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Prussian Army - Mobilization

There was not a fire-side in the country where the young men of the reserves did not listen to nightly stories of the cruel oppressions of Napoleon the First, or hear how the elder their grandfather marched through the battles in Belginm to the streets of Paris. When it was known that the short command, "mobilize your corps" had come down from Berlin, it was not the boys only who are glad, nor were even the treble voices of the women wanting to sharpen the tone of "the watch on the Rhine".

There was neither hurry nor confusion. Not a word more from the War Office than "mobilize your corps." Not a word more from the corps commander than "mobilize your regiment." If the telegraph will not reach every regiment or official, mounted men are sent to pass it on. Every commander of a district Landwehr battalion knew who were the men to be called out instantly from the reserve: nay, he had in some cases, letters already written and only requiring to be despatched. In other cases he sent the orders through the parochial authorities. Twenty-four hours' law was given to arrange household affairs and take farewell of friends, and then the men present themselves at the headquarters of the Landwehr battalion. A doctor examined them to see if they are fit to fight for their country, and they were forwarded in charge of an Officer or non-commissioned Officer to the headquarters of the regiment where the whole of their equipment was already waiting for them, for it was never suffered that the peace army be considered otherwise than as the training school for war, and the guardian of all that is wanted to equip the war army.

To complete the infantry regiment, about 500 reserve men per battalion, or 1,500 men per regiment, were sent to serve with the colors at once. The remaining reserves, together with some of the youngest Landwehr men, were formed into a depot battalion about 1,000 strong; the rest of the Landwehr go to the fortresses, always, so far as is possible, in their own district. A cavalry regiment only required about 40 reserve men, because it was kept nearly up to its full strength in peace. The bulk of the cavalry reserves would go to guard train and lines of communication. It must suffice to say that the reserve men left in the depot battalion worked at the drills and duties they have as yet had little time to forget siuce they served with their regiment, and await a call to the front.

Their call to the front would come as soon as the regiment had lost one-tenth of its men, and would come direct from the regiment, not from any War Office or other cold-hearted institution. "Comrades, we have suffered and need help," would be heard by the brothers and friends of the men before the enemy, and the reserves would go, not to strangers, but to stand beside those whom they have known all their lives.

It is hard to conceive what is meant by a good regimental system if this be not one. Officers, every one of whom has been elected into the regiment by those who choose him as a comrade, and men all from the same district, so that there is none so humble but will have his gallant dceds told in his village by eye witnesses -- none so friendless, but that the tribute of a tear will be paid to his untimely fall. Subscriptions were opened for the sick and wounded, who receive no comforts except freewill offerings, and how the whole district is busy preparing supplies of food and clothing, which are sent straight to the regiment dearest to the hearts of the people.

In the campaigns which the Prussian army undertook in 1848 and 1849, and again when the army was mobilized in 1850 and 1859, the disadvantages of an organization entirely based upon the Landwehr system became apparent in a high Jegree. The energetic spirit with which the Prussian people rushed to arms against Napoleon I. can only, under very peculiar circumstances, agitate a whole nation, and make every individual willing and anxious to sacrifice his personal comfort and convenience in order to respond to the call of his Government, and serve with alacrity in the ranks of the army. Such circumstances seldom occur, and are due either to the insupportable weight of a foreign domination — as was the case in Prussia from 1807-12 — or to some strong patriotic stimulus such as has knitted the people of the same country together during the late campaign; but this spirit is seldom found at the outbreak of an ordinary war, engaged in for ordinary political reasons.

It was found on the mobilization in 1848 that a great portion of the Landwehr soldiers obeyed only unwillingly the call to arms, because it interfered with their private occupations; that they sometimes, weaned by long ease from military ideas, showed a want of discipline, and that, thinking more for their wives and families than for their duty to the State, they did not always acquit themselves properly in action. Besides, there was this disadvantage that the Landwehr—therefore, about half of the field army, newly embodied—prevented the divisions from being immediately prepared to take the field, a delay which is terribly prejudicial to an army in these times, when troops are forwarded to the theatre of war by the rapid means of railway transport. The officers and non-commissioned officers of the Landwehr were also little used to their duties, and at the very moment of mobilization a great number of them were necessarily transferred to the Line, and others brought from the regular army to supply their places. These numerous alterations of their leaders at such an important time were alone sufficient to impair materially the efficiency of the troops.

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Page last modified: 05-06-2016 20:47:29 ZULU