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    Jean-François Brun

    The notion of mobility is inseparable from military operations, both regarding the movement of combatants and with regard to the logistical support necessary for any army. It should not be forgotten that "mobilization" derives from the German "mobil machung", "to make mobile", this operation consisting in providing the units with the materials (food, ammunition, cars) which they are totally or partially lacking in peacetime. Knowing that the mode of movement commonly used in the pre-industrial era remains the horse and that the tactics of the Grand Army are based on the speed of the maneuver, the question of horses is crucial and has aspects as diverse as complementary. The first concern is, without question, the number of equines compared to that of men and the material or various loads to be moved, the question of the quantity and the quality of the horses proving fundamental only because of the use to be made of it.

  • #2

    An imperative: to have an adequate endowment
    The statistical study provides precise answers as to the number of horses, absolutely as well as relative to the number of soldiers assembled. The systematic examination of the French army's appeal booklets by theater of operations on March 1, 1803 and November 1, 1804 1, then from autumn 1811 to January 1814, makes it possible to establish two summary tables 2 from which it is possible to calculate the horse / man ratio 3. The conclusions of the analysis can be summed up in a few sentences. In 1803, the ratio was roughly equivalent to one horse for six men. It then stood at one for seven in 1804 and remained apparently constant throughout the imperial period since there were identical figures for the entire army in 1811-1813. The theater study, however, provides a number of additional details. In October 1811, Napoleon I had not yet begun to assemble the expeditionary force intended to operate in Russia and the European continent was at peace (except the Iberian Peninsula). Then comes the phase of hostilities. We can logically observe that the field forces enjoy great mobility. The calls of June 15, 1812 and August 15, 1813 (times when the troops were about to embark on the expedition to Russia and the second campaign of Saxony) show that they have one horse for four men (this which is currently the standard for vehicle endowments in many armies). However, in order to achieve this result, the Emperor used all available resources, to the detriment in particular of the interior garrisons. The army operating in Spain at the same time still presents, however, the 1/7 rate, which is probably explained by the fact that it constitutes both an occupying force and a set of units of campaign in a secondary theater. It is therefore logically placed at a midpoint between the ratios of interior garrisons and those of the Grande Armée in operation.
    However, this commentary, based on a global approach, must be nuanced and refined since the figures used indistinctly cover saddle and draft animals, whose functionality is very different (although this distinction was at the time infinitely less marked that nowadays, a horse can very well fulfill one or the other of these roles).

    1 The periods used are the result of a deliberate choice. The years 1803 and 1804 still belong to a time of peace on the earth plane. The period 1811-1814 saw the passage of a phase of peace relating to the wars of the Sixth Coalition, marked in particular by the expedition to Russia in 1812 and the two campaigns of Saxony in 1813.
    2 On this subject, see Annex 1, Tables 1, 2 and 3.
    3 On this subject, see Annex No. 1, Tables No. 4, No. 5 and No. 6.

    An essential specialization
    A clarification is essential beforehand. Saddle horses are divided into two categories, not according to their specialty but their membership of the State (troop horses assigned to non-commissioned officers and soldiers of mounted units) or to an individual (officers and employees of the War Administration are indeed the owners of their mounts 4). All senior officers, as well as some of the junior officers, aides-de-camp and staff officers, thus have one or more horses to be able to move quickly during the campaign and to replace those killed or out of action or state of service, the number of equines kept obviously varying according to the level of responsibility of the owner (conditioned by his rank and his function). The typical example of this necessary precaution remains the crew of the Emperor. The Grand-Ecuyer (Grand Squire) manages 130 saddle horses in the field, divided into 10 brigades, in order to permanently offer Napoleon and his immediate suite the means of their mobility. Overall, in an army in the field, officer horses represent 11-18% of saddle animals 5, depending on the proportion of cavalry units and the size of the staffs.
    The great distinction, based on a functional approach, however, remains the departure between saddle horses (officers and troop animals combined) and draft horses. Here again, a study of all the imperial armies in 1810 and then of the Grande Armée in 1812 and 1813 6 shows without ambiguity that the setting up of a field force requires above all the meeting of draft animals, the saddle horses being already present within the regiments of cavalry which permanently have the mounts necessary for the war squadrons. This punctual and conjunctural addition finally reveals a concern for cost management since, in peacetime, only the number of hitches essential to "military carriages" (notably the movement of artillery pieces) is maintained, even if it means resorting to case of need to the services of private transport companies 7 or to temporarily place the equines with private individuals who provide maintenance in exchange for the service they derive from them 8. In fact, the difference in endowment appears striking between the armies of the interior and those put on the war footing, including to fulfill a mission of occupation (Corps of Observation of Holland or Army of Germany in 1810 by example).

    4 Except in the Imperial Guard, where they are mounted at State expense. On the other hand, all the officers of the imperial army receive a bonus for entering the campaign, ranging from 400 francs for a second lieutenant to 900 for a colonel, which allows them to cover the costs of equipment (Historical Service of the Defense, Army Department, XP box 26).
    5 On this subject, see Annex No. 1, Table No. 7
    6 On this subject, see appendix 1, tables 8 and 9.
    7 See in this regard the accounting reports, in particular those of year IX and 1809 (National Archives, AF IV 1183 and F9 69). In addition, on French territory, individuals may be required by mayors or prefects to provide (in exchange for compensation) transport for the benefit of armies (see in this regard the decree of April 10, 1806 as well as that of August 3, 1808 providing for sanctioning offenders).
    8 Placement with private individuals seems to be the rule in peacetime. This is the case under the Consulate. The decree of 28 Germinal year IX stipulates, for example, that the French army will keep 19,100 draft horses (15,100 for artillery, 3,000 for food and 1,000 for ambulances). But of this number, 16,400 must be placed with individuals who maintain them and use them until required. Another case was the decree of April 4, 1810, dealing with the suppression of artillery companies attached to infantry regiments. At the end of this text, animals out of service must be sold at auction, while those still good for service "will be placed with farmers in the departments bordering the parks to be reproduced or replaced if necessary". It is even specified that after five years of keeping, the farmer will be able to buy the horse at the price of 240 francs (AN, F9 60 "armament and ammunition").


    • #3

      The search for large numbers of horses and their maintenance also quickly highlight the limitation of existing resources as well as the need for economic and health management.

      The limits of an agricultural society
      Under the Ancient Régime, the ordinance of December 21, 1762 enjoined the regiments to buy their horses themselves (each corps having to, shortly after, pull up its remount 9 from a specific province). Faced with an increase in needs, the Revolution resorted to purchases but also to compulsory levies 10. The Consulate at its inception is also forced to resort to requisition. The decree of 4 Vendémiaire Year VIII instituted an "extraordinary raising of horses for the service of the armies". Horses (except stallions 11), mares non broodmares, mules or he-mules existing "in all the departments of the Republic", aged 5 years at least and 9 at most, must be listed. After examination by commissions, the thirtieth will be required, the purchase price being "paid in cash and without delay". A quarter of the animals are intended for draught functions, while it is possible, taking account of departmental resources, to adjust the puncture from the twentieth to the fiftieth of the livestock concerned. Military victories and peace then allow the return to normal channels, in this case over-the-counter transactions. From germinal year XI to December 2, 1807, the service of the remounts is again the responsibility of the regiments. The instruction of 24 Vendémiaire Year XII determines precisely, for its part, the conditions of purchases, made either directly by the officers in the breeding regions, or by means of contracts concluded between the boards of directors of the corps and private suppliers. The repeal in 1807 of the practice of direct purchasing led to an extension of levies and markets (including in Germany to make up for the shortcomings of the French market). Nevertheless, the volume of remounts amounts annually to a few thousand horses only, which allows to remain below the production limits, even when it comes to preparing the campaign of 1812 12.
      The almost complete disappearance of the mounts and teams sent to Russia, on the other hand, causes enormous difficulties. Analysis of the reports written between December 24, 1812 and February 20, 1813 13 reveals the need to bring together nearly 73,000 saddle horses and 52,000 draft horses in order to recreate an efficient military tool. Enormous figures since the forecasts for October 2, 1812 14 were established for the Grande Armée at only 4,726 mounts. The key point remains the significance of such a request in relation to the resources actually available. The German territories had 2,700,000 horses in 1800 and 2,346,000 in 1816 15. As for France, the tables annexed to the "Statement of the Situation of the Empire", presented by the Minister of the Interior Montalivet to Legislative body on February 25, 1813, inform us with precision. The 130 departments then house 3,500,011 equines (1,268,909 horses, 1,393,521 mares and 837,581 foals under 4 years of age) while, each year, 280,320 births are recorded. Statistically, the return of the Grande Armée therefore amounts to 3.5% of the national resource and less than half of the annual growth. However, it is impossible to stick to this strictly mathematical approach. Criteria 16 for precise choice of age, size (measured "under the gallows, on level ground") and sex indeed restrict the potential stock, while the needs of the eotechnical system 17 which then governs daily life (especially in agriculture or transport) compete directly with the demands of the armed forces. On the other hand, the entry into war of the main European states and the successive military failures led the imperial regime to strongly develop its demands. In short, in 1813, Napoleon raised in various ways (purchases, donations, requisitions) 212,671 horses, both in France and in Italy, Poland, Germany or Denmark 18 (knowing that this theoretical total necessarily remains somewhat overvalued to the extent where part of the contracts, concluded in response to the non-performance of previous contracts, necessarily duplicates) 19.
      A precise quantitative approach remains difficult, given the information vacuum in certain archives. Nevertheless, the comparison of the calls from the imperial forces shows a flow of 90,990 mounts between January and April 1813, then of 51,242 between April and August. This reveals a contribution from just over 140,000 animals. If we take into account the losses of the first campaign of Saxony and the inevitable attrition during the armistice, the real figure would be still much higher and probably very close to 170,000, which would be equivalent to the difference between June 1812 and January 1813. The remount plan developed from January to June 1813 therefore remains an undeniable success. On the other hand, the failure between November 1813 and January 1814 is just as obvious. The call of January 5, 20 made when it was necessary to respond to the foreign invasion, shows field troops terribly diminished in all respects. The strength under the arms of the Grande Armée reached only 107,035 combatants, having a horse for 4. But the proportion of mounted soldiers was identical (or even slightly higher) than that of June 1812 or August 1813 only because the number of those present experienced a deep reduction.
      The supply of saddles and harnesses, on the other hand, although difficult given the scale of the demand and the relatively short lead times, has not experienced any major blockage. The combination of purchases abroad (25,522 harnesses and 13,700 saddles must be made between the Rhine and the Vistula) 21 and resources from French territory (which in 1813, 707 coach building-saddlery workshops employing 13,000 workers 22) made it possible to provide the necessary equipment for all saddle or draft horses gathered during these few months.
      Be that as it may, this remounting operation, on an unprecedented scale until now, highlights a number of structural obstacles. In France (and less markedly in the kingdom of Italy), the combination of a rise in prices and what must be called a deterioration in quality reflected, from the middle of 1813, a typical situation of shortage. As evidenced by this, on December 8, 1813, the creation of a new category of animals, scout horses. Intended to equip one out of three light cavalry squadrons (as well as three new regiments in the Guard), they will measure at least 1.38 m at the withers, which allows the use of animals previously considered too small 23. In addition, artillery and artillery train and engineers officers will employ them after handing over their own mounts to dragons and light horses. In short, this use of a replacement product goes beyond the simple desire for savings represented by the reduction in crews enacted on February 22, 1813 24. The report of January 3, 1814 25 unequivocally confirms that national resources are exhausted: "It is almost impossible today to make a horse market for a somewhat considerable supply, because the merchants now regard it as very difficult to draw from several countries where they still found a fairly large quantity. ” Here we have a new illustration of the limits of pre-industrial economies, incapable by nature of rapidly supplying a massive quantity of manufactured products, foodstuffs, and even animals. War is waged thanks to the surpluses that can be generated after meeting the vital needs of the populations 26. This also explains why, anxious to acquire horses, which are for him truly a "strategic product", the Emperor endeavored to preserve, from January to April 1813, the Prussian, Polish or German territories, part because possibilities of recovery that these regions offer, part to maintain the French political influence there. The image of the horse in war, and the place it holds there, is enriched in a new facet.

