Carolus Theodorus Dei Gratia Comes Palatinus Rheni – Gaming the Reichsarmee during the Seven Years War

While a plethora of enthusiasts, may they be reenactors or gamers, engage with all aspects of the Napoleonic Wars, more and more gamers find also interest in a comparatively unknown conflict that preceded the changes in strategy and tactics brought by Napoleon: The Seven Years War. Often called the first “World War” this conflict did not only envelope Europe in war, but in equal measure made the struggling power’s colonial possessions a theatre of the war.

I got interested in this period realising that the region in Germany I originally come from, the Palatinate,  provided contingents to the Reichsarmee, which fought at Rossbach alongside the French, (almost) on their own at Zinna and finally with the Austrians in the battle of Korbitz amongst others. Thus there is not only a regional connection, but also a number of interesting battles and allies a force of the Reichsarmee could be based on.

In this article I will  focus on the battle of Zinna and the regiments of the Reichsarmee involved, including contemporary or reconstructed depictions of the uniforms and some ideas of how to model these contingents.

Historical Background

A name most people connect with this war is Frederick II. of Prussia, sometimes seen as a hero, sometimes as an instigator or as a tragic figure. Being allied with Great Britain, Hannover and Portugal he fought the remaining major European powers of the time: France, Russia, Austria, Spain and Sweden (a good overview of the parties involved and their allegiances can be found here). Through luck, military expertise and his diplomatic abilities he was able to avoid the collapse of a fledgling Prussian kingdom and emerged stronger than before, foreshadowing a future of  Prussian dominance in German-speaking territories.

Banat-Grenzinfanterieregiment No. 1. Photo: Author.
On a foraging mission these Austrian Grenzers of the 1st Banat-Grenzerinfanterieregiment engage with some Prussian Jägers to secure a fresh-water supply. Photo: Author.

Minor states aligned with either the Prussian or the Austrian side, with the contingents of the Reichsarmee fighting against Prussia. The Holy Roman Empire was made up of over 2000 independent states and individuals, all standing in different relations of dependence to the Empire and other states. It is thus not surprising that the contingents comprising the Reichsarmee were provided by a multitude of provinces throughout the German-speaking parts of the Holy Roman Empire. The quality of the contingents differed heavily and during the war the Reichsarmee was often the subject of ridicule, even though it was able to achieve some successes.

While Rossbach was a desaster for both France and the Reichsarmee, the invasion of Saxony under the leadership of Austria was more successful. In 1759 the Austro-Imperial army had been able to capture Dresden, forcing a Prussian relieve force under Wunsch to turn to Torgau to avoid the Austrian forces under Kleefeld. Arriving in Torgau Wunsch realised that a fight was inevitable and deployed his troops.

Combat_of_Zinna
Map of the combat of Zinna (aka first battle of Torgau) fought on September 8, 1759. Detail of a map of the book “Kriege Friedrichs des Grossen”, vol. III Der Siebenjährige Krieg: 1756 – 1763, published by the Grosser Generalstab, Kriegsgeschichtliche Abteilung II., Berlin 1901-1913.

Early successes of the Prussian artillery and cavalry affected the moral of the Austro-Imperial Infantry centre, resulting in a retreat after only a few shots had been exchanged. While the conduct of the historical battle itself is not very exciting, it provides a nice template to build a force of the Reichsarmee, that can be used independently, but also reinforced by either French or Austrian troops to depict Rossbach or other battles during the invasion of Saxony.

The regiments of the Reichsarmee

According to the order of battle I will present all regiments that took part in the battle with contemporary or reconstructed colour uniform plates, some short notes if they used an Austrian or Prussian cut, as well as suggestions for conversions (if necessary).

Cavalry:

 

Kurpfalz Karabiniers von Hatzfeld:

 

Hatzfeld Kürassiere
Von Hatzfeld Carabiniers. In:  Richard Knötel: Uniformkunde: Lose Blätter zur Entwicklung der militärischen Tracht. Rathenow 1890. Digitized version of his publication.

Using miniatures with an Austrian cuirassier uniform might represent this unit best. However, no cuirasses were used by this cavalry regiment. It might be possible to use miniatures depicting Austrian dragoons. Given the regiment consisted of squadrons taken from two other regiments it is surely possible to paint half of them as the Reiter Regiment Prinz Friedrich Michael von Zweibrücken (2 sqns) and half of the unit as Oberrheinische Kreiseskadron (1 sqn of 3 coys).

Ansbach Dragoner:

 

Ansbach Dragoner
Deutsche Reichs-Armee nebst einigen verbündeten oesterreichischen und französischen Truppen, 1757, 1759, 1762. Bibliothèque nationale de France, De Ridder collection. Digitized version.

