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"Austrian dragoons and chevauxlegers" Topic

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John Edmundson16 Jan 2018 11:30 p.m. PST

I have a question regarding this. Several sets of Napoleonic rules that I have seen treat these troops as the same. The Austrians themselves clearly did not – Chevauxlegers are almost exclusively assigned to Avant-Garde Divisions, with Grenz and Jaegers. Dragoons are almost exclusively brigaded with Kurassiers in the Reserve Divisions. Very occasionally one or the other is assigned to an Infantry Division but this is very much the exception. Sam Mustafa's rules are an example of this, with Lasalle grouping dragoons and C/L together and Blucher combining both with the Uhlans under 'other'.

The Austrians clearly saw them as being different; the C/L as light horse (which is of course their name in French) and used them in the same way they used hussars, Dragoons as heavy cavalry and held in the reserve.

Are there rules out there that do make this distinction? It would be easy to do in Lasalle – just give Dragoons 'shock' but distinguish them from Kurrassiers by keeping them Reliable while the Kurrassiers are Valiant.

Not having played Napoleonics for years, I don't know what rules I'll end up using – I want something where a battalion is about 8 figures, which I know I could do with a few modifications using Lasalle or Blucher, but I know there are a lot of rule sets out there that I know nothing about.


Artilleryman17 Jan 2018 1:13 a.m. PST

I treat the chevauxlegers as light cavalry and put them under that category in whatever rules I use whatever the rules say. If you adopt that method then it does not really matter which rules you use.

Trajanus17 Jan 2018 2:36 a.m. PST

The clue is in the name chevaux – Horse, leger – Light.

You wouldn't put British light dragoon's down as heavy cavalry, I don't know why some people think the Austrians would be any different.

nsolomon9917 Jan 2018 3:09 a.m. PST

The Austro-Hungarian Chevau-Leger Regiments were the "German" light cavalry as opposed to the Hussars that were the Hungarian and eastern light cavalry. They were used for similar purposes and good rules should reflect this.

The Dragoon regiments were medium battle cavalry capable of a similar mixed role as the French Dragoon regiments. Again good rules should allow you to represent these differences.

Prince of Essling17 Jan 2018 5:43 a.m. PST

According to Alphons von Wrede Volume 3.1:

For a Cürassier horse from 5 years down to possibly 2 years, 15 hands 2 inches to 14 hands 3 inches, for a dragoon horse in the same age range 15 hands to 14 hands 1/2 inch. Chevauxlegers Horse 14 hands 2 inches to 15 hands, for a hussar horse 14 hands 1 inch to 14 hands 3 inches.

Therefore based on the size of the horses, there is no real difference between a Chevauxleger and a Dragoon.

138SquadronRAF Supporting Member of TMP17 Jan 2018 6:11 a.m. PST

Look at how the Austrians used them to give you a clue.

Chevauxleger,Uhlans and Hussars were attached to the infantry corps, where some squadrons are attached to the Avante Garde division and the rest forming a reserve.

Cuirassiers and Dragoons were attached with the combined Grenadier units in the Reserve Corps.

stecal Supporting Member of TMP17 Jan 2018 6:35 a.m. PST

Probably nearly the same thing, but the exhaustion & weight loss of the horses from the CL performing daily scouting & outpost duties made them much inferior on the day of battle to the rested and well fed horses of the Dragoons in the Reserve Corps.

Brownand17 Jan 2018 10:10 a.m. PST

But in the 1799-1800 cheveau-leger and dragoons were one category if i'm not mistaken so there was very little difference in both categories at that time

Prince of Essling17 Jan 2018 1:15 p.m. PST

Some commentators say that although Chevauxleger were regarded as "light" troops in the "German" {i.e. all non-"Hungarians" – the latter included Croatians, Slovenians & Transylvanians) cavalry they were in effect more akin to the medium Dragoons.

As Brownand rightly says, in 1798 the Dragoons and Chevauxleger were amalgamated into a single class of Light Dragoons. After the Treaty of Luneville in 1801 the Austrian cavalry underwent a major reorganisation and reduction. The Light Dragoons were split into 6 regiments of Dragoons and 6 regiments of Chevauxleger (various cavalry regiments were disbanded or redesignated e.g. 12 Cuirassiers were converted to Dragoons.

