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Cavalry and chariots against infantry
Quote:they too were normally reluctant to charge enemy infantry

There are accounts of battles in which Polish-Lithuanian hussars were also reluctant to charge enemy infantry. The main reason was difficult terrain or infantry having field fortifications.

Also the enemy having lots of artillery (which can disrupt cavalry cohesion) was discouraging.

You guys overlook the fact that obstacles and field fortifications were used by infantry very frequently throughout history. Already Romans were using caltrops as far as I know.

Cavalry versus strong enough field fortifications built in difficult terrain is often helpless.

Strong field fortifications (such as wagon forts) was how the Hussites defeated undisciplined knights on numerous occasions - such a movie depiction of a battle from the Hussite Wars:

Field fortifications and obstacles (wagon forts, ditches, palisades, solid fences) can be seen:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1qcFCWF5eLE
Now... let's see what Churchill himself writes about this highly praised cavalry charge at Omdurman.. As always, the real, uncommented, primary source is most valuable and I am amazed that no one produced the actual complete text where many details are given that paint a picture MUCH DIFFERENT to that given by the texts given here :

-Page 188, Chapter : The Sensations of a Cavalry Charge

[i]"...

I noticed, 300 yards away on our flank and parallel to the line on which we were advancing, a long row of blue-black objects, two or three yards apart. I thought there were about a hundred and fifty. Then I became sure that these were men enemy men squatting on the ground. Almost at the same moment the trumpet sounded Trot/ and the whole long column of cavalry began to jingle and clatter across the front of these crouching figures. We were in the lull of the battle and there was perfect silence. Forthwith from every blue-black blob came a white puff of smoke, and a loud volley of musketry broke the odd stillness. Such a target at such a distance could scarcely be missed, and all along the column here and there horses bounded and a few men fell.

The intentions of our Colonel had no doubt been to move round the flank of the body of Dervishes he had now located, and who, concealed in a fold of the ground behind their riflemen, were invisible to us, and then to attack them from a more advantageous quarter 5 but once the fire was opened and losses began to grow, he must have judged it inexpedient to prolong his procession across the open plain. The trumpet sounded 'Right wheel into line/ and all the sixteen troops swung round towards the blue-black riflemen. Almost immediately the regiment broke into a gallop, and the 2ist Lancers were committed to their first charge in war! [i]

page 1 (for some reason I cannot post longer posts)
Macedon
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George C. K.
῾Ηρακλῆος γὰρ ἀνικήτου γένος ἐστέ
I propose to describe exactly what happened to me: what I saw and what I felt. I recalled it to my mind so frequently after the event that the impression is as clear and vivid as it was a quarter of a century ago. The troop I commanded was, when we wheeled into line, the second from the right of the regiment. I was riding a handy, sure-footed, grey Arab polo pony. Before we wheeled and began to gallop, the officers had been marching with drawn swords. On account of my shoulder I had always decided that if I were involved in hand-to-hand fighting, I must use a pistol and not a sword. I had purchased in London a Mauser automatic pistol, then the newest and the latest design. I had practised carefully with this during our march and journey up the river. This then was the weapon with which I determined to fight. I had first of all to return my sword into its scabbard, which is not the easiest thing to do at a gallop. I had then to draw my pistol from its wooden holster and bring it to full cock. This dual operation took an appreciable time, and until it was finished, apart from a few glances to my left to see what effect the fire was producing, I did not look up at the general scene.

Then I saw immediately before me, and now only half the length of a polo ground away, the row of crouching blue figures firing frantically, wreathed in white smoke. On my right and left my neighbouring troop leaders made a good line. Immediately behind was a long dancing row of lances couched for the charge. We were going at a fast but steady gallop. There was too much trampling and rifle fire to hear any bullets. After this glance to the right and left and at my troop, I looked again towards the enemy. The scene appeared to be suddenly transformed. The blue-black men were still firing, but behind them there now came into view a depression like a shallow sunken road. This was crowded and crammed with men rising up from the ground where they had hidden. Bright flags appeared as if by magic, and I saw arriving from nowhere Emirs on horseback among and around the mass of the enemy. The Dervishes appeared to be ten or twelve deep at the thickest, a great grey mass gleaming with steel, filling the dry watercourse. In the same twinkling of an eye I saw also that our right overlapped their left, that my troop would just strike the edge of their array, and that the troop on my right would charge into air. My subaltern comrade on the right, Wormald of the 7th Hussars, could see the situation too and we both increased our speed to the very fastest gallop and curved inwards like the horns of the moon. One really had not time to be frightened or to think of anything else but these particular necessary actions which I have described. They completely occupied mind and senses.

