I was getting to the actual writing of a description of the fighting part of my thesis today when something hit me. Â I was looking at casualty figures for the various actions and they are decidedly lopsided. Most historians blame that on the Prussian possession of the Needle-Gun but I just don’t buy that, itâ€™s too pat an explanation. As I was thinking about it, it hit me that the Prussians and Austrians fought in completely different ways.
The Prussians tended to fight in open order; essentially their front ranks devolved into a large skirmish line as they closed with their opponents. Â This made sense given the greater professionalism of their NCOs and motivation of the average soldier. It also made the Prussian line a much more diffuse target.
The Austrians on the other hand tended to fight in close packed ranks on both the offense and defense. The Austrians also depended on the bayonet in the offense because they used muzzle-loading rifles. This made them an easier target to hit.
The casualty numbers are not outrageously out of whack especially if you consider that the Prussians owned the field after every action. Historically, the loser tends to suffer greater casualties than the winner, especially in numbers of missing and dead; missing because they end up being captured and dead because the winner takes care of their own wounded before getting around to the enemy and so more enemy wounded die on the field of battle.
Taking both of these factors into consideration, the disparity between Prussian and Austrian losses does not seem so great. I am going to have to discuss this in depth in my thesis. A point I had not really considered before I started writing.