Saturday, February 19, 2011


    The Habsburg monarchy had a unique institution, the "Military Border" with Turkey, which forms a fascinating study in itself, incorporating a variety of cultures and nationalities, some being Orthodox and others Catholic. Here, though, I'm interested chiefly in their contribution of the Field armies. Most of this information comes once again from Dave Hollin's excellent volume published by Osprey, Men at Arms #299, Austrian Auxiliary Troops 1792- 1816. Buy it if you can; you won't regret it!

    In 1809, each Grenz ("border" or "frontier") regiment had 2 field battalions of six companies each. A company was 200 men strong, at least on paper (180 for Siebenburgen [Transylvanian] units). There were also 50 artillery crew, about 200 sharpshooters and 228 administrative staff per regiment. Each regiment also had a Reserve battalion of 6 companies with 1,437 men (4 companies with 785 men for Siebenburgen units). Karlstadt and Banal regiments also had 200 Seressaner scouts, refugees of Bosnian origin. The formation of Landwehr battalions was also ordered in 1808, intended to serve as home defense forces and thus free up more Grenz for service with the main armies.

There were 17 units of Grenz ("border") infantry in 1809, with their titles and regimental distinctions as follows:
  Regt/Title                              Facings                                      Buttons         
1   Licca                           Violet, Emperor Yellow (1814)            yellow
2   Ottocac                        Violet, Emperor Yellow (1814)            white
3   Ogulin                           Orange, Orange-Yellow (1814)           yellow
4   Szluin                            Orange, Orange-Yellow (1814)           white

5   Warasdin-Kreuz            Crab Red (1813)                                yellow
6   Warasdin-St Georg       Crab Red (1811)                                 white
7   Brod                             Pale Red (1813)                                  white    
8   Gradiska                       Pale Red (1813)                                  yellow
9   Peterwardein                 Light Pike Grey (1813)                        yellow
10  1st Banal                      Crimson (1814)                                   yellow
11  2nd Banal                     Crimson (1814)                                   white
12  Deutsch Banat              Dark Brown, Light Blue (1810)            white
13  Wallasch-Illyrian           Light Pike Grey (1814)                        white
14  1st Szeckel                   Rose Red (1814)                                 yellow
15  2nd Szeckel                  Rose Red (1811)                                white
16  1st Wallach                   Poplar Green (1813)                           yellow
17  2nd Wallach                 Poplar Green (1813)                            white

Regiments 1 - 4 belonged to the Croatian Command, Karlstadt district, Regts 5 & 6 to the Croatian Command, Warasdin District, Regts 7, 8, & 9 to the Slavonian district, Regts 10 & 11 to the Banal district, Regts 12 & 13 to the Banat district, and finally Regts 14 - 17 to the  Siebenburgen district. Loss of their territories to the French as a result of the terms of the Treaty  of Schoenbrunn that ended the 1809 war caused Regts 1, 2, ,3, 4, 10, and 11 to be disbanded (Napoleon then raised his own Croatian Light infantry from these lands) until their territories were recovered in 1813.

   There is a list of Vallejo paint equivalents for Austrian Facing colors on Iannick's excellent Clash of Empires site, developed in concert with Dave Hollins, as well as a direct illustration of many of the shades, again with the collaboration of Mr. Hollins on Mark Severin's "extra crispy" site.  I use craft paints for the most part, myself.

    The uniforms of the Grenz underwent a number of changes during the wars of the French Revolution and Empire. In 1798, a white jacket cut and faced similarly to the line units was adopted for field service. It was worn with medium to light blue trousers with gold and black braid on the seams and knots, similar to the Hungarian Line infantry units. A shako without a peak (visor), called a klobuk, was worn. The cuffs were pointed with white baerentatzen lace similar to the Hungarian regiments. For home (frontier) service, a simpler dark brown coat with the facings on the collars and cuffs was worn with white pants. In 1808, a new uniform was decreed; with dark brown coats with the facing colors on the collars, pointed cuffs (with white bear's paw lace), and turnbacks, black leatherwork, blue Hungarian pants with yellow black/braid decorations, and a peak was added to the shako. Short boots were worn. buttons were either yellow (brass) or white (pewter) depending upon the regiment. This uniform was introduced gradually, the changes in facing colors occurring because some of the old colors wouldn't show well with the new brown coats. A unique feature of the Grenz was the frequent use of bright red cloaks, a traditional element of Balkan dress, made from government supplied cloth, and stored folded atop the packs.

Well, on to some pictures...

