War Horses

I still have a week before my vacation in the Caymans (and the chapter is due), but since so many seem to be interested in cavalry, I might as well make a dedicated post to it. Previous discussion took off in the Face of Battle post, about halfway through the comments.

I’m far from an expert on cavalry, and given how few secondary sources there are dedicated to it, it looks like I’m not alone. So what interests me would be if we could get a better sense of the parameters of early modern cavalry, i.e. figure out what exactly we know about it. I’m happy to focus for the time being on tactics, but only because it looks like a fair number of people are interested. I could do a separate post for discussion of cavalry operations if there’s interest. Some future series of posts will be dedicated to operational matters.

Things that I would love to see in the discussion:

  1. Keywords/language used to describe cavalry by early moderns. Given the ability to quickly search huge number of Google Books (and our own digitized sources as well), it would be useful to know what types of words to search for. For example, we obviously have basic words related to cavalry like cavalry, cavalier, horse, cheval, trooper… Other terms? “charge”? What else?
  2. It might be useful if we collected anecdotes (from primary sources) that would indicate how cavalry was used in battle. I’d think we’d want to pay particular attention to descriptions of: formations (how close did they ride?), weapons used (lance, sword, pistol, carbine…), tactics (speed, charge with lance, with sword, caracole with pistol?…). What else?
  3. We might also want to post links to contemporary artwork that illustrated how they saw cav being used. I realize that artwork has its interpretational issues, but if Gavin is correct about troopers themselves not having a clear idea about what happened, then it’s still useful. I was particularly struck by this detail provided by a recent post in the De Rohan à Turenneblog:

    Siege of Privas 1629 (from De Rohan à Turenne blog)

    I have no idea how to interpret this image, but they sure look awfully close together.

  4. We could also come up with a bibliography of works on cavalry, both primary and secondary.

To start #4 off, here is what I have from a quick search of my bib database (ignore the formatting quirks):

“A British Cavalry Officer’s Report on the Army Maneuvers of Frederick the Great 1773,” The Journal of the Society for Army Historical Research, 60 (1982): -66.

“The Cavalry Problem in the Early British Indian Army, 1750-1785,” War in History, 2 (1) (1995).

Astley, John. The art of riding set foorth in a breefe treatise, with a due interpretation of certeine places alledged out of Xenophon, and Gryson, verie expert and excellent horssemen: wherein also the true vse of the hand by the said Grysons rules and precepts is speciallie touched: and how the author of this present worke hath put the same in practise, also what profit men maie reape thereby: without the knowledge whereof, all the residue of the order of riding is but vaine. Lastlie, is added a short discourse of the chaine or cauezzan, the trench, and the martingale: written by a gentleman of great skill and long experience in the said art. Imprinted at London: By Henrie Denham, 1584.

Bennett, Matthew, “La Règle du Temple as a Military Manual, or How to Deliver a Cavalry Charge,” Studies in Medieval History presented to R. Allen Brown,  (1989). [Medieval]

Birac, sieur de. Les fonctions d’un capitaine de cavalerie et d’infanterie avec la prattique de la guerre. The Hague: Chez Henry van Bulderen, 1695.

Bogros, Denis, “Les chevaux de la cavalerie française à la fin du XVIIe siècle,” Louvois, homme d’Etat et ministre de la Guerre. Historie, Economie et Société, 15 (1) (1996): 105-112.

Browne, William. The arte of riding the great horse also a direct order to make a horse seruiceable for the warres, with the bitt : very necessary for these dangerous times : with the practice of riding the maze and ring. For R. Thrale, 1628.

Chauviré, Frédéric, “Le problème de l’allure dans les charges de cavalerie du XVIe au XVIIIe siècle,” Revue historique des Armées, 249 (2007): 16-27.

Corte, Claudio. The art of riding conteining diuerse necessarie instructions, demonstrations, helps, and corrections apperteining to horssemanship, not herettofore expressed by anie other author: written at large in the Italian toong, by Maister Claudio Corte, a man most excellent in this art. Here brieflie reduced into certeine English discourses to the benefit of gentlemen and others desirous of such knowledge. Imprinted at London: By H. Denham, 1584.

Cruso, John. Militarie instructions for the cavallrie: or Rules and directions for the service of horse: collected out of divers forrain authors ancient and modern, and rectified and supplied, according to the present practise of the Low-Countrey warres. Cambridge: Printed by the printers to the Universitie of Cambridge, 1632.