      9 The remount is defined as the operation intended to bring together (by means of purchase or requisitions subject to compensation) the horses necessary for the mounted units.
      10 The 15 pluviôse year IV (February 4, 1796) is thus decreed the levy of the 30th of the horses, mares, mules and he-mules not employed in agriculture and trade, nor assigned to the service of the post offices or national couriers. But this requisition will be interrupted by the decree of 28 Floréal year V (May 17, 1797).
      11 The Revolution had disorganized French horse breeding, for example removing the stud farms on January 29, 1790. Anxious to improve this situation, which penalized the country, Napoleon would restore them in 1806.
      12 In 1808, 4,708 horses were raised in 8 months in Prussia, and 5,735 supplied. In 1809, the remount necessary to the 36 regiments of the armies of the Rhine, Italy and Naples to bring each of them to 1,000 troops represents a total of 4,240 animals. In 1811, the effort for the expedition to Russia forced to acquire 42,000 saddle horses and 12,574 of train, without counting 8,000 to 9,000 animals from foreign countries (Bidault, The horses of the army under the Revolution and the Empire, pp. 74 and 76, and report by General Dejean, AN, AF IV 1183).
      13 AN, reports of December 24, 1812 (AF IV 1183), January 3, 1813 (AF IV 1173), January 7, 1813 (AF IV 707), February 3, 1813 (AF IV 1182), February 20, 1813 (AF IV 1165 and AF IV 1173).
      14 AN, AF IV 702.
      15 Léon, Economic and social history of the world, T. III, p. 373.
      16 See in this regard Annex No. 2, "Criteria for the selection of horses".
      17 In an eotechnical system, the sources of motive energy originate from natural elements (water, wind) or muscular force (human or animal).
      18 Hence, from December 1812 to April 1813, the establishment of cavalry depots in Vilna, Koenigsberg, Kosten, Glogau, Warsaw, Posen, Berlin, Hanover, Hamburg, Elbing, Brunswick and Osnabrück. Designed to accommodate the horses bought and delivered, these establishments close, for some of them, their doors as the enemy advances (AN, AF IV 1182).
      19 AN, AF IV 1182 (report of January 27, 1813 of General Bourcier), AF IV 702 and 740 (levy of December 30, 1812), AF IV 703, 1165 and 1182 (levy of January 2, 1813), AF IV 706 and 1182 (levy of January 4, 1813), AF IV 706 (levy of January 5 and 13, 1813), AF IV 732 (levy of February 10 and March 2, 1813), AF IV 743 (levy of March 13, 1813), AF IV 750 (levy of March 25, 1813), AF IV 751 (levy of March 29, 1813), report of April 21, 1813 (AF IV 1182), decree of April 24, 1813 (AF IV 761), decrees or agreements of June 10 and 17, 1813 (AF IV 1182), July 7, 12, 17, 20 and 22, 1813 (AF IV 1182), reports June 24 and July 18, 1813 (AF IV 1182), report August 18, 1813 (AF IV 823), decrees November 5, 1813 (AF IV 823), November 20, 1813 (AF IV 828) and December 13, 1813 (AF IV 837). We also relied on the text of the senatus-consults of April 3, 1813 (levy of the Guards of Honor) and August 24, 1813.
      20 Appeal of January 5, 1814, SHD / DAT, C2 711.
      21 AN, AF IV 1119.
      22 Montalivet, "Statement of the Situation of the Empire".
      23 See in this regard Annex No. 2, "The criteria for selecting horses".
      24 See in this regard Annex No. 1, Table No. 10.
      25 AN, AF IV 1183.
      26 On this subject, see the conclusion of the doctoral thesis of J.-F. Brun, "Imperial military economy to the test of the Sixth Coalition", p. 1341 to 1344.


      • #4

        Given this relative smallness of resources, the management of animals and their maintenance in condition are essential. In garrisons and in the cantonments, the rations are defined in an extremely precise way and the horses correctly fed and cared for (with reservations starting from the massive arrival of conscripts insufficiently educated in 1813). Although presenting a certain number of variations according to the subdivisions of arms (from where additional expenses), the harnesses, conforming to the model of 1786, remain adapted 27. The shoeing is still maintained, but the Grande Armée, unlike the Prussian, Russian or Polish troops, is not accustomed to parry ice, which leads to many mistakes during the winter campaigns in central Europe (even if some riders, during of the retreat from Russia, take the party to un-shoe their mount to prevent it from slipping).
        A great practice of the horse makes it possible to keep animals in good condition for a long time. The stage begins at a pace, lasting one hour. Then a halt of ten minutes allows the horses to relieve themselves. The riders girth back, check the packages and set off again. They then trot and keep this pace for two hours before taking the step and then trotting again. In the steep hills and descents, the men dismount. On arrival, the horses are curried, fed and, if possible, sheltered, especially in large buildings transformed for the occasion into improvised stables.
        Losses in the field were nevertheless extremely high 28, even outside the battlefield, given the difficulty of feeding the animals properly during certain halts. Added to this are the sometimes-difficult climatic conditions and above all the intense efforts required of the mounts. In Russia, for example, during the first weeks of moving, horses, fed on green rye, undergo a succession of violent storms and extremely cool nights, contrasting with the heat of the day. Hence the rapid appearance of colic and illnesses that are decimating the imperial cavalry 29.
        The inexperience of conscripts is also at the origin of wounds which, for lack of rest or care, lead to the loss of animals. This is for example the case in 1812 where there are many cases of plique (skin disease). In 1813, this was a constant concern for the hierarchy. However, even under the best possible conditions, attrition during operations remains heavy and the dismantled riders soon form small detachments which follow the rest of the troops on foot until they receive new horses of prize or requisition. To remedy as much as possible this situation, the Grande Armée generally organizes, behind the line of contact, one or more depots which welcome the returns coming from France or drawn from the territory of operation, as well as the wounded animals "to redo " A general depot will thus be set up in Hanover for the campaign of 1812 30. During the armistice of summer 1813, the Grand Army will also have three depots, in Magdeburg, Hamburg and Hanau 31.

        27 A report by General Dejean, dated January 20, 1809 (NA, AF IV 1183), specifies that the equipage of a harnessed horse consists of a complete saddle, a blanket, a cover with protecting lid or a schabraque, a coat and a portmanteau. The price varies according to the subdivision of arms and the country: 198 francs for the dragoons (in Italy), 180 francs for the cuirassiers and the riflemen (in France), 176 francs for the light cavalry in Italy (but only 160 in France ).
        28 On this subject, see Annex No. 3, paragraph 2 "The attrition of units in the field".
        29 Brun, "Imperial military economy ...", p. 164.
        30 Created on January 19, 1812, Hanover is administered by 2 generals, 5 colonels or majors (lieutenant-colonels) as well as 2 war commissioners. As of June 15, 1812, it had 141 officers, 6,497 non-commissioned officers and soldiers and 2,785 horses (SHD / DAT, C2 700).
        31 As of August 15, 1813, these three establishments, administered by 15 staff officers, had 178 officers and 5,975 non-commissioned officers and soldiers awaiting remount. The stables, on the other hand, house 515 officer horses, 1,080 troop horses and 148 draft horses (SHD / DAT, C2 708).


