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The Napoleonic Wars 1792-1815

Hussards vs chasseurs a cheval

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Re: Hussards vs chasseurs a cheval

Postby Josh&Historyland » May 2nd, 2016, 9:23 pm

unclearthur wrote:the use of a two-deep infantry line flew in the face of conventional wisdom.


Not to wander off, but in the British service it was not uncommon, after America, Dundas' strictures ignored experienced field officers who preferred the two ranks and indeed the matter was rather left up to the General commanding.

Gen Order 3 Aug 1808 ‘The order of battle of the army is to be 2 deep’ whether he meant this generally or for a specific action I'm not sure, but it seems to indicate that a General Officer Commanding would lay out his preferences at the beginning of a campaign.
EIC troops had been fighting 2 deep since 1780/1794. That Wellesley instituted such practice in Spain in 1808 seems to suggest his own preference for the model, but also that he had been influenced in it. Anyway I digress on a rather oblique note.

janner wrote:I'd submit that Wellesley had a tendancy to be ungenerous in criticising his subordinates, such as Thomas Picton after Roncesvalles in 1813. So, again, I'm not convined that he's have held off if he thought either Anson or the 23rd LDs deserving of censure.

It was certainly a complex situation and is problematic if chosen to support an argument about the British cavalry's supposed lack of control.

Wellington later did admit to being too harsh with people, but honestly Picton's lack of decision at Roncesvalles could hardly have elicited anything but censure from Wellington. As for Talavera, I think W probably did not find anything to complain about because as unclearthur notes, he was not on the spot and may not have been inclined to moan since the French Attack did not press home. It is also notable that Albuquerque's cavalry was still in reserve and perhaps sensibly did not advance out of the valley.

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Re: Hussards vs chasseurs a cheval

Postby Senarmont198 » May 3rd, 2016, 12:04 am

TheBibliophile wrote:
Senarmont198 wrote:It isn't denigration if it is factual-it just is...

Depends on your point of view.
From all I have read, British cavalry was not inferior to the French in uniforms, weapons or training. You would probably suggest that they were.
As has already been pointed out by others, the problem was the leadership. Nothing more, nothing less.
In fact, I would argue that British horses were better than French horses.


Agree on the British cavalry usually being better mounted than the French. And by and large the British mounts were larger. I would suggest, though, that French cavalry tactics and organization were better, as was French swordsmanship, the French being trained to stab instead of slash as the British did.

Have you read Parquin and de Brack, among others?
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Re: Hussards vs chasseurs a cheval

Postby janner » May 3rd, 2016, 6:12 am

Josh&Historyland wrote:Wellington later did admit to being too harsh with people, but honestly Picton's lack of decision at Roncesvalles could hardly have elicited anything but censure from Wellington. As for Talavera, I think W probably did not find anything to complain about because as unclearthur notes, he was not on the spot and may not have been inclined to moan since the French Attack did not press home. It is also notable that Albuquerque's cavalry was still in reserve and perhaps sensibly did not advance out of the valley.
Josh.


Agreed on Picton, Josh, but Wellesley also wasn't on the spot for Slade's mishandling of his brigade at Maguilla and he certainly wasn't restrained in his criticism of that one ;) As for Albuquerque, there was no requirement for him to intervene, I suggest. Despite them taking significant loss, the bulk of Anson's brigade withdrew having, on Wellesley's orders, seen off the threat.

Senarmont198 wrote:Agree on the British cavalry usually being better mounted than the French. And by and large the British mounts were larger. I would suggest, though, that French cavalry tactics and organization were better, as was French swordsmanship, the French being trained to stab instead of slash as the British did.

Have you read Parquin and de Brack, among others?


The results of mounted French v British clashes in Iberia indicate that the British generally prevailed in close combat. So any claim as to superior French swordsmanship and organisation will require substantial supporting data. In my experience of trying to recreate mounted close combat, edge generally beats sword point against all but dismounted targets as the thrust offers little opportunity to parry attacks from the opposite side, and, of course, horsemanship has the 'edge' over swordsmanship. It's important to remember that unless one side or the other gives way, or both sides open files, you can't reach the opposing cavalryman with your sword anyway as the damn horses are in the way! :lol:

Captain Parquin's account certainly makes for great reading, displaying all the enthusiam of a young cavalry officer, but requiring careful handling. I believe that his remarks come from ignorance of Le Merchant's sword drill, which focused on attacks that minimised the risk to the sword arm from repostes - not that it is easy to make a reposte from the point or indeed parry as mentioned above. British eyewitnesses at Fuentes de Onoro, for example, speak of a French reluctance to enter close combat and accounts of the battle do indicate French failure to make good use of their superiority in numbers. Given that Parquin's service against the British in Iberia involved this failure, as well as defeat at Salamanca, perhaps 'the Lady doth protest too much' ;) Aside from the banter, Capt P was clearly a capable cavalryman and can be expected to have trained and lead his unit well. So his perspective may not be indicative of overall French performance in mounted close combat in Iberia. As always, professional pride has its influence. So we need to focus on the results and these do not support an arguement that the French were better swordsmen or tacticians.