The collision was now very near. I saw immediately before me, not ten yards away, the two blue men who lay in my path. They were perhaps a couple of yards apart. I rode at the interval between them. They both fired. I passed through the smoke conscious that I was unhurt. The trooper immediately behind me was killed at this place and at this moment, whether by these shots or not I do not know. I checked my pony as the ground began to fall away beneath his feet. The clever animal dropped like a cat four or five feet down on to the sandy bed of the watercourse, and in this sandy bed I found myself surrounded by what seemed to be dozens of men. They were not thickly packed enough at this point for me to experience any actual collision with them. Whereas Grenfell's troop, next but one on my left, was brought to a complete standstill and suffered very heavy losses, we seemed to push our way through as one has sometimes seen mounted policemen break up a crowd. In less time than it takes to relate, my pony had scrambled up the other side of the ditch. I looked round.


page 2
Macedon
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George C. K.
῾Ηρακλῆος γὰρ ἀνικήτου γένος ἐστέ
Once again I was on the hard, crisp desert, my horse at a trot. I had the impression of scattered Dervishes running to and fro in all directions. Straight before me a man threw himself on the ground. The reader must remember that I had been trained as a cavalry soldier to believe that if ever cavalry broke into a mass of infantry, the latter would be at their mercy. My first idea therefore was that the man was terrified. But simultaneously I saw the gleam of his curved sword as he drew it back for a ham-stringing cut. I had room and time enough to turn my pony out of his reach, and leaning over on the off side I fired two shots into him at about three yards. As I straightened myself in the saddle, I saw before me another figure with uplifted sword. I raised my pistol and fired* So close were we that the pistol itself actually struck him. Man and sword disappeared below and behind me. On my left, ten yards away, was an Arab horseman in a bright-coloured tunic and steel helmet, with chain-mail hangings. I fired at him. He turned aside. I pulled my horse into a walk and looked around again.In one respect a cavalry charge is very like ordinary life, so long as you are all right, firmly in your saddle, your horse in hand, and well armed, lots of enemies will give you a wide berth. But as soon as you have lost a stirrup, have a rein cut, have dropped your weapon, are wounded, or your horse is wounded, then is the moment when from all quarters enemies rush upon you. Such was the fate of not a few of my comrades in the troops immediately on my left. Brought to an actual standstill in the enemy's mass, clutched at from every side, stabbed at and hacked at by spear and sword, they were dragged from their horses and cut to pieces by the infuriated foe. But this I did not at the time see or understand. My impressions continued to be sanguine. I thought we were masters of the situation, riding the enemy down, scattering them and killing them. I pulled my horse up and looked about me. There was a mass of Dervishes about forty or fifty yards away on my left. They were huddling and clumping themselves together, rallying for mutual protection. They seemed wild with excitement, dancing about on their feet, shaking their spears up and down. The whole scene seemed to flicker. I have an impression, but it is too fleeting to define, of brown-clad Lancers mixed up here and there with this surging mob. The scattered individuals in my immediate neighbourhood made no attempt to molest me. Where was my troop? Where were the other troops of the squadron? Within a hundred yards of me I could not see a single officer or man. I looked back at the Dervish mass. I saw two or three riflemen crouching and aiming their rifles at me from the fringe of it. Then for the first time that morning I experienced a sudden sensation of fear. I felt myself absolutely alone. I thought these riflemen would hit me and the rest devour me like wolves. What a fool I was to loiter like this in the midst of the enemy! I crouched over the saddle, spurred my horse Into a gallop and drew clear of the melee. Two or three hundred yards away I found my troop already faced about and partly formed up.


page 3
Macedon
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George C. K.
῾Ηρακλῆος γὰρ ἀνικήτου γένος ἐστέ
The other three troops of the squadron were reforming close by. Suddenly in the midst of the troop up sprang a Dervish. How he got there I do not know. He must have leaped out of some scrub or hole. All the troopers turned upon him thrusting with their lances: but he darted to and fro causing for the moment a frantic commotion. Wounded several times, he staggered towards me raising his spear. I shot him at less than a yard. He fell on the sand, and lay there dead. How easy to kill a man! But I did not worry about it. I found I had fired the whole magazine of my Mauser pistol, so I put in a new clip of ten cartridges before thinking of anything else.

