Prussian flag from Prussian flag from
Prussian Artillery
of the Napoleonic Wars

1805 - 1815

"Against that fellow [Napoleon]
you need cannons and lots of them."
- Prussian General Blücher

Prussian foot battery, 
picture by Funcken 1. Introduction: Prussian Artillery.
2. Equipment.
3. Organization.
4. Uniforms.
5. Tactics.
6. Engineers.
- - Fortress War After Waterloo.

The Prussian artillery had been a neglected branch of the army since the time of Frederick the Great. Promotions and advancement in the artillery were not as good as in cavalry and infantry.

Picture: Prussian artillery, by L.& F. Funcken. (Castermann Publishing 1969) - L'uniforme et les Armes des Soldats du Premier Empire

Prussian Artillery.

Prussian horse artillery in 1805, 
picture by Knotel. Picture: Prussian horse artillery in 1805, one year before the disastrous Jena Campaign. From left to right: officer, gunner and driver.
The horse artillery was first employed by Frederick the Great to solve a problem which had existed over a century earlier: provide cavalry with the fire support it needed to deal with infantry without sacrificing their speed, mobility and shock.

The deliberate steadiness of the Germans adapts them especially for the artillery service. So this is quite surprising that the Prussian artillery had been a neglected branch of the army since the time of Frederick the Great who had underestimated its importance. Promotions and advancement in the Prussian artillery were not as good as in cavalry and infantry. It was in contrast to the French artillery, considered as th best in the World in that times.

Before the Napoleonic wars the Prussian army was organized according to the 1792 regulations, with the artillery scattered amongst the infantry, each battalion having one 6 pdr cannon. In 1805 attempts were made to reorganize the artillery but it was too late. Until 1806 batteries were judged by the speed of unlimbering and the smartness of appearance rather than the speed or/and accuracy of fire. Many cannons and howitzers were lost in the disastrous Jena Campaign.

In 1808 the Convention of Paris set the number of Prussian gunners and engineers at 6,000 men.

Guard artillery in 1810, 
picture by Knotel. Picture: Prussian Guard artillery in 1810. Picture by Knoetel.

The regulations issued in 1812 simplified the drill and abolished the light cannons attached to infantry battalions.

After Napoleon's defeat in Russia in 1812, Prussia made a massive effort to increase its field firepower. In mid March 1813 there were 213 field pieces, and by the end of August 400 field pieces.

In 1815 the problem was not so much procuring the ordnance for the campaign, but in finding trained men to use them and horses to pull them.

"The war cabinet had decreed that the army required 76 batteries, 20 more than had been available the previous year. ... The Prussian Commander of Artillery, Prince August of Prussia, even wanted to go as far as drafting in semi-invalids to make up numbers. The King overruled him, although a number of the least infirm were allowed to join the Laboratory Columns tasked with the manufacture of ammunition. Artillery recruitment was, however, opened up to volunteers from the infantry or cavalry, which provided uniformed manpower but not trained gunners." (Adkin - "The Waterloo Companion" p 301)


Equipment of Prussian Artillery.

Prussian 6pdr cannon All guns, limbers and wagons were painted in medium-blue, and their metal parts were painted black. Much of Prussia's cannons and howitzers were lost in the campaign of 1806.

Guns available for field service:

  • 24 'bombardement pieces"
  • 84 normal 12pdr cannons
  • 120 heavy 6pdr cannons
  • 320 light 6pdr cannons
  • 76 10pdr howitzers
  • 34 7pdr howitzers
  • 16 10pdr mortars

    The heavy guns became famous as the "Growlers" after a comment made by Frederick the Great during the battle of Leuthen.