        • #5

          Many pathologies originate from the leg or the foot. Thiébault is formal in this respect: “The lack of shoeing is what destroys horses most quickly.32 Each rider therefore has four irons and forty nails in his leather box. Each company has two farriers who initially work with local resources. Then, in 1811, every regiment was followed by a field forge. In fact, farriers play a big role and are able to cure a number of diseases. Similarly, the train battalions all have, thanks to the resources of the conscription, in addition to the farriers, saddlers-harness makers, essential to maintain the harnesses.
          But the Empire also saw the creation of a veterinary service 33, organized according to a logic close to that which governs the health service. Veterinary medicine is then a novelty, the first school in Europe having been created in Lyon in 1762. The States very quickly become aware of the possibilities offered by this new way (which makes it possible to structure the empirical practices until then only used). The French monarchy thus pays for a student's studies each year on condition that he then joins a military unit. At the same time, in 1776, in each cavalry regiment of the French army, a master marshal, or even a simple farrier, received the title of artist-veterinarian. Integrated in 1794 to the general staff of the corps, he has among other responsibilities the surveillance of the farriers. In year VIII, 20 students were kept at the expense of the Ministry of War in each of the two veterinary schools of Lyon and Alfort (to which the Turin school will soon join), provided that they always join after their schooling the ranks of a cavalry regiment. This number was reduced by a quarter in year X but a decree of 24 Prairial year XI (May 13, 1804) authorized the corps of mounted troops to send officers and non-commissioned officers to schools, in order to acquire hippiatric knowledge. Then, on April 22, 1807, a decree established a second veterinarian per regiment (which will allow one to be kept at the depot, while the other will follow the units in the field). In addition, quite logically, each train battalion will have a veterinarian attached to its staff. Another decree, dated September 30, 1811, clarified their hierarchical position by assigning them an intermediate place between the corps of officers and the warrant officers 34. The need, however, led to recourse, from January 1812, to veterinary under-aids. From conscription, generally without a diploma, they are, in a way, horse nurses, comparable to surgeons under-aids in the health service.
          The imperial decree of January 15, 1813 "on the teaching and practice of the veterinary art" encompasses the question of military veterinarians in a system of national scope. Five schools (Alfort, Lyon, Turin, Aachen and Zutphen) are to provide a 3-year course at the end of which pupils will receive the diploma of veterinary marshal. The Alfort school will then allow a certain number of them to follow a complementary 2-year course, crowned, for those who have passed the exams, by the title of veterinary surgeon. Students between the ages of 16 and 25 will either receive government scholarships or attend school at their own expense (knowing that education and accommodation are free). In fact, this text has no other purpose than to develop veterinary medicine, both civil and military, within the Empire, veterinary surgeons who own a practice can thus receive compensation from the prefectures, sub-prefectures or major cities, on condition of opening a farrier workshop to teach the practice of their art to a certain number of pupils. In addition, 20 scholarship places will be allocated in each school to follow the 3-year course, provided that the holder commits to serving at least ten years in the army. Dedicated "to practice", these veterinary marshals will be "attached to the depots and war squadrons of troops on horseback, and responsible for the treatment of sick horses, the management of the service of farriers and the execution of hardware in difficult cases "35. Veterinary surgeons, on the other hand, intended "to advance science" and reserved "for circumstances of general utility", will be responsible, as veterinary inspectors, "for the service of general depots, large remounts, large artillery parks, engineering and crews”. The analogy with the health service is striking, the notion of competence (which determines employment) being identical in both cases. In fact, in the health service, doctors and pharmacists, holding a doctorate, exercise their functions at the level of divisions, army corps and hospitals. The case of surgeons, on the other hand, is more complex. Every infantry battalion and every cavalry regiment has two. Half of it is made up of sub-aids. The other half is made up of assistant-majors and surgeon-majors (all with doctorates). In practice, the surgeons-majors direct the Corps health service (one surgeon-major per regiment) or supervise the ambulances assistant-majors and sub-assistants. However, as in a number of other sectors, the collapse of the Empire did not allow the regime to reap the benefits of its reform.
          Be that as it may, a report by General Préval 36, master of requests to the Council of State, written in 1811, allows the veterinarian to be restored to his exact place within the imperial army: "We are exaggerating the importance of veterinarians in the corps, and the need for them to have a lot of capabilities; very rarely, even in peacetime, serious and long-term illnesses are treated; the price of food and medicine, compared to the value of the horse, the uncertainty of its healing and the services that will be available, if it occurs, almost always make the decision to sell. The mobility of troops in the field and the quantity of horses to be groomed means that those who are extremely sick must be abandoned. At the depot, there are very few, since as soon as the horses are received, they are sent to the army. We still exaggerate the importance of their cooperation in the remounts. The main thing is to ensure the means of a horse and, in this kind, the experience of training officers and horse tradesmen is superior to all theories. You can never judge horses better than when you have mounted a lot and trotted under the ‘chambriere’ (lunging whip) and the whip."

          32 Thiébault, “General manual of the service of the general and divisional staffs in the armies”, p. 429.
          33 On this subject, see the Military Dictionary…, “veterinary” article, T. II, p. 3172 and 3173.
          34 The veterinary marshals are now qualified as veterinarians first and hierarchically placed immediately after the adjutants, at the head of the marshals of the logis-chefs. The assistant veterinarians become second veterinarians and are at the head of the marshals of the Logis. Like health officers, veterinarians first or second have a special uniform (with stripes of Marshal of Logis-chef or of Marshal of the Logis).
          35 Report to the Council of State of November 1811, quoted in the Historical Note on the organization of the army from the Revolution to the present day.
          36 Ibid., 35, p. 241.


          • #6

            Before setting out in detail the organization of the cavalry, it is important to keep in mind that this arm no longer prevails in the imperial era. Victory is now mainly linked to the capabilities of the Infantry. General Thiébault's analyzes prove in this respect without appeal 37: "The error which is the most fatal [to the cavalry] is to consider it other than as an accessory to the force of the armies. With few exceptions, it should be used to supplement victory, sometimes to decide it, not to achieve it. The artillery must shake and attack the masses and the lines, the infantry must overthrow and break them, the cavalry must disperse them and take prisoners. Its charges must be infrequent, but when it carries them out, it must do them excessively; and as it can only fight hand to hand, it should only appear to strike." Among many others, we can illustrate this reality by recalling the Heilsberg combat in June 1807 where, after several charges of cuirassiers and dragoons, the infantrymen of Marshal Ney attacked and broke down the enemy system.
            As in all the armies of the time, the cavalry fulfilled a double role. First, it provides information far ahead and guarantees the safety of the flanks when traveling. These functions are mainly devolved to the light cavalry, hussars or chasseurs, recruited from short men, equipped with fast mounts, and who can occasionally carry out raids or carry out harassment operations (what the authors then call "the little war"). But the light cavalry also acts by shock, that is to say in practice the saber charge, which theoretically ends in a direct confrontation.
            At the same time, there is a second arm subdivision, the "big cavalry" (the "heavy" to use our contemporary expression), which retains tall conscripts and volunteers, as well as high and powerful horses. Specially designed for the charge which disorganizes the attack of the adversary or dislocates its device, it groups together the regiments of cuirassiers and ‘carabiniers’, equipped with special protective equipment, helmets and theoretically bulletproof armor 38, while the rest of the cavalry simply wore, on a day of battle, the coat rolled on the left shoulder, so as to guarantee as much as possible the chest (and to a lesser extent the side of the bridle hand).
            The dragoons 39, supposed at the beginning of the Empire to fight as well on foot as on horse, use practically exclusively displacement and equestrian combat and are very quickly regarded as full members of the big cavalry. But the fact that they are only equipped with a helmet and devoid of breastplate does not allow them to be fully assimilated to cuirassiers, although in combat they can intervene alongside them, even in their place. Hence a subtle terminological nuance in the recapitulations of 1812, which distinguish divisions of cuirassiers (cuirassiers and carabiniers) and divisions of big cavalry (dragoons). Another question, just as thorny, is that of the horse-light lancers. Created on June 18, 1811 on the model of the cavaleries of Eastern Europe, resulting from the dragoons, equipped with a pistol, a carbine (with bayonet), a saber and a lance of 2.75 meters, they take rank in the light cavalry but act in 1812 in concert with the cuirassiers, to which they are attached, a regiment by division.
            Despite these distinctions, the organization of cavalry regiments remains similar, whatever the specialty. The basic administrative unit for troop service or police is the company. The squadron, on the other hand, made up of two companies, constitutes the elementary tactical unit, commanded by the oldest of the two captains. Its numbers varied slightly during the Napoleonic period. In year X, the squadron of carabiniers or cavalry was equivalent to 192 combatants, that of dragoons, hussars or chasseurs to 232. Then, on March 10, 1807, a decree increased the number of privates. In fact, during most of the Empire, the big cavalry squadron represented 200 men (all ranks), that of light 250.
            In 1812, a regiment theoretically aligned four war squadrons and a fifth of depot (9th and 10th companies) specialized in the instruction and the remounts. The study of the call booklets shows that a brigade generally groups together 8 squadrons (from two, even three or four different regiments). A division is made up of two or three brigades and one or two companies of artillery on horseback. In addition, as a general rule, the divisions are composed of the same subdivision of arms, light or heavy (with however again divisions of cuirassiers and carabiniers on one side, and divisions of dragoons on the other, for the sake of optimal tactical use).
            The question of mobility remains to be addressed. The load carried by the animal indeed defines the possibilities of movement and, consequently, the tactics and the employment of the cavalry. At the end of the Ancient Regime, in France, on average, it weighed (including men) 175 kg per mount. However, the propensity to equip the horsemen with a panoply of weapons 40 provoked under the Empire a certain number of criticisms from specialists who considered that they were unnecessarily weighed down 41 (which led some of them to "lose » a portion of their armaments from the start of the campaign). The mobility of the various cavalry units nevertheless turns out to be very comparable. Based on a combination of the three paces, the step (100 m/minute), the trot (240 m/minute) or the gallop (300 m/minute), it allows an average speed of movement, outside the battlefield, from 4.8 to 5 km/h on passable terrain and from 6 to 7 km/h on the road (the infantry advance being from 3 to 4 km/h and that of the artillery about 3 km/h on smooth ground). But the training of the troops allows, at the beginning of the Empire, to exceed this average threshold if necessary. In 1806, the hussars of the Lasalle brigade covered 1,160 km in 25 days (or 46 km daily on average) while fighting the Prussians!
            Above all, despite the functional distinctions established within the French cavalry, all its regiments know an identity of their mode of combat, based on a recourse to shock rather than the supply of fires.