Davis, R.H.C. The Medieval Warhorse. London: 1989. [Medieval]

Durova, Nadezhda, The cavalry maiden: journals of a Russian officer in the Napoleonic Wars, (Bloomington: 1988).

Dutch journal: Cavaleristisch Tijdschrift

Edwards, Peter, “The Supply of Horses to the Parliamentarian and Royalist Armies in the English Civil War,” Historical Research, 68 (1995): 49-66.

La Fontaine, sieur de, The Military Duties of the Officers of Cavalry Containing the Way of Exercising the Horse According to the Practice of This Present Time: The motions of Horse, the Function of the Several Officers, from the Chief Captain to the Brigadeer, (London: 1678).

Lochet, Jean, “On Cavalry in the Late Napoleonic Wars, Was it a decisive or an obsolete arm?” Military and Naval History Journal, (1997).

Love, Ronald, ‘”All the King’s Horsemen”: The Equestrian Army of Henri IV, 1585-1598,’ Sixteenth Century Journal, 22 (3) (1991): 510-533.

Lyon, B., “The Role of Cavalry in Medieval Warfare: Horses, Horses All Around and Not a One to Use,” Mededelingen van de Koninklijke Academie voor Wetenschappen, Letteren en Scone Kunsten van Belgie, 49 (2) (1987). [Medieval]

Manual exercise and evolutions of the cavalry as practiced in the late American army : materially corrected and amended for use of the cavalry throughout the United States. Windsor, Vt.: Printed for Thomas & Marrifield by Charles Spear, 1808. [A bit beyond the boundaries, but oh well]

Markham, Gervase. Cavalarice; or, The English horseman: contayning all the art of horse-manship, asmuch as is necessary for any man to vnderstand, whether hee be horse-breeder, horse-ryder, horse-hunter, horse-runner, horse-ambler, horse-farrier, horse-keeper, coachman, smith, or sadler. Together with the discouery of the subtil trade or mystery of hors-coursers, and an explanation of the excellency of a horses vnderstanding: or how to teach the to de trickes like Bankes his Curtall: and that horses may be made to draw dry-foot like a hound. Secrets before vnpublished & now carefully set downe for the profit of this whole nation. London,: printed by E. Allde for E. White, 1616.

McGuffie, T.H. Peninsular cavalry general, 1811-13; the correspondence of Lieutenant-General Robert Ballard Long. London: Harrap, 1951.

Melzo. Des règles militaires de la cavalerie. Lyon: 1619.

Moore-Colyer, R.J., “Horse Supply and the British Cavalry: A Review. 1066-1900,” Journal of the Society for Army Historical Research, 245-260.

Morillo, Stephen, “The ‘Age of Cavalry’ Revisited,” in D. Kagay, ed. The Circle of War in the Middle Ages (Woodbridge, 1999). [Medieval]

Phillips, Gervase, “‘Of Nimble Service’: Technology, Equestrianism and the Cavalry Arm of Early-Modern Western European Armies,” War and Society, 20 (2) (2002).

Prestwich, Michael, “Cavalry Service in early Fourteenth Century England,” in J. Gillingham, ed. War and Government in the Middle Ages: Essays in Honour of J.O. Prestwich (Boydell, 1984). [Medieval]

Ringoir, H. Afstammingen en voortzettingen der cavalerie en wielrijders. The Hague: Militair-Historische Bijdragen van de Sectie Krijgsgeschiedenis, 1978.

Robinson, “Gavin, Equine Battering Rams? A Reassessment of Cavalry Charges in the English Civil War,” Journal of Military History, 75 (3) (2011): 719-731.

Stradling, R.A., “Spain’s military failure and the supply of horses 1600-1660,” History, LXIX (1984): 210-21.

Susane, Louis. Histoire de la cavalerie française. Paris: 1874.

The bloudy field, or, The great engagement of the English and Scottish forces beyond sterling with the manner of how Major Gen. Massey’s Lieu colonel led on the forlorn hope against Col. Morgan, and charged each other with abundance of courage and resolution. The particulars of the fight, the event and success thereof, the number killed, taken, and wounded on both sides, and the commissions granted in the name of the King of Scots, to the English red coats that come in to his assistance. Likevvise, the imbodying of the tvvo armies on both sides, the interposing of General Monk neer the mountains, the advancing of Col. Lilburn to his assistance, the besieging of one of our chief castles, and the marching of some of the cavalry towards Cumberland. Imprinted at London: for George Horton, 1654. [No idea what this is]

Tomkinson, William. The Diary of a Cavalry Officer in the Peninsular and Waterloo Campaign, 1809. Macmillan & co, 1894.

