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In the last diary entry, I did something I try to avoid doing: filling a diary entry with nothing but text: no numbers, no pictures, no nothing, just text. While there is no doubt that a captivating writer can make such an entry compelling reading, I have no illusions that I am such a writer, and so I try to break up the text with graphical content of one form or another. Mostly, this is pretty easy to do, as my subject matter frequently lends itself to a visual presentation.
This entry concerns the organization of the opposing armies at Gettysburg, and compares and contrasts it with the organization of the opposing armies at Austerlitz. While organization is frequently presented in terms of line and block charts, here I thought I would take a different approach and present it as a series of charts. This brings some differences into sharper relief than line and block charts, but in particular it is useful for bringing out differences in field strength as opposed to paper strength.
With that said, let’s begin.
The great majority of the soldiers in all of the armies under study were in the infantry, and it is with the infantry that we shall begin.
The Regiment is the lowest-level infantry organization we’re going to look at in any detail, and it is the foundational organization for all the armies of this period. In the older European tradition, founded in the seventeenth century, regiments were the key administrative organization. It was at the regimental level that men were raised, trained, equipped, and paid. In the Austrian army, for example, as late as the mid-eighteenth century every regiment did its own recruiting and had its own recruiting officers with which to do it. It was only with the introduction of conscription that this system was abandoned in favor of a centralized system for bringing men into the army and then sending them to the regiments where they were to serve.
Even though by Austerlitz the regiments no longer had as much autonomy as they had a couple of generations earlier, the main thing about regiments in the European system was their permanence. Once created, a regiment was generally expected to remain in existence for generations. Over the regiment’s lifetime, it might be organized into more or fewer battalions, which might be composed of more or fewer companies, and they might have more or fewer men, but the regiment would endure. Generally, an officer or soldier would expect to remain in the same regiment his entire career.
Civil War regiments were similar to the traditional regiments in the permanence of the relationship between a soldier and his regiment. Volunteers didn’t just join the army, they joined a particular regiment, and expected that their entire term of service would be with that regiment. Where Civil War regiments differed from traditional regiments was in the permanence of the regiment. Civil War regiments were formed just for the war — or three years, or two years, or some other fixed, short period. Far from being enduring institutions, they were entirely disposable.
To introduce what the difference in regimental permanence meant in practice, it is time for our first chart.
What the above chart shows is the distribution of regiment sizes at the two battles for the four armies. If we look at the numbers for Gettysburg, we can see that the average regiment sizes are about 300 or so men, somewhat less for the Union, somewhat more for the Confederates. However, we do see a classic bell-shaped curve for each army. The source of the uniformity is that both armies raised regiments with an initial strength of about 1,000 men organized into ten companies. However, as time went on, disease, battle, and desertion took their toll and the regiments would shrink. Generally speaking, the larger a regiment, the newer it was and the less arduous service it had seen.
If, on the other hand, we look at Austerlitz, what we see are widely scattered sizes. What is going on? Well, the first thing we should recall is that European regiments were built for endurance and were primarily administrative, not tactical, organizations. What a European regiment did was raise troops and organize them into battalions. Napoleonic regiments didn’t really go to war in the same sense that Civil War regiments did: what Napoleonic regiments did was send their field battalions to war. The regiment itself retained a skeletal structure for organizing and training more troops back home, generally called a depot battalion. Field battalions usually served together, but not always, so much of the spread you see is because not all the regiments had all their battalions present: some had one, some two, others three. The Austrian army in particular was an ad-hoc force consisting of whatever units could be pulled together. The reason for this is that the main Austrian army had been sent to Italy, and the Austrian army that was sent to Germany was forced to surrender earlier that year. So, the Austrian army at Austerlitz was a few units that escaped the German debacle along with some depot battalions hastily sent into the field with whatever men they might have on hand. (Remember that depot battalions were essentially schools for soldiers: they were not intended to ever fight as battalions.)
Now that we know this about the Allied army, it is time for our next chart: this one compares Gettysburg regiments not with Austerlitz regiments, but with Austerlitz battalions:
First off, this de-clutters the picture considerably. While the picture for Austerlitz isn't as clean as for the opposing armies at Gettysburg, we see a definite peak at Austerlitz of around 500 to 700 men per battalion. We also, however, see that a battalion at Austerlitz was about twice the size of a regiment at Gettysburg: why? The difference has little to do with paper strength. French and Austrian battalions were built on almost exactly the same 1,000 paper strength as a Civil War regiment, and the Russian battalions typically were on paper a little smaller, just over 700 men. The difference essentially represents the shorter length of time the armies had been campaigning. Most of the regiments at Gettysburg were raised about 18 months before, and had conducted multiple campaigns and fought multiple battles in the interim. The armies at Austerlitz, on the other hand, had only entered the field a few months before the battle, and for most of the soldiers, this was their first battle of the war. (Many of them were of course veterans of previous wars, but between wars the regiments had returned home and been generally rebuilt to something close to their paper strength.)