            37 Thiébault, op. cit., p. 427.
            38 Under the Ancient Régime, the term "cavalry" exclusively refers to big cavalry. However, in 1765, the French cavalry abandoned the cuirass so that, during the Revolution, only the 8th cavalry regiment still wears it. The consular reorganization modifies this state of affairs and classifies in the battle cavalry (or big cavalry) 4 regiments (in addition to the 8th) on September 17, 1802. The 1st Vendémiaire year XII (September 24, 1803) are created the cuirassiers. With 12 regiments (then 13 from 1807 and finally 14 in 1810), they gradually received, until the beginning of 1805, a double breastplate of 7.5 kg (which protects the chest and back) and a helmet intended to replace the cap. At the end of the decree of December 24, 1809, on the other hand, the riflemen, hitherto equipped with a cloth uniform and a fur cap, were equipped with a breastplate and a Roman helmet. Therefore, at its peak, the Empire had 16 specialized regiments, considered to be elite units. The existence of cuirassiers apparently remains the prerogative of the large European states, the small or medium powers having only dragoons (helmeted but not armoured). Responding to a particular tactical use in battle, the presence of cuirassiers in the Imperial Guard cannot be justified, the grenadiers on horseback, supported by the regiment of dragoons from 1806, playing the role of big cavalry.
            39 Under the Revolution there were 18 (then 21) regiments of dragoons. The reorganizations carried out by the Consulate in 1804 resulted in a total of 30 corps, obtained by the addition to the already existing 21 of 7 cavalry regiments and 2 of hussars. In 1805, each regiment aligned three squadrons on horseback and one squadron on foot. Each of the latter was integrated into the Boulogne division of General Baraguay d'Hilliers at the start of the Boulogne camp. Horses taken from opposing troops during the 1805 campaign then allowed them to be mounted. Dragoons on foot can be found in Spain, but they are again a minority there, quickly endowed with horses.
            40 All the riders have a saber (straight for the carabiniers, cuirassiers and dragoons, curve for the light-horse chasseur and hussar) and one or two pistols, to which the light-horse add the lance. Light cavalry units also have a carbine and bayonet, the dragoons of a rifle (shorter than that of the infantry) and its bayonet. The carabiniers also have a long arm. The Emperor, on the other hand, has been considering, since 1805, equipping the cuirassiers with a carbine, but the decree taken to this effect on December 25, 1811 was only incompletely executed, so that in 1813, at one time where France is experiencing difficulties in arming all of its troops, only about fifty cuirassiers per regiment seem to be equipped with them.
            41 The complete saddle (i.e. the saddle body and its accessories, saddlebags, chest lanyard, straps, girth straps, stirrup-leather, stirrups, horseshoe bags, not to mention the saddle blanket or cover) weighs about 26 kg, to which about the same should be added for portable weaponry (saber, firearms) and spare clothing. Added to this are any provisions and the rider's own weight (as well as, for cuirassiers and carabiniers, that of the breastplate).


            • #7

              The ordinance of May 20, 1788, which governed cavalry maneuvers, was replaced by that of the 1st Vendémiaire year XIII (September 23, 1804), which simplified the latter. As with the infantry, respecting the alignments is imperative in order to maintain the cohesion supposed to guarantee the mass effect. But this requires mounts of comparable size, providing an identical battue, so that the regulations distinguish horses from light cavalry, dragoons (also used by mounted artillery) and cuirassiers (or carabiniers) 42. The basic formation remains the line of four riders (who, by simple conversion of a quarter turn, becomes line). Once the recruit has mastered horse riding, training consists first of all in evolutions by four or by platoon (i.e. by half company), the cohesion of the four platoons of a squadron remaining the basic principle of the maneuver in the field.
              The formations fall into two main types: the column for movement or approach movements, the line for combat in order to make full use of the impact power. Given that a horse occupies, in a row, a little less than a meter, the front of a cavalry detachment corresponds, in line, to approximately half of the considered effective. A company of cuirassiers, preparing to charge in two rows (one per platoon), thus represents a quadrilateral of fifty meters by six.
              In general, the long gun (rifle or carbine) is mainly used by outposts, for the defense of a camp or for the attack on foot from an organized position. However, this infantry fight remains exceptional. In this connection, one often cites the action in 1805 of a squadron of the 9th dragoons who fought on foot in the streets of the village of Wertingen to dislodge enemy infantrymen. On the other hand, vanguard or flank-guards who explore the terrain during the marches advance the carbine or the rifle placed on the thigh, ready to fire. Finally, horse shooting is also practiced, despite the difficulty of reloading and, above all, the random results it provides.
              Unlike the infantry, whose effectiveness is due above all to its fire capacity (bayonet clashes are actually very rare), the cavalry acts mainly by shock by resorting to stabbing, as it happens by the saber (the use of the pistol is indeed abandoned since 1776 in the French cavalry and the lance is introduced only in 181143). The specialists of the time did not envisage any other mode of action. Guibert, a reference in 18th century military thought, is very clear in his General Essay on Tactics (1772): "Cavalry has only one way of fighting, it is by charge or shock. Any fire action in a troop is inappropriate for it. Speed and cohesion are its essential qualities.” Thiébault44 is just as categorical: "The cavalry has two ways of fighting, charging and firm footing. The latter robs it of such a great mass of its advantages that it should only be adopted by the effect of a real necessity (...). Note, however, that when reduced to this mode of combat, the cavalry should precede the use of the saber by that of their firearms, in order to compensate, as much as possible, for the inconvenience of stillness. "
              A regiment can attack in four ways: in line (with its squadrons joined), in column (by squadron or platoon), in echelons or in chessboard. Heavy cavalry usually adopts the platoon column (25 men at the front, each of the two platoons being arranged in two rows), which increases the impact power. In general, however, when it comes to assaulting an infantry square, the width of the front corresponds to that of a squadron, with one of the angles of the square being the direction of attack. The formation in battle, used in particular for the charge, is taken on two rows (separated by approximately 65 cm), a rider of the second row being able to hope to avoid a rider of the first row who falls, which would prove impossible for a rider of third row. So that in spite of its regulation which provides for three ranks, the Austrian cavalry also charges, under the Empire, on two ranks. In all cases, officers and non-commissioned officers have places strictly assigned in the device, which makes it possible to train, for example, the soldiers, who always have before them an officer of which it is enough to imitate the movements.
              The horsemen leave their starting position at a trot, take the gallop at two hundred paces from the enemy and the charging canter at eighty paces, at the sound of the trumpet. But the mass effect (the "boot to boot" progression) counts more than speed to break through opposing ranks. In some rutted terrain or crowded with obstacles, the cavalry trots (you will even see units charging almost in step in the Eylau snowstorm). In Marengo, the Kellermann's big cavalry gallops only sixty meters from the Austrian dragoons. At Altafulla, Curély sounds the charge fifty meters from the Spanish cavalry. At Zehdenick, Lassalle charges at ten meters. Horsemen can also simply wait for the enemy. During the Portuguese retreat, Sainte-Croix remains motionless with his dragoons, saber pointed in front then counterattack after the shock. In short, when it comes to fighting on horseback, compactness seems preferable to movement. Ardant du Picq 45 summarizes these observations in a few lines: "The cohesion and the whole making the force of the charge, we explain, alignment is impossible at a fast pace where the quickest outrun the others, how it does you must let go of the bridle only when the moral effect is produced and it is a question of completing it by falling on the enemy already in disorder, turning its back, etc. Thus, charged the cuirassiers: trotting (…). Jomini speaks of charges of trotting against galloping cavalry and quotes Lasalle who often did so and who, seeing cavalry running at gallop, exclaimed: "These are lost people." Jomini makes this a shocking affair: the trot allows the union, the compactness that the gallop disunites. All of this may be true; but above all a matter of moral effect. A troop launched at a gallop which sees arriving against it a tight squadron, trotting, is surprised at first by such a plumbness; by the higher material impulse of the gallop, it will overturn it; but no intervals, no holes to pass through by piercing. "
              General Thiébault, for his part, already theorized this in a general way in a few lines 46: "The greatest force of a cavalry which charges being in the moral effect it produces, and in its shock, and this effect moral and this shock can only result from order and speed, everything must be sacrificed to maintain it and make it always growing, without losing anything of regularity in the ranks, in the formation, in the movements and in the attack." Therefore, the wall charge remains the usual mode, the charge in dispersed order ("in foragers") being practiced only against artillery.

              42 See in this regard Annex No. 2, "Criteria for the selection of horses".
              43 Besides, only the first line of light horses charges by pointing their lance, the second line riders using the saber.
              44 Thiébault, op. cit., p. 410.
              45 Ardant du Picq, Studies on Combat - Ancient Combat and Modern Combat, p. 129.
              46 Thiébault, op. cit., p. 429.