The first unit up is Grenz Regt #12, Deutschbanat. While the flash makes their facings look almost like licthechtgrau, I assure you they are in fact light blue... with the requisite white buttons. The sheep are from my collection of farm animals used as markers during games. "Why use barnyard animals" a rather unimaginative fellow enquired of me at a game at Historicon last July. Aside from the obvious ("Why not?"), I think they look kinda cool, and they are grist for endless bad puns, keeping us from taking ourselves too seriously when we're playing with our toy soldiers.

Grenz were part time soldiers/militia, and part time farmers. They had a reputation for being both brave and "false, shiftless, and undisciplined" amongst the generals. These boys are obviously behaving... baaaaaaa-dly.

A final, rear shot of GR #12. These figures are by Essex and painted by me about a year and a half ago. No one's pulling the wool over their eyes!   [sorry]

The next unit up is Grenz regiment #16, 1st Wallachian. Poplar Green facings with brass buttons. Note the pigs in the background... doubtless hogging the farm for themselves! [I know... forgot my meds again today!]

Frontal view of GR# 16; these are Wargames Foundry figures painted over 10 years ago. The light blue pants are probably too light - I now use a more medium turquoise shade as seen on the first, Essex unit. Can you spot the mistake I made painting these troops? Meanwhile the 16th looks like business - out to prove they're not Turkeys, no doubt!

This unit is the Kreutzer Grenz #5; the shade of red is probably too deep and red for true Krebsrot, but it is still a handsome unit, I think.  Brass buttons. The officer is brandishing a pistol.

View of GR #5 from behind. These are Wargames Foundry figures is a different pose than the 16th. Look at all those chickens they're scattering before them. With their rear facing the enemy, they'd better be careful or they'll be the ones to get plucked!  [Damn, where *did* I put that bottle of Haldol?]

A final shot of the Kreutzer Grenz... you can see the somewhat unusual trefoil like shape of the end of the scabbard. By the way, this unit has the same painting error as the 16th. Figured it out yet?

No, this isn't Marshal Ney's execution. This is Grenz Regt #2, Ottocac. From the looks of them, they aren't prepared to put up with any Bull!  {I know, better find the drugs before they have me committed, LOL!]

These are Foundy figures once again, but in a third pose. All the poses are nice, but it would have been even nicer if they did a drummer for the Grenz!  The 2nd has Kaisergelb facings and pewter buttons. Grenz regiments were issued 2 yellow Ordinarfahnen, decreased to one in 2008. I suspect their standards were left home, although at this time the Grenz were sort of in between being Line and Light infantry, probably to the detriment of their performance as both. I have some Old Glory Grenz on the way; we'll see if they have standard bearers included!

Close up of the Otocaner Grenz. The red cloaks definitely lend the Grenz a certain panache, don't they? And yes, this regiment repeats the same error in painting. The mistake is that I've painted the leather belt work white instead of black (contrast with the first unit). I'll fix that, and probably the color of the pants.... eventually! The other issue is that in 1809, despite the new uniform regulations, the older white uniform was still being worn in the field.  Here I make no apologies. I think the uniforms above are among the most striking of the Napoleonic wars. The brown coats make the Grenz pop out on the tabletop, as well as being much more sensible for troops supposed to skirmish than white coats! Thus all *my* Grenz will always be in the brown coats. I'm der Kaiser, remember?

The walled farm model seen in the pictures is by Hudson and Allen, and was available from Old Glory in the past. I had a lot of fun painting it. I think it looks great and makes a fantastic focal point for a game!

Anyway, I hope you've enjoyed the tour of this unique aspect of the Habsburg military. Thanks for putting up with the bad puns, too. Remember to take a bottle of that good Bulgarian wine on the way out!

Till next time,



  1. Very nice, I have only done up the 13th myself, but I plan to do one more unit, I am very tempted to do the, in a white coat with black leather, as I believe was the case with some Grenz.


  2. I forgot to mention that I see you are using 6 bases for these units, I know that FoB strongly recommends 4 bases per unit, but does allow larger, do you play them as large units.


  3. Hi John,

    While I prefer the brown coats as stated, a unit in the white could be a good change of pace as well. My Napoleonic armies, aside from a brief and ill-advised forray into (a)"historical" book organizations back in the the late 1970's have been the same since I started with Flats in about 1968 - Infantry units with 6 stands of three, Cavalry 4 stands of 2, and artillery 2 stands, each with 3 crew (4 for 12# guns) and a gun. So, I either use all 6 stands on the table and just treat the unit as having 4 stands for FoB purposes (line becomes 4 up, 2 back, column 2 stands wide by 3 deep), or strip out the extra 2 stands and combine the surplus ones to make additional units if needed (as they were for, say Wagram at Historicon 2009 - pictures of that comming eventually).