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Stephen Curtin




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PostPosted: Thu 21 Apr, 2011 2:33 am    Post subject: Later heavy and medium cavalry?         Reply with quote

Hey guys just a couple of quick questions for those of you interested in later cavalry types.

Is there any difference in the equipment of a 16th century cuirassier and a reiter, or are they basically just two different names for the same thing?

What is the difference between a half armour, as worn by demi lancers, and three quarter armour, as worn by cuirassiers? From what I can tell the only difference is that three quarter armour covers the entire upper body and the legs down as far as the knees, whereas half armour covers the entire upper body and only the upper thighs. Is this right, and if so does the area of the lower thighs and knees really count as a quarter of a suit of armour?

By the late 17th / early 18th century, most cavalry units in western Europe had abandoned all forms of armour. Then sometime later (I think it was in the Napoleonic wars) the helmet and cuirass were being used again, and the troops who used this armour were called cuirassiers. Now back in about the 1640s, armies for the most part had stopped using the three quarter armoured cuirassiers, and started using the helmet and cuirass equipped harquebussiers. So it seems to me that the cuirassiers of the Napoleonic era were a decendant of the 17th century harquebussiers and not the cuirassiers. So what do the rest of you guys think of this? Of course, it is possible that somebody from Napoleon's time just prefered the word cuirassier.

And lastly, I remember reading somewhere a long time ago the the Irish cavalry (in French service) on the jacobite side of the battle of Culloden (Fitzjames' horse), wore blackened iron cuirass under their jackets, and secrete type helmets under their hats. Does anyone have a reference for this, or for a contempory French cavalry unit wearing such armour in the 1740s?

As always, thanks in advance for any help.

Éirinn go Brách
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Randall Moffett




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PostPosted: Thu 21 Apr, 2011 6:06 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I see no reason why they are not simply related to the old cuirassiers as by the mid 17th they are basically the only main stream group wearing armour still- helmet and cuirass.

I am not sure this group actually every stopped wearing this armour during the 17th and 18th while the rest seemingly do for the most part.

RPM
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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Thu 21 Apr, 2011 10:41 am    Post subject: Re: Later heavy and medium cavalry ???         Reply with quote

Stephen Curtin wrote:
Is there any difference in the equipment of a 16th century cuirassier and a reiter, or are they basically just two different names for the same thing?


The "reiter" is a rather nebulous term that could include heavy pistol-armed cuirassiers, lighter pistol-armed shock cavalry, and sometimes even arquebusiers (the cavalry sort, not the infantry). So there's no way to answer this question for sure, and it's always better to use the more specific (and well-defined) term whenever possible.


Quote:
What is the difference between a half armour, as worn by demi lancers, and three quarter armour, as worn by cuirassiers? From what I can tell the only difference is that three quarter armour covers the entire upper body and the legs down as far as the knees, whereas half armour covers the entire upper body and only the upper thighs. Is this right, and if so does the area of the lower thighs and knees really count as a quarter of a suit of armour?


Sort of. That is, there was half-armour and there was three-quarters armour but the quarter suit's worth of difference meant nothing in itself. It only had any significance when discussing the distinction between the two standards of armour.


Quote:
By the late 17th / early 18th century, most cavalry units in western Europe had abandoned all forms of armour. Then sometime later (I think it was in the Napoleonic wars) the helmet and cuirass were being used again, and the troops who used this armour were called cuirassiers. Now back in about the 1640s, armies for the most part had stopped using the three quarter armoured cuirassiers, and started using the helmet and cuirass equipped harquebussiers. So it seems to me that the cuirassiers of the Napoleonic era were a decendant of the 17th century harquebussiers and not the cuirassiers. So what do the rest of you guys think of this? Of course, it is possible that somebody from Napoleon's time just prefered the word cuirassier.


See, the problem with this is that the distinction between Cuirassiers and Arquebusiers were blurring by the 1640s, especially since there were no longer so many units with the willingness to wear the full set of three-quarters armour expected of a Cuirassier proper. As a result, you get things like the ECW Horse, which were Arquebusiers in terms of equipment but operated as a hybrid between the Arquebusier and the Cuirassier (that is, handling the Arquebusier's light cavalry duties most of the time, but charging in the manner of Cuirassier-style heavy cavalry in battle). In the end people got confused and gave up trying to maintain the formal division. It'd probably be most accurate to regard the Napoleonic cuirassier as the descendant of the Cuirassier-Arquebusier hybrid.

Yes, it's a mess. But that's history for you.


Quote:
And lastly, I remember reading somewhere a long time ago the the Irish cavalry (in French service) on the jacobite side of the battle of Culloden (Fitzjames' horse), wore blackened iron cuirass under their jackets, and secrete type helmets under their hats