Napoleonic cavalry notes only
Taken from: Lessons from the 18th and 19th Centuries


Contents:

Introduction
Armies, Battles, Commanders and Tactics during the Napoleonic Wars (1815)
Cooper's Manual for Volunteers (1836)
Battle Studies (1860)
The Form and Use of the Saber (1913)
Mounted Swordsmanship (1914)
Training Regulations, War Department (1922)
Conclusions and Lessons Drawn

Introduction


Exerpts from 6 "modern" sources describing cavalry activity. The documents span the 19th century beginning with cavalry warfare at its peak in the Napoleonic wars at the beginning of the century to the end of cavalry warfare in the early 20th century.

At first glance one might think that there are too many differences between 19th century warfare and ancient battle for there to be any relevance.. The cavalry actions of the 19th century were much more highly organized than ancient armies. There were more types of cavalry. And, of course, the 19th century cavalry force both used and faced guns and artillery.

Nevertheless there are some similarities. The key similarities are in the nature of the horses and the men riding them. The physical and psychological characteristics are the same. The other key similarity is that, even though modern cavalry had and used guns, it also relied heavily on both the ancient weapons of the sword and lance.

In the following exerpts the source material is cited. The exerpts represent only fragments that have a bearing on ancient warfare or are of general interest in understanding men, horses and their use on the battlefield. The section "Conclusions and Lessons Drawn" gives a distilled analysis of the material and suggests ways in which the material applies to ancient warfare.

Armies, Battles, Commanders and Tactics during the Napoleonic Wars

http://web2.airmail.net/napoleon/index.html
Cavalry Combat 1800-1815
(Part 1)
http://web2.airmail.net/napoleon/cavalry_tactics.html


"I make the squadrons charge at gallop only because then fear carries the cowards along with the rest Frederick the Great
to paraphrase Napoleon, in war, psychological factors are 3 times more important than mechanical factors.

In the cavalry charge, on the speed of horse and the aggressive spirit of the man rest 9/10 of the chances of success. (Book for USA cavalrymen, 1914).

... dust thrown by the cavalry was thicker and rose higher than from infantry and totally obscured the view.

In cavalry-vs-cavalry combat, the moral effect of a mass charging in good order was of the greatest influence. There were rarely seen two cavalry organizations, neither of which breaks before such reciprocal action. ... a good order of attacking troops was 75 % of victory....

18th Century, Mirabeau: "veteran cavalry officers have told us that when two bodies of cavalry charge one another, it almost always happens that one party flees before the other can meet it. Saber blows are dealt only during the pursuit."

If both sides were of equal morale then the horsemen would pass through each other's formation and come out on the other side.

a prolonged fight (10 minutes)

The faster and/or longer the attack the easier to lose order, cohesion and discipline.

The best of all is a gallop in the last moment and for a short distance. The fact is, every cavalryman approaching another at speed must feel that if they come in contact at that pace, they both go down and break bones.

Mêlée.

charges resolve themselves into mêlées, the cavalryman is constantly exposed to the chances of single combat, and the unfortunate fellow who cannot manage his horse is lost."

Melee was a series of individual matches and depended upon individual horsemanship and swordsmanship. . The horsemen halt face to face, abreast, to fight man to man; or each passes the other, thrusting with the sabre or lance. In melee every man was cuting or slashing or blocking the blows. Opponents positions were constantly changing relative to the cavalryman's front. Melee lasted only few minutes and often caused dust obscuring all vision.

The smaller horses were more agile than the big horses of heavy cavalry and thus better suited for melee. The heavy cavalrymen can't turn their horses quickly or make half pirouettes with them as swiftly as the light cavalry.

Squadrons could charge, "go into melee, pull out, reform and charge again rather quickly." "A fight on horseback is like a fencing match, in which the skilful horseman always presents his right side (which is under cover of his sword) to his adverary, and seeks to gain his weak side, the left one. Here all depends on horsemanship

Pursuing / Fleeing

The most killing happens in the pursuit phase (Clausewitz and Ardant du Picq), and this is apparently due to four factors.
1- the pursuer doesn't have to look in his victim's eyes, and it appears to be much easier to deny an opponent's humanity if you can stab or shoot them in the back and don't have to look into their eyes when you kill them.
2- the opponent has changed from a fighter to prey who must to be pursued and killed.
3 - fleeing troops have difficulties to parry the cuts and slashes and are panick stricken.
4 - fleeing enemy can be attacked from the left side and unable to defend (his saber is in right hand)

"Speed and endurance cannot be expected from horses that are over-weighted." - L. E. Nolan

It was difficult to stop the troops who won and pursued the enemy. Once the cavalry has been committed to combat "the chances of controlling or stopping it belong in the realms of pious hopes. Men will pursue the enemy as long as they are able."

Closer and/or longer pursuit led to heavier casualties.

Sometimes only the the fleeing troops suffered casualties, not those who pursued them.

Often the pursuing and fleeing troops spread out over the field and sometimes took themselves out of the battlefield

The victorious troops during pursuit become disordered, morally weak and vulnerable to counterattack by smaller enemy. subject to counterattack

Casualties

" Casualties in cavalry melee were low because men were focused mainly on controlling their horses, and because the cut or slash was easy to parry.
Often the conquered alone loses men, while the victor has no or few loses only. The men received wounds mainly in the right arm, between hand and elbow. Fewer wounds were recived in the head and neck. "

For 1 killed/wounded cavalryman were 3-4 horses lost. (Napoleon)

Often the horses were wounded during combat by their own masters. If the cavalryman was over-excited, panicking, tired, or simply clumsy or wounded, his cuts or slashes occassionally ended up on his horse's head, neck or mane.

The horse was much bigger target ... than his master sitting on him

Cavalry Combat 1800-1815
(Part 2)
http://web2.airmail.net/napoleon/cavalry_tactics_2.htm

Sabers and lances - length, weight, characteristic and use in combat.
Cuirass, helmet, bearskin, shakos and rolled greatcoat - use in combat.
Lancers.
Horse skirmishers (flankers).
Speed of attack.
Massive cavalry charges.


Cuts very often failed from the blade turning enough to make the blow one with the flat; at best the wound was generally light compared to those made by thrusts.
Slash was very common in small war where would be a lot of one-on-one fights and circling as the horses had much space. The slashing was very much liked by the light cavalry - there would be no difficulty in retrieving "one's blade from the torso once it has been thrust home."

It was known that the slash was most effective and easiest against opponent to your right side and therefore the men took their time continually circling until they saw an opportunity. The slash disabled or lightly wounded the enemy rather than killed him and majority of slashes and cuts were generally easily parried.

This is interesting that the cut was a more instinctive blow than the thrust and in melees the men tended to cut even if their sabers were more suited to the thrust.
The thrust was considered as more serious business than the slash or cut.

The thrust had several advantages over the cuts:
- the thrust is deadlier than the cut (actually the point killed by way of internal bleeding and infections, but sometimes lacked immediate "stopping power". In contrast, the cut dispensed shock effect proportional to the strength of the blow.
- the point reaches the target faster than the edge because it travels in a straight line, whereas the later has to move in a curved path
- a parried point can be re-aligned faster than an edge
- with longer blade one could outreach his adversary and if this reach was additionally augmented by deliveries such as the pass or lunge, then attacks could be made from further away. If the blades were more or less of equal length, the outcome became unpredictable and the supposed superiority of the point was not evident.
- a saber raised for a cut leaves the body exposed to a thrust

Most often the thrust caused deadlier but less impressive injuries than slash and cut. Thrusting is up close and personal and majority of men found it hard to impale the adversary. If someone attacks you with a knife, spear, lance or straight and long blade saber, know that you are dealing with someone who is not afraid of combat, and has the psychological mindset to back it up.

