Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Eighteenth-Century Items in British Museums

Officer's coat, 49th Regiment of Foot, 1770s, NAM
Dear Readers,

I am posting these images to give you a brief snapshot into some of the eighteenth-century collections in British Museums. Kabinettskriege will return, but for much of the summer, I will be overseas. I hope you are all doing well!

Foot Guard's Enlisted Coat, 1770s (?), NAM
Drummer's Coat, 1770s (?) NAM
Dragoon Officer's coat, 1750s, NAM
George II at Dettingen, NAM
Militia Grenadier's Cap, 1760s, NAM
Royal Horse Guards coat and waistcoat, 1790s

Guards Officer's coat, 1760s
Grenadier's Cap, 1770s
Foot Guards Enlisted coat, late 1780s
Miniature of a grenadier, 1760s, British Museum

Drum of the 6th Regiment of Foot, associated with the Jacobite Rebellions

Wall gun, Warwick Castle
Medal worn by David Dundas, Warwick Fusiliers Museum
Cavalry leather coat associated with the Battle of Blenheim, date unclear
Royal Armories, Leeds
Battle of Culloden, copy of work by Morier, targets associated with the Jacobite risings
Royal Armories, Leeds
Prussian (middle) and Austrian (bottom) muskets, 1770s
Royal Armories, Leeds
Various Shenanigans, early-to-mid 1700s
Royal Armories, Leeds
I still have roughly two and a half weeks in Britain, before I head to Northern Central Europe. Expect more pictures, and if you would like to write for the blog this summer, please contact me via the about the author page.

If you enjoyed this post, or any of our other posts, please consider liking us on facebook,  or following us on twitter. Finally, we are dedicated to keeping Kabinettskriege ad-free. In order to assist with this, please consider supporting us via the donate button in the upper right-hand corner of the page. As always:

Thanks for Reading,

Alex Burns

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Military Buckshot in the Mid-Eighteenth Century

Reenactors portray Maryland troops

Dear Reader,

Today, we are going to examine a particular type of ammunition used by eighteenth-century soldiers: buckshot. For those unfamiliar with the term, buckshot consists of smaller projectiles, which spread out after leaving the barrel of the weapon. It is often used in a shotgun today. In the eighteenth-century, German language speakers called this specialty ammunition Cartatschen-Patronen, which gives us the modern German term, Kartätschen-Patronen, a catch-all term for submunitions including grape-shot (Traubhagel).

It appears that while this type of ammunition was common amongst American, British, and French irregular forces, and it was utilized by American, Austrian, British, French and Russian regular troops as well. In the eighteenth-century, buckshot was used to help compensate for the smoothbore weapons in common use at the time. By firing more projectiles at the target, troops generated a larger wall of lead with which to damage enemy forces. Far from being an exclusively American innovation, this weapon was employed by multiple European regular armies. This post will examine the use of buckshot in the mid-eighteenth century. I want to thank Dr. Grzegorz  Podruczny for his advice and help with source material.

Most troops discussed in this post were not firing only buckshot, but rather a combination of both buckshot and musket ball ammunition. In English, this is called "buck and ball", (sometimes, "buck 'n' ball) ammunition.[1] Usually, this consisted of a regular cartridge with 2-3 buckshot attached to it. This would provide the best of both worlds: the larger ball could be effective at long ranges, while at 100 yards or less, the buckshot would begin to wound and mangle enemy soldiers. If you are wondering what one of these cartridges might look like, check out the artistic reconstruction below. With the round itself examined, let us look first at the use of buckshot in the Seven Years' War, and then during the American War of Independence.

A Provincial in Winter

This type of specialist round was employed by both sides in the French and Indian War. British officers believed that their French and Native Americans enemies exclusively used this type of ammunition. In October of 1757, a British officer recalled, "The enemy never fire a single ball, for they always load with six or seven smaller ones (which are called buck-shot) besides their usual musket-ball."[2] The same officer referred to being under buckshot fire as, "a dreadful shower."[3] By 1760, both the British and their provincial allies had followed suit. Describing a small engagement in Canada, John Knox reported that New England provincials, "advanced, very spiritedly, to the enemy, who were endeavoring to steal upon them; gave them a regular discharge of a brace of balls, besides buckshot from each piece, and sent them flying."[4] By the end of the war, it seems that both the British and Americans had begun to employ buckshot with increasing regularity. 

Austrian Reenactors 

At the start of the Seven Years' War Austrian infantrymen carried a total of 48 rounds of ammunition. Of those, twelve were buckshot rounds. It is unclear if these twelve rounds were buck and ball rounds (as pictured above) or specialized buckshot rounds designed to be loaded in addition to the regular round, as in the Russian practice (described below). Regardless, the Austrian army formalized ideas on use buckshot in their 1759 field manual. The Militär Feld-Regulament of 1759 indicated when facing enemy infantry, Austrian troops should use their buckshot rounds beginning at 100 yards, should definitely use them if enemy infantry attempts a bayonet attack. When facing enemy cavalry, the manual instructs the soldiers to reserve their buckshot fire until the charging horsemen have closed to 10 yards.[5]

Russian Infantrymen/Artillerymen of the Seven Years' War

The Russian army of the Seven Years' War also used buckshot to terrible effect at battles such as Zorndorf, Paltzig, and Kunersdorf. Indeed, the use of buckshot may help explain the incredible high casualties at battles like Zorndorf.  A Prussian recalled the battle of Zorndorf:
On our side, therefore, there were relatively little dead, but a great number of wounded. However, most of the wounded were able to convalesce with their regiments...every Russian infantryman loads a musket ball and an equal pack of buckshot. There are between 7-9 of these in a linen packet in the form of grapeshot. As a result of this, the Russians load quite slowly, as a Jäger loads his rifle. In the time it takes the Russians to load their weapons, the Prussians have fired three times. I address this only in passing. We have found signs of this buckshot in many of the wounded, because they bled freely, almost to death. I cannot say whether their balls are poisoned, but you have observed that the Russians even use heated shot to harm their enemies.[6]
Buckshot from archeology on the Kunersdorf battlefield. (Many thanks to Dr.
Grzegorz Podruczny for the image!)