I was still prepossessed with the idea that we had inflicted great slaughter on the enemy and had scarcely suffered at all ourselves. Three or four men were missing from my troop. Six men and nine or ten horses were bleeding from spear thrusts or sword cuts. We all expected to be ordered immediately to charge back again. The men were ready, though they all looked serious. Several asked to be allowed to throw away their lances and draw their swords. I asked my second sergeant if he had enjoyed himself. His answer was c Well, I don't exactly say I enjoyed it, Sir but I think I'll get more used to it next time? At this the whole troop laughed.

But now from the direction of the enemy there came a succession of grisly apparitions of horses spouting blood, struggling on three legs, men staggering on foot, men bleeding from terrible wounds, fish-hook spears stuck right through them, arms and faces cut to pieces, bowels protruding, men gasping, crying, collapsing, expiring. Our first task was to succour these and meanwhile the blood of our leaders cooled. They remembered for the first time that we had carbines. Everything was still in great confusion. But trumpets were sounded and orders shouted, and we all moved off at a trot towards the flank of the enemy. Arrived at a position from which we could enfilade and rake the watercourse, two squadrons were dismounted and in a few minutes with their fire at three hundred yards compelled the Dervishes to retreat. We therefore remained in possession of the field. Within twenty minutes of the time when we had first wheeled into line and began our charge, we were
halted and breakfasting in the very watercourse that had so nearly proved our undoing. There one could see the futility of the much vaunted Arme Blanche. The Dervishes had carried off their wounded, and the corpses of thirty or forty enemy were all that could be counted on the ground. Among these lay the bodies of over twenty Lancers, so hacked and mutilated as to be mostly unrecognisable. In all out of 310 officers and men the regiment had lost in the space of about two or three minutes five officers and sixty-five men killed and wounded, and 120 horses nearly a quarter of its strength.


page 4
Macedon
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George C. K.
῾Ηρακλῆος γὰρ ἀνικήτου γένος ἐστέ
Such were my fortunes in this celebrated episode. It is very rarely that cavalry and infantry, while still both unshaken, are intermingled as the result of an actual collision. Either the infantry keep their heads and shoot the cavalry down, or they break into confusion and are cut down or speared as they run. But the two or three thousand Dervishes who faced the 2ist Lancers in the watercourse at Omdurman were not in the least shaken by the stress of battle or afraid of cavalry. Their fire was not good enough to stop the charge, but they had no doubt faced horsemen many a time in the wars with Abyssinia. They were familiar with the ordeal of the charge. It was the kind of fighting they thoroughly understood. Moreover, the fight was with equal weapons, for the British too fought with sword and lance as in the days of old."

Now... this is the original text of mr. Churchill and I am sure that whoever reads it will get a VERY different idea of how the charge took place and its mechanics which ABSOLUTELY CONFORM to the more traditional cavalry charge mechanic theories. In all, as I see it, the writer practically describes it as an unnecessary defeat that turned into "victory" when the British dismounted, took positions on the flank of the watercourse and enfiladed the enemy with their carbines, forcing them to retreat by force of gunfire. The casualties mentioned for the 21st are terrifying, 22% of the men and 40% (roughly) of the horses dead and wounded in a battle where he describes no actual collision, he is very clear as to how he never collided with any of the enemy since they actually fought dispersed and in small groups, even though at start they gave him the impression of a close-ordered line.

page 5
Macedon
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George C. K.
῾Ηρακλῆος γὰρ ἀνικήτου γένος ἐστέ
May I PLEASE ask that the subject of this thread remains focussed on the ANCIENT WORLD.

This is the purpose of this Forum and although there has been some discussion, it is far too easily hijacked by refrences to much later cavalry actions.

If your contribution is post Medieval, it is NOT relevant to this ROMAN ARMY TALK Forum.

If it is later than 600AD, it is also getting to the furthest extent of Roman influenced Military Tactics.

(AND PLEASE DO NOT USE THIS AS AN EXCUSE TO START A DISCUSSION ON THE END OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE, THERE ARE THREADS DEDICATED TO THAT ELSEWHERE!!)

If there are any more transgressions AT ALL in this thread it will be locked.