Thrust would leave the opponent with a small hole in his body, but it was deep and penetrated through all the vital organs. Or it could enter mouth and come out at the back of head killing on the spot.

Roman Legionnaires were trained rely upon the thrust in preference to cutting attacks.

Slash or cut would most often result in a light wound to the forearm or hand. These parts of the body were the most targeted by "slashers" and "cutters". It was painful but not deadly. Sometimes there was a blow to the neck or head - it could be deadly or not.

Very impressive looking were cuts and slashes to man's or horse's face. It resulted in a lot of blood, and life lasting and horrible wound but was not life threatening. There were cases where a cavalryman received up to 6 (and sometimes even more !) slashes or cuts to his forearm and continued his fight. De Brack put it shortly: "it is the point alone that kill, the others serve only to wound."

Some recommeded to thrust only when your adversary was awkward or slow in delivering his attack. Thrust must be delivered at the instant, otherwise this is useless. A straight-blade saber can kill with a thrust, a few inches through the ribcage or guts while a cut must go through more flesh to reach vital organs and requires more strength to wield.

But a dedicated cutting edge will deliver devastating and lethal gashes. Cut wounds to the head, eyes or neck were the most serious. Cuts to the head to bleed into the eyes disrupted vision.

The long weapon [lance] allowed cavalrymen to wound or kill an enemy armed with shorter weapon first, but once the enemy had got past the point of the lance then the lancer was vulnerable.

Mastery with lance also required training, good horsemanship and strong hand. Giving lances to many regiments of poorly trained men, too old or too young and weak, didn't make them good lancers. These lads were lost against average cavalry without lances.

Speed of attack.

According to general Jomini the slow pace of attack, the trot, permits that compactness which the gallop breaks up.

Speed of cavalry:

- walk - approx. 100 paces/minute
- trot - approx. 200 paces/minute
{the slow pace helped to keep order in ranks but gave to much time to think about dangers,
it was good speed only for disciplined and seasoned troops, the more anxious the men the
sooner they sped up, regardless of their officers' orders}
- gallop - approx. 300 and more paces/minute
{the fast pace usually disordered the troops as they got out of control, gaps were created,
horses in the center were squeezed out, slower horses and riders were far behind
but it was the "winning intoxication gait" with little time for cowardice.

Seasoned troops started galloping as late as possible to avoid disorder, poorer and more anxious troops started their gallop very early and with loud battle cries.}
Only very few regiments of cavalry in Europe attained the perfection of changing the formation at gallop without losing its order.

Cavalry Combat 1800-1815
(Part 3)
http://web2.airmail.net/napoleon/cavalry_tactics_3.htm

Heavy versus light cavalry.
Regiment of Old Guard in combat [Reichenbach - Saxony 1813]
Cavalry fire a salvo at enemy.
Dismounted cavalry in combat (examples).
Horses, types, height, color and characteristics.
. . . . . . Horses for Napoleon's heavy cavalry.
. . . . . . Horses for Napoleon's light cavalry.
. . . . . . Types of horses in European armies.
. . . . . . Height of horses in European armies.

"A good rider who is a weak swordsman would have the advantage over
a good swordsman who is a poor rider."
- American provisional regulations for saber exercise (1907)

Heavy versus light cavalry

The majority of fights of two cavalrymen will hardly amount to more than a quick thrust or strong cut, with parry and quick return. The weakest point is the left rear; an enemy caught in that position should be attacked at once !

At gallop it was impossible ... to parry and then cut : the opponent will be far out of reach within a second. ... in "one-on-one" combat the high speed was rarely used; it was difficult to retrieve fast enough the long blade from enemy's body without having the right hand twisted or even being thrown off the horse !

In "line-vs-line" situation all the horses slowed down just shortly before the contact was made. Every creature on earth (including horses) will attempt to avoid collision. This is natural.

.

If the man misses his parry he is dead or seriously wounded. The more skillful cavalrymen however were quite successful in parrying the blows.

When two cavalrymen approached each other at slower pace, for example at the walk, there would be a lot of circling and then - of course - much depended on the agility of the horse and the horsemanship and swordsmanship of the man.

... smaller and more agile horses ... made their turns easier and quicker

Attack on the flank always gave a huge advantage.

Infantry Combat 1800-1815
(part 4) http://web2.airmail.net/napoleon/infantry_tactics_4.htm

Methods of attacking the squares.
A fast moving horse when hit and falling required 10-15 paces to fall down. Therefore it was unwise to fire at fast attacking cavalry at less than 15 paces. Otherwise the infantrymen forming the square were hit by falling and kicking (if wounded) horses. One horse could make a big gap in the wall of square, bowling and wounding infantrymen. If the cavalrymen were brave and determined enough they would go into such gap and break into center of the square. Only well-trained and disciplined infantrymen might still be able to close the gap and bayonet the few bravados.

The cavalry had several methods of attacking the squares:

they could send a small troop to check the moral strength of square before bigger body of cavalry attacked.

Cavalry attacking in echelons. In this case the infantrymen emptied their muskets on the first echelon and then the second and third echelon were on them.

Part of cavalry dismounted and approached the square in skirmish order. Meanwhile the main body of cavalry waited for any sign of wavering or weakness of the square. This method worked only if the enemy didn't have cavalry nearby.

The cavalryman was a fine target for foot soldier armed with a rifle or musket. But due to poor quality and short range of smoothbore muskets the casualties suffered by cavalry were not heavy. For example in 1806 at Prenzlow a Prussian battalion of 400 infantrymen repulsed 7 attacks of French dragoons (2.000) each time delivering a volley at 20-30 paces. The dragoons lost 10-15 horses but such casualties were enough for them as the square showed no signs of weakening. In 1809 at Wagram the chasseurs-a-cheval of Napoleon's Guard attacked a square formed by Austrian landwehr. The Austrians delivered volley, 10 men and 10 horses were the only casualties. But it was enough for the guardsmen, the whitecoats didn't waver and it was pointless to continue the attacks. The casualties seems very low for us but we have to keep on mind that some horses although were hit by a bullet were still able to return with rider.

Majority of cavalrymen instinctively "ducked" under fire in an attempt to avoid being hit. They became much smaller targets than their horses. So sometimes the rider was not hit at all while his mount received up to 12 bullets. lost 98 men and 138 horses. lost 28 men and 41 horses killed and wounded. volley at 30 paces killing 23 horses and 7 men, and wounding 18 horses and 21 men.

Even poorly trained but determined troops were able to form square and repulse the horsemen.

Sometimes when infantry square repulsed cavalry with musket fire, it immediately deployed from square to column and attacked with bayonets.


In 1812 at Borodino, columns of Russian infantry (Guard) received French cuirassiers and carabiniers with volleys and then attacked with bayonets. The protected by armor heavies lost many horses, their ranks were disordered and they retreated. ... Rows of bayonets and boldness of the infantrymen were enough to drive back the dragoons on to the battery which they had just captured

The best way to defeat infantry by cavalry was to catch the infantrymen before they formed square. Infantry still formed in line was one of the most welcomed sights for cavalrymen. The line was usually attacked from the flank where its fire was the weakest.

