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Marching speeds, Prague, fortifications and 2nd Silesian War

Posted: Wed Dec 24, 2014 5:57 pm
by Jagger2013
I was reading Christopher Duffy's book on Fredericks Army. He stated that the normal march for the Prussian army averaged 6 miles a day with 1 out of 3 or 4 days as a day of rest. In a force march situation, they might cover 12 miles a day for a week or maybe 2 weeks. Duffy's book is pretty old so I thought I would check if his information has held up over time. I assume all the various armies probably marched about the same. If he is right, I think I may mod the game to match those marching distances. Somewhere between 60-72 miles over a 2 week timeframe or 3-4 regions a turn. Are there any leaders known for consistently pushing their troops for greater marching distances outside of force march situations? Some leaders that might justify an ability increasing march distances?

I was reading about the 2nd Silesian War and it appears Prague was garrisoned by 17,000 Austrian troops when Frederick beseiged the city. As best I can tell, it appears 1000 troops were regulars and the rest militia. Frederick beseiged the city with maybe 70,000 men and the city surrendered within days. It seems Prague, at least in 1744, was not well fortified at all. I would think with 17,000 troops and a well fortified and stocked city, they should have been able to hold out for quite some time. Clearly there were some fortifications at Prague but apparently not particularly effective. So any opinions on Prague and it's ability to withstand a seige? I don't think I would rate it very high at all.

I did read that the Brunn fortification was particularly difficult to take and effective. I have been trying to find information on the various existing 18th century German fortifications and their effectiveness with only limited success. Has anyone found a list of existing German fortifications of the Silesian War timeframe?

Posted: Fri Dec 26, 2014 1:37 am
by Durk
It is hard to calculate the average per day marching distance of Prussia's armies because of many confounding factors. The divisional structure of the armies of this era were unlike the divisions which evolved after 1763 which did so much to speed the march. During Frederick’s time, armies were not the citizen army which marched with elan only decades later. Instead, these armies were kept together with strong discipline and an open larder. As such, they would not do the dawn to dusk marches familiar in the accounts of American Civil War divisions.
So six miles a day would be a reasonable estimate. However, a forced march of a week or more would not have happened for many reasons with the less formally structured divisions. The primary one would be that desertion would be really accelerated. Other reasons include the era's attachment to artillery which meant the army would not march beyond the cannon and supply train. Primarily, the tactics of this time were to arrive at the site of a potential battle. Then over the next day or two to deploy. Frederick’s advantage came from rapid movement on the battlefield, not rapid movement to the battlefield.
A final point, this was an era of battles of position more than battles of maneuver (grand scale maneuver not tactical maneuver). So to cast a leader with the fast marching ability, except for cavalry, is a bit of a misnomer. Leaders would have been more concerned with insuring all their men showed up at the end of the march than that the march was quick.

If I understand correctly, Prague fell due to external circumstances, the convergence of overwhelming forces, not lack of defense.

Frederick really did not focus upon fortresses until after the Second Silesian War. There are a number of older books about fortification in the Age of Enlightenment. A Google search will turn up several books.

Posted: Sat Dec 27, 2014 6:54 pm
by Jagger2013
Thanks Durk, I modded the marching speeds to produce infantry marching rates of 3 regions a turn in good weather and roads. They move faster on major roads. The reduced marching speeds appears to have an impact on supply. I will need to experiment with the supply modifiers to get that to work right.

I just read Carlyles account on Prague. Apparently, the Prussians assaulted and captured a portion of the defenses which made Prague indefensible. At that point the Austrians tried to hand over the city and march out with honours of war but Frederick refused. He demanded surrender and they did. In Browning's book, he states the city leaders demanded that the city be given up rather than destroyed. And according to Carlyle, Prague was defended by 10,000 militia and 4000 regulars. He has the 4000 regulars reinforcing the city before Fredericks arrival. Another source had 1000 regulars garrisoning the city. So probably 5000 regulars and 10,000 militia. The game might have a hard time modeling the surrender of the city. My thougths are maybe an event giving a 50-60 chance of surrender in September or upon Frederick's arrival which disappears in October. So the Prussians have a choice of assaulting the city, sieging the city and hope for surrender or just offer honors of war. The Austrians will have the standard options but with the realization that their troops have a high probability of simply surrendering during the month of September. 17,000 defending troops could put up quite a bit of resistance if they don't surrender and attempt to hold the city.

In Thomas Carlyles Volume on the second Silesian War, apparently Traun was running circles around Frederick. He managed to manuever Frederick out of Bohemia in a couple of months with Frederick doing everything he could to keep Bohemia. Very impressive campaign by Traun. Although he was apparently greatly helped by the Pandours. Constant references to their interference causing problems with Prussian foraging, reconnaissance and communications. Frederick was blind, supply was a constant problem and had great difficulty communicating with the outside world and detachments. Even though Traun was on the offensive, Frederick couldn't bring him into a decisive battle. Not one of Frederick's better campaigns. Although 1745 brought a change of fortune when the Austrians moved into Silesia. I need to mod some of those impacts into the game while Frederick is in Bohemia.

Posted: Mon Dec 29, 2014 2:52 am
by Durk
Indeed, Frederick never learned to use cavalry off the battlefield to scout and harass. Where his opponents had excellent irregular cavalry he was at a disadvantage.