This unique two-in-one Leonaur volume, enhanced by illustrations depicting the uniforms of the period, has been created for good value and will be fascinating to all students of tactics in the Napoleonic Wars. It focuses on the organisation and practices in the field of European cavalry of the early nineteenth century. Each author considers the mounted arm from the perspective of his own army and enables easy comparisons to be made between the activities and methods of opposing forces. Antoine de Brack’s work is well known and highly regarded. De Brack was the consummate cavalryman serving Napoleon and, on the restoration of the monarchy, in the French army of the Bourbons. A highly experienced officer, de Brack served in the hussars and as one of the famous ‘Red Lancers’ of the Imperial Guard on many campaigns including at Waterloo; he later became the commander of the renowned French Army school of cavalry at Saumur. Frederick von Arentschildt’s was Lt. Colonel of the First Regiment of Hussars of the King’s German Legion and his name will be familiar to students of Wellington’s campaigns in the Iberian peninsula. At a time when British cavalry was considered to be an unreliable and undisciplined part of the army, often unmanageable on the field of battle, Arentschildt’s Hanoverian cavalrymen earned a high reputation for their discipline, horse-husbandry and effectiveness.
Leonaur editions are newly typeset and are not facsimiles; each title is available in softcover and hardback with dustjacket.
A second fault due to routine, which I have seen committed only too often in our army, is the sending out of detachments, generally composed of the same number of men, at certain specified hours. When reconnaissances composed of the same number of men are sent out at the same hours every day, over the same roads, to the same places, their fate may be easily predicted.
Reconnaissances should, as far as possible, march so as to be concealed from view. While under cover their rate of march may be slower than when on an open plain over which their course may be easily followed. Hence, when there is any reason to fear discovery, plains should be traversed at night; if they must be crossed in daytime, the command should move at the trot so as to get out of sight as soon as possible.
There is always reason to fear being betrayed to the enemy by the peasants of the country. To diminish this danger the detachments should avoid all villages which they are not obliged to pass through or reconnoitre. To do that the detachment should carry with it provisions and forage for men and horses, make all halts in out-of-the-way places, from which they can see to a distance, and in which dismounted men properly posted will be a sufficient guard. If a reconnaissance must halt in a village, let it be carefully explored before it is occupied. Place flying vedettes on the outside of it, upon the flanks, to arrest all peasants who may attempt to escape and give information to the enemy. The halt should last only long enough to allow the place to be examined, to obtain guides and useful information, and procure supplies.
If the village is situated in an open plain, let the detachment be assembled at the foot of the church-steeple, where the horses may be unbridled and fed. A lookout will be placed in the steeple to give timely notice of the approach of the enemy. This man, and the flying vedettes of whom I have before spoken, will be able to perfectly protect the detachment from surprise. At night the detachment will withdraw from the village, and, if it is desired to conceal its route, it will go out on the side opposite to the direction it intends to take, and will regain the proper route, by making a detour. The rear-guard will take precautions to see that it is not followed by anyone.
If the reconnaissance is retreating, followed by the enemy, and is compelled to pass through a village, it will do so as rapidly as possible.
If the reconnaissance has reason to fear an attempt to surprise its bivouac at night, it will light its fires and, afterward withdrawing, will go and establish itself, without fires and without noise, at some place several hundred yards from the abandoned bivouac.
If the reconnaissance marches at night and at a distance from the enemy, the guide should be mounted upon a white horse, which will distinguish him, and which can always be more easily followed than any other in the darkness. If marching at night and near the enemy, and it is desired to conceal the movement, no white horses should be allowed with the advance-guard.
If marching along a paved road, the detachment should keep to the dirt portions on the sides, so as to muffle the sound of the horses’ feet, which might otherwise be heard at a great distance.
If near the enemy, the men will be forbidden to smoke, as the fire in the pipes might illuminate their faces and betray their presence.
Finally, if, near the enemy, it is desired to observe him closely, the detachment will turn his position, then, halting the main body, detach two or three very intelligent men who, like game-hunters, will creep along silently from shadow to shadow, to conceal their movements.
Upon reaching their point of observation they will discover everything which it is possible to learn, and then return with their reports, employing in their retreat the same care as in advancing.
If the commander of a reconnaissance, after having well estimated the strength of the enemy, can, without danger, make a few prisoners or alarm the enemy’s camp, he should do so, provided that upon his departure from camp discretionary orders were given him.
In 1814, General Maison ordered an officer of the Red Lancers of the Imperial Guard to set out for Lille with a hundred men to reconnoitre the enemy in Menin, and to bring back minute and definite information in regard to him. The officer left his camp at 2.30 p.m., and the sun was setting when the steeples of Menin appeared in sight. He had perfectly masked the movements of the detachment, which he concealed at a place about half a league distant from the city. Night, and one of the darkest kind, came on when he approached the city with only one platoon, avoiding the paved roads, and concealed the platoon within musket range of the place.
He then slipped into the outskirts, accompanied by one officer, one non-commissioned officer, and a trumpeter, dismounted, turned his horse over to his orderly, and concealed himself in a ditch near the bridge. The scouting detachments of the enemy re-entered successively and passed close by him. In spite of the darkness of the night, their silhouettes stood out clearly against the skyline so that he counted them man by man, and observed the cut of the different uniforms. Possessed of this information, which furnished certain indications of the number and composition of the hostile forces, assured that all the scouting parties had re-entered, and that nothing more was to be feared on this side of the river, he sent for a dozen lancers.
A peasant coming from one of the houses discovered him and wished to give the alarm; he ordered the noncommissioned officer to seize him, which he did; and holding a pistol to his head, led him to the rear. The lancers came up silently, and at the instant when the enemy’s post was about to open the turning bridge he placed himself at the head of the lancers, charged the post, confident of its own security, captured eighteen mounted men, and then made a rapid and successful retreat with them. He brought back to his general information of the most trustworthy kind, and that without having even a man wounded.