army in August 1813
    Artillery and Engineers
    72,130 regular infantry [90 btns.]
    31,830 res. and garrison inf.[39 btns]
    11,150 jager and foreign [8 btns.]
    109,120 Landwehr [151 btns.]
    13,375 regular and volunteers [89 sq.]
    3,390 reserve cavalry [22 sq.]
    3,060 jager and foreign [23 sq.]
    10,950 Landwehr [113 sq.]
    8,750 men [50 field batteries]
    6,565 men [33 fortress
    and siege companies]
    570 men [7 pioneer comp.]
    740 men [7 fortress pioneer cop.]

    According to Peter Hofschroer the army of 1813-14 was drawn almost entirely from the core provinces of the Kingdom of Prussia - whereas the army of 1815, consisted only in part of "old" Prussians. The Rhinelanders and to an extent the Westphalians were "new" Prussians of questionable loyalty. Also in 1815 a number of foreign, i.e. non-Prussian, formations had been amalgamated into the line and were, on paper at least, now considered regular formations, although it was really only after the Waterloo.
    The Rhinelanders' support for the Napoleonic code opened them up to accusations by later German nationalist historians like Treitschke of somehow being Francophile, and disloyal to the German nation. Michael Rowe writes: "The positive reception given to the codes does seem convincing evidence of Rhenish acceptance of French rule: surely it justifies locating the regiom securely within the inner empire.
    Yet, there is an alternative explanation. Firstly, we need to consider what Rhinelanders liked about the Napoleonic legal system. This is not difficult, thanks to a thorough investigation conducted by the Prussian authorities after 1815. ... This revealed that the French system was popular not so much because of the contents of the civil code or penal code, but rather because of the procedures of the French courts: the oral, public proceedings in front of juries, the principle of equality before the law, and the independence of the judiciary from political interference."

    In 1815, the Prussian army consisted of:
    . . . . . 279 infantry battalions
    . . . . . 280 cavalry squadrons
    . . . . . 78 artillery batteries
    . . . . . 17 pioneer companies
    . . . . . 1 Landwehr pioneer battalion
    These forces were organized into six army corps and guard corps.

      In contrast with the French and British, the Prussian Guard, the cuirassiers and the grenadiers
      were not present at Ligny and Waterloo. After the war the Prussian Guard Corps stationed in Paris.
      Kommandeur - der General-Lieutenant Herzog Carl von Meklenburg Strelitz
      Chef des Generalstabs, der Oberst-ltn. von Wedell
      Infanterie-Brigade - Oberst von Alvensleben
      . . . . . . . . . 1ste Regiment Garde zu Fuss - Oberst-ltn. von Block
      . . . . . . . . . 2te Regiment Garde zu Fuss - Oberst-ltn. von Muffling
      . . . . . . . . . Garde-Jäger-Bat. - Major von Bock
      Infanterie-Brigade - Oberst von Ratzmer
      . . . . . . . . . Grenadier-Regiment Kaiser Alexander -Major von Schachtmeier
      . . . . . . . . . Grenadier-Regiment Kaiser Franz - Oberst-ltn. von Klür
      . . . . . . . . . Garde-Schützen-Bat. - Major Graf von Meuron
      Kavallerie-Brigade - Oberst von Knobelsdorf
      . . . . . . . . . Regiment Garde zu Pferde - Oberst-ltn. Graf von Brandenburg
      . . . . . . . . . Garde-Husaren-Regiment - Major von Knobloch
      . . . . . . . . . Garde-Dragoner-Regiment - Oberst-ltn. von Zastrow
      . . . . . . . . . Garde-Uhlanen-Regiment - Major von Kraft
      Artillerie-Brigade - Major Willmann
      . . . . . . . . . 6pfund. Garde Fussbatterie No. 1. - von Lehmann,
      . . . . . . . . . 12pfund. Garde Fussbatterie No. 1. - Kpt. von Witt
      . . . . . . . . . reitende Garde-Batterie No. 1. - Major von Willmann
      . . . . . . . . . reitende Garde-Batterie No. 2. - Kpt. von Neuendorf
      . . . . . . . . . Park-Kolonne No. 37.

