Cavalry: Standard Model

Cavalry combat will be difficult to model. I would like to begin this section with some quotations for several books that give a flavor for cavalry combat and provide a few useful details.

Connolly: Greece and Rome at War

  • (P 224): "In the second half of the 2nd century BC the Romans made the momentous decision to abolish the legionary cavalry and employ foreign horsemen, raised in the areas of operation and led by their own chief or Roman commanders." "Under the republic command had been exercised by native princes, but under the empire commanders were soon drawn exclusively from Roman equestrian prefects."
  • (P236): During the late republic most cavalry were Celtic and used a spatha, 60 to 70 cm in length, and a flat oval shield.
  • (P239): "The auxiliary infantry varied from light-armed troops such as the slingers shown on Trajan's column, who wore no armour at all and, if the artist is to be believed, no shoes either, to fully armed troops whose armour was identical to that of the legionaries but of inferior quality: the only difference was the use of the flat shield rather than the scutum."

Ann Hyland: Training the Roman Cavalry

Quoting passages from Arrian's Ars Tactica as per the Teubner Text of A. G. Roos:
  • (P 70): [Arrian 4.1] Unarmoured cavalry was "comprised of one hand spear-bearers, pike-bearers and lancers, other skirmishers (mounted-bowmen or javelin-throwers). The spear-bearers are those who approach the enemy ranks and fight them off with spears or charge and drive them back with pikes like the Alans and Sarmatians, the skirmishers are those who discharge weapons from a distance, like the Armenians and those of the Parthians who do not carry pikes. ...The name of skirmishers is given to those who do not come to close quarters but discharge their weapons from a distance; and of these some use throwing-spears and others bows. ... But others first discharge their weapons and then join battle with the enemy, either retaining one of their spears or using a sword (spatha)."
  • (P 71) [16.8] "It is hard to wheel about with square formations -- [which] are well arranged in as much as those so drawn up are in ranks and files and it is organized for easy charging and withdrawing; and only with this formation do the officers fall in a single body upon the enemy. The best are those that have the double measurement in the length rather than the breadth; for example, if there are ten men drawn up along the front and five deep. For such formations are oblong as regards number, but square in actual shape. For the length of the horse from head to tail fills out the square since the length of the horse is three times a man's width at the shoulders and as when they draw up nine in line along the front, they make the formation three deep. For this too should be borne in mind, that the cavalry drawn up in depth do not afford the same assistance as to infantry in depth, for they do not push on those in front of them, since one horse cannot push against another in the way that infantry push on with their shoulders and flanks, nor when they are contiguous with those drawn up in front do they constitute a single massed weight for the whole body of troops; on the contrary, if they mass and press against each other, they rather cause the horses to panic." [17.1] "An oblong formation in which ... the front is greater than the depth ... is better in contests. ... A single line along the front with no depth is convenient for unsuspected raids ... but for contests it is very disadvantageous." [33.1] Arrian makes it clear that the tactics described are derived from the Celts. His Ars Tactica describes elaborate practice maneuvers. Horsemen gallop in circular patterns throwing their javelins at targets. In the practice formations the turma appears to string itself out as individuals following one behind the other through the loops of the pattern.
  • (P 80): The spatha blade was 34 inches. Josephus mentions three or more light javelins being carried in a quiver.
  • (P 115): "At one gallop stride a 16 hand horse can cover at least 16 feet."
  • (P117): Hyland cites the Strategikon on the size of horses: "Maurice explains a ploy for confusing the enemy as to the size of the army. The cavalry were to be lined up extremely close together so that the whole unit looked much smaller than it really was. This left no room to manoeuvre. Each horse was allotted a space 3 ft wide by 8 ft long. I have measured this out with a horse. Katchina at 14.3 hands hits easily into this space lengthwise, and when he is in fit condition into the width also. Nizzolan, of oriental blood being pure Arabian, and a much leaner type but slightly taller than Katchina at 15 hands fits, with a little room to spare. There is just sufficient room widthwise for the troopers knees, though in Maurice's army they would have been riding stirrup to stirrup. ... A height range of 14.2 to 15.1 hands would be the expected average for chargers of the 6th century."
  • (P173): "The speed of a foot javelineer prior to the throw was very important. The speed of the horse definitely lent power to the cast. As it leaves the hand the speed of a modern man's javelin weighing 800 grams is between 27 and 30 meters a second. A speed of 33 meters per second is exceptional. Loss of force occurs in flight. As it reaches its highest point, before starting on its downward flight, it is traveling at approximately 9.81 meters per second."

