Notes on the Formation of the Grün-Loudon-Grenadiere

During the Seven Years War there was a great deal of military activity away from and around the edges of the field armies. This came under the heading "der kleine Krieg", ie. Small or Petty War. The Austrians had an inherent advantage over the Prussians in the availability of large forces of skilled light infantry- the Grenz-Infanterie (Border Infantry), generally referred to as Croats, from the Military Border. An officer who commanded Grenz-Infanterie with some success in the early stages of the Seven Years War was Gideon Ernst Freiherr von Loudon. He was born in Livland and had served in the Russian Army from 1734 to 1739. He had been with the Russian contingent that marched to the Rhine during the War of the Polish Succession (1734-35). He also served during the Russo-Turkish War of 1736-39. At the end of this war he left the Russian service and after an unsuccessful attempt to join the Prussians he ended up in the Austrian Army, serving with Trenck`s Panduren. In 1757 he led light troops with great effect against the Prussians in Bohemia,and during this period he concluded that on many occasions the presence of formed troops in support of the Croats would frequently either prevent them being defeated or would increase the effects of a success. The result was his plan to set up a force of grenadiers, this eventually became a reality. The unit was known officially as Freiwilligenbataillon Loudon, unofficially also as Loudon-Grenadiere and Grün Loudon.

The unit fought under Loudon throughout its existence. In 1758 it distinguished itself at Arnsdorf, in 1759 it fought well at Kunersdorf. In 1760 it distinguished itself at Landeshut, then it was involved in covering the retreat after Liegnitz. In 1761 it manouevred in Silesia, and in 1762 it took part in the defence of the redoubts at Leutmannsdorf. The commander was Major Richard Chevalier d`Alton.

There is information about the formation of the Grün-Loudon Grenadiere in the book Der kleine Krieg. Studien zum Heerwesen des Absolutismus by Johannes Kunisch (published by Steiner Verlag, Wiesbaden, in 1973). In addition to some points in the text and footnotes, the book includes the original text of all or part of five documents dealing with the formation of the unit. These are:

1). An undated letter from Loudon to the Queen-Empress, in which he reports that a first battalion of grenadiers has been successfully established, and he seeks permission to set up a second;

2). A Pro-Memoria (ie. Memorandum) from Loudon to the Queen-Empress, undated but definitely written in the period late February-early March 1759, in which he seeks permission for a second battalion and describes the use of the battalions in detail, together with sources of manpower etc.;

3).Anlagen (enclosures) to the Memorandum detailing organisation, pay, command structure, equipment etc.;

4). a Gutachten (report) dated 13th March 1759 from Field-Marshals Count Harrach (President of the Hofkriegsrat) and Count Neipperg (Vice-President of the Hofkriegsrat) to the Queen-Empress in which they agree fully to the establishment of a second battalion, with certain suggestions aimed at reducing costs;

5). A Konzept of 16th March 1759, signed by Count Harrach and addressed to Loudon, Leopold Daun and the Directorium in publicis et Cammeralibus, detailing the proposed procedures for setting up the unit.

Of these documents, 1)., 2). and 4). are reproduced in full in the book, 3). in parts, and 5). is mentioned.

Kunisch states that Loudon first considered setting up grenadier units to support the Croats in the autumn of 1757. At the time he was actively engaged in small war operations, and he noted that the Croats` general inability to fight in formed bodies was a great disadvantage, as it prevented the successful conclusion of numerous promising situations. In a letter of 11th May 1758 to Hofrat Hochstätter Loudon mentions in passing that he had already once before attempted to set up a corps of 1,500 grenadiers from the Croats, without success. No documents can be found dealing with this earlier attempt.

The Pro-Memoria describes Loudon`s thinking in setting up the grenadier units. Initially he notes how he had spoken to the Queen-Empress twelve months before about forming two grenadier battalions, but had not been given permission as it would have required a number of experienced men from the German line regiments. Now however six companies (ie. one battalion) had been successfully established without any men being taken from the German regiments (he points out that the unit was quickly brought up to full strength by using Prussian deserters), and he wished to establish a second battalion. The Memorandum now describes the purpose and reasons behind setting up the two battalions. The grenadiers were to support the Croats such that when the Croats had brought an enemy into confusion the grenadiers were to advance and with “regular and steady fire” would prevent his rallying and complete his defeat; in a situation where the Croats were threatened by enemy cavalry the grenadiers would cover their flanks. The Croats had never been able to fight in formed bodies, and as such it was not difficult for an enemy to rally in the face of dispersed attackers; the grenadiers would prevent this. Loudon cites two examples of situations in which the presence of formed supports on the Austrian side would have resulted in initial successes on the part of the Croats ending in victory, instead of defeat. He states that two battalions are required, as the field strength of a single battalion (with an establishment of not more than 840 men) would usually be around 600 men due to ill and wounded men being absent, and a force of this size would not be large enough to support the Croats.