    The Prussian 6pdr cannon was served by 1 sergeant and 8 gunners.
    The 12pdr cannon was served by 1 sergeant and 12 gunners.
    "The 6pdr cannon was made of bronze; the 12pdrs had either bronze or iron barrels. Most of the equipment and designs dated from the end of the 18th Century." (Hofschroer - "Prussian Staff and Specialist Troops 1791-1815" p 19)

    The gunners fired over open sights, setting the range by elevating the barrel of the cannon. The 6pdr cannon could fire a maximum of 1.5 rounds per minute.
    To ensure the ammunition supply the first line of ammunition wagons was near at hand, preferably under cover so as not to catch fire aimed at the battery. A plain covered with woods, settlements, marshes, etc. hindered the artillery and tied it to the roads. Marshes to the front however reduced the effects of enemy fire. The artillery must be carefully protected by the other arms.

    The 7pdr howitzer was served by 1 sergeant ('feuewerker') and 11 gunners.
    The 10pdr howitzer had 1 addiional man in reserve and a further 2 served the additional ammunition wagon. Total of 14 men.
    The howitzers could fire a maximum of 2 rounds in 3 minutes. The howitzers threw grenades at high trajectories whereas the cannons typically fired ricochet rounds at 0 or few more degrees elevation.

    The 6pdr cannon required 6 horses, while the heavier 12pdr 8 horses. All caissons were drawn by 4 horses. The horses of a gun team were of the same colour for one simple reason: it could easily be identified from the distance. Due to losses during campaign it was not always possible.
    On 29th May 1813, the first gun of the horse battery of the Guard (No. 5) was drawn by grey and white horses. In February 1814 the King allowed to use Danish horses to form the horse battery of Lützow's corps.

    The horse harness was Prussian, but there were also items of Russian and British origin. For example in 1815 the 18th and 19th Horse Batteries replaced the used Russian harness with new British.

    6pdr cannon 6 horses 8 + 1 NCO
    12pdr cannon 8 horses 12 + 1 NCO
    howitzer 15 (?) horses 12 + 1 NCO

    The Prussian gunners used gunpowder that consisted of 6 parts saltpeter, 1 part sulphur, 1 part coal, provided that all parts are as pure as possible. English gunpowder was considered superior. The quality of French powder was poorer than English.

    The ammunition was carried in limbers and caissons. The Prussian limbers and caissons was bigger than French limbers and caissons. The Prussian battery had only 4 but larger caissons, and 2 rack wagons, while the French battery had 12-18 smaller caissons. In battle the limbers were not far away from the cannons/howitzers so the ammunition was readily available to the battery. The Prussian caissons were deployed up to 50 m behind the limbers. (Organizationally some caissons were within the batteries and others were in the munitions 'park columns'.) Additionally the boxes with ammunition could be off-loaded from the limber and carried to the guns.

    The spare wheels and carriages were carried in so-called rack wagons. The 6pdr foot battery (6 6pdr cannons and 2 howitzers) had 2 cannon caissons, 2 howitzer caissons and 2 rack wagons. The 12pdr foot battery had 6 cannon caissons, 4 howitzer caissons and 2 rack wagons. The horse battery had 4 cannon caissons, 2 howitzer caissons and 2 rack wagons.

    The guns supplied by Great Britain arrived with sufficient ammunition, but I don't know if there was sufficient ammunition for the captured French pieces. In 1815 the ammunition wagons - at least for the 18th and 19th Horse Battery - were French.

    Ammunition for Foot Artillery
    Ammo in trail chest
    Ammo in limber
    Ammo in caisson
    6pdr cannon 9 cannonballs
    3 canister
    45 cannonballs
    25 canister
    143 cannonballs
    45 canister
    12pdr cannon no trail chest 12 cannonballs
    9 canister
    70 cannonballs
    25 canister
    7pdr howitzer 6 shells
    4 canister
    14 shells
    6 canister
    60 shells
    20 canister
    2 illuminating projectiles
    3 incendiary shells
    10pdr howitzer no trail chest 4 shells
    1 canister
    36 shells
    8 canister
    2 illuminating projectiles
    2 incendiary shells