Clearly, then, the Russians used a different sort of buck and ball ammunition, one where two distinct cartridges were loaded into the weapon. It is interesting that the Prussian soldier compares the additional time loading this ammunition to that of a Jägers' rifled weapon. After the Seven Years' War, Russian army would continue to use buckshot ammunition until the end of the Napoleonic Wars.[7] The British and fledgling American army would use this type of ammunition in the American War of Independence.

Reenactors portray American soldiers in the War of Independence
This ammunition was widely used by militiamen in the American War of Independence. When not using rifled weapons, militia troops increased their firepower and effectiveness through buck and ball ammunition.[8] Both Continetal and militia troops used buck and ball ammunition at the Battle of Camden.[9] George Washington, possibly as a result of his experience in the French and Indian War, was a proponent of buck and ball ammunition. On October 6th, 1777, Washington circulated general orders that mandated, "Buckshot are to be put into all the cartridges that shall hereafter be made."[10] This decision came directly after the Battle of Germantown. Archeology and documentary sources indicate that this order was indeed followed. The American prediliction for buckshot continued into the War of 1812 era.

Soldier's Musket recovered from British shipwreck in St. Augustine, FL. 

The British, too, used buck and ball cartridges during the American War of Independence.[11] The musket above was photographed in a shipwreck near St. Augustine, Florida. Multiple American sources report suffering buckshot wounds when engaged with British regulars, particularly in the Southern Campaign of 1781. At the Battle of Guilford Courthouse, it is possible that both the Brigade of Guards and the 33rd Regiment were using this type of ammunition.[12] Although the British army never employed buck and ball as the standard ammunition, it appears that by the late war its use was quite common.

Thus, it would seem that buckshot was commonly used on many of the battlefields of the mid-eighteenth century. Rather than being a distinct practice unique to American backwoodsmen, the ammunition was used French troops in colonial Canada, and Austrian and Russians troops in Europe during the Seven Years' War. The American contribution to the use of buckshot ammunition was mandating its use, something that the British failed to do. It is an interesting coincidence that the two superpowers of the twentieth century, Russia and America, heavily employed buckshot during the eighteenth and early nineteenth-centuries. 

If you enjoyed this post, or any of our other posts, please consider liking us on facebook,  or following us on twitter. Finally, we are dedicated to keeping Kabinettskriege ad-free. In order to assist with this, please consider supporting us via the donate button in the upper right-hand corner of the page. As always:

Thanks for Reading,

Alex Burns

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------[1] Babits, Brenckle, and Howard, "Rifle Shot and Buck'n'Ball in the 1781 Southern Campaign," Paper presented to the 2005 Nathanial Greene Symposium.
[2] Knox, An Historical Journal, Vol 1, 54.
[3] Ibid, 91.
[4] Ibid, Vol 2, 280.
[5]Anon, Militär Feld-Regulament, articles 15, 18, and 19. (Manuscript is unpaginated).
[6]Anon, Besondere Merkwürdigkeiten und Anekdoten aus Neudam in der Neumark, 29.
[7] Leo Bockeria, et al, "Russian war surgery in 1812," International Journal of Surgery, Vol 10, Issue, 10, 2012.
[8] Lawrence Babits, Devil of a Whipping, 13.
[9] Legg, et al, "Understanding Camden: The Revolutionary War Battle of Camden As Revealed Through Historical, Archaeological, and Private Collections Analysis," University of South Carolina Scholarly Commons, 2005.
[10] John Fitzpatrick (Eds), The Writings of George Washington, Vol 9, 313.
[11] Lawrence Babits, Devil of Whipping, 165n8.
[12] Lawrence Babits, Long, Obstinate, and Bloody, 166.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

How Rapidly Could Soldiers Load in the Mid-Eighteenth Century?

Just how quickly could these soldiers reload?
Dear Reader,

How many rounds could eighteenth-century soldiers fire a minute? This is a question which has long preoccupied military enthusiasts of the era, and many feel quite strongly on this question. From the sequence in the (in?)famous Sharpe series depicting the training of the South Essex Regiment, to many reenactors demonstrating their own skills, the desire to show that musket-armed troops could fire quickly dominates media produced regarding the era. Of course, as we might expect, such depictions are sometimes rather fanciful.

My favorite line from the Sharpe sequence is, "The trick is, to keep the muzzle up to stop the bloody bullet falling out. Of course, the muzzle needs to point up anyway, the frog coming towards you is high up on a horse." Because, as everyone knows, the French only sent cavalry to fight in the Peninsula. Somewhat ironically, many historical officers (correctly) encouraged their soldiers to aim low, at the knees of enemy troops, or the ground directly in front of the enemy. These officers believed that this compensated for the kick of the musket. Oh well.

But can ya stand?
This post attempts to examine how quickly soldiers could fire their muskets across mid-eighteenth-century European armies. It will address the importance of firepower, the abilities of troops to fire quickly in a drill square environment, speed of fire in combat, the disadvantages of "quick-fire mania", and how officers attempted to mitigate those disadvantages. Despite other parade ground or theoretical results, an average of approximately 2 rounds a minute was quite normal in combat conditions, when soldiers did not engage in "tap-loading". This is significant, as it helps explain the length of eighteenth-century battles, and the length of time needed for troops to run low on ammunition. 

A number of excellent historians have addressed this question, and once again, I am standing on the shoulders of giants. This list includes David Blackmore, Hugh Boscawen, Alexander Campbell, Christopher Duffy, John Houlding, Richard Holmes, and Matthew Spring. Usually, these authors are writing about the forces of an individual state, such as Austria, Britain, or Prussia. For more detailed information on specific national practices, I encourage you to read these historians' works.

An Austrian Grenadier fires with cylindrical ramrod and conical touch-hole

Erik Lund, writing in an assessment of the Austrian officer corps in the Kabinettskriege era, argues that historians have, by and large, purchased into a myth regarding the importance of a high tactical rate of fire. Here, I disagree with Lund. Tactical rate of fire, and the superiority it granted in combat, was no myth.

 Oddly enough, Frederick II, "the Great" of Prussia, early in his career, seems to ave ignored the importance of firepower. In 1748, he encouraged his infantry to attack without firing, and he knew generals would complain, "that I never employ my small arms."[1] Frederick, it seems, had taken the wrong lessons from the War of Austrian Succession. Shock tactics, not firepower, seemed to be the way forward. It was a much more experienced, seasoned, and defeated Frederick who wrote in 1768:
"The cannon does everything, and the infantry cannot get to grips with cold steel... battles are decided by the superiority of fire. Except in the attack of defended positions, a force of infantry which loads speedily will always get the better of a force which loads more slowly."[2]
Let those words sink in. Firepower and speed of loading decided eighteenth-century contests between infantry. Most generals understood this idea, and soldiers were relentlessly taught to fire quickly. Firepower, and sometimes the psychological threat of cold steel, not cold steel itself, won eighteenth-century combats.

