An important history of a famous British cavalry regiment
This book is the first volume of an essential four volume work covering the history of the 7th (Queen's Own) Hussars to the beginning of the Great War of 1914-18. C. R. B. Bennett's work is a study in considerable depth—concentrating not merely on the close activities of the regiment—but also on the tactical issues in which it took immediate part and the broader span of the engagements and campaigns in which it was involved. As such it is virtually a history of the British cavalry arm over more than two centuries. It is full of the detail much appreciated by students of military history including many first hand accounts. This volume concerns the regiment's time as dragoons—mostly during the eighteenth century—and includes famous actions such as Dettingen, Fontenoy, Warburg, Vellinghausen, Wilhelmsthal and others. The second volume covers the Napoleonic period including the regiment's experiences at Waterloo. The third volume covers the remainder of the nineteenth century including service in India and Africa, whilst the fourth volume gives much valuable information about equipment, uniforms and the services of individual members of the 7th.
The 3rd Dragoons were by this time in such a condition from casualties that further active participation could hardly be expected; yet, rallying their shattered force, they not only charged the French cavalry once again but twice, and cut their way through.<br>
But now of their officers only two remained, and more than half their men had either been killed or wounded. Two of their guidons had been shot or cut to pieces, and a third had fallen from the hand of the officer who carried it, his hand having been slashed with a French sabre. It was then that a trooper in the Regiment, by name Thomas Brown. observing the guidon lying on the ground, dismounted to regain it. A Frenchman cut at him and severed two of his fingers; still he managed to regain his horse, but the animal bolted headlong into the French and through them to the rear of their ranks.<br>
A Frenchman picked up the guidon and rode off with it. Brown saw him, and though wounded went in pursuit. He killed the man, and managing to grip the guidon he thrust it between his thigh and the saddle; then, alone and wounded as he was, by a desperate effort he cut his way back to the remnant of his corps. He saved the guidon, but in so doing received more than half a dozen wounds.Trooper Brown recovered, and after some weeks was sent home, where a post was found for him in the Household Brigade. But the brave fellow did not live long to enjoy it, for he died the following year.<br>
It has been told how reinforcements of cavalry had been applied for by General Clayton, and these were sent from the right of the British line. Headlong at a gallop the 1st and 7th Dragoons came up and dashed into the French cavalry, but the charge was not successful, probably because it was not delivered in regular line, and also it must be remembered that the breastplates and helmets of the French were no small protection both against sword and pistol. Shock tactics have their value, but they must be applied correctly to be effective. For a space the two regiments were repulsed and retired to rally. Following on them came the British Horse Guards, who shared a similar fate and from the same reasons.<br>
Believing that they had thus disposed of the British cavalry, the Frenchmen now advanced for a second attack on the 21st and 23rd Foot and this time with partial success. It was, however, but momentary, for though the cavalry had cut through their lines the British infantry stood firm, rallied, faced inwards, and having thus enclosed their adversaries shot them down without mercy. More British cavalry now came up, the 4th and 6th Dragoons, and also two regiments of Austrian cavalry. Twice these attacked the French and twice they could not prevail. A third attack now took place, in which the rallied squadrons of the 3rd, the Horse Guards, the 1st and the 7th joined. This was a last and supreme effort and the British finally were victorious.<br>
It was altogether a curious battle, for on the right of the British line a French attack had been repelled with ease. The enemy indeed, did not appear to care seriously to face the volleys of the British infantry. A strange episode, however, took place, and it was this.<br>
Dashing between the opposing lines of infantry, and en route receiving the fire of both friend and foe, the French Black Musketeers charged from what was their station on the right of the French line and hurled their squadrons on the Royal Dragoons who were posted on the extreme British right. It was a mad enterprise at best. The chance now offered to the Allies was at once perceived by Marshal Neipperg the Austrian Commander. He ordered the British cavalry to make a frontal attack on the advancing Black Musketeers, while his own threw themselves on the flank of the Frenchmen. The French were caught thus between the two and cut to pieces. This achieved, the victorious cavalry turned its attention to the French infantry, whom it took in flank.<br>
Declining to make a stand, the enemy fled, and this, as far as the left and centre of the French Army, was the end of the battle. On the British left all was not yet over. There the cavalry, though they had repulsed the French after so much strenuous fighting, had not yet done with their opponents, and pressed them again as hard as ever.<br>
At this juncture the Royal Dragoons having disposed of the French infantry, who by this time had bolted, caught the remains of the French cavalry in flank, pressed thus as they were also in front. An utter rout followed and the entire French Army was speedily in headlong flight towards the two bridges at Seligenstadt, and also to seek any fords they could discover. Many plunged into the river haphazard and were drowned. There was no pursuit: there should no doubt have been. Stair proposed it and the King refused to permit it. Hence the remains of Grammont’s force escaped unmolested. Why Noailles did not hurry up his men and take the British in the rear is a mystery; but as a matter of fact he did not, as far as can be ascertained, even cross the river during the battle. There he remained at Aschaffenburg without doing or attempting to do anything, and with him were some 20,000 men. The French losses amounted to some five thousand men, killed, wounded and prisoners. The loss of the British was 265 killed and 561 wounded and these casualties occurred mainly on the British left.