The Oblique order
The Oblique order was most famously used by Frederick the Great at the Battle of Leuthen in Silesia on the 5th December 1757 during which a Prussian army defeated a much larger Austrian force.
Frederick the Great however is not the originator of this tactic, only re-purposing it for his ‘modern’ battlefield. Historically the Oblique order or refused flank was extensively used by Greek and Macedonian armies circa 460BC to 350BC.
Δ In this tactic a large unit is arranged on one flank of the battle line. The main line is often diminished and is simply there to hold the enemy once battle is engaged.
At the battle of Leuthen, Frederick used low lying fog, smoke (from cannon and musket fire), the interposing terrain between armies as well as the superior drill doctrines of the Prussian infantry to maneuver a large portion of his army onto his far flank. Once battle was joined the Austrian army did not know their flank was under so much pressure until it was too late.
Δ The main line has only one object and that is to hold the enemy in place while the superior number and quality of the troops on the flank can break through the line.
Δ The flank eventually fails and the enemy units rout. The large formation now pivots to attack the enemy from the side and from behind.
- This sort of maneuvering requires ‘fog of war’ movement or subterfuge in order to succeed.
- If the enemy is aware that you are loading one flank he can commit reserves to counter you or attack where you are weak.
- You need to have sufficient number or quality of troops to overwhelm the flank before your main line fails.