              • #8

                The use of cavalry is part of the logic of Napoleonic conceptions. The Emperor was in fact the first to explicitly state that he had a "war system", that is to say general principles 47 around which he built an instrument, the Grande Armée. Heir to late 18th century military thinkers (most notably Guibert, Bourcet and the Chevalier du Teil), he strove to destroy the opposing army with a series of rapid and offensive movements. The campaign is thus organized in three stages: preliminary maneuvers, aimed at bringing the adversary to fight a decisive battle, at the end of which the pursuit begins which makes it possible to destroy the adversary tactically. The Grand Army is therefore made up of six to fourteen corps (themselves made up of three to five infantry divisions and one or two light cavalry brigades) who are the maneuver pawns. The latter can possibly be reinforced by means of specialized formations 48, the cavalry reserve (which includes the big cavalry and possibly the light units not used in the army corps), and the large artillery, the engineering, the bridge, siege, food and ambulance crews, a veritable traveling arsenal. Finally, there is still a tactical reserve. The latter function was generally fulfilled by the Imperial Guard from the time when, after 1809, the increase in its strength enabled it to play this role.
                In order to get the most out of his cavalry, in application of the conceptual system that presided over the organization of the Grand Army, Napoleon used to gather his mounted units in large masses to which he assigned a particular mission. During the concentration phases, the cavalry covers the front of its troops. But it also threatens that of the adversary, whose squadrons which they seek to recognize the French system must disperse or deceive. Then, during approach marches, it covers and masks the movements of the corps. Finally, during the battle, if it sometimes takes part in the prelude and/or the main action, it always remains involved in the outcome, either by initiating the prosecution or by protecting the retreat. Consequently, exploration and security missions are often placed at the operational level, while combat missions proper (apart from participation in the pursuit) rather depend on the tactical level.
                Unlike the Russians, Austrians and Prussians, who dispersed their heavy cavalry within infantry divisions 49, the Grande Armée, through the cavalry reserve, had an autonomous force characterized both by its (relative) power and mobility. Generally entrusted to Murat, it amounts in practice to a purely nominal command during the preliminary maneuvers, because the reserve does not move monolithically during this phase. Allocating responsibility for most of the mounted units to a specialized body is nevertheless a saving precaution for contemporaries. As General Thiébault 50 remarked, "even with care and abundance, any cavalry, after three months of active campaign, has lost half of its horses; in abandonment and famine, it must be destroyed. " So much so that the cavalry reserve has as its purpose 51 "the conservation of these troops, as much as their command: in fact, their conservation requires the most detailed knowledge of all their needs, the most active surveillance and full authority, as to their command, it is essential that in a great action, all the cavalry be united under a single chief and under a chief of it ”. In 1812, however, the increase in the reserve led to its fragmentation into the corps of cavalry (a division of light cavalry, one to two divisions of big cavalry), which facilitated its use from the time when Napoleon combined the maneuver of several armies and no longer just a corps.
                On a battle day, on the other hand, all the cavalry units present, including those assigned to the corps (except for the Guard regiments, which depend on a particular command), are in the hands of the chief of Reserve. The Emperor thus has a responsible, analogous to the magister equitum of the Roman armies, able to directly manage the action of the cavalry, once he himself has deemed it opportune when to employ it (launched too early, mounted units may indeed be decimated by fire without profit). The wisdom of this organization paradoxically appears in Waterloo. Grouchy, Murat's successor, was sent on June 17 to pursue the Prussians with 33,000 infantrymen, horsemen and artillerymen. What remains of the reserve is therefore devoid of supreme chief on the 18th. Ney, who must lead the attack on the English squares, makes charge on his own initiative the 4th corps of cavalry on the British infantry, that the cannonade and the musketry have not yet penetrated. Lefebvre-Desnoëttes, believing that this marshal was carrying out an order from the Emperor, supported his movement with the light cavalry. It’s a disaster. The squadrons are chopped up by the fire of the squares, this tactical fault constituting one of the primary causes of defeat.
                A few examples illustrate the various uses of cavalry, and first of all in security missions. Thus, at the level of the army, in 1805, Napoleon assembled for the battle (it will be Austerlitz) the 1st and 3rd AC under the shelter of a network of mounted patrols, themselves supported by posts of infantry. But it is a curtain which, from the Danube to the Bohemian mountains, forms a line of 200 kilometers and prevents the Austro-Russians from detecting the movements of their adversary. Next comes the intelligence quest and the scouting missions (the "discovery service"), which mobilizes a variable volume of units depending on the level of decision-making involved 52. The exploration front of a light cavalry brigade can be very wide (33 km for the Lasalle brigade in 1805). In 1806, after Jena, the 1st corps carried out an offensive march in which its three infantry divisions (which progressed without interval between them) were preceded by its brigade of light cavalry which sent in all directions, within a radius 30 km, detachments of 15 to 25 men. Sometimes also, the quest for information mobilizes a good part of the cavalry. Witness the exploration carried out in the Leipzig region in October 1806. There, Murat, at the head of several divisions supported by artillery, spent two days interviewing travelers, seizing mail and newspapers, collecting the maximum information on the Prussian army and its axis of retreat. The Emperor knew the enemy was absent but did not hesitate to play on the number and complementarity of the arms subdivisions, which made it possible to avoid the failure of the mission, the least opposing battalion encountered in Leipzig sufficient to compromise the movements of a regiment, even a brigade.
                In battle, cavalry can be used to interdict a portion of land, either by being able to move immediately, or by actually occupying it. It can also support a counterattack to locally restore a situation, or even by a charge to weaken on one point the opposing pressure. This is the example of Eylau where Murat, at the head of 58 squadrons (followed by 16 Guard squadrons with Bessières), thwarts the advance of a column of 15,000 Russian grenadiers. Finally, it can support decisive action. At Wagram, Macdonald's assault force consisted of eight battalions deployed on two lines, eight battalions in tight column on the wings, and an infantry division in reserve behind. But the flanks of the device are protected by four squadrons of carabiniers.
                Thiébault thus identifies a certain number of possible missions 53: turn the enemy and take it from behind, cut a line of infantry, charge the opposing cavalry, take a battery, break through a square, pursue an opponent in retreat or, conversely, cover the rallying of a friendly unit. The cavalry, however, sometimes remains powerless in the face of well-trained infantry. In Krasnoë, on August 14, 1812, Murat failed to break through an isolated body of 10,000 Russian infantrymen, who held it away by their fire. In fact, apart from raids or reconnaissance in the depths of the enemy, the cavalry always acts with infantry support. On October 9, 1806, for example, in the battle of Schleiz, two French light cavalry regiments, brought back by the numerically superior opposing forces, received help from the 27th light infantry regiment, so that the affair ended in a French success.
                However, a cavalry maneuver is not limited to a simple forward movement, trotting or galloping. Efforts are made to combine front and flank maneuvers using the support provided by the mounted artillery, 54 whose servants act to the rhythm of the rest of the cavalry. Likewise, facing an infantry square, it is above all important to avoid direct fire, which is extremely deadly, by attacking either a diagonal front or an angle. In all cases, the cavalry acts by retaining a reserve which allows it to respond to the adverse reaction 55. The pace of combat is indeed very fast, as are the movements of mounted units from both sides. Thus, in Essling, the French cuirassiers successfully charge the enemy infantry but are then brought back by the Austrian cavalry, then saved by the light cavalry of Lasalle which in turn attacks the Austrian cavalry.
                The pursuit comes after the enemy has been defeated in the decisive battle that seals the fate of the campaign. It begins with the last charge, the cavalry following the retreating units, but is not limited to a simple follow-up. It is actually a complex maneuver, over several days or even weeks, involving joint arms cooperation. In 1805, Murat chased an Austrian body which had escaped Ulm's trap, caught up with it and seized 12,000 men, 120 pieces, 500 cars of ammunition and equipment, without forgetting a treasure of 400,000 florins. After Jena, Murat still, supported by the infantrymen of Soult and Ney, directly pursues the defeated, while the rest of the Grande Armée moves as quickly as possible to Berlin, shielding the Oder and the Prussians in retreat, preventing thus the latter to gain their rear bases in East Prussia or Silesia. Finally, after 40 days of campaigning, Napoleon took 140,000 prisoners. Last case: in June 1807, Benningsen, after Friedland, fell back on the right bank of the Alle. The Emperor, wishing to thwart the Russian march on Koenigsberg, launched Murat in this direction with 150 squadrons (21,000 horses), supported by the 3rd and 6th AC. At the same time, the dragoons and a light cavalry division dog to the footsteps of the opponent, slowing him down considerably. At the end of the day, Benningsen, preceded in his regrouping zone, hurried at the back, unable to reorganize, crossed the Niemen. Tilsit’s talks can begin. The counterexample remains the first campaign of Saxony in the spring of 1813. Lacking effective cavalry, the Emperor cannot carry out his combinations, both in the approach marches and at the end of the battles of Lützen or Bautzen, and sees the combined army fall back in good order, without being able to destroy it.
                Finally, although this is a relatively marginal aspect, it is appropriate to speak of raids or harassment maneuvers carried out mainly by light cavalry (think of Marbot's memories), or even counter-guerrilla operations, both in Spain than in Saxony, in June 1813 (the aim then being to recover the security of the supply lines in the area of the Elbe and Lower Saxony, either by escorting the convoys, or by crisscrossing the region to locate and destroy small enemy detachments).
                In short, apart from a few special cases, the action of the cavalry is part of a combined arms maneuver. One testimony among others is provided in this regard by Napoleon's instructions to Eugène de Beauharnais, in June 1809 56: "You must march with an avant-garde composed of many cavalries, a dozen artillery pieces and of a good infantry division. Everything else in your body should bivouac an hour behind, light cavalry covering as much as possible. (…) From your vanguard to the tail of your park, there should be no more than three to four leagues.”

                47 By "system of war" is meant, to use Guibert's own words, "the set of principles and institutions that govern the conduct of wars".
                48 Thus, in June 1812, the 2nd corps was temporarily reinforced by the 3rd cuirassier division (SHD / DAT, C2 700).
                49 The Prussians having even restructured their army, from 1808, into 6 combined arms brigades of 6,000 to 7,000 men each.
                50 Thiébault, op. cit., p. 412.
                51 Same as 50.
                52 According to Thiébault, "scouting an army" consists of "carrying troops on horseback in all directions that the enemy may have followed, and as far as possible, in order to be able to do nothing no false movement, and to do on time all that may be necessary or even useful ”. (Thiébault, op. Cit., P. 414).
                53 Same as 52.
                54 On this subject, see Annex No. 3, paragraph 1 "Development and organization".
                55 The volume of this tactical reserve can be established as follows: a brigade in reserve when the division fights, a regiment in reserve when the brigade is fighting, a squadron in reserve when the regiment is fighting, it being obviously understood that these reserves are not cumulative. (Thiébault, op. Cit., P. 411).
                56 Letter n ° 15 310 from Napoleon I to Eugène de Beauharnais, June 7, 1809, Correspondence from Napoleon I.


