Prussian Napoleonic Uhlans, 1813–1815

HaT Industrie 1:72 Scale Figure Review

Prussian Napoleonic Uhlans, 1813–1815, 1:72 Miniatures HaT Industrie 8005

HaT Industrie's Uhlans portray the cavalry detachment of the famous Lützow Freischar. In 1815, the unit joined the old Bremen Volunteers and was re-designated as the 6th Uhlan Regiment. The latter wore a similar uniform to Lützow's men, but they were distinguished by black czapkas which may be scrounged from ESCI's Polish lancers. No doubt, these uhlans will be popular. The black uniforms with red trim, gold buttons and epaulettes, red over yellow lance-pennons and black sheepskin shabraques with red trim look absolutely striking on any wargames table. The diorama built by Klaus Hinderks shows the 6th Uhlan Regiment attacking French infantry. The troopers are mounted on French hussar horses taken from Italeri.

Lances are cheap ...

Following the introduction of the longbow, crossbow and early firearms, the balance of power on the battlefield gradually shifted in favor of the infantry, enabling them to defeat frontal cavalry attacks. Medieval missile troops relied on sharpened stakes planted into the ground to break up any cavalry formations which managed to get through the hail of arrows. 17th century musketeers were deployed in joint formations with pikemen who protected them against cavalry charges, and were able to take this protection with them from one position on the battlefield to another. Finally, when the socket bayonet became available, infantry armed with muskets and bayonets adopted the dual role of light missile troops and the old anti-cavalry pike formations. As a result, frontal attack against formed and confident infantry became suicidal, and cavalry gradually understood this or learned it the hard way.

The heavy cavalry lance is an unwieldly weapon suitable only for frontal attack in closed formations, and when this tactic became obsolete the lance disappeared from the battlefield as well. Eastern European and Asiatic tribesmen maintained the lance as a useful light cavalry weapon which had better reach than the sword or sabre. Their lances were much lighter than the medieval heavy cavalry lance and they were used like a long spear, enabling the rider to reach enemy infantry on the ground. At close quarters, the light cavalry lance was usually dropped and the rider would defend himself with the sabre.

Polish light cavalry was particularly adept with the lance, and there is some evidence to suggest that many uhlan regiments were formed around Polish cadres. Austria, Prussia and Russian recruited heavily in former Polish provinces after the Kingdom of Poland was partitioned by its neighbours. Polish exiles fled the country and joined the French army. As a result, continental European powers had regular lancer regiments serving in their armies as early as 1808.

Prussia raised two regular uhlan regiments in 1808, a third was created in 1809 and another five regiments were converted from existing Freikorps units and hussar regiments in 1815. Interestingly, all of the Landwehr cavalry raised in 1813 was armed with the lance. These poorly drilled troops could not have received the extensive training required of a regular lancer, but there are a few episodes indicating that they used the weapon with some success. Lances were cheap and they inspired a certain amount of fear in troops facing the possibility of a lancer attack. These two factors may have combined to significantly increase the perceived value of Landwehr cavalry armed with lances. Another contributing factor may have been the declining quality and morale of French infantry, following their disastrous and costly defeat in Russia, 1812. Demoralized and unsteady troops made excellent targets for lancers. Paradoxically, the fear of a pending attack might be enough to disrupt the infantry formation and make the individual soldier even more vulnerable than before.

A certain amount of reverse psychology may have been at play as well. Lance-armed cavalry had no option other than to attack in formation, with lances levelled. By arming the Landwehr with lances these troopers were compelled to charge and use the lance at least once before they were allowed to drop it and fight with the sabre. What better way to instill some courage in men not normally prepared to charge and risk everything. Equally important, the lance had traditionally been regarded as the weapon of the nobility, lance-armed knights were the military and social elite of any medieval army. Ennobling the Landwehr by arming them with a knightly weapon must have been a powerful political gesture at the time. Until 1813, the middle class had not been a part of the Prussian military establishment. The officers came from the nobility and the men were peasants, foreign mercenaries and members of the working class. Prussian military reform and the Landwehr Edict changed all that, and this liberalization led to far-reaching social and political reform as well.

Contents

  • 12 riders in 4 poses – 23 mm equal 166 cm height
  • 12 horses in 4 poses – 22 mm equal 15.2 hands

Evaluation

Nicely detailed miniatures. Folds in the uniform, collar, cuffs, buttons, belts, weapons and equipment are easy to paint.

