Napoleonic Cavalry Combat & Tactics

Napoleonic Cavalry Combat & Tactics

This video gives insights in cavalry combat and tactics during the era of Napoleon. This includes Cavalry Types, Forms of Combat, Formations, Organization, Principles and many more.

Napoleon in the cover by vonKickass.

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Rothenberg Gunther E.: The Art of Warfare in the Age of Napoleon

Nosworthy, Brent: Battle Tactics of Napoleon and his Enemies

Bruce, Robert B.; Dickie, Iain; Kiley, Kevin; Pavkovic, Michael F.; Schneid, Frederick C.: Fighting Techniques of the Napoleonic Age 1792 – 1815: Equipment, Combat Skills, and Tactics

Ortenburg, Georg: Waffen der Revolutionskriege 1792-1848

Planert, Ute: Die Kriege der Französischen Revoluation und Napoleons. Beginn einer neuen Ära der europäischen Kriegsgeschichte oder Weiterwirken der Vergangenheit? In: Beyrau, Dietrich; Hochgeschwender, Michael; Langewiesche, Dieter (Hrsg.):Formen des Krieges. Von der Antike bis zur Gegenwart, S. 149-162

Rogers, H.C.B.: Napoleon und seine Armee / Napoleon’s Army

Browing, Peter: The Changing Nature of Warfare. The Development of Land Warfare from 1792 to 1945

Citino, Robert M.: The German Way of War

Chandler, David: The Art of Warfare in the Age of Marlborough

Philip J. Haythornthwaite: Weapons & Equipment Of The Napoleonic Wars

Hughes, B. P.: Firepower – Weapon Effectiveness on the Battlefield, 1630-1850

Lind, William S.: Maneuver; in: Margiotta, Franklin (ed): Brassey’s Encyclopedia of Land Forces and Warfare, p. 661-667

AskHistorians: How does a commander screen his army?

Russell, Jill R.: With rifle and bibliography: General Mattis on professional reading


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  1. 1:34 AM 11/29/2020 I never knew that drama back in the day with dragoons vs cavalry with dragoons as infantry on horseback getting screwed with by cavalry men. Napoleon Total War brought me here. I would rather use dragoons than cavalry (Life Guards) or hussars. I like light cavalry as hussars but I want an all infantry regiment (20 stack units are setup as regiments). Dragoons are cheaper than real cavalry. Warfare is evolving. Dragoons are infantry and I like the ability to dismount them as infantry. Those of you that dont know this only the wealthy class (nobility) were like knights or cavalry back in the day.

  2. We should use the different types of cavalry to replace star signs. "oh my gosh Emily what type of cavalry are you, if you're heavy cavalry, I'm sorry, but we CAN'T be friends, light cavalry and heavy cavalry hate each other ahahahahahaha"

  3. The importance of cavalry could not be overstated for deciding battles and campaigns in any era. The lack of effectively cavalry was a major reason why WWI turned into a stalemate. Modern machine guns, barbed wire and artillery made it practically impossible for horse cavalry to exploit opening s and weak points they were needed for. Therefore these openings had to be exploited with infantry. Unfortunately, there is only so far infantry can push before they are exhausted. This is why advances of the western front had such high costs for little, if any, gain.

  4. Question: If an Infantry in line formation just took a shot at an opposing formation(let's say the line in this case), would it be a good idea to reload and fire again(assuming they are wounded, but still combat-capable) or send in a heavy cavalry charge?

  5. ''What about the Wedge? This is most likely due to a computer game…''

    Me, a fervent Empire and Napoleon Total War player: avoids eye contact

  6. Love the citations on Cavalry vs Cavalry. Makes sense that the horse learned not to go against other horses.Given any surprise, horsed forces are truly scary.