De Brack is also a useful source, but like Oman and Napier, benefits from careful application of the Historical Method.
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Re: Hussards vs chasseurs a cheval

Postby unclearthur » May 8th, 2016, 8:59 pm

There's a collection of republished articles by 'An Officer of Dragoons' in Mark Thompson's 'The British Cavalry in the Peninsular War'. These were originally written for the United Services Journal in 1831 by a participant (1st Dragoons) in response to criticism of the peninsula cavalry and make interesting pro-cavalry arguments.
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Re: Hussards vs chasseurs a cheval

Postby Senarmont198 » May 10th, 2016, 2:11 am

From Antoine de Brack, Cavalry Outpost Duties:

'The sabre is the weapon in which you should repose the greatest confidence, for, very rarely indeed will it, by breaking in your hand, fail to render good service. Its strokes are sure in proportion to the coolness with which you direct them, and control your weapon. It is the points alone that kill; the others serve only to wound. Thrust! Thrust! as often as you can: you will overthrow all whom you touch, and demoralize those who escape your attack, and will add to those advantages that of being always at a parry and never uncovered. In the first wars in Spain our dragoons made, with their points, a reputation which demoralized the English and Spanish troops.'-42.

'The Cossacks are the best light cavalry in Europe...After the Cossacks come the Poles, certain Prussian and Hungarian regiments, the French, the Belgians, the Bavarians, the Wurtembergers, the Saxons, the Germans of the Rhine, the English, the Piedmontese, the Spaniards, and the Dutch. We are not so skillful as brave, which is owing to a number of conditions easily pointed out and still more easily corrected; but bravery is a great weight in the balance of war, and only too often charged with the duty of saving the day or driving home a success.'-76.

'If the English cavalry knew anything about war, on a battlefield they would perhaps be the most terrible cavalry in Europe; theior well-known luxury in horses and equipments is in harmony with the beauty and courage of their soldiers; when they show themselves you may be sure that their movements will be united, their attack powerful, and their retreat orderly. They are seldom separated from their infantry, which assures their repose in bivouac. They learn more of the position and dispositions of the enemy through spies, whom they pay handsomely, than through reconnaissances. If you learn that they are separated from their infantry, do not hesitate to attack at night. When you charge, make a change of front and attack them in flank. This maneuver can always be successfully practiced against an enemy like the English, who make a vigorous and disunited charge, whose horses are not very manageable, and whose men, brave but uninstructed, begin their charges too far away from the enemy.'-78-79.
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Re: Hussards vs chasseurs a cheval

Postby janner » May 10th, 2016, 5:46 am

Senarmont198 wrote:From Antoine de Brack, Cavalry Outpost Duties:

'If the English cavalry knew anything about war, on a battlefield they would perhaps be the most terrible cavalry in Europe; theior well-known luxury in horses and equipments is in harmony with the beauty and courage of their soldiers; when they show themselves you may be sure that their movements will be united, their attack powerful, and their retreat orderly. They are seldom separated from their infantry, which assures their repose in bivouac. They learn more of the position and dispositions of the enemy through spies, whom they pay handsomely, than through reconnaissances. If you learn that they are separated from their infantry, do not hesitate to attack at night. When you charge, make a change of front and attack them in flank. This maneuver can always be successfully practiced against an enemy like the English, who make a vigorous and disunited charge, whose horses are not very manageable, and whose men, brave but uninstructed, begin their charges too far away from the enemy.'-78-79.


Thank you for the extracts, Sen (and for the reminder on the rebuttal by an 'Officer of Dragoons', unclearthur :D )

The arguement over the relative merits of the thrust over the cut is probably as old as the sword itself :lol:

This last piece provides a useful example of the mixed value of Antione-Fortuné de Brack in regards to armies other than his own. One cannot help but ponder as to how a (then) junior light cavalry officer would know that the British army's intelligence was largely dependant on spies. Aside from British and German (KGL) eyewitnesses that highlight the importance of cavalry patrols in gathering such data by providing specific exampes, de Brack wholly ignores the role played by Exploring Officers. So it seems to be a speculative statement, which throws into question what in his account is reliable and what isn't. Just as with the account of Dep. Asst. Comm. Gen. A.L.F. Schaumann of the KGL on the relative quality of German Hussars, as well as British eyewitnesses on their horseman, there is a sniff of national pride in certain passages. Hense the need for care ;)
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Re: Hussards vs chasseurs a cheval

Postby janner » May 31st, 2016, 10:24 am

Whilst reading Alexander Gordon's diary of the Corunna Campaign, I came across an interesting snippet on French swordsmanship - albeit with the usual caveats on source accuracy due to an officer's pride in his men etc,

'I expected the French would have displayed more skill in the use of the sabre than our own men, but the fact proved the reverse, for notwithstanding their swords were considerably longer, they had no chance with us.' p.88.

Their enemies were, on this occasion, a regiment each of chasseurs and of dragoons.
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Re: Hussards vs chasseurs a cheval

Postby DaveH » May 31st, 2016, 11:48 am

janner wrote:
how a (then) junior light cavalry officer would know that the British army's intelligence was largely dependant on spies. Aside from British and German (KGL) eyewitnesses that highlight the importance of cavalry patrols in gathering such data by providing specific exampes, de Brack wholly ignores the role played by Exploring Officers.


This from an army, whose leader relied on the intelligence gathering networks of Pico and Schulmeister and won Rivoli by having the Austrian plans in his hands. :roll: (would use a facepalm if it was available :lol: )
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