Karen R. Dixon and Pat Southern: The Roman Cavalry

(P23 ff): They conclude that the turma can be taken as averaging 32 men including the officers. The officers of the turma are the decurio, vexillarius, imagnifer, signifer, cornicularius(they describe his as a secretary), duplicarius second in command) and sesquiplicarius (third in command). They do not mention a specific date for this organization but do indicate that it would have been after Claudius at least. {P 48 ff): They describe armaments. the spatha was between 65 cm(26 in) and 90 cm (36 in) in length and 4 cm (1.5 in) to 8 cm (3 in) in width. The contus, a heavy lance was 3.5 m (12 feet) long, held two handed without a shield. The lance was 1.8m (6 ft) long and could be used either as a shock weapon or could be thrown. The javelin -- "it is believed that these javelins had an effective throwing range of approximately 25m (82 ft)" "The bows used on horseback were probably both shorter and lighter than those used on foot ..Thus horse-archers shot lighter arrows, which had a shorter effective range than those shot by the infantry." (P 77): Concerning horse-archers: "During the first three centuries AD there is no evidence to suggest that shields were used." "Light-armoured cavalry could be equipped either with a lance and sword, or with a lance, sword and javelins. Although these men did wear body armour, it did not cover as much of the body as that worn by the heavy-armoured cavalry, nor were the horses protected to the same extent. This gave the light cavalry greater mobility and versatility in battle, and a better chance of escape if pursued." (P 142): "Light-armoured cavalry ... were considered to be the most versatile and the most useful of all the styles of mounted troops. They were usually positioned on the flanks of an army, from where they could try to harass , and hopefully, encircle the enemy's wings. ...This type of cavalry was particularly well suited to skirmishing, making constant sallies against the enemy in order to exhaust the infantry and force them to be continually on their guard. Unlike the heavy-armoured cavalry, whose role it was to charge an army directly, the light-armoured mounted troops were specifically equipped to wear down an enemy through persistence." (P144): "Cavalry is only an effective arm when it is offensively employed, since once it is forced to become defensive, and is confined in a restricted area, it loses its main advantages of mobility and speed. ... Advice on how to execute a charge is given by Nolan (1853, 279, 281-2): The charge must be decided promptly, and executed vigorously; always met and carried out at speed ... No distance can be laid down at which to charge, it depends on so many different circumstances. When the ground is favorable and your horses in good condition, you can strike into a gallop sooner; but the burst, the charge itself, must always be reserved till within 50 yards, for in that distance no horse, however bad, can be left behind, nor is there time to scatter, and they fall upon the enemy with the greatest effect." (P14): Most writers on military matters agree that well disciplined, determined infantry, could rarely be defeated by this maneuver (charging) ... One of the main reasons for this is that horses, whenever possible, will avoid a direct collision with an obstacle, and thus when they are confronted by a wall of unyielding spearpoints they will instinctively try to wheel away from them. Only if the infantry has lost its nerve, and the courage needed to hold fast has gone, will the charge be able to break the line and scatter the men in disarray. Arrian gives advice on how to repel a cavalry charge: 'If, however, he does persist, and charge home on our heavy infantry centre, then the second and third ranks of the legions will close up on the front, until they are actually touching, so as physically to support them under the shock of impact; thus the attacking horsemen will be confronted with an unbroken and immovable hedge of spearpoints at the level of a horse's chest. Spearmen in the fourth rank will thrust at them, and those of the fifth and flowing will throw their spears overhand. By this means we cannot fail to repulse the enemy and force him to retire in disorder with heavy loses.' " (P 146): "When the cavalry engaged in close-quarter fighting with infantry, their height advantage would become a very effective means of slashing at the heads and backs of their opponents, although, of course, they themselves would be vulnerable to leg wounds. If, however, they were engaged with enemy cavalry, the wounds incurred would be of a different nature, and the battle itself must have been absolute mayhem, with horses rearing and throwing their riders on to the ground, where they would stand little chance of escaping the hooves of the other mounts. The report of a cavalry officer who fought at the Battle of Balaclava, although comparative, paints a graphic picture of the sheer horror and confusion that was presumably present at all such fights: 'I can't say I saw the man who hit me, we were all in a crowd cutting and hacking at each other, and I did not know till some time after that I was touched when my wrist got stiff, then I found the cut through my coat, it was only bruised for a few days ... The wounds our long swords made were terrible, heads nearly cut off apparently at a stroke, and a great number must have died who got away. Our corporal who was killed was nearly cut to pieces, his left arm nearly severed in four places ... All of the Russians seem to cut at the let wrist, so many men lost fingers and got their hands cut.' "

