Austrian Cuirassiers Organisation

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Hierarchical Path: Seven Years War (Main Page) >> Armies >> Austrian Army >> Austrian Cuirassiers Organisation

Composition and Organisation

In 1748, at the end of the War of the Austrian Succession, the Austrian Army counted 18 cuirassier regiments.

In February 1748, a military commission assembled under the supervision of Prince Charles of Lorraine to reform the army. This commission also included Prince Wenzel von Liechtenstein, the president of the War Council Field-Marshal Count Joseph Harrach, FZM Count Leopold Daun and GdC Count Salaburg.

All cuirassier regiments were maintained. Their peacetime establishment consisted of 1 carabinier company and 12 so called Ordinari companies for a total of 818 men and horses. A cuirassier regiment was organised as follows:

  • Regimental staff
    • 1 Obrist-Inhaber (colonel-proprietor)
    • 1 Obrist-Kommandant
    • 1 Obrist-Lieutenant
    • 1 Obrist-Wachtmeister (major)
    • 15 lower staff (including 1 Heerpauker (kettle drummer) and 6 field-surgeons)
  • 6 cuirassier squadrons, each of:
    • 2 Ordinari companies of cuirassiers, each of 3 officers and 72 troopers, more precisely:
      • 1 captain
      • 1 lieutenant
      • 1 cornet (standard bearer)
      • 1 Fourier
      • 4 other NCOs
      • 1 trumpeter
      • 1 saddler
      • 1 farrier
      • 64 Troopers
  • 1 carabinier company of 3 officers and 97 carabiniers, more precisely:
    • 1 captain
  • 1 first lieutenant
  • 1 second lieutenant
    • 6 NCOs
    • 1 trumpeter
    • 1 saddler
    • 1 farrier
    • 88 troopers
  • train
    • 4 x 4-horses provision wagons
    • 1 x 4-horses field-forge
    • 2 large wagons for the colonel
    • 1 large wagon for each staff officer
    • 1 small wagon for each other officer

N.B.: as with the infantry, the 4 staff officers of a regiment each held a position within their own company, thus reducing 4 companies by 1.

At the beginning of 1755, on average, each cavalry regiment had a shortage of only 95 men and 170 horses. Purchase of horses was undertaken.

By the end of June 1756, cuirassier regiments raised in the Hereditary Lands were still missing 455 men and 578 horses. Therefore 1,300 recruits were raised in the Hereditary Lands to replenish the ranks of the cavalry (cuirassier and dragoon regiments). The delivery of the necessary horses was expected in August.

At the outbreak of the Seven Years' War, the Austrian Army counted 18 cuirassier regiments, each of 818 men for a total of 14,724 men.

Wartime Organisation

When taking to the field, a carabinier company was to be formed, and 2 cuirassier companies were to form 1 squadron. Authorised strength was to amount to 6 squadrons with 36 officers and 864 cuirassiers (exclusive of lower staff) and 1 company of carabiniers with a 100 men – for a total of 1,015 men.

With 2 companies forming 1 squadron, it should be assumed that the 2nd companies standard was returned to the regiments arsenal, because a squadron had only a single standard in campaign.

N.B.: Several publications elsewhere agree with the overall 1,000 men but often include breakdowns of the 1768/1769 reorganisations which add to a false 12 to 13 hundred total. The above breakdown derives from the Großer Generalstab History (see reference below) and should be the authentic Seven Years' War organisation.

This organisation remained basically unaltered for most of the war, aside a few minor changes in 1759 that had the staff companies Rittmeister position (captain-proprietor) assigned to a lieutenant-captain, and the cornet’s position to a designated standard bearer of NCO rank, while the cornet would now serve as second-lieutenant (Unterlieutenant).

However, during Spring 1758, each regiment was ordered to take 1 squadron out of the line to create a so called ‘depository’ company, as well as a ‘garrison’ company. The ‘depository’ company was to serve as a store of recruits, and to receive the sick and lightly wounded, also all of the regiments dispensable baggage was to be located there. It was also to receive 100 remounts as the field-squadron reserve of horses, and was to be set up at a suitable distance in the rear of the army. The ‘garrison’ company was to be employed to escort transports and other rear activities.

Thus, from 1758 on, the cuirassiers formed 5 so called ‘field-squadrons’ and 1 company of carabiniers in line of battle. The total book strength of the 5 squadrons was 750 men, somewhat less than the standard 5 squadrons Prussian cuirassiers and dragoons with a wartime book strength of approx. 200 men per squadron.

In 1759, the Rittmeister (captain) of each of the four staff companies was replaced by a lieutenant-captain and the standards were entrusted to standard-bearers instead of the former cornets.

In the Winter of 1761/1762, the overall strength of a regiment (1,015 men) was reduced to some 850 men as a result of Austria’s dwindling financial resources.

The carabiniers of an armies cavalry would often be combined, along with the horse grenadiers, into larger corps of elite cavalry. Size of these units varied greatly during the war. Any kind of permanent brigading has apparently not been the custom.


In the cavalry, much against the inclinations of most officers, there was still an exaggerated emphasis on foot exercises with troopers deploying in 3 ranks. Marching, firing and even forming square as the infantry were still practised.

When mounted, cavalry usually deployed in 3 ranks but it could also deploys in 2 ranks. A distance of 5 paces was usually maintained between each rank. The spacing was reduced when facing the enemy. Files were disposed knee to knee.

Tactically, a squadron was organised in 3 Züge. Furthermore, each company of carabiniers was organised in 3 or 4 Züge, even though it counted less men than a complete squadron.

When a regiment was deployed in the first line, a distance of 10 paces was maintained between its squadrons. This distance increased to 30 or even 50 paces for regiment deployed in the second line.

A well trained cavalry regiment was able to move and change formation in several ways: front march, counter-march, wheeling by squadron, company or Züge to form in line or column. Ranks could be doubled by inserting half ranks. Oblique march was not covered by the regulations but seems to have been used for deployment.

Long movements were made at the small or strong trot. Gallop was used only for attacks. Typically, a squadron would move towards the enemy at the small trot from a distance of 200 paces, accelerating to strong trot for 20 paces before charging at gallop for the last 20 to 30 paces.


  • Großer Generalstab, Kriegsgeschichtliche Abteilung II (Publisher). Die Kriege Friedrichs des Großen. Dritter Teil: Der Siebenjährige Krieg 1756–1763.
    • Vol. 1 Pirna und Lobositz, Berlin, 1901, pp. 130-134, 145-146, 150; App. 4
    • Vol. 2 to 13, Berlin 1901 - 1914
  • Kessel, Eberhard: Das Ende des Siebenjährigen Krieges 1760-1763, comissioned by the (German Army) Research Departement of Military History [Militärgeschichtliches Forschungsamt – MGFA], edited by Thomas Lindner, Paderborn 2007 – the recent reedit of the missing volumes of the early 20th c. Großer Generalstab publications above
  • Duffy, Chrisopher:, The Army of Maria Theresia, Doncaster 1990
  • Anonymous: Die Reiter-Regimenter der k.k. östereichischen Armee, vol I: Die Kürassiere und Dragoner. 2nd edition, Vienna 1866