There is one interesting question about the above: if we think about Civil War regiments as being regiments of a single battalion (which is exactly how they're described in the 1863 U. S. Infantry Tactics Manual), we see a paper size of 700 to 1000 men for battalions in all the armies in both battles. In fact, that is a range we see again and again, when we look back through history. Wallenstein in 1632 formed his infantry in 700-man battalions. What is so magic about this number? Essentially, the idea was that this was about the largest body of men that could be commanded by voice, supplemented as need be by drum, bugle, or other instruments. Battalions could get smaller without suffering any great hardship, but they could not get larger without undergoing a metamorphosis into something that had to commanded in an entirely different way. Keeping your paper strength near the top of this scale had two advantages: First, it meant that your supply of top-quality commanders was used to command the maximum number of troops. Second, it gave you the maximum amount of head-room before campaign wastage turned your battalions into companies in all but name.
Anyway, let’s move on and take a look at the next highest level of infantry organization: the brigade.
If we look at the opposing armies at Gettysburg, we see a striking similarity in the brigade sizes between the two armies as well as a relatively narrow range of sizes. However, if we look at Austerlitz, we see a radically different picture. So what is going on at Austerlitz?
Well, first off, the French, although much more systematic than the Allies, had a fondness for two basic brigade designs: the 2 regiment brigade (that's the cluster around 3600 men) and the one regiment brigade (that’s the cluster around 1600 men). The others represent various non-standard and under-strength brigades. The Allies, on the other hand, have nothing that can really be called a standard brigade organization. The Russians tended to go with brigades of two or three regiments (the three regiment brigades being the ones at the high end of the scale), while the Austrian infantry formed brigades from whatever flotsam and jetsam made it to the battlefield. The Russians also had a fondness for small Advance Guard brigades, which they tended to build around a battalion or two of light infantry, which accounts for some of the brigades at the small end of the scale.
What the French, Union, and Confederate systems had in common was that their brigades were semi-permanent organizations that were expected to endure across multiple campaigns. It was the French army under Napoleon that really introduced this concept. It was not at all true of armies in the older European tradition, like the Austrian and Russian armies. In this older tradition, brigades were formed on an as-needed basis and might endure for only a single battle. Generally, brigades tended to be of three broad types: “Advance Guard”, “Main Body”, or “Reserve”.
In terms of size, in the older European system Advance Guard brigades tended to be small, and consist of light infantry (and often cavalry as well) but there was otherwise no particular rule governing the size of a brigade. In the French and Civil War systems, on the other hand, it was held to be important that brigades be reasonably uniform in size in order to simplify command and control. The French achieved this by using their regimental infrastructure to periodically replace losses in the battalions, but the Civil War armies, lacking any comparable system, tended to do it by assigning new regiments to brigades that had lost heavily, or by merging badly reduced brigades together.
One important effect of the difference in the permanence of brigades was in how it affected the higher level ranks in the officer corps. The older European system had no enduring formations above the regiment level, and so had no enduring formations for officers above the rank of colonel to command. As a result, while these armies had higher ranks, officers who held them retained the colonelcy of their regiment. (High ranks were in-addition-to being a regimental colonel rather than instead-of being a regimental colonel.) On the other hand, in the French and Civil War systems, which are in general use today, brigades are enduring formations and provide enduring duties for their commanders, so the promotion of a colonel meant that he gave up his regimental job and a new officer was promoted to take his place.
Oddly enough, we do see an echo of the older European system in the Union army. Because the entire Union army existed only for the war, it did not offer a career path for officers. And so, the Union army had a dual-rank system: officers from the regular army had two ranks, one with the regular army and one with the “volunteer army”. Regular army ranks were almost invariably lower, but were at least as prized as volunteer ranks by the officers who held them. Once the war was over, the volunteer army ranks would vanish, but the regular army ranks would continue to exist.
Anyway, let’s move on from this digression into officer career paths and take a look at the next highest level of infantry organization: the division.
The division was not a part of the traditional European infantry organization. It seems to have arisen in the French army during the wars of the French Revolution, although I admit I do not know enough about the army organizations of that period to say more about its origin than that. What I can say is that it was slow to take hold outside the French army, and only when the Allies strove to reform their armies to meet the challenge of Napoleon did the division become a common and general organizational building block among the other European armies. That said, let’s take a look at divisions as they existed in the two battles:
If we start by looking at Austerlitz, we can see that no Allied division information is presented. This is because the Allied army lacked a division organization. (Two of the largest Allied columns were each divided into two parts called divisions, but this was not a general feature of Allied army organization as it was of the French.) The three largest French divisions were from Soult’s corps. During the battle, these large divisions fought almost as separate corps. Each had its own objectives and fought in a different part of the battlefield. The medium size divisions were from Lannes’ and Bernadotte’s corps, and were kept as part of a common corps mass during the battle. The smaller French divisions was a badly under-strength division of Davout‘s corps, temporarily badly reduced in size by straggling during its arduous forced-march to the battlefield, and the special divisions of the Army reserve: the Guard and the Combined Grenadier divisions.
