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44

Whenever 20th century cavalry comes up, it often gets confused with mounted infantry. So let's clear that up. Cavalry is trained to fight from horseback using pistol, sabre, carbine, lance, and the horse itself. Its primary purpose is cross open terrain quickly, crash through the enemy line, and cause disarray. If they can do this from an open flank, rather ...


33

That's not exactly how it worked. As not everybody was able to become a knight (especially without richness), many squires were adult, sometimes more than 30 years old, and because of their experience, they were well-trained fighters. Don't think of heavy cavalry only as knights. For example, the regular heavy cavalry unit in Poland was called Chorągiew (...


33

As Wladimir noted, the precise "vs" analysis is impossible since it depends heavily on what kind of armor, weapons, tactics, training and commanders both infantry and cavalry have, as well as economics of society (which heavily influences these things for the cavalry which is a lot more expensive to equip/train, especially heavy cavalry). Also, it's ...


33

The situation is complex. While the pike-or-equivalent must be of a sufficient length and density to be effective against cavalry, the longer the weapon the more difficult it is to adjust formation and facing. Cavalry's most effective weapon on the battlefield is its speed. A mass of spearmen facing one direction are easily flanked and broken up, and then ...


25

An important aspect that seems to be neglected in many of the answers here is that while technical aspects cannot be completely dismissed, they are secondary to other concerns. To be specific, the primary weapon of heavy cavalry is its momentum, while heavy infantry (among which musketeers from 18th century onward are counted) relies on its discipline in ...


20

The infantry sets their spears, meaning bracing them against the ground, to present a barrier to the charging horsemen. The long spears, also known as pikes, when held in a tight formation provided a spiked wall that would challenge mounted opponents. Some horses would balk when encountering the pikes while others would be impaled. The goal was to unhorse ...


19

As legend says, after they lost Battle of Kosovo (1389) Serb units, most notably their light cavalry, have spread to Hungary and then further over Europe. In Medieval Hungary, these became known as hussars since about 1432 (Oxford Encyclopedia of Medieval Warfare and Military Technology, p. 306); they were greatly developed by Matthias Corvinus (1443-1490)....


17

Several reasons. First and foremost, they perform the same role on the battlefield, providing a fast moving spearhead. Second, and related, many of the units were cavalry units before getting tanks, they just exchanged their horses for tanks. Artillery exchanged guns pulled by horses (and trucks) with self propelled guns (at least part of them, most armies ...


16

Your question is underpinned by a key misunderstanding of the course of an ancient or medieval battle: the slaughter occurs in the pursuit (or endgame if you will), not what might be termed the battle proper (or midgame). Prior to the invention of artillery, and breech-loading and automatic rifles, very little death is dealt out during the main course of ...


15

Cossacks in early 18th Century were the light cavalry. The lightest one. Even Hussars needed carts with grain and food. But Cossacks used them only if it was absolutely impossible to “take” everything on site. So, they were very, very quick. Yes, in battle, they were weaker. But they were not meant for the battle lines, but for intercepting on the enemies ...


14

There are no magic recipes to win a war. Caesar's tactic was new and surprising, it demoralized the attackers who were certain of their superiority. But this only works once - once that tactic was known it was no longer effective. Note that this wasn't the only reason that Pompey got defeated, it is probably even more important that Pompey's behavior was ...


14

Even in modern combat horses are still used. There was a book written about US Special Forces soldiers in Afghanistan who relied heavily on horses in combat. The book is called Horse Soldiers.


14

There are two things that the Mongols had to their advantage when they waged war, significant numbers and superior training and discipline. These two factors almost always ensured that they would have the upper hand in any engagement. I found one source that suggested that a typical military unit for the Mongols would consist of three major units. One unit ...


13

That's an overly simplistic way of thinking about cavalry. Battles usually didn't focus on cavalry charges (though they often were used as shock operations during battles) but massed infantry holding terrain. Cavalry was more often use for scouting, rapid flanking actions, harassing rear guard units, and rapid positioning of troops where they were needed. ...


12

As a melee fighter, heavy cavalry would have depended on armor to block melee weapons once they got in range, and that alone would justify its use. As far as effectiveness against firearms the best I've ever found is that quality armor of the time was somewhat effective against small arms and muskets at range, though muskets could easily penetrate at close ...


12

Barbara Tuchman provides a a partial answer in A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century: At fourteen or fifteen, when [the young noble] became a squire, the training for combat intensified. He learned to pierce the swinging dummy of the quintain with a lance, wield the sword and a variety of other murderous weapons, and know the rules of ...