Loudon goes on to describe further advantages to be gained from the use of the grenadiers:

1). Greater likelihood of enemy troops deserting;

2). in view of the fact that he intends to use Prussian deserters to man the units, as long as the necessary uniforms and equipment are available the battalions can be kept at full strength during the campaign season by recruiting arriving deserters;

3). the men of the two battalions would receive less pay than those in the line regiments;

4). it would not be necessary to detach grenadiers from the line units.

Experience had shown that almost all Prussian deserters who joined a German line regiment would eventually desert back to the Prussians. Loudon hoped that this would not occur with his two grenadier battalions, for several albeit minor reasons:

1). The two battalions would always be on duty with the Croats on the outpost line, hence not as negiret ('hemmed in') as a regiment camped in the line, and they would have the prospect of fighting the enemy every day and also be able to make booty regularly;

2).the men would all be Grenadiers, the name itself would suffice to give every man a certain Ehrgeiz (ie. drive, or ambition) something that the Prussians were used to;

3).the men would have green instead of white uniforms, this would save them the regular task of cleaning them;

4). all men would be recruited by capitulation, and therefore not committed to serving for life.

Loudon expressed the hope that the two battalions would do well against the enemy (the first company he had established fought well at Fischbach in Lusatia on 16th September 1758). He suggested that in a situation where the Prussians suffered a severe deroute as at Breslau in 1757 with the consequent large-scale desertions, all arriving deserters who were Silesian or from currently Austrian provinces should be put into the two grenadier battalions so as to bring the strength of each company to over 200, this would prevent them from going home and being taken into Prussian service again.

No money would be provided for recruiting costs, the units would have to raise this themselves.

Loudon finished his Memorandum with the suggestion that grenadier bearskins would not be necessary in the field, unless Her Majesty decided otherwise.

A Projectierte Werb-Capitulation (Proposed Recruiting Capitulation) in the Anlagen, which set out the procedures for organising and equipping the two battalions, stated in Clause 8 that no Prussian deserter born either in Brandenburg or in Prussia was to be taken on except under very special circumstances.

The letter from Field-Marshals Harrach and Neipperg agreed fully with the proposal for a second battalion. They did suggest certain measures intended to cut costs- the use of hats instead of bearskins firstly because the name grenadiers and the wearing of the sabre was sufficient to distinguish the units from the line regiments, and second as a means of reducing costs; and they suggested that the men of four “Free Companies” recruited by Feldmarschallleutnant von Beck be used for the second battalion as they had shown themselves to be of little use (Maria Theresia wrote in the margin “Beck behalte die seinigen” ie. “Beck keeps his”). They also requested that other than officers no men of the German regiments be used for the two battalions.

So it appears that an earlier attempt by Loudon to set up grenadier units using Croats with some men from German fusilier regiments was not permitted, so he subsequently set them up using Prussian deserters and made the prospect of serving in them as attractive as possible (ie regular action, plunder, no white uniforms to clean etc.).

Finally, it seems that the task of having to regularly clean white uniforms discouraged some deserters from joining the Austrian service. It is mentioned elsewhere that Loudon chose green for the uniforms of his grenadier units in memory of his time in the Russian Army, he clearly had another motive also.


A battalion was to consist of a Staab (staff), a Staabs-Compagnie, and five ordinare Grenadier Compagnien.

The Staff consisted of:

1 ObristLieutenant and Commandant
2 Obristwachtmeister
1 Regimentsquartiermeister
1 Auditor
1 Caplan
1 RegimentsFeldscheer
1 Proviantmeister
1 Wagenmeister
1 BataillonFeldscheer
1 Profos cum suis

Total 11 men

Kunisch states that the Staabs-Compagnie was virtually the same as the ordinare Grenadier Compagnie, with the same number of men (154), but does not provide details.

An ordinare Grenadier Compagnie consisted of:

1 Hauptmann
1 OberLieutenant
2 UnterLieutenants
2 Feldwaibels
1 Fourier
1 Feldscheer
6 Corporals
3 Tambours
1 Pfeiffer
12 Gefreiten
2 Fourierschützen
2 Zimmerleute
120 Gemeine

Total: 154 men


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