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The Lounge => Historical Discussion => Topic started by: Moldplayer on June 01, 2014, 01:08:08 am

Title: Light Infantry Companies
Post by: Moldplayer on June 01, 2014, 01:08:08 am
Hello folks:

Got a simple question for you: when did Europeon countries begin to adopt light companies in line infantry battalions? I know several countries used grenzers, jaegers, and chasseurs since before the Seven Years War; and both sides of the American Revolutionary war had light companies. But when were they adopted?
Title: Re: Light Infantry Companies
Post by: Aiello on June 01, 2014, 12:23:29 pm
Skirmishing units have existed in Europe and the world since ancient times. Light infantry units during the time of linear warfare is essentially an extension of that lineage. Originally, light infantry were units that had less/lighter equipment that would be more mobile than most core infantry formations in an army that would harass enemy formations. Harassing the enemy causes delays, they have to deal with their wounded, fill in gaps caused by casualties, etc. Light infantry units could get out before heavy units could react as they were often too slow or would rather keep cohesion in their formation.

In linear warfare, light infantry have the same basic role, with only a few differences. Since armor had become obsolete light infantry and regular units roughly carried the same weight in equipment so light units could effectively be pursued by other infantry. However, light infantry fought dispersed and could not effectively be engaged by musket fire. Even a well placed volley by traditional line infantry could only make a small dent in a unit of light infantry. On the downside, light infantry can't hold a line in melee. Tightly packed formations act like wedges into thinner lines and can quickly divide them, creating gaps that can be exploited by other units. To put it simply Light troops = better range capability; poor melee, Heavy troops: worse range; better melee. Both of these units need to be balanced and work together to provide optimal results.

The use of light units also can be attributed to some economic reasons. Typically an army in the 18th and 19th century was professional, made up of volunteers (I use the term volunteer loosely as impressing men into the military was common). As a result, bigger and taller men were preferred as they were often better in melee, the especially tall and large men would often be in elite heavy units such as Grenadiers or Guards. However, there is a large pool of shorter men willing to fight without quite making the cut for regular units. Shorter men could be put into units that specifically avoided melee, leaving all the big guys to be put in their optimal roles.
Title: Re: Light Infantry Companies
Post by: Archduke Sven on June 01, 2014, 12:48:26 pm
Napoleon: Total War expert above me...
Title: Re: Light Infantry Companies
Post by: Von_Clausewitz on June 01, 2014, 03:20:26 pm
Napoleon: Total War expert above me...

Napoleon: Total War © is a valid historical source, ok?
Title: Re: Light Infantry Companies
Post by: Moldplayer on June 01, 2014, 05:53:56 pm
Yes yes, but when did these guys come into use in battalions?

Spoiler
(https://www.fsegames.eu/forum/proxy.php?request=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.lionheart-filmworks.com%2Fimages%2Fbritish1.jpg&hash=83176ed9c7cf9219382a0edbab5a9023)
[close]


EDIT Like dates when these companies came into use, not how/why they were used.
Title: Re: Light Infantry Companies
Post by: Duuring on June 02, 2014, 12:27:02 am
It was just handy to have a small unit of light infantry with every basic-sized formation, the battalion.

Aiello makes good points, but I have to note that melees in open battles were very uncommon in the later 18th centuries and after that.
Title: Re: Light Infantry Companies
Post by: Aiello on June 02, 2014, 09:37:06 am
Aiello makes good points, but I have to note that melees in open battles were very uncommon in the later 18th centuries and after that.
Ya basically as the benefits of light troops became more and more irrelevant due to technology and change in tactics little distinction in use would actually exist between regular and light formations. Modern day light troops carry less equipment and bring less armor to be more mobile in terrain where it is particularly difficult to bring things like tanks, heavy artillery guns, etc.
Title: Re: Light Infantry Companies
Post by: Moldplayer on June 02, 2014, 05:59:48 pm
So when were light companies put into regular line infantry battalians? That is what I am asking here, not what they were used for and not what they were armed with but what years were light companies were first used.
Title: Re: Light Infantry Companies
Post by: Duuring on June 02, 2014, 06:36:20 pm
France created Voltigeurs companies in 1804.
Title: Re: Light Infantry Companies
Post by: Aiello on June 02, 2014, 08:49:27 pm
So when were light companies put into regular line infantry battalians? That is what I am asking here, not what they were used for and not what they were armed with but what years were light companies were first used.

They've always been there since the moment linear warfare existed, around the mid 17th century.
Title: Re: Light Infantry Companies
Post by: Duuring on June 02, 2014, 10:22:56 pm
That's not true. Most armies kept their light infantry strictly in their own formation.
Title: Re: Light Infantry Companies
Post by: Aiello on June 03, 2014, 03:51:35 am
That's not true. Most armies kept their light infantry strictly in their own formation.

