Chapter 10: army organization.—Infantry and Cavalry.—Their history, duties, numbers, and organization1
.--Infantry constitutes, in active service, by far the most numerous portion of an army; in time of peace its duties are simple, and, in most countries, of little comparative importance; but in our country the continually recurring difficulties on the Indian
frontiers, render this arm peculiarly necessary and important, even in time of general peace
From the nature of infantry service — no peculiar technical knowledge (we speak of the privates and officers of the lower grades) being so absolutely indispensable as in the other arms — the soldier may in a short time be trained and instructed in his duties.
For this reason the ratio of infantry in a peace establishment is ordinarily much less than in active service, this arm being always capable of great expansion when occasion requires.
In the early periods of society, and in countries where horses abounded, men have usually preferred fighting on horseback; but civilization and a more thorough acquaintance
with war has always increased the importance of infantry.
, and also the Egyptians, employed this arm almost exclusively.
generally employed both infantry and cavalry, but with the Greeks the infantry
was the favorite arm. Even their kings and generals usually fought on foot.
conquered the world mainly with their infantry.
This arm was also considered of the greatest importance by the ancient Germans
; but the migration of the Huns and other Mongolic tribes mounted on small and fleet horses, and the acquaintance formed by the Franks of northern Spain
with the Moors, who were mounted on beautiful horses from Arabia
and the plateau of Asia
, introduced a taste for cavalry in western Europe
This taste was still further cultivated under the feudal system, for the knights preferred fighting on horseback to serving on foot.
During the crusades the infantry fell into disrepute.
But the invention of gunpowder changed the whole system of warfare, and restored to infantry its former importance.
,” says Napoleon
in his Memoirs,
had two infantries; the first, lightly armed, was provided with a missile weapon; the second, heavily armed, bore a short sword.
After the invention of powder two species of infantry were still continued: the arquebusiers, who were lightly armed, and intended to observe and harass the enemy; and the pikemen, who supplied the place of the heavy-armed infantry.
During the hundred and fifty years which have elapsed since Vauban banished lances and pikes from all the infantry of Europe, substituting for them the firelock and bayonet, all the infantry has been lightly armed. ..... There has been since that time, properly speaking, only one kind of infantry: if there was a company of chasseurs in every battalion, it was by way of counter-poise to the company of grenadiers; the battalion being
composed of nine companies, one picked company did not appear sufficient.
If the Emperor Napoleon created companics of voltigeurs armed like dragoons, it was to substitute them for those companies of chasseurs.
He composed them of men under five feet in height, in order to bring into use that class of the conscription which measured from four feet ten inches to five feet; and having been until that time exempt, made the burden of conscription fall more heavily on the other classes.
This arrangement served to reward a great number of old soldiers, who, being under five feet in height, could not enter into the companies of grenadiers, who on account of their bravery, deserved to enter into a picked company: it was a powerful incentive to emulation to bring the giants and pigmies into competition.
Had there been men of different colors in the armies of the emperor, he would have composed companies of blacks and companies of whites: in a country where there were cyclops or hunchbacks, a good use might be made of companies of cyclops, and others of hunchbacks.
In 1789, the French army was composed of regiments of the line and battalions of chasseurs; the chasseurs of the Cevennes, the Vivarais, the Alps, of Corsica, and the Pyrenees, who at the Revolution formed half brigades of light infantry ; but the object was not to have two different sorts of infantry, for they were raised alike, instructed alike, drilled alike; only the battalions of chasseurs were recruited by the men of the mountainous districts, or by the sons of the garde-chasse; whence they were more fit to be employed on the frontiers of the Alps and Pyrenees; and when they were in the armies of the North, they were always detached, in preference, for climbing heights or scouring a forest: when these men were placed in line, in a battle, they served very well as a battalion of the line, because they had received the same instructions, and
were armed and disciplined in the same manner.
Every power occasionally raises, in war-time, irregular corps, under the title of free or legionary battalions, consisting of foreign deserters, or formed of individuals of a particular party or faction; but that does not constitute two sorts of infantry.
There is and can be but one.