    Ammunition for Horse Artillery
    Ammo in trail chest
    Ammo in limber
    Ammo in caisson
    6pdr cannon 9 cannonballs
    3 canister
    45 cannonballs
    15 canister
    90 cannonballs
    25 canister
    7pdr howitzer 6 shells
    4 canister
    14 shells
    6 canister
    60 shells
    20 canister
    2 illuminating projectiles
    3 incendiary shells

    Changing the wheel of
damaged Prussian 6pdr cannon.
    Picture: changing the wheel of damaged Prussian 6pdr cannon.
    Osprey Men-at-Arms Series By: Osprey Publishing Ltd.
  • ~

    Organization of Prussian Artillery.

    In 1805 were:

  • 4 regiments of foot artillery (each of 10 companies)
  • 1 regiment of horse artillery (10 companies)
  • light guns attached to infantry battalions

    The foot battery had 6 12 pdr cannons and 2 10 pdr howitzers.
    The horse battery had 6 12 pdr cannons and 2 7 pdr howitzers.

    The battery was divided into two half-batteries and 4 sections.

    In 1808 the Convention of Paris set the number of Prussian gunners and engineers at 6,000 men.
    Three artillery brigades were formed:
    1. Prussian Artillery Brigade (Preußisches Artillerie-Brigade)
    2. Brandenburg Artillery Brigade (Brandenburgische Artillerie-Brigade)
    3. Silesian Artillery Brigade (Schleßisches Artillerie-Brigade)

    The Guard Artillery was part of the 2. Brandenburg Artillery Brigade.

    In 1809 each artillery brigade had:

  • 3 companies (batteries) of horse artillery
  • 12 companies (batteries) of foot artillery
  • 1 company of artillery train
  • 1 company of artisans

    In 1812 the Prussians had:

  • 6 companies (batteries) of heavy artillery (1 battery used captured French pieces)
  • 30 companies (batteries) of foot artillery (4 batteries used guns from Britain)
  • 11 companies (batteries) of horse artillery (1 battery used guns from Britain)

    In the beginning of 1813 the Guard Artillery was made of two batteries:

  • Guard Horse Battery No. 4 ("Reitende (Garde-) Batterie Nr. 4")
  • Guard Foot Battery No. 4 ("6pfündige (Garde-) Fuß-Batterie Nr. 4") soon renamed to Guard Foot Battery No. 6 ("6pfündige Fuß-Batterie Nr. 6").

    In the end of August 1813 Prussia had 400 field pieces in 50 batteries:

  • 38 foot batteries
    . . . . . 30 batteries with 8 6pdr guns (13th, 21st, 22nd, 23rd, 25th, 26th, and 27th Battery were landwehr units)
    . . . . . 6 batteries with 8 12pdr guns
    . . . . . 1 battery with 8 7pdr howitzers (12 caissons and 2 wagons)
    . . . . . 1 battery with 8 10pdr howitzers
  • 12 horse batteries (the 12th Horse Battery was a landwehr unit)

    The Berlin Landstrum had a half-battery of 8pdr guns. Lutzow's Freecorps had one horse battery.

    Company of horse artillery had 116 men.
    Company of foot artillery (6pdrs) had 132 men.
    Company of foot artillery (12pdrs) had 184 men.

    "During the expansion of 1813, the practice of mixing guns and howitzers was not rigidly adhered to. Many companies, of all calibres, consisted of only cannon, whilst at the same time, the first and only howitzer company was formed. ... Finally, the term 'Battery' was introduced to replace the slightly misleading one of 'company'." (- John Stallaert)

    In May 1815 the Berg horse battery became Horse Battery No. 20 (in Brandenburg Artillery Brigade) and the No. 1 and No. 2 Horse Batteries of the Russo-German Legion became horse batteries No. 18 & 19 respectively (in Silesian Artillery Brigade).

    In 1815, for the Waterloo Campaign, 5 howitzer batteries were raised.