In 1805, Mack pushed through reforms so that all regiments to have 8 squadrons. Following the disastrous campaign Archduke Charles institute a more useful reform whereby heavy regiments (Cuirassiers and Dragoons) comprised 6 squadrons each of 135 men , while light regiments had 8 squadrons each of 150 men. In addition there were a supplementary number of dismounted men (60 for the heavies and 90 for the lights)for each regiment who could act as a cadre for a reserve squadron on mobilisation.

John Edmundson17 Jan 2018 3:52 p.m. PST

I think this is an interesting discussion, and of course the distinction between 'light' and 'medium' or 'heavy' is often quite arbitrary. I think the fact that the Light Dragoons were re-separated into two types – C/L and Dragoons, and that subsequently the C/L were almost always assigned to Avant Garde Divisions (where hussars were also often assigned) while dragoons were normally brigaded in the Reserve Divisions with the Kurrassier Regiments suggests that there was a perception of difference.

It's interesting about the horse sizes. How do these compare with other nations' horses, such as those of French chasseurs a cheval etc?

Brechtel19817 Jan 2018 5:20 p.m. PST

There was no 'medium' cavalry during the period.

That term appears to be one that has been made up.

khanscom17 Jan 2018 6:42 p.m. PST

"How do these compare with other nations' horses, such as those of French chasseurs a cheval etc?"

From Empires, Eagles, and Lions: March- April 1987 "More on Horses and Medium Cavalry" by J. Lochet

For the French line in 1812--
Carabiniers and Cuirassiers: 15 hands .3 to 15 hands .7
Dragoons: 15 hands to 15 hands .3
Chasseurs and Hussars: 14 hands .6 to 15 hands
Cheveau- legers (lancers): 14 hands .3 to 14 hands .7

No medium cavalry: Carabiniers, Cuirassiers, and Dragoons are "heavy"-- the rest are "light".

For the Imperial Guard--
Horse Grenadiers: 14 hands .9 to 15 hands .2
Chasseurs a Cheval: 14 hands .6 to 15 hands .2
Empress' Dragoons: information not available
Cheveau- legers (lancers): 14 hands .4 to 14 hands .9

Hope this helps.

Rakkasan17 Jan 2018 8:12 p.m. PST

In the Nafziger Order of Battle for the Austrians at Aspern-Essling ( PDF link )
the Chevauxleger are in the reserve alongside the dragoons.

It is the same for the order of battle for Wagram, ( PDF link ).

In the orders of battle for the period of the Third Coalition, the chevauxlegers are sometimes with hussars/uhlans and other times with dragoons.

I realize that orders of battle do not indicate use, just assignment. What the Nafziger OOBs from 1805 and 1809 do show is that the chevauxleger were not exclusively assigned to the advanced guard. They could be with the light forces (jaegers, grenze, hussars) or the reserve (grenadiers, dragoons).

John Edmundson17 Jan 2018 11:19 p.m. PST

According to Nafziger, at Aspern-Essling there are 4 chevauxleger regiments, 2 are in Avant-Garde divisions, 2 are brigaded together in the reserve. There are 4 dragoon regiments, 3 in the reserve, 1 with an infantry division, none in an Avant-Garde division.

At Wagram, of the 4 Chevauxleger regiments, two are in Avant-Garde divisions, two are in the reserve. The three dragoon regiments are all in the reserve Corps. None are used in the Avant-Garde divisions.

To me, this suggests a difference in role – not absolute but there nonetheless. Dragoons are clearly heavies, in the reserves or in infantry divisions. The chevauxlegers are often in the Avant-Garde divisions along with Grenz, Jager or Freiwillige infantry.

Previously, these troops had all been light dragoons but they were split into 6 regiments of each, and they are subsequently assigned differently. I'm not trying to argue that they are not sometimes given similar roles, or that the O'Reilly Chevauxlegers aren't capable of a hard charge, just as the hussars sometimes did. But I think there is a doctrinal decision being made that tends to see them in a light cavalry role while the dragoons tend to be regarded as heavy.


Personal logo 4th Cuirassier Supporting Member of TMP18 Jan 2018 1:20 a.m. PST

Agree "medium" is an anachronism. What it always seems to mean is (heavy) dragoons: cavalry that served as heavy cavalry, but weren't as heavy as "proper" heavies, such as cuirassiers and carabiniers.

So, a bit like Andrew Field in his Waterloo book calling the Papelotte / Smohain area "bocage", it's a way of getting a description across via a term that's not strictly accurate.

