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Cavalry versus Dense Infantry

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Re: Cavalry versus Dense Infantry
Post by wingfield   » Sun Dec 25, 2016 12:58 am

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jtg452 wrote:
Annachie wrote:Well, no. Cavalry will go around the square.
Given it's druthers the horse will go anywhere but the square. :)



My response to the discussion here is to remind folks that, while horses might be stupid, they are not brainless. The rest of the discussion then flows naturally.
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Re: Cavalry versus Dense Infantry
Post by Tenshinai   » Mon Dec 26, 2016 1:04 pm

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jtg452 wrote:Infantry squares were the standard defense for cavalry. Even before the bayonet came into use, that's what pikemen were there for.


Actually, the pikemen was the primary force, because a unit of well drilled pikemen can devastate just about anything.

Then in the 14th to 16th century, more and more musketeers were added as an integral part of pikemen units, as support, to soften up enemy formations before the pikemen´s punch.
16th to 18th century marked the change for units where roles reversed, ending up with about 1/3 pikemen and the rest musketeers, rather than the opposite(or progressively more as you go further back in history(depending on place and army of course)).

jtg452 wrote:Massed bayonets (front rank kneeling with the musket butt on the ground and held leaned forward at an angle with the second rank presenting bayonets over their shoulders when faced with an attack) was effective against mounted assaults. Horses aren't stupid and don't what to charge into a hedge of sharp steel any more than a human does.


A lot of horses also dislike shiny steel things even if they can´t see that they´ve got sharp points or edges.

jtg452 wrote:Throw in some volley fire by rank from the facing side and you have an effective defense against mounted attack.


Massed volleyfire up close is very effective against pretty much any attacker, because many shots fired together, to the one in front of them it´s like getting hit with a whole bundle of flashbang grenades.

jtg452 wrote:The only time I can remember a British square being broken was because a dead horse slid into the formation and broke it's cohesion. The some of the other, still living, cavalry charged though the gap before the infantry could reform.


Swedish cavalry broke into quite a lot of square formations actually. Their standard charge was V-formation, very close, first man having the head of a horse just ahead of each of his legs, in touch distance.
Then at 10-40m from target formation, they would jointly fire their pistols, creating a "dent" that they could charge into with sabers. If the formation was considered too strong to go at with sabers, they would either veer off after the pistolshot, or shoot once early and then again with a second pistol at very short range and then veer off to reload or go for sabers.

I don´t know of any other nation that did cavalry charges quite like that(extremely tight charge and everyone firing together for maximum soundchock effect), but an infantry square was definitely not secure against cavalry.

jtg452 wrote:That would be fine if the cavalry wasn't around. When infantry were in open order and the line were there most vulnerable to cavalry attack because there were flanks to turn and there was a lack of mutual support between subunits and individuals. If cavalry was present, most commanders stayed in their squares and just took the punishment from the cannons. Since their choices were a slow death by cannon or a quick death being routed and broken by the prowling cavalry, I guess staying in formation and hoping for support would be considered the lesser of the evils.


It should be noted though that infantry, even in tight formation, historically stood and took artilleryfire for the better part of a day without actually taking serious losses or breaking.

So, while artillery COULD be effective, it wasn´t automatically effective.

This is also where the "horse/light/mobile artillery" doctrines developed from, especially in Germany(making an impact that can still be seen), resulting in units with much lighter cannons and only small amounts of ammo with them, focused on achieving "a few devastating shots in the right time and place".
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Re: Cavalry versus Dense Infantry
Post by phillies   » Mon Dec 26, 2016 2:08 pm

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Marmont describes a French cavalry attack in which the unit charged parallel to the side of the square, sabers held rigidly out to the side to strike the bayonets. The repeated impacts greatly disordered the square allowing the cavalry attack to succeed.

The caracole as described above was used by well-trained cavalry units.

The Piper-Green-Carr series "Lord Kalvan of Otherwhen (now complete, 8 volumes) describes hypothetical examples of these events.
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Re: Cavalry versus Dense Infantry
Post by Keith_w   » Tue Dec 27, 2016 11:02 am

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phillies wrote:Marmont describes a French cavalry attack in which the unit charged parallel to the side of the square, sabers held rigidly out to the side to strike the bayonets. The repeated impacts greatly disordered the square allowing the cavalry attack to succeed.

The caracole as described above was used by well-trained cavalry units.

The Piper-Green-Carr series "Lord Kalvan of Otherwhen (now complete, 8 volumes) describes hypothetical examples of these events.


Thanks for this info, I haven't seen anything new since "The Great King's War"
--
A common mistake people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools.
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Re: Cavalry versus Dense Infantry
Post by phillies   » Tue Dec 27, 2016 5:47 pm

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Keith_w wrote:
phillies wrote:Marmont describes a French cavalry attack in which the unit charged parallel to the side of the square, sabers held rigidly out to the side to strike the bayonets. The repeated impacts greatly disordered the square allowing the cavalry attack to succeed.

The caracole as described above was used by well-trained cavalry units.

The Piper-Green-Carr series "Lord Kalvan of Otherwhen (now complete, 8 volumes) describes hypothetical examples of these events.


Thanks for this info, I haven't seen anything new since "The Great King's War"


Hostigos.com something to read while waiting for the next Weber novel.
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Re: Cavalry versus Dense Infantry
Post by mistwalker   » Fri Dec 30, 2016 12:20 pm

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I had similar discussion with author, while I had slightly different opinion :lol: its his book and he can write however he see fit, saying all that, I disagree that horse will shy away from an obstacles ( while never mention it during the discussion I have a personal experience of being knocked down more then once by the horse also my grandfather was a an old cavalry rider and I still remember some of the stuff he was saying ).

