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why the Prussian army was so weak ?

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  • why the Prussian army was so weak ?

    Before French revolution it was one of the best army of the world with a great prestige ( Frederik the great )
    Prussia was a military nation Voltaire even said it was an army which created an state.

    On the paper it was again one of the strongest European army in 1806, so why did it lost only in 1 week ?
    "Another such victory over the Romans and we are undone".

    Pyrrhus of Epirus

  • #2
    I'm sure there's some Prussian specialist out there that can help you out in this question.
    I read somewhere that it had something to do with the nobles that commanded the troops. Sorry, for the vague answer, I'll have to look it up.
    All warfare is based on deception.
    Sun Tzu - Art of war - Chapter One - Laying Plans


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    • #3
      IIRC, their formations and tactics hadn't changed since Frederick the Great. Forty years is a long time between wars.
      Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.

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      • #4
        That was my thinking. Going from memory here (a university paper written more than 20 years ago) but the Prussian army had not updated its methods much from Frederick's time and they lacked the "General Staff" of later years. Officer training was low and the reserve system was also very poor.

        Piccolo,

        If you do not mind reading in English you could check out one of these books:

        "Iron Kingdom" by Christopher Clark
        "The Pursuit of Glory" by Tim Blanning and David Cannadine
        "The End of the Old Order" by Frederick Kagan

        All three are on my bookshelf waiting their turn.
        Last edited by The Purist; 27 Sep 07, 19:34.
        The Purist

        Words ought to be a little wild, for they are the assault of thoughts on the unthinking - John Maynard Keynes.

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        • #5
          It took the 1806 defeats at Jena-Auerstadt to modernize, and i think to establish a general staff, also it caused the growth of a regenerated patriotism encouraged by the tugenbund or "league of virtue", the internal admin was reformed by the minister Baron Heinrich von Hardenburg whilst the army was reformed and constructed by von Scharnhorst and von Gneisenau.
          The Prussian army was enlarged by the mobilisation of thelandwehr (militia) which by 1813-14 had expelled the French troops from Germany and then invaded France, Frederick William himself was present at the battles of Bautzen, Dresden, and the decisive battle of Leipzig. And the treatment meted out to Prussia in 1806 was repaid in 1814 and the hundred days campaign, with a total uncompromising attitude towards the French, in fact it took all of Wellington's diplomatic skills to prevent the worst excesses.
          Last edited by Post Captain; 28 Sep 07, 11:03.
          Never Fear the Event

          Admiral Lord Nelson

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          • #6
            Originally posted by revans View Post
            IIRC, their formations and tactics hadn't changed since Frederick the Great. Forty years is a long time between wars.
            I agree, from what I've read of Jena, the Prussians had no doctrine of skirmishers so when they reached the plateau they remained in ranks whilst the French light troops just picked them apart ready for the main force.

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            • #7
              Frederick the Great was succeeded by Frederick Wilhelm II. Under his rule, the Prussian army 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.

              Robert Mantle wrote: "The Prussian infantry who mobilised in 1806 were products of a system that had not altered since the Seven Years War. They were immaculately dressed, drilled into unquestioning obedience, savagely punished if they fell foul of their commanders and were unfit for the new type of warfare in every possible way. At Auerstädt and Jena, they discovered their training was totally inadequate and as Napoleon's troops tore into the retreating Prussian army, its elderly commanders succumbed to panic or shocked paralysis. 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."
              My avatar: Center of the Cross of the Légion d'honneur (Legion of Honour) of the First French Empire (Napoleonic Era), 3rd type (awarded between 1806-1808). My Légion d'honneur. :-)

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              • #8
                Reforms of 1806-1812.

                Digby-Smith wrote: "Under the terms of the Treaty of Tilsit of 1807, Prussia's army had been limited to 42.000 men. 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."

                The Prussian military did assessed how and why the disaster had occurred. The requirements included:

                -Raising new troops;
                -Practice in the art of skirmishing;
                -Training in the divisional and corps system;
                -Accountability of the armed services to the German people;
                -Institutionalization of military genius in a centralized, elite general staff.

                Sources: Hofschroer - "Prussian Light Infantry 1792-1815"
                Hofschroer - "Prussian Staff and Specialist Troops 1791-1815"
                napoleon-series.org
                web2.airmail.net/napoleon
                My avatar: Center of the Cross of the Légion d'honneur (Legion of Honour) of the First French Empire (Napoleonic Era), 3rd type (awarded between 1806-1808). My Légion d'honneur. :-)

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by IanDC View Post
                  I agree, from what I've read of Jena, the Prussians had no doctrine of skirmishers so when they reached the plateau they remained in ranks whilst the French light troops just picked them apart ready for the main force.
                  Well, since you mentioned the Prussian light troops at Jena...take a look at this interesting article by Kevin Kiley.

                  Prussian Light Infantry in the Jena Campaign.

                  Introduction: http://www.napoleon-series.org/milit...ianlight1.html

                  Background: http://www.napoleon-series.org/milit...ianlight2.html

                  Prussian Light infantry theory and employment: http://www.napoleon-series.org/milit...ianlight3.html

                  Conclusion - The Reformers: http://www.napoleon-series.org/milit...anlight3a.html
                  My avatar: Center of the Cross of the Légion d'honneur (Legion of Honour) of the First French Empire (Napoleonic Era), 3rd type (awarded between 1806-1808). My Légion d'honneur. :-)

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                  • #10
                    Thanks, seems the Prussians nominally had quite a lot of light troops but they were in reality no different to the line units. A nice summary in the 3rd part of the article -

                    "The bottom line, though, with respect to the development of light infantry, and light infantry-mission capable line infantry, was that ‘In the Prussian army the introduction of light infantry battalions and company sharpshooters was undertaken in too formalistic a manner to achieve the same results’ that the French achieved in their light infantry units as well as their line outfits."

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                    • #11
                      Kiley's articles are simply the sort of one-sided, badly researched fiction one expects from resolutely monolingual Anglophone writers. He does not list a single German source in the original language. The best place to start is with Kurt Jany's essays on the infantry and cavalry of 1806, followed by the third volume of his History of the Prussian army. All have been reprinted in recent years and are available from good booksellers. They are in German and printed in Fraktur. Kiley claims to be able to read both German and the Fraktur script. The absense of the most basic German sources from his bibliography give lie to that claim.

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