The lack of an Allied division organization does shed new light on the Allied brigade organization described earlier. We saw in that organization a wide variation in the sizes of the brigades, including a tendency towards gigantism. (The largest Allied brigades were as large as French divisions.) Once we consider the lack of an Allied division system, this becomes more understandable. With only one intermediate level between the regiment and the column (the Allied equivalent of a corps), large brigades were in part a response to the need to keep the number of subordinate elements for an Allied column commander manageable.
Looking at Gettysburg, the difference at the division level between the Union and Confederate armies is quite striking given their similarity at the brigade level. There is almost no overlap between the sizes of Union and Confederate divisions; Union divisions being on average half the size of their Confederate counterparts. Some of this is due to the shrinkage the Union army had suffered in the months before the battle due to the end of the term of enlistment of many of the army’s soldiers, but it was mostly the result of a long-standing difference in the organization of the opposing armies. When McClellan formed the Army of the Potomac in 1862, he put in place its basic organizational structure of brigades/divisions/corps. The Army of Northern Virginia, however, had in that period no corps structure at all. The large number of divisions made the army quite difficult to manage, and part of the response to that was to make the divisions large. As such, it was similar in origins to the large sizes of many of the Allied brigades at Austerlitz: where there are fewer command levels, there is a tendency towards making the levels that do exist larger.
The corps was an organizational innovation of Napoleon’s, first introduced in the 1800 campaign. The older organizational model, as used by the Allied army at Austerlitz was the column. Both served a similar function insofar as they were ways to break up a large army to enable it to move on multiple roads, but the concept behind the corps was much more than that: it was the basic unit enabling strategic dispersal and tactical concentration while preserving unity of command. Strategic dispersal enabled strategic maneuver, as strikingly demonstrated in the Marengo and Ulm campaigns, and enabled Napoleon’s army to control of large areas without a network of fortresses manned by static garrisons, which was the method used in the 18th century.
While the origin of the corps was strategic rather than tactical, its existence was tactically significant. 18th century armies tended to arrive on the battlefield as a unitary force on a single road, and then would form along a single front, arrayed in two lines, one behind the other, with a mobile cavalry force maneuvering somewhere around the main body. Armies that reached the battlefield in multiple corps or columns, however, could not generally array themselves in this way. Instead each corps/column tended to have its own front and deployment that was distinct from that of the others. Before going into this topic any further, let’s take a look a the chart for the corps at Austerlitz and Gettysburg.
Tactically, the difference between corps and columns was not large. Both served a similar function as the largest organizational building block of an army. At this point, it is worth taking a look at the corps/column organizations for the armies at Gettysburg and Austerlitz:
If we look at Austerlitz, we see that the Allied column sizes were all fairly close together, but that the French corps sizes varied widely. The two small French corps were the reserve corps, composed of elite units (most notably the French Imperial Guard), and Davout’s corps, which was badly reduced in size by a long force-march to the battlefield. The large French corps was Soult’s, and before we discuss it, let’s perform a quick overview of battlefield command as it was exercised in the 19th century.
At the lowest levels (battalion and below at Austerlitz and regiment and below at Gettysburg), command was by voice: the commander moved about the battlefield with his men, but had his own designated position in their formation, and led them by spoken orders. However, this style of leadership was not practical for infantry organizations that were larger than 1,000 men or so. Above that level we see a second style of leadership: the mobile commander. The commander still accompanied his men as they moved about the battlefield, but he no longer maintained a more or less fixed position with respect to them. What he did was move about within his command, going from point to point and giving orders in person. If voice command was the style of commanders at the lowest levels, mobile command was the style of the middle levels: regiment (Austerlitz), brigade, and division.
As commands continue to grow in size and become spread over a larger area, however, the mobile command style becomes more difficult to manage: too much time is spent moving, the intermediate areas between the commands may be too dangerous for a commander to cross, and it is too difficult to maintain any sense of the overall status of the command. At this stage, we see the third command style: the stationary commander, where the commander remains more or less permanently in one spot during the battle, chosen for its having a good view of the battlefield, and sends orders and receives reports by courier. It is worth noting that none of these methods was pure: even the commanders of armies on occasion led troops in person by voice command, and even a battalion commander might have a detached company that he needed to command by courier. Still, in looking at how commanders usually led, we can clearly see how different styles predominated at different organizational levels.
