Cavalry tactics

For much of history, humans have used some form of cavalry for war and, as a result, cavalry tactics have evolved over time. Tactically, the main advantages of cavalry over infantry troops were greater mobility, a larger impact, and a higher position.


Chariot tactics had been the basis for using the horse in war. The chariot's advantage of speed was outdone by the agility of riding on horseback. The ability of horsemen to pass more difficult terrain was also crucial to this change. Horsemen supplanted most light chariots. In Celtic warfare, light chariots (essedum) persisted among mounted troops, for their ability to transport heavily armoured warriors and as mobile command platforms.

Riding and fighting on horseback

At first it was not considered effective to use weapons on horseback, but rather to use the horse as transport. "Mounted infantry" would ride to battle, and then dismount to fight. For a long time, riders and charioteers worked alongside each other in the cavalry.

The first recorded instance of mounted warriors are the mounted archers of the Iranian tribes appearing in Assyrian records from the 9th century BC.

Mongolian troops had a Buryat bow, for showering the enemy with arrows from a safe distance. The aim on horseback was better than in a jiggling chariot, after it was discovered that the best time to shoot was while all the hooves of the horse were in the air. Nevertheless, an archer in a chariot could shoot potentially stronger infantry bows.

Javelins were employed as a powerful ranged weapon by many cavalries. They were easy to handle on horseback. Two to ten javelins would be carried, depending on their weight. Thrown javelins have less range than composite bows, but often prevailed in use nevertheless. Due to the mass of the weapon, there was a greater armour-piercing ability, and they thus caused fatal wounds more frequently. Usage is reported for both light and heavy cavalry, for example, by Numidia and the Mongol's light cavalry and the heavy cataphracts, Celtic cavalry and the Mamluks during the Crusades. The Celtic horsemen's training was copied by the Roman equites. A significant element learned from the Celts was turning on horseback to throw javelins backwards, similar to the Parthian shot in archery.

Stirrups and spurs improved the ability of riders to act fast and securely in melées and manoeuvres demanding agility of the horse, but their employment was not unquestioned; ancient shock cavalry performed quite creditably without them. Modern historical reenactors have shown that neither the stirrup nor the saddle are strictly necessary for the effective use of the couched lance,[1] refuting a previously widely held belief. Free movement of the rider on horseback were highly esteemed for light cavalry to shoot and fight in all directions, and contemporaries regarded stirrups and spurs as inhibiting for this purpose. Andalusian light cavalry refused to employ them until the 12th century, nor were they used by the Baltic turcopoles of the Teutonic Order in the battle of Legnica (1241).

An example of combined arms and the efficiency of cavalry forces were the Medieval Mongols. Important for their horse archery was the use of stirrups for the archer to stand while shooting. This new position enabled them to use larger and stronger cavalry bows than the enemy.

Tactics of light and medium cavalry using bows

A 13th-century Mongol saddle cover

Armies of horse archers could cover enemy troops with arrows from a distance and never had to engage in close combat. Slower enemies without effective long range weapons often had no chance against them. It was in this manner that the cavalry of the Parthian Empire destroyed the troops of Crassus (53 BC) in the Battle of Carrhae. During their raids in Central and Western Europe during the 9th and 10th centuries, Magyar mounted archers spread terror in West Francia and East Francia; a prayer from Modena pleads de sagittis Hungarorum libera nos, domine ("From the arrows of the Hungarians, deliver us, Lord")[2]

Another fairly popular tactical system was known as "shower shooting". The Sassanid Persians and the Mamluks were the chief proponents of the idea, although Muslim cavalry in India had also been known to use it in battle. It involved a line of fairly well-armoured cavalrymen (often on armoured horses) standing in a massed static line, or advancing in an ordered formation at the walk while loosing their arrows as quickly as possible. It was very effective against unsteady enemies who could easily be unnerved by the sight of a vast cloud of arrows raining down upon them; however, an enemy provided with good armour and discipline would often be able to hold out at least temporarily against the barrage. A case in point is Procopius's accounts of Belisarius's wars against the Sassanids[3] where he states how the Byzantine cavalry engaged in massed archery duels against their Persian counterparts. The Persians loosed their arrows with far greater frequency, but as their bows were much weaker, they did not do much damage compared to the stronger Roman bows.

The great weakness of mounted archers was their need of space and their light equipment (compared to contemporary heavy cavalry). If they were forced to fight in close combat against better armoured enemies, they usually lost. Furthermore, they were not suited for participating in sieges. For example, although victorious in the field the Mongols originally had been unable to take the fortified Chinese cities until they managed to capture and enlist the services of Islamic siege engineers. The Mongols subsequently failed to retake Hungary in 1280 after the Hungarians became more focused on Western European heavy cavalry and castle building. Good cavalry troops needed lots of training and very good horses. Many peoples who engaged in this form of classical cavalry, such as the Hungarians and Mongols, practically lived on horseback.

The Battle of Dorylaeum (1097) during the First Crusade shows the advantages and disadvantages of mounted archers; the rider groups of the Seljuk sultan, Kilij Arslan I, were able to surround an army of Crusaders and shoot them from a distance. Suddenly, reinforcements under the command of Godfrey of Bouillon arrived, and the Seljuks themselves were encircled. They could no longer escape and were annihilated in close combat. The defeat of the Seljuks at Dorylaeum was so complete that the Crusaders then crossed Anatolia virtually unchallenged.

