Austrian infantry

Infantry Weapons
Infantry Formations

Infantry Facings

Austria had a huge army during the Napoleonic Wars, but while its infantry was brave and resolute, its senior officers still used tactics from the previous century.

Soldiers joined the army as either seven-year volunteers, or conscripts for life, and were drawn from the various parts of the Austrian Empire. Croats were among the greatest fighters that Vienna could draw on.

Despite almost continuous conflict - and defeat - at the hands of Revoutionary France and then Napoleon Bonaparte's armies, the high command was slow in adopting more modern ways of fighting.

It was not until after the humiliation of Austerlitz that Austria seriously began looking at a new way of training troops and fighting.

Archduke Charles took the bull by the horns and brought in sweeping changes that included reducing the terms of conscription, discouraging the worst excesses of corporal punishment and allowing live firing with real ammunition.

Charles wanted to create an army of men capable of fighting in all forms of terrain and while many of the reforms were good some - such as the thought that three-rank infantry could charge cavalry - were a little astray.

He stopped the front rank from kneeling to fire, allowed for the third rank to be used, albeit rarely, as skirmishers, and rejected the square in favour of a new formation known as the mass.

The mass was essentially a compact column of men, usually a battalion, that was one company wide and six deep. Charles thought it more manouevreable than a square and, with its density, much more solid.

As the battle of Aspern-Essling showed, the performance of Austrian troops had by 1809 improved greatly. The defeat at Wagram, however, showed there was more needed to be done.





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