Friedrich II von Preussen
First, we need to examine how quickly a soldier could fire on the drill square in peacetime. Across most European nations, 4-5 rounds seems to have been quite normal.  By 1750, most European armies were fascinated with the speed of fire demonstrated by the Prussian troops in the War of Austrian Succession. Austrian military veterans and theorists saw that their troops could fire 4-5 rounds a minute on the drill square, basically matching the Prussian drill square ideal.[3] Prussian troops were capable of firing six rounds a minute, but could not maintain that pace for any length of time. Lossow comments, "Altogether, it would be too much to expect troops to maintain six rounds a minute for an extended time."[4]  The British achieved a similar level of drill-square proficiency in this regard, with veteran troops being able to fire four rounds a minute.[5] The Russians, too, used Prussian emphasis speed of fire when training their troops in the 1750s.[6]  Some sources think even this too ambitious. Prussian General Ludwig von Lossow argued that, "in ... European armies only the most practiced parts of them can fire four times in a minute's time. Usually, only three shots come are fired: watch and see!"[7] Regardless, by the 1780s, the cylindrical ramrod and the conical touch-hole (technological assists to loading) had increased the drill-square rate of fire to six rounds fired with a seventh-round loaded.
British Soldiers in front of Ft. Niagara
However, as in almost all aspects of military life, there was a severe disparity between what soldiers could accomplish on the peacetime drill square and the battlefield. It seems that troops in combat fired more slowly. Two rounds a minute is a very believable figure for well-trained, veteran troops in combat.  Austrian army officer Jakob Cogniazzo gives us a window into this idea:
Now, how many rounds of rapid fire do you think he can loose off in a minute when he is in a minute when he is in this condition? At least five a minute? That is certainly the norm for fire on the drill square, which conjures up visions of enemy corpses by the thousand. But, when we consider all the encumbering burden of the soldier... taking everything into due account, it would be optimistic to suppose that he fires as many as one or at the most two rounds a minute [in combat].[8]
One of the differences between drill square "minute firing" and real combat was its duration. The real test was how long soldiers could keep firing at a high rate. It seems British troops could fire between 2-3 rounds a minute for a sustained amount of time.[9] Likewise, it seems that during combat the Prussians could fire three rounds per minute, and they could keep up this pace extended periods of time.[10] The Russians loaded slower, perhaps 1-2 shots a minute, as a result of the additional time it took to load their buckshot rounds.[11] With this in mind, it seems that troops carrying 30 rounds would run low on ammunition after 10-20 minutes, while troops carrying 60 rounds of ammunition would run low after 30-45 minutes. 

Reenactors portraying the 3rd New Jersey Regiment
More important than the actual number of shots was the ability to confer a comparative advantage to troops who could load and fire more quickly than their opponents. An Austrian officer noted that the Prussians had, "the important and extraordinarily, significant advantage of being able to get off three rounds to every one of the Austrian infantry. This is conceded by all impartial and well-informed men who have seen it with their own eyes."[12] Prussian officer Ernst von Barsewisch recalled of the Battle of Leignitz:
"Now I commanded, "platoon: ready!  present!  fire!" Then the remaining part of the battalion followed, whereupon we blasted away for a length of time. The enemy, however, did not withdraw, but also fired vigorously. But we loaded more speedily and had devastated the enemy with our first volley."[13]
The author prepares to fire
Instilling troops with the need to fire quickly at the expense of all other factors had a number of downsides. Again, General von Lossow comments that officers, "forget that the musket barrel becomes too hot to hold after two minutes... the soldiers inevitably acquired bad habits when they were put through the rapid-fire drill every day, like failing to ram the loads firmly home, neglecting to aim, raising the barrel too rapidly after they had loosed off, and so on."[14] It seems there might have been a downside to this "quick-fire mania."

In addition to these bad qualities, soldiers might begin to "cheat" in other ways. Of these, the most infamous was the so-called, "tap-loading." In 1726, General Hawley complained that, "the German and Dutch foot might be brought to ram their cartridge every time on service, for ought I know, but by the nature of our men I believe it impossible to bring them to it."[15] The Austrians engaged in tap-loading at Mollwitz in 1741, where it robbed their musket discharges of lethal force, the French used tap-loading at Lauffeld in 1747,  and the British engaged in the practice at Hubbardton in 1777.[16]'

Reenactors representing HM 17th Regiment of Infantry in North America

Military authorities from various nations were aware of these problems and attempted to ensure that soldiers fired with speed AND accuracy on the day of battle. Soldiers in almost all European nations practiced firing at targets to ensure accuracy. Troops in Central European armies were carefully taught to aim their muskets with reference to their distance from the target.[17] British General Wolfe argued that, "[t]here is no necessity for firing very fast; a cool and well-leveled fire, with the pieces, carefully loaded, is much more destructive and formidable than the quickest fire in confusion."[18] Despite this, numerous military theorist believed that though disadvantageous, there were times when quick-fire and tap-loading outweighed these concerns.[19] Officers and military theorists attempted to carefully weigh and balance speed of fire with accuracy.

So, what can we assert regarding the rate of fire among regular troops in the mid-eighteenth century? These troops could fire at prodigious rates on the drill square but often fell short of this ideal on the battlefield. Sometimes, this led to the disadvantages associated with "quick-fire mania" or the dangerous of tap-loading. As a result, officers attempted to find a happy medium: soldiers who would fire at speed but retain accuracy.