Tactics of heavy cavalry using lances

Battle of Higueruela
Battle of La Higueruela (1431) between John II of Castile and Muhammed IX, Nasrid Sultan of Granada

Medieval European knights attacked in several different ways, implementing shock tactics if possible, but always in formations of several knights, not individually. For defense and mêlée a formation of horsemen was as tight as possible next to each other in a line. This prevented their enemy from charging, and also from surrounding them individually. The most devastating charging method was to ride in a looser formation fast into attack. This attack was often protected by simultaneous or shortly preceding ranged attacks of archers or crossbowmen. The attack began from a distance of about 350 metres and took about 15–20 seconds to cross the contemporary long range weapon's effective distance. A most important element, and one not easily mastered, was to stay in one line with fixed spaces while accelerating and having the maximum speed at impact. Often knights would come in several waves, with the first being the best equipped and armored. The lance as primary weapon pierced the enemy. If an enemy soldier was hit in full gallop by a knight's lance couched under the armpit, he was thrown backwards with such a momentum that he knocked over several of his compatriots, and was more often than not, killed; in some cases, the lance would even skewer the man and kill or wound the soldier behind him. The heavy lances were dropped after the attack and the battle was continued with secondary weapons (swords, axes, or maces, for example).

The Persians deployed their cataphracts in mixed formations with light archers in the rear ranks, supporting the charge with arrows.[4] Mongolian heavy cavalry improved upon the charging effect by attaching hooks to their lances to take enemies down when bypassing. Usually, employed a two-ranks deep formation of heavy cavalry charging the enemy. They were supported by three ranks of light cavalry, delivering rapid closeup shots with heavy armour-breaking arrows. Chinese cavalry and samurai often used polearms. Both handled their primary weapons in the two-handed Asian style. This method of charging attack was very effective, but it depended very much on favourable ground on the chosen battlefield.

Many knights during Medieval battles fought on foot. Attacks would be carried out on horseback only under favorable conditions. If the enemy infantry was equipped with polearms and fought in tight formations it was not possible to charge without heavy losses. A fairly common solution to this was for the men-at-arms to dismount and assault the enemy on foot, such as the way Scottish knights dismounted to stiffen the infantry schiltron or the English combination of longbowmen with dismounted men-at-arms in the Hundred Years' War. Another possibility was to bluff an attack, but turn around before impact. This tempted many infantrymen to go on the chase, leaving their formation. The heavy cavalry then turned around again in this new situation and rode down the scattered infantry. Such a tactic was deployed in the Battle of Hastings (1066).

A further improvement of fighting ability was the use of well-armed infantry reserves during knightly battles on horseback. After some time, the battle would often split into several small groups, with space in between, and both sides would become exhausted. Then, an infantry rush could concentrate on selected targets and rout the enemy. Infantry also helped knights to remount in battle and aided the wounded.

Kłuszyn 1610
Polish hussar formation at the Battle of Klushino 1610 - painting by Szymon Boguszowicz 1620

The Polish-Lithuanian hussars' primary battle tactic was the charge. They carried the charge to, and through the enemy. The charge started at a slow pace and in a relatively loose formation. The formation gradually gathered pace and closed ranks while approaching the enemy, and reached its highest pace and closest formation immediately before engagement. They tended to repeat the charge several times until the enemy formation broke (they had supply wagons with spare lances). The tactic of a charge by heavily armoured hussars and horses was effective for nearly two centuries. The hussars fought with long lances (a hussar's lance usually ranged from 4.5 to 6.20 metres in length), a koncerz (stabbing sword), a szabla (sabre), one or two pistols and often with a carbine or arquebus, known in Polish as a bandolet. Winged hussars also carried other weapons, such as a nadziak type of war hammer and battleaxes. The lighter, Turkish-style saddle, allowed for more armour to be used by both the horses and the warriors. Moreover, the horses were bred to run very fast with a heavy load and to recover quickly. This was achieved by breeding old Polish horses with Eastern horses, usually from Tatar tribes. As a result, these horses could walk hundreds of kilometres, loaded with over 100 kilograms and still be able to charge in an instant. Also, hussar horses were very quick and manoeuvrable. This allowed hussars to fight with any cavalry or infantry force, from Western heavy kissaiers, to quick Tatars. They were widely regarded as the most powerful cavalry in the world. In the battles of Lubiszew in 1577, Byczyna (1588), Kokenhausen (1601), Kircholm (1605), Kłuszyn (1610), Chocim (1621), Martynów (1624), Trzciana (1629), Ochmatów (1644), Beresteczko (1651), Połonka (1660), Cudnów (1660), Chocim (1673), Lwów (1675), Vienna (1683) and Párkány (1683), the Polish-Lithuanian hussars proved to be the decisive factor, often against overwhelming odds. For instance, in the Battle of Kłuszyn, during the Polish-Muscovite War, the Russians and Swedes outnumbered the commonwealth army five-to-one, yet were soundly defeated.[5][6]

Tactics of heavy cavalry using ranged weapons

Battle of Lutzen
The death of King Gustavus II Adolphus on 16 November 1632, at the Battle of Lützen
An Ottoman Mamluk, from 1810

Attempts at integrating ranged weapons and heavy cavalry were, for example, made by the Greeks and Persians, equipping their heavier cavalry with javelins and bows. Prior to charging, the enemy would be weakened by repeated missile attacks from combined light cavalry and heavy cavalry (cataphracts).[4] This tactical system was adopted by the Romans, as attested by the presence of an "equites sagittarii clibanarii" unit in the Notitia Dignitatum,[7] and passed down into the tactical repertoire of their Byzantine successors.[8][9]

An enemy who could suddenly strike and retreat using guerilla warfare tactics was a serious problem for the heavy cavalry. It was therefore important to have enough light cavalry to support the heavier mounted units.

