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German Resources for War

Frederick Engels

The recent boasting of Louis Napoleon as to the strength of the forces which he is able to bring against Austria, has called forth from the journals of Germany similar statements concerning the military resources likely to be combined against him in the event of a war. These statements, however, have generally but slender pretensions to accuracy or thoroughness of detail; and we have accordingly been obliged to resort to original and official documents for the facts and figures which we now proceed to-lay before our readers. .

The army of Austria is, of course, by far the strongest of all those that would be enlisted against France in such a war. Its infantry consists of 62 regiments of the line (each composed of 1 grenadier, 4 line, and 1 depot battalion), equal to 310 active and 62 depot battalions; 14 frontier regiments[156], of 2 field and 1 reserve battalion; in all 28 active, 14 reserve battalions (beside one unattached battalion); and 32 battalions of rifles. The Austrian battalions are of unequal strength, varying from four to six companies. With full ranks, the strength of the whole will be:

Line370,000 men.
Frontier regiments55,000 men.
Rifles32,000 men.
Total, inclusive of depots457,000 men.

The line and frontier regiments are armed with smooth-bore percussion muskets, the locks being of a peculiar, not very admirable construction, but still very fair muskets. In the frontier regiments, every company has 20 rifles. The 32 battalions of riflemen all carry rifles, but these are much inferior in range to the French Minié or English Enfield rifle. The infantry is, throughout, first-rate, and the men are equal to any in Europe, though as against English or Prussian infantry, every man of which carries a rifled musket of long range, the inferior armament must tell disadvantageously. Against French or Russian troops this disadvantage would not exist, if we except the 20 battalions of French Chasseurs, and unless the armament of the French line infantry should be changed.

The Austrian cavalry numbers 16 heavy and 24 light regiments—the first of 6, the second of 8 squadrons, beside a depot squadron per regiment. The heavy squadron has 194, the light 227 men. With such a force, an Austrian cavalry regiment is stronger than a French brigade of horse. The whole body is 67,000 men strong, exceedingly well mounted, and the greater part of the light cavalry recruited among two nations of horsemen, the Hungarians and Poles. There is no doubt that these 67,000 men would be more than a match for the 81,000 French cavalry which Louis Napoleon proposes to bring forward. The Austrian cavalry is, undoubtedly, at present without a rival.

The artillery consists of 12 field regiments, of 13 batteries of 8 guns each, 1 coast regiment, and 1 rocket regiment of 20 batteries—in all, 1,248 guns, 240 rocket-carriages, and 50,000 men. The pioneers, hospital troops, &c., amount to some 20,000 men in addition.

The whole force, on the peace footing, including train, &c., would be from 580,000 to 600,000 men. Of these, nearly 200,000 are generally, and up to this moment, on furlough, leaving 400,000 present with the colors. Not only these, however, but 120,000 men of the reserve (dismissed after eight years' service, and liable to be called out for two years longer) can be called together in case of war; and, if we are to believe the assertions of Austrian writers, the whole may be under arms in 14 days. Still, the resources of the empire are not exhausted with this. The frontier district is exempt from the reserve duty, but there every man is a soldier up to his 60th year, and ready at all times to be called to his regiment. This district, in 1848, furnished the troops that saved Radetzky in Italy, and with him the Austrian monarchy. It is not yet forgotten how battalion after battalion of these hardy Slavonians was formed, and dispatched into Italy; while, at the same time, the army which took Vienna from the insurgents was collected from the same material[157]. This district, whose contingent for ordinary purposes is limited to 55,000 men, can, in case of need, send 200,000 soldiers into the field. Thus the Austrian army, with the reserves, and but 80,000 extra men from the frontier district, would count fully 800,000 men, to which above 100,000 frontier soldiers more can be added as fast as the battalions can be organized. Thus Austria, alone, supposing her to have the necessary money, would be fully sufficient for the defense of her Italian possessions against France and Piedmont combined.

Next comes Prussia. The infantry of this kingdom consists of 36 regiments of the line and guards, containing 108 battalions; 9 reserve regiments, containing 18 battalions; with 8 reserve battalions, and 10 battalions of rifles, in all 144 battalions, equal, on the war footing, to about 150,000 men. To this add the Landwehr of the first levy, 116 battalions, equal to about 120,000 men—in all 270,000 men. In time of war the 8 reserve battalions are formed into 36 depot battalions for the 36 line regiments, and the 9 reserve regiments, with their corresponding 9 Landwehr battalions, are destined for garrison duty, so that there remains an active field force of 228 battalions, including about 230,000 men.

The cavalry consists of 38 regiments of the line, 4 squadrons each; 152 squadrons and 34 regiments; 136 squadrons of the first levy of the Landwehr, equal to about 49,000 men.

Artillery: 9 regiments, each of 11 batteries of 8 guns, and 4 companies for duty in fortresses—in all 792 field guns and 20,000 men.

The engineers, train, &c., form a total of 40,000 men.

Thus, in all, Prussia has an available army of 380,000 men of the line and first levy of the Landwehr, of which 340,000 at least are able to take the field. The second levy of the Landwehr is not organized, and in fact merely destined to do duty in fortresses. In case of a war, however, it might be brought to a tolerable state of efficiency in about four months, as far as the infantry and artillery are concerned; the cavalry will scarcely ever be fit for much active duty. At all events, 100,000 or 120,000 men from this source may safely be reckoned upon, setting so many men of the line free from garrison duty. Thus the Prussian army can muster 500,000 men, with plenty of drilled men in addition who would not find a place in the frame-work of the first levy of the Landwehr, and who could be used for new formations.