If you enjoyed this post, or any of our other posts, please consider liking us on facebook,  or following us on twitter. Finally, we are dedicated to keeping Kabinettskriege ad-free. In order to assist with this, please consider supporting us via the donate button in the upper right-hand corner of the page. As always:

Thanks for Reading,

Alex Burns


[1] Jay Luvaas, Frederick the Great on the Art of War, 143-145.; Vincent Rospond, Frederick's Orders, 112.
[2] Frederick II, Testament Politique, (1768) 146-148.
[3] Christopher Duffy, Instrument of War, 408.; Duffy, Army of Frederick the Great, 128.
[4]Ludwig von Lossow, Denkwürdigkeiten zur Charakteristik der preussischen Armee, 265.
[5] Richard Holmes, Redcoat, 199.
[6] Christopher Duffy, Russia's Military Way to the West, 62.
[7] Ludwig von Lossow, Denkwürdigkeiten zur Charakteristik der preussischen Armee, 264.
[8] Jakob Cogniazzo, Freymuethige Beytrag zur Geschichte, (1779), 147.
[9] John Houlding, Fit for Service, 194.
[10] Duffy, Army of Frederick the Great, 128.
[11] Anon, Besondere Merkwürdigkeiten und Anekdoten aus Neudam in der Neumark, 29.
[12] Vienna Kriegsarchiv, CA 1758 III 1, Lieutenant-Colonel Rebain, 10 May 1758.
[13] Ernst von Barsewisch, Meine Kriegs-Erlebnisse, 113.
[14] Ludwig von Lossow, Denkwürdigkeiten zur Charakteristik der preussischen Armee, 266.
[15] Quoted in Journal of the Society for Army Historical Research, Volume 32 (1953), 88-89.
[16] Anonymous, Denckwüdiges Leben und Thaten Beruehmeten Herren Johaan Daniels von Menzel, 80.; David Blackmore, Destructive and Formidable, 104.; Thomas Anbury, Travels through the Interior Parts of America, 333.
[17] Christopher Duffy, Instrument of War, 409.; Duffy, Army of Frederick the Great, 129.
[18] Wolfe, Instructions to Young Officers, 49.
[19] David Blackmore, Destructive and Formidable, 104-105

Monday, April 23, 2018

How Well-Paid was the Average Eighteenth-Century Soldier?

Dear Reader,

For a soldier I listed, to grow great in fame. And be shot at for sixpence a day.- Charles Dibdin, 1774

One of the most persistently popular notions about common soldiers in the eighteenth century is that they were poor, ragged, and "the scum of the earth." From Daniel Chodoweicki's "A soldiers' wife" to descriptions of the Chelsea pensioners, it seems that these soldiers did indeed suffer economically. The words of one retrospective ballad, by The Dreadnoughts, repeatedly includes the phrase, "You'll have to go out in the streets and beg, poor Johnny what'll happen to you?" Is this view supportable? And to what extent is this view based on former and disabled soldiers who were out of work, rather than actively-serving men?

Once again, I find myself on the shoulders of giants as I write this post. The research Christopher Duffy, Sylvia Frey, Kirstin Olsen, Liza Picard, Glenn Steppler, and numerous other authors make the conclusions reached here possible. How well-paid was the average eighteenth-century soldier?

Like the members of the working-class that they hailed from, many soldiers were rather poor, but not totally destitute.  Their pay certainly ranked in the lower strata of eighteenth-century incomes but was above or roughly the same as other groups in a similar social class: such day laborers or husbandmen. Pay varied between states. For example: the Austrians paid their common soldiers 5 or 6 creutzer,  British paid their men six-pence a day, when adjusted for stoppages, while the Prussian army paid their men 8 groschen a day. Yearly pay ranged from 12-14 Pounds a year in the British army to 24 Thaler a year in the Prussian Army. Soldiers in the Continental Army were promised a bit more, around $29 per year, but in practice, this was the equivalent of a few Spanish milled dollars.[1] The average soldier earned around $1,500 per year, when adjusted to today's currency. 

William Hogarth, The March of the Guards to Finchley
Although this sum may seem rather tiny from our perspective today, and indeed it is, it is important to keep in mind that the average day laborer made roughly $800 year (12.5 Pounds), and the average husbandmen $1550-$1600 a year (15 pounds).[2] Indeed, when measuring these sums, it may be easier to understand eighteenth-century wages through the lens of purchasing power, or labor value. When measured in these ways, the £12 is more like a yearly wage of around £20,000  in 2018 currency. So, while not rich by any standard of measure, these soldiers were not exactly destitute either.

For a refresher on eighteenth-century British monetary units, see this footnote.[3] It may be more illuminating to see what a daily soldier's wage could purchase. 1 pence could purchase a measure of gin, enough coal to heat a room for a day, or a enough firewood to heat a home for a day. 1.5 pence could purchase a pound of soap. For half of day's wages (3 pence), you could purchase a dinner of bread, cheese and beer.  Items priced about sixpence in eighteenth-century London included: a pound of cheese, a pound of hair powder, a lower-class dinner out consisting of meat, bread, and alcohol. Amenities available for 8 pence included:, a middle-class dinner out and a pound of butter. If able to save for five days, a soldier could afford to buy a pig.[4]

(Photo Credit: Wilson Freeman/Drifting Focus Photography)
Reenactors giving an excellent portrayal of Brunswick Regiment Prinz Friedrich.
However, soldiers often had their salaries stopped, in order to pay for clothing and other items. In 1770, an anonymous soldier attached a statement to his memoir, saying that after all stoppages were accounted for, he had just over four pounds to live on every year.[5] Soldiers also confronted many other expenses. Ulrich Bräker, tricked into joining the Prussian army, first complained, not of harsh discipline, but of the cost of living as a soldier:
Thereupon I went into an eating-house and ordered dinner and a jug of beer. For this I had to pay two groschen. Now, from the six that I had, four remained; on these I had to live for four days and they would last for two at the most. This reckoning made me lament sorely to my comrades. One of them, Cran by name, said to me laughing: "That'll teach you. But never mind, you have plenty of things you can sell. For a start, there's your servant's livery. Then you have two sets of weapons now, you can convert all that into ready money. And moreover bachelors like you often get an additional allowance for maintenance, you have only to apply to the Colonel." "Oh, oh, never will I do that again, as long as I live!", said I. "Damn it!" answered Cran, "you will have to get used to his roaring sooner or later. And as for your board, just watch carefully what the others do. You'll see three, four or five of them clubbing together to buy corn or peas or potatoes, to cook for themselves. Each morning they have a dreier's worth of spirits and a piece of bread from the ration, at midday, send to the inn for another dreier's worth of soup, and another piece of the bread-ration goes with it. In the evening kovent or small beer, two pence worth, and bread once again". - "But, by heaven, that's a wretched way to live", I rejoined, and he: "Yes, but that's how one gets by, no doubt about it. A soldier has to learn to get by, because there are all manner of other articles that he needs: pipeclay, powder , shoe-polish, oil, emery, soap and God knows what besides." I: "And all this has to come out of six groschen?" He: "Yes, and much more besides, for example the bill for your washing, for cleaning your weapons and so forth, if you can't do these things for yourself". With that we returned to our lodging, and I ordered my affairs as best I could.[6]'
One gets the impression that Cran viewed Bräker as something of a whiner.

