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Royal Saxon Army
Union Sachsen-Polen-Litauen.png
Banner of the Union Poland Saxony Lithuania
Active January 1, 1682; ago (1682-01-01) – November 11, 1918; ago (1918-11-11)
Headquarters Dresden
Patron The Saint Elizabeth of Hungary, & Saint George
Colors Black, Green, Yellow, White

The Royal Saxon Army was under the command of the Rulers of Saxony. With the formation of the Confederation of the Rhine by Napoleon the Royal Saxon Army joined the French "La Grande Armée" along with 37 other German states. The commander of the Royal Saxon Army at this time, was Frederick Augustus I of Saxony. He was a staunch ally of Napoleon Bonaparte.


The army at the time of the Electorate of Saxony (1682-1807)

The founder of the standing army in Saxony was Elector Johann Georg III. He convinced the Saxon Estates in 1681 that the established practice of in case of war hiring mercenaries and dismissing them in peace, was as costly as the formation of a standing army. In 1682 the hitherto existing home troops and Guard and other small units were consolidated in Line Regiments. The army consisted of six infantry regiments of eight companies and five cavalry regiments. The field artillery consisted out of 24 guns.

The Northern War proved the combat power of the Saxon army to be very low, so that after the war a military reform was enacted which aimed to increase their military efficiency. As part of this reform, the Saxon army was brought to a strength of 30,000, which consisted almost exclusively of Saxons. Thus it differed from the armies of other European states, which supplemented their staff frequently with foreigners.

Following the reform, the army consisted of Guard Infantry, line infantry, and cavalry regiments (Chevau-légers, Dragoons and cuirassiers) together. The artillery as a third independent branch of service and was made up of field artillery and in-house. Also belonging to the artillery, were Mineurs and pontoniers established companies. The army was divided into four General Houses and classified according to the state of Saxony into four military divisions. For the first time for the accommodation of the troops barracks were built.

During the Second Silesian War, Saxony allied with Austria. The Saxon army suffered under heavily under Friedrich August Graf Rutowski in the battle of Kesselsdorf against Prussia. The growing crisis bankrupted the state and forced the Saxon Prime Minister Graf Brühl in 1749 to reduce the army to 17,000 men.

During the Seven Years' War Saxony was again invaded by Prussia and the Saxon army was invested by the Prussian army in the Siege of Pirna where they had to capitulate on 16 October 1756. Only four cavalry regiments and two Lancers formations, which were located in Poland, escaped the surrender. Frederick II of Prussia forced the Saxon regiments to swear an oath of allegiance to Prussia, which at least most of the officers refused. Ten infantry regiments and one battalion of Chevau-légers were provided with Prussian uniforms and placed in the hostile army. However, this was not successful because the majority of the troops deserted. From 1757, most of the "booty-regiments" dissolved, only three of which remained at war's end. The same year a Saxon corps under Prince Prince Francis Xavier of Saxony was raised in Hungary.[1] After the war, Prince Francis Xavier as regent for the underage Elector Friedrich August III sought to reform the army to Prussian model, but failed because of the resistance of the estates because of high costs.

Saxony fought in the War of the Fourth Coalition in 1806 initially on the side of Prussia. In the battles of Saalfeld and Jena-Auerstedt, the Saxon and Prussian armies were heavily defeated. After these defeats the French occupied Saxony.

The army at the time of the Kingdom of Saxony (1807-1918)

Napoleonic wars

Saxony became a member state of the Confederation of the Rhine and on 20 December 1806 the Electorate was created a kingdom by the graces of Napoleon.

The Saxon troops participated in War of the Fifth Coalition in 1809 against the Empire of Austria which made clear that the army needed the be reformed in order to build a modern and organized army in the French style. The 1810 reform was based on the 1804 drill book - which increased the rapid march to 90 steps from the previous 75 - and the 1808 French infantry regulations and lead by General Lecoq, the Major-Generals Karl Wilhelm Ferdinand von Funck, Karl Friedrich Wilhelm von Gersdorff and Johann Adolf von Thielmann and Colonel Friedrich von Langenau.