Please PM me if you have a problem with this
Moi Watson

Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, Merlot in one hand, Cigar in the other; body thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and screaming "WOO HOO, what a ride!
Quote:
Robert post=331483 Wrote:Accounts of the battles show that the head on attack on infantry is a very costly way of utilising cavalry.

With normal cavalry, sure. However, as I've said before, there is evidence that very heavily armoured cavalry (cataphracts, and later clibanarii) were specifically intended to break up infantry formations, and trained to do so. They lacked the speed and maneuverability for rapid flanking attacks, so head on assault (or at least the threat of it) would surely be their purpose.

You are right about the purpose of cataphracts and clibanarii, even if shock attacks to infantry was not their only task. They were also very useful against cavalry. Actually the 1st cataphract ala we know about was in Moesia at the Danube border to most propably counter sarmatian cataphracts. Surprisingly the cataphracts in Syria were established later.

But there are also hints, that they never attacked before the mounted archers did not weaken the infantry in preparation of a possible succesfull shock-attack. Because rolling a dice with the most expensive unit on the battlefield would be plain stupid.

It is also known, that this heavy cavalry was an easy victim of light cavalry in combination with special infantry regiments, if they lost their cavalry support. So cataphracts are a two-edged sword. It is again all about tactics on the battlefied using several unit-types situationally in combination. Every unit on the battlefield could be the hero or the victim and fail dramatically.

PS: @Vindex 638 please, 600 is way too unspecific Wink

@ moderators: Don'hesitate to close this thread. All threads I have read so far about ancient heavy cavalry vs. infantry leaded to nothing.
Ut desint vires, tamen est laudanda voluntas
Quote:If it is later than 600AD, it is also getting to the furthest extent of Roman influenced Military Tactics.

Would you mind to accept 638?
Ut desint vires, tamen est laudanda voluntas
Macedon:

You understood Churchill's account completely wrongly. He does not describe one fight.

He describes at least 3 subsequent fights - 2 charges and 1 dismounted fight.

The first charge was fully victorious. And I quoted the entire fragment which describes it.

The second charge was repulsed - but they met the enemy accidentally (as was already wrote). And the enemy here was 7 times numerically stronger.

After this second charge (or maybe accidental encounter) was repulsed - they retreated, dismounted and defended against pursuing Dervishes - repulsing them.
? What second charge? The one against the "many". The 150 men laying around as skirmishers were a lure to draw the British cavalry to a trap and it worked. The text I provided is the original account of Churchill without the many additions of comments found in the other texts provided. Your text was not from Churchill's book but from someone who made a description of the action based on what Churchill wrote. This is how different interpretations can be from the original texts, thank Gods, this was in English, imagine it was in Sudanese... Confusedmile: Confusedmile:

However, by simply stating that this is the actual text of Churchill and not further discussing it, I have to close up the discussion of modern examples, as Moi asked us to do. We mods have to comply with the rules as everyone else. Until we mods fully resolve the issue of modern discussions/examples, feel free to PM me for any questions/objections you may have on this issue, but do not push it further with paradigms more modern than suggested here.
Macedon
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George C. K.
῾Ηρακλῆος γὰρ ἀνικήτου γένος ἐστέ
Macedon - I am not sure how you managed to add a post when this topic is locked!

May I suggest you and I move our discussion on this to the Staff Area?
Moi Watson

Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, Merlot in one hand, Cigar in the other; body thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and screaming "WOO HOO, what a ride!
a
Macedon
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George C. K.
῾Ηρακλῆος γὰρ ἀνικήτου γένος ἐστέ
Romans did not have muskets.
Napoleon is a much later time period than is appropriate for this forum.
There are already other topics which cover this general argument.
Please, folks, stick to ancient war, or this thread will also be locked.


Thank you in advance.
M. Demetrius Abicio
(David Wills)

Saepe veritas est dura.
Thread locked.

People, this forum is for the discussion of ANCIENT warfare. And while we surely can discuss earlier or later topics in DIRECT relation to the anciet topic under discussion, this should not become a topic of it's own. As I have tried to make clear to all involved, this dicussion derailed and derailed again. Time to end it.

Medieval and later warfare are surely interesting, but there are other forums for that.
Robert Vermaat
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FECTIO Late Romans
THE CAUSE OF WAR MUST BE JUST
(Maurikios-Strategikon, book VIII.2: Maxim 12)
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