Although their pay was often partially deducted to cover expenses, soldiers also had their clothing and board provided, putting them at an advantage compared with day laborers. In most Germanic armies, soldiers were provided food at no-cost during wartime, another potential economic benefit. Obviously, by Twenty-First-Century living standards, these soldiers were incredibly poor. However, when measured against the standards of the class which they hailed from, there were certain advantages to being a soldier. Of the branches of service, cavalry was paid marginally more than infantry, and grenadiers had a slight pay-bonus when compared with musketeers. Non-commisioned officers earned more than private soldiers, and men enlisted in elite regiments, such as the monarch's guard, often received slightly more pay.

Some Prussian NCOs were even wealthy enough to purchase homes of their own, though this is very much the exception, rather than the rule.[7] The Prussian army allowed soldiers to find employment during off hours in peacetime, further increasing the income of soldiers. Observing off-duty Prussian soldiers in the 1770s, the Comte de Guibert recalled, "In Prussia, they proceed from the principle that no kind of occupation can demean a soldier, as long as it brings in money."[8]

Perhaps unsurprisingly, some soldiers thought they were paid very little. In 1770, an anonymous British soldier recorded his thoughts on the subject:
"I beg to lay the following observations before the publick. Happy I shall be, if they are the means of exciting some good patriot to exert himself in getting the pay of the lower class of the British Army advanced. ... their pay does not exceed one shilling seven pence halfpenny a week, my readers will judge sort of livelihood a man can have in the army at this time."[9]
On the opposite note, both Austrian soldiers and military observers from other nations indicated that the Austrian army was paid quite well, and with regularity. Swedish military attache Fromhold Armfeldt reported that during the Seven Years' War the Austrian troops, "never go short of pay, meat, or bread. In the Austrian army, both officers and soldiers find everything they need."[10]

Soldiers in a tavern, 1770

As the above indicates, some actively serving soldiers had a relatively stable economic situation when compared with aged or disabled veterans. These men were often unable to work in the trades they had pursued before their military service. Shadrach Byfield, a soldier in the 41st Regiment of Foot, was terribly worried for his family's economic situation, as he was unable to return to his trade as a weaver after losing an arm in Canada. Fortunately for Byfield, he was able to design an artificial limb with the aid of a local blacksmith, enabling him to continue employment.[11] Many soldiers were not so ingenious, and less fortunate.

Most major European states followed the model of Louis XIV, who ordered the construction of the hôpital des invalides in 1670. The British Royal Hospital (Chelsea) opened its doors to pensioners in  1692, housing around 300 veterans at any one time. The Prussian state set up funds for wounded men as early as the War of Spanish Succession, and Frederick William I, provided for his Garde Regiment by allotting retired members a place in an invalid community near Potsdam. In 1748 the Prussians followed the French example of caring for the whole army by building the Invalidenhaus. This Prussian soldiers' home housed just over 600 veterans at any one time. Once again, we find that the Austrian state led the way in providing for soldiers. Government housing was provided for 4,000 soldiers, and Maria Theresa even went to great lengths reminding the army that these resources were available to disabled veterans.[12] Though these institutions were very progressive for their time, even in the Austrian case they only provided for a fraction number of total disabled soldiers

Daniel Chodoweicki: A Soldier's Wife 
 Because of this, many old soldiers stayed in the ranks longer than necessary. Christopher Duffy examines the issue: "Aged private soldiers hung on in their regiments for the same bad reason as some of the aged officers, namely that life was bleaker still in the outside world."[13] Old soldiers became beggars and would attempt to gather alms from wealthy generals or the monarch. So, while actively serving soldiers might be poor, disabled and aged veterans suffered when unable to find government assistance. 

Soldiers in the eighteenth-century often came from poor laboring classes and viewed military service as a way of securing their position in the world. Their humble economic origins prompted some officers to view their men as low-life scum, but the truth is infinitely more complicated. Though soldiers were by no means wealthy, they were marginally better off than day laborers, even if they suffered in comparison to tradesmen. Finally, for those few who could secure it, government assistance to old and disabled soldiers provided a rare measure of security to the infirm in the eighteenth-century.

If you enjoyed this post, or any of our other posts, please consider liking us on facebook,  or following us on twitter. Finally, we are dedicated to keeping Kabinettskriege ad-free. In order to assist with this, please consider supporting us via the donate button in the upper right-hand corner of the page. As always:

Thanks for Reading,

Alex Burns

[1]Christopher Duffy, Instrument of War; Christopher Duffy, Army of Frederick the Great; Richard Holmes, Redcoat, John Milsop, Continental Infantrymen of the American Revolution.  
[2] For information regarding eighteenth-century wages in England, see: Kirstin Olsen, Daily Life in Eighteenth-Century England, 140-144. For the specific figures mentioned above, see Peter Mathias, "The Social Structure in the Eighteenth Century: A Calculation by Joseph Massie," (1957) Economic History, 42-43.
[3]4 farthings = 1 penny (d)
     2 halfpennies = 1 penny
   12 pence =  1 shilling (s)
   10 shillings and sixpence (six pennies) = half a guinea
   20 shillings = 1 pound (£)
   21 shillings = 1 guinea
[4] Liza Picard, Dr. Johnson's London, 294-297
[5] Anonymous, A Soldier's Journal, 175.
[6] Ulrich Bräker, Der Arme Mann von Toggenburg, 119.
[7]Ernst von Barsewisch, Meine Kriegs-Erliebnisse, 114-5.
[8]Jacques Antoine Guibert, Journal D'un Voyage En Allemagne, Fait En 1773 (Paris, 1803), 16
[9]Anonymous, A Soldier's Journal, 172-3.
[10] Quoted in Christopher Duffy, Instrument of War, 207.
[11] Shadrach Byfield, A Narrative of a Light Company Soldier's Service, 94-95.
[12] Duffy, Instrument of War, 343.
[13] Christopher Duffy, Army of Frederick the Great, 84.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

How Impractical were Eighteenth-Century Soldiers' Uniforms?

