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Evaluation of the Armed Forces of the Holy Roman Empire after their Defeat under Austrian Command at the Battle of Roßbach (November 24, 1757)

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Your Imperial Vice-Chancellor will not deny the unambiguous, emphatic views that I expressed before my departure from Vienna and thereafter in almost all my letters. I was hardly in a position to dispense with so much as one detachment of troops, and I well know how I was feeling when they were absent from our army with [French commander] St. Germain. They numbered only 400 Imperial Austrian cuirassiers [armored cavalrymen], the rest being Imperial [not Austrian] troops and Frenchmen. And this was the aforementioned St. Germain’s pretext for his inaction, as he complained in all his letters, that he lacked cavalrymen. Yet the absence of so few men made itself strongly felt in Your two regiments.

When among 12,000 horses one or two thousand are detached, one hardly notices, but when among 1,200 four hundred are missing, their absence is strongly felt. Your Imperial Majesty is Himself a great field commander, so I ask You to consider, in light of Your own experience, how immobile an army is that cannot send out any detachments to undertake necessary actions. Now one needs to observe the enemy, now cover a convoy, now lead another away, now support the hussars, now disperse enemy outposts and detachments -- in sum, everyone knows that in the previous war practically every advantage won against the enemy was gained through mounted detachments, and many splendid advantages earlier in this campaign too.

Oh God, if I, Most Gracious Monarch, had had only 6,000 Imperial cavalry, the war-theater would look different, and it wouldn’t be necessary to throw the enemy’s numerical weakness in my face so often. For what good is it, Most Gracious Lord, if he possesses only half my strength [in soldiers], when his cavalry is superior, so that he can fall on my flank with 6,000 horses, against which I can set only 1,200? This was truly the case in this battle and the cause of its loss, since the enemy advanced with some twenty mounted squadrons, against which fourteen Imperial squadrons, already very weak, had to stand. Your regiments worked marvels nonetheless, and it is completely irrefutable that, if I had had only two more Imperial [Austrian] regiments, the enemy cavalry could not have regrouped and attacked, and we would have won the most complete of victories. For if we could have only maintained the advantage we gained early on over their cavalry, the French would not have been overcome by terrible terror and panic, and Your Majesty may rest assured that the bones of not one enemy infantryman would have been saved -- leaving aside that our combined armies are almost twice as large as the enemy’s. Yes, God knows how far our victory, which was in our hands and only lost because of departure [to the French allies] of Imperial [Austrian] cavalry, might have extended. For the enemy was confined by waterways and obliged to withdraw across bridges.

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