Further changes in the Saxon military reforms:

  1. Rejuvenation of the officer corps
  2. Reduction of the surgical staff at the same time improving the Military Medicine
  3. Discontinuation of rifles for officers - instead, service with a drawn sword
  4. Creation of Battalion Staff in 1809
  5. Improvement of the military administration of justice with a ban on corporal punishment as a punishment measure
  6. Changing the uniform to the French model and the introduction of new rifles, bayonets and side arms
  7. Training in new combat methods: columns with skirmishers instead of the old, rigid form of Linear Tactics
  8. Launching of a first drill regulations for the artillery
  9. Instead of advertising in Germany using recruitment, a nationwide recruiting circuit with commissions was established. Soldiers were enlisted for fixed period of service of eight to ten years.

The new army administration brought totally different conditions, especially in relation to food, clothing and equipment of the troops. The command of the renewed army was nominally the King. In 1810, Major General Cerrini was Minister of War and General von Gersdorff chief of the General Staff. As a result of military reform, the Royal Saxon Army was formed along the following structure:

  • The first Cavalry Division with three brigades, one regiment of Hussars and the Garde du Corps.
  • The first Infantry division with two brigades and a regiment of Grenadier Guards,
  • The second Infantry division with two brigades and one light infantry brigade.

To these were added:

  • Artillery units (horse and foot artillery) and
  • Special corps, which were subordinated to the chief of staff. These were:
    • an engineer corps of sappers and pontoniers (later the engineer units)
    • garrison companies such as the semi-invalids from companies not fit for field service, Cadet Corps and the Royal Swiss Guard.

Overall, the army consisted after the reforms of 1810 out of 36-budgetary squadrons of the cavalry (6,577 men), 31 infantry battalions and artillery brigades, (24,937 men), and an engineering corps (266 men), all in all, 31,780 men

On 15 February 1812 the army was mobilized for the upcoming French invasion of Russia. The Saxon contingent was formed as the 21th[Clarification needed] and 22nd Division of the VII Army Corps of Grande Armée under the command of the French General of Division Jean Reynier. The Saxons fielded 18 infantry battalions, 28 Cavalry squadrons, 56 (six and four-pounder) guns, together 200 men and 7,000 horses.

After the failure of the invasion, the campaign of 1813 mainly centered around Saxon territory. When the Russo-Prussian armies invaded Saxony, King Frederick Augustus fled to Bohemia. The Saxon army was then invested in the fortress of Torgau. After the defeat of the Allies at Lützen and Bautzen and due to the hesitant attitude of Austria, Frederick Augustus had no choice but to support Napoleon. Thus the Saxon army fought during the 1813 Autumn campaign on the French side. In the Battle of Leipzig on the third day of battle a major part of the Saxon contingent defected to the Allies and Friedrich August was taken prisoner. The Saxon army was reorganized in 1814 by Johann von Thielmann and participated in the occupation of the Netherlands. The Congress of Vienna decided in favor of dividing Saxony by giving Prussia a large portion of its population and parts of his army. Protests of the Saxon troups handed over to and integrated in the Prussian army were violently suppressed by the Prussians. The scaled down Saxon Corps took part in the 1815 campaign under Allied command in the Upper Rhine.

German Confederation

In the Armed Forces of the German Confederation Saxony provided the fourth largest contingent, after Austria, Prussia and Bavaria. The Saxon troops, together with the quotas from Hesse-Cassel and Nassau, formed the mixed IX. Army Corps.