Were eighteenth-century uniforms laughably impractical?

Dear Reader,

 When discussing the aesthetics of the eighteenth century, people often comment on the garish nature of military clothing. On the surface, it may seem that the wars of the eighteenth century were "wars in lace," and the period was "a decorative interval."[1] Uniforms are often used as a piece of evidence to assert that eighteenth-century warfare was inefficient, formalized, and foppish. According to some historians: "In general, an ancien regime [eighteenth-century] army was a slow and unwieldy mass of disgruntled and terrorized soldiers led by untrained and unimaginative officers."[2]  Were these conflicts "wars in lace," with all of the baggage that term implies?

Once again, as I write this post, I am greatly indebted to other historians and researchers who have examined this subject. Individuals such as Mark Canady, Henry Cooke, Daniel Hohrath, Neal Hurst, Phillip Katcher, Tomasz Karpinksi, Matt Keagle, William Koker, Tim Logue, Joseph Malit, Steve Rayner,  Hew Strachan, and Rob Welch, have spent much of their time researching and reconstructing eighteenth-century military garments. Though I have researched uniforms in a cursory way, I will never understand eighteenth-century military clothing in the painstaking way these individuals have.

So, how ostentatious and formal was eighteenth-century military clothing? Did soldiers truly fight bewigged in scarlet splendor?   Did uniforms hamper the ability of European soldiers to effectively wage war? Did brightly colored uniforms make men targets? Did these uniforms restrict the range of motion enjoyed by the soldiers? Was the available clothing bad for soldier's health, freezing or overheating them? Finally, did armies adapt their clothing to local needs and conditions?

The blue faced-red coats of the Continentals were inspired by European fashion
It is often said, particularly by Americans, that the bright red uniforms of the British regular infantry made them easy targets, to be individually picked out by American riflemen. Although this may true in very specific cases, by and large, the American War of Independence was not fought by drab colored riflemen. Rather, it was a war fought by men wearing brightly colored coats with (aim-able) smoothbore weapons. While the British were wearing their trademark red, the American medley of colors in the early war was increasingly replaced by blue uniforms or white/grey hunting shirts after 1780. Very few of the American uniforms were intentionally designed to camouflage the individual wearer.

Soldier's carried small field guides in order to identify
enemy units based on uniform details
Why would this be the case? Generals favored highly visible and identifiable uniforms because they allowed troops to be recognized, controlled, and moved. Units wore brightly colored coats, and different colored lapels and turnbacks (coat tails or skirts) allowed for officers and men to distinguish between different units of the same army.  Soldiers and officers effectively utilized their clothing and equipment in order to fight as efficiently as possible. Ironically enough, it is only after the Seven Years' War that some European armies became so infatuated with their perception of the external trappings of the Prussian army. Thus, in the late eighteenth century, produced some officers who argued for formality without function. They would have been rather out of place in the Europe of 1757, or the North America of 1777.

Come on, guys
What about the powdered wigs, you ask?? Can we truly respect any army that fought in powdered wigs? Although hair powder was very popular, and worn by soldiers, by the middle of the eighteenth-century, soldiers preferred to wair their own hair, not wigs.[3] This preference can be seen in the writings of Thomas Hughes of the 53rd Regiment, in September of 1778:
"I am recovering very fast and make no doubt shall be perfectly well... the only disagreeable consequence attending his sickness is the loss of my hair, which comes out by hand-fulls. I hope it will not all fall out-- what a horrid old-fashioned figure shall I make in a wig. I shall be taken for the resurrection of one of Queen Anne's soldiers."[4]
In addition to wearing their own hair, British soldiers in North American cut their hair short a number of times in the eighteenth-century, notably in the mid-French and Indian War, and early American War of Independence. If soldiers wore their own hair, were their brightly colored uniforms restrictive?

A German Jaeger in the American War
Clothing in various eighteenth-century militaries was undoubtedly more restrictive of movement than military clothing after the mid-nineteenth century. Having worn replica British and Germanic clothing of this era, as well as British and German military clothing from the 1980s-1990s, there is definitely a difference in range of motion. The improvement in the design, construction, material, and increase in efficiency is indeed noticeable.  With all that said, I would argue that the clothing of eighteenth-century soldiers did not greatly hamper their efficiency in combat. Though still an intensely physical experience, eighteenth-century combat was on average less physically demanding than combat today. In an example of this logic, Christopher Duffy asserts that loads in the eighteenth-century averaged about 60 pounds, while modern soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan carry around 120+ pounds.[4]  Despite this, eighteenth-century warfare could still be incredibly physically demanding, as the 12 mile run of the 45th Grenadiers from Philadelphia to Germantown shows us. Likewise, Prinz Henri and his army marched almost 100 miles during three days in August of 1760.

Officers and soldiers were concerned with the functionality and durability of the garments fighting men wore. After the Seven Years' War, the Prussian Army completed the transition to woolen gaiters as a result of their functionality. General Schmettau reported:
"The Gaiters: They had formerly been made out of twill, but it is better that they be made out of cloth, experience has taught us that these are warmer and lay better, so that the soldier looks more orderly, therefore, they have been almost universally adopted. Although they cost twice as much as the others, they only need to be issued once a year, because they are much more durable than the others, and the company proprietors prefer to issue something that looks better."[]

British troops buttoning their coats in cold weather

In addition, officers and soldiers often made common-sense decisions regarding clothing with regards to weather and terrain. Soldiers' buttoned their coats over while in cold or rainy weather, and regimental tailors were instructed to make sure this was possible.[7] The Russian and Swedish armies discarded their regimental coats in summer, fighting in sleeved waistcoats. Furthermore, during particularly hot summers, troops would remove yet more clothing. Pvt. Hoppe of Fusilier Regiment Alt-Kreytzen reported:
On August 20th, we set up camp at the town of Reppen, where we were allowed to take off our clothes.This we did, but our repose did not last long, since the enemy concentrated at Zorndorf, two hours beyond Kustrin on the other side of the Oder. So the order came in the night that we should break up quickly and put our gaiters into our haversacks.[8] 
The summer heat in 1758 caused numerous problems

If soldiers changed what garments they wore as a result of local conditions, it should not surprise us that they also modified the garments themselves. Again, the British Army adapted to local conditions in this way, cutting down hats and coats during the 1758 campaign in North America, and also merged local native legwear with the European gaiter. Gaitered Trowzers, or overalls, were largely born out of North American experience.