As mentioned earlier, heavy cavalry with lances were always supported by ranged combat units. They could be heavily armoured archers, like cataphracts or clibanarii with bows, advancing together with the charging cavalry. This bow-armed cavalry could loose their arrows as they advanced in the early stages of their charge with the intention of weakening and demoralizing the enemy formation prior to the moment of shock, possibly in shower shooting style. While the enemy was usually capable of countering with equal measures of ranged combat, the horse archers often wore protective equipment, so the changeover from light to heavy cavalry is not always clear and it seems in cases they formed the second charging rank. A similar tactic of heavy skirmishers developed in Late Medieval Europe, employing the easier to handle crossbow. Frontal assaults of heavy cavalry became considered ineffective against formations of spearmen or pikemen combined with crossbowmen or longbow archers. Most of the cavalrymen wore armour that could be penetrated by contemporary crossbows at close ranges. It resulted in the development of new cavalry tactics, whereby knights and mounted mercenaries, deployed in deep triangular wedges, with the most heavily armoured men (especially those able to afford armoured horses) being deployed in the front ranks. To increase its effect, part of the formation would carry small, powerful all-metal crossbows of their own. These mounted crossbowmen could sally out from the rear ranks to provide a skirmish screen or a preliminary barrage of bolts.

Later on, the tactical landscape featured harquebusiers, musketeers and pikemen, deployed in combined-arms formations and pitted against cavalry firing pistols or carbines. One of the cavalry tactics employed in such encounters was the caracole, developed in the mid-16th century in an attempt to integrate gunpowder weapons into cavalry tactics. Equipped with one or two wheellock pistols, cavalrymen would advance on their target at less than a gallop. As each rank came into range, the soldiers would turn away, discharge their pistols at the target, retire to reload and then repeat the manoeuvre. Early on, they had an advantage in firepower, but infantry firepower eventually increased. With the invention of the bayonet, the pike screen against charges could also be turned into a rank of firing soldiers. This tactic was accompanied by the increasing popularity of the German reiters in European armies from about 1540, or similar equipped, but usually more lightly armoured hakkapeliitta. Their main weapons were two or more pistols and a sword; initially, most wore three-quarters armour, though as time passed this was reduced to a helmet and a cuirass over a leather coat; sometimes they also carried a long cavalry firearm known as an arquebus or a carbine (although this type of horsemen soon became regarded as a separate class of cavalry - the arquebusier or, in Britain, harquebusier).

Modern historians regard the caracole as a tactical system that ultimately proved ineffective. It sacrificed the cavalry advantages of speed and mobility, while also leaving mounted soldiers at a disadvantage to massed infantry equipped with heavier and longer-ranged weapons. The caracole gave way to close artillery support (see Horse artillery), deployed to break up the infantry formations and force the foot soldiers to scatter, so that the cavalry would regain their advantage in close-quarters combat. Contemporary writers did not seem to have used the term "caracole" in its modern sense; John Cruso, for example, explained it as a manoeuvre whereby a formation of cuirassiers would receive the enemy's charge by splitting apart to either side, and then charging back into the flanks of the overextended enemy.

Some historians associate the demise of the caracole with the name of Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden (1594–1632). He regarded the technique as fairly inefficient and forbade the cavalry regiments in Swedish employ from using it. However, he was definitely not the first military commander to dismiss the caracole; François de la Noue, in his account of his service under Henry IV of France, mentioned that the pistol-armed Protestant cavalry used their weapons much like very long swords or lances, charging fiercely against the enemy formation before discharging the pistols at point-blank range (or even laying the pistol's muzzle directly against the opponent's armour before firing). There is reason to believe that the Sweders were influenced by Henry IV's ideas, whether directly or through Dutch mediation—especially by the agency of Swedish officers who served in the Low Countries, such as Jacob De La Gardie.

Infantry countertactics

Against light cavalry with bows and javelins

It was impossible for infantry to engage light cavalry with bows or javelins in close combat on ground that did not seriously hinder cavalry movement. The only resort for engagement were missile weapons in ranged combat. In this case both cavalry and infantry fought only in a missile exchange. While the infantry can be considered static in comparison to the cavalry, their own protection, the damage their missiles would cause and the hit rate were important.

For example, in the prelude to the Battle of Mohi, crossbowmen protected by pavises sniped at the Mongol light cavalry, resulting in a tactical defeat of this Mongol unit, although the Mongols did go on to win the overall battle.[10]

The defence of such ranged combat units was important, for cavalry could always switch roles and engage the ranged combat infantry (often lightly armored skirmishers) in close combat.

Against heavy cavalry with lances

The longbow and the crossbow were able to threaten knights. Although the heavy noble cavalry of Middle Ages often fought on foot or at least avoided futile frontal attacks, it happened several times that knightly armies led charges according to their warrior ideal. The results could be devastating. At Crécy (1346) and Poitiers(1356), the French knights suffered heavy casualties against the Welsh/English longbowmen. Important for military archery was the ability to keep several arrows in the air. Thus, while a cavalry charge followed a strict pattern of acceleration (400 metres in 2 minutes, gallop just at the last 150 metres) from a distance beyond effective weapon range, arrows could be launched to hail down on the advancing enemy as they came within effective range. However, unsupported light infantry and archers would not be able to cause enough casualties to a cavalry force, if it were charging across suitable terrain, to tip the odds in their favour in the following melee. Thus, it was always advised for missile troops to fight on terrain disadvantageous to united cavalry charges, and with heavy infantry close at hand.

The long spears (pikes) of Scots and Swiss were an excellent defensive weapon against cavalry. The warriors stood in tight formations like an ancient phalanx, the end of their pikes embedded in the ground, presenting a massive spiked wall. In battle against the Scots, the English knights proved to be as narrow-minded as their French counterparts, employing the classic cavalry charge despite the new challenge of the Scottish pike. In the battles of Stirling Bridge (1297) and Bannockburn (1314) they were defeated by the Scots. While the English imitated this tactic successfully against the French, the Swiss perfected it. Despite longer lances for the knights, this formation was now almost impenetrable. Pikemen with polearms remained an important part of armies throughout the Thirty Years' War. Later tactics used against this formation included caracole maneuvers with ranged weapons. However, a well-trained cavalry force could outflank a force of enemy pikemen on even terrain and triumph. The most elite knights, with the best armour, immense prowess and extremely-well trained horses, could charge pike formations and still, even if only scarcely, hold their own, sometimes even triumphing; however, the cost to raise and maintain such troops was enormous and impractical when considering alternative options to the head-on charge.

