Frederick the Greats - Oblique order and tactics

Dec 2009
969
UK
I've been doing some brushing up on the 18th Century as to this day it was my lightest era of study due mainly to my dislike of the gunpowder era, however I had a change of heart and now find the era fascinating to the point its quickly becoming one of my favourite eras.

To the question.

I've been reviewing Frederick the Greats approach to war for the Prussian army and came across his preference for the Oblique order.

I was wondering after reviewing this, it seems, well ............ littered with pitfalls.

How often did he use it and how many times did it work?

It failed at Kolin, worked in Leuthen but then the Austrians had obstacles obscuring their view, it was not used in an open field of which is how I judge the effectiveness of a battle strategy.

The approach to me seems a big gamble.

I read somewhere who attributed Hohenfriedberg to the Oblique order but when I read about that war it seemed it was more the Prussian Dragoon cavalry who won the day rather than any flanking tactic.

So question is ...........

1) How many battles did he win with the Oblique order?

2) Did the plan involve flanking and firing muskets or at bayonet range, and if so was that the same for even the weakened line (bayonet or shot)?

3) Was Prussian Cavalry considered top brass or superior within Europe as it seems to me Frederick focused a lot on his cavalry creating elite Light Cavalry divisions to assist with his maneuver's?
 
May 2018
888
Michigan
I hope someone with a good knowledge of Frederick the Great answers this, as I am curious as well. The only example to which I can speak with greater than cursory knowledge is the Battle of Salamanca in the Peninsular War, where Wellington attacked in the oblique order and handily defeated Marmont's army in a very short period ("defeated 40,000 men in 40 minutes").

The oblique order needs an element of surprise so your opponent doesn't compensate for it, and Wellington caught Marmont essentially with his pants down: Marmot thought he was attacking a small rearguard, so when Wellington attacked, Marmont was completely out of position to react.

Foy famously summed up the battle:

"This battle is the most cleverly fought, the largest in scale, the most important in results, of any that the English have won in recent times. It brings up Lord Wellington's reputation almost to the level of that of Marlborough. Up to this day we knew his prudence, his eye for choosing good positions, and the skill with which he used them. But at Salamanca he has shown himself a great and able master of manoeuvring. He kept his dispositions hidden nearly the whole day: he allowed us to develop our movement before he pronounced his own: he played a close game: he utilized the oblique order in the style of Frederick the Great."
 
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Sep 2016
1,323
Georgia
Oblique order was used by Epaminondas to crush strongest wing of Spartan army at Leuctra in 371 BC. Greek armies usually had stronger right wing. Because of that, in battle often both opposite right wings would defeat opposing left wings. Epaminondas massed 50-deep column on his left wing and also stationed Sacred Band there. His shallower and weaker center and right wing columns were drawn up so that they were progressively further to the right and rear of the proceeding column in Echelon formation.

Epaminondas used the same approach at Mantinea. He also mixed his cavalry with light infantry, which would be able to defeat enemy cavalry. Battle was won by Epaminondas, but unfortunately he got mortally wounded.

Alexander the Great also used Echelon formation at Gaugamela, according to our sources. Alexander also mixed his light cavalry of flank-guards with infantry in that battle.