All of this serves to set up the discussion of the tactical use of corps. If we look at the French army at Austerlitz, every corps except Soult’s corps was led in the mobile style. The corps commander accompanied his men and moved about within his command. Soult’s corps, however, was too large and too dispersed for that style of leadership: its three divisions were operating on completely different areas of the battlefield, and carrying out completely different missions against completely different opponents. Soult’s difficulty becomes apparent if we try to trace his movements during the battle. In the morning, he was with Napoleon at the Emperor’s command post on Zuran Hill. Soult later rode out to talk to Legrand and St. Hilaire before they moved out, and then he seems to disappear from accounts of the battle. His division commanders are prominent, Napoleon himself is prominent, but Soult, the man in the middle, disappears. Soult’s dilemma here was that he couldn’t go out with all his divisions: they were going in different directions, if he went with one of them, he effectively demoted himself to commanding one of his own divisions. If, on the other hand, he stayed Napoleon on Zuran Hill (which I think is what he largely did), there was little for him to do except act as a staff officer to Napoleon: he could see nothing that Napoleon could not see, receive no report that Napoleon could not receive, and send no order that Napoleon could not send. Soult’s peers were all with their men, and all had active and useful roles, but the very size of Soult’s command ironically rendered him superfluous.
If we turn to Gettysburg with the French experience at Austerlitz in mind, we see that the Union corps commanders acted as corps commanders did for all of Napoleon’s corps except for Soult: they were the most senior commanders in the mobile style, rather than the most junior commanders in the stationary style. Lee's army, however, was organized along very different lines: his three corps were all much larger than any of the French corps at Austerlitz apart from Soult’s as well as being much larger than any of the Union corps. So what is going on? Lee, I think, was responding to a different problem than Napoleon in his corps organization. Napoleon’s corps were the smallest units capable of independent movement, but in Lee’s army, divisions often moved independently; the three divisions of Ewell’s corps, for example, arrived at the battle from three different directions. Lee’s corps were tactical in origin, rather than strategic, and owe their existence to the difficult time Lee had in managing his army during the Seven Days Battle earlier in the war, when it had no corps organization and Lee had to control the divisions directly in a series of battles over a large area.
The essential problem I think was that Napoleon’s command system proved over-centralized for Civil War purposes. Lee’s corps system was not to enable his army to avoid moving as a single mass, like Napoleon’s was, but to provide a level of de-centralization in the army’s command structure. Lee and his corps commanders were essentially working out a solution to Soult’s dilemma: what role was there for a commander whose command was too large and operated over too wide an area for him to lead them in person, and yet who was not in command of the entire army? Napoleon was an exceptional individual, who combined extraordinary personal energy with the ability to keep an enormous amount of information about his army in his head. Further, the battlefields on which his army fought were almost always extremely open: a Zuran Hill was almost always available for him to observe and control the battle (insofar as anything as complex as a battle can be controlled). A less centralized system demanded much less of its supreme commander, and if a less centralization offered less scope for the talents of a commander like Napoleon, it offered more scope for the talents of a subordinate like Jackson. Regardless of personal ability, the difficult terrain typical of Civil War battlefields made Napoleon’s command style difficult. There usually was not a Zuran Hill from which to command, and supreme commanders were frequently left with a very fragmentary sense of the battle, often leaving corps to fend for themselves, something that large corps could accomplish more readily than small ones.
One interesting footnote to all this is that the Allied army at Austerlitz actually had a commander whose responsibilities were very like a Confederate corps commander: Buxhowden, who was put in charge of the three Allied columns that made up the left wing of the Allied army. The Allied plan was for the left wing to make a wide sweep into the French rear, which would take it far from Czar Alexander’s command post. Buxhowden was given the job of co-ordinating the columns during this move. Buxhowden, however, was rather a disaster in this role. Not only did he fail to adjust the movements of the left wing as one thing after another began to go wrong, be acted to prevent anyone else from making any adjustments either, and so contributed significantly to the size of the Allied disaster. While Buxhowden at Austerlitz was very far from an advertisement for the positive aspects of this command arrangement, he did show its weakness. A role with that much independence demanded much from the man who held it and a bad commander in such a role could be very much worse than no commander in that role at all.
At this point we have pretty much wrapped up our discussion of infantry, and in fact moved well beyond it into the general sphere of command and control. In all of this, however, we have not yet discussed cavalry and artillery. Let’s do cavalry first.