Lancers needed hard, plain ground and enough space for attack. A clever enemy avoided battle on open ground and preferred marshy, mountainous or arboreous grounds for battle. The later Roman generals were able to defeat the Parthian Cataphracts by securing their flanks, The Scots did this at Bannockburn and Stirling, and in nearly all their guerilla fighting against the English, as did the Welsh to a great extent. The Swiss defeated the Austrian knights at the Battle of Morgarten (1315) by attacking the knightly army in a narrow place between an acclivity and a swamp. The peasants of Dithmarschen faced in 1500, at Hemmingstedt, the army of the Danish king. They opened the dykes and flooded the country. If the terrain was not well suited for a cavalry attack, knights often fought on foot and used their lances as pikes.

New tactics of light cavalry and mounted infantry

With increasing firepower and no sufficient protection, the role of cavalry on the battlefield was slowly reduced. Light cavalry with firearms could return fire, but the aim from a moving platform was not as good as for infantry. So most important for cavalry was the ability to quickly attack enemy cavalry or scattered infantry with lances and sabres. Speed reduced the time vulnerable to gunfire, but still closed formations became impossible to defeat. This tactic was a striking surprise of Mongolian light cavalry in the battle of the Kalka River. The alternative was to use them as dragoons, reaching their positions quickly, dismounting, and fighting like infantry, often with projectile weapons. Such a way of fighting had started in Europe at least in the 13th century with mounted longbow and crossbow archers, but was also employed by the Mongols with their Buryatian longbows.

Cavalry in modern warfare

Cavalry is featured in modern warfare with cavalrymen retaining the light cavalry missions. Mechanization and motorization has changed the mounts from horse to tracked and wheeled vehicles, but the missions of reconnaissance and security remain the same. Heavy cavalry, as such, has its role of shock effect fulfilled by tanks.

Air Cavalry is a US Army term that refers to helicopter equipped units that perform reconnaissance, security, and economy of force missions. The term and unit designation properly only refers to those squadrons (i.e., battalion-level organizations), and some independent troops (i.e., companies), affiliated with historical US Cavalry regiments, that perform(ed) the traditional cavalry mission. Post-Vietnam, there also existed one independent brigade-sized air cavalry organization, the 6th Air Cavalry Combat Brigade.[11]

Air Cavalry squadrons consisted of three air cavalry troops, one armored cavalry troop, and a headquarters and headquarters troop. The air cavalry troops consisted of an aero-scout platoon, an aero-weapons platoon, an aero-rifle platoon, a service platoon, and a headquarters and operations platoon. The troop was commanded by a major, with a captain as executive officer, and a troop first sergeant. Each platoon was commanded by a captain with a lieutenant as assistant platoon commander/section leader and a sergeant first class as platoon sergeant.

The aero-scout platoon consisted of 10 OH-6A Cayeuse or (later) 10 OH-58A Kiowa scout helicopters, nominally divided into two sections of five each. In practice the "scouts" usually operated in teams of two (called white teams) or mated up with a team of gunships to form a hunter-killer team called a "pink team."

The aero-weapons platoon consisted of nine UH-1C Iroquois "Huey" "hogs" (gunships) or (later) AH-1G HueyCobras, divided into two sections of four and the platoon commander's aircraft. The gunships operated in teams of two or three (called red teams) or, more often, operated with the scouts as a pink team.

The aero-rifle platoon consisted of a "lift section" of five UH-1D/H "slicks" and a "rifle section" of three nine-man light infantry squads led by an infantry lieutenant. The "slicks" would transport the rifle squads to insert and extract them as they performed ground reconnaissance, manned observation/listening posts, or provided ground security as needed. A team of "lift" aircraft (as many as needed to carry the number of infantry for the mission, but usually at least two for one squad plus weapons, ammunition, water, rations, and equipment) was called a "blue team" and was almost always led by at least one scout and escorted by at least one gunship. These combination UH-1, OH-6/OH-58, AH-1 teams were called "purple teams".

The service platoon consisted of a platoon headquarters, an aircraft maintenance section and a supply section. Each section was assigned a UH-1D/H to support its function but in practice both of these aircraft (as well as the troop commander's UH-1, nominally assigned to the troop headquarters) were controlled by the aero-rifle platoon's lift section and were rotated into the mix of available aircraft as maintenance and mission requirements dictated. As per US Army Aviation doctrine, the crew chiefs (enlisted aviation maintenance technicians) were assigned to the flight platoons and performed the daily servicing and basic maintenance on the aircraft, the aircraft maintenance section was responsible for the more extensive maintenance and required periodic inspections. The supply section was responsible for individual and organizational supply support and supervised the aircraft servicing (fuel, weapons, and ammunition), as well as coordinated any attached dining facility (field messing) and or field medical services.

Finally, the headquarters and operations platoon consisted of the troop headquarters and the operations section that commanded the troop, planned operations, dispatched aircraft, provided communications support, and operated the tactical operations center (TOC) in the field.

War elephants

Elephant cavalry first appeared three thousand years ago, simultaneously in India's Vedic Civilization and in China.[12] Female Asian elephants were used, sometimes in small groups, sometimes in vast regiments of thousands of animals in the 13th century,[13] primarily to produce a tactical "shock and awe" effect in the field. In addition, the large animals provided elevated platforms from which archers could rain down arrows on the enemy, and from which generals could survey the battle.

The psychological effect of war elephants was often its main tactical use.[14] After encountering elephant cavalry in the Battle of the Hydaspes River, Alexander the Great's troops mutinied and refused to press further into India.[15] However, the animals were often not tractable in battle,[16] and when faced with determined opponents, would often flee and trample their own infantry in their flight.