The Prussian army, from the short time of service (three years), and from the fact that the whole of the first levy of the Landwehr has been on an average from four to five years absent from the army (with few and short interruptions), is not equal, in the outbreak of a war, as far as the men go, to the Austrian. The nation is, however, of an essentially military cast, and a few weeks of active campaigning will always make good soldiers of them. It is the first month or two of a war that Prussia has to fear. Above one half of the army, consisting of a militia; it is ill adapted for an offensive war, but will act so much the better in a defensive one; for nowhere except in Switzerland[158] is the army so really a national body as in Prussia. As to the armament, the whole of the guards and one battalion of every line regiment are armed with the new needle guns, which have a range of 1,000 yards, and, with the English Enfield rifle, carry farther than any other muskets at present in use. The remainder of the line are armed with the common musket, which, however, by a very simple process has been rifled on Minié's principle, and is little inferior in range or precision to the real Minié rifle. The first levy of the Landwehr will also receive the needle gun when called out. Thus, with the exception of the British, the Prussian infantry have the best armament of any in Europe.

Of the German Federal army[159], Austria forms the first, second and third, and Prussia the fourth, fifth and sixth army corps. The seventh is furnished by Bavaria. She is bound to find a simple contingent of 36,500 men, and 17,800 men reserve; in all, 54,300 men. But the Bavarian army counts a good deal more, viz.: 54 battalions—54,000 men, infantry; 56 squadrons, 9,000 men, cavalry; 224 guns, and 5,600 men, artillery, besides engineers, &c.; in all, more than 72,000 men; besides the reserve, formed by all dismissed soldiers from the 27th to the 40th year, and who may be used for new formations.

The eighth corps counts, in contingents and reserve:

 Men. Men.
Württemberg21,000Actual army19,000
Baden15,000Actual army15,000
Hesse-Darmstadt9,300Actual army10,500
Strength required45,300Actual strength44,500

The ninth corps, in contingents and reserve, should count 36,000 men; the armies composing it number actually 44,000 men.

The tenth corps is to number 42,000 men, and, we suppose, its component armies will make up about that strength.

The reserve division (contingents of the petty States) is about 17,000 strong. Thus, in a general summary, we have:

Eighth Corps45,000
Ninth Corps44,000
Tenth Corps42,000
Reserve Division17,000

Of this colossal force, the last five items, amounting to 218,000 men, are always ready, and form but the regular peace establishment of the respective States, after calling in all the men on furlough. These States could therefore easily furnish 100,000 to 150,000 men more, but as no organization exists for them, we have not counted them at all, any more than the Prussian second levy of the Landwehr. Austria can certainly have 700,000 men under arms at a fortnight's notice. In .Prussia, the calling in of the reserve of war (men on furlough) would take even less time, and would swell the line to its full complement of 225,000 men. Thus, within a fortnight, Germany can bring some 1,150,000 men into the field; a month afterward, some 270,000 more, and then all the Prussian second levy, all the Bavarian reserve, and some 100,000 Austrian frontier soldiers, are still available. And when this is exhausted, then, and then only, will extraordinary efforts be necessary.

Thus, the forces at the disposal of Germany are so immense, that if they are directed with unity and firmness, she need not fear an attack made simultaneously by France, Italy and Russia. Whether they will be so used, is, of course, doubtful; but, if in a general war, petty jealousies, indecision and routine should hamper the acts of these armies, and insure defeat, then the present Governments of Germany may pack their trunks; they will soon have to decamp. The Germany of 1859 is as different from the Germany of the peace of Basel, of Jena, Austerlitz and Wagram[160], as the France of to-day is from the revolutionary France of 1793; and if 1848 has done nothing else, it has created a German national feeling in every part of the country, even among those that were formerly accused of French sympathies. Louis Napoleon may attempt to play the liberator in Italy, but he dare not try that game on the Rhine; and even if he were partly successful in war, he would only provoke a revolution in Germany which would insure his ultimate defeat, and endanger, by its example, his own already tottering throne.

Written on February 10, 1859
First published in the New-York Daily Tribune, No. 5582, March 12, 1859;
reprinted in the New-York Semi-Weekly Tribune, No. 1440, March 15, 1859
Reproduced from the New-York Daily Tribune


[156] The reference is to the special regiments supplied by what was known as the Military Border Area, i.e. the southern border region of the Austrian Empire under military administration. The area included part of Croatia and Southern Hungary. Its population (the borderers) consisted of Serbs, Croats and other nationalities who were allotted land in return for military service, the fulfilment of other obligations and payment of fees.

[157] The army referred to consisted of Slays and took part in the storm of revolutionary Vienna by the Austrian troops on October 30-November 1, 1848.

[158] The Swiss armed forces were formed on the militia basis; in peacetime all citizens capable of military service underwent a short period of training and in the event of war general mobilisation was declared.

[159] That is, the army of the German Confederation (see Note 147↓).

[160] The peace of Basle was concluded on April 5, 1795 separately between France and Prussia, the latter being a member of the first anti-French coalition. The treaty was the consequence of the French victories as well as of the differences between the members of the coalition, in particular between Prussia and Austria.

At the battle of Jena on October 14, 1806 the Prussians were routed by Napoleon I and this led to the capitulation of Prussia.

The battle of Austerlitz on December 2 (November 20), 1805 between the Russian and Austrian forces (the third coalition) and the French ended in a victory for Napoleon I.

At the battle of Wagram on July 5-6, 1809 Napoleon I won a decisive victory over the Austrians. [147] The German Confederation (der Deutsche Bund)—a short-lived confederation of German states founded in 1815 by decision of the Congress of Vienna.

Source: Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 16 (pp.177-182), Progress Publishers, Moscow 1980
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