"Medium" as an expression for French dragoons is in my view about right, noting this qualification. In my reading, they were indeed functionally heavy cavalry who were less heavy than others in the same army.

Where it's perhaps a bit of a pitfall to use terms like "medium" is that some armies' actual heavy cavalry was unarmoured and thus or otherwise hard to distinguish from French dragoons. You wouldn't call Saxon Garde du Corps, Prussian cuirassiers, Dutch-Belgian carabiniers, French grenadiers a cheval or British heavy dragoons "medium" cavalry, I wouldn't think.

von Winterfeldt18 Jan 2018 1:58 a.m. PST

It changed during the times, initially for sure light cavalry, 2 CL squadrons were attached to the Carabiniers, the 1798 regulations changed a lot, and in my opinion they were more or less unified with the dragoons.

Wu Tian Inactive Member18 Jan 2018 6:57 a.m. PST

Some contemporary views:

Grenadirs zu Pferde , Kürassirs , Dragoner, welche schwere Pferde reuten‚ (schwerberittene) gehören zur schweren; leicht berittene (leichte Pferde reitende) Dragoner, ferner Jäger zu Pferde, Chevaux-legers (siehe dies Wort), Husaren, Bosniaken, Uhlanen, gehören zur leichten Cavallerie. Wenn die Cavallerie auf den Feind ins Gesammt, oder besser gesagt in einer Linie einhaut, sn heifst dies eine Cavallerie-Attakke.

Real Kriegs-Wörterbuch für das Militair und Zeitungsleser, Leipzig, 1811, p. 53.

Cavalerie. Reiterey. Soldaten zu Pferde, sie werden eingetheilt in die schwere und leichte, je nachdem sie schwer oder leicht beritten sind, nähmlich schwere oder leichte Pferde reiten, doch gibt es auch noch eine 3te Abtheilung der mittlerin Berittenen.

Encyclopädisches Kriegs-Lexikon, Wien, 1813, vol. 1, p. 123

Jcfrog Supporting Member of TMP18 Jan 2018 7:03 a.m. PST

In many period books, not the least kriegspiel 1824, there is no " medium cavalry" which looks like a persisting wargaming invention from the 80s.

138SquadronRAF Supporting Member of TMP18 Jan 2018 7:35 a.m. PST

There was no 'medium' cavalry during the period.

That term appears to be one that has been made up.

In many period books, not the least kriegspiel 1824, there is no " medium cavalry" which looks like a persisting wargaming invention from the 80s.

I'd say it was made up in the very late 60s or early 70s. The culprit is probably Phil Barker. The term was very widely used in the WRG rules that he wrote in that period.

I suspect they were looking for something to cover the difference between obviously light cavalry (hussars) and obviously heavy cavalry (cuirassiers). They fixed on the idea that they weren't heavy cavalry (no armour) but weren't quite light cavalry.

matthewgreen Supporting Member of TMP18 Jan 2018 9:02 a.m. PST

It is easy to see why people merge the Austrian chevaulegers and dragoons. Visually they are nearly identical – apart from the harness, I read somewhere. In particular both carried a straight sabre, characteristic of heavy cavalry.

When it comes to combat characteristics of units I am moving away from distinguishing light from heavy cavalry. I treat the heavy cavalry in a similar way to infantry grenadiers. The combat characteristics of most dragoons and light cavalry look pretty similar, even if their grand tactical employment was not.

I think there is a more important distinction to be made at command level. Light cavalry commanders are given more latitude to use their initiative. Heavy cavalry tend to need an order from the top to get moving.

138SquadronRAF Supporting Member of TMP18 Jan 2018 9:15 a.m. PST

When it comes to combat characteristics of units I am moving away from distinguishing light from heavy cavalry. I treat the heavy cavalry in a similar way to infantry grenadiers. The combat characteristics of most dragoons and light cavalry look pretty similar, even if their grand tactical employment was not.

The main set of rules I use has light and heavy cavalry. They have slightly different characteristics. With dragoons it is either scenario specific or the commander gets to choose at the start of the game if they want dragoons to operate as light or heavy cavalry.