                • #9

                  Flow volume and traction power
                  A means of movement for the combatant or the chief, the horse is also the only pulling force actually used by an army in the field (cattle proving to be too weak and too fragile 57). Its use in fact raises the question of equipment and logistics as a whole. However, it is first necessary to outline the problem in mathematical terms, both with regard to the needs of the troops and with regard to the individual possibilities of the draft horse. Let’s see support first. During the armistice of summer 1813, while the Grande Armée (696,848 men as of August 15 58) confined to Saxony, logistics flows represented a total of 150 tons per day on the three routes Mainz-Dresden, half of which ammunition 59. If one removes a quarter of the workforce (to take into account the garrisons in the places of the Vistula and the Oder and the forces confined to the north of the theater, at the level of the lower course of the Elbe, which logically have their own resources in terms of supply), and without underestimating the fact that the Grande Armée is then notoriously undernourished, we can only, in the light of these figures, once again emphasize the relative lightness of the logistical needs by compared to contemporary standards.
                  It remains to define the average performance of the draft horse. The Military Dictionary, written at the end of the 19th century, remains particularly instructive in this regard 60: “Experience has shown that a horse harnessed to a car could, by walking, drag a load of 700 kg for 10 hours per day; he can only trot 350 kg, and this for only four and a half hours. When several horses are coupled to the same car, the load to be towed per horse must be further reduced. In field artillery, which must be able to maneuver at high speed in all terrains, we should not exceed the weight of 250 to 300 kg per horse.” This corroborates the calculations of the imperial era, according to which a draft horse employed by the artillery can walk and last as long as it tows a load of 320 kg at most. Beyond that, he is put off and ruins his strength. However, the necessary rapidity of movement and conversions in combat does not allow harnessing more than 6 horses for both a cannon and a caisson 61, which limits the maximum admissible weight to 1,920 kg. This hitch is sufficient for all parts, including the 6-inch howitzer (the heaviest), which weighs 1,950 kg. However, it remains insufficient for the caisson which represents 3.3 tons full 62. It is also true that trotting movements generally only take place on one day of battle and are not continuous, changes of position being much less frequent than in contemporary practice (all the more so since piece has enough to start shooting as soon as it is set in battery, thanks to the resources of the limber box which allows to wait for the arrival of the caisson).
                  The case of the artillery and engineering trains of the general park, or the train of the equipages in charge of food, seems more in line with the proportions stated above, insofar as their rate of progression turns out to be infinitely more constant. Engineering caissons and carts 63 are harnessed to 4, sometimes to 6 in the case of heavy loads. The train of the equipages harnesses the caissons to 4, the wagons and the Comtoise cars to 2. Nevertheless, a report of June 18, 1811 64 specifies that a car loaded with barrels (usual mode of conditioning used in the Grande Armée), with " poorly trained men, poorly trained horses, tired roads, poorly directed ramps " can only carry 6,000 pounds (3 tons) " and even I admit I do not hope that following an army you can load such a considerable weight on each car ”. The editor (presumably a senior official) adds that it would be much more likely to establish the forecast calculations on the basis of "four thousand" (2 tons) per car, before making this final restriction: "I would not even dare to assure that we could generally count on this result, and I would rather be led to believe that it would still be necessary to discard a portion of it, either because of the bad roads, or because of the losses of horses, or finally because of the bulky volume of some of the objects to be transported." We understand in these conditions the logistical failure of the Russian expedition.
                  Another obvious remark, transport ultimately has a triple aspect: transport of material essential to operations (engineering means and especially artillery ammunition), transport of food and various supplies for the benefit of combatants (excluding ammunition) and finally luggage (mainly senior or general officers). The whole represents a mass of cars and horses which consume the available resources uniformly, while the loads are not of the same importance in terms of priority. Again, it seems possible to set orders of importance 65. Of the 49,816 draft horses present at the Grande Armée in June 1812, the artillery used 27,300 (20,750 for the batteries and caissons in the park 66, 2,550 for the bridge crew and 4,000 for the regimental artillery), or 55%. Crews responsible for flows between divisions and the army’s logistics base (operations center) only 10,500 (21%) 67. The rest of the teams (24%) are devoted to engineering, regimental trains (regimental artillery excluded) and various transport (staff documents, printing works, treasury, etc.), knowing that carriages, private cars or carts luggage, although weighing down the columns, is not listed here insofar as they belong to individuals.

                  57 A report of January 11, 1812 (AN, AF IV 1183) specifies that oxen "cannot be used with the same advantage [as horses] in the various countries". They turn out to be less profitable than the latter in swampy regions but are more sensitive to epizootics and humidity. Their speed of movement is slower (4 to 5 leagues a day), their shoeing slow and difficult. Finally, an eighth of the animals is out of service after 8 to 10 days of convoy walking. The conclusion is therefore without appeal: "It seems certain that these crews could not be suitable for the service of the army corps and active divisions and that they could only be used for the transport of foodstuffs on the rear of the army . "
                  58 SHD / DAT, C2 708.
                  59 The War Administration uses itineraries on even days to convey food and miscellaneous supplies, artillery on odd days for ammunition.
                  60 Military Dictionary, article "carriage", T. I, p. 187.
                  61 According to the Military Dictionary (article "carriage", T. I, p. 186-187), the royal army used to use the French or Comtoise team, all the horses being placed on a single line. With the reform of Gribeauval, from 1765, we switch to the German coupling mode (two horses in front, each pair being led by a driver mounted on the animal on the left, the 'porteur' [carrier], that on the right being designated by the term ‘sous-verge’ [under the whip]). On the other hand, until 1858, the French army would use the collar harness, so that the harness of the 'porteur' (including the head trim, the harness and the saddle) weighed about 35 kg, that of the 'sous-verge' 24 kg only.
                  62 These calculations were made on the basis of the figures contained in the Military Dictionary (article "cannon", T. I, p. 383) and the aide-memoire for the use of artillery officers. The field guns (total weight of the piece on a carriage with its limber) weigh respectively 901 kg (gun of 4), 1320 kg (gun of 6), 1426 kg (gun of 8), 1837 kg (gun of 12). The artillery caisson weighs 1650 kg empty and carries an equivalent load, ie a total of 3.3 tons (Pigeard, Dictionnaire de la Grande Armée, article "caisson", p. 110). The number of draft horses varies according to the type of car (Memorandum for the use of artillery officers, p. 389). In practice, the field artillery pieces (from 4 to 12) and the forges are towed by 6 horses, the artillery caissons by 4 (except for one box per piece which has a hitch to 6). On the other hand, the guns of the siege crew require from 6 (piece of 16) to 10 horses (piece of 24). The same applies to the bridge crew, in which the pontoon 'haquets' (narrow and long cart, without drop sides) are pulled by 6 to 8 horses, the boat 'haquets' by 8 to 10 and the basket haquets by 6 only.
                  63 The Military Dictionary (article “engineering”, T. I, p. 1451) specifies that a tool caisson or a cart of "agrès" [accessories used for force operations: levers, ‘moufles’, chains, ropes.] weighs 475 kg empty and only 603 kg full.
                  64 AN, AF IV 1183.
                  65 SHD / DAT, box C2 700; AN, box AF IV 11 _ Brun, "Imperial military economy ...", p. 157.
                  66 The artillery crew (not including the bridge crew or the siege crew) represents 804 pieces, 2,539 artillery ammunition caissons, 872 infantry ammunition caissons, 264 ammunition carts, 129 spare carriages, 187 field forges.
                  67 The train of the equipages thus aligns 2,000 caissons and 2,400 Comtoises cars, knowing that 1,200 other Comtoises are pulled by oxen.


                  • #10
                    Luggage and Impedimenta
                    Compared to the Revolutionary Wars, the consular period, and even the campaign of 1805, the Grande Armée gradually seemed to become gentrified at all levels of the hierarchy through campaigns, victories and conquests. In 1812, for example, the equipages of Napoleon and Berthier were organized (without counting the saddle horses) in three parts 68: a light service consisting of a few tents and luggage carried on the back of a mule, a shipping service, grouping light cars and necessary supplies for the service in campaign, finally the big impedimenta. The whole represents 52 cars and 500 animals, but its modular design allows the Emperor to move constantly, with a small escort and reduced logistical means. At the other end of the chain of command, infantry officers typically have a small cart in each battalion for their baggage. It is understandable in these conditions that Jomini 69 values the cars of the Grande Armée at nearly 20,000 (cannons, ammunition caissons, equipment or equipages, "prolonges" (Car used to transport military equipment and ammunition; basic chassis mounted on wheels (sometimes used in certain funeral ceremonies)., field forges and various vehicles, including sutlers and merchants of all kinds who follow the troops) at the crossing of the Niemen (for around 340,000 men crossing). A few months later, the retreat from Moscow began with incredible lines of caissons, wagons or carts partly loaded with plunder, but which would disappear over the following days. So much so that in 1813, faced with the difficulties of bringing together saddle horses and harnesses, the Emperor promulgated a decree regulating the number of animals and cars according to the rank and function occupied.70 Normalizing previous practices, it aims above all to avoid abuse and therefore to lighten the columns, but also allows to get a fair idea of the means of transport used by the military hierarchy of the Empire 71. Likewise, still in 1813, in addition to replacing the caissons with prolongss whenever possible 72, a series of studies aimed at making the cars lighter were carried out. However, the urgency of the moment leads to the priority use of vehicles in stock in construction parks 73.

                    68 Caulaincourt, Memoirs, T.II, p. 78.
                    69 Jomini, Political and military life of Napoleon, T. IV, p. 53 and 54.
                    70 On this subject, see Annex No. 1, Table No. 9.
                    71 In order to rationally manage the columns of vehicles, there exists within each division or army corps a "vaguemestre", superior or subordinate officer in charge of the police and the management of the equipages of the headquarters, in this case carters, sutlers , merchants, servants or even equipages of officers and high-ranking employees. (Thiébault, op. Cit., P. 471).
                    72 The engineers thus replaced their caissons (weighing 975 kg and carrying a load of 700 kg) with prolonges of 850 kg carrying 1.3 ton (AN, AF IV 1169).
                    73 In 1812, two parks operated at Sampigny and Plaisance, which "have as their object the construction of cars and harnesses for the battalions of the train of military crews" (AN, AF IV 1185). Nevertheless, the experiments aiming at lightening the cars are mainly carried out by the arsenal of the engineering which completes making, on February 7, 1813, a prolonge of 520 kg carrying 950 kg (AN, AF IV 1169). For their part, the equipages are thinking of building a car weighing only 500 kg, but this project does not seem to have had any success (AN, AF IV 1189).