Horse cavalry developed tent pegging tactics to deal with elephant cavalry. If they maintained their nerve in the face of the larger mounts, horse cavalry could rout elephant cavalry, especially by moving into close quarters and attacking the elephants' vulnerable feet.[17] The Mongols would loose arrows at their enemy elephants' feet and legs until the elephants ran and trampled over their own army.

Dromedary and camel cavalry

Next to elephants, camels were the tallest and heaviest animals available for cavalry. They are neither as agile nor as fast as horses. Their use as riding animals, reported from the battle of Qarqar, was more frequent than horses in ancient times. Their advantage was that while they were standing, a mounted archer could aim and shoot with a strong bow from behind an infantry formation. Camels equipped with small cannons gave the Afghan troops an advantage during the third battle of Panipat. Another advantage was their effect on horses, if the horses had never before encountered camels. In the battle of Pterium experienced Lydian cavalry suddenly had to struggle with their horses panicking, when trying to face an attack of dromedary riders. The psychological effect of the best trained and most reliable soldiers being overrun in confusion decided the battle. Major powers of Europe, Africa and Asia were preparing for engagement in this war. It is not known whether after this incident war horses were prepared to face camels and dromedaries.


  1. ^
  2. ^ Bloch, Marc (1989). Feudal Society, Vol. 1. tr. L. A. Manyon. London: Routledge. p. 41.
  3. ^ History of the Wars, Books I and II (of 8) by Procopius - Project Gutenberg
  4. ^ a b History of Iran: Parthian Army
  5. ^ Brzezinski, Richard and Velimir Vukšić, Polish Winged Hussar 1576-1775, (Osprey Publishing Ltd., 2006), 6.
  6. ^ Polish armies 1569-1696 -Richard Brzeziński
  7. ^ Notitia Dignitatum
  8. ^ John Haldon. Warfare, State and Society in the Byzantine World, 565–1204. London: UCL Press, 1999. ISBN 1-85728-495-X
  9. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2007-02-06. Retrieved 2006-11-20.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  10. ^ Verbruggen
  11. ^ 6th Cavalry Brigade (Air Combat) (21 February 1975 - 16 June 2005) Retrieved 19 December 2016.
  12. ^ War Elephants in Ancient and Medieval China, Edward H. Schafer, Oriens, Vol. 10, No. 2 (Dec. 31, 1957)
  13. ^ Chau Ju-kua, Travels in Chola (F Hirth & W W Rockhill, St Petersburg, 1912)
  14. ^ John C. Rolfe, Ammianus Marcellinus (Harvard University Press, 1956)
  15. ^ JFC Fuller, The Generalship of Alexander the Great (Da Capo Press, 1989)
  16. ^ Flavius Philostratus, The Life of Apollonius of Tyana (Loeb Classical Library translation, 1912)
  17. ^ A Maharaj, Tent Pegging with Unicef Team Canada Archived 2007-02-06 at the Wayback Machine (retrieved 30 January 2007)

External links

126th Field Artillery Regiment

The 126th Field Artillery Regiment was a regiment in the United States Army National Guard.

Battle of Nagashino

The Battle of Nagashino (長篠の戦い, Nagashino no Tatakai) took place in 1575 near Nagashino Castle on the plain of Shitarabara in the Mikawa Province of Japan. Takeda Katsuyori attacked the castle when Okudaira Sadamasa rejoined the Tokugawa, and when his original plot with Oga Yashiro for taking Okazaki Castle, the capital of Mikawa, was discovered.Takeda Katsuyori attacked the castle on 16 June, using Takeda gold miners to tunnel under the walls, rafts to ferry samurai across the rivers, and siege towers. On 22 June the siege became a blockade, complete with palisades and cables strewn across the river. The defenders then sent Torii Suneemon to get help. He reached Okazaki, where Ieyasu and Nobunaga promised help. Kamehime, daughter of Tokugawa Ieyasu and wife of Sadamasa helped to defend the castle. Conveying that message back to the castle, Torii was captured and hung on a cross before the castle walls. However, he was still able to shout out that relief was on the way before he was killed.Both Tokugawa Ieyasu and Oda Nobunaga sent troops to assist Sadamasa and break the siege, and their combined forces defeated Katsuyori. Nobunaga's skillful use of firearms to defeat Takeda's cavalry tactics is often cited as a turning point in Japanese warfare; many cite it as the first "modern" Japanese battle. In fact, the cavalry charge had been introduced only a generation earlier by Katsuyori's father, Takeda Shingen. Furthermore, firearms had already been used in other battles. Nobunaga's innovation was the wooden stockades and rotating volleys of fire, which led to a decisive victory at Nagashino.

Byzantine battle tactics

The Byzantine army evolved from that of the late Roman Empire. The language of the army was still Latin (though later and especially after the 6th century Greek dominates, as Greek became the official language of the entire empire) but it became considerably more sophisticated in terms of strategy, tactics and organization. Unlike the Roman legions, its strength was in its armoured cavalry Cataphracts, which evolved from the Clibanarii of the late empire. Infantry were still used but mainly in support roles and as a base of maneuver for the cavalry. Most of the foot-soldiers of the empire were the armoured infantry Skutatoi and later on, Kontarioi (plural of the singular Kontarios), with the remainder being the light infantry and archers of the Psiloi. The Byzantines valued intelligence and discipline in their soldiers far more than bravery or brawn. The "Ρωμαίοι στρατιώται" were a loyal force composed of citizens willing to fight to defend their homes and their state to the death, augmented by mercenaries. The training was very much like that of the legionaries, with the soldiers taught close quarters, melee techniques with their swords. But as in the late Empire, archery was extensively practiced.


The caracole or caracol (from the Spanish caracol - "snail") is a turning maneuver on horseback in dressage and, previously, in military tactics.

In dressage, riders execute a caracole as a single half turn, either to the left or to the right, representative of the massed cavalry tactic of caracole previously used in the military.