HappyHussar Supporting Member of TMP19 Jan 2018 9:39 p.m. PST

I have been studying Napoleonics since the 1970s. I have seen all sorts of explanations for cavalry. It all comes down to horsemanship. The heavy cavalry would often use a straight sword for lunging. The light cavalry a curved sword for cutting. The former were used to make an impact charge. The latter for slash and cut type cavalry melees as they were often used in patrol duties and a straight sword is not useful for that kind of duty.

Now someone my cut my analysis to shreds but my thinking is simply that people over analyze the cavalry. Its pretty simple: you send in the "Heavies" to cut THROUGH a formation and the light cavalry to flank it.

If you were to look at the French dragoons coming out of Russia in 1812 they were NOT heavy cavalry. Their horses were worn out. However, when they brought in the dragoons from Spain .. THOSE were some excellent regiments and in 1814 they bolstered the French cavalry greatly.

Some regiments during this period could not perform a battlefield wheel! They were raw as grass. The command would have them charge in a straight line and that was that.

Such was the case with Milhaud's division in 1807 during the Winter campaign. They were inexperienced. However, training during March-April shaped them up into a "Heavy" division.

I would like to hear from the experts here if the Austrian dragoons had a straight or curved sword. For me that would tell me their rating.

The term medium was never used but it is not a bad term if you want to differentiate between Cuirassiers, Dragoons and Chasseurs. When you go to write rules its always good to show some class distinction. While the Cuirassiers of every army did not always win vs. Dragoons I think that its safe to say that they owned the "edge" in victories. ;)

For me: the Austrian dragoons probably had a straight sword. Just a guess ….

Sho Boki19 Jan 2018 11:11 p.m. PST

IMHO it is better to divide to "line and light" than "heavy and light".
The "medium" question ceased to exist.

Brechtel19820 Jan 2018 9:20 a.m. PST

Interestingly, sometimes the French 'classed' their dragoons as light cavalry.

The French Imperial Guard dragoons were definitely classed as heavy cavalry.

matthewgreen Supporting Member of TMP20 Jan 2018 10:50 a.m. PST

According to my old Osprey both Austrian dragoons and chevaulegers used straight swords, but hussars used curved ones. However I think it was a lighter weapon than the one used by the cuirassiers.

von Winterfeldt20 Jan 2018 12:50 p.m. PST

"Die Reiter – Regimenter der k.k. österreichischen Armee
I. Band
Die Kürassiere und Dragoner
2nd edition, Wien 1866

Chevauxleger – light cavalry of German nationality. They were mounted on horses of light cavalry breed, mounted like hussars and also armed with carbine, pistols and sabres. In 1768 the two dragoon regiments Kaiser and Löwenstein were converted to Chevauxlegers, and 1773 each of the two carabiner regiments received two squadrons of Chevauxlegers.
1779 the dragoon regiments Kinsky, Jung Modena and Hessen Darmstadt were converted to Chevauxlegers, 1779 additionally Lobkowitz and 1791 Latour.
In 1798 all Chevauxleger Regiments became light dragoons, in 1802 however all above mentioned Chevauxleger regiments, with the exception of Jung Modena which was disbanded and Levenehr which staid dragoons and the 1798 newly raised dragoons changed back to Chevauxlegers.

The Dragoons
In the same year (1801) all Dragoon regiments and Chevauxleger regiments were converted to light dragoons.
p. 316


So – my interpretations – Austrian dragoons till about 1798 / 1801 heavy cavalry – from then on light, Chevauleger – lights, the arms seemingly were secondary, the deciding factor were the size and breed of the horses, a similar thing to Prussian dragoons which in 1806 only two remained heavy the rest was regarded as light, all were armed identically – but mounted differently.

von Winterfeldt21 Jan 2018 7:13 a.m. PST

Also look at these plates, clearly a difference in the early dragoons and chevauslegers


HappyHussar Supporting Member of TMP21 Jan 2018 8:12 a.m. PST

Thanks for the info, v. Winterfeldt and matthewgreen.

On the conversion of the Dragoons to Light Dragoons:

That would better explain why some of the dragoons were still wearing white tunics during the 1799 campaign. My sources say that the dragoons converted earlier than 1802 but that they wore out the tunics before changing to the green colored tunic. Same with the casquette to helmet changeover.

Whatever the case – the uniforms were definitely in transition around this time.

On the Chevaulegers and cutting saber: well that makes sense. Gives you a better idea why the Austrians consdiered their Dragoons "line cavalry" and the Chevaulegers in the light role in the light brigades in 1809 and before.

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