Adrian Goldsworthy: The Roman Army at War

(P176): "There had to be intervals between units if these were to maintain their integrity and so be able to maneuver following the order of their officers. The intervals between separate cohorts and alae must have therefore been quite large. Smaller gaps must have been kept between the centuries or turmae to allow it to change formation, front or direction. Therefore a line of cohorts was not actually a solid continuous line of men. Even the lines of the individual cohorts comprising it has small intervals between their centuries." (P 182): "Cavalry formations are even more obscure than those of the infantry. The Strategikon claimed that the 'ancients', which may well mean the Roman army of some period, formed their cavalry four deep. Josephus recorded a line of horsemen, three ranks deep, deployed behind an infantry formation. In his Tactica Arrian … recommend generally that these [formations] should be considerably wider than they were deep, but does not go into any greater detail … An individual horseman must have occupied a space at least a metre wide, even if deployed in a line knee to knee, and perhaps had a depth of 4m (12 foot)." (P 235 ff): "Ancient authors depicted cavalry fights as very fluid affairs, with each side alternately advancing and retreating many times before any decision resulted. Only in part was this fluidity due to some cavalry being primarily skirmishers, who fought from a distance and fled if the enemy threatened to come close. The way in which shock cavalry operated ensured that a successful attack could very quickly have been followed by an enforced retreat. "As soon as the cavalry began to gallop, the ranks of a formation tended to loosen, and the men to spread out, because of the differences in speed and strength of individual horses. This can be observed by watching any of the 'cavalry charges' staged in Hollywood epics. …Therefore it has been standard practice for cavalry throughout history to advance at a walk or trot and only accelerate into a charge when closer to the enemy so that the formation didn't break up. .. A nineteenth-century British manual suggested that the gallop should begin 50 yards [46 m] away from the enemy if infantry, and 150 yards [137 m] from a cavalry unit advancing in the charger's direction. The same manual discussed what actually happened when two lines of horsemen charged at each other: ' 'Cavalry seldom meet each other in a charge executed at speed; the one party generally turns before joining issue with the enemy, and this often happens when their line is still unbroken and no obstacles of any sort intervene. 'The fact is, every cavalry soldier approaching another at speed must feel that if they come in contact at that pace, they both go down and probably break every bone of their body … there is a natural repugnance to engage in deadly strife. How seldom have infantry crossed bayonets! Some authors say never! … Lines advancing to meet each other have shown hesitation at the same moment. 'In the retreat of our army … both lines pulled up close to each other and stood fast, till one Frenchman mad a cut at the man opposite him, upon which both sides instantly plunged forward and engaged.' " (P237): "There is no evidence to suggest that cavalry in our period (Roman) were uniquely able to force their horses to collide with the enemy. Certainly it seems to have been common for even supposedly good-quality and fresh cavalry to turn and fell before the enemy charge had reached them. … If neither side was so intimidated by the other as to give way, then the two sides might