The troopers are sculpted in historically accurate cavalry uniforms of the Lützow Freikorps, which was converted to the 6th Uhlan Regiment in 1815. Shakos are not covered as was common in other regiments. However, in this scale it is not particularly difficult to carve off the shako emblems and create the impression of a waterproof shako cover. Plumes were not usually worn on campaign.

Useful historic poses. The riders are firmly seated in the saddle and they appear very lifelike.

Good casting quality. No flash, but some mold lines need to be removed prior to painting.

Suitable 1:72 scale lance pennons (flammes de lance) may be downloaded from the Miniatures Forum

Trumpeter and standardbearer not included, but one of the troopers can be converted to carry a standard.

An officer figure wearing the Kollett, would have been a nice addition. Only the troopers were authorised to wear the Litewka and even then it wasn't particularly popular in the uhlan regiments. Undoubtedly, some officers did wear the practical Litewka on campaign, and a sabre is provided to turn one of the troopers into an officer figure.

The figures are wearing large gauntlets, distinguishing them as troopers of the 6th Uhlans. To use them for other regiments, purists may convert the rear of the gauntlet to form a cuff. Alternatively, a simple paintjob will do the trick.

Three lances and a sabre are provided for four figures on a sprue, resulting in an unusually high ratio of sabre-armed figures. From an historical point of view this is probably correct, as lances were dropped and broken in battle troopers continued to fight with the sabre. Wargame units tend to be small, sometimes fielding as few as 5 figures and any such mix of weapons tends to look unrealistic. Wargamers prefer homogeneous units and it would have been a nice touch to include four lances plus the sabre, giving the customer a choice about how to equip his figures. Any spare lances could then have been used for conversion projects, turning hussars into uhlans of the 7th and 8th regiments and equipping some Russian hussars with lances. Considering how much space there is between figures on a sprue it is unfortunate that manufacturers rarely use it to include spare equipment which can be scattered on the battlefield or used for conversions.

Unusual gait on two of the horses, the front legs are galloping while the hind legs are walking. Uhlans received dragoon-style cloth shabraques in 1815, replacing the black sheepskin shabraques which had been standard issue until then. However, there is enough evidence to suggest that the more comfortable sheepskin shabraques continued to be used on campaign, particularly in the recently converted uhlan regiments and the Landwehr cavalry. Italeri's French hussar horses can be used as alternate mounts, only the crescent shaped emblem needs to be removed from the harness. Sheepskin shabraques are essential if these figures are used for the 6th Uhlans, black uniforms and black sheepskin shabraques with red trim being a distinguishing feature of Lützow's Black Corps.

Historical Employment

  • 6. Ulanen-Regiment (2. Westpreußisches) 1815, ex-Lützow

Conversions

  • Landwehr cavalry 1813–1815 (Sheepskin shabraques, covered shakos with white Landwehr cross painted on)
  • Landwehr cavalry volunteer Jäger detachments 1813–1815 (green Litewka with regular Landwehr facings, sheepskin shabraques and covered shakos, as above)
  • 6. Ulanen-Regiment (2. Westpreußisches) 1815, ex-Bremen Volunteers (a black czapka replaces the shako). The cavalry of Lützow's Freischar and Bremen Volunteers were combined in 1815 to form this new Uhlan regiment.
  • Prussian uhlan troopers of the 1st-5th, 7th and 8th Regiment. The men were authorized to wear the Litewka and a covered shako on campaign and a good number of them must have adopted this practical outfit.

Bibliography

1. Schlesische Landwehr-Kavallerie, 1:72 Miniatures HaT Industrie 8005

The HäT Uhlans are particularly useful as Landwehr cavalry, and this is a Napoleonic troop type most wargamers and collectors have been waiting for. A total of 15 Landwehr cavalry regiments fought at Waterloo, three in Zieten's I. Corps, three in Pirch's II. Corps, two in Thielemann's III. Corps and seven in Bülow's IV. Corps. Among them was the 1. Schlesische Landwehr-Kavallerie, wearing dark blue Litewka with yellow facings. Notice the Landwehr cross on the shako. These figures are mounted on horses with sheepskin shabraques taken from Italeri's French Hussars. The sheepskin frequently replaced the cloth shabraques on campaign. Anyone raising a Prussian army for the 1813 War of Liberation or the 1815 Waterloo campaign will want several boxes of uhlans.

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Prussian Napoleonic Miniatures