                    • #11
                      The question of regimental trains
                      The first logistical level remains the elementary unit or, in some cases, the regiment, which have organic means intended to ensure immediate supplies and replenishments 74. Guard units are well endowed. Similarly, in the Line, each infantry regiment has an accounting caisson and an ambulance second 75, each battalion a caisson intended to carry bread or flour and a caisson of ammunition. From 1809 to 1812 also existed, within a certain number of infantry regiments, an artillery company (2 or 4 guns of 3 or 4, as well as the necessary ammunition cars). The cavalry is followed by a regimental forge and an ambulance caisson for two squadrons, the artillery carries the necessary on its cars, while each company of sappers owns a prolonge harnessed with 4 horses, with 6 boxes of tools, to which are added two pack horses for portable instruments 76. The whole is nevertheless relatively heavy, hence, in February 1813, a reduction in the resources allocated and an increased use of pack horses rather than cars.

                      74 As the name suggests, replenishment means replacing as soon as possible the food and ammunition consumed, in order to maintain the unit's permanent fighting capacity.
                      75 By ambulance, at the time, we do not mean the vehicle used to evacuate the wounded, but the caisson which contains the instruments and utensils necessary for the organization of a first aid station.
                      76 AN, AF IV 1162.


                      • #12
                        The various train companies
                        Most of the transport remains, however, provided by specialized units. The armies of the end of the 18th century, intended to maneuver and fight in the open countryside, were followed by various materials, mainly artillery pieces and carts of ammunition. But the Ancient Régime and then the Revolution used private carriers for this purpose, who risked their willfulness in their teams in battles. Concerned with efficiency, the First Consul Bonaparte began by militarizing these carters on 13 Nivôse, year VIII (January 3, 1800). The artillery train was born, organized in battalions, themselves subdivided into companies. In practice, each artillery company (made up of officers, non-commissioned officers and gunners intended to serve the pieces) is associated with a train company responsible for towing the 6 or 8 pieces of the unit, as well as the carts and caissons with corresponding ammunition. The whole then forms an artillery "division" (which is equivalent to our contemporary term of battery). Odd at first, this dichotomy in fact obeys a logic of rationalization of the use of means. In this way, the artillery companies assigned to fortresses (and therefore static by definition) do not unnecessarily immobilize teams. The system proved to be sufficiently adapted to be kept until the end of the Empire, the train did not stop growing, in parallel with the increase in field artillery.
                        Engineering, which also needs specialized equipment, is subject to identical reasoning. Initially, the decree of October 1, 1806 attached to each battalion of sappers 20 caissons of tools towed by 4 horses and led by a brigade of 60 carters commanded by a sergeant-major, a sergeant and 4 corporals. Then, in 1809, 4 train companies were created, united in 1811 into 1 battalion of 6 companies and 1 depot.
                        There remains the question of food. Despite the current idea that war feeds war (according to Cato's formula), and therefore that we live in the countries crossed (by looting but above all by requisitioning and paying for food 77), supplies remain necessary to ensure the progression of armies with more and more important effective The "science of subsistence" is thus part of "great tactics" (of strategy), as opposed to "elementary tactics" (to the tactical procedures implemented during combat) 78. However, the supply issue is less complex than it is today. In the countryside, the soldier receives bread (or biscuit) and meat, which he completes with vegetables found on the way, to make his two daily soups, morning and evening, the midday meal taking the form of a snack. Providing the meat is not complicated. Generally, the commissioners of war requisition (and pay) one ox or one cow per battalion. One evening of battle, the survivors have plenty of horses! On the other hand, the soldier, rural at heart, does not consider himself fed if he does not have his ration of bread (750 grams per man per day 79). So much so that Napoleon used to collect huge stocks of flour before entering the field, which he then sent to the army in a regular flow. In practice, the soldier takes bread and sometimes biscuits with him (if possible 4 days each, two loaves and 2.2 kg of biscuit), while the regimental trains carry additional supplies 80. The wagon that follows any infantry battalion is thus loaded with 1,000 rations, or one day of autonomy. Most of the army’s transportation (excluding ammunition) actually consists of bread or flour, with tools, clothing, spare shoes or other supplies remaining unimportant.
                        This ultimately light logistics allows the large-scale movements that underpin the Napoleonic strategy, despite the limitation of means of transport. As under the Revolution, the Consulate and then the Empire initially entered into contracts with private entrepreneurs (Breidt for the Grande Armée, Gayde in Italy) State. But such a system has shortcomings. Without the crushing power of a few caissons of pain and a few barrels of brandy 81, the Emperor could not exploit his costly victory for Eylau. Which led him to create, on March 26, 1807, a properly military organization, the train of equipages, which would henceforth take care of all transport (except the ammunition which called the competence of artillery). The logic behind a constitution aims to provide each corps with a train battalion, half of which will provide transportation between the operations center (the army logistics base) and the corps, while the other half will be responsible for replenishments between the infantry divisions and the corps. On the evening of the battle, the empty caissons also evacuated the wounded to the rear. Finally, flows between France and the operations center can be largely entrusted to private entrepreneurs when the military means prove insufficient. This does not preclude the use of Breidt's services, placed at the head of organized auxiliary crews with civilian cars and drivers and operating in the combat zone if the circumstances are intelligent. In fact, the train of the equipages grows with the imperial army, but the campaign of Russia, the period of armistice of the summer 1813 or the second campaign of Saxony implemented cruelly in light, in various degrees, the limits of Napoleonic logistics.

                        77 The Grande Armée has civilian staff responsible for supply matters and reports to the Ministry of War Administration. It is also followed in the campaign by payers who have several million francs (in the form of cash or promissory notes) to pay for purchases and requisitions (NA, AF IV 1083-A).
                        78 The terminal chapter (Book II, Chapter XVIII) of the Count de Guibert's General Tactical Essay bears this very explicit title: "The relationship of the science of subsistence to war, and particularly to campaign warfare. Review of how we sustain our armies”. Furthermore, the first two paragraphs of the "Note on transport in active armies" (SHD / DAT, 1M 2357) pose the problem in all its acuteness: "The organization of transport has always been considered as the most important question and most difficult of the administration of the armies. Indeed, if too many convoys, if too heavy cars, can sometimes, and especially in the event of movement backwards, become an embarrassment, a real danger, if one does not have enough transport to remove in the country that one crosses the resources which it presents, one is exposed to the raiding and to the reduction of manpower which it involves. The shortage of transportation makes the evacuation of the wounded slow and dangerous and often prevents a general-in-chief from executing, in enemy and devastated countries, these rapid and unforeseen movements which ensure success."
                        79 The food ration, fixed by the decree of 25 fructidor year IX (September 12, 1801), modified and supplemented in 1803 and 1805, is strictly defined: 750 grams of bread (75% wheat, 25% barley or rye) or 550 grams of war cracker, 240 to 360 grams of beef, veal or mutton, but only 120 to 180 grams of pork, fresh or salted, 30 grams of rice or 60 grams of dried vegetables (fèves, peas, beans, lentils) and 16 grams of salt. To which is added a drink whose nature varies according to availability and season (0.05 liter of vinegar, 0.0625 liter of brandy, 0.25 liter of wine, 0.5 liter of beer). However, beyond these theoretical standards, it should be noted that in reality, over the years, over spot of halt or theaters of operation, a number of modifications have taken place.
                        80 When passing the Niemen, for example, the infantrymen of the 1st army corps (Davout) have 20 days of subsistence (4 days of bread on them or in the battalion and 16 in biscuit and flour on cars belonging to the army corps).
                        81 In the campaign, brandy replaces wine advantageously, given its reduced volume which makes it easier to transport. The soldier's ration is 1/16th of a liter (one liter per infantry squad). In addition to its doping effect (at Austerlitz, the troops will fight on an empty stomach, excluding a glass of alcohol), it serves to make drinking, as much as possible, the water consumed during the progression.


                        • #13
                          Although the horse remains the key animal of the Grande Armée, both for movement and for traction, we cannot conclude this presentation without mentioning some palliative solutions adopted to respond to specific situations. At the end of 1813, faced with the exhaustion of the national herd, the Empire reduced its level of demand by forming, as we have seen, squadrons of scouts 82. But the fall of the regime in 1814 put an end to this attempt.
                          In addition, to strengthen the trains, he-mules were often used in place of horses, not only in teams but also in Spain with the organization of brigades of pack mules 83 which provide excellent services. Likewise, for the Russian expedition, 4 battalions of train of the equipages were set up with Comtoise cars towed by oxen 84. The experiment was not repeated, however, as the cattle were neither fast enough nor strong enough to follow an army in the field.

                          82 On this subject, see Annex No. 2, "Criteria for the selection of horses".
                          83 10 brigades of 102 mules (requiring 54 drivers), raised in 1808, were used throughout the Spanish conflict (AN, AF IV 1183).
                          84 Each company, made up of 93 soldiers (including officers and non-commissioned officers), owns 50 Comtoise cars, 1 forge and 1 prolonge drawn by 62 pairs of oxen (including 8 ‘haut-le-pied’[Neither harnessed, nor mounted, nor loaded; kept in reserve to relay a tired beast or to strengthen a team.]) and 8 horses. Additional clarification: an ox costs 300 francs (to which 20 francs should be added for the yokes and the coupling chain).


