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As far as I can discover, in 19th Century France, Chasseurs à Cheval and Hussars were both light cavalry with little or no armour, prioritizing speed over protection, armed with sabres and carbines, used especially for reconnaissance, raids and pursuit, although they could also take part in charges on the battlefield. They both had elaborately decorated uniforms.

'Chasseur' is the French for 'hunter', like the German Jäger, in a military context implying 'light' troops, who relied on speed to get themselves out of trouble rather than heavy armaments and armour.

Yet the two were considered to be different, and light cavalry regiments were designated either Hussars or Chasseurs à Cheval, not both. What was the difference and how important was it?

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    – MCW
    Mar 15, 2023 at 23:10

2 Answers 2

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The difference between Chasseurs à Cheval and Hussars is that, while both were light cavalry, Chasseurs were ALSO expected to act as dismounted infantry if the situation called for it and were trained accordingly. This in turn effected the types of missions they were assigned to. Hussars got a lot of what a wargamer/armchair historian would consider "traditional" light cavalry roles on the battlefield (scouting, harassment, etc) whereas the Chasseurs were often assigned to convoy protection, guarding lines of communication and so forth, though they could and did perform traditional battlefield light cavalry roles if required.

Generally speaking the Hussar regiments were considered more prestigious because they are "true" cavalry, whereas the Chasseurs à Cheval were supposed to fight dismounted, and indeed many were former dragoon regiments "converted" to Chasseurs à Cheval. In the ranks of "prestige" pure cavalry tended to view dragoons as basically infantry and therefor inferior, but there were some famous Chasseurs à Cheval regiments that probably "outweighed" the less prestigious Hussar regiments, depending on who you asked at the time!

Most of this information can be found on the wikipedia pages for Hussars and Chasseurs, with any gaps filled by my own knowledge of Napoleonic cavalry formations.

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    Not a word of this is supported by the alleged reference (auto-translated): "The first French cavalry unit which received the name of chasseurs, is the chasseurs de Fischer (1743-1761). ... It then frequently happened that Austrian hussars seized French horses; to take them back, a body of partisans is created by Fischer, who will “hunt” the mounts. ... It then frequently happened that Austrian hussars seized French horses; to take them back, a body of partisans is created by Fischer, who will “hunt” the mounts." Mar 16, 2023 at 14:00
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    Pieter you 100% missed the sections where it talks about French Dragoon regiments being re-designated as Chasseurs, and the general use of Hussars and Chasseurs in the relevant sections. Also I'm not sure why you're on the french wiki for Chasseurs a Cheval instead of the english ones for Hussars and Chasseurs, which would be my source. Mar 16, 2023 at 16:11
  • Fine: From Dragoon in English: "*By the Seven Years' War in 1756, their primary role in most European armies had progressed from that of mounted infantry to that of heavy cavalry. ... Their original responsibilities for scouting and picket duty had passed to hussars and similar light cavalry corps in the French, Austrian, Prussian, and other armies. ... *" 1/2 Mar 16, 2023 at 23:13
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    "During the Napoleonic Wars, dragoons generally assumed a cavalry role, though remaining a lighter class of mounted troops than the armored cuirassiers. Dragoons rode larger horses than the light cavalry and wielded straight, rather than curved swords. ... while in 1811 six regiments were converted to Chevau-Legers Lanciers; they were often used in battle to break the enemy's main resistance." No mention of conversion to Chasseurs au Cheval; only of conversion to lance-equipped Chevau-Legers. 2/2 Mar 16, 2023 at 23:14
  • Dario, don't mind Geerkens too much. Try to ignore him. Being always right is one of his lovable characteristics.
    – Jos
    Mar 17, 2023 at 0:13
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In the Napoleonic army, the 'chasseurs à cheval' (mounted hunters) of the 'Garde Impériale' (Imperial Guard) were the most prestigious soldiers, more so than the Hussars, because they were particularly adored by the Emperor. They were his 'garde rapprochée' (Close Guard) during battles, responsible for protecting Napoleon in the event of a direct attack. Napoleon often wore the green uniform of Colonel of this Regiment (partly hidden under his gray frock coat), and is buried dressed in this uniform of Colonel of the 'Chasseurs à cheval'.


Original text of the answer:

Dans l'armée napoléonienne, les chasseurs à cheval de la Garde Impériale étaient les militaires les plus prestigieux, plus que les Hussards, car particulièrement adulés par l'Empereur. Ils étaient sa Garde rapprochée lors des batailles, chargés de protéger Napoléon en cas d'attaque. Napoléon portait d'ailleurs souvent l'uniforme vert de Colonel de ce Régiment ( caché en partie sous sa redingote grise), et est enterré habillé en cet uniforme de Colonel des Chasseurs à cheval.

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    This site is in English. Not in French. Can you kindly translate it?
    – Jos
    May 17 at 6:54
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    Please add some sources to backup this claim. It'll others to understand how reliable this is.
    – OldPadawan
    May 17 at 7:34

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