Of course there were cases, very rare, where line of infantry actually withstood the attack of cavalry. ... the men in 3rd rank faced about and warned off the cavalrymen in the rear, while the troopers in 1st and 2nd rank repulsed those in the front.
ANOTHER EXAMPLE: ... brave lads delivered volley at close range and immediately attacked with cold steel. The surprised and shattered horsemen fled.

Vast majority of squares withstood even repeated cavalry attacks. Sometimes however the square was broken. When square was broken (or gap made in one of the walls) the infantrymen panicked and fled hotly pursued by cavalry.

Horses were extremelly unwilling to step upon prone body while not every cavalryman could reach them with saber. The excited and triumphant cavalry usually passed over their heads, the infantrymen quickly rose to their feet and either run to the rear or fired at attackers' backs (


Squares against lancers.
Although lance was longer than saber the mounted lancer was unable to outreach infantryman armed with musket and bayonet.

Cooper's Manual for Volunteers (1836)

This is an on-line cavalry manual.

The depth of two ranks, taking the length of the fullest sized cavalry horses, at eight feet, and the distance between the ranks at three feet, is to be reckoned at about nineteen feet.
Intervals- Spaces between squadrons and regiments in line- those between squadrons, ten paces; those between regiments, fifteen.


Every division which is to be aligned upon another, will halt abreast of the rear-rank, parallel to the line off formation, to move forward into the alignment of the division already formed.
Paces- There are three paces, the walk, the trot, and the gallop.- The walk at the rate of three and a half to four miles an hour. The trot at eight miles and a half an hour. The gallop at eleven miles an hour. The gallop is not considered applicable to general purposes of manoeuvre, though it may be used occasionally for very simple formations.



The rate of charge should not exceed the speed of the slowest horse,

To preserve uniformity of movement, the trot and gallop should commence gradually, and by the whole body at the same time.

The term pace, by which distance and intervals are measured, is reckoned at one yard.

Of the Charge or Attack.

The charge ... commences with a brisk trot, then a gallop, constantly increasing in velocity... There are three modes of charging. In a line parallel or oblique to the front of the enemy by echelon, and in column.

When at a suitable distance from the enemy to make a charge, say about 250 yards, the commanding officer commands, TROT. The regiment continues at a trot for 150 paces, when the commanding officer gives the word, GALLOP, and after passing about 100 paces at a gallop, the commanding officer causes the charge to be sounded by all the trumpets, at which signal the gallop is increased in speed. The men rise in their stirrups, lowering the bridle hand, but keeping the command of their horses, as well as preserving their dressing, and thus dash upon the enemy; the front-rank with the sword pointed forward, and the rear-rank with the sword to the raise.

The charge ought always, if possible, to be anticipated, as there is great danger of being overthrown by receiving a charge at a halt.

Battle Studies
Ancient and Modern Battle

BY COLONEL ARDANT DU PICQ
FRENCH ARMY
TRANSLATED FROM THE EIGHTH EDITION IN THE FRENCH BY
COLONEL JOHN N. GREELY
FIELD ARTILLERY, U.S. ARMY
AND MAJOR ROBERT C. COTTON
GENERAL STAFF (INFANTRY), U.S. ARMY
Joint Author of "Military Field Notebook"
1921

PART ONE (return to Contents)
ANCIENT BATTLE
CHAPTER I GENERAL DISCUSSION


Face to face or body to body combat with primitive arms, ax or dagger, so terrible among enemies without defensive arms, is very rare.

CHAPTER II KNOWLEDGE OF MAN MADE ROMAN TACTICS. THE SUCCESSES OF HANNIBAL, THOSE OF CAESAR

the men of the rear ranks waited inactive at two paces distance for their turn in the combat, which would come only when their predecessors were killed, wounded or exhausted. … These men were subjected to the poignant emotions of combat without being supported by the animation of the struggle. … Often they could not stand it until their turn came; they gave way.

They believed, as did the Greeks, in the power of the mass and impulse of deep files, and did not understand that deep files were powerless to push the first ranks forward as they recoiled in the face of death. It is a strange error to believe that the last ranks will go to meet that which made the first ones fall back. On the contrary, the contagion of recoil is so strong that the stopping of the head means the falling back of the rear!

The Greeks, also, certainly had reserves and supports in the second half of their dense ranks. But the idea of mass dominated. They placed these supports and reserves too near, forgetting the essential, man.

The Romans believed in the power of mass, but from the moral point of view only. They did not multiply the files in order to add to the mass, but to give to the combatants the confidence of being aided and relieved. The number of ranks was calculated according to the moral pressure that the last ranks could sustain.

There is a point beyond which man cannot bear the anxiety of combat in the front lines without being engaged. The Romans did not so increase the number of ranks as to bring about this condition.


Chapter IV

In studying ancient combats, it can be seen that it was almost always an attack from the flank or rear, a surprise action, that won battles, especially against the Romans.

PART II MODERN BATTLE CHAPTER I GENERAL DISCUSSION


1. Ancient and Modern Battle

In studying ancient battle, we have seen what a terrible thing battle is. We have seen that man will not really fight except under disciplinary pressure.

The purpose of discipline is to make men fight in spite of themselves. .

To fight from a distance is instinctive in man. From the first day he has worked to this end, and he continues to do so.

Man is capable of standing before a certain amount of terror; beyond that he flees from battle. The battle of Pharsalus lasted some four hours. Caesar broke his camp, which is done in the morning; then the formation for battle; then the battle, etc. And he says that his troops were tired, the battle having lasted up to noon. This indicates that he considered it long.

Frederick liked to say that three men behind the enemy were worth more than fifty in front of him, for moral effect.

The ancients often avoided hand to hand conflict, so terrible were its consequences.

Make the enemy believe that support is lacking; isolate; cut off, flank, turn, in a thousand ways make his men believe themselves isolated

Cavalry maneuvers, like those of infantry, are threats. The most threatening win. The formation in ranks is a threat, and more than a threat.

The formation in ranks is a serious threat, which may at any moment be put into effect. It awes one in a terrible fashion. In the heat of battle, formed troops do more to secure victory than do those actively engaged. This is true, whether such a body actually exists or whether it exists only in the imagination of the enemy. In an indecisive battle, he wins who can show, and merely show, battalions and squadrons in hand. They inspire the fear of the unknown.

CHAPTER II INFANTRY )

"A column cannot stop instantly without a command. Suppose your first rank stops at the instant of shock: the twelve ranks of the battalion, coming up successively, would come in contact with it, pushing it forward.... Experiments made have shown that beyond the sixteenth the impulsion of the ranks in rear has no effect on the front, it is completely taken up by the fifteen ranks already massed behind the first....

But in a real charge, all your ranks are attentive, restless, anxious about what is taking place at the front and, if the latter halts, if the first line stops, there will be a movement to the rear and not to the front. … thrown full speed on the enemy, at one hundred and twenty steps to the minute. …! At this last desperate moment if the front rank stops, it will not be pushed, according to the theory of successive impulses, it will be upset. The second line will arrive only to fall over the first and so on.