    Crew of foot battery (6 cannons and 2 howitzers) in 1815:
    . . . . . 4-5 officers (and 1 surgeon)
    . . . . . 14 NCOs
    . . . . . 20 bombardiers (senior gunners)
    . . . . . 2 drummers
    . . . . . 96 gunners
    The horse battery had an additional 16-20 soldiers.

    The foot batteries were attached to infantry brigades.
    The horse batteries were attached to cavalry brigades.
    The position and howitzer batteries formed reserve artillery.
    See below:

    ARMY CORPS 1813-1815
    Main Body
    Reserve Cavalry
    Reserve Artillery
    Infantry Brigade
    . . . . . Infantry Regiment
    . . . . . Infantry Regiment
    . . . . . Landwehr Infantry Regiment
    . . . . . Foot Battery
    Infantry Brigade
    . . . . . Infantry Regiment
    . . . . . Infantry Regiment
    . . . . . Landwehr Infantry Regiment
    . . . . . Foot Battery
    Infantry Brigade
    . . . . . Infantry Regiment
    . . . . . Landwehr Infantry Regiment
    . . . . . Landwehr Infantry Regiment
    . . . . . Foot Battery
    Infantry Brigade
    . . . . . Infantry Regiment
    . . . . . Landwehr Infantry Regiment
    . . . . . Landwehr Infantry Regiment
    . . . . . Foot Battery
    Cavalry Brigade
    . . . . . Cavalry Regiment
    . . . . . Cavalry Regiment
    . . . . . Landwehr Cavalry Regiment
    . . . . . Horse Battery

    Cavalry Brigade
    . . . . . Cavalry Regiment
    . . . . . Landwehr Cavalry Regiment
    . . . . . Landwehr Cavalry Regiment
    . . . . . Horse Battery

    . . . . . Heavy Battery
    . . . . . Heavy Battery
    . . . . . Foot Battery
    . . . . . Horse Battery
    . . . . . Howitzer Battery

  • ~

    Uniforms of Prussian Artillery.

    Prussian foot gunner. Foot gunner's uniform was similar to that of the infantryman. He wore a "Prussian blue" coat with red turnbacks, yellow buttons and black facings. The breeches were white (for parade) or gray (for campaign).
    The leather cross-belts and cartridge box were black. On the cartridge box was a grenade badge (the Guard had a brass Guard Star).
    The collars were black piped poppy-red along the front and lower edge until 1815. The shoulder straps were coloured differently for each artillery brigade. White shoulder straps were for the 1st Artillery Brigade, scarlet for the 2nd, and yellow for the 3rd. "In 1814, these distinctions were discontinued and thereafter all companies had scarlet shoulder straps." (- John Stallaert)
    Prussian foot gunner 
and officer (right)
of foot artillery. The foot gunners carried the infantry backpacks and bread bags.

    The horse gunners wore largely the same uniform, but with typical cavalry distinctions with regard to the legwear and boots. Cavalry overalls were worn with hussar boots. From 1809 the horse artillery was also permitted to wear the longer 'Litevka' coat.

    Horse leather equipment was black.

    In April 1815 half of the gunners of 13th Horse Battery received uniforms of British horse artillery. But when few months after Waterloo this battery appeared on parade wearing these outfits, the Prussian king exploded. He ordered to take the British outfits off immediately.

    During campaign, the black waxed cover was worn over the shakos of foot and horse gunners, and drivers of artillery train.

    Prussian artillery train The drivers of artillery train (see picture) wore dark blue coatees with light blue cuffs and collars, red shoulder straps and white buttons.

    In 1808-1815 the foot gunner was supplied with the same artillery sword as carried by the horse gunners. It was only a temporary measure and was intended to replace these with the normal infantry sidearm once supplies became available.
    The foot gunners were also armed with infantry muskets but didn't take them on campaign. NCOs carried carbines (but not on campaign). Different coloured sword knots were used to designate the batteries.


    Tactics of Prussian Artillery.