pull up near each other and then fight hand-to-had as described above. … Fighting between cavalry could then have been very brief, but not decisive, or longer, and involved the two sides becoming intermingled. The design of the Roman cavalry helmet may suggest the nature of these fights. Cavalry helmets differ from infantry in two main feature. The first is that the neckguard is very deep, reaching down to close to the shoulders, but not wide, since this would have made the rider likely to break his neck if he fell from his mount. The second difference was that the ears of a cavalryman were invariable covered by his helmet … The cavalry helmet therefore protected equally well against blows to the side and the back of the head. If the Roman horseman expected to be attacked form the side and rear as well as the front, then this suggests that it was common for the two sides in a melee to become intermingled." (P239): "Even the victorious cavalry had their formation disrupted by becoming interspersed with the enemy during the fighting. Once they began to pursue, the victors became even more scattered, and they and their horses tired. It took time for the unit's officers to restore some semblance of order and re-form the unit's ranks, even if it were highly disciplined. The victors of a cavalry encounter were therefore often highly vulnerable to attack by a fresh enemy unit. … It was therefore useful for a side to have kept some of its cavalry units in reserve. If the front line was defeated, then these could charge the pursuers and probably defeat them." (P 242) The Numidian cavalry were very closely supported by light infantry, a common Numidian tactic." (P 243) "Caesar claimed that the German light infantry moved clutching the manes of the horses, being swift enough to keep pace with them. Does this imply that the light infantry also charged and fought interspersed within a cavalry unit's formation? It is difficult to believe that men could have kept up with galloping horses. If, as was commonly the case, one of the two sides in a cavalry charge fled before contact, then the infantry would not have served any useful purpose, being too slow to pursue. . . A cavalry unit with foot soldiers interspersed between its files would itself have had great difficulty maneuvering properly, or in adopting any of the skirmishing formations of the type described by Arrian. It seems more likely that these mixtures of cavalry and infantry were in fact lines in which whole units of infantry were placed alternately to whole units of cavalry. The infantry must have been formed in fairly dense formations, since otherwise they were exceptionally vulnerable to enemy cavalry. … When friendly cavalry fled from an enemy charge, a dense knot of infantry could have provided shelter form pursuit. The pursuers were in a fairly loose formation, and vulnerable to a volley of arrows, pila, or javelins from the infantry, whilst probably not in good enough order to charge and break these. Cavalry combats were whirling affairs, with each side chasing and being chased by the other, backwards and forwards for quite long periods of time. Infantry block could lend stability in such a combat, being hard to defeat and static, able, unlike cavalry, to actually hold ground. Their fire support, particularly if archers, was very valuable. Only once the enemy had driven off the friendly horse, were his cavalry able to concentrate on the infantry… a legionary force, well protected by armour and shields, could have held out for a long time. Poorly protected javelin-men and unshielded archers might quickly have …broken."