                          • #14
                            THE IMAGE OF THE CAVALRY

                            Recruitment of mounted troops
                            There can be no question, in the context of this article, of studying in detail the methods of recruiting mounted troops. Some obvious reminders are still necessary. The consular and imperial era knew only animal traction, so that there is a familiarity with horses comparable to that which we maintain today with land motor vehicles, even if a majority of soldiers cannot ride. On the other hand, as in the rest of the Grande Armée, soldiers are mainly recruited by conscription, under the Jourdan-Delbrel law of September 5, 1798, while the proportion of voluntary engagements, although very minority, remains superior in the cavalry to those of other arms (in particular the infantry), with a preference for the hussars. In fact, the cavalry (but not the trains) benefits, at least for the cuirassiers and the carabiniers, of quality conscripts, taking into account the physical standards of selection 85, while the assignment in mounted arms in general sometimes involves professional criteria (in particular for these farrier and saddler-harness makers 86). Especially since the small number of troops required (due to the reduced volume of regiments and relatively small losses) facilitates the choice. We cannot, however, close this brief sketch without mentioning the case of the trumpets, without which any maneuver is impossible since the transmission of orders rests on them. A school had been created in Versailles, welcoming 125 students 87. Given the importance of the needs, a decree of March 2, 1813 88 enjoined any cavalry regiment to instruct at its depot, at the same time, 6 students aged 14 to 18 years.
                            The officering on its side comes essentially from the rank. As in the rest of the imperial army, non-commissioned officers acquire their ranks over the years and campaigns. The officers' case remains more complex. The majority still come from the armies of the Revolution (or even from the royal army). Nevertheless, the various regimes have endeavored to set up specialized training courses. The National Riding School, founded in 1796, became the National School for the instruction of troops on horseback in May 1798. In 1799, two similar establishments were organized, in Angers and Lunéville, then a fourth in Paris in 1808. Finally, all four were suppressed on March 8, 1809 and replaced by the Imperial and special military school of cavalry of Saint-Germain 89, knowing that the school of Fontainebleau (then transferred to Saint-Cyr) only trained infantrymen (who sometimes join cavalry regiments) and, from 1811, some artillerymen. Theoretically grouping 600 students admitted at the age of 16, the cavalry school must provide them with full education in 3 or 4 years, but it never reaches its total enrollment and annual promotions (which should be 150 sub-lieutenants) are actually done at the mercy of vacancy in the regiments. This did not prevent the establishment from "producing", in 1813, 236 of the 897 sub-lieutenants from that year in all military schools 90. For its part, the artillery on horseback has the resources of the artillery and engineering school of Metz 91, the most prestigious of the military establishments of the Empire, and of the regimental schools which represent real centers of formation and training in constituted units. In fact, mastering two specialties, pieces service and horse riding, the members of this subdivision of arm are considered to be an elite (with the exception of the Guard) and receive the highest pay in the Line army. On the other hand, train units (including officers) generally have no formation other than experience.
                            In fact, the effectiveness of the cavalry hinges on the training and habituation of men to the details of daily service and care of animals. From this point of view, the losses of the Russian expedition, incommensurate with the usual attrition rate of the previous campaigns 92, cause the mass arrival in the regiments of inexperienced recruits. The officering, also strongly renewed (notably the brigadiers or marshals of the logis[sergeants in mounted arms]), is no longer able to play as completely its role of transmission of knowledge and surveillance which previously made its value 93. Hence the lack of solidity on the march and on the battlefield of the newly formed units, which lose a lot of horses for lack of care and prove to be barely maneuverable during the Saxon campaigns in 1813 (unlike the troops repatriated from Spain, in especially dragoons), while trains are rapidly decreasing the number of usable teams 94.

                            85 Title II (article 413) of the General Instruction on Conscription is very precise in this respect: "The generals will form the contingents of the different arms in the following order: carabiniers, cuirassiers, riflemen of the imperial guard, foot and horse artillery, workers and pontooners, dragoons, engineers and light cavalry, riflemen of the guard, infantry, artillery train and military equipages. The conscripts for the carabiniers and cuirassiers and for half of the contingent of riflemen of the guard will be taken from among the strongest and the tallest; they cannot have, for the carabiniers, less than 1 meter 785 millimeters, and for the cuirassiers and half of the riflemen of the guard, less than 1 meter 731 millimeters. Those who, for size, come immediately after, will be assigned to the artillery. It is essential that conscripts intended for this arm have at least 1 meter 690 millimeters. [The conscripts] which will be intended for the dragoons will have at least 1 meter 650 millimeters. All the other conscripts must be divided between the corps of engineers, the light cavalry, the tirailleurs of the guard, the infantry of line and light, the battalions of the artillery train and the military equipages, so that each corps have a number of men of each size, proportional to its quota, observing not to give to the regiments of light cavalry men having more than 1 meter 650 millimeters [in order to respect the specifications of the decree of 8 fructidor year XIII - August 26, 1805 and the instruction of February 11, 1808]. "We can put these data into perspective by recalling that the minimum size to be recruited is 1.54 m while the average size of conscripts, in a mountain department like Haute-Loire, is established during the Consulate and l 'Empire between 1.60 and 1.61 m depending on the year (Brun, "Haute-Loire in the Napoleonic Wars, from the year XIII to 1814").
                            86 Title II (article 414) of the General Instruction on conscription specifies that "conscripts who know how to take care of horses and drive cars will preferably be assigned to train battalions and military equipages. The saddlers and farriers will be proportionally distributed between the troops on horseback of any arm, the battalions of the train and the military equipages [in order again to respect the specifications of the decree of 8 fructidor year XIII and the instruction of February 11, 1808] ".
                            87 SHD / DAT, 1M 2018.
                            88 AN, AF IV 739.
                            89 The details concerning the Saint-Germain school are taken from box X ° 13 (SHD / DAT).
                            90 Brun, "The reconstitution of the officer corps in 1813", p. 87. The first Restoration, by its ordinances of 1814, preserves the school of Metz and suppresses the other military schools of the Empire while creating a military school in Saint-Cyr (to train 400 pupils intended for the infantry and for the cavalry) and a training school for troops on horseback in Saumur. The latter includes 11 officers, 2 écuyers (squires), 2 sous-écuyers, 1 professor of hippiatrics, 1 veterinary artist, 11 employees or non-commissioned officers and 1 groom for 4 horses. It will welcome 249 students recruited from the mounted corps: each cavalry regiment must send 2 officers and 2 non-commissioned officers, each artillery train or equipage squadron 1 officer and 1 non-commissioned officer, finally the engineering train company 1 officer or 1 non-commissioned officer (Historical note on the organization of the army from the Revolution to the present day, p. 276).
                            91 The details concerning the Metz school are taken from the box Xd 249 (SHD / DAT).
                            92 See in this regard Annex No. 3, paragraph 2 "The attrition of units in the field".
                            93 The lack of qualified non-commissioned officers seems real. Example among all of the difficulties encountered by the hierarchy, this report from the 8th Hussars (and probably written in February 1813): "The cadre of non-commissioned officers is not complete because it is not possible to find subjects capable of performing these functions. All former intelligent hussars who campaigned were promoted to the rank of brigadier [corporal in mounted arms]. Orders are given for non-commissioned officers from 5 Squadron to go to Mainz to complete the cadre.” (SHD / DAT, C2 287).
                            94 This report of April 6, 1813 (AN, AF IV 1165) testifies to this: “Up to now, we have not paid enough attention to the choice of men for the train: also the loss in horses was enormous, largely due to the poor choice of men. I am already aware that convoys arriving at the army of the Elbe have suffered great loss of horses due to the weakness and inexperience of the soldiers of the train. A train soldier with two horses to drive on difficult paths must have strength to hold his horses and must be robust to withstand the various fatigue of this trade. "


                            • #15
                              At the frontiers of mentalities
                              Although the specialists, in this case the military, Napoleon at the head, 95 are persuaded of the functional pre-eminence of artillery, the only one capable of supplying the firepower suitable for victory, the cavalry seems to preserve, at least in the civilian world, its image as a noble arm. There are several clues to support such a hypothesis. The pages of the Emperor 96 generally choose the cavalry. In addition, the Grande Armée counted in its ranks, from September 1806 to July 1807, four companies of volunteers rich enough to buy their horse and their equipment, the ordonnance gendarme. But the republican spirit of the old soldiers, founded above all on the notion of equality, had seen there (rightly it seems) a hint of the Ancient Regime, hence a rapid interruption of this experience. Then, in April 1813, four regiments of honor guards were raised, organized on the model of light cavalry. Each department must provide a contingent of Frenchmen from 19 to 30 years old 97, taken from the five hundred taxpayers or sons of taxpayers the most taxed, and the members (or their sons) of the Legion of Honor, of the order of Reunion or the nobility of the Empire. In short, the regime is trying to interest the notables in its survival, in a way finding the blood tax that justified the nobility of the Ancient Régime in the collective unconscious. Equipped with a suit but very expensive uniform in hussar style and amounting to their expenses, these riders will be placed "following" the Guard (of which they will receive the pay) and will be theoretically promoted to sub-lieutenants after their first year under the flags. In a society where the practice of riding and the possession of a saddle horse are all signs of ease, it seemed logical to assign these very particular recruits to the cavalry (preferably to the infantry, low-priced , or artillery, whose technicality requires a long and thorough training). In addition, this decision allows the power to acquire without purse untie a division of light cavalry. This reasoning in fact joins that which, in January 1813, had presided over the levy of 12,000 light horsemen supplied by the cantons of the Empire (in the same way as the flotilla boats offered a few years earlier by the cities and the constituted bodies for the landing in England).

                              95 Hence his famous maxim: "In siege war as in field war, the cannon plays the main role. He made a total revolution (…). It is with artillery that we make war. "
                              96 Recruited as their predecessors of the Ancient Régime from the sons of high dignitaries or from prestigious families, they formed a group of 36 adolescents from 14 to 18 years of age who benefited from extensive school and military education and followed the Emperor to the court and at war, before receiving a second lieutenant rank.
                              97 A minimum contingent is fixed for each prefect, but there is nothing to prevent it from being exceeded, the levy decree speaking of 5,000 to 10,000 honor guards at the national level.


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