Using Austrian dragoons to depict this regiment should yield good results.

Bayreuth Kürassiere:

 

Using miniatures with an Austrian cuirassier uniform might represent this unit best. So far I did not find a digitized version of the Raspe depiction of this unit, but will endeavor to update this article, should I find one.

Hohenzollern Kürassiere:

 

Using miniatures with an Austrian cuirassier uniform might represent this unit best. So far I did not find a digitized version of the Raspe depiction of this unit, but will endeavor to update this article, should I find one.

Trautmansdorf Kürassiere:

 

Trautmannsdorf Kürassiere
Trautmannsdorf Kürassiere. In: Richard Knötel: Uniformkunde: Lose Blätter zur Entwicklung der militärischen Tracht. Rathenow 1890. Digitised version of his publication.

Using miniatures with an Austrian cuirassier uniform should represent this unit perfectly.

Szechenyi Hussars:

 

Kaiserlicher Hussar
Deutsche Reichs-Armee nebst einigen verbündeten oesterreichischen und französischen Truppen, 1757, 1759, 1762. Bibliothèque nationale de France, De Ridder collection. Digitized version.

Any Austrian Hussar miniature should be useable for this unit.

Ifantry:

 

Prinz Georg Infanterie:

 

Hessen Darmstadt 1
Deutsche Reichs-Armee nebst einigen verbündeten oesterreichischen und französischen Truppen, 1757, 1759, 1762. Bibliothèque nationale de France, De Ridder collection.

Given this unit sported Prussian cut uniforms and Prussian style grenadier headgear, any Prussian range should offer suitable miniatures to depict this regiment.

Kurmainz:

 

Kurmainz 2
Kur-Mainz, Kur-KöIn, Kur-Trier. In: Richard Knötel: Uniformkunde: Lose Blätter zur Entwicklung der militärischen Tracht. Rathenow 1890.
Kurmainz 1
Deutsche Reichs-Armee nebst einigen verbündeten oesterreichischen und französischen Truppen, 1757, 1759, 1762. Bibliothèque nationale de France, De Ridder collection.

The Kurmainz regiment used Austrian style uniforms and Austrian style head-gear for the grenadiers.

Ernestinisch Sachsen Infanterie:

 

Sachsen Weimar Musketier
Sachsen-Weimar Musketier. Vinkhuijzen Collection of Military Costume Illustration.
Sachsen Weimar Trommler
Sachsen-Weimar drummer. Vinkhuijzen Collection of Military Costume Illustration.
Sachsen Weimar Offizier
Sachsen-Weimar officer. Vinkhuijzen Collection of Military Costume Illustration.

The Ernestinisch-Sachsen regiment consisted of 2 battalions:

The first one entirely of the contingent of Sachsen-Weimar-Eisenach (5 coys for a total of 666 men)

and the second battalion consisting of contingents by

Sachsen-Gotha-Altenburg (2 coys for a total of 312 men)
Sachsen-Coburg-Meiningen (1 coy for a total of 104 men)
Sachsen-Coburg-Saalfeld (1 coy for a total of 84 men)
Sachsen-Hildburghausen (1 coy for a total of 114 men)

While the first battalion is represented in the colour plates, the second battalion offers a much more colourful mix of uniforms, as the contingents of Coburg and Hildburgshausen differed in uniform colours. It might thus be an idea to either go for the Weimar contingents exclusively or to have different coloured uniforms in a unit featuring Coburg, Hildburghausen and Meiningen.

The contingents all wore Prussian style uniforms and Prussian style grenadier head-gear, making it easy to depict them with Prussian miniatures.

Ferntheil:

 

Ferntheil (Hohenlohe) Grenadier
Deutsche Reichs-Armee nebst einigen verbündeten oesterreichischen und französischen Truppen, 1757, 1759, 1762. Bibliothèque nationale de France, De Ridder collection.

The Ferntheil regiment had Prussian style uniforms, but the grenadiers wore a an Austrian style head-gear. This would demand some conversions. I thought of using Prussian musketeer miniatures, cut off the head and swap it with an Austrian grenadier head.

Kurpfalz Garde-Grenadier Regiment:

 

Kurpfalz Garde Grenadier
Deutsche Reichs-Armee nebst einigen verbündeten oesterreichischen und französischen Truppen, 1757, 1759, 1762. Bibliothèque nationale de France, De Ridder collection.