    Wellington and Blucher 
at Waterloo. At Waterloo the Prussians had 38,000 infantry in 62 battalions, 7,000 cavalrymen in 61 squadrons, and 134 guns. Total of 50,000 men arriving in different times on the battlefield. The troops were led by seasoned officers and generals. "That the morale of the majority of the Prussian army withstood the rigours of the field and the shock of Ligny was due to the high quality of leadership at all levels. " (Adkin - "The Waterloo Companion" p 208)

    According to Alessandro Barbero "At Waterloo, almost all the Prussian officers from the rank of captain up began their military service before 1806, yet the average age of the corps and divisional commanders - 45 - was the same as in Napoleon's and Wellington's... On the eve of battle, the Prussian army was affliceted by what we call a crisis of growth.
    The Congress of Vienna in 1814 had elevated the Kingdom of Prussia to the rank of a great European power, thus considerably expanding its borders and the recruitment pool at the service of its military. The human resources in the new territories, however, were thought to be less reliable than those in the old provinces of the kingdom... " (Barbero - "The Battle" p 30)

    Charles Esdaile writes "At Jena and Auerstadt the Prussian army had fought adequately, but its performance had hardly been heroic. At Leipzig and Waterloo, by contrast, it is claimed that a very different vision was on show."

    Gunther Rothenberg writes: "In 1806 the typical Prussian soldier had been a mercenary or a reluctant conscript; now he was animated both by patriotism and by a deep and even savage hatred of the French. The first expressed itself, as it had in the days of Frederick, by religion. As the Prussian infantry saw the French retreating the evening of Waterloo, the fusiliers began to sign the old Lutheran hymn, 'A mighty fortress is our God' ... Hatred of the French expressed itself in bitter fighting and in the ability to rally after initial defeat."

    After Napoleonic Wars, at the Vienna Congress, Prussia was widely perceived as under Russian influence. Prussia and Russia proposed to partition France, while Austria and Great Britain strove for and pushed through a lenient treatment of France.

  • ~

    US Army military staff service has
    its origins in the Prussian army.
    In the the US Staff College Publication 1
    is clearly stated that "The modern general
    staff was developed in Prussia during
    the XIXth century."

    Prussian General Staff of the Napoleonic Wars.
    Quartermaster-Generall - GL August Graf von Gneisenau
    Chef des Generallstabs - GM von Grolman

    Nach der Französischen Revolution von 1789 
wurde Europa ein Viertel Jahrhundert lang immer wieder von Kriegen zwischen Frankreich und verschiedenen europäischen Staaten in Atem gehalten. Die ersten vier dieser Kriege, die zwischen 1792 und 1807 ausgetragen wurden, werden als Koalitionskriege bezeichnet, da sich für diese Kriege jeweils einige Staaten zu Koalitionen gegen Frankreich zusammengeschlossen hatten.
Die beiden letzten Koalitionskriege (1805 und 1806/07) werden oft auch schon den Napoleonischen Kriegen zugerechnet. Die folgenden Kriege der Jahre 1808 bis 1812, durch die Napoleon seine Macht über Europa zu festigen und auszubauen suchte, gelten als die eigentlichen Napoleonischen Kriege. In den anschließenden Befreiungskriegen entledigten sich die europäischen Staaten der französischen bzw. napoleonischen Vorherrschaft und fügten Napoleon schließlich 1815 bei Waterloo die entscheidende und endgültige Niederlage zu Picture: Chief-of-Staff of the Prussian Army (Napoleonic Wars), General von Gneisenau, on white horse, and a staff officer. By Christa Hook.

    Despite small population (see diagram below) Prussia had one of the largest armies in the world. Such army required an efficient staff. The origins of what would become the German General Staff of the 19th and 20th Centuries - probably the most professional military machine in the world - can be traced to the Prussian Army of the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars.

    Denmark - 1 million
    Saxony - 1,1 millions
    Lombardy - 2 millions
    Papal State - 2,3 millions
    Sweden - 2,3 millions
    Portugal - 3 millions
    Poland Duché de Varsovie - 4,3 millions
    Naples - 5 millions
    USA - 6 millions
    Holland & Belgium - 6,2 millions
    Prussia - 9,7 millions (in 1806 reduced to 4,9 millions)
    Spain - 11 millions
    Great Britain - 18,5 millions (England, Ireland, Scotland)
    Austria - 21 millions (with Hungary)
    France - 30 millions
    Russia - 40 (with annexed territories)

    The chief-of-staff was on army, corps and brigade level. Each of the had a goup of staff officers. In 1809 a corps of permanent staff officers was established and specific uniforms were introduced for them.

