Differences between 18th century warfare and Napoleonic wars?

Jan 2015
2,950
MD, USA
#11
Massive changes in the basic drill of maneuver, infantry could move from line to column very quickly in Napoleonic wars and could maneuver around the battlefield relatively easily. In teh 7 years war they could only with greatest of difficulty. Battles tended to start at 2 in the afternoon as it took that long to deploy form marching to fighting formation.
Huh?? Where are you getting this from? Drill and deployment of troops was well-developed and perfectly functional by the 18th century! Yes, it always takes some time to move thousands of men around, but armies had been doing that since the Bronze Age! It never took all day.

7 years wars most armies did not march in time, (cadence marching, this was a Prussian super power)
No. Armies had been marching in time for about 200 years, at that point.

Artillery was much lighter, guns could be easily moved around the battlefield.
Fast-moving artillery like gallopers and grasshoppers were already common by the American Revolution, though I don't know when they came into wide use.

Seven years war it took huge amounts of time to deploy for battle, adjusting troops once the battle stated was really really hard, moving artillery around the battlefield really hard.
Sorry, I'm just baffled by this idea. I don't doubt that there were changes to manuals and drill by the Napoleanic era, but "really hard"?? Not that I've ever seen.

Matthew
 

pugsville

Ad Honorem
Oct 2010
9,382
#14
Huh?? Where are you getting this from? Drill and deployment of troops was well-developed and perfectly functional by the 18th century! Yes, it always takes some time to move thousands of men around, but armies had been doing that since the Bronze Age! It never took all day.



No. Armies had been marching in time for about 200 years, at that point.



Fast-moving artillery like gallopers and grasshoppers were already common by the American Revolution, though I don't know when they came into wide use.



Sorry, I'm just baffled by this idea. I don't doubt that there were changes to manuals and drill by the Napoleanic era, but "really hard"?? Not that I've ever seen.

Matthew
I;m getting this by reading about the development of European armies and warfare in rge 18th Centry books I can recommend to understand this

The Anatomy of Victory : battle tactics 1689-1783 (Brent Nosworthy)
The Background of Napoleonic Warfare : the theory of Military tactics in eighteenth-century France (Robert S Quimby)
(these first two I very highly recommned)

The Giant of the Grand Siecle : the French Army 1610-1715 (John A Lynn)
The Army of Maris Theresia, The Armed forces of Imperial Austria 1740-1780 (Christopher Duffy)
The Army of Fredrick the Great (Christopher Duffy)

At the Start of the 18th Century, Regiments were mostly private owned by their Colonels, armies often disbanded much of their troops, between cmapaigns, standardised drill within armies often did not exist. Troops did not march in time. The Fusil , burnng match and gunpowder kept in pockets discouraged close order drill. Artillery was very heavy and the drivers often not part of the military. Armies took darn near for ever to deploy from marching columns to line of battle. Troops spent very little time trianing. They mostly were not in barracks but dispearsed in small detachments in civilain houses. Many solider had jobs.

Linear warfare evolved the way it did for reasons of what was possible,

There were a whole host of changes and innovations throughout the 18th century with different nations adapting different measures at different times. Cadence marching took a long time to spread across all armies. The French adopted divisions in the 7 years war because they were so bad at deploying. Standised Drill. simplfiped manual of arms, flintlocks, paper cartridges, disvsions, cavalry reforms, artillery refroms. development of military schools, teh 18th century is not one of statis but one of pretty constant change and innovation.

The widespread adoption of lighter and more Mobile artillery was mainly kicked off by the French Gribeauval system in the 1760s. (though Frederick the Great's use of horse artillery forshadowied this but very few numbers, ouutside these batteries he was pretty neglectful of his artillery) There was actually an attempt to do much the same in France in the 1670s but the reform failed , the ligter guns had some technical problems and the extreme focus of siege warfre in France at that point

Gribeauval system - Wikipedia

There is lighter guns, hard charging cavalry developments recur, Gustav Adolphus in the 30 years war. But trends afterwards sort of undid some of this.
'
 

pugsville

Ad Honorem
Oct 2010
9,382
#15
"one of the eighteenth-centiury's most importnat discoveries about the Anceint art of war concerned the practice of marchingin step in closely packed formations. Moevment of compact blocks had been charcteristic of the swiss and Laandsknechts during the Renaissace, and the Dutch and Swedes in the "pike and shot' era of the early seventeenth century , but the rise of firepower in the later part of the seventeenth century brought about a considerable opening up of tehtactical formations. Marching in step fell out of use, and the coloumns of march became very long and were consequently difficult to form into line of battle

Hesse and Prussia redicovered marching in step after teh War of the Spanish Succession, and in the middle of the eighteenth century the 'cadenced step' in tioght formations was promoted by two formidable advocates - Marshal Saxe and Frederick the Great. It was adopted by British Infantry in 1748, and introduced to France by the ordenaince of 1754."

Military Experience in the Age of Reason
By Christopher Duffy
Military Experience in the Age of Reason
 
Dec 2016
107
Spain
#16
Thank you for your feedback. I have also read the book "Military Experience in the Age of Reason" and while I understand that standardised drill, marching and set up formations for the battles took a lot of time to be completed, I still don't understand why this may be different in Napoleonic Wars. You mentioned that "Regiments were mostly private owned by their Colonels" in the Age of Reason. May this fact make the difference compared with Napoleonic Wars?

