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Evaluation of the Armed Forces of the Holy Roman Empire after their Defeat under Austrian Command at the Battle of Roßbach (November 24, 1757)

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Permit me, Your Imperial Majesty, an allegory: these men should be viewed as hunting hounds of the best breed that have not yet been trained to the chase; a good trainer will not set them first on bear or lion, lest they be frightened and made fearful. Instead, he sets them first on a weak animal, and then on a somewhat fiercer one, until finally, accustomed to attack, they can be released on anything that shows itself. If these troops had been handled in this way; if they had been instructed in maneuvers, shifts, forward and rearward marching, in facing and maneuvering before the enemy; if each had been trained in attack and standing guard, in making camp, marching and operating in detachments, in securing the artillery, baggage, provisions, etc.; in short, if in each a proper military discipline had been instilled, then I myself do not doubt that they would have fulfilled their duty as well as any others, and still would do so. Yet these men, completely unaccustomed to facing gunfire and the enemy’s visage, had to be led in their first encounter against the most redoubtable enemy in present-day Europe [the Prussians]. And the example of the French troops, who are soldiers hardened in battle, can hardly have bolstered their courage, so that Your Imperial Majesty will find it easy to guess their fate [“read their horoscope”].

But since it is not a question, Most Gracious Lord, of what can be made of these troops but rather of their actual condition at the present moment, I must -- having expressed my views twice in war-council to all the generals -- stand by them and say that, here and now, they cannot without mighty support from Imperial [Austrian] troops be led before the eyes of this enemy.

Your Imperial Majesty, Most Gracious Emperor and Lord, must now be told that no wagon-train is on hand, the draught-horses of most of the regimental provisioning and encampment wagons have disappeared, also that some regiments are wholly without tents. I leave it to Your Excellency’s Most High judgment and decision whether and how such troops, especially now in this late season of the year, are to be further mobilized. Moreover, there is the enormously important circumstance that I possess next to no cavalry -- these are too few, and their quality is greatly deficient.

I have no complaint about the Imperial cavalry’s bravery, but my God, they are, Most Gracious Lord, completely inexpert in maneuver. The King of Prussia can run his cavalry faster around our whole army than I can succeed in getting a few squadrons of ours to wheel about. And it is not unknown to Your Gracious Imperial Majesty that swift maneuvers alone are capable of making any gains against this enemy.

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