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Cavalry new time

Cavalry new time

In the 16th century, the spread of field artillery, muskets and rush led to a change in the balance of power between infantry and cavalry in favor of infantry.

Knightly cavalry divided into two branches, – Reitars and gendarmes (heavily armed – classical knights). The gendarmes appeared in continuous articulated armor, which by then had reached maximum reliability and weight, and on armored horses.

Their main weapon remained long spears. Reiters, on the contrary, facilitated protective equipment, making it more practical.

The need to quickly overcome the space shot through by artillery and musketeers, and avoid unwanted contact with the halberdiers, led to the removal of armor from his horse
Then, the reitars climbed out of their leg platens. The dismounted gendarme who dug in his iron boots had no chance to fight off the agile halberdier, whose weapon was longer — the hard boots with spurs were few, but better. To improve the review, the reitters began to prefer open helmets, like those of squires.
Then the reiters began to gradually part with plate gloves, cuffs, and shoulder pads. Not because with the advent of the muskets, the armor no longer provided adequate protection – they protected against 90% of the dangers, but also prevented them from wielding weapons. So long as it was a spear and a heavy welded sword, this was not yet relevant, but mastering the technology of reworking iron made it possible to produce not only the best armor, but also relatively light swords. Now, in order to quickly apply and repel the blows, the hands needed to be freed from excess weight and constraint by the armor.

Later, precisely for these reasons, in order to free the right hand, the hussars wore a jacket only on the left shoulder. Legguards soon followed. The steel skirt turned out to be a malignant element of protective equipment that does not allow the rider to twirl his ass in the saddle. Now, when the cavalry increasingly had to fight with the infantry, the reiter needed to be able to fight back when attacking, if not from behind, then at least from the side. However, until the 30s of the 17th century, the protective equipment of a heavy cavalryman was not always limited to the cuirass and helmet alone. The process of abandoning protective equipment took almost a century. But the reiter steadily turned into a cuirassier.

For combat with the infantry was uncomfortable and a long heavy spear. Reiters began to use shorter and lighter spears, taken earlier in light cavalry, and often refused to copy, relying on saddle swords. To some extent, pistols have become the replacement for the spear. Riders drove up to the pikemen at a distance “from which the whites of the enemy’s eyes are visible” (a little short of the peak tips) and fired at them. Later, when the infantry had more firearms and less peak, this tactic ceased to be used.

In the 17th century, when the rider’s protective gear was reduced to the cuirass and helmet, the cuirassiers took the place of the heavy knightly cavalry in Europe
The increased requirements for mobility led to the replacement of the destrie with a slightly lighter (but, about 175 cm at the withers) cuirassier horses. The cuirassiers, unlike the knights, no longer delayed the movement of infantry on the march; they trotted out to the position and galloped (causing frightening seismic events) galloping the last 800-1000 meters to reduce losses from artillery fire. However, heavy cavalry, as before, did not lead the pursuit and, usually, during the battle went only in one attack – decisive. The tactics of the attack used by cuirassiers remained classic. Against infantry, as well as against cavalry, hitting and edged weapons (broadsword) were used in the indicated sequence. The cuirassier had now worn pistols only for self-defense, in case he had to stop or lose his horse. Cuirassiers accounted for about 10-12% of all regular cavalry. According to tradition, although from the end of the 17th century these troops were already armed at public expense, they were formed from nobility.

The helmet was not there, as a rule. Cuirassier sat high and risked little to get hit in the head.

The light peaks that had spread in Europe since the middle of the seventeenth century did not solve the tasks of defense against cavalry. Moreover, it did not solve the bayonets. Only artillery and salvo firing from anti-tank guns (called muskets at that time) had the necessary effect. Even more than necessary, as the heavy cavalry was increasingly losing popularity. Dense and sedentary wedges suffered unjustified losses on the way, and each cuirassier (complete) was expensive. However, the cuirassiers of Frederick II won their king more than once, including over the Russian army. The helmet of Napoleon’s cuirassier was considered an honorable trophy by the English, and his booty in battle was a feat worthy of a descendant of the Knights of the Round Table. As a cheaper replacement, the place of cuirassiers in the 18th century in Europe gradually began to be occupied by the uhlans, also often called heavy cavalry.

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