Regarding armies in numbers, yet in the Age of Reason a big battle could have around 40,000 men per side, this is the case of the Battle of Minden, 1759 between Allies Great Britain, Hanover, Hesse-Kasel and France-Saxony (37,000 vs 44,000 respectively). A big battle in Napoleonic Wars could have up to 90,000 men in one side, this is the case of Battle of Austerlitz (around 70,000 french vs 95,000 russians and austrians/Holy Roman Empire). If Napoleonic Wars almost doubled in numbers the Age of Reason armies, why then was easier and quickier to prepare armies for the battles (drilling, marching, setting up formations) in Napoleonic Wars?
 

Chlodio

Forum Staff
Aug 2016
4,319
Dispargum
#17
Can anyone confirm this: Frederick the Great perfected marching drill in the mid-18th century but by Jena, the Prussian Army was only copying the forms of Frederick's drill but the substance (they knew how to march on the parade ground, but did had forgotten how to use drill to win battles).

Also, the French Revolution destroyed the old French officer corps and the levee en masse brought in huge numbers of untrained men at a time when there were fewer officers to train them. Napoleon's armies usually maneuvered on the battlefield in columns rather than lines because columns were simpler to maneuver in. Columns then inclined the French to attack with the bayonet instead of with musketry which would have required battle lines. I'm not saying the French didn't use lines at all nor am I saying the French didn't use musket fire. I'm saying the French used less musket fire and more bayonet charges than most other armies.

If these are both true, then there was a decline in marching drill during the Napoleonic era from previous decades.
 
Jul 2019
561
New Jersey
#18
I recall reading that the Continental Army (or to be more precise, Henry Knox) was a visionary in terms of increasing the artillery to infantry ratio, which was subsequently adopted by many European armies. I don't know if that's true, but I believe it came from Hackett-Fisher's Washington's Crossing, which is a reputable source.
 

pugsville

Ad Honorem
Oct 2010
9,382
#19
Can anyone confirm this: Frederick the Great perfected marching drill in the mid-18th century but by Jena, the Prussian Army was only copying the forms of Frederick's drill but the substance (they knew how to march on the parade ground, but did had forgotten how to use drill to win battles).

Also, the French Revolution destroyed the old French officer corps and the levee en masse brought in huge numbers of untrained men at a time when there were fewer officers to train them. Napoleon's armies usually maneuvered on the battlefield in columns rather than lines because columns were simpler to maneuver in. Columns then inclined the French to attack with the bayonet instead of with musketry which would have required battle lines. I'm not saying the French didn't use lines at all nor am I saying the French didn't use musket fire. I'm saying the French used less musket fire and more bayonet charges than most other armies.

If these are both true, then there was a decline in marching drill during the Napoleonic era from previous decades.
In the French Royal army the training of men was mainly left to the officers of fortune and NCOs. The Officers of fortunes were officers promoted form the ranks making some 20% of the officer corps. poor they generally were unable to rise any further than company level officers. (though 7 years war at least one made General but it was the engineers) Noble officers often lived their lives not connected that much with day to day soldiering, often taking Long leaves. And the dispersal of the soldiers in small groups in private homes rather than barracks (though France many were in barracks in Garrison towns) could hinder serious training.

The Napoleonic drill could be simpler, more flexible, faster than the earlier linear warfare drill. 18th centruy drill and military theoreticians could make things overly complex at times. The Napoleonic wars armies were at war for a longer period. And the officer schools had been estblished (which they often had not in the 7 years war) A fairly well trained infantryman could be turned out in 3 months.

Come the revolution these officers generally stayed, and the new officers in the revolutionary army were overwhelmingly from NCOs often with long service. The Revoutionary armies were at war, in camps in large numbers all the time, the time and oppotunity for drilling was much more frequent. The Royal French amry offical doctrine was to march in coloumns around the battelfield. The revolutionary and Napoleonic armies never changed the offical docrtine manual , which in fact was very advanced and incoprorated much that many consider 'new' in the French revolutionary armies. While the Revolutionary armies started with a lot of untrained men, and the levee in mass presented a massive problem in training by the later revolutionary war period this had mostly been addressed. the Napoleonic army was under armies fullly mobiised and drilling 1800-1805 and was a excellant drilling and trained force. 1805 was the height of French army in many ways.

On Frederick teh great, changes in the organization of the Prussian army eliminated substantially the pay of officers, (captains used to receive the pay of troops on leave, and about half were on leave for most of the year, and Generals woudl still offical be colonels of regiments and captains of companies) this made most prussian officers (noble or not) too poor to retire. Which left an ever aging officer corps, that by 1806 many were not physically up for campaigning. Frederick was increasing dictatorial as he aged, and increasing wanted people who did what they were told rather than intelligent officers who understood what they were doing. The Generals he had a good working relationship died and Frederick had not made the connection with the new generals. TEh Reason why of teh drills to some extenet was lost. And otehr armies parooting teh drill, discipine often failed to understoof the piont of the drills was abilkity to manourver on teh Battlefield (looking at you Russian army under Paul, but there were others, and I have read of a split in the Russian army between the 'St Peterberg Court school' and the 'Southern School', often at war fighting the turks, we don't care about your parade ground drill and nice proper uniforms down here we're a fighting army)

Frederick was always tinkering with drill about movements form column to line and back.
 

pugsville

Ad Honorem
Oct 2010
9,382
#20
I recall reading that the Continental Army (or to be more precise, Henry Knox) was a visionary in terms of increasing the artillery to infantry ratio, which was subsequently adopted by many European armies. I don't know if that's true, but I believe it came from Hackett-Fisher's Washington's Crossing, which is a reputable source.
I doubt it. The Americans had to learn to make artillery and a lot of their manufacturing just failed to produce a working poeice. Captures was the only way to get guns. The numbers American artillery was dictated by chance and limited manfacturing capacity rather than doctrine.