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Aug 21 15 9:58 AM

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Am hoping that someone has information of the organisation and uniforms worn by the Branovaczky Freikorps during the Neerwinden campaign.

Anything will be of use!




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#1 [url]

Aug 21 15 6:16 PM

This is two companies of Serb Freikorps.

They were usually known as the Mihailovich Freikorps after Oberst/Colonel Mihailovich, but he had taken command of the ad hoc force, including this unit, Mahoney Jaeger and some Grenzers.

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#3 [url]

Aug 22 15 2:10 PM

Colin Baillie has turned up a Russian publication about Suvarov's 1799 campaign

Plate 3 is supposed to show a Second Banal (11th) Grenzer NCO to the lower left. however, this unit was not at Mantua, whereas 5th Light Infantry, formerly the Serb FK, were, so this is likely to be a Serb NCO. However, I am not aware of the source for that, although it is similar to a Seressaner NCO pic.

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#5 [url]

Oct 15 15 4:47 PM

Here is another illustration of the Serbian Freicorps:-

Serbian Free Corps soldier.jpg

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#6 [url]

Oct 15 15 5:21 PM

Dr Brown,

Looking at Serbian sources (which are very sparce), I believe that the unit that you are interested is known in Serbian as the Branovacki Frejkor and that it existed at the same time as the Mihajlovic Freicorps but was a separate unit under the command of Major Jovan Branovacki.  Most of the (very limited) information that I can find about this unit relates to various actions in the 1780s against the Ottomans rather then Neerwinden.  There is a Serbian text from the late 19th century that refers to an Austrian source claiming that the Serbian Freicorps in November1789 was constituted by approximately 5,000 men being made up by one squadron of Hussars, 18 companies of fusiliers and 4 companies of 'sharpshooters'.  The text then goes on to say that in April 1789, Mihailovic's Freicorps numbered 2,500 men and Branovacki's Freicorps numbered 1,600 men.

My guess is that unit organisation would have been  modelled on Austrian Grenz battalions, that unit strength would have varied a great deal from campaign to campaign and that the above illustration is a reasonably accurate representation of what the rank and file would have looked like.  I will dig around in a couple of the more obscure Serbian books that I have and will let you know if I come up with anything else.



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#8 [url]

Oct 17 15 10:06 PM

Please be careful with this material, because it is severely tainted by nationalist agendas and we know where that finished up just a few years ago. The various nationalities in the Balkans claim all kinds of units and events to push their own national identities and those very agendas mean they do not read the Imperial documentation, consequently understanding the background even less. I have seen one Romanian site claiming IR51 Splenyi "Legion infernale" as essentially Romanian troops, simply because their recruiting area was Transylvania, which has been part of Romania since 1920. That ignores population movements, the German colonies (which supplied many officers), the Hungarian and Szeckler populations (pushed out since 1920) and the fact that Romanian troops were considered to be among the worst in the army during the Napoleonic period!    

If you look at the Wiki entry, you can see this The author is talking about various Serb warbands in the revolts against Turkish rule, but we find the Seressaner (actually a police unit in the Licca regiment of the Karlstadt district of the Military Frontier since 1754) and the  "St Georg Freikorps from Croatia" (Warasdin St. Georg was the 2nd Warasdin District regiment). Quite what the difference between a fusilier and a musketeer is defeats me, but the source for that appears to be the same Serb text (of 1866 apparently) as Orange mentions and there they are 4 companies of Sharpshooters. That of course is actually a reference to the Sharpshooter detachments with each Grenzer regiment! The Warasdin district was about 50/50 Serb and Croat in population. 

 Mihailovich himself was a Serb born in the Military Frontier and he commanded various multi-unit formations  - this where he appears, nationalists will assume it is  all Serb Freikorps. This from the OMZ at p.21 lists various units together including the Branovacky Freikrops in 1789 under Laudon at Belgrade. On pp.5 and 6, there are Freikorps detachments leading two columns, on p.12 there is mention of a half squadron of Freikorps  and on p.16, they are the Servian Freikorps. On p.21, where 4 companies of Branovacky are mentioned, it does also refer to a squadron of Wurmser Hussars - that is the regular regiment of hussars, but they are often confused with the Wurmser Freikorps cavalry (formed in 1793 from Balkan refugees from the 1788-91 war against Turkey). 

As I mentioned, the Wiki article is talking about the various Serb warbands, which sprang up in Bosnia and Serbia (then both in the Turkish Empire)  when Austria and Russia  attacked in 1788. The war ended in stalemate, but both these militias and many refugees were taken into the Frontier area and from there, the Serb Freikorps was formed within the Imperial army. They were increased with the Wurmser Freikorps (the infamous Red Mantles)  in 1793 as the Grenzers had taken heavy casualties in the Turkish wars and could not supply many troops when fighting started in the Netherlands  in 1792. The same happened after the Serb rebellion  of 1804 was finally suppressed by the Turks in 1813 and there is a Serb Freikorps for the War of Liberation of 1813-14. The Serb tradition was that a warband was led by a Voivode, whose status depended on the size of his warband, but when they were absorbed in to the Imperial army, as the official annual Schematis shows, there was just one Serb Freikorps, although it was large enough even in 1798 to form two of the short-lived regular Light Infantry battalions. So, as was the case with all these light/freikorps units, they are named after their commanding officer at a particular time, hence Major Branovacky  was commanding them at Neerwinden, as their usual commander, Mihailovich was commanding the composite larger formation.

On reflection, I think the colourful "Grenzer NCO at Mantua" in the russian book is actually a Seresssaner Harambassa (sergeant) from 1816.  

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#9 [url]

Oct 19 15 5:30 PM


I agree that one needs to proceed with caution, but that cuts across the Hapsburg sources as well because the Hapsburgs also had their own agenda when deciding whether to identify units by reference to any particular ethnic grouping and, if so, which one.    

Another issue is the only meaningful distinction between ethnic Serbs and ethnic Croats in the border region was religion, the former being Orthodox and the latter Catholic.  There were, however, relatively frequent conversions from one to the other (Serbian sources claim that Serbians were repeatedly put under pressure by the Hapsburg authorities to convert to Catholicism so that they might become better integrated into the Empire whereas Croat sources claim that there were frequent conversions the other way - especially in Bosnia - because the Ottomans saw Orthodox Christians as less of a threat than Catholic ones) and it is, therefore, often difficult to pin down the 'true' ethnicity of any particular unit (if there is such a thing).  I would guess that most units would have been mixed and one way of trying to work out whether there was a significant proportion of one or the other ethnicity at any particular point in time is to see whether there are records for the unit chaplains (ie did they have Orthodox or Catholic priests or both).  That, of course, is a truly hopeless task with some of the less well established units that were popping up all along the military frontier as and when circumstances required.

The only other comment that I would make is that I had the benefit of reading one of the Serbian sources to which the Wikipedia article refers and my impression is that the two units to which I refer were more than mere local 'warbands' (and there  were plenty of those) but were units raised by the Hapsburgs as part of their war effort against the Ottomans at the time.  As I have said, however, the information is very sketchy and certainly insufficient to draw any conclusions about whether Branovacki was Mihajlovic's subordinate or whether his command was independent of Mihajlovic etc.  Interestingly, neither get much of a mention by the time that we get to the First Serbian Insurrection in 1805 except to the extent that the Serbian leader (Karadjordje) is said to have gained his early military experience from serving in Mihajlovic's Serbische Freicorps.



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