Tucker, Treva J., “Eminence over Efficacy: Social Status and Cavalry Service in 16th Century France,” Sixteenth Century Journal, (2001): 1057-1099. [Interesting article that argues for troopers caring more about social status than effective military practices]

Verbruggen, J.F., “De rol van de ruiterij un de Middeleeuwse oorlogvoering,” Revue belge d’histoire militaire. Belgisch tijdschrift voor militaire geschiedenis, 30 (6) (1994): 389-418. [Medieval]

Xenophon. The cavalry general. (?)

Záchár, Joseph, “Les houssards hongrois du roi de France 1692-1789,” in Le soldat, la stratégie, la mort (1989).

We probably want to limit our examples/discussion to the early modern period (say, 1400s-1815), although I included several medieval works in the bib above. If at all possible, cite your sources! Author, Title, year/decade being discussed, country of cavalry and region in which the anecdote took place.


5 responses to “War Horses”

  1. Erik Lund says :

    Bloom, Richard. The Gentleman’s Recreation in Two Parts: The First Part Being an Encyclopedia of the Arts and Sciences. . .; The Second Part Treats of Horsemanship, Fowling, Hawking, Fishing, Hunting and Agriculture. London: S. Rotcroft, 1686

    A Letter from an Officer in the Army of the Allies. London: G. Lion, 1743

    Gerhold, Dorian. Road Transport Before the Railways: Russell’s London Flying Wagons. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993
    Preradovich, Nikolaus v. Das seltsam wilde Leben des Pandurenoberst Franz von der Trenck. Graz: L. Stocker, 1980.

    Schreiber, Georg. Des Kaisers Reiterei: Österreichische Kavallerie in 4 Jahrhunderten. Vienna: F. Speidel, 1967.

    [United States Department of the Army], Field Manual 25-7: A Guide to the Care, Training, and use of Horses and Mules as Pack Animals. Revised and reprinted, Flagstaff, Ariz.: Northland, 1989

    That’s one discouragingly short list. I think that I have more works on my bibliography about the Austrian navy than I do about its cavalry. And that that’s a pretty good picture of the literature, too. I’ll have more eventually, as I have a two week vacation coming up..

  2. Gavin Robinson says :

    I’ve put quite a lot of cavalry stuff in the Zotero group Horses in History and Culture. It’s also worth poking around in my Zotero library, especially the Cavalry and ECW Battles collections.

    I’m quite suspicious of early-modern pictures as empirical evidence. Before you approach them you need to be very sensitive to semiotics, and if you are you’ll notice lots of things that are conventional signifiers of certain ideas or qualities and can’t be taken literally as a representation of something that really happened. Drill books might be a bit safer because the pictures are ostensibly there to illustrate how to do a certain thing, but we still have to beware of recycled woodcuts, authors who didn’t know what they were talking about, and printers who inserted pictures without consulting the author, especially in the early 17th century. Seeing something in a picture can easily create a truth effect even if it isn’t true.

    • jostwald says :

      Thanks for the Zotero libraries.

      I think at some point we should have a discussion about the utility of visual images as sources. I understand your point regarding portraits and the like (many late 17C ballads recycling old Civil-War era woodblocks…), but I’m less sure about how to interpret panoramic paintings. I think J.R. Hale has written about interpreting art for EMEMH, probably Peter Paret as well. Worth future discussion.

  3. Erik Lund says :

    There’s a great series of drawings in Riehn’s Richard Riehn’s The Russian Campaign that illustrates just how hard it is to tell how many men there are in an infantry formation from any vantage point. It’s not Gavin’s point, in that the illustrations are intended to be photorealistic, but it pretty precisely captures the problem of seeing and depicting what is actually happening on a battlefield.

    • jostwald says :

      Interesting. Although presumably a knowledge of the battle orders and formations should give us a sense of the numbers? Sounds similar to how confusing it can be getting your bearings at the bottom of a ditch in a fortress.

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