If the apes of antiquity must needs imitate the Romans, it is not light-armed troops that they ought to introduce, but heavy-armed soldiers, or battalions armed with swords ; for all the infantry of Europe serve at times as light troops.
nations, for reasons probably similar to those of Napoleon
, keep up this nominal division of infantry of the line
and light infantry
; but both are usually armed and equipped alike, and both receive the same organization and instruction.
The light infantry are usually made up from the class of men, or district of country, which futrnishes the greatest number of riflemen and sharp-shoot-ers.
, the light infantry is best supplied by the hunters of the Ardennes
, the Vosges
, and the Jura districts ; in Austria
, by the Croates and Tyrolese ; in Prussia
, by the “forsters,” or woodsmen ; and in Russia
, by the Cossacks.
Our own western hunters, with proper discipline, make the best tirailleurs in the world.
Light infantry is usually employed to protect the flanks of the main army, to secure outposts, to reconnoitre the ground, secure avenues of approach, deceive the enemy by demonstrations, and secure the repose of the other troops by patrolling parties.
They usually begin a battle, and afterwards take their places in the line, either on the flanks, or in the intervals between the larger bodies.
The battle of Jena
furnishes a good example of the use of French light infantry; and at the battle of Waterloo
, the Prussian tirailleurs were exceedingly effective in clearing the ground for the advance of Blucher
's heavy columns.
The attack of Floh-hug by Augereau
, of Vierzehn Heilegen
by Suchet, of Iserstaedt by Desjardins
, are models well worthy of study.
The infantry of the line acts in masses, and, on the field of battle, constitutes the principal fighting force.
Its formations and the manner of engaging it have already been discussed under the head of tactics.
The importance of infantry is due, in considerable part, to the fact that it can be used everywhere — in mountains or on plains, in woody or open countries, in cities or in fields, on rivers or at sea, in the redoubt or in the attack of the breach; the infantry depends only on itself, where — as the other arms must depend in a considerable degree on. the efficiency of their materials and the will and strength of brute force; and when the snows of Russia
or the deserts of Egypt
deprive their animals of the means of sustenance, they become perfectly useless.
Foot-soldiers, in olden times, were armed with a spear and sometimes with a sword, arrows, lance, and sling.
At present they are armed.
with a gun and bayonet, and sometimes with a sword.
In some European
services a few of the foot-soldiers are armed with a pike.
Some of the light troops used as sharp-shooters carry the rifle, but this weapon is useless for the great body of infantry.
The short-sword is more useful as an instrument for cutting branches, wood, &c., than for actual fighting.
The infantry have no defensive covering, or at least very little.
The helmet or cap serves to protect the head, and the shoulders are somewhat defended by epaulets.
It has often been proposed in modern times to restore the ancient defensive armor of the foot-soldier; but this would be worse than useless against firearms, and moreover would destroy the efficiency of these troops by impeding their movements.
The strength of this arm depends greatly upon its discipline; for if calm and firm, a mass of infantry in column or in square is almost impenetrable.
The bayonet was introduced by Vauban
in the wars of Louis XIV., and after the years 1703 and 1704, the pike was totally suppressed in the French
This measure was warmly opposed by Marshal Montesquieu
, and the question was discussed by him and Marshal Vauban
with an ability and learning worthy of these great men. The arguments of Vauban
were deemed most conclusive, and his project was adopted by the king.
This question has been agitated by military writers in more recent times, Puysegur advocating the musket, and Folard and Lloyd
contending in favor of restoring the pike.
Even in our own service, so late as the war of 1812, a distinguished general of the army strongly urged the use of the pike, and the fifteenth (and perhaps another regiment) was armed and equipped in part as pikemen ;
but experience soon proved the absurdity of the project.
calls the infantry the arm of battles
and the sinews of the army
. But if it be acknowledged, that, next to the talent of the general-in-chief
, the infantry is the first instrument of victory, it must also be confessed that it finds a powerful support in the cavalry, artillery, and engineers, and that without these it would often be compromised, and could gain but a half success.
The French infantry is divided into one hundred regiments of three battalions each, a battalion being composed of seven companies.
There are also several other battalions of chasseurs, zuaves, &c., being organized especially for service in Africa
, and composed in part of native troops.
In our own army we have eight regiments of infantry, each regiment forming a single battalion of ten companies.
The flank companies are intended for light infantry.