    In general terms the artillery had the following tasks:

  • - to support the other troops by engaging the enemy artillery and drawing their fire on itself, and by firing on advancing enemy columns
  • - to prepare the battle for other troops by covering their deployment
  • - artillery in connection with cavalry could be set up to undertake movements around an area, or operations against the enemy`s flank , or to halt an enemy advance in the event of a defeat, or a pursuit after a victory.

    The most dominant points on the battlefield were to be occupied with the heaviest field pieces. Their fire was concentrated on enemy columns and their deployment, beginning at long ranges. From such a position the enemy can be kept under fire for the time of his approach, and be held up while crossing obstacles. Such positions must be defended hard, down to the use of canister. The lighter pieces were to support the infantry and/or cavalry.

    In battle the intervals between guns was approx. 12-20 paces apart. The Reglament of 1812 hardly mentioned moving and deploying several batteries at once, and this was considered one of its weaknesses. When several batteries were deployed in line they were required to maintain an interval of 50 paces between each battery.

    The ammunition wagons were drawn up in two lines, first stood 20 paces to the rear of the guns. The second line stood 10 paces to the rear of the first line of the wagons. To move distances of less than 100 paces, the gunners preferred to tow the cannons with the prolonge rather than limber up.

    General von Clausewitz was not too happy with the tactical use of Prussian artillery. He wrote: "We keep too much artillery in reserve, and we replace a battery whenever it has used up all its powder and shot; as a consequence, many batteries try to get rid of their ammunition quickly."

  • ~

    "Frederick the Great's Engineer Corps had been weak
    in both training and performance. He attempted to
    rectify this by increasing its pay and prestige, and a
    formal structure was established. In 1788 an Engineers'
    Academy was opened."
    Hofschroer - "Prussian Staff ..." p 18


    Prussian pionier in 1814 The engineers formed an independent corps (Ingenieur-Korps) and were commanded by General-Major von Scharnhorst (between 1813 and 1815 by General-Major von Rauch).

    The were three companies of pioneers for fortresses (Festungs-Pionier-Kompanien). In 1812 a fourth company was formed. In wartime from these companies were to be formed field companies. Each field company consisted of:
    . . . . . . . . . . 2 officers, 1 surgeon
    . . . . . . . . . . 1 sergeant-major
    . . . . . . . . . . 1 armourer
    . . . . . . . . . . 6 NCOs
    . . . . . . . . . . 12 privates first class
    . . . . . . . . . . 1 bugler
    . . . . . . . . . . 40 sappers and 20 miners.
    These men should be replaced in the fortress companies by recruits or reservists.

    By August 1813 there were 7 field and 6 fortress companies of pioneers.
    In early 1815 there were 9 field and 8 fortress companies of pioneers.

    The pioneers carried swords with a saw blade, only the sergent-major and ensign had ordinary sabers. Smoothbore carabines with bayonets, and small cartridge pouches for 15 cartridges. In addition they carried hatchets, pickaxes, axes, comapass saws and spades.
    NOTE: the regimental pioneers belonged to their respective (infantry) regiments and had nothing to do with the pioneers mentioned here.

    In October 1813 in the Elbe province from 800 miners was formed the Mansfelder Pionier Batallion (4 field companies). The companies acted independently and were assigned to different army corps. There were no senior engineer or pioneer officers at army headquarters, only one engineer, Kapitan Vigny, serving as a staff officer plus a small topographical section.

    All the engineer-officers (Ingenieur-Offiziere) were on the same rank list, but organised in 3 "brigades". These officers were attached either to the field or fortress pioneer companies.

    The Guard Pioneer Detachment (Garde-Pionier-Abtheilung) was formed in 1816, not before.

    Fortress War after Waterloo 1815.
    The fortress war ended with Blucher
    having taken 10 French fortresses.

    Although the outcome of the campaign had been decided at Ligny and Waterloo, and after the signing of the Convention of Paris peace talks were in hand, the fortress war continued for some time in France. According to Peter Hofschroer, Wellington and Blucher had agreed on 23 June (few days after Waterloo) that the fortresses west of Sambre would be dealt with by Wellington's troops, and the fortresses east of that river by the Prussians.

