Tag Archive | dragoon

With uniforms this snazzy, how could they lose?

The below image shows a  great selection of Soldiers of various units of the polyglot Austro-Hungarian army in 1914 (click to big up).

From left to right:
Austrian Landwehr ulan cavalrymen,
Austrian Landwehr (infantryman),
Bosnian Jäger,
Austrian Jäger,
Austrian infantryman,
Hungarian infantryman,
Tyrolean and Imperial Jäger,
Bosnian infantryman,
Hungarian honvéd infantryman,
Common, or joint (közös) Hussar in a new camp uniform,
Common, or joint (közös) hussar,
Common, or joint (közös) Jäger,
Common, or joint (közös) dragoon.

Note the Austro-Hungarian bluejacket at the far right, dressed for shore duty.

And it doesn’t even include such exotic units as the Albanians:

or ski troops…

Or crazy weapon systems like the water-cooled Standschütze Hellriegel Submachine Gun

While they looked good in photos and on paper, the Austrian forces were so poorly led, confusingly staffed and shallow in depth that German warlord Gen. Erich von Ludendorff said that to fight alongside old Franz Josef’s army was like being “shackled to a corpse.”

Of course, the uniforms would become much more practical as the Great War’s modern combat left the quaint 19th Century stylings behind in the mud of trench warfare– especially on the horrors of the Italian front, where the Austrians gave a better account of themselves than against the Serbs and Russians in the opening stages of the conflict.

Austro-Hungarian assault troops k.u.k. Sturmbatallione. They’ re-equipped with Austrian zeitzunderhandgranates, wire cutters and a variety of small arms.

The dragoon’s last stand

Danish dragoon fighting prussian hussars. By Frants Henningsen

Danish dragoon Niels Kjeldsen fighting 14 Prussian hussars, 1864..only he didn’t see the sneaky bugger in the treeline coming up on him with a pistol. By Frants Henningsen, 1901 (Click to big up)

Sunday morning, 28 FEB 1864. While the American Civil War was raging on the other side of the Atlantic, Prussia and Austria was invading the Kingdom of Denmark over the territory of Schleswig, Holstein, and Lauenburg in the Second Schleswig War.

It was that morning that 23 year old Niels Kjeldsen, a cavalryman of the  4th Eskadron, 6th Dragoon Regiment, of the Royal Danish Army gave his last full measure. Drafted into the army 18 months before, he was a natural horseman who learned to ride on his family farm.

While scouting ahead in the Blakjaer forest, Kjeldsen’s detachment of 6 dragoons ran into a 14-man troop of Prussian Leib-Garde-Husaren Regiment under Count Gustav von Lüttichau. As with any scouts then or today, the Danes turned and rapidly tried to break contact to report wheat they had found. One by one the detachment was mown down or surrendered, the light hussars being mounted on faster horses than the Danish heavy cavalry . Soon it was only Kjeldsen and a corporal left on their horses.

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In order to buy time for the corporal to bring the intelligence back to the lines, Kjeldsen wheeled and fought the German horsemen 14:1.

The legend has it that in the struggle the young Dane fought like a lion before being shot from behind by a rival hussar– depicted just to the right of the dragoon in the painting. Kjeldsen’s helmet lay on the road while his single-shot Remington 1852 pattern carbine hangs at his side.

Forced to rely on the cold steel of his M1839 pattern Dansk dragonsabel, he is outnumbered and outgunned but refuses to surrender. According to reports, after the hussars engaged him without result with their own sabers, von Lüttichau shot the Dane through the forehead at close range with a revolver.

In 1901 the Board of the Museum of National History commissioned Frantz Henningsen to portray the incident and the painting now hangs at Frederiksborg Castle. Kjeldsen’s sword and helmet are on display in a military museum and he was buried at home on his family’s farm, his body picked up from the road by a passing peasant. He is remembered as a Danish military hero.

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As for Denmark, after suffering some 1500 casualties, a peace was signed on 1 August 1864 and the King of Denmark renounced to all his rights in the duchies in favor of the Emperor of Austria and the King of Prussia. However they gave better than they got and the Austro-German forces lost well past that number.

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