British Infantry wearing gaitered trowzers

Finally, it is indisputable that soldiers cared a great deal about their uniforms, even the minor details. Period treatises such as Cuthbertson make it clear that officers cared a great deal about the uniforms of their men. Uniform details often became wrapped up in matters of honor, and as a result, ordinary soldiers also cared about them a great deal. In 1787, when the second Battalion of the Royal Highland Regiment was to be designated the 73rd Regiment, the men complained that they would lose their royal facings (a deep blue color.) Norman Macleod reported:
"I embrace this opportunity of sending you a Return of it, and of giving you a full account of its present state...I shall now speak of the clothing. As the Reg’t we had the honour to have Royal Facings from the beginning and have done nothing to forfeit that honour, but on the contrary has been distinguished by brave behaviour, and severe sufferings, it hopes that tho separated from the Fourty Second, it will still be a Royal Highland Regt. It is not easy for me to express the anxiety felt on this account by the whole corps. The officers certainly fell is as a point of honour, and on a mischievous report being raised that the facings were to be changed, the men loudly expressed their grief and rage. I must therefore earnestly recommend this point to your most serious consideration."[9]
We should be careful not to conflate the honor and pride felt as a result uniform distinctions with an idea that eighteenth-century conflicts were somehow more garish, and less serious, than later wars. These "wars in lace" were deadly serious for the men who took part.  To some extent, the tactics and ideas of eighteenth-century soldiers should look antiquated, that is not surprising.  Let us see how our own military is judged two hundred years in the future.

If you enjoyed this post, or any of our other posts, please consider liking us on facebook,  or following us on twitter. Finally, we are dedicated to keeping Kabinettskriege ad-free. In order to assist with this, please consider supporting us via the donate button in the upper right-hand corner of the page. As always:

Thanks for Reading,

Alex Burns


[1] Alexander Martin, "The Last “War in Lace” or the First “Total War”?" Kritika: Explorations in Russian and Eurasian History, vol. 15 no. 2, 2014, pp. 293-301. Christopher Duffy, Military Experience in the Age of Reason, 3.
[2] Andrew R. Wilson, "Master's of War: History's Great Strategic Thinkers" (lecture, The Great Courses, Naval War College, Newport, Rhode Island).
[] Soldiers would occasionally protest if not provided money for hair-powder. See Bill Potter, Redcoats on the Frontier, MA Thesis, Murray State University.
[4] Thomas Hughes, A Journal by Thomas Hughes, 41.
[5] Duffy, Military Experience in the Age of Reason, 168.; https://protonex.com/blog/what-do-soldiers-carry-and-whats-its-weight/.
[6] Fredrich Wilhelm von Schemttau, Einrichtung des Krieges-Wesens für die Preussische Infanterie zu Friedens-Zetien, 209. (Page number is from 2016 reprinting)
[7] Reglement für die Königl. Preussische Infanterie, 498. (Fawcitt, Regulations for the Prussian Infantry, 409.)
[8] Anon., Offizier-Lesebuch, Historisch-militärischen Inhalts, Mit Untermischten Interessanten Anekdoten, Von Einer Gesellschafts Militärischer Freunde (Berlin: C. Matzdorff's Buchhandlung, 1793), 180-1.
[9]MacLeod, Norman. “Letter From Col McLeod to the Col of the 73rd. 1787.” Dunvegan Castle: NRAS 2950, Section 4, #752.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

ESR (Et Sans Résultat!) 1809 Wargame Battle Report

French and Austrian Troops begin to deploy

Dear Reader,

Today, I wanted to offer a wargaming battle report. A few weeks ago, the designer of Et sans résultat!, David Enteness, and I played a short game of his excellent ruleset. Although the game is set in the Napoleonic era, David hopes to someday expand his ruleset and miniatures sales into the Seven Years' War era.  I will describe the battle, and then offer a few thoughts on the ruleset. You can find these rules, published by The Wargaming Company, on their website, here.

Battle Report:

A few notes on the scenario. Based on the uniforms and ratings of forces involved, this was a battle between 1 Austrian and 1 French army corps, in 1809. Both forces had around 20,000 men, and entered from opposite sides of the table, as you can see from the map below. Both commanders were trying to make way for larger forces by driving the enemy off the table.

The French (Blue lines) axis of advance was from the west, (top of the map) while the Austrians (White lines) advanced from the east. Both players started with an initial force on the table (an advance guard and infantry division) with one additional element arriving each turn. The French, under Jean-Baptiste Bessières, moved forward in an effort to seize Huelsendorf. The Austrians, under Johann Karl, Freiherr von Hiller, moved their avant garde forward, while trying to seize high ground north-east of Fuerstenwald.

von Hiller hurries an Austrian column towards high ground north of the Fuerstenwald
The Austrians attempted to control the high ground in the north-east quadrant of the battlefield, while the French rushed forward to take possession of the town and surrounding terrain.

State of affairs after one turn of movement. 
The Austrian avant-garde deployed, rushing a 6-pound battery and uhlans forward, as Grenzers moved up as fast as they could. The French, moving at a more stately pace, still managed to concentrate their chasseurs à cheval and an infantry division around Huelsendorf.

French Cavalry crosses a bridge, while the Austrian Avant-Garde struggles to deploy

The picture above shows the view from the western (French) side of the table. The Austrian advance forces quickly realized that a whole French infantry division was deploying in their front, and sought the cover of the woods. As more French infantry moved up, von Hiller moved one infantry division into position on a ridge behind the Fuerstenwald.  Bessières began to mass more French infantry around Hueslendorf, but as a result of confused orders, a large infantry division became lost on its way to the battlefield, losing about 1 hour's marching time.

Both generals bring more forces towards the fight. 
Von Hiller moved one infantry division from the south side of the Kunersbusch marsh to the north side, directly across from the town of Hueslendorf. The main Austrian force concentrated around the Fuerstenwald, with the French forming opposite, near the town. Faced with an entire Austrian infantry division, the French avant-garde chasseurs à cheval retired in good order through the town. While Bessières brought up his second infantry division and a division of Cuirassiers, the recently redeployed Austrian infantry division formed up to assault the town. The situation at this stage of the battle is depicted below.  Click on the image below for higher resolution/clearer labels.