    The King of Prussia appointed Prinz August of Prussia to carry out the task of commanding the siege operations conducted by the forces under Prussian command. He was allowed to determine which fortress he was to besiege, in what order, and in what manner. The troops he had available for this were the II Army Corps, the North German Federal Army Corps, and the garrison of Luxembourg. The Prussians had no siege equipment at their disposal and little ammunition for the field artillery. Oberst (Colonel) von Ploosen, formerly an engineer officer in the French army, was appointed chief engineer officer for the sieges. Additional engineer officers were made available in dribs and drabs, and two companies of the Mansfeld Pioneer Battalion, whose men were miners, were brought up in waggons. There was also number of infantry allocated to the Field Pioneer Companies.

    Fortress of Mauneuge Maubeuge was the strongest and most significant fortress on Sambre and was commanded by seasoned General Latour-Maubourg. The garrison consisted of 3,000 men (mostly National Guard) and 80 heavy cannons. The besieging Prussians had 7,700 infantry, 960 cavalry, 500 artillerymen, and 546 engineers. Prinz August decided to begin the bombardement as soon as possible. Eight 12pdrs cannons were deployed on the left bank of Sambre, 14 7pdr howitzers were placed behind the lines of the old fortified camp, and 4 10pdr howitzers were deployed further to the west, just behind the old camp. The artillery opened fire in the morning on the 29 June.

    Meanwhile numerous requests were sent to Wellington to send his siege train of 38 heavy guns under Colonel Dixon. This finally arrived on 8 July.

    On 9 July the French fired 150pdr (!!!) mortar bombs from the fortress, but these had no effect.

    For several days there was exchange of musket and artillery fire. Finally on 11 July the French commandant hoisted the white flag, requesting terms of capitulation. Under these terms he was permitted to leave the fortress with the honors of war, taking along 150 line troops and 2 cannons. The National Guard was dismissed.
    The fortress war ended with Blucher having taken 10 fortresses with several hundred guns and large quantities of ammunition and powder. The breaking of the French will to resist in the northern belt was largely a Prussian achievement with Wellington's troops only having played a minor role.
    Wellington appointed Prins Frederik of the Netherlands to carry out the task of commanding the siege operations conducted by the forces under Wellington's command. For this task Frederik used Stedman's Netherland Infantry Division, the Indian Brigade, Belgian 5th Light Dragoons, and Ghigny's Cavalry Brigade. (Hofschroer - "1815: The Waterloo Campaign. The German Victory." publ. by Greenhill Books, UK)

    Sources and Links.
    Recommended Reading.

    Hofschroer - "Prussian Staff and Specialist Troops 1791-1815"
    Hofschroer - "1815: The Waterloo Campaign. The German Victory."
    Craig - "The Germans"
    Duffy - "Frederick the Great"
    Adkin - "The Waterloo Companion"
    Petre - "Napoleon’s Conquest of Prussia 1806"
    Simms - "The Struggle for Mastery in Germany"
    Oliver Schmidt
    Pictures by Knoetel, and L.& F. Funcken
    John Stallaert - "The Prussian Army" >>
    Flags from
    Prussian Artillery at the Battle of Leuthen, 1757.

    Prussian Army of the Napoleonic Wars

    Prussian Infantry - - Prussian Cavalry - - Prussian Artillery

    Battle of Dennewitz, 1813
    General von Bulow crushed Marshal Ney
    Battle of Leipzig, 1813
    The Battle of the Nations,
    the largest conflict until World War One:
    Battle of Waterloo, 1813
    The German Victory - interview with Peter Hofschroer

    Artillery Tactics and Combat
    Deployment in Battle, Accuracy of Artillery Fire
    Attacking and Defending Artillery Positions

    Napoleon, His Army and Enemies