The cavalry analog to the battalion at Austerlitz was the squadron: the largest organization in that arm commanded by voice. Cavalry regiments, like infantry regiments were primarily administrative organizations; tactically cavalry operated primarily by squadrons and brigades. Napoleonic squadrons typically were composed of two companies each. At Gettysburg, although infantry regiments had dispensed with battalions (each regiment essentially consisting of a single battalion), cavalry at Gettysburg retained their squadrons, which like squadrons at Austerlitz, consisted of two companies. (Incidentally, the 1862 U.S. manual of Cavalry tactics includes sections on platoon, squadron, and regiment, but none for the company.)
While I don’t have strength numbers for individual squadrons, average sizes can be inferred from the sizes of the regiments and the number of squadrons in the regiment. The size distributions are presented below:
The basic ranking you see in the charts (from smallest to largest: Confederate, Union, French, Allied) has very little to do with nominal establishments: all of which were about 200 men. What they instead reflect is the degree of difficulty the armies had in bringing their cavalry up to strength in the first place, and then keeping it at strength under the duress of campaign. The Allied strength largely reflects its Russian contingent, and the Russian army had only been in the field a short time. The French army, which wasn’t even at its established strength at the start of the campaign, had been in the field since the fall. The two armies at Gettysburg had, of course, been conducting operations for much longer than either army at Austerlitz, and their squadrons were consequently even more reduced in size.
I don’t have much more to say about squadrons, so let’s move up to regiments:
The compact size ranges of all of the armies except for the Allied reflects a uniformity of organization at the regimental level. While there were some exceptions, the Confederates organized around the 5 squadron regiment, the Union around the 6 squadron regiment, and the French around the 3 squadron regiment. (The French size actually reflects a pre-war cavalry shortfall: the regiments were supposed to be organized on a 4 squadron establishment.) The Allies had a huge range: some large Russian regiments were organized on an establishment of 10 squadrons, but 5 was more common. Some of the Allied formations shown are small because they were badly depleted Austrian formations that had suffered greatly during the preceding campaign, while others were not full regiments and did not have all of their squadrons present at the battle. It would be wrong to attach too much importance to the differences in regimental organization. Because cavalry fought mainly by squadron and brigade, the number of squadrons per regiment was more a matter of administrative convenience than anything else. Interestingly, the 1862 U. S. Cavalry Tactics book called for a 10 squadron establishment, just like the Russians had at Austerlitz, although no regiment at Gettysburg, Union or Confederate, appears to have been organized along those lines.
It is at the brigade level and above that things start to get organizationally interesting with cavalry. There was a general consensus on the correct size of a squadron, even if it was very difficult to maintain cavalry at that strength, and while there was considerable disagreement on the size of a regiment, it doesn’t seem to have ever been an important argument. Where cavalry organization issues became heated within the armies was regarding the proper command level for the integration of cavalry and infantry, and the lowest level where this took place was at the brigade level.
The common pre-Napoleonic model called for the creation of advance guard formations that would mix cavalry and infantry. The size of the advance guard was not fixed, but relative to the size of the formation for which it was the advance guard. A large column would have a large advance guard, a small column a small advance guard. The rest of the cavalry, with an important exception I’ll be getting to towards the end of this diary entry, was organized into one large cavalry reserve formation. The Allied army at Austerlitz generally adhered to this model, although its division into multiple columns meant that it had several advance guards: one large one for the army as a whole, a smaller one for the left wing, and much smaller ones (not all of which had cavalry) for the individual columns. There was considerable unhappiness among the column commanders who were without cavalry, and they begged and pleaded for it to whoever they thought would be able to give them some, even just a couple squadrons.
To reflect the existence of mixed brigades, the cavalry charts include hollow bars, for cavalry formations that were not pure, but which mixed infantry and cavalry. The numbers shown, however, are for the cavalry component alone. Thus, as we move up organizationally, we will be able to see the levels at which the armies mixed cavalry and infantry in the same formation:
The Union and Confederate cavalry was organized along much the same lines at Gettysburg. Although Confederate regiments were smaller, their brigades had more regiments, with the result that the brigade sizes of the two armies were in the same range. At Austerlitz, however, we see a very different picture. French brigades the smallest of any of the armies: generally made from two of the already small French regiments. The Allied cavalry picture was more complex. Lacking divisions, the Allied cavalry brigades tended towards gigantism. Most of the Allied cavalry at the battle was concentrated into four large brigades. At the same time, Allied cavalry also included a number of small brigades, including some very small brigades attached to column advance guard formations.
