Prussia was renowned for its excellent infantry under Frederick the Great. Less well known is the efficacy of Prussian cavalry on the European battlefield in the 19th Century. Early in the Napoleonic wars, Bonaparte himself warned his generals of the excellent Prussian cavalry.
The well-trained and disciplined Prussian horse during the Hundred Days campaign formed regiments of cuirassiers, dragoons, hussars and lancers on the whole with the lighter cavalry intended for raiding and skirmishing, but in reality took their place in the main battle lines during set piece battles.
The Uhlans, or lancers, of the Prussian army fulfilled the role of both skirmishing light cavalry and line shock troops alongside the dragoon and cuirassier units. Equipped with a lethal 9-foot lance, they were an imposing sight. It was the Uhlans who saved Marshall Blücher when unhorsed at Ligny.
Late war Uhlans principally wore simple dark blue uniforms and practical equipment. By the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, all units had their lance pennants with black and white swallow tail pattern.
The Dragoons, alongside the cuirassiers, were the heavy cavalry of the Prussian army. Their uniform was business-like – a distinctive blue Litewka long coat and grey overalls topped with a basic shako, frequently covered in an oilskin wrap. Armed with a curved sabre in an iron scabbard, dragoons were unusual among Prussian cavalry in the Hundred Days campaign in that they carried cavalry guidons into battles.
Formed in 1813, the Landwehr Cavalry was a huge force of mounted trained militia, similar in form to their infantry counterparts. The force was a massive asset to the Prussian war machine as they totalled over thirty regiments by the Hundred Days Campaign.
The Landwehr cavalry wore dark blue Litewka long coat with collars and cuffs in provincial colours. Headgear was a mix of traditional feldmutze cap and shakos – often in oilskin and with a white cross painted on. Lance pennons could vary and often reflected the uniform trim halved with white, but by the time of Waterloo all Landwehr cavalry had swapped to the standard black and white pennons.
The lance-armed Landwehr cavalry fought well on the field, comprising some 40% of Blücher’s cavalry at Waterloo – a great excuse to field lots of these brave sons of Prussia on the tabletop!