Cavalry was the queen of the Napoleonic battlefield. Surging squadrons of dragoons, dashing hussars or the awesome might of heavy cuirassiers often snatched victory from the jaws of defeat and decided the fate of kingdoms. In this dramatic and spirited history of cavalry in the Napoleonic period, Digby Smith examines how battles could be decided by the skilful use of cavalry. He outlines the development of the mounted arm - describing the various types of mounted unit, their roles and abilities - and then sets out to ...
Cavalry was the queen of the Napoleonic battlefield. Surging squadrons of dragoons, dashing hussars or the awesome might of heavy cuirassiers often snatched victory from the jaws of defeat and decided the fate of kingdoms. In this dramatic and spirited history of cavalry in the Napoleonic period, Digby Smith examines how battles could be decided by the skilful use of cavalry. He outlines the development of the mounted arm - describing the various types of mounted unit, their roles and abilities - and then sets out to describe how cavalry could turn the tide of battle. By examining such key battles as Marengo, Eylau, Albuera, the crossing of the Beresina and Waterloo, Smith reveals how cavalry could be deployed in an offensive and defensive capacity or how an effective and well-timed cavalry charge could overcome almost any obstacle. The scenarios have been carefully selected to reveal how leadership, training, weather, terrain and the condition of the horses could affect the success of a charge.Replete with eyewitness accounts and tales of outstanding courage, this is a dramatic read as well as a fascinating insight into the role and performance of cavalry on the Napoleonic field of battle.
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Charge! The Author Digby Smith has added to his list of Napoleonic volumes by with the book, ?Charge! Great Cavalry Charges of the Napoleonic Wars?. This book was originally released in May 2003 and has been re-released this year, January 2007. This is a book will appeal to the wider public who want a good read in the Napoleonic genre but will equally appeal to the wargamer looking for orders of battle, scenarios and maps or the military history enthusiast. Digby Smith has aimed at a wide cross section by choosing twelve battles where key cavalry engagements take place. Some are well know battles such as Austerlitz, Garcia Hernandez, Borodino and Waterloo but also some not so well known as Albuera, Haynau and Liebertwolkwitz. But then for those who really know the Napoleonic era he has included information on the rear echelon raids in 1813 and Fere-Chapenoise in 1814. The text is easy to read but with sufficient detail and flow of events that the book maintains the readers interest. The first chapter of the book is dedicated to the Cavalry types where the author categorizes the Cavalry Arm in to five areas, Heavy, Line, Light, Lancers and Irregular. This differentiation of Lancers and Irregular while technically still Light Cavalry aids the readers to understand the cavalry arm better without being swamped with information about these two categories being placed in the Light Cavalry section. The distinction between Heavy and Line is due to the wearing of Armour . Under this definition Digby Smith includes the Cuirassier (excepting the Prussian Cuirassier which did not wear armour, French Carabinier regiments from 1810 (which Digby Smith comments on) the Russian Life Guards the Austrian Carabinier Regiments and the English Royals in around 1796 (and possibly others that the writer is not be aware of) from memory while all other Heavy Cavalry types have been classified as Line Cavalry. Digby Smith has carried out an in depth study of the numbers of regiments by type and by nations noting changes to that number and the year this took place plus a little regimental history in some cases. The author has detailed the weapons used by each cavalry type by nation. The writer adds some anecdotal history of the various types of cavalry such as the etymology of the word Uhlan being derived from the original Oghlan and the Hungarian pelisse being derived from the word ?Pelz?. All of this adds substance for the reader. These lend additional points of interest to the finished article. The list is not exhaustive but does not claim such so there will be omissions but this in no way detracts from the volume. The remaining chapters are dedicated to the individual battles where the cavalry actions were fought. Each battle, of which there are twelve except for the chapter dealing with an assortment of allied raids behind the lines, has an accompanying map. The map generally shows the topography for the area of the action showing important roads, rivers and important landmarks such as the Windmill at the Haynau ambush . The maps detail the dispositions of the various troop types, Infantry, Cavalry