Author Topic: Firearm usage of Cavalry during the Napoleonic Wars  (Read 1757 times)

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Offline TastyLeaf

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Firearm usage of Cavalry during the Napoleonic Wars
« on: September 21, 2016, 09:54:44 pm »
I know that light dragoons and other mounted infantry used firearms amongst the ranks, but I am here to ask if other cavalry types did: would a hussar maybe carry a musketoon or pistol and fire it just before the charge or did this not happen? I would also like to ask the same for every type of cavalry, as fire arms seem plentiful in the early 19th century and it would be no trouble for cavalry to adopt their usage. I am aware of polish uhlan/lancer tactics where every rank but the first (who carried lances) would carry a musketoon, carbine or pistol.

Offline Duuring

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Re: Firearm usage of Cavalry during the Napoleonic Wars
« Reply #1 on: September 21, 2016, 10:03:26 pm »
Pretty much all cavarly had firearms. These were mostly used for patrol duty or skirmishing, though. Firing in a charge didn't happen as far as I know.

Offline Cara

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Re: Firearm usage of Cavalry during the Napoleonic Wars
« Reply #2 on: September 22, 2016, 12:23:51 am »
Indeed, firing at charge would be completely ineffective... The rifle/muskets most cavalrymen had was needed after : for example if they were dismounted to defend themselves against another cavalryman. As Duuring said it was used for the scouting duty, for example if they have to dismount and explore houses in a village.

Offline TastyLeaf

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Re: Firearm usage of Cavalry during the Napoleonic Wars
« Reply #3 on: September 22, 2016, 05:23:08 pm »
Indeed, firing at charge would be completely ineffective... The rifle/muskets most cavalrymen had was needed after : for example if they were dismounted to defend themselves against another cavalryman. As Duuring said it was used for the scouting duty, for example if they have to dismount and explore houses in a village.

Yes, I have done some research into the topic and I have found out that yes, cavalry did use firearms for what you mentioned, attacking/ searching villages and for covering retreats or skirmishes. Each squad of cavalry on the battlefield would have a small unit of flankers (which was the term I found used) carried firearms and were deployed at either the top or the bottom of the column or line so they could cover a retreat whilst the main body of the cavalry falls back or skirmish. Flanker/flanquer basically means skirmisher
« Last Edit: September 22, 2016, 06:56:37 pm by TastyLeaf »

Offline Thunderstormer

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Re: Firearm usage of Cavalry during the Napoleonic Wars
« Reply #4 on: September 22, 2016, 10:18:55 pm »
It was a good tactic in Frederick's day to intermix cavalry and grenadiers.  It provided stability and fire power to the cavalry. (Granted prussia had some of the best cavalry for a long time)


You can look back thousands of years and see cav being supported by skirmishers riding on the back of their horse. (Drop them off)  was an effective way to have such mobile firepower and the shock of cavalry.

But yes cavalry did carry firearms.  Some had numerous firearms.  While they may of used them while performing various roles, I doubt many used them while charging.  Hussars, especially in Fredericks day were scouts, messangers, used in combat to flank enemy cav, and much more.  In many ways, they were the elite part of the cavalry  thanks to all the roles they had to perform compared to the other cavalry groups.
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Offline Cara

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Re: Firearm usage of Cavalry during the Napoleonic Wars
« Reply #5 on: September 22, 2016, 11:33:27 pm »
(Granted prussia had some of the best cavalry for a long time)


Until Revolutionary YOLO Hussars  :P

Spoiler
Here comes an extract of the heroic life of one of the greatest horseman of the 5e Hussar, Hector Thérond.

Born in 1772, he is quickly bored of the dragoons, before being sent killing some austrian fools early in 1792. He comes back from his first charge with two injuries made by saber. He will be noticed in 1793, at the battle of La Croix-des-Bouquets where, while he was doing some recognition, he is surprised by spanishs, flee but not without taking down some of them and only injured of two gunshoots and one pump of saber. After some other injuries against west rebels, he is sent back to Italy in 1799.

At the battle of Lovadina, leading a squadron of only 14 hussars, he reachs the whole ennemy cavalry who might take by surprise the infantry and while taking it away in a narrow pass, charge an austrian row strong of 3000 men, creating a big mess and making 1500 prisonners. Yes, you didn't read wrong, with only 14 hussars.

After these military feats, he is rewarded by the Saber of Honor and made Knight of the Legion of Honor. He has the great privilege to be made Lieutenant-aide-de-camp of the General Lasalle ! He follows him in Austria, Prussia and Poland, is promoted Captain after having spaken his saber at Austerlitz, and chief of Squadron after some frontal charges at Iena. During these battles, Therond the brave received five gunshots, six injuries by saber, two by bayonet and three by spears, and five of his mounts have been killed. Afterwards, he is sent to Spain, where despite a bullet taken in the chest, he leads a cavalry charge which absolve the center of the army at Vimeiro and is congratuled by Maréchal Junot who recommend him to the Emperor. However, after having fought without any interruption during 20 years, and having received 29 injuries, Major Thérond dies of exhaustion in his bed, in 1812 at Moullins.
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Offline Thunderstormer

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Re: Firearm usage of Cavalry during the Napoleonic Wars
« Reply #6 on: September 23, 2016, 01:26:47 am »
Heh. Sounds like a mad man.  Just the type to lead cavalry.  :P    reminds me of a book I read a while back, this I am 99% sure it's fiction.  I'll get the name of it when I get my regular Internet back.  It mainly centered around a Scottish in Frederick's army doing all sorts of amazing acts.  The above reminds me of it.


