Imperial and Royal Army during the Napoleonic Wars
Background to the army
The name "Imperial and Royal Army" was born in 1745 and the "royal" part referred to the Apostolic Kingdom of Hungary. The key feature of the army of the Austrian Empire during the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars (1792-1815) was that, due to the multi-national nature of the territories, regiments were split into Germans units (which included Czech-troops recruited from Bohemia, Moravia and Silesia, Polish and Ukrainian units recruited from the territory of Galicia, Flemings and Walloons territory of the former Austrian Netherlands, and Italians) and Hungarian units (which included troops from Croatia and Transylvania).
Wartime conscription resulted in elements of untrained men in every battalion, a problem exacerbated by incoherent training across the regions. The army was beset by constant government frugality and a plethora of confusing orders and reorganisations. Although some regiments were disbanded in 1809 following the loss of their recruiting-grounds, others were allocated new areas yet kept their old designations; for example, the Walloon regiments whose recruiting areas were transferred to Bohemia.
The most powerful individual in the Army of the Austrian Empire during the period was Archduke Charles, who implemented wide-ranging and modernising reforms, particularly following the crushing defeat at Austerlitz. Charles was responsible for the severe check Napoleon suffered at the battle of Aspern-Essling, but after the subsequent defeat at Wagram retired from active command.
Recruitment in the German areas was partly by voluntary enlistment and a scheme of supplementary conscription, which was for lifetime service before 1802, ten years thereafter. Recruits for Hungarian regiments were organised by the Diet of Hungary by quota.
Each regiment had its own zone of recruitment within the Empire. The only exception to this was the Poles of Galicia, who were deemed untrustworthy and were split up across the regiments.
Regiments were commanded by an Inhaber (colonel-in-chief), whose title the regiment bore and who exercised a relatively high amount of power, including over the appointment of officers below field rank. Officers were largely from the lesser aristocracy whose commissions depended more on their social connections or power, though especially in wartime limited promotion from the ranks was permitted.
At the outset of war in 1793, the army numbered fifty-seven line regiments, including grenadier and light infantry companies. Eighteen Grenzer light infantry regiments, three garrison regiments and the Stabs Infanterie Regiment for HQ duties. In addition, an irregular Frei-Corps light infantry was raised in wartime.
An Austrian line regiment typically consisted of two field battalions - Leib- and Oberst- battalions - each of six fusilier companies; also, a grenadier division of two companies, which were normally detached to form composite grenadier battalions with those of two other regiments. In addition, it included one garrison battalion (Oberstleutnant - Battalion) composed of four companies which served as a source for reserves at the regiment depot. The established strength of a 'German' line regiment in theory was 4,575 men, though this number was rarely above 2-3,000, especially in peacetime. With three battalions, 'Hungarian' regiments had a nominal strength of 5,508.
The line company had four officers -
The NCOs in a line company numbered 14 and included -
- Feldwebel (sergeant-major)
- Four Corporals (sergeants)
- Fourierschützen (quartermaster)
- Eight Gefreiter (corporals)
In addition, the company had three musicians and a Zimmermann (pioneer). All in all, in wartime company strengths of all other ranks ranged from 120-230; grenadier companies between 112-140.
The introduction of new regulations in 1805 and 1807 did little to disrupt the traditional three-rank line formation of battalions in action, and the use of the 'battalion-column' for movement. Little emphasis was put on the creation of skirmishing troops and light infantry tactics, a matter usually expected only of the Grenzer and Jäger troops. The most notorious of the 1807 introductions was the 'mass', a closely packed variant on the 'square' tactic of other armies, which was proven in conflict against the Turks. Whilst very vulnerable to artillery, the formation was more than adequate against cavalry and easier to deploy around the battlefield.
- József Zachar, Habsburg uralom, állandó hadsereg és magyarság, 1683-1792, Zrínyi kiadó, Budapest, 2004, p. 104