The Garde-Grenadier regiment had Prussian style uniforms, but the grenadiers wore a an Austrian style head-gear. However, after 1757 the grenadiers lost in part their typical grenadier headgear and wore the tricorn. This helps to facilitate conversion work, as a head swap between Prussian musketeers and Austrian grenadiers will be in order.

Baden-Baden:

 

Baden Baden
Deutsche Reichs-Armee nebst einigen verbündeten oesterreichischen und französischen Truppen, 1757, 1759, 1762. Bibliothèque nationale de France, De Ridder collection.

The Baden-Baden regiment was equipped with Prussian style uniforms and Austrian style grenadier head-gear, again demanding some head swaps.

Kreisinfanterieregiment Württemberg:

 

Württemberg Grenadier
Deutsche Reichs-Armee nebst einigen verbündeten oesterreichischen und französischen Truppen, 1757, 1759, 1762. Bibliothèque nationale de France, De Ridder collection.

The last regiment featured in the order of battle had Prussian style uniforms and Prussian style grenadier head-gear, making it easy to depict the regiment using Prussian miniatures.

Final thoughts on unit composition:

I intend to use Maurice to game this period, implying that every unit is depicted by four more or less square stands, each featuring between six and eight miniatures.

Depending on the regiment and the composition of its battalions a matching grenadier contingent will be painted and used together with the other grenadier regiments forming one converged grenadier battalion. At Zinna this battalion consisted of 9 coys, which suggests to paint about four miniatures in the distinctive colours of its regiment to a total of 32 miniatures.

If different uniform colours within a squadron or (musketeer) battalion are likely, I will paint each stand according to the distribution of uniform colours and troop types. So far this seems to be only the case for the Kurpfalz Karabiniers and the Ernistinisch -Sachsen Infanterie.

Unfortunately Maurice does not allow to depict the in general smaller size of Reichsarmee battalions in comparison to their counterparts of the major forces. It could be an idea to depict this in using only six miniatures per stand or even reducing the size of the stands slightly to accomodate only three miniatures shoulder to shoulder. This way they would be shorter than a battleline of the major powers. If this would cause problems in Maurice is another question, but I assume that the base size is not important as long as movement etc. is standardised.

Future plans:

I will first acquire the proper miniatures for the project and carry out any conversion work necessary. After painting the core Reichsarmee troops I will add Austrian and French contingents for more variation and to depict different battles. All this will be documented on this blog in conversion and painting tutorials.

 Web Resources:

 

Kronoskaf – the number one web source for general information about the SYW and uniforms of all involved powers.

Not by Appointment Blog – Excellent website featuring uniform templates and flags for regiments of the SYW and other periods.

Warflag – Another excellent site featuring flags of all the major powers and also some of the regiments of the Reichsarmee.

Torgau-Project – Same project, different scale! 6mm is king on this informative blog, the goal to depict the battle in full scale.


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14 thoughts on “Carolus Theodorus Dei Gratia Comes Palatinus Rheni – Gaming the Reichsarmee during the Seven Years War”

  1. Great research, looking forward to seeing more of your project! I have a soft spot for SYW, as this was my first historical wargaming period as a teenager – I never got far painting the stuff, though.

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    1. You should see if you can find your old soldiers and give them a new paintjob ;). I really enjoy the uniforms of this time period. The Reichsarmee offers a lot of variety and hopefully this will prevent me getting demotivated.

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    1. Hi, thank you for your comment. I remember coming past your blog some time ago. It is always amazing to see how much detail 6mm miniatures have, obviously helped by your brush skills. I would be very interested in the publication you mention and its sections on the battle of Zinna, as I have to get everything via interloan (if I can get it at all).

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  2. Fantastic and extremely interesting. I actually have plans to paint and 80 figure regiment of Ernestinisch Sachsen infantry with each of the four companies in a different uniform, much like you discuss here.
    Best Regards,

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    1. Thank you for your comment. Do you have further sources or colour plates for the uniforms of the different contingents? I would appreciate any new references I can check out. 🙂

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  3. Yes, it is exactly what I did for my planned 6mm regiments. I draw them for both the Ernestine Sachsen and Nassau-Weilburg regiments. I can send them by e-mail. Mine is fabriziodavi(at)mac.com.

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  4. OK, the Hussars clearly have the best hats. And, as we know, throughout military history it has *always* been about the hats… 😉
    Although Kur-Mainz is cutting a rather dashing figure in fabulous green there, too…

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    1. It is indeed the uniforms, head gear etc. that makes this period so appealing. Apart from that these contemporary depictions are just very quaint :). Nothing against Kur-Mainz, but we all know that Kurpfalz in any version is always the best :P.

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