Variations of the military caracole has a long history of usage by various cavalry forces that used missile weapons throughout history. The Scythians and Parthians were thought to use it, while ancient Iberian cavalry famously developed their own variation known as the 'Cantabrian circle'. It was noted in the 13th century to be used by the Mongols of Genghis Khan and also by the Han Chinese military much earlier. It was later adapted by European militaries in the mid-16th century in an attempt to integrate gunpowder weapons into cavalry tactics. Equipped with one or more wheellock pistols or similar firearms, cavalrymen would advance on their target at less than a gallop in formation as deep as 12 ranks. As each rank came into range, the soldiers would turn their mount slightly to one side, discharge one pistol, then turn slightly to the other side to discharge another pistol at their target. The horsemen then retired to the back of the formation to reload, and then repeat the manoeuvre. The whole caracole formation might move slowly forward as each rank fired to help press the attack, or move slowly backward to avoid an enemy's advance. Despite this complex manoeuvring, the formation was kept dense rather than open, as the cavalrymen were generally also armed and armoured for melee, and hoped to follow the caracole with a charge. The tactic was accompanied by the increasing popularity of the German Reiter in Western armies from about 1540.

The effectiveness of the caracole is debated. This tactic was often successfully implemented, for instance, at the battle of Pinkie Cleugh, where the mounted Spanish herguletier under Dom Pedro de Gamboa successfully harassed Scottish pike columns. Likewise, at the battle of Dreux mercenary German reiters in the Huguenot employ inflicted huge casualties on the Royal Swiss pike squares, although they failed to break them.

Some historians after Michael Roberts associate the demise of the caracole with the name of Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden (1594–1632). Certainly he regarded the technique as fairly useless, and ordered cavalry under Swedish command not to use the caracole; instead, he required them to charge aggressively like their Polish-Lithuanian opponents. However, there is plenty of evidence that the caracole was falling out of use by the 1580s at the latest. Henry IV's Huguenot cavalry and Dutch cuirassiers were good examples of cavalry units that abandoned the caracole early on — if they ever used it at all.

According to De la Noue, Henry IV's pistol-armed cavalrymen were instructed to deliver a volley at close quarters and then "charge home" (charge into the enemy). Ranks were reduced from 12 to 6, still enough to punch a hole into the classic thin line in which heavy lancers were deployed. That was the tactic usually employed by cavalry since then, and the name reiter was replaced by cuirassier. Sometimes it has been erroneously identified as caracole when low morale cavalry units, instead of charging home, contented themselves with delivering a volley and retire without closing the enemy, but in all those actions the distinctive factor of the caracole, the rolling fire through countermarching, was absent.

The caracole was rarely tried against enemy cavalry, as it could be easily broken when performing the maneuver by a countercharge. The last recorded example of the use of the caracole against enemy cavalry ended in disaster at the battle of Klushino in 1610, when the Polish hussars smashed a unit of Russian reiters, which served as the catalyst for the rout of much of the Russian army. The battle of Mookerheyde (1574) was also another example of the futility in using caracole against aggressive enemy cavalry, as 400 Spanish lancers charged 2,000 German reiters (in Dutch employ) while the second line was reloading their pistols, easily routing the whole force and later the whole Dutch army as well. It is significant that 20 years later, the Dutch cuirassiers easily routed the same Spanish lancers at the battle of Turnhout and the battle of Nieuwpoort, so that according to Charles Oman, in 1603 lancers were finally disbanded from the Spanish army. Nevertheless, variations of caracole tactics continued to be used well into the 17th century against enemy cavalry. During the battle of Gniew of 1626, the Polish light cavalry used it with success twice. The first time light cavalry units under Mikołaj Abramowicz fired at the Swedish cavalry rank by rank, but instead of withdrawing to reload, it immediately proceeded to charge the enemy with sabres. Later the same unit also tried the caracole using gaps in the line of charging husaria heavy cavalry.

It is worth noting that 16th- and 17th-century sources do not seem to have used the term "caracole" in its modern sense. John Cruso, for example, explained the "caracoll" as a maneuver whereby a formation of cuirassiers received an enemy's charge by wheeling apart to either side, letting the enemy rush in between the pincers of their trap, and then charging inwards against the flanks of the overextended enemy.

Cavalry in the American Civil War

The American Civil War saw cavalry tactics move largely away from the offensive towards the defensive, with the emphasis on screening, reconnaissance, raiding and harassment. Development of the rifled musket had also rendered the cavalry charge impractical.

In the first half of the war, the Confederates enjoyed the advantage in cavalry, as southern boys were more accustomed to the riding and shooting life, and most of the best cavalry officers from the regular army had chosen to side with them. Yet Confederate cavalry generals tended to mount spectacular stunts that failed to achieve strategic objectives. A notable exception was Bedford Forrest, who effectively dominated Tennessee till the end of the war.

By the second half, the Union Army had gained a greater cavalry capability, through Benjamin Grierson’s brilliant deception tactics in the Mississippi valley, and Philip Sheridan’s aggressive movements, while in command of the Army of the Shenandoah at the end of the war in Virginia.

Cavalry units proved highly expensive to maintain, and unscrupulous agents would often exploit shortages by supplying defective animals at exorbitant prices.


Droungos (Greek: δροῦγγος, sometimes δρόγγος, drongos) or drungus is a late Roman and Byzantine term for a battalion-sized military unit, and later for a local command guarding mountain districts. Its commander was a "droungarios" or "drungarius" (δρουγγάριος), anglicized as "Drungary".

