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"Infanry line vs. cavalry charge" Topic

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Major Bloodnok02 May 2018 5:11 a.m. PST

Apart from the Gloster's rear rank defence in Egypt, and Wellngton's statement about a four rank line would be capable to defeat cavalry, does anyone know how common it was for an infantry unit that was in line to drive off cavalry. Thanks.

Major Bloodnok02 May 2018 5:12 a.m. PST

Apart from the Gloster's rear rank defence in Egypt, and Wellngton's statement about a four rank line would be capable to defeat cavalry, does anyone know how common it was for an infantry unit that was in line to drive off cavalry. Thanks.

davbenbak Supporting Member of TMP Inactive Member02 May 2018 6:36 a.m. PST


Le Breton Inactive Member02 May 2018 7:00 a.m. PST

Not line, but Russian battalions in column of divisions (12 ranks by 40-50 files) were often thought capable of receiving cavalry and even of advancing to "charge" cavalry.

Personal logo ColCampbell Supporting Member of TMP02 May 2018 8:42 a.m. PST

Same with the Austrian "batallion masse" formation although I don't know how successful they were in the fall of 1813.


Mick the Metalsmith Inactive Member02 May 2018 9:40 a.m. PST

So what was done during the preceding century? Good ordered, experienced infantry with anchored flanks could almost always fend off the horse. The square enhanced command control and removed flanks. Disordered, low morale troops in line would more likely to break and run. Squares kept that to a minimum. Artillery and skirmishers to soften the infantry in lines so that horse could attack was considered absolutely required. Absence of anchors, or flank support made the square the better formation for most troops, but elites realized that firmness was more important than formation.

IIRC there were incidents in the Peninsula of British infantry in line ATTACKING cavalry (blown and disordered subsequent to a charge)

BillyNM02 May 2018 9:58 a.m. PST

If the flanks aren't threatened and they've got the nerve to stand and hold their fire to right point (NOT too close) then there's no reason why the infantry line can't see of the cavalry. Square of course solves the flanks problem and denser formations help them to hold their nerve, so obviously they are better bet than line.

4DJones02 May 2018 11:03 a.m. PST

What about the British battalions at Minden?

attilathepun47 Inactive Member02 May 2018 11:35 a.m. PST

As stated by others above, there is no reason why well disciplined and experienced troops should not be able to repel cavalry while in line formation, provided they had secure flanks. It seems the question of secure flanks is the key to the difference between the Napoleonic era and the 18th century, when tactical doctrine was more rigid, and called for placing the entire army in line, with minimal intervals between battalions. Therefore, the only battalions with exposed flanks would have been those at the extreme ends of the line, unless the enemy had already managed to defeat some part of the line of battle with artillery and/or musketry. The more flexible tactics of the Napoleonic era provided more opportunities for cavalry to find an open flank, while the marked increase in the size of armies resulted in a general decline in the proportion of highly disciplined professional troops versus green conscripts.

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP02 May 2018 12:37 p.m. PST

At Austerlitz in Lannes' corps, battalions in line defeated Russian cavalry.

TMPWargamerabbit02 May 2018 1:54 p.m. PST

Similar TMP article in past:

1814 the Silesian jagers, two companies, charged and saw off the French Polish Gd uhlans. I tend to think the Polish didn't see it coming and were totally surprised by the countercharge.

Agree with the above. Trained and experienced infantry with secured flanks will see off most cavalry charges. One solid full linear battalion volley, timed at 25 paces, will deck the leading horsemen ranks and cause a pile up. then the wall of bayonets stops the horses cold for any surviving strays. As the horse try to reform and charge again…. another volley from the rear ranks only as the front rank hold firm with presented bayonets.

evilgong Supporting Member of TMP02 May 2018 2:28 p.m. PST

As a general statement Napoleonic infantry would try to form square when cavalry were threatening.

You do hear of accounts where the commander thought there was no time to form square so decided that staying in line (rather than risk being caught mid formation change or with an ill-ordered square) was a better option.

As others have mentioned secure flanks and disciplined musketry are important in the interaction.

How you model a cavalry unit sending a squadron on an flanking move while the rest demonstrate to the infantry's front I leave to your favorite rules.

Forming the infantry 3+ ranks deep presumably adds to the confidence of the footmen and the horses / riders feel less sure about pushing through them.

The OP asks about how often line might be successful – I don't know if there has been a detailed statistical analysis of this – like other interactions there is information scattered all over the place.


David F Brown


42flanker Supporting Member of TMP02 May 2018 2:33 p.m. PST

The tradition of the 28th North Gloucesters at Alexandria frequently overlooks the fact that they were holding a redoubt slightly in advance of the rest of the forward troops in Moore's division. The rear face of the redoubt was open and it was in order to engage French cavalry that had infiltrated Moore's double line that the rear rank needed to face about and fire out from the redoubt at the French dragoons.

The Black Watch, however, were caught in the open at Alexandria, forward of the 28th, on their left, having pursued a retreating French column too vigorously. The order to retire in the face of an impending cavalry attack was not heard by all and the regiment was caught in echelon as the right hand companies retired sooner than the left hand. The men formed rallying squares and the French cavalry passed on through. I am not sure what proportion of the 42nd's heavy casualty list resulted from the melée with the French cavalry, but they were not broken. merely a little 'disordered.'

Jcfrog Supporting Member of TMP03 May 2018 2:15 a.m. PST

Speed and flanks.
And cavalry charging infantry more often than not, did it not in a whole solid line like in games, but echelons and manoeuvre.
Often overlooked in Frederician warfare, look at maps, their lines are mostly continuous, often with bns en potence which makes it like a huge sort of square.
Comparison is not so easy with more fluid and open napy warfare.

A few platoons of horse that would find their way to flank a line would destroy it.
So can they?
Yes.> square or suffer.
They can't? All about both sides nerves, and dic… Err luck.

Most games seem to have forgotten that cavalry, over a short time ( say 1/2-1 h) is way faster , by order of magnitude, than close order infantry.
So coup d'oeil + reaction, etc. is unforgiving.
In most games they are way too slow. To offset the insufficient depth of the table. A bit like T34 in good ground…

Also for games, the "talked about, out of the ordinary events" funny and true they might be, if once in 50 case… Forget it unless you can have stats of 1/50 in your rule.
The pb we have, even if avidly reading, so often we crave to know , how long it took, formation, true casualties etc. for game purpose.

huevans01103 May 2018 10:08 a.m. PST

Pakenham's division at Salamanca was hit with Cutro's legere division and forced back 100 yards. I have always tried to figure out exactly how that happened; but I remain confused how the 2-deep line withdrew before far faster light horse, yet did not break or get ridden down.

Mick the Metalsmith Inactive Member03 May 2018 10:19 a.m. PST

Leap frogging. smoke and dust meant that the horse were not necessarily at optimum command and control, and riders balk in uncertainty.

Marc the plastics fan03 May 2018 1:17 p.m. PST

And because real life is not the war games table.

Mike Petro04 May 2018 5:27 a.m. PST

Curto's Chasseurs were very poorly mounted and led as far as my understanding goes. Not a surprise they were ineffective.

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