Physical impulse is merely a word. If the front rank stops it will let itself fall and be trampled under foot rather than cede to the pressure that pushes it forward. Any one experienced in infantry engagements of to-day knows that is just what happens.

Mass attacks are incomprehensible. Not one out of ten was ever carried to completion and none of them could be maintained against counter-attacks..

But the enemy does not stand; the moral pressure of danger that precedes you is too strong for him. … Therefore, the enemy never merely stands; because if he does, it is you that flee. This always does away with the shock. The enemy entertains no smaller anxiety than yours. When he sees you near, for him also the question is whether to flee or to advance. Two moral impulses are in conflict.

This is the instinctive reasoning of the officer and soldier, "If these men wait for me to close with them, it means death. I will kill, but I will undoubtedly be killed. At the muzzle of the gun-barrel the bullet can not fail to find its mark. But if I can frighten them, they will run away. I can shoot them and bayonet in the back. Let us make a try at it." The trial is made, and one of the two forces, at some stage of the advance, perhaps only at two paces, makes an about and gets the bayonet in the back.

The shock is a mere term. … never, never, never, are two equal determinations opposed to each other.

To sum up: there is no shock of infantry on infantry. There is no physical impulse, no force of mass. There is but a moral impulse

It might be concluded from this long statement that a moral pressure, which always causes flight when a bold attack is made, would not permit any infantry to hold out against a cavalry charge; never, indeed, against a determined charge. But infantry must resist when it is not possible to flee, and until there is complete demoralization, absolute terror, the infantry appreciates this. Every infantryman knows it is folly to flee before cavalry…. But whether man is on foot or on horseback, he is always man. While on foot he has but himself to force; on horseback he must force man and beast to march against the enemy. And mounted, to flee is so easy. (Remark by Varney).

We have seen than in an infantry mass those in rear are powerless to push those in front unless the danger is greater in rear. The cavalry has long understood this. It attacks in a column at double distance rather than at half-distance, in order to avoid the frightful confusion of the mass

Real bayonet attacks …. It was the mass which fell back, turned tail even before the shock. The troops who made the bold charge did nothing but strike and fire at backs. ….. Combat at close quarters does not exist. At close quarters occurs the ancient carnage when one force strikes the other in the back.

The mass impulse of cavalry has long been discredited.

As long as the ancient masses marched forward, they did not lose a man and no one lay down to avoid the combat. Dash lasted up to the time of stopping; the run was short in every case.

In attacking a position, start the charge at the latest possible moment, when the leader thinks he can reach the objective not all out of breath. Until then, it has been possible to march in rank, that is under the officers, …. With the run comes confusion. Many stop, the fewer as the run is shorter.

Absolute rules are foolish… Regulate it as the cavalry charge is regulated, and have a rearguard in each battalion of non-commissioned officers, of most reliable officers, in order to gather together, to follow close upon the charge, at a walk, and to collect all those who have lain down so as not to march or because they were out of breath.

The infantry square is not a thing of mechanics, of mathematical reasoning; it is a thing of morale. In closed ranks, the two lines touching elbows, a man who falls throws ten men into complete confusion. There is no room for those who drop and, however few fall, the resulting disorder immediately makes of the two ranks a series of small milling groups. If the troops are young, they become a disordered flock before any demonstration.

With very open ranks, men a pace apart, whoever falls has room, he is noticed by a lesser number, he drags down no one in his fall. The moral impression on his comrades is less.

CHAPTER III CAVALRY


However, cavalry always has the same doctrine: Charge! To start with, cavalry action against cavalry is always the same. Also against infantry. Cavalry knows well enough today, as it has always known, that it can act only against infantry which has been broken.

Maneuver being a threat, of great moral effect, the cavalry general who knows how to use it, can contribute largely to success. He arrests the enemy in movement, doubtful as to what the cavalry is going to attempt. He makes the enemy take some formation


Accuracy of fire at a distance is impossible against a troop in movement, and movement is the essence of cavalry action.

2. Cavalry Against Cavalry

Let us study first the morale of the cavalry engagement in single combat. Two riders rush at each other. Are they going to direct their horses front against front? Their horses would collide, both would be forced to their feet, while running the chance of being crushed in the clash or in the fall of their mounts. Each one in the combat counts on his strength, on his skill, on the suppleness of his mount, on his personal courage; he does not want a blind encounter, and he is right. They halt face to face, abreast, to fight man to man; or each passes the other, thrusting with the sabre or lance; or each tries to wound the knee of the adversary and dismount him in this way. But as each is trying to strike the other, he thinks of keeping out of the way himself, he does not want a blind encounter that does away with the combat. The ancient battles, the cavalry engagements, the rare cavalry combats of our days, show us nothing else.


Discipline, while keeping the cavalrymen in the ranks, has not been able to change the instinct of the rider. No more than the isolated man is the rider in the line willing to meet the shock of a clash with the enemy. There is a terrible moral effect in a mass moving forward. If there is no way to escape to the right or to the left, men and horses will avoid the clash by stopping face to face. But only preëminently brave troops, equally seasoned in morale, alike well led and swept along, animated alike, will meet face to face. All these conditions are never found united on either side, so the thing is never seen. Forty-nine times out of fifty, one of the cavalry forces will hesitate, bolt, get into disorder, flee before the fixed purpose of the other. Three quarters of the time this will happen at a distance, before they can see each other's eyes. Often they will get closer. But always, always, the stop, the backward movement, the swerving of horses, the confusion, bring about fear or hesitation. They lessen the shock and turn it into instant flight. The resolute assailant does not have to slacken. He has not been able to overcome or turn the obstacles of horses not yet in flight, in this uproar of an impossible about face executed by routed troops, without being in disorder himself.

On the whole, there are few losses. The engagement, if there is one, is an affair of a second. The proof is that in this action of cavalry against cavalry, the conquered alone loses men, and he loses generally few. The battle against infantry is alone the really deadly struggle.

The cavalry's casualties are always much less than those of the

As there are few losses between cavalry and cavalry, so there is little fighting.

All writers on cavalry will tell you that the charge pushed home of two cavalry bodies and the shock at top speed do not exist. Always before the encounter, the weaker runs away, if there is not a face to face check.

Cohesion and unity give force to the charge. Alignment is impossible at a fast gait where the most rapid pass the others. Only when the moral effect has been produced should the gait be increased to take advantage of it by falling upon an enemy already in disorder, in the act of fleeing. The cuirassiers charge at a trot. This calm steadiness frightens the enemy into an about face. Then they charge at his back, at a gallop.

Jomini speaks of charges at a trot against cavalry at a gallop. He cites Lasalle who used the trot and who, seeing cavalry approach at a gallop, would say: "There are lost men." Jomini insists on the effect of shock. The trot permits that compactness which the gallop breaks up. That may be true. But the effect is moral above all. A troop at the gallop sees a massed squadron coming towards it at a trot. It is surprised at first at such coolness. The material impulse of the gallop is superior; but there are no intervals, no gaps through which to penetrate the line in order to avoid the shock, the shock that overcomes men and horses. These men must be very resolute, as their close ranks do not permit them to escape by about facing. If they move at such a steady gait, it is because their resolution is also firm and they do not feel the need of running away, of diverting themselves by the unchecked speed of the unrestrained gallop, etc. [43]

Galloping men do not reason these things out, but they know them instinctively. …. Their hands instinctively turn their horses aside. There is no longer freedom in the attack at a gallop. Some go on to the end, but three-fourths have already tried to avoid the shock. There is complete disorder, demoralization, flight. Then begins the pursuit at a gallop by the men who attacked at the trot.