John Keegan: The Face of Battle

(P 94-5): Describing the French mounted charge against the English archers at Agincourt: "For 'the moment of impact' otherwise begs an important, indeed a vital, question. It is not difficult to picture the beginning of the charge; the horsemen booting their mounts to form line, probably two or three rows deep, so that, riding keen to knee, they would have presented a front of two or three hundred lances, more or less equaling in width the line of the archers opposite, say 300 yards. … and we can see them in motion, riding at a pace which took them across all but the last fifty of the two or three hundred yards they had to cover in forty seconds [at a gallop of 13 mph it takes about or so and then spurring their horse to ride down on the archers at the best speed they could manage - twelve or fifteen miles an hour… So far so good. … but the mass drive on and … and what? … A horse, in the normal course of events, will not gallop at an obstacle it cannot jump or see a way through, and it cannot jump or see a way through a solid line of men. Even less will it go at the sort of obviously dangerous obstacles which the archers' stakes presented. Equally, a man will not stand in the path of a running horse: he will run himself, or seek shelter, and only if exceptionally strong-nerved and knowing in its ways, stand his ground." (P 96): "The 'shock' which cavalry seek to inflict is really moral, not physical in character." (P 148 ff): Describing Waterloo: "This meant that the 120 men of the squadron were formed in two ranks, one close behind the other, but that the succeeding squadron rode, if possible, 100 yards behind. In theory the squadron could be manoeuvred at a gallop, say over twenty miles an hour, but it would very shortly lose cohesion if it was, as stronger horses outstripped weaker; and in any case, distances and gradients on the Waterloo field make it seem unlikely that high speeds were achieved with any frequency. The 'classic' encounter of the 2nd Life Guards and the French Cuirassiers, described by Waymouth, was as near as anything seen during the battle to a straightforward collision, and that the two bodies met head-on and in motion. But the French had come a long way , over 1,500 yards and the last stretch uphill; while the British, though having a shorter distance to cover, had had to negotiate a succession of obstacles … before they could get to the French. Acceleration into a 'swinging gallop' by either side appears, under the circumstances, to have been an unlikely conclusion to their advance. Indeed, Waymouth reveals that the 'shock' took the form of a 'short struggle' with swords, and that it was success in the sword fight which allowed the British to penetrate the French line. In other words, the two lines must have been almost stopped dead when they met, and British able to penetrate the French line because they found or created gaps in it. … Indeed, unless cavalry action resolved itself into a complex of single combats, it was pretty harmless to the participants. Mercer recalls watching two lines of French and British light cavalry skirmishing with each other … 'The foremost of each line were within a few yards of each other - constantly in motion, riding backwards and forwards, firing their carbines or pistols, and then reloading, still on the move….I did not see a man fall on either side; the thing appeared quite ridiculous; and but for hearing the bullets whizzing overhead, one might has fancied it no more than a sham fight.' " (P 150) Quoting an eyewitness to a cavalry charge that did not come to a halt for individual combat: "' There was no check, no hesitation, on either side; both parties seemed to dash on in a most reckless manner, and we fully expected to have seen a horrid crash - no such thing! Each, as if by mutual consent, opened their files on coming near, and passed rapidly through each other, cutting and pointing, much in the same manner as one might pass the fingers of the right hand through those of the left. We saw but few fall. The two corps re-formed afterwards, and in a twinkling both disappeared, I know not how or where.'"

John Warry: Warfare in the Classical World

(P143): Describes the Celtic cavalryman of the first century BC: "The Celts, supreme iron workers of their day, pioneered iron helmets and probably invented chain-mail around 300 BC. ... Celtic cavalry used a type of horned saddle which the Romans adopted ... his weapons are the long Celtic sword and an 8 ft (22.4M) spear with characteristic large Celtic head and concave edges described by Diodorus."

