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Saxon Army

Saxony, a kingdom of Germany, ranked among the constituent states of the empire, fifth in area, third in population and first in density of population, bounded on the S. by Bohemia, on the W. by Bavaria and the Thuringian states and on the W., N. and E. by Prussia. Except in the south, towards Bohemia, where the Erzgebirge formed at once the limit of the kingdom and of the empire, the boundaries were entirely political.

The name of Saxony has been borne by two distinct blocks of territory. The first was the district in the north-west of Germany, inhabited originally by the Saxons, which became a duchy and attained its greatest size and prosperity under Henry the Lion in the 12th century. In 1180 it was broken up, and the name of Saxony disappeared from the greater part of it, remaining only with the districts around Lauenburg and Wittenberg. Five centuries later Lauenburg was incorporated with Hanover, and Wittenberg was the nucleus of modern Saxony, the name being thus transferred from the west to the east of Germany.

The Saxon Army formerly played a prominent part in all the wars of northern Europe, chiefly in connexion with Poland. In the War of the Austrian Succession the Saxon army played a prominent part, but in the end it suffered a heavy defeat in the battle of Kesselsdorf (1745). In the Seven Years' War Saxony was overrun by the Prussians almost without resistance, and the military forces of the country under Field Marshal Rutowski were forced to surrender en masse at Pirna (1756); the men were compelled by Frederick the Great to join the Prussian army, and fought, though most unwillingly, through the remainder of the war as Prussian soldiers. A few outlying regiments which had not been involved in the catastrophe served with the Austrians, and on one occasion at least, at Kolin, inflicted a severe blow on the Prussians.

At the outbreak of the wars of the French Revolution the Saxon army was over 30,000 strong. It took part in the campaign of Jena on the side of the Prussians, and during the Napoleonic domination in Germany Saxony furnished strong contingents to the armies of Napoleon, who in return recognized her elector as king, and largely increased his territories. The newly made king remained faithful to Napoleon even in his reverses; but the army was too German in feeling to fight willingly under the French flag. Their defection at Leipzig contributed not a little to the results of that bloody day. After the peace the king was shorn of a great part of his dominions, and the army was reconstituted on a smaller scale.

By the mid-1850s this army had been considerably augmented since 1848, and considerably improved. On a war footing, Saxony had 4 infantry brigades and 1 brigade of chasseurs. The total strength of the Saxon infantry, exclusive of 4 infantry and 1 chasseur battalion as reserve = 20 battalions, with 19,741 combatants, of whom 18,000 could be brought into the field. The Saxon infantry wore a uniform greatly at variance with the other German troops, and not particularly handsome. The tunics are green, with light-blue collars and cuffs, light-blue trowsers, and little low caps after the Austrian pattern. The chasseurs wear dark-green, with black collars. Cavalry was composed of 4 light regiments, 1 of the guards, each of 5 squadrons.

In 1866 Saxony sided with Austria, and her army shared in the disasters of the brief campaign and the crowning defeat at Königgrätz. Under the crown prince's leadership, however, the Saxons distinguished themselves by their courage and steadiness wherever they were engaged.

After the war Saxony became part of the North German Confederation, and in 1870- 1871 her troops, under the command of the crown prince, formed the XII corps of the great German army. They were assigned to the II army of Prince Frederick Charles, and delivered the decisive attack on the French right at Gravelotte. Subsequently a IV army was formed under the command of the crown prince, in which the XII corps, under Prince George of Saxony, served with unvarying credit in the campaign of Sedan and the siege of Paris.

The Saxon army was organized in every respect on Prussian lines, and formed two army corps (XII at Dresden and XIX at Leipzig) of the German army. The German emperor, in concert with the king of Saxony, named the officers for the higher commands. Saxony retained, however, her separate war ministry, budget, &c. ; and appointments and promotion to all but the highest commands were made by the king. The colors of the older Saxon forces, and especially the green of the tunics, were retained in many of the uniforms.

The disposition of the Saxon and Wurttemberg troops within their own boundaries belongs to the kings of the respective States as heads of the contingents (Kontingentsherren).

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Page last modified: 11-07-2011 02:54:36 ZULU