The charge at a trot exacts of leaders and men complete confidence and steadfastness.

As a general rule, the gallop is and should be necessary in the charge; it is the winning, intoxicating gait, for men and horses. It is taken up at such a distance as may be necessary to insure its success, whatever it may cost in men and horses. The regulations are correct in prescribing that the charge be started close up. If the troopers waited until the charge was ordered, they would always succeed. I say that strong men, moved by pride or fear, by taking up too soon the charge against a firm enemy, have caused more charges to fail than to succeed. Keeping men in hand until the command "charge," seizing the precise instant for this command, are both difficult. …. Real charges are just as rare.

Actual shock no longer exists. The moral impulse of one of the adversaries nearly always upsets the other, perhaps far off, perhaps a little nearer. Were this "a little nearer," face to face, one of the two troops would be already defeated before the first saber cut and would disentangle itself for flight. With actual shock, all would be thrown into confusion. A real charge on the one part or the other would cause mutual extermination. In practice the victor scarcely loses any one.

Observation demonstrates that cavalry does not close with cavalry; its deadly combats are those against infantry alone.

Even if a cavalryman waits without flinching, his horse will wish to escape, to shrink before the collision. If man anticipates, so does the horse. Why did Frederick like to see his center closed in for the assault? As the best guarantee against the instincts of man and horse.

…if left to themselves, would start at a gallop, for fear of not arriving, or of arriving exhausted and material for carnage. … The procedure should be the walk, then the trot, after that the gallop, then the charge. But it takes a trained eye to estimate distance and the character of the terrain, and, if the enemy approaches, to pick the point where one should meet him. …The necessity of arriving at the greatest speed is not alone a mechanical question, since indeed one never clashes, it is a moral necessity. It is necessary to seize the moment at which the uneasiness of one's men requires the intoxication of the headlong charging gallop. An instant too late, and a too great anxiety has taken the upper hand and caused the hands of the riders to act on the horses; …. An instant too soon: before arrival the speed has slowed down; the animation, the intoxication of the run, fleeting things, are exhausted. Anxiety takes the upper hand again, the hands act instinctively, and even if the start were unhampered, the arrival is not.

Frederick and Seidlitz were content when they saw the center of the charging squadron three and four ranks deep. It was as if they understood that with this compact center, as the first lines could not escape to the right or left, they were forced to continue straight ahead.

If there is ever contact between cavalry, the shock is so weakened by the hands of the men, the rearing of the horses, the swinging of heads, that both sides come to a halt.


Only the necessity for carrying along the man and the horse at the supreme moment, for distracting them, necessitates the full gallop before attacking the enemy, before having put him to flight.

Charges at the gallop of three or four kilometers, suppose horses of bronze.

because historical accounts are taken too literally, each epoch complains that cavalry forces are no longer seen charging and fighting with the sword, that too much prudence dictates running away instead of clashing with the enemy.

Man was never invulnerable. The charging gait has almost always been the trot. Man does not change. Even the combats of cavalry against cavalry today are deadlier than they were in the lamented days of chivalry.

The retreat of the infantry is always more difficult than that of the cavalry; the latter is simple. A cavalry repulsed and coming back in disorder is a foreseen, an ordinary happening; it is going to rally at a distance. It often reappears with advantage. One can almost say, in view of experience, that such is its rôle..

Even authors who tell you that two squadrons never collide, tell you continually: "The force of cavalry is in the shock." In the terror of the shock, Yes. In the shock, No! It lies only in determination. It is a mental and not a mechanical condition.

Lasalle with his always victorious charge at a trot guarded against similar reasonings, which might have demonstrated to him mathematically that a charge of cuirassiers at a trot ought to be routed by a charge of hussars at a gallop.




There is this important element in the pursuit of cavalry by cavalry. The pursued cannot halt without delivering himself up to the pursuer. The pursuer can always see the pursued. If the latter halts and starts to face about the pursuer can fall upon him before he is faced, and take him by surprise. But the pursued does not know how many are pursuing him. If he alone halts two pursuers may rush on him, for they see ahead of them and they naturally attack whoever tries to face about. For with the about face danger again confronts them. The pursuit is often instigated by the fear that the enemy will turn. The material fact that once in flight all together cannot turn again without risking being surprised and overthrown, makes the flight continuous. Even the bravest flee, until sufficient distance between them and the enemy, or some other circumstances such as cover or supporting troops, permits of a rally and a return to the offensive. In this case the pursuit may turn into flight in its turn.

Cavalry is insistent on attacking on an equal front. Because, if with a broader front, the enemy gives way before it, his wings may attack it and make it the pursued instead of the pursuer. The moral effect of resolution is so great that cavalry, breaking and pursuing a more numerous cavalry, is never pursued by the enemy wings. However the idea that one may be taken in rear by forces whom one has left on the flanks in a position to do so, has such an effect that the resolution necessary for an attack under these circumstances is rare.

Why is it that Colonel A---- does not want a depth formation for cavalry, he who believes in pressure of the rear ranks on the first? It is because at heart he is convinced that only the first rank can act in a cavalry charge, and that this rank can receive no impression, no speeding up, from those behind it.

There is debate as to the advantage of one or two ranks for the cavalry. This again is a matter of morale. Leave liberty of choice, and under varying conditions of confidence and morale one or the other will be adopted.

It is characteristic of cavalry to advance further than infantry and consequently it exposes its flanks more. It then needs more reserves to cover its flanks and rear than does infantry. It needs reserves to protect and to support the pursuers who are almost always pursued when they return. With cavalry even more than infantry victory belongs to the last reserves held intact. The one with the reserves is always the one who can take the offensive.

With room to maneuver cavalry rallies quickly. In deep columns it cannot.

The engagement of cavalry lasts only a moment. It must be reformed immediately.

In the confusion and speed of cavalry action, man escapes more easily from surveillance.

Once in action, and that action lasts, the infantryman of today escapes from the control of his officers. This is due to the disorder inherent in battle, to deployment, to the absence of roll calls, which cannot be held in action. Control, then, can only be in the hands of his comrades.

Cavalry always fights very poorly and very little. This has been true from antiquity,

3. Cavalry Against Infantry

A military man, a participant in our great wars, recommends as infallible against infantry in line the charge from the flank, horse following horse. He would have cavalry coming up on the enemy's left, pass along his front and change direction so as to use its arms to the right. This cavalryman is right. Such charges should give excellent results, the only deadly results. The cavalryman can only strike to his right, and in this way each one strikes. Against ancient infantry such charges would have been as valuable as against modern infantry. This officer saw with his own eyes excellent examples of this attack in the wars of the Empire. I do not doubt either the facts he cites or the deductions he makes.

From ancient days the lone infantryman has always had the advantage over the lone cavalryman. There is no shadow of a doubt about this in ancient narrations. The cavalryman only fought the cavalryman. He threatened, harassed, troubled the infantryman in the rear, but he did not fight him. He slaughtered him when put to flight by other infantry, or at least he scattered him and the light infantry slaughtered him.

