Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Fusiliers von Pelet, Jena 1806

Regiment of the Day

More 18mm Saxons from Eureka. Today we have the Light Infantry Brigade from the Saxon Advanced Guard Division at Jena, 1806.

Light infantry is not the first thing that comes to mind when you think of the Prussian army during the 1806 campaign.

However, the Saxon forces which fought at Jena, contained a high proportion of light troops compared to the Prussians. Especially in the Advanced Guard Division, we find 3 'regiments'  (at Battalion strength) brigaded to form a large brigade of light troops.

Specialist sharp shooters, the Saxon light infantry were the equal of the French in the theory of light infantry. However, their small numbers and their lack of real experience separated them dramatically from the French.

So today, we have my interpretation of a brigade of mixed Saxon light infantry battalions  at Jena, 1806

3 bases of light troops, plus 3 skirmisher bases. Figures from Alan Marsh's wonderful 18mm Saxons - available from Eureka Miniatures. I can't rave enough about this range of figures ... they are simply brilliant, and excellent to paint. Highly animated, and have a flavour all of their own. Recommended !

For the 'command group', I have distributed an officer and an NCO amongst the stands, so there is no actual command stand with this brigade. On the tabletop this denotes that these bases are less rigid in their structure than line troops ... and possibly have a higher initiative. No effect on the rules of course, but purely cosmetic.
And on the subject of cosmetic - whats with those light blue jackets ?  OK, good question. Doing research on Saxon light infantry of 1806 turns up very little if nothing at all.  We know very well that the line troops wore mostly white with regimental facings, and we know that the Leib Grenadiers wore red jackets. They light troops probably wore white jackets as well .. or possibly light green. The artillery wore green, as did the pioneers.

I would like to distinguish my lights on the table though, if possible .. so what to do ?  I then found a plate from Knotel which has a Saxon light infantry NCO with a light blue jacket. May have been a one-off experience, but who really knows ?

For the sake then of cosmetic effect, and distinguishing my light troops from my line on a huge battlefield, I have made the gross assumption that each brigade of Saxon light troops during this campaign wore a distinctive, but plausible jacket ... probably furnished out of the purse of the colonel fortunate enough to purhcase the commission for this elite unit. Light blue jackets for this unit it is !

Scharfschutzen Brigade von Pelet advances into the woods with a thich screen of skirmishers in support.

 Sharpshooters spread out and take aim - taking it up to the French with their new-fangled methods of warfare.

Now, a question has come up on TMP about the strength and presence of dedicated light infantry formations in the Saxon army in 1806.

Good question - not simple to give hard answers to that one due to the fact that the 'Saxon' forces which fought at Jena were tightly integrated with Prussian formations.

The Saxon army did not have an established dedicated light infantry force at battalion strength (or larger), as far as I can work out.

What we do have is a complex mix.

There is also the wide variation in source material to consider. Looking at the various source material, there are a number of possible answers, so I will attempt to string together one possible scenario based on the source material.

More detailed source material can also be found looking at the OOB for Saalfeld, Oct 10 1806, which is basically the 'Saxon' advanced guard division at Jena vs Lannes V Corps, operating at full strength.

I am pulling the OOB directly from the Republique lists, which are based on various source material and research prior to that. One thing that they will do in the Republique OOBs is group smaller fragments of units together to represent a minimal sized force of 3-4 bases instead of having lots of 1 base units.

Playing these battles at the level of Corps commander, the Corps commander player needs to know that such and such a Division has a light troop capability of around 3-4 bases .. and so a brigade of 3-4 bases is then shown on the OOB. If that brigade is in fact made up of lots of smaller units (with a variety of parent regiments, uniforms, etc), then that is beyond the scope of the Corps commander's problems for the day.

Anyway, into the detail as far as I can work out :

Looking at the 'von Pelet light infantry brigade' in the advanced guard, we have 3 bases, or approx 1600 bayonets, drawn from 3 different battalions.

Each of these battalions in this case are drawn from fusiliers of Prussian regiments.

1 battalion is from GM von Pelet's fusiliers, IR 14, attached to Tauentzein's Division. This unit was detached from Tauentzein's Division to the Advanced Guard to form a light brigade under the command of GM von Pelet.

The Rühle and Rabenau battalions are drawn also from Prussian fusiliers - Nr 13 and 15, and along with a battalion sized detachment of the Saxon Prinz Clement regiment. are then moved to the Advanced Guard division.

Bolstering the light brigade, we then also have a couple of Jaeger companies - Valentin and Masars thrown in to make up the numbers.

At Saalfeld, we have :
Pelet - 600 men
Ruhe - 600 men
Rabenau - 600 men
Valentin and Masars - 150 each

Thats enough for 4 bases.

.. and during the battle of Saalfeld, they lost around 10% casualties (900 killed out of 8900 odd). So that would accurately reduce numbers down to 3 bases by the time we get to Jena.

There is also the lamentable loss of Prince Louis Ferdinand, and General Belvilaqua, commander of the Saxon forces at Saalfeld, so again by the time we get to Jena the top level command of the army is in a state of mild chaos.

Adding up all these factors, we should see a light brigade in the 'Saxon' force at Jena made up of a motley collection of surviving troops - mostly Prussian fusiliers from different regiments, various Jagers, Schutzen, and possibly other small detachments that showed any talent for skirmishing tactics and initiative prior to the big battle.

How to model such a unit in the space of 3 bases of infantry ? Not a simple task.

Ideally, I should paint up 3 bases of mixed Prussian fusiliers in mixed facings. The problem that I have with that is in playing a big battle ... as soon as the proverbial cannonballs start flying, you end up with a growing pile of casualty stands that need to be removed, whilst still retaining some sense of order in your fine collection of miniatures, and their separation into regiments, brigades, Divisions and Corps.

One solution (and the solution that I have chosen here, after some consideration), is to create a brigade of 3 bases of plausible but distinctively uniformed light infantry .. that are clearly part of the Saxon wing of the army.

A gross compromise ? yes, but one that works for me, and was fun to put together.

1 comment:

  1. Resaerch what you can to get as closely to the "truth" as feasible, as you have; at the end of the day, "I'm the Kurfurst" (or whatever) of my miniature army, and if I decree that the Light Infantry shall wear light blue jackets, then... "Die Jackets light blue will be!"

    Re Saalfeld 1806 - an interesting battle to fight. I have a good e-friend who lives in Dresden, and speaks and writes impeccable English - if only my German was 10% as good! Anyway, a few years ago he visited the US for the first time, and in honor of his visit we played out Saalfeld in my basement. The French won, but he manged to have the Prussians in his force take most of the losses, LOL. I hope to return the visit in the next few years, and sing at least one chorus of "Ein Prosit" with him, although both of our tastes incline more to dry Rieslings than beer!