When the Austro-Prussian War in 1866 began, Saxony supported Austria and mobilized its 32,000-strong army around Dresden under the command of Crown Prince Albert. After the declaration of war the Prussian army crossed the border on 16 July 1866 near Strehla and Löbau. Saxony unsuccessfully called for the support of the army of the Confederation and of Austria but the Saxon army was forced to pull back because of the military situation into Bohemia and effected a junction with the Austrians. The Saxon army took a prominent part in the battles by which the Prussians forced the line of the Jizera and in the Battle of Jičín. The Crown Prince, however, succeeded in effecting the retreat in good order, and with his troops took part in the decisive Battle of Königgratz (3 July 1866) where the Saxons held the extreme left of the Austrian position. The Saxons maintained their post with great tenacity, but were involved in the disastrous defeat of their allies.

North German Confederation

After the peace Saxony was forced to join the North German Confederation. According to the Military Convention of 7 February 1867 its army formed the XII Corps, which was placed under Prussian command. Saxony had to hand over the Fortress Königstein to Prussia. The Kingdom of Saxony took part in the 1870 Franco-Prussian War on the side of Prussia. On the outbreak of the war Prince Albert again commanded the Saxons, who were included in the 2nd army under Prince Frederick Charles of Prussia, his old opponent. At the Battle of Gravelotte, they formed the extreme left of the German army, and with the Prussian Guard carried out the attack on St Privat, the final and decisive action in the battle. In the re-organisation of the army which accompanied the march towards Paris the Crown Prince gained a separate command over the 4th army (Army of the Meuse) consisting of the Saxons, the Prussian Guard corps, and the IV (Prussian Saxony) corps. Albert was succeeded in command of the XII corps by his brother Prince George.

Albert and the Saxons took a leading part in the operations which preceded the battle of Sedan, the 4th army being the pivot on which the whole army wheeled round in pursuit of Mac-Mahon; and the actions of Buzancy and Beaumont on 29 and 30 August 1870 were fought under his direction; in the Battle of Sedan itself (1 September 1870), with the troops under his orders, Albert carried out the envelopment of the French on the east and north.

Albert's conduct in these engagements won for him the complete confidence of the army, and during the Siege of Paris his troops formed the north-east section of the investing force. After the conclusion of the Treaty of Frankfurt (1871), he was left in command of the German army of occupation, a position which he held till the fall of the Paris Commune. On the conclusion of peace he was made an inspector-general of the army and a field marshal.

Saxony also financially benefited from the campaign: its share of the French reparations flowed in part in the construction of Albertstadt, a modern complex of barracks in Dresden, which contains nowadays the Bundeswehr Military History Museum and the Army Officer Training School as only military units left.

German Empire

After the Founding of the German Empire on 18 January 1871, the Kingdom of Saxony kept the limited autonomy in military matters which it had under the Convention of 1867. It retained, despite certain jurisdictional disputes in the postwar period, a separate Ministry of War, general staff and military academy. The Saxon army continued in the German army as the XII (1st Royal Saxon) Corps, based in Dresden. The Corps consisted out of the 1st and 2nd Division. In 1889, the Saxon Corps raised a 3rd Division, and in 1899 a 4th Division. In 1899, the creation of the two new divisions caused a reorganization of the Saxon army in two army corps, the existing XII, based in Dresden, and the newly formed XIX (2nd Royal Saxon) Corps to be based in Leipzig. Saxon troops also provided a share of the occupation forces in Alsace-Lorraine (XV Corps). Of technical troops until the First World War the Saxon Army consisted of:

  • 2 Königl. Battalion of the Royal Saxon. Prussian Railway Regiment 1
  • Royal. Saxon fortress Telephonic Company No. 7
  • 3 Königl. Saxon Airship Company of the Battalion 2
  • 3 Königl. Saxon Company of Battalion No. 1 Flyer
  • Royal. Saxon Detachment of the 2nd Company of the battalion motor vehicles
  • Royal. Detachment at the Royal Prussian Saxony Traffic Technical Examination

World War I

When the First World War started, the two Saxon Army Corps, and the XII (Royal Saxon) Reserve Corps were mobilized as part of the 3rd Army under command of the former Saxon War Minister, Generaloberst Max von Hausen. The 3rd Army fought in the battle of the Frontiers, mainly in the battles of Dinant and Charleroi. After the Second Army's retreat after the First Battle of the Marne, Hausen saw his own flank exposed and ordered a retreat. After the stabilization of the front on the Aisne River, on September 9, 1914, Hausen was relieved of his command due to illness and replaced by General Karl von Einem.