In all properly organized armies the infantry constitutes from three-fourths to four-fifths of the entire active force in the field, and from two-thirds to three-fourths, say about
seven-tenths of the entire military establishment.
In time of peace this proportion may be slightly diminished.
.--The use of cavalry is probably nearly as old as war itself.
had cavalry before the time of Moses
, and the Israelites often encountered cavalry in their wars with their neighbors, though they made no use of this arm themselves until the time of Solomon.
borrowed their cavalry from the Asiatics, and especially from the Persians, who, according to Xenophon
, held this arm in great consideration.
After the battle of Platea, it was agreed by assembled Greece
that each power should furnish one horseman to every ten foot-soldiers.
the poorest were selected for this arm, and the cavalry marched to combat without any previous training.
the cavalry service was more popular, and they formed a well-organized corps of twelve hundred horsemen.
also this arm had consideration in the time of Epaminondas
But the cavalry of Thessaly was the most renowned, and both Philip and Alexander
drew their mounted troops from that country.
had made but little progress in this arm when they encountered the Thessalians, who fought in the army of Pyrrhus
They then increased their cavalry, but it was not numerous till after their wars with the Carthaginians.
organized and disciplined the Roman
cavalry like that of the Numidians.
This arm was supplied from the ranks of the richest citizens, and afterwards formed an order intermediary between the Senate and the people, under the name of knights
At a later period, the cavalry of the Gauls was particularly good.
were without cavalry when they made their first irruption into Gaul
Under the reign of Childeric I. we see for the first time the “cavaliers francs” figure as a part of the national forces.
At the battle of Tours
the cavalry and infantry were in the proportion of
one to five, and under Pepin and Charlemagne their numbers were nearly equal.
Under Charles the Bald armies were composed entirely of cavalry, and during the middle ages the knights disdained the foot service, and fought only on horseback.
After the introduction of artillery, cavalry was still employed, though to little advantage.
was the first to perceive the real importance of this arm in modern warfare, and he used it with great success.
But it was left for Seidlitz to perfect it under the direction of Frederick
very justly remarked, that cavalry is the “arme du moment,” for in almost every battle there are moments when a decisive charge of cavalry will gain the victory, but if not made at the instant it may be too late.
The efficiency of cavalry depends upon the moral impression which it makes on the enemy, and is greater in proportion to the size of the mass, and the rapidity of its motion.
This last quality enables a commander to avail himself immediately of a decisive moment, when the enemy exposes a weak point, or when disorder appears in his ranks.
But this requires a bold and active spirit, which shrinks not from responsibility, and is able to avail itself with quickness and decision of every opportunity.
If it be remembered that it is essential that this coup d'oeil
, so rare and so difficult to acquire, be accompanied by a courage and vigor of execution which nothing can shake, we shall not be astonished that history furnishes so few good cavalry generals, and that this arm so seldom does such execution as it did under Frederick and Napoleon
, with Seidlitz and Murat
The soldier gains great velocity
by the use of the horse in war; but in other respects he is the loser.
The great expense and care required of the cavalier to support his horse ; the difficulty experienced in surmounting ordinary
obstacles, and in using his fire-arms to advantage, are all prejudicial to success.
The unequal size of the horse, and the great diversity in his strength and breed, have rendered it necessary to divide this arm into light
cavalry, and a mixed class called dragoons
. The heavy cavalry is commonly used in masses where force
is mainly requisite; the lighter troops are used singly and in small detachments, where rapidity of movement is most desired.
The heavy cavalry are divided into carabiniers, cuirassiers, and sometimes lancers.
The two latter are frequently united, the cuirassiers being armed with the lance.
These troops are seldom used for scouts, vanguards, and convoys; but are frequently employed to sustain the light cavalry.
Their main duty is “to appear on the field of battle and make the decisive charges
cavalry is composed of chasseurs, or troopers, hussars, and lancers.
The latter, when composed of large men and mounted on heavy horses, are attached to the heavy cavalry.
were formerly a mixed body of horse and foot, but it being found impossible to unite these two distinct arms in one, and the attempt having destroyed the usefulness of the body to act in either capacity, the term was applied to a mixed kind of cavalry between the heavy and the light horse.
In more recent wars they have also been instructed as infantry and employed as foot-soldiers, till horses could be found in the enemy's country with which to mount them.