Putting it all together

Creating a coherent model from these bits and pieces is not a clean, easy or straightforward process. There is simply not enough information to put together anything that could be considered definitive. The best outcome would be something that is interesting, helpful and not so far off the mark that it actually misleads. To narrow the field a bit, the cavalry to be modeled will be the auxiliary cavalry used in the latter years of the republic: Celtic. German cavalry, also used widely, will not be considered essentially different from Celtic cavalry. Though there certainly were differences, not enough information is available to distinguish between them at this time. The cavalry units will be presumed to function within their native tribal organizational units, not the formalized turmae and alae of the empire. To provide minimal organization a leader (officer) will be assigned to sub units of around 50 men (the turma was 32) and a vexillarius and aeneator with a lituus will be assigned to each tribal unit. The Celtic cavalry will be shown armed with a shield, sword and spear. None of the references I have found indicate that the Celts had more than one spear it. The mention of multiple light javelins or darts from Josephus appears to describe cavalry of eastern rather than western origins. Armed with a single spear only, just like the hoplite, the Celtic horseman has to be regarded as using it for thrusting rather than throwing. The sword would be a secondary weapon. A horse and rider will be considered to occupy a minimum space of 3 feet by 8 feet (Hyland), but actual battle formations will be somewhat looser. The battle formation will be a rectangle rather than other formations such as the wedge. The formation will be shown as three or four ranks deep. Unit size will not be standard, but will be considered to consist of small bands of men recruited from various sources. As a model for this the unit sizes given for Pompey's army at Pharsalus will be used by way of examples. Those unit sizes were 600, 500, 500, 200, 500, 800, 300, and 200; that is an average size of 450. The size of the cavalry assigned to an army will be based on the 7,000 that Pompey was said to have had at Pharsalus and the 10,000 that Caesar had before leaving Italy, he may have brought only 3,00 or so with him to Greece (Delbruck). Those armies fielded around 80 to 110 cohorts (Delbruck: Pompey probably had only 88 cohorts), 8-11 legions. 700 cavalry per legion will be used as a reasonable number for the generic army model. Light infantry will be shown in support of the legions. Although Caesar mentions the German footman holding onto the mane of the horse and running along side it, the model will follow Goldsworthy's notion that auxiliary troops would be best used in blocks, not as individuals scattered among the horses. The auxiliaries modeled will be limited to archers, slingers and some light infantry armed with javelins. The number is simply a guess. Pompey was supposed to have had 3,000 archers and 1,200 slingers to support his 110 (or 88) cohorts. The model will put the number of auxiliaries at 1/2 the number of cavalry and divide them 50% archers, 25% slingers and 25% light infantry. In the introduction dispatch rider speeds were given as: ordinary - 5 mph; rapid - 7 to 8 mph; urgent - 10 - 12 mph. Somewhat better data is shown in the chart below. The top part was adapted from a graph of N. R. Deuel's. It shows not only the average velocity for each of the four gaits of the horse but also the range. This will help in describing the movements of a group of horses that do not all run at the same speed. There is a significant difference between Deuel's data and what various authors predict for cavalry or dispatch speeds. The actual speed a cavalry mount would reach would depend on the quality of the horse, its condition on a given day, the terrain, the weight carried, and likely also on factors relating to stress on the animal form the battlefield environment. The bottom section shows a set of velocities for cavalry mounts based on a 25% reduction from the data for Quarter Horses. This data seems more in line with what the other authors have used. The 10-12 MPH urgent speed for a dispatch rider, for example, might represent a canter rather than an all out gallop which the horse could not sustain for a long period of time. The speed of the walk was not adjusted. When the cavalry moved at a walk it's speed would be determined by the group and the desire to maintain the unit's formation rather than the natural pace of each individual horse. Taking information from various later sources cited above, the cavalry will deploy at a walk, initially advance at a trot or a canter, accelerate to an easy gallop at no more than 150 yards from enemy cavalry and to the fastest gallop possible at no more than 50 yards. Some cavalry will ride right through enemy formations, others will sheer off and retreat, and some will stop and fight hand-to-hand at almost a standstill. Cavalry will hold some of its force as a reserve. The goal will be to show cavalry actions as fluid affairs.

A basic formation

This illustration on the left shows the Celtic cavalryman with his spear and the minimum 3x8 foot space he would occupy. The other illustration shows a small unit of 30 such men in a reasonable muster configuration: each file is given 4' of width and 12 feet of depth. The unit occupies a space 50 feet wide by 35 feet deep. A formation of 300, a representative "tribal" unit, would occupy a front 635 feet across. There are fifteen feet between each of the unit blocks in the formation above. This is an arbitrary number, simply selected to give some space for maneuver for each of the units. At this point the illustration of individual horsemen becomes unrealistic and the next set of drawings will use the traditional blocks to indicate the units. Units of approximately 200 to 700 are shown, using the same 30 man sub-units illustrated above. The smallest front for the 210 man formation is 440 feet. The 690 man formation has a front of 1,480 feet. The total number of men in these 6 formations is 2,700. At 700 cavalry per legion, the representative number mentioned above, there would be 2,800 men for a 4 legion army. Since it would be unlikely that one unit of each size would be present the units are mixed up a bit to create an imaginary cavalry force of 2,820 men for the four-legion army.