It depends what country's military you're talking about. The initial Jager skirmishers of Hesse-Kassel in the 1630s fought integrated into regular units coming off of the pike and shot era of warfare where pikemen and musketeers operated in the same formation. Soon the use of pikemen would fall off, but light troops still operated with musket wielding regulars as they did with pikemen with the development of the bayonet in the early 1700s. Light infantry formations would not become fully separate from regulars until the 1770s when skirmishing doctrine had become more developed. The British, from at least 1770, required that every regular regiment was require to have a light company. However, it was realized that it was more efficient to have separate, specialized, units rather than integrated ones.

The range of time that integrated light and regular formations would have existed would be from 1630ish-1800ish. Countries would not fully commit to large but separate light infantry formations until the War of Austrian Succession where the French and Austrians realized the value of these troops.
Title: Re: Light Infantry Companies
Post by: Archduke Sven on June 03, 2014, 01:34:51 pm
So when were light companies put into regular line infantry battalians? That is what I am asking here, not what they were used for and not what they were armed with but what years were light companies were first used.

Just say the country mate, none of the countries had them implemented at the exact same time. For a general idea say mid 1700's sometime before and after the War of Austrian Succesion.
Title: Re: Light Infantry Companies
Post by: Moldplayer on June 04, 2014, 04:26:41 am
So when were light companies put into regular line infantry battalians? That is what I am asking here, not what they were used for and not what they were armed with but what years were light companies were first used.

Just say the country mate, none of the countries had them implemented at the exact same time. For a general idea say mid 1700's sometime before and after the War of Austrian Succesion.

Forgive me, it probably would of been best if specified that.

Lets say, the UK, France, Prussia, Austria and Russia (if applicable of course)
Title: Re: Light Infantry Companies
Post by: Aiello on June 04, 2014, 08:59:42 pm
Each country had experimented with light infantry and used irregular units to fulfill the role since they were first devised in the mid 1600s, but many countries did not officially adopt them until much later on.

Great Britain: After seeing how effectively the French and Austrians used them in the Seven Years War, as well as seeing the tactics used by Native Americans, in 1770 it was required that regular regiments have a company of light infantry. These troops would first see action during the American Revolution, before this war the British often hired German mercenaries to fulfill light infantry roles if they needed them.

France: France was one of the first major country to adopt light infantry companies in a large scale, the French light infantry, or Chasseurs, were raised almost solely to combat Austria's light infantry during the War of Austrian Succession, specifically in 1743 when they were created.

Prussia: While Prussia was a German state, it did not have the light infantry tradition of its fellow Germans. The German style of light infantry was developed by the Hessians in the mid 1600s but the Prussians would not adopt them until the Seven Years War, when they fought Austria in 1756.

Austria: Probably the first major military to adopt light infantry, known as the Pandurs. Pandurs were mostly Hungarians that were at first put in charge to defend the borders of Austria in 1741, but soon were integrated into regular units after their effectiveness was noted.

Russia:
Essentially adopted light infantry after the Prussians used them in the Seven Years War.
Title: Re: Light Infantry Companies
Post by: Duuring on June 04, 2014, 09:17:50 pm
But, apart from Britian, those light infantry units were there own independent formations. Prussia never actually adopted light companies - Instead they had a 'light batallion', one of the three batallions of every regiment.
Title: Re: Light Infantry Companies
Post by: Moldplayer on June 05, 2014, 07:18:41 am
Alright, thankyou folks for the info!
Title: Re: Light Infantry Companies
Post by: Moldplayer on June 08, 2014, 06:59:36 pm
Forgive the double post. But did highlander units have light companies during the American Revolution?
Title: Re: Light Infantry Companies
Post by: joer5835 on June 08, 2014, 07:01:21 pm
I believe they did. Every British unit had a light and a grenadier company.

I've seen pictures of the 42nd's Grenadier Coy (they had bearskins instead of bonnets and they had shoulder wings) during the Seven years War
Title: Re: Light Infantry Companies
Post by: Millander on June 20, 2014, 06:31:06 pm
Yep. Something that has struck me is seance beginning my Rev War interest not long ago is how often Britian detached its flank companies for special assignments. It was the light companies that were sent ahead of the main British force and started the Battle of Lexington and Concord and it was exclusively the Flank Companies that fought at Bunker Hill.

However going onto the earlier topic in the Napoleonic Wars Prussia did in fact have its own light troops at the company lever. During the 1813 and 1814 campaign nearly every line battalion had a company of volunteer Jagers attached to them that would serve the same role as a Voltigeur company in a French bat. or a light company in a British bat.
Title: Re: Light Infantry Companies
Post by: Duuring on June 20, 2014, 06:48:54 pm
Well, yeah, but that was not an integrated part of the regiment.
Title: Re: Light Infantry Companies
Post by: Millander on June 20, 2014, 07:22:29 pm
Define what you mean integrated. Were marched, fight and camped with the battalion and were essentially apart of it accept in name. 
Title: Re: Light Infantry Companies
Post by: Duuring on June 20, 2014, 07:33:56 pm
Integrated as in it fell under the command structure, the men were considered part of the regiment and without them the regiment would be considered incomplete. None of this applies for those companies. Voluntarily Jägers were considered part of their company and as such added to an infantry regiment, and were commanded by a captain who fell only under the CO of the regiment. They weren't part of the regiment. Plus, they were disbanded after the war.