Friedrich Wilhelm von Seydlitz

Friedrich Wilhelm Freiherr von Seydlitz (3 February 1721 – 8 November 1773) was a Prussian officer, lieutenant general, and among the greatest of the Prussian cavalry generals. He commanded one of the first Hussar squadrons of Frederick the Great's army and is credited with the development of the Prussian cavalry to its efficient level of performance in the Seven Years' War. His cavalryman father retired and then died while Seydlitz was still young. Subsequently, he was mentored by the Margrave of Brandenburg-Schwedt. Seydlitz's superb horsemanship and his recklessness combined to make him a stand-out subaltern, and he emerged as a redoubtable Rittmeister (cavalry captain) in the War of Austrian Succession (1740–1748) during the First and Second Silesian Wars.

Seydlitz became legendary throughout the Prussian Army both for his leadership and for his reckless courage. During the Seven Years' War, he came into his own as a cavalry general, known for his coup d'œil, his ability to assess at a glance the entire battlefield situation and to understand intuitively what needed to be done: he excelled at converting the King's directives into flexible tactics. At the Battle of Rossbach, his cavalry was instrumental in routing the French and Imperial armies. His cavalry subsequently played an important role in crushing the Habsburg and Imperial left flank at the Battle of Leuthen. Seydlitz was wounded in battle several times. After the Battle of Kunersdorf in August 1759, he semi-retired to recover from his wounds, charged with the protection of the city of Berlin. He was not healthy enough to campaign again until 1761.

Frederick rewarded him with Order of the Black Eagle on the field after the Battle of Rossbach; he had already received the Pour le Mérite for his action at the Battle of Kolin. Although estranged from Frederick for several years, the two were reconciled during Seydlitz's final illness. Seydlitz died in 1773, and Frederick's heirs included his name on the Equestrian statue of Frederick the Great in Berlin, in a place of honor.

Hellenistic armies

The Hellenistic armies is the term applied to the armies of the successor kingdoms of the Hellenistic period, which emerged after the death of Alexander the Great. After his death, Alexander's huge empire was torn between his successors, the Diadochi (Greek: Διάδοχοι). During the Wars of the Diadochi, the Macedonian army, as developed by Alexander and Philip II, gradually adopted new units and tactics, further developing Macedonian warfare and improving on the tactics used in the Classical era. The armies of the Diadochi bear few differences from that of Alexander, but during the era of the Epigonoi (Ἐπίγονοι, "Successors"), the differences were obvious, favoring numbers over quality and weight over maneuverability. The limited availability of Greek conscripts in the east led to an increasing dependence on mercenary forces, whereas in the west, Hellenistic armies were continuously involved in wars, which soon exhausted local manpower, paving the way for Roman supremacy. The major Hellenistic states were the Seleucid Empire, Ptolemaic Egypt and the Antigonid kingdom (Macedonia). Smaller states included: Attalid Pergamum, Pontus, Epirus, the Achaean League, the Aetolian League, Syracuse, and other states (like Athens, Sparta etc.).

Horses in East Asian warfare

Horses in East Asian warfare are inextricably linked with the strategic and tactical evolution of armed conflict. A warrior on horseback or horse-drawn chariot changed the balance of power between civilizations.

When people with horses clashed with those without, horses provided a huge advantage. When both sides had horses, battles turned on the strength and strategy of their mounted horsemen, or cavalry. Military tactics were refined in terms of the use of horses (cavalry tactics).

As in most cultures, a war horse in East Asia was trained to be controlled with limited use of reins, responding primarily to the rider's legs and weight. Horses were significant factors in the Han-Hun Wars and Wuhu incursions against past kingdoms of China, and the Mongol conquest of much of Eurasia and into Europe; and they played a part in military conflicts on a smaller, more localized scale.

Ira W. Claflin

Ira Wallace Claflin (June 21, 1834 – November 18, 1867) was a United States Army West Point regular officer who took command of the 6th US Cavalry during the critical days of July 1863 during the Gettysburg Campaign. He was an instructor of Union cavalry tactics for West Virginia and later taught at West Point.

Johann von Sporck

Johann von Sporck (1595 – 6 August 1679) was a German nobleman and Generalfeldmarschall. Sporck was born in 1595 and he began his military career at the start of the Thirty Years' War as a private. His personal bravery and mastery of cavalry tactics led to his steady advancement through the ranks as well as his ennoblement. He later fought in the Second Northern War, the Austro-Turkish War (1663–64) and the Franco-Dutch War. He retired in 1676, having received the rank of Generalfeldmarschall and accumulating great riches. He died three years later. His son Franz Anton von Sporck became a publisher and a patron of arts.


A lancer was a type of cavalryman who fought with a lance. Lances were used in mounted warfare by the Assyrians as early as 700 BC and subsequently by Greek, Persian, Gallic, Chinese, and Roman horsemen. The weapon was widely used in Asia and Europe during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance by armoured cavalry, before being adopted by light cavalry, particularly in Eastern Europe. In a modern context, a lancer regiment usually denotes an armoured unit.


Misl generally refers to the sovereign states of the Sikh Confederacy, that rose during the 18th century in the Punjab region in the northern part of the Indian subcontinent after the collapse of the Mughal Empire.

The misls formed a commonwealth that was described by Antoine Polier as an "aristocratic republic". Although the misls were unequal in strength, and each misl attempted to expand its territory and access to resources at the expense of others, they acted in unison in relation to other states. The misls held biannual meetings of their legislature, the Sarbat Khalsa in Amritsar.

Napoleonic tactics

Napoleonic tactics describe certain battlefield strategies used by national armies from the late 18th century until the invention and adoption of the rifled musket in the mid 19th century. Napoleonic tactics are characterized by intense drilling of the soldiers, speedy battlefield movement, combined arms assaults between infantry, cavalry, and artillery, relatively small numbers of cannon, short-range musket fire, and bayonet charges. Napoleon I is considered by military historians to have been a master of this particular form of warfare. Napoleonic tactics continued to be used after they had become technologically impractical, leading to large-scale slaughters during the American Civil War, Austro-Prussian War and the Franco-Prussian War.