Modern cavalry, like ancient cavalry, has a real effect only on troops already broken, on infantry engaged with infantry, on cavalry disorganized by artillery fire or by a frontal demonstration. But against such troops its action is decisive. In such cases its action is certain and gives enormous results. You might fight all day and lose ten thousand men, the enemy might lose as many, but if your cavalry pursues him, it will take thirty thousand prisoners. …. Its greatest effect is the effect of surprise, and it is thereby that it gets such astonishing results.



A cavalryman armored completely and his horse partially, can charge only at a trot.

As for the thrust, the thrust is deadlier than the cut. You do not have to worry about lifting your arm; you thrust. But it is necessary that the cavalryman be convinced that to parry a vertical cut is folly. … A cavalry charge is a matter of morale above all. It is identical in its methods, its effects, with the infantry charge. All the conditions to be fulfilled in the charge (walk, trot, gallop, charge, etc.) have a reason bearing on morale. These reasons have already been touched on.

The exhausting method of powerful strokes used by the Gauls could not last long against the skillful, terrible and less fatiguing method of fighting by the thrust.

There is always discussion as to the lance or the saber. The lance requires skillful vigorous cavalrymen, good horsemen, very well drilled, very adroit, for the use of the lance is more difficult than that of the straight sword, especially if the sword is not too heavy. …. If you give them lances, most of them will just have sticks in their hands, while a straight sword at the end of a strong arm is at the same time simple and terrible.

With the lance one always figures without the horse, whose slightest movement diverts the lance so much. The lance is a weapon frightful even to the mounted man who uses it properly. If he sticks an enemy at the gallop, he is dismounted, torn off by the arm attached to the lance which remains in the body of his enemy. . And now we want lances, which we do not know how to use, which frighten the cavalryman himself and pluck him from the saddle if he sticks anybody..

It appears, according to Xenophon, that it was not easy to throw the dart from horseback. He constantly recommends obtaining as many men as possible who know how to throw the dart. He recommends leaning well back to avoid falling from the horse in the charge. In reading Xenophon it is evident that there was much falling from the horse.

It appears that in battle there is as great difficulty in handling the saber as in handling the bayonet.

A dragoon horse carries in campaign with one day's food three hundred and eight pounds, without food or forage two hundred and seventy seven pounds. How can such horses carry this and have speed?

HISTORICAL DOCUMENTS


1. Cavalry An Extract from Xenophon.

"The unexpectedness of an event accentuates it, be it pleasant or terrible. This is nowhere seen better than in war, where surprise terrorizes even the strongest.

"When two armies are in touch or merely separated by the field of battle, there are first, on the part of the cavalry, skirmishes, thrusts, wheels to stop or pursue the enemy, after which usually each goes cautiously and does not put forth its greatest effort until the critical part of the conflict. Or, having commenced as usual, the opposite is done and one moves swiftly, after the wheel, either to flee or to pursue. This is the method by which one can, with the least possible risk, most harm the enemy, charging at top speed when supported, or fleeing at the same speed to escape the enemy. If it is possible in these skirmishes to leave behind, formed in column and unobserved four or five of the bravest and best mounted men in each troop they may be very well employed to fall on the enemy at the moment of the wheel."
NOTES

[9] The Numidian horsemen were a light irregular cavalry, excellent for skirmishing, harassing, terrifying, by their extraordinary shouts and their unbridled gallop. They were not able to hold out against a regular disciplined cavalry provided with bits and substantial arms.


[19] Hand-to-hand, sword-to-sword, serious fighting at short distances, was rare then. Likewise in the duels of our day blades are rarely crossed in actual practice.

[21] Considering Caesar's narrative what becomes of the mathematical theory of masses, which is still discussed? If that theory had the least use, how could Marius ever have held out against the tide of the armies of the Cimbri and Teutons? In the battle of Pharsalus, the advice given by Triarius to Pompey's army, a counsel which was followed and which was from a man of experience, who had seen things close at hand, shows that the shock, the physical impulse of the mass was a by-word. They knew what to think of it.

[49] Nothing is more difficult than to estimate range; in nothing is the eye more easily deceived.

The Form and Use of the Saber

By First Lieutenant George S. Patton, Jr.
Tenth Cavalry
Cavalry Journal
March 1913
Introduction: General George Patton

As a young officer Patton wrote a manual on the use of the saber and several shorter articles. He as an advocate of the use of the point versus the edge. His remarks, although often directed at contemporary discussions of the merits of curved versus straight swords, nevertheless have a timeless quality and shed light on the uses of the sword in all ages.

Exerpts:

As to the form of the saber, there seems to have been an age long controversy between the advocates of the edge and those favoring the point. Beginning with the 11th Century, from which time accounts are fairly consecutive, we find as follows:
When scale, and later chain, armor became sufficiently perfected to completely cover the body, the point went out of use because it was quite impossible to thrust it through the meshes, while by giving a violent blow, it was possible to break or cripple an opponent's arms or ribs without cutting the armor.


...., the advocates of the so called cutting weapon say that we are practically a nation of axmen. It is doubtful, however, if many of our men have ever handled an ax or are descendants from those who have. The tendency of the untrained man to flourish his sword and make movements with it simulating cuts is to be found in other nation. In France, noted for it's use of the point, I witnessed within the last year several hundred recruits, when first handed sabers, thrashing about with them as if they were clubs, but no sooner were they taught the value of the point than they adopted it and never thereafter returned to the edge.

..... Why, then, should the ignorant swinging about of a sword be indicative of it's proper use? It is in the charge that the sword is particularly needful, and, in fact, finds almost it's whole application, and it is here that the point is of particular advantage in stimulating to the highest degree the desire of closing with the enemy and running him through.


The point is vastly more deadly than the edge, for while it might be possible to inflict a crippling blow with the edge were the swing unrestricted by the pressing ranks of the charge or by the guard or attack of an adversary, yet with both of these factors added to the necessity of so starting the cuts as to reach it's mark after making due allowance for the relative speed of approach of the two contestants; the size and power of the blow becomes so reduced that there is grave doubt if it would have sufficient power to do any damage to an opponent's body, protected as it is by clothing and equipment. And even should it reach the fact, it's power to unhorse is dubious.

The use of the point, on the other hand, is not restricted by the press of the ranks and it's insinuating effect is not hindered by clothing or equipment. The exaggerated idea of the effect of a cut which prevalent in our service is due possibly to the fact that when a man wants to demonstrate it he rides or walks up to a post, and with plenty of time to estimate distance and with his swing unimpeded by companions on either hand, he can expend all of his power and attention to chopping at his mark. Also, in our so called fencing, mounted or dismounted between enlisted man, the touch with the point which, were it sharp, would introduce several inches of steel into it's target, is hardly felt, while blows with the edge often cause considerable bruises, though were these sharp it is doubtful if they would do more.

It is also well to remember that were one of our lines, charging as at present, to run up against a line charging with the point, our opponents' weapons would reach us and have ample opportunity to pass through us before we could be even able to start a cut in return. Were we, on the other hand, while using the point, to encounter men using the edge, we in turn would have them at our mercy. In the melee which follows a charge, there is less objection to using the edge, for the horses will be going at less speed and things will probably open up. At least, there will be no rank formation and a man can chop away as ineffectually as he likes, though here, too, the point would be more deadly. In the pursuit there is little choice between the edge and point, though it might be a little easier on the horses to stick a man when he is several feet ahead than to be forced to ride almost abreast of him to deal a cut. Moreover, a man can parry a cut from behind while continuing his flight, but in order to parry a thrust he must stop and turn. Still, with the straight sword under consideration by the War Department, cuts can be more effectually made than they could with our present saber, as the new sword is better balanced for rapid cutting and is very sharp on both edges. Of course, this weapon is distinctly a cavalry arm, and it would not effect the equipment of the infantry or artillery.