With brigades out of the way, let’s take a look at divisions. Once again, lacking a divisional structure, the Allies sit this one out:
Once again, the French at Austerlitz had the smallest formations at this level of the three armies. Although the Union and the Confederate armies had brigades in the same size range, they differed greatly at this level. Union cavalry divisions were small, but the Confederates, with their elevated notion of what constituted a corps, had no cavalry corps, and so their central cavalry formation for the army was only a division. Nominal differences aside, Union and Confederate cavalry was fundamentally organized on the same conceptual lines: all of the cavalry in the army was concentrated in its own hierarchy. Only at the army level did cavalry and infantry come together. Their similarity was not accidental: the Confederates centralized their cavalry first, while Union cavalry was broken up throughout the organization. As part of an effort to match Confederate cavalry, Union cavalry was re-organized along the Confederate lines. French cavalry at Austerlitz, however, was different. Divisions were small because the cavalry in the French army was not centralized to such an extreme degree as in the armies at Gettysburg. However, in order to really understand the French model, we need to take a look at the corps level:
I’ve already discussed the Allied model (which was the traditional model) and the Union/Confederate model, but I haven’t really discussed the French model. Essentially, French cavalry organization was built as a way to provide both distributed cavalry for screening and reconnaissance, and concentrated cavalry for battle. Normally, each French corps had its own division of cavalry, whose job was to screen its movements from enemy observation and observe the movements of the enemy. Also present in the French system was a cavalry corps, which contained the heavy cavalry, one of the two major strike forces of the French army. In battle, the light cavalry was generally pulled from the corps and added to the cavalry corps. At Austerlitz, there were two exceptions: first, a brigade of light cavalry was left with IV Corps, because IV Corps had the job of screening the far right flank of the army, for which some light cavalry was useful. Second, a division of dragoons arrived late with Davout’s III Corps, which was not pulled into the Cavalry Corps both because it arrived late and because it also was on the far right flank of the army, where it could make itself useful.
The employment of cavalry in the Civil War has always been a controversial topic. One common criticism has been that Civil War cavalry conducted mounted charges infrequently and, often, badly. (Kilpatrick’s cavalry at Gettysburg in fact attempted a mounted charge which ended in a rather dismal failure.) But given the difficult terrain common to Civil War battlefields, I’m inclined to be forgiving of Civil War cavalry in this area. Where I tend to side strongly with the critics is in the areas of screening, reconnaissance, and pursuit. Civil War cavalry was definitely capable of effective screening and reconnaissance. Buford’s cavalry at Gettysbug did a fine example of both, for example, and would have done any Napoleonic cavalry proud (even if Napoleonic cavalry would never have fought dismounted). However, Civil War cavalry had a distressing tendency to be used in raids, where it could easily disappear, leaving its infantry blind. Again, Gettysburg itself provides an important example of this. (Lee clearly held Stuart responsible, but it was Lee who authorized the raid and left himself with no ability to recall the cavalry and thus no option but to hope that it would return when he needed it.) Pursuit was an important role for Napoleonic cavalry, but Civil War cavalry was generally not effective in this role. To be sure, pursuit was most effective after a decisive battle (and Civil War battles tended not to be decisive in the Napoleonic sense) and the terrain was, again, very difficult, but Civil War cavalry, lacking a tradition of mounted attacks on enemy infantry, also had no strong tradition of dismounted attacks on enemy infantry, and thus could often be fended off relatively easily by an enemy rear-guard.
Anyway, editorializing on the unresolvable controversy regarding Civil War cavalry aside, let’s move on to our next and final arm:
The basic tactical building block for artillery in both periods was the battery. A battery consisted of anywhere from 4 to 12 guns, depending on the army and the period. A battery was generally kept together on the battlefield, with one important exception: battalion guns. In the Napoleonic period, many armies (including the Russian and Austrian armies at Austerlitz) attached a section (2 guns) to each battalion of infantry when the army formed up for battle. The table below shows the battery sizes for the opposing armies, but battalion guns are listed by section, which is how they were actually used, rather than by battery.
There is one important difference between the above chart and the previous charts in that the percentages show the percentage of guns in each type of organization rather than the percentage of units that were that size. (i.e. The table shows that a little over 50% of the Allied artillery was in 2 gun sections, rather than that 50% of the batteries/sections were batteries.)
If we look at Austerlitz, we see that the French artillery had a fairly consistent organization, and in fact even more so than would appear from the table. In particular, the 3-gun batteries were actually 6-gun batteries that had been split in half to give each cavalry division its own artillery. The most significant variation in organization were the sprinkling of 8-gun batteries. The Allied army too is actually more uniform than it appears. First, some of the variation is due to the fact that it represents two different armies: the Austrian and the Russian, each with its own artillery organization. The Austrians favored the 6-gun battery and the Russians the 12-gun battery, which accounts for the spikes at 6 and 12. The 2-gun sections which were assigned to the different infantry battalions were formed from batteries of a standard size. (An Austrian 6-gun battery would be broken into three 2-gun sections and a Russian 12-gun battery would be broken into six 2-gun sections.)