But the cav under Frederick was great.  How far it came after their disaster at mollwitz is pretty impressive.  And the work they were able to do in battle, even if heavily outnumbered or attacking uphill was not commonplace. I believe someone asked Frederick if he prefered if the cav cut or shoot the enemy and he replied he would not care how one killed the enemy. (More or less)  I am sure I could dig up the quote later.

Even in 1806, there could be a good argument for prussia still having as good as cav as france.(Granted France was pretty battle hardened by that time)  Sadly prussia was just never as good as it was under Frederick.  One can only wonder what would of happened if napoleon and him met on the battlefield.


It is a curious fact that almost all great captains knew how to make great use of their cav.
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Offline Theodin

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Re: Firearm usage of Cavalry during the Napoleonic Wars
« Reply #7 on: September 23, 2016, 01:39:49 am »
Quote
It is a curious fact that almost all great captains knew how to make great use of their cav.
All great captains know how to use any unit they have on the field. Was not Napoleon known for his exceptional use of the artillery?

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Offline Thunderstormer

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Re: Firearm usage of Cavalry during the Napoleonic Wars
« Reply #8 on: September 23, 2016, 02:59:20 am »
Yes and no.  Some of the great captains were ok at some parts of tactics and strategy but excelled in others.(Hannibal and napoleon are pioneers in strategy imo)  Though we must be careful.  judging them for knowledge we have now and the evolution  of warfare compared to what they had back then isn't the most fair appreciation of history.

And napoleon was able to make use of his artillery more so than his adversaries.  At the same time, out of all the great captains, how many actually faught in the age of cannon?  Only 2 come to mind.  Frederick and napoleon.  Cannons were still meh and only starting to grow to great importance in the 7 years war and beyond. (A few dozen arty for an army to hundreds Of different kinds aND calibers.)   Napoleon also had the advantage of growing with it in his ealier military career.  He knew it's value. 

He had an advantage growing up with the military.  Something Frederick really didn't do or have a chance to until a few years before he became king. (Being imprisoned and all)  trying to remember the campaign Frederick went on as crown prince but I don't believe he was in or at battle until mollwitz.  He was very inexperienced compared to others when launched his first campign.  And he learned quickly the various lessons of war.  He always tried improving the military where possible.  He just didn't have many competent engineers from what I read and was never really happy wit the artillry.  He did invent horse artillery.  Something others fairly quickly adopted. (Granted most countries got a copy of his captured rules on the art of war and adopted it.)
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Offline Bluehawk

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Re: Firearm usage of Cavalry during the Napoleonic Wars
« Reply #9 on: September 23, 2016, 06:44:27 pm »
Prussian and Russian regulations expected Hussars in particular to be capable of skirmishing and called for them to be deployed in open screens just like the light infantry. For the Russians in particular, many "hussar carbines" had rifled barrels for that purpose.

Offline Cara

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Re: Firearm usage of Cavalry during the Napoleonic Wars
« Reply #10 on: September 23, 2016, 07:38:13 pm »
  Napoleon also had the advantage of growing with it in his ealier military career.  He knew it's value. 

He had an advantage growing up with the military. 

After all, he was an artillery officer at the beginning in Toulon against the british.
I must say I don't think that the advantage of Napoleon was to growing up with the military : most of the Prussian, Austrian, Russian officers went too to military schools when they were teenagers. For NW, french officers it's different, a lot of them came from the rankers (Ney, Bernadotte, Oudinot, Murat...) so they litteraly learn the military strategy on the field ! Even Frederick had a military education, which was part of any royal education.

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Re: Firearm usage of Cavalry during the Napoleonic Wars
« Reply #11 on: September 23, 2016, 08:27:46 pm »
Frederick did receive an education of sorts, but i would say he didn't really begin it until after he was released from prison and slowly worked his way back into his father's favor.(a sad story really) imo napoleon received a better education in the military arts.  It wasn't really until a few years before he became king that Frederick began to take it seriously. 

Tho his education did provide a lot in terms how to handle the civil side of his kingdom.(something frederick did a lot with)

as for generals or promotion though the ranks.  Yea, frederick didn't really trust non nobles.  He was somewhat forced to during the 7 years war to allow non nobles higher in the ranks, but not too long after the war he removed them from their positions.  I want to say that he believed that Nobles had honor to uphold and if they didn't behave properly, they would lose any honor they had, dishonor their family name, and more or less be shunned by the family.  by contrast, non nobles  would go back home and pick up where they left off in whatever occupation they had prior(blacksmith, farmer, etc.,)  he did reward good deeds and punish cowardice or otherwise incompetence by his soldiers and officers.(sometimes in a funny manner)

Frederick for his time was pretty progressive in his thoughts and actions but he still had prejudices. 

I would say in at least a small part, the French revolution occurred thanks to frederick.   With the diplomatic revolution(his actions helped influence this happening) where the french and austrians allied, the french and austrians sealed it by a marriage. (maria Antoinette and Louis 16 ) So napoleon can thank frederick for setting up the french revolution  :P  (this last sentence is just a joke)
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Offline TastyLeaf

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Re: Firearm usage of Cavalry during the Napoleonic Wars
« Reply #12 on: September 24, 2016, 01:01:56 am »
Ok the question has been answered!