Couple of points, while most of the regular horses wouldn't run into something on purpose, cavalry horses were bred and trained to not shy from obstacles. They were use to it. My second point is that charge itself .... unless we are talking medieval charges, during the musket era no cavalry charge was stirrup to stirrup, they were either in V formation or gaps between the horses were big enough for the horse to turn around in very small place and run back ( they were trained to do that anyway) ( training manuals for 17th century polish hussars mention that).Also you have to look at the difference between western style of riding against Eastern stale ( not to be confused with English style) during the charge itself.

Which brings me to my main point I like to make that its not a chagrin horse that would break a line or square but a weapon. A Lance, not sabre, A LANCE, in one hand you have a musket, with bayonet which was about 1.8 m more or less the lance itself was about 3 m long so horseman had much longer reach.


Good example of impact of a lance attack in battle of The Vistula Uhlans at Albuera and the destructions of the Colborne's brigade.

The end of the lance charges come with introduction of rapid fire firearms which prevents the cavalry to be able to close with the infantry. Superior firepower combined with longer firing ranges made it almost impassible to carry the charge ( see Charge of the Light Brigade).

British were so impressed with lance they converted some of their Dragoons regiments to Lancers after Peninsula War.

While I had qualms about the charge itself I agreed with David about the results of such a charge against fast loading weapons on the open flat terrain.


But that's only me opinion:) and I quiet sure a lots of people will disagree with my conclusions,
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Re: Cavalry versus Dense Infantry
Post by Captain Igloo   » Fri Dec 30, 2016 2:15 pm

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According to Mark Adkin "a cavalry charge against infantry in square would be thrown back 99 times out of 100." Simple mathematics was against the cavalry when they attacked a square. An average strength battalion with 600 men formed a square 3 ranks deep, this meant that on one side were some 150 soldiers, all of whom could fire and contributed bayonets to the hedge. They covered a frontage of about 25 m (50 men x 0.5 m). The most cavalrymen that the enemy could bring to face them were 50 in 2 ranks (25 men x 1 m). But only the men in first rank could attack at a time, some 6 muskets + bayonets confronted a single lance or saber. "The man with saber could not strike the infantrymen behind the bayonets - he did not have the reach. A lancer had a better chance although he was still outnumbered by 6 to 1. Either the lancer or his horse was far more likely to be spiked than he was to inflict any damage at all."

Source: Mark Adkin "The Waterloo Companion", Stackpole Books 2001, ISBN 9781854107640

Whenever officers saw that enemy's cavalry was moving forward and making preparations for attack they started forming squares. Such movements of cavalry were already noticed at approx. 1-1.5 km. through field glasses. According to French regulations of 1791 "if the infantry was in line it should be able to form square in 100 sec". If they were in attack column (colonne d'attaque) 30 sec. were enough. Square could be also formed from column with full or half intervals. Actually to form a square was easier from a column with intervals than from line. It was expected "that an average trained battalion will form a hollow square in 2-3 min. In battle the infantry will need 4-6 min. To form a square from 2 battalions took approx. twice longer time. The better trained and accustomed to battle conditions infantry needed shorter time than raw troops."

To form a square of equal faces took up to 2 times as long as forming an oblong. In 1811 Marshal Davout instructed that the distances between squares should be 120 paces. Usually 100-200 paces behind the squares stood own cavalry. These horsemen counterattacked when the situation required it. The most famous cavalry counterattacks were at Eylau, Borodino, and Waterloo.

Generally a square was a formation wherein the center was occupied only by few men (commander, color-bearer, wounded etc.) In the square's corners were marksmen who targeted enemy cavalry officers and trumpeters. Sometimes an individual cannon was posted in the front corner of the square. The roaring gun made proper moral impact not only on the charging cavalry but also on the own infantry. However if the ammunition wagon was hit and exploded it created havoc. If the square decided to move (attack or withdrew) the guns and wagons also hindered its movements and could cause disorder. The presence of artillery greatly increased the chances of success against cavalry.

It was a horrifying thing for the infantry to see cavalry riding straight at them. Adkin: "Their eyes were popping out of their heads, jaws dropping, alarm bells ringing, hearts beating well out from their chests." In such moments the fire discipline and aiming were important. Main targets were the horses and usually there were more horses killed and wounded than riders. The cavalryman instinctively "ducked" under fire becoming a smaller target. A Horse is a bigger target than men anyway. A fast moving horse (about 300 yards per minute in gallop) when hit and falling required several paces to fall down. Therefore it was unwise to fire at less than approx. 12 paces. Otherwise the square was hit by falling and kicking (if wounded) horses. One horse could make a big gap in the wall of square, bowling and wounding the men. If the volley was delivered at 12-25 paces, it would raise up a rampart of dead and wounded men and horses which will probably suffice to repulse the charge. However an infantry square rarely reserved its fire so long; and if the fire was delivered at any considerable distance (and wasted without the desired effects), it had to rely on their bayonets.
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Re: Cavalry versus Dense Infantry
Post by iranuke   » Fri Jan 06, 2017 5:02 pm

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Duckk wrote:Some good research by these fine folks in posts 23, 26, and 28:

http://www.twcenter.net/forums/showthre ... alry/page2


I personally got a good laugh out of entry #2.
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