While the armies at Austerlitz were quite consistent in their organization, the armies at Gettysburg were even more so. Almost all the Union artillery was in 6-gun batteries and almost all the Confederate artillery was in 4-gun batteries. The Union army was unique among the armies at both battles in having a single type of ordinance in each battery. Confederate batteries generally (by policy) had a mix of types, as did all the armies at Austerlitz. (At Austerlitz the lack of uniformity was because about 1/3 of the guns in the army were howitzers, and these were distributed among the batteries at the same ratio; so a 6-gun battery would typically have 4 cannon and 2 howitzers.) I admit I don’t really understand the Confederate policy. While they certainly had more trouble procuring pieces than the Union did and therefore had to make the best of what they had, they could have been much more consistent if they chose. For example, the artillery attached to Hood’s division included 2 batteries each of which had two 10-pounder Parrots and two 12-pounder Napoleons. Had the Confederates chosen to do so, they could have easily equipped one battery with four 10-pounder Parrotts and the other with four 12-pounder Napoleons. Certainly the Confederate practice must have complicated logistics and training, neither of which was a Confederate strength area to begin with. It might have been for tactical flexibility, but if so it did not inspire the Union artillery to follow suit.
Anyway, if we look above the battery level things get interesting. Nominally, almost all the artillery for all the armies was organized into regiments, but regiments very seldom took the field together, nor was their any general tendency to keep batteries from the same regiment together in the general army organization. While the regiment was more an administrative than tactical organization in all the armies in these battles, cavalry squadrons and infantry battalions of the same regiment were still commonly kept together, but artillery batteries of the same regiment almost never were.
Artillery organization was certainly different from infantry and cavalry at the regiment and below, but it was even more radically different above the regiment. At Austerlitz, infantry battalions and cavalry squadrons were organized into brigades, but there was no such thing as the artillery brigade; still less any higher-level entity (no artillery divisions, columns, or corps). Artillery was instead attached on a battery-by-battery basis to the cavalry and infantry organizations. The armies at Gettysburg differed from those at Austerlitz by having artillery battalions (Confederate) or brigades (Union) formed from a number of batteries, but they followed the Austerlitz practice of attaching these to higher-level infantry or cavalry formations.
Because of this, in assessing the artillery organizations of the opposing armies, what we want to look for is the level at which the artillery was attached rather than at pure-artillery organizations.
The Allied army at Austerlitz followed the practice of attaching artillery at each level of the organization, with the greatest number of guns attached at the battalion level. While battalions had a consistent number of guns, the number of guns available at other levels was ad hoc and followed no discernible system. The French army at Austerlitz, on the other hand, had a generally consistent organization. Most of the army's artillery was attached at the division level. Most of the “corps” artillery was actually part of the army reserve corps, which really functioned as more of an army-level asset than a corps-level asset.
The armies at Gettysburg both had new artillery organizations for the battle, both of which were systematic and consistently applied throughout the respective armies. The Confederates attached most of their artillery to the divisions, with a substantial reserve attached to each corps. The Union attached most of their artillery at the corps level (less different here than it seems than the Confederate system, because Union corps were not that much bigger than Confederate divisions) with a large central army reserve.
Quite apart from their formal organizations, all of the armies were similar in that artillery in use did not necessarily follow the nominal organization. Higher-level commanders could and did pull artillery from lower-level organizations to form large batteries when they wanted to, and also detached batteries and could send them to support quite different units than their nominal organization would suggest. The Union army artillery reserve, in particular, was never intended to be employed en masse as a united force. Instead, it was treated as a pool of batteries which could be dispatched wherever needed to support whatever section of the line was deemed in need of them.
No discussion of Napoleonic vs. Civil War organizations could possibly be complete without discussion of elite units. Napoleonic armies formed elite formations by hand-picking men from units and re-assigning them to elite units. This was pervasive in Napoleonic armies, and various types of elites were known by a bewildering variety of names (grenadiers, fusilliers, jaegers, carabiniers, voltigeurs, etc.) In the case of infantry, however, we can generally categorize Napoleonic elites as either light or heavy. The main mission of light infantry was open-order skirmishing, while the main mission of heavy infantry was close-order assault. (It should not be supposed that these primary roles were exclusive: all types of infantry could and did skirmish or assault if the circumstances required it, even if they did not all do it equally well.)