and Artillery showing their lines of advance or retreat as the case may be and indicating the various commanders as needs be. The narrative for each battle brings the battles to life allowing the reader to understand the ebb and flow of the unfolding action. Digby Smith describes the formations used, as is necessary explaining the term and its use such as ?order mixte? as used by the V Corps at the battle of Albuera . Also described is the cavalry column used by Murat when attacking during the clash at Liebertwolkwitz during the Battle of Leipzig. ?Murat now threw in Milhaud?s Dragoons with L?Heritiers and Subervies men in second and third lines. Some 5,000 cavalry advanced in an apparently invincible mass. Milhaud?s division was deployed as follows; at the front of the column were the 22nd and 25th Dragoons, beside one another and in line abreast, behind them rode the 20th, 19th and 18th, each in line abreast.? Each combat, the forces, commanding officers and strengths are outlined. The plans of the two sides in the battle are outlined followed by the account of the engagement as it unfolded historically. The narrative is interjected with many eyewitness accounts from primary sources to reinforce the point being made by Digby Smith. The author makes comment on the effectiveness of the plan and or the commander?s role in the events being discussed. This commentary is usually backed by narrative taken from a primary source such as in the example of Murat?s performance at Liebertwolkwitz where the author states, ?Thus ended the action of 14th October, Murat had achieved his given task of holding the dominant heights between Markkleeberg and Liebertwolkwitz, but the cost had been heavy and most of these fell upon the precious cavalry of which Napoleon had so little. The fault for this was Murat?s alone. The use of a closely-packed, heavy cavalry column of cavalry in the face of the close range fire of four batteries of hostile artillery ? which were allowed to operate without any attempted disruption from the French side ? invited a costly defeat. The whole sorry episode demonstrated Murat?s complete failure to co-ordinate the actions of the assets available to him.? This is backed by comments from the Russian General von Toll, ?Murat was completely incapable of leading large formations of cavalry?? But there are two occasions that the writer could see where commentary was unsubstantiated, the first being the battle of Marengo where the comment is made, ? Thanks entirely to the efforts, skill and courage of his friend Louis-Charles-Antoine Desaix, the fighting spirit of his troops and the timely charge of Kellerman?s cavalry, Napoleon had been saved from certain defeat caused by his own poor generalship.? The comment about Napoleon?s generalship is not substantiated and appears to be the author?s opinion. The other comment being in relation to Alexander Berthier and his role as Napoleon?s Chief of staff, ?His service in continuous close contact with, and under the direct domination of that gigantic character, Napoleon, quickly reduced him to a willing cipher. Certainly by 1809 he was no longer an effective army commander. By 1813 he had been reduced to a mindless but still incredibly effective robot, incapable of questioning his master?s decisions, even when, as at Leipzig, he knew that glaring omissions had been made.? The reference made here in prelude to this statement, ?Having read about and discussed this topic many times, it seems to me that Berthier may once have been a successful commander of independent mind.? Nothing of what Digby Smith has read is quoted or referred to here even briefly. In contrast John Elting says the following about Berthier, ?His position made him the handy butt of both Napoleon?s temper and the other marshal?s anger, but neither of those affected the even tenor of his work. His health finally failed toward the end of the 1812 campaign: he was ill during much of 1813 and 1814, but his work was well done, his orders clearly written, his insistence on proper staff procedure unrelenting.? The reader could perceive the two comments related above as bias. Is it bias? Read the book and make your own determination. The writer of this review would state that this volume is worth having as part of a Napoleonic library with good content and fast flowing action. Charge, Digby Smith Greenhill Books, 2007 Chapter 1 page 11 Charge, Digby Smith Greenhill Books, 2007 Chapter 1 page 17 Charge, Digby Smith Greenhill Books, 2007 Chapter 9 page 160 Charge, Digby Smith Greenhill Books, 2007 Chapter 5 page 81 Charge, Digby Smith Greenhill Books, 2007 Chapter 10 Page 170. Charge, Digby Smith Greenhill Books, 2007 Chapter 10 Page 173 Charge, Digby Smith Greenhill Books, 2007 Chapter 2 Page 43 Charge, Digby Smith Greenhill Books, 2007 Chapter 3 Page 48 Swords around a T...
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