      Chief-of-staff of Army
      The supreme command was naturally the responsibility of the army's commanding general, with the role of his chief-of-staff [of the army] being to turn the commanding general's intentions into practical plans. "The Prussian General Staff operated under a chief-of-staff system. In this instance Lieutenant-General von Gneisenau filled the post officially known as Quartermaster-General. He was the second-in-command to Blücher, as well as being responsible for co-ordinating all staff functions. He was also the officer representing the Minister of War with the army, and had juridiction (under the commander who took overall credit or blame for the army's activities) over both operational and administrative matters. In the field Gneisenau wielded his authority in the name of the commander-in-chief in virtually all military spheres - movement, tactics, deployment, intelligence and logistics (food, clothing, ammunition and accommodation). Blücher made the major decisions after consultation with Gneisenau and others, such as Major-General von Grolmann who headed the staff at the headquarters."
      (Adkin - "The Waterloo Companion" p 111)
      Chief-of-staff of Corps
      "The chief-of-staff of a corps was responsible for its organisation and leadership, acting as an advisor to the corps commander...
      Chief-of-staff of (Division) Brigade
      These [brigade staff officers] dealt with matters such as the reconnaissance of terrain and any resulting changes in the direction of the marching columns ... with reconnoitring the enemy and the countryside, particularly with regard to the supply and quartering of the troops; with the receipt and implementation of orders regarding combat, deployment and marching. Finally, the brigade staff officer was required to deal with every matter drawn to his attention by the brigade commander."
      (Hofschroer - "Prussian Staff..." p 11)

    After Napoleon's defeat in 1815 at Waterloo by Prussian and the German-British-Netherland army, Europe entered a long period of peace. Armies were cut back and interest in military science waned in most nations. Only in Prussia did military men study the crises of command that emerged during the last stages of the Napoleonic Wars, when mass armies took to the battlefields.
    If Napoleon Bonaparte was the last Great Captain of history, then von Moltke ( was the first Great Manager of the modern military era. He built up a new system based on the principle of using highly trained and interchangeable staff officers. Noting von Moltke's success over the French army, all major European nations copied his methods.

    Sources and Links.
    Recommended Reading.

    Oiver Schmidt - "Prussian Regular Infantryman 1808-1815" 2003
    Hofschroer - "1815: The Waterloo Campaign. The German Victory."
    Hofschroer - "Prussian Light Infantry 1792-1815" 1984
    Hofschroer - "Prussian Staff and Specialist Troops 1791-1815"
    Craig - "The Germans" 1991
    Duffy - "Frederick the Great" 1985
    Digby-Smith - "1813: Leipzig" Duffy - "The Army of Frederick the Great" 1974
    Holborn - "A History of Modern Germany 1648-1840" 1982
    Petre - "Napoleon’s Conquest of Prussia 1806" 1993
    Simms - "The Struggle for Mastery in Germany" 1998
    Summerville "Napoleon's Polish Gamble"
    Pictures by Knoetel, and L. & F. Funcken
    flags from
    Lützow's Free Corps and Volunteer Riflemen 1813-2003 {Lützowschen Freikorps}
    History of Prussia and Military History {Preußische Geschichte und Militärgeschichte}
    Reenactors of Kurmark Landwehr 1813 {Kurmärkische Landwehr}
    East-Prussian Landwehr 1813 {Ostpreußische Landwehr}
    Silesian Landwehr 1813{Schlesische Landwehr 1813}
    5th Prussian Brigade {5. preussische Brigade}

    Prussian Army of the Napoleonic Wars

    Prussian Infantry - - Prussian Cavalry - - Prussian Artillery

    Battle of Dennewitz, 1813
    General von Bulow crushed Marshal Ney
    Battle of Leipzig, 1813
    The Battle of the Nations,
    the largest conflict until World War One:
    Battle of Waterloo, 1813
    The German Victory - interview with Peter Hofschroer

    Napoleon, His Army and Enemies