The blade is kept still and the horse does the work. All the man has to do is to direct his point, which operation is facilitated by the fact of his having his blade along the line of sight. Later he is taught to use his weapon against adversaries on his right and left as in a melee. In teaching this he is first allowed to go slowly, but having learned the mechanism he is thereafter required to go fast and is never permitted to slow up or circle. He rides at a man to kill him, and if he misses, he goes on to another, moving in straight lines with the intent of running his opponent through.

Mounted Swordsmanship

By Lieutenant G.S. Patton, Jr.,
Instructor in Swordsmanship, M.S.S.
The Rasp, 1914

http://www.pattonhq.com/textfiles/mounted.html

With this sword the use of the point is taught exclusively for the following reasons:

Charging in close formation with the edge, there is no correlation between the onrush of the horse and cut of the sword. A front cut is the only one possible at the moment of contact, because of the other men to the right and left; speed materially reduces both the force and accuracy of this cut.

In the charge with the point, all the energy of the horse is conserved and he becomes a steel pointed missile.

In charging with the edge, much more of the person must be exposed in order to cut.

When using the point, the almost prone position of the trooper reduces the target and facilitates the speed of the horse.

With the edge, the whole body is exposed to the attack of the point while in using the point the head is protected from a cut by the guard of the sword so that only the shoulder and back offer a target. Moreover, if he is simply cutting, he will have about a foot of point in him before he can land his blow. If, at the last moment, he sees this and attempts to parry, he is perfectly passive. If he misses his parry, he is dead; if his parry is successful, he saves his skin, but has absolutely failed in his military mission of harming his adversary; for when two horses pass each other at a gallop it is impossible to parry and then cut to the rear; the horses will be far out of reach. On the contrary, the man using the point can still parry a cut while keeping his point in line for the body of his adversary. A thrust may be parried in the same way as a cut, still keeping the point in line, though here it is a question of strength and skill as to which of the two combatants will be successful.

Of the foregoing advantages of the point, the fact of increased reach is paramount. The point will outreach and outkill the edge in a charge; hence if we meet foes using the edge against our point, we have them. If our enemy also uses the point, we are simply fighting fire with fire and our superior swords and greater physical strength tips the scale a little our way; whereas, in such a case, had we continued to use the edge, we would have been lost.

Against a lance, the charge with the point is superior to the charge with the edge. In the first place, the lance point can be deflected at a greater distance from the body; thus giving the swordsman the longest possible path in which to get the necessary deflection, while the sword at the same time slips along the shaft of the lance with the point in line for the lancer's body who thus not only has his attack parried, but also his life menaced. Should the trooper on the contrary, sit up to use the edge, he must make his parry when the lance is not over two feet away from him, so that the path the point has to go, while being deflected, is reduced between six and seven feet, while the size of the deflection is the same as before and at the same time the attention of the lancer is not disturbed by the threat of the blow.


In the melee, did circumstances permit of individual uninterrupted combat, the edge would be nearly as useful as the point, except that it's wounds are much less crippling. But, two important factors militate against this species of combat. When the melee commences, the enemies line has been broken and he must at once be compelled to take up and continue a retrograde movement. He must be compelled to feel that he is on the defensive; the spirit of offense in the attackers must be dominant. This precludes pulling up, hammering, tactics. The troopers must continue at the gallop, riding at one enemy, killing him and on to the next, or if they fail to get their first man, they must not pull up, but leave him to a comrade and with unabated energy, ride down another opponent further on.

Again, individual combat where the opponents pulled up and fought it out hammer and tongs was all right when both wore defensive armor and were thus immune to any passing attack of some third party. But when an unarmored man pulls up, he makes himself a fine target for some passing adversary while, had he continued to move to the front at speed, the danger would have been much reduced.

Training Regulations, War Department

No. 50-70 WssmNonc, Pebnaanj 21, 1922

SABER EXERCISE.
Prepared under direction of the
Chief of Cavalry.
This pamphlet supersedes paragraphs 2 to 43 inclusive, "Saber Exercise, 1914.'


2. Characteristics of the saber as a weapon.--The saber is solely a weapon of offense to be used by the trooper mounted. Accordingly, in all attacks with the saber the trooper must be taught to charge with great spirit, to disregard an opposinig weapon, and to lunge at the right moment directly at his adversary's body. in the vigor and rapidity of his attack, in the strength of his arm, and in the correct position of his body lie both the trooper's best protection against an opposing weapon and his greatest chance of success in overcoming his adversary.

Accordingly, the attack should be delivered with great force and so timed that when the lunge is completed the point of the saber will have pierced the target.
The instant the point pierces the target the trooper should quickly withdraw the saber and promptly resume the guard. This is highly important in order (a) not to lose the saber in the body of an adversary and (b) to be ready for the next adversary.

Quick and vigorous action can not be too much stressed; the speed of the encounter and of successive encounters, mounted will be great - much greater than anything that can be simulated dismounted.

14. Attacking, from a distance, a simulated adversary.--When at the walk and the gallop, the trooper has acquired confidence and handiness in using the saber and is able so show form and accuracy in executing the lunges, the speed of the gallop should be gradually increased. Eventually, from a distance of about 100 yards, the trooper, at full speed, should bear down upon a simulated adversary with great spirit and dash and should lunge at the right moment from the position of guard.


85. Manner of executing a collective attack with the saber.--In an individual attack with the saber it is essential that the trooper retain the fullest control of his horse. It is also essential that he should not divulge the manner in which he intends to raise his saber until he is very close upon his adversary. His adversary will not have time then to avoid the attack or adopt a counter measure. It has been prescribed, therefore, that in approaching to the attack the trooper bear down upon his adversary at full speed, the saber at the guard, and that the actual attack should be delivered in the form of a lunge at the right moment directly at his adversary's body.

b. In a collective attack, however, as when a squad, platoon, or troop charges in line, it is not so essential that the trooper actually guide his horse; moreover, the more threatening the aspect of the approaching attack, the greater will be the adverse effect upon the morale of the enemy. Therefore, in the charge in line, the position of Charge saber is assumed at the command: CHARGE, which is usually given at a distance of about 60 yards from the enemy. The position of charge saber is then held until collision with the enemy, the effectiveness of the attack being dependent upon the determination with which the charge is made. Upon collision with the enemy, the attack in line may be followed by a melee; the action of each trooper thereafter is that of an individual, and his saber should be held and used accordingly.

(062.12, A. 0. 0.]
By ORDER OF THE SECRETARY OF WAR
JOHN J. PERSHING,
General of the Armies,
Chief of Staff.
OFFICIAL;
P. C. HARRIS,
The Adjutant General.