11

You are referring to the Schwarze Reiters (i.e. black riders), named after the dark armour they wore. This was a type of cavalry that appeared in Germany after the decline of the medieval lancers, but later became a generic name (usually shortened to just reiters) for German cavalry mercenaries. Around the mid-16th century, advancements in firearms as well ...


11

The cavalry tactics could differ from century to century, yet when they got firearms, for sure, they had to learn quick swapping from firearm to a saber during the attack. The Russian cavalry officer Nadezhda Durova (aka The Cavalry Maiden), who fought in Napoleonic wars, mentioned some details in her well-known memoirs. That is how she depicted the ...


11

Lighter, Faster Cavalry. The heavier the cavalry, the harder it is to maintain speed and perform sharp maneuvers. At the battle of Turin, Constantine used light cavalry with iron-tipped clubs to attack the flanks of Cataphracts. Ancient cavalry rode horses without Stirrups, meaning clubs or weapons with blunt force behind them stood a fair chance of knocking ...


10

The infantry-cavalry balance has changed a lot over time. And back and forth. In primitive warfare, the addition of a large animal gave the advantage to the cavalry. This changed during the times of the Greeks and Romans, who invented the phalanx and legion INFANTRY formations that had no cavalry counterparts. By "stabilizing" riders in horses, the ...


10

There was a number of minor fight incidents, involving cavalry units during WW2, see here or here. However cavalry was used as a mean of transportation, or as a mounted infantry. The last significant battle where cavalry used as a separate combat arms seems to be battle of Komarow in August 1920, during Polish-Soviet war.


10

I looked into this some more, and I'll share my findings here. 100 Miles Record In the FEI Endurance Riding Competition senior level, horses travel about 100 miles in one day. The world record for a human going 100 miles was recently achieved by Zach Bitter, who went the distance over a track field in 11:47:21. The world record for 100 miles by a horse, ...


9

Because lances were unwieldy but required significant training to be proficient in. Their usefulness was progressively declining against the increasingly attractive (and cost-effective) firearms. Because of the nature of the weapon, and the training required to produce a proficient lancer, it had generally fallen from use by the mid 17th century. - ...


8

Both sets of statements are true: The Cossacks were inferior to other types of cavalry, and the Cossacks were "effective," because they were good enough to do the job. To take just one example, the cuirassiers were the most heavily trained, heavily armed cavalry around. That means that there were relatively few of them. The Cossacks were the opposite: They ...


8

Infantry square I believe that the most obvious tactic against cavalry is the infantry square formation, which was used by ancient Romans, and later revived during Napoleon wars. But of course the main reason for their creation was to prevent any attack from behind. Still, there was a rule regarding horses in particular, not to shot too late, as wounded ...


8

Using the Wikipedia article as source, lances were indeed once-use items for shock attacks. If they hadn't splintered then they were sure to have gotten stuck, so they were intended to be dropped. This is with the heavy lances most people seem to have in mind, when they think of a charge by heavily armoured knights. However, anecdotal, I'm friends with ...


7

I've found some evidence during the Mongol invasion of Japan (it is wikipedia, but it's cited to a reasonable, but not fantastic degree): "in 1274, the Yuan fleet set out, with an estimated 15,000 Mongol and Chinese soldiers and 8,000 Korean soldiers, in 300 large vessels and 400-500 smaller craft, although figures vary considerably depending on the source" ...


7

I'm looking at the list of battles involving war elephants The Battle of Ipsus wiki page, a conflict between some of the successor states of Alexander the great, has an interesting passage on elephant-cavalry interactions: "The ancient sources repeatedly emphasize the effect of elephants on horses, which are alarmed by the smell and noise of elephants and ...


7

In Battle of Zama Hannibal had the army of greenhorns. Veterans were dead already. It needs a great amount of previous experience to stand against a horse that is galloping against you and even to throw something at the rider. BTW, in that battle, cavalry acted rather as a lock, as in Cannes on the Carthago side. It would be difficult to throw a Macedonian ...


7

British Cavalry was surprising successful on the occasions it was employed by local commanders in small scale attacks exploiting gaps in the German defensive lines after the Germans had withdrawn to the Hindenburg Line from late 1916 onwards. Despite what many ill-informed commentators say, many citing quite erroneous accounts by eye-witnesses who get the ...


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