Pedro Pablo Ramírez

Pedro Pablo Ramirez Menchaca (January 30, 1884 – May 12, 1962) was de facto President of Argentina from June 7, 1943 to February 24, 1944. He was the founder and leader of Guardia Nacional, Argentina's Fascist militia.After graduating from the Argentine military college in 1904 as a second lieutenant, Ramírez was promoted in 1910 as first lieutenant of the cavalry. In 1911, he was sent to Germany for training with the Fifth Hussars cavalry in Kaiser Wilhelm's Prussian Army. He returned home in 1913, with a German wife, prior to the outbreak of World War I. Advancing in rank as a specialist in cavalry tactics, he assisted fellow General José Félix Uriburu in a authoritarian coup that deposed Hipólito Yrigoyen in 1930. Ramírez was sent to Rome to observe Mussolini's army until his return in 1932.

When Uriburu set free elections and died, General Ramírez worked behind the scenes to plan a return of fascism to Argentina. Over the next several years, he organized the Milicia Nacionalista (later the Guardia), and authored a program for a state ruled by the militia. In 1942, Ramírez was appointed as War Minister by President Ramón Castillo, and began to reorganize the Argentine Army. At the same time, the Guardia Nacional joined with another party to form "Recuperacion Nacional," a fascist political party. Castillo fired Ramírez following a cabinet meeting on May 18, 1943. Two weeks later, on June 4, 1943, Ramírez assisted Arturo Rawson in overthrowing Castillo's government, and was again made Minister of War. Three days later, on June 7 Ramírez forced Rawson's resignation and maintained Argentina's neutrality during World War II. Argentina was torn by then between Britain, who wanted the country to stay neutral, and the US, who wanted it to join the Allies. Ramírez stayed neutral and, consequently, the United States refused requests for Lend-Lease aid. Argentina finally declared war on Germany and Japan during the government of Edelmiro Farrell.

Despite having been brought to power through a coup d'état, Peronist historiography never calls him a dictator.

Polish cavalry

The Polish cavalry (Polish: jazda, kawaleria, konnica) can trace its origins back to the days of medieval mounted knights. Poland is mostly a country of flatlands and fields and mounted forces operate well in this environment. The knights and heavy horse cavalry gradually evolved into many different types of specialised mounted military formations, some of which heavily influenced western warfare and military science. This article details the evolution of Polish cavalry tactics, traditions and arms from the times of mounted knights and heavy winged hussars, through the times of light uhlans to mounted infantry equipped with ranged and mêlée weapons.

Shock tactics

Shock tactics, shock tactic or shock attack is the name of an offensive maneuver which attempts to place the enemy under psychological pressure by a rapid and fully committed advance with the aim of causing their combatants to retreat. The acceptance of a higher degree of risk in order to attain a decisive result is intrinsic to shock actions.

Strategikon of Maurice

The Strategikon or Strategicon (Greek: Στρατηγικόν) is a manual of war traditionally regarded as written in the late 6th century and usually attributed to the Byzantine Emperor Maurice. It is moreover a practical manual, "a rather modest elementary handbook" in the words of its introduction, "for those devoting themselves to generalship". This book gives a general guide, handbook, of the Byzantine military's strategies. In his introduction to his 1984 translation of the text, George T. Dennis noted "The Strategikon is written in a very straightforward and generally uncomplicated Greek."The Strategikon may have been written in an effort to codify the military reforms brought about by the soldier-emperor Maurice. There is debate in academic circles as to the true author of the Strategikon. Maurice may have only commissioned it; perhaps his brother Peter, or another general of his court, was the true author. The dating is also debated. If it was written in the 6th century, the Strategikon may have been produced to codify the experience of the Balkan and Persian campaigns, or the campaigns may have been carried out in compliance with the manual. However, starting in the late 19th century, some historians have argued for a later date in the eighth or ninth century, on philological or technological grounds. In any case, it is considered one of the most important military texts of the medieval years, along with the 10th century military treatises attributed to the Byzantine emperors Leo VI (Tactica) and Nicephorus Phocas (De velitatione and Praecepta Militaria); Leo's Tactica in particular drew heavily from the Strategikon.

The text consists of 12 chapters, or "books", on various aspects of the tactics employed by the Byzantine military of the 6th and 7th century A.D. It is primarily focused on cavalry tactics and formations, yet it also elaborates on matters of infantry, sieges, baggage trains, drilling and marching. The author was familiar with classical military treatises, especially Onasander and Aelian, which he used as conceptional models rather than sources of content. Each book has a general topic to be discussed, and each book goes into great detail even separating each book further into subsections and including maps. These maps are not large and extravagant but more symbols to show positions and a standard design of the formations the Byzantine military used at this time. Books seven and eight contain practical advice to the General in the form of instructions and maxims. The eleventh book has ethnographic interest, with its portrayal of various Byzantine enemies (Franks, Lombards, Avars, Turks, and Slavs). The Strategikon also belongs to Byzantine legal literature, since it contains a list of military infractions and their suitable penalties.

The Sacred Band of Stepsons

The Sacred Band of Stepsons is a fictional ancient cavalry unit created by Janet Morris and based on the historical Sacred Band of Thebes, an elite strike force of paired lovers and friends that flourished during the fourth century BC in ancient Greece, where sexuality was a behavior, not an identity. The Sacred Band of Stepsons series of fantasy novels and stories take place in a myth-like milieu that mixes historical places such as Nisibis, Mygdonia and Chaeronea; warriors such as Theagenes (commander of the Theban Sacred Band at Chaeronea); gods such as Enlil, Maat and Harmonia; philosophers such as Heraclitus and Thales; cavalry tactics and customs such as homosexuality in the militaries of ancient Greece with those that exist only in fantasy. The exploits of the Stepsons are chronicled in eleven short stories and nine novels (as of 2012). In a fantasy context, this series explores the difficulties facing war-fighters in personal relationships and the enduring questions surrounding the military's historical mixing of homosexuals and heterosexuals in combat.

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