Conclusions and Lessons Drawn



The relevance of 19th century warfare to ancient battles includes these four areas:

discussion of the use of saber and lance
psychological aspects of battle
physical abilities of horses
psychological limitations of horses

Applications to Understanding Cavalry Combat


zzzz Let us study first the morale of the cavalry engagement in single combat. Two riders rush at each other. Are they going to direct their horses front against front? Their horses would collide, both would be forced to their feet, while running the chance of being crushed in the clash or in the fall of their mounts. Each one in the combat counts on his strength, on his skill, on the suppleness of his mount, on his personal courage; he does not want a blind encounter, and he is right. They halt face to face, abreast, to fight man to man; or each passes the other, thrusting with the sabre or lance; or each tries to wound the knee of the adversary and dismount him in this way. But as each is trying to strike the other, he thinks of keeping out of the way himself, he does not want a blind encounter that does away with the combat. The ancient battles, the cavalry engagements, the rare cavalry combats of our days, show us nothing else.

zzzz The necessity of arriving at the greatest speed is not alone a mechanical question, since indeed one never clashes, it is a moral necessity. It is necessary to seize the moment at which the uneasiness of one's men requires the intoxication of the headlong charging gallop. that cavalry does not close with cavalry; its deadly combats are those against infantry alone. All writers on cavalry will tell you that the charge pushed home of two cavalry bodies and the shock at top speed do not exist. Always before the encounter, the weaker runs away, if there is not a face to face check. Only the necessity for carrying along the man and the horse at the supreme moment, for distracting them, necessitates the full gallop before attacking the enemy, before having put him to flight. Charges at the gallop of three or four kilometers, suppose horses of bronze. Man was never invulnerable. The charging gait has almost always been the trot. Man does not change.

zzzz There is this important element in the pursuit of cavalry by cavalry. The pursued cannot halt without delivering himself up to the pursuer. The pursuer can always see the pursued. If the latter halts and starts to face about the pursuer can fall upon him before he is faced, and take him by surprise. But the pursued does not know how many are pursuing him. If he alone halts two pursuers may rush on him, for they see ahead of them and they naturally attack whoever tries to face about. For with the about face danger again confronts them. The pursuit is often instigated by the fear that the enemy will turn. The material fact that once in flight all together cannot turn again without risking being surprised and overthrown, makes the flight continuous. Even the bravest flee, until sufficient distance between them and the enemy, or some other circumstances such as cover or supporting troops, permits of a rally and a return to the offensive. In this case the pursuit may turn into flight in its turn.
For understanding -- role of fear, reluctance, morale factor

zzzz The only effect of de
ep formations is moral support. Experiments show that even pushing by the ranks can affect no more than 15 ranks. In fact any pushing was to the back, not the front. In general the effects of morale cannot be overestimated. The fear of battle is paramount. Men will seek to avoid combat. Any surprise will create panic. In studying ancient combats, it can be seen that it was almost always an attack from the flank or rear, a surprise action, that won battles, especially against the Romans.
Coehesive formations create more psychological impact than open ones.

One side will break and turn away well before contact is made -- 75% of the time at more than 60 feet (before the eyes can be seen).
Most fighting is done when one side is running away. The saber is the most effective cavalry weapon. Thrusts are better than slashes except, perhaps, in melee fighting.

zzzz Paces- There are three paces, the walk, the trot, and the gallop.- The walk at the rate of three and a half to four miles an hour. The trot at eight miles and a half an hour. The gallop at eleven miles an hour. The gallop is not considered applicable to general purposes of manoeuvre, though it may be used occasionally for very simple formations. The rate of charge should not exceed the speed of the slowest horse, When at a suitable distance from the enemy to make a charge, say about 250 yards, the commanding officer commands, TROT. The regiment continues at a trot for 150 paces, when the commanding officer gives the word, GALLOP, and after passing about 100 paces at a gallop, the commanding officer causes the charge to be sounded by all the trumpets, at which signal the gallop is increased in speed.
zzzz at about 100 yards the cavalry should charge at full speed. ... at 60 yards the command charge is given.

zzzz Three to four horses might be killed or wounded for every man. It would not be unusual for a man to maim his own horse, cutting it around the head and neck.

zzzz fighting at high speed almost never happened. If one struck an enemy with the lance or sword it would be jerked out of the hand, possibly pulling the rider from the horse, before the weapon could be withdrawn. Melee fighting would almost always be at a standstill or a walk. It would feature much milling around as each rider sought a better position. Handling the horse and the ability of the horse to maneuver would be critical. The 19th century documents claim that all fighting had to be done on the right side because it was the only side that blows could be parried. However ancient cavalrymen also had shields and could defend their left sides as well

zzzz Infantry can withstand the cavalry attack and repulse it armed with nothing but thrusting weapons (bayonets). The normal thing would be for the infantry to hold fast. Surprise and attack in the flank and rear were the main weapons of the cavalry.

zzzz Modern cavalry, like ancient cavalry, has a real effect only on troops already broken, on infantry engaged with infantry

zzzz In the melee which follows a charge, there is less objection to using the edge, for the horses will be going at less speed. In the pursuit there is little choice between the edge and point, though it might be a little easier on the horses to stick a man when he is several feet ahead than to be forced to ride almost abreast of him to deal a cut. In the melee, did circumstances permit of individual uninterrupted combat, the edge would be nearly as useful as the point, except that it's wounds are much less crippling.

for model -- speed, turning away, melee, chase, slash/thrust, (match speed better than too fast -- cannot draw out weapon)


Can see eyes at no more than 60 feet.

Forty-nine times out of fifty, one of the cavalry forces will hesitate, bolt, get into disorder, flee before the fixed purpose of the other. Three quarters of the time this will happen at a distance, before they can see each other's eyes. Often they will get closer. But always, always, the stop, the backward movement, the swerving of horses, the confusion, bring about fear or hesitation. They lessen the shock and turn it into instant flight.

Applications to Modeling Cavalry Combat

The models try to represent "normal" battle activity. Therefore they are based on the ordinary, average, common features. To create a model one has to distill mass of information and extract the most common features. For example, if on side turns away 98% of the time then the model simply shows this scenario and ignores the 2% exception. The elements extracted from these 19th century documents that influence a model for ancient armies are:

Cavalry should be formed up in a relatively tight formation, wide, not too many ranks deep.
Cavalry generally approaches and maneuvers at a walk (3.5 to 4 MPH)
At about 250 yards the cavarly breaks into a trot (8 MPH). It often charged at a trot, not a gallop.
At between 150 and 60 yards it breaks into a gallop (11 MPH)
In all maneuvers but the final charge the unit moves at the rate of the slowest horse to maintian formation.
Fighting at high speeds does not happen.
Should two cavarly forces meet the fighting will be melee, horses standing still or walking around each other.
In the face of any sort of missile fire (spears, darts, arrows, slingstones) three or four horses are killed or wounded for each man.
In melee' fighting some men kill or injure their own horses.
98% of the time one side turns and flees, 75% of the time this happens at distances greater than 60 feet.
Cavalry can only successfully attack infantry if the infantry formation is broken, surprised or taken on the flank or rear.
Cavalry is most effective at killing broken formations of either other cavalry or of infantry.
Pursuit of the infantry is best done at about the same speed as the fleeing men so that weapons are not pulled from the cavalryman's hand on impact.
It is very difficult for fleeing cavalry to stop and turn around. It would almost never happen.




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© 2003, Gary Brueggeman. All rights reserved world wide. No part of this work may be reproduced in part or whole, in any form or by any means, without permission from the author.