The Saxon troops were used mostly at the Western Front. As the war progressed, through the necessary additions the units becoming increasingly mixed with troops from the other German states. During the war Saxony mobilized a total of about 750,000 soldiers, of which about 229,000 did not return.

Army organization

Outline of the Saxon infantry in 1810

regiment garrison
Grenadier Guards Dresden
1 Line Infantry Regiment Royal Dresden and Großenhain
2 Line Infantry Regiment vacant Niesemeuschel Dresden and Großenhain
3 Line Infantry Regiment Prince Anton Bautzen, Görlitz and Sorau
4 Line Infantry Regiment vacant Low Luckau Guben and Sorau
5 Line Infantry Regiment Prinz Maximilian Chemnitz, chub and Freiberg
6 Line Infantry Regiment vacant rights Zwickau, Neustädtel and Sorau
7 Line Infantry Regiment Prince Friedrich August Torgau, Wittenberg and Oschatz
8 Line Infantry Regiment Prinz Clemens Leipzig, and Wittenberg Eilenburg
1 Light Infantry Regiment Weißenfels Zeitz and
2 Light Infantry Regiment Naumburg, and Merseburg
Rifle Corps Eckartsberga

Outline of the Saxon cavalry in 1810

Regiment Garrison
Garde du Corps Dresden, Dippoldiswalde, Pirna and Radeberg
Leibkürassiergarde Oederan, Frankenberg, Marienberg and Penig
Cuirassiers von Zastrow Grimsby, Borna, Geithain and Rochlitz
Hussar Regiment Cölleda, Altenstädt, Artern, Bretleben, Bottendorf, Heldrungen, Langensalza, Roßleben, Schönewerda, Schönfeld and Wiehe
Chevauxlegers-Regiment Prinz Clemens Pegau Lützen Schkeuditz and Zwenkau
Chevauxlegers Regiment vacant Polenz Querfurt, Freyburg, Schafstädt and Sangerhausen
Chevauxlegers Regiment Prinz Johann Mühlberg, Bad Düben, Kemberg and Schmiedeberg
Chevauxlegers Regiment Prinz Albrecht Lübben, Cottbus and Lübbenau

Structure in World War I

Pre and early war

The Kingdom of Saxony placed an army corps (later two army corps) at the disposal of the army of the German Empire in peacetime:

On mobilisation, these were joined by reserve formations:

Together with the XI Corps, these formed the 3rd Army forming part of the right wing of the forces for the Schlieffen Plan offensive in August 1914 on the Western Front.

In peacetime, the Royal Saxon Army also provided

105th (6th Royal Saxon) Infantry "King William II of Württemberg" to the XV Army Corps at Straßburg
12th (1st Royal Saxon) Foot Artillery to the XVI Army Corps at Metz

Raised during World War I

Infantry Divisions:

Reserve Division:

Landwehr Divisions:

  • 45th (1st Royal Saxon) Landwehr Division
  • 46th (2nd Royal Saxon) Landwehr Division
  • 47th (3rd Royal Saxon) Landwehr Division

Ersatz Division:


  1. For the unsuccessful integration of the Saxons in the Prussian army in detail see Jany 1967: 370 ff. The pro-Prussian historiography was amazed at the Saxon resistance: "The unfortunate Saxon army wasted its admirable loyalty to dire circumstances, [...]." Bleckwenn 1984: Volume IV, p. 74

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