Frame 1: Cavalry and legions

This image is the same Frame 1 image from the legion formation pages but with cavalry added on each wing. There are several things to note about this drawing. The armies are 600 feet apart, the theoretical starting position used previously. The front of the army has now expanded from the 4,200 feet the legions occupied to 8,150 feet. The red army has 2,790 cavalrymen in 5 "tribal" units; the blue army has 2,820 cavalrymen in 8 "tribal" units. The blue army cavalry are arranged in two lines separated by about 150 feet. The red army cavalry are more random and three lines deep on their left flank. What needs to be emphasized is that there is little information about how cavalry was arranged so that these formations may be wildly off the mark. Each sub unit is three ranks deep, as illustrated above. Two lines of such units give a total cavalry depth of just six ranks. Cavalry could well have been arranged 12 ranks deep and half as wide. The distance between the lines of cavalry units may have been much less than the 150 feet shown.

Frame 2: The cavalry advances to canter distance

The cavalry moves forward from the previous position at a trot (9 MPH), covering 75 feet in about 9 seconds while the infantry march 32 feet. At this scale the movement between frame 1 and frame 2 is almost undetectable. The two cavalry wings are just slightly ahead of the infantry. The cavalry units are separated by 450 feet, 150 yards. This is the outside distance for the units to begin charging at an easy gallop estimated at 13 MPH with a variation of +/- 2 MPH.

Frame 3: The cavalry charge

The cavalry gallops 150 feet at an easy gallop of 13 mph. Each infantry army closes another 32 feet.

Frame 4: The cavalry attack

At 150 feet (50 yards) separation the two cavalry units accelerate to their fastest gallop and the lines come together. The infantry closes 28 feet. At this point this particular model comes to a stopping point. The illustrations so far have been "text book." That is, the lines are straight; the armies moved exactly in unison; everything is clean, neat orderly and precise. More importantly, as these cavalry wings collide there is no place for the model to go with them. The close up, below, demonstrates the problem.

Deficiencies in this model

  • Lack of Maneuverability: Cavalry conflicts are described as free-wheeling fluid engagements. One side often, perhaps usually, veers away before contact is made. The sides pursue each other back and forth, sometimes over large distances. Those maneuvers are not possible in the formation shown above. The 30-man units in the middle of the formations have nowhere to go. Even though each unit is only three ranks deep, the front ranks cannot turn around to flee, they cannot individually turn to either side. Neither can the entire purple line, for example, be thought of as turning to either side to escape contact.
  • Too Orderly: The initial unit boxes were drawn with the ranks and files 4' and 12' respectively. This might suffice for walking, but once the unit began to trot or gallop the spacing would need to spread out. Some horse would be faster, some slower, some would veer to the side to dodge obstacles. Just as was shown with the infantry diagrams, it is necessary to show jagged, uneven lines. The boxes defining the individual units need to be larger, showing the spread of the individual horses.
  • Reserve Lines: The model simply moved the reserve lines forward in unison with the front lines. The actual role of reserve lines may have been to hang well back from the main action to take advantage of opportunities that would arise as the front line horses tired. They would also have been able to protect against flanking moves.
  • Overlap in the Lines: When the initial drawing was made some units of one army were wider than those of the other. This overlap of lines was not adjusted. In the illustration above the blue army cavalry (those at the bottom moving toward the top) overlap the red army units by a considerable amount. No adjustments were made to the model to account for the overlap.
To begin to address these problems it is necessary to return to the individual horsemen to look at how they might have moved on the battlefield.  

1 comment

Your information fits what I’ve found in nearly all previous texts and articles, but especially the illustrations allows the reader to grasp the written word; well done for your dedication and Thank You.

James Lynch

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