Organisation and Tactics
Prussian Reform & Organisation
When in August 1806, Prussia mobilized her army for war against France, she did so with all the confidence that was due to the inheritors of the traditions of Frederick the Great. There was never a moment of doubt that Prussian arms would triumph, and it was with this attitude, that her soldiers met the French in the twin battles of Jena and Auerstadt on October 14th.
Up to that time, the Prussian army had proudly reflected the image of Frederick's glory, but it was this in itself which was one of the principal defects in the military system. A cult of reverence, in regard to anything that was connected with Frederick, dominated military thought. Any measure which had sufficed under the Great Soldier-King, was considered good enough for his heirs, irrespective of the forward movement of military science and the revolutionary principles of warfare, which had been demonstrated in Europe since 1792. Thradition was clung to as if it were a means of glory and success. The facty that the 1780 pattern of musket was one of the worst in Europe, or that the Commander-in-Chief, the Duke of Brunswick, and the Senior Royal Advisor, von Mollendorf, were not the men they had been, was little considered. The state of the Prussian army at that time was well summed up by Clausewitz when he remarked that: "behind the fine facade all was mildew". For Prussia the cost of Anachronism was to be high.
The defeats that occured on October 14th, 1806 were to become but two items in the chronicle of disaster that was to follow. Within five weeks the Prussian army had almost ceased to exist, its fortresses and depots had all been taken and only some 29,000 men, under L'Estoq, remained in the field operating in conjunction with the Russians. By the Peace of Tilsit on July 9th, 1807, Prussia was halved in size and was reduced to a minor power at the stroke of a pen.
The Prussian Retreat by: Knotel - The mortally wounded Duke of Brunswick is borne from the field as the Prussian Army retreats in growing disorder from their double defeat at Jena-Auerstadt. Many thousands were destined to become prisoners of war over the following month, so remorseless was the French pursuit.
(Illustration from: The P.J. Haythornewaite Collection)