French infantry at Austerlitz formed elites at the company, regimental, divisional, and corps levels. Battalions each had two elite companies: one of heavy infantry and one of light infantry. Entire regiments of light infantry also existed, and from the heavy infantry companies of regiments left in France special battalions of heavy infantry were formed and organized together as a division. Finally, the French army formed the Imperial Guard, which were the army’s highest grade elite formations, and were kept together in the same division (called the combined grenadier division). At Austerlitz, the French generally used light infantry brigades each with a single light regiment, with one light brigade per division, and put the remaining infantry elites (the Guard and combined grenadier division) together in the army reserve corps. Like the French army, the Russian army at Austerlitz was also elite-heavy. Although it did not form elite companies on French lines, the Russian army did have a heavy battalion in each regiment, and also had both heavy and light regiments. Also like the French, the Russian army included, as its highest form of elite infantry, Imperial Guard regiments. Russian organization was less systematic than the French. Generally, light infantry was assigned to advance guard regiments, but heavy infantry regiments could be found almost anywhere in the organization. Like the French, the Russians did keep their Imperial Guard organized into its own column as an army reserve. The Austrian army were the most elite-poor of any of the major Napoleonic armies. Its only heavy infantry were its grenadier battalions, which were formed by combining companies from the infantry regiments (each Austrian infantry regiment included two grenadier companies). None of the Austrian heavy infantry, however, was present at Austerlitz. The Austrian army also had light infantry regiments, which, like the Russian army, it generally assigned to advance guard formations.
Napoleon cavalry was generally defined as either light or heavy. The primary job of light cavalry was screening and reconnaissance, while the primary job of heavy cavalry was to carry out major attacks on the battlefield. All of the armies generally included dragoons, which technically were supposed to be capable of either mounted or dismounted fighting, although in practice dragoons seldom dismounted. The type of cavalry was by regiment; all squadrons of a regiment were of the same type, and all companies of a squadron were of the same type. As with infantry, the French and Russian armies included Imperial Guard regiments as their highest-grade cavalry. Generally, brigades were either light or heavy and did not mix the two types of cavalry. One thing that both the French and Russian armies did was depart from their general practice of keeping heavy cavalry together when it came to guard cavalry. Both armies kept the Guard cavalry with the Guard infantry in mixed cavalry/infantry Guard corps, rather than having the Guard cavalry serve with the other heavy cavalry.
I have deliberately kept the discussion of the Napoleonic elites much simpler than it might have been because there is no need for detail where the primary purpose is to compare Napoleonic and Civil War armies. If Napoleonic elites were numerous and their organization complex, by contrast Civil War elites barely existed at all. The only formations that would be considered elite by Napoleonic standards would be the few small sharpshooter units possessed by both armies. This is not to say that all Civil War units were equal in quality, only that they were not culled for their best men to create elite formations in the Napoleonic sense.
It is open for debate as to whether the Napoleonic or Civil War practice was better. The Napoleonic practice did have the advantage of giving commanders units that could be assigned specific missions with more confidence than the Civil War practice, but this came at the price of depriving the rest of the army of their best men. Certainly, however, the Napoleonic practice of special formations for skirmishing had little point in the Civil War, where difficult terrain would could force any part of an armies to act as light infantry at any time. On the other hand, Civil War armies could have made good use of elites for formed attacks in very much the same way that Napoleonic armies did, had they chosen to form them. One interesting point is that while the Napoleonic practice of forming elites arose from a definite desire to have them on the part of the army leadership, the Civil War practice of not having them does not seem to have been the product of a considered process that led to their rejection. While the military leadership must have discussed the question at some time or other, I have never seen it raised in any documents I’ve read, nor have I seen any reference to such a discussion in any reading I’ve done of secondary sources.
In this, the Civil War armies seem to have been mainly influenced by the general tradition of American pre-Civil War armies, which never had much in the way of elite formations. This may of course be a cultural effect of equality (although egalitarianism in American culture certainly did not prevent the adoption of a very European distinction between officers and enlisted men, a distinction firmly rooted in the European class system, while the European elite system had little to do with social class), but it may also be due to the fact that the main distinction in the American tradition was not between line and elite units, but between militia and regulars, and with regulars generally scarce, forming still smaller elite formations out of them may not have been seen as an effective practice.
An analysis like the above aims at three things: (1) to discover what the differences in organization were between the armies at the two battles, and (2) to evaluate the causes, and (3) to evaluate the effects. The first has been the primary focus of the above essay, because without a thorough understanding of what the differences are, it is difficult to offer much insight on what their causes or effects might have been. This is partly because just presenting the differences makes for a pretty large task, and partly because the causes and effects really cannot be properly considered without some evaluation of strategy and tactics, which has been largely outside the scope of this essay. Given this, I am not sure that even the attempts I did make to evaluate the effectiveness of the different organizations were altogether wise, but I found the temptation too hard to resist at times.
It had been my intention to write a diary entry on comparative tactics, but as I consider the amount of effort put into this essay I admit to having doubts as to whether it is wise. It would be nice, for example, to have the next design diary entry actually come out before the game is actually published rather than afterward, and this essay took time that was very fertile in terms of the actual design, about which I have said next to nothing. Certainly I think that my next entries will focus more on the game design and treat historical analysis incidentally rather than making it the entire focus of the entry. I do hope, at least, that at least some of the above is of interest, even if I am uncertain that the effort involved in writing it might have been better spent elsewhere.