But we believe there is no instance in more modern wars in which they have been employed at the same time in both capacities.
This term is, very improperly, applied.
to all our cavalry; and some of the congressional wiseacres have recently experimented on one of our so-called regiments of dragoons
, by dismounting it one year, selling its horses at
auction, and changing its arms and equipments, and again.
the next year, purchasing new horses, arms, and equipments for remounting it; and all this for economy
The Roman cavalry at first wore a round shield and helmet, the rest of their body being nearly uncovered.
Their arms were a sword and long thin javelin, or lance, with an iron head.
They afterwards reduced the shield to a much smaller size, and made square, and their lance was greatly increased in size and length, and armed at both ends.
In other respects they were armed in the same way as infantry.
The use of the lance and the shield at the same time, of course rendered both nearly worthless.
The Roman cavalry was superior to that of their enemies, except, perhaps, the light cavalry of the Parthians.
The heavy armor which was sometimes worn by the ancients, like the gens d'armes of the middle ages, rendered them greatly inferior to infantry in a close engagement.
, king of Armenia
, brought an army of one hundred and fifty thousand horse into the field, against the Roman general Lucullus
, who had only about six thousand horse and fifteen thousand foot.
But the Armenian cavalry, called cataphratti,
were so overburdened with armor that when they fell from their horses they could scarcely move or make any use of their arms.
They were rooted by a mere handful of Roman infantry.
The modern cavalry is much lighter, and, by dispensing with armor, shields, &c., it can move with much greater rapidity.
A modern cavalry horse carries a weight of from two hundred and fifty to three hundred pounds, viz.:
| ||Heavy cavalry. ||Light cavalry. || |
|The rider, ||160 ||140 ||lbs.|
|His arms and equipments, ||55 ||40 || |
|His horse equipments, ||60 ||45 || |
|Two days rations of provisions and grain, ||25 ||25 || |
| || || || |
| ||300 ||250 || |
The horse moves per minute--
|At a walk, ||from 110 ||yards to 120|
|At a tort, ||220 ||240|
|At a gallop, ||330 ||360|
But on a march over the ordinary average of good and bad roads, cavalry will walk about one hundred yards per minute, and at an easy trot, two hundred.
An ordinary day's march for cavalry is about thirty miles, but on a forced march this arm can march fifty miles within the twenty-four hours. A single horseman, or a small detachment, can easily exceed this distance.
“Light cavalry,” says Napoleon
, in his Memoirs,
ought to reconnoitre and watch the motions of the enemy, considerably in advance of the army; it is not an appendage to the infantry: it should be sustained and protected especially by the cavalry of the line.
Rivalry and emulation have always existed between the infantry and cavalry: light cavalry is indispensable to the vanguard, the rear-guard, and the wings of the army; it, therefore, cannot properly be attached to, and forced to follow the movements of any particular corps of infantry.
It would be more natural to attach it to the cavalry of the line, than to leave it in dependence upon the infantry, with which it has no connection; but it should be independent of both.
If the light cavalry is to form vanguards, it must be organized into squadrons, brigades, and divisions, for the purpose of manoeuvring; for that is all vanguards and rear-guards do: they pursue or retreat by platoons, form themselves into several lines, or wheel into column, or change their position with rapidity for the purpose of outfronting a whole wing.
By a combination of such evolutions, a vanguard, of inferior numbers, avoids brisk actions and general engagements, and yet delays the enemy long enough to give time for the main army to come up, for the
infantry to deploy, for the general-in-chief to make his dispositions, and for the baggage and parks to file into their stations.
The art of a general of the vanguard, or of the rear-guard, is, without hazarding a defeat, to hold the enemy in check, to impede him, to compel him to spend three or four hours in moving a single league: tactics point out the methods of effecting these important objects, and are more necessary for cavalry than for infantry, and in the vanguard, or the rear-guard, than in any other position.
The Hungarian Insurgents, whom we saw in 1797, 1805, and 1809, were pitiful troops.
If the light troops of Maria Theresa's times became formidable, it was by their excellent organization, and, above every thing, by their numbers.