  7. I couldnt imagine wearing 2 plates while trying to steer a Horse and charge , then wield a Sabre . Must have felt like a Turtle . With no or little comfort to flex around

  8. A lot of Napoleanic Battles is based on who has the balls to stand strong , who could still stand in position while getting nailed and who disliked a bayonet charge the most . Very few times did they get into a melee . Dismiss what you see in Hollywood

  9. This commentary is quite interesting, both for the context of the Napoleonic Wars and also for wider context.

    Thinking as a historian mostly of much later times, it strikes me that people learning how to properly use and focus armored vehicles may have had to re-learn the lessons of cavalry tactics from earlier times. [For instance, the initial applications of armored vehicles in World War I largely bogged down in the mud and ultimately did not accomplish much of military value, partly because of a limited concept of these new military tools as only a slow-moving infantry support vehicle, rather than something with a grander vision?] American General George Patton, who came from a neighborhood not so far from where I grew up in Southern California (and who is somebody I suspect is WAY over-rated in military and other history) is credited on the American side with at least realizing that tanks were, in fact, a kind of armored cavalry that should act in the way that cavalry traditionally had acted, before the stalemate of the Western Front in World War I that put an end to traditional horse-mounted cavalry tactics.

    But your discussion also makes me recall much earlier times–namely, the "cataphracts" (extremely heavy cavalry, by the standards of the times, with both horses and riders heavily armored), during the various wars and campaigns of the Crusades in medieval times. The Byzantine cataphracts were, apparently, a pretty terrifying weapon with enormous shock value for breaking through enemy lines in the period from roughly AD 800-1400, if those enemy lines were relatively fixed; but the Arab fighters, with much lighter cavalry, learned to let the cataphracts run, do whatever they did, tire themselves out, and then lighter, more mobile Arab cavalry could run circles around both the Byzantine cataphracts and the other Byzantine defensive lines. [And, with the ultimate fall of Constantinople, we know who ultimately won.]

    In keeping with that, during the Mighty Pandemic, I found and read a free copy of Nigel Hamilton's extensive biography of Field Marshal Sir Bernard Montgomery, the victor at the crucial battle of El Alamein in North Africa near Egypt in the Second World War. Now, unlike a lot of Brits, I, speaking as an American, do not automatically fall on my ass and start worshipping Monty just at the mention of his name. [ 😉 Sorry, all you Brits, but that's the case. Monty caused a lot of logistical and management problems for the Americans who were bank-rolling the whole war on the Western Front in World War II, and trust me–we haven't forgotten it. We also haven't forgotten his near-disastrous failure in Operation Market Garden, the massive over-reach recounted in "A Bridge Too Far." 😉 ] Anyway, part of Monty's whole approach to warfare, which he developed from the trenches of World War I through his time in India and Palestine between the wars to his helping to lead British forces to a more-or-less honorable withdrawal at Dunkirk and beyond, seemingly was precisely the lesson of infantry commanders facing cavalry in Napoleonic times: namely, you don't just fall on your asses and concede defeat because your enemy has tanks (or cavalry); rather, you make plans in advance for how best to fight them, slow them down, and deny them the advantage of superior mobility through concerted and well-trained infantry tactics. The Nigel Hamilton biography is rather interesting in showing how this approach was used, more or less, to aggressive rather than defensive advantage, at the Battle of El Alamein, where the whole battle was won largely by skilled infantry and artillery tactics, where the British armored forces commanders were less capable. [Many thanks to the Aussie infantry on the northern flank who courageously filled in where British armor miserably failed!] At any rate, part of Monty's overall message, which seems to have militarily correct, is: take away the shock value of charging cavalry or tanks, and they're really just another force vector than can be canceled by other forces. That, put in to practice, may have been Monty's message, and advantage, more than anything else.

  10. So, cavalry only had to dodge one shot from infantry or two shots from artillery. This, ladies and gentlemen, is why armies still fought out in the open and charged in lines in Napoleonic times. Only when the machine gun was introduced in WWI did it become smart to take cover and to avoid the frontal assault. Only then was it smart to avoid charging in lines out in the open.

  11. It's so typical of the hidebound hierarchical social structures of the day that the infantry was only able to get off one shot at a time. Despite renaissance humanism and the advances of the Enlightenment, things were no better than during the medieval times when peasants weren't allowed a sword. That run of the mill infantry weren't trusted to have muskets rigged with a selector setting of burst or full auto, it shows how the lord's still regarded the masses as thick and not to be trusted with powerful weaponry. They wouldn't even let them have a magazine, limiting the cannon fodder classes to one bullet at a time. But still they had to carry all their individual bullets. Talk about social inequality. I bet Napoleon and Custer, or whoever the British commander was, I bet THEY and their officers had full auto assault rifles loaded with a double clip of armour piercing rounds, all right. But not the workers, the backbone, no, their muskets won't even fire in semi auto let alone burst or full auto. Typical inbred snobbery.