At this critical junction, von Hiller (yours truly) decided that the moment had come to assault the town. Radetzky's division, formed up alongside the avant-garde, as pictured above, was ordered to attack the town. The Austrian infantry moved up, taking fire from French skirmishers posted in the houses. At this critical juncture, with battalions of Austrian infantry moving to contact, General Radetzky, the Austrian division commander, fell from the saddle, killed by a bad roll, err, Tirailleur's ball. Though inflicting some damage on their French opponents, the Austrian infantry fell back after a brief combat, reforming 1,000 yards away from town.

The Austrian attack on Huelsendorf stalls, while another French division moves forward
Even worse, at the same moment, the delayed French infantry division appeared directly across the marsh from Huelsendorf, and General Morand began deploying the 4eme de Ligne. Colonel Vincent of the 3rd Ferdinand Hussars, seeing French infantry deploying to his front, faced a stark choice: fall back, allowing French yet another infantry division to commit to the fight, or charge with 5 squadrons against a full French infantry division. Being a colonel of hussars, Vincent, of course, decided to convert onto an attack order, and charge.

Colonel Vincent charges a partially deployed French Infantry Division
Colonel Vincent's five squadrons were handily turned aside by two battalions of the 4eme de Ligne, but crashed into the third, routing it. The battalion streamed along the rest of the ployed division, shouting, "sauve qui peut!" This was too much for the division, which pulled back to defensive positions outside of the hussars' reach. The hussars themselves, being quite depleted by this rash attack, were only too happy to see them go. Both the hussars and the infantry formed, and spent the next hour in desultory probing with no clear advantage. While the charge of the 3rd Ferdinand Hussars had inflicted little real damage on the French, it made Colonel Vincent's reputation, and from then on young ladies took to their smelling salts whenever he narrowed his eyes.

With Marmond's infantry division reforming, von Hiller decided that the moment to strike had come. A detached force of Austrian Chevaulegers and Grenadiers (pictured above) assaulted across the Kunersbusch, towards the rear of the town. At the same time, a large column of Austrian grenadiers assaulted towards the French left, and von Hiller took personal command of the final fresh Austrian infantry division, marching towards the French center.

By keeping French forces occupied in the town, the Austrian mixed detachment was able to keep some of the French infantry pinned in the town. The French cuirassier brigade, backed away from grenadiers, not wanting to charge fresh infantry while unsupported. Meanwhile, the infantry under von Hiller's personal command slammed into French center. The fighting between the center infantry divisions was heavy, with neither side gaining a clear advantage.

The Austrian grenadiers continued to advance, leaving the cuirassier brigade with little choice but to attack. The Austrians began to gain an advantage in the contest between the two infantry divisions, while the French cuirassier suffered horribly in their charge against the grenadiers  The French infantry managed to clearly repulse the mixed detachment of grenadiers and Chevaulegers, but the damage was already done.

With the cuirassier brigade pushed to the other side of the river in confused retreat, the Austrian grenadiers threatened to cut the French line of withdrawal. Bessières pulled his troops out of Huelsendorf, leaving the Austrians as masters of the field. The two sides had suffered a roughly equal amount of damage up until the later turns, when the disastrous attack by the cuirassiers began. All in all, von Hiller had achieved a solid, though not complete, victory over Bessières. This battle represented around five-six hours combat between two corps and took two players about four hours of play time to complete. For more photos of the game, check out The Wargaming Company's photo gallery.  You can also watch my review of the miniatures from the same company on youtube.

Ruleset Review:

These rules provide an interesting window into the Napoleonic era. The turns are broken down into 4 phases: Command (Blue) Movement (Green) Artillery and Skirmish (Purple) Combat (Red). Or, to put it another way, turns are spent planning objectives and performing special actions, moving and deploying forces, and inflicting damage on enemy formations. In this game, you force your enemy to flee by causing him to perform, "assessments," something like a division-wide morale check. The more "fatigue" (combat attrition) a formation suffers, the more likely it is that they would have to perform an assessment. You can find a link to the quick-reference sheet here.

In this game, we used small orange dice to track fatigue

As I will discuss below, this is very much a game about leaders. A general can perform any number of useful actions at the beginning of a turn (or game) but as the game continues, formations which suffer fatigue will become less responsive to actions. Likewise, as the game continues, it is more and more likely that a general will become bogged down and trapped in a formation which has suffered a great deal of fatigue.

 As the rules and The Wargaming Company website repeatedly state, this is a perspective-based wargame. Some wargame rulesets allow you to be Blücher, Ney, Bagration, Beckwith, O'Hare, and Riflemen Harris. That is to say, they allow you to command at the army, corps, division, regiment, company, and individual levels. Et sans résultat! is uncompromising in its commitment to deliver the best experience on one of those levels: that of a high-level commander. Whether you are commanding at the army, corps, or division level, that is scale of play. You are not interested in flanking the enemy's battalion, you are interested in flanking his division or corps.

In that sense, ESR is firmly perspective-based wargame fought on the grand tactical scale. If your favorite part of gaming is wrecking an enemy battalion, this game is probably not for you. On the other hand, if you want a realistic window into the type of decisions which troops commanders actually had to make. As a result, the experience of the game is quite different from other wargames I have played. Practically, what does this mean?

Troops begin ployed (in marching column) on the table's edges, commanders are left to develop the battle on their own. As opposed to many games, which plan for combat on turn 1 or 2, around a third of the game time was devoted to moving troops to the appointed positions on the battlefield. While this may sound like a drawback, in reality, much of the job of Kabinettskriege or Napoleonic general was accomplished before the first shot was fired. Et sans résultat! firmly demonstrates this to the player.

In ESR, generals are concerned with pressing things at their level of responsibility: committing and recalling artillery batteries to the fight, energetically deploying extra units from line into column, weighing the importance of personal intervention at crisis points on the battlefield, and forming new ad-hoc formations in order to plug gaps in the line. Your mileage may vary, but as a military historian focusing on this era, I found ESR to be incredibly compelling and enjoyable as a game system.

If you enjoyed this post, or any of our other posts, please consider liking us on facebook,  or following us on twitter. Finally, we are dedicated to keeping Kabinettskriege ad-free. In order to assist with this, please consider supporting us via the donate button in the upper right-hand corner of the page. As always:

Thanks for Reading,

Alex Burns