To imagine that such troops could be superior to Wurmser's hussars, or to the dragoons of Latour, or to the Archduke John, would be entertaining strange ideas of things ; but neither the Hungarian Insurgents, nor the Cossacks, ever formed the vanguards of the Austrian and Russian armies; because to speak of a vanguard or a rear-guard, is to speak of troops which manoeuvre.
The Russians considered a regiment of Cossacks who had been trained worth three regiments untrained.
Every thing about these troops is despicable, except the Cossack himself, who is a man of fine person, powerful, adroit, subtle, a good horseman, and indefatigable; he is born on horseback, and bred among civil wars; he is in the field, what the Bedouin is in the desert, or the Barbet in the Alps; he never enters a house, never lies in a bed; and he always changes his bivouac at sunset, that he may not pass a night in a place where the enemy may possibly have observed him.
Two Mamelukes kept three Frenchmen at bay, because they were better armed, better mounted, and better exercised; they had two pairs of pistols, a tromblon, a carbine, a helmet with a visor, a coat of mail, several horses, and
several men on foot to attend them.
But a hundred French did. not fear a hundred Mamelukes; three hundred were more than a match for an equal number; and one thousand would beat fifteen hundred: so powerful is the influence of tactics, order, and evolutions!
Murat, Leclerc, and Lasalle, cavalry generals, presented themselves to the Mamelukes in several lines: when the latter were upon the point of outfronting the first line, the second came to its assistance on the right and left; the Mamelukes then stopped, and wheeled, to turn the wings of this new line: this was the moment seized for charging them; they were always broken.
The duty of a vanguard, or a rear-guard, does not consist in advancing or retiring, but in manoeuvring.
It should be composed of a good light cavalry, supported by a good reserve of cavalry of the line, by excellent battalions of foot, and strong batteries of artillery: the troops must be well trained; and the generals, officers, and soldiers, should all be equally well acquainted with their tactics, each according to his station.
An undisciplined troop would only embarrass the advanced guard.
It is admitted that for facility in manoeuvring, the squadron should consist of one hundred men, and that every three or four squadrons should have a superior officer.
It is not advisable for all the cavalry of the line to wear cuirasses: dragoons, mounted upon horses of four feet nine inches in height, armed with straight sabres, and without cuirasses, should form a part of the heavy cavalry; they should be furnished with infantry-muskets, with bayonets: should have the shakot of the infantry, pantaloons covering the half-boot-buskin, cloaks with sleeves, and portmanteaus small enough to be carried slung across the back when the men are on foot.
Cavalry of all descriptions should be furnished with fire-arms, and should know how to manoeuvre on foot.
Three thousand light
cavalry, or three thousand cuirassiers, should not suffer themselves to be stopped by a thousand infantry posted in a wood, or on ground impracticable to cavalry; and three thousand dragoons ought not to hesitate to attack two thousand infantry, should the latter, favored by their position, attempt to stop them.
Turenne, Prince Eugene of Savoy, and Vendome, attached great importance to dragoons, and used them successfully.
The dragoons gained great glory in Italy, in 1796 and 1797.
In Egypt and in Spain, during the campaigns of 1806 and 1807, a degree of prejudice sprung up against them.
The divisions of dragoons had been mustered at Compiegne and Amiens, to be embarked without horses for the expedition of England, in order to serve on foot until they should be mounted in that country.
General Baraguay d'hilliers, their first inspector, commanded them; he had them equipped with gaiters, and incorporated with them a considerable number of recruits, whom he exercised in infantry manoeuvres alone.
These were no longer cavalry regiments: they served in the campaign of 1806 on foot, until after the battle of Jena, when they were mounted on horses taken from the Prussian cavalry, three-fourths of which were unserviceable.
These combined circumstances injured the dragoons; but in 1813 and 1814 their divisions acquired honor in rivalling the cuirassiers.
Dragoons are necessary for the support of light cavalry in the vanguard, the rear-guard, and the wings of an army; cuirassiers are little adapted for van and rear-guards: they should never be employed in this service but when it is requisite to keep them in practice and accustom them to war.
further recommends that light cavalry be divided into two kinds, chasseurs or troopers, and light horse; and the heavy to be composed of dragoons and cuirassiers ; the troopers to be mounted on horses of 4 ft.
6 in.; light cavalry on horses of 4 ft.
7 or 8 in.; dragoons on horses of 4 ft.
9 in.; and cuirassiers on horses of 4 ft.
10 or 11 in.; which employ horses of all kinds for mounting the troops.
All cavalry must receive the same instruction ; and all should be capable, in case of need, of performing any of the duties of mounted troops.
The shock is the principal effect produced by this arm; therefore, the greater the velocity the greater must be this effect, provided the troops can be kept in mass.
But it is found, by experience, that it is impossible to preserve them in line when put to the height of their speed.
The best authorities therefore prefer, as we have said elsewhere, the charge at the trot, or at any rate the gallop should not be taken up till within a very short distance of the enemy.
The charge of a compact mass at a trot is much greater than that of a wavering one at a gallop.
On the field of battle the cavalry of the line is considered as the arm of the shock, to break through any corps that may be in opposition; but it is unable of itself to resist a shock, and therefore should on no account wait to receive the charge of another body of mounted troops.
It was on this account that Frederick directed his cavalry officers, under the severest penalties, never to receive a charge, but always to meet the attacking force half way. This is the only mode of preventing defeat.
A good infantry can always sustain itself against the charges of cavalry.
At the battle of Auerstedt, in 1806, Davoust
ordered the divisions of Gudin to form squares to resist the Prussian cavalry, which, by means of a fog, had gained a most advantageous position.
led his cavalry in repeated and impetuous charges, but all was in vain; the French infantry presented a front of iron.
At the combat of Krasnoi
, in 1812, the cavalry of Grouchy
, Nansonty, and Bordesoult, attacked and overthrew the
dragoons of Clarkof, but the Russian
infantry under Neveroffskoi sustained itself against the repeated charges of vastly superior numbers of these French horse.
At the battle of Molwitz, the grenadiers sustained the charges of the enermys cavalry, although the cavalry of the great Frederick
had already been completely overthrown.
the infantry is engaged with the infantry of the enemy, the charges of cavalry are generally successful, and sometimes decide the fate of the battle, as was the case at Rosbach, Zornsdorf, Wurtsburg, Marengo
, Bordinot , &c.
Cavalry may also be very effcacious against infantry in wet weather, when the rain or snow renders it impossible for the foot soldiers to use their fire-arms to advantage, as was the case with the corps of Augereau
, at Eylau
, and with the Austrian left, at the battle of Dresden
Again, if the infantry be previously weakened, or thrown into disorder by the fire of batteries.
The charge of the Russian
cavalry at Hohenfriederg, in 1745, is a remarkable example of this kind.
Cavalry should always be immediately sustained in its efforts either by infantry or other bodies of horse; for as soon as the charge is made, the strength of this arm is for a time exhausted, and, if immediately attacked, defeat becomes inevitable.
The charge of the cavalry of Ney
on Prince Hohenlohe at the battle of Jena
, and of the French
horse on Gossa at Leipsic
, are fine examples of the successful charges of cavalry when properly sustained.. Kunnersdorf and Waterloo
are examples of the disastrous consequences of leaving such charges without support.
The choice of the field of battle is sometimes such as to render cavalry almost useless.
Such was the case at the battle of Cassano
, between the Duke
and the Prince Eugene.
The field was so cut up by the
Adda and the canals of Rittorto and Pendina, that Prince Eugene
could make no use of his horse.
If, when master of the bridge of Rittorto, he had been able to charge the French
with a body of cavalry, there had been no doubt of his complete success.
After a battle, and in the pursuit of a flying enemy, cavalry is invaluable.
had possessed a suitable number of mounted troops, with an able commander, at the battles of Lutzen
, the results of these victories had been decisive; whereas they were really without consequence.
On the other hand, the Prussian army in 1806, after the battle of Jena
, and Napoleon
's army in 1815 at Waterloo
, were completely cut to pieces by the skilful use of cavalry in the pursuit of a defeated and dispirited foe.
The want of good cavalry was severely felt in the war of the American Revolution
possessed a few good squadrons of horse, his surprise and defeat in the lines of Brooklyn
, and the consequent loss of New York, had never taken place.
The efficient employment of a few good squadrons of cavalry might readily have prevented the defeat at Bladensburg
, and the loss of the capitol
, in 1814.
In a well-organized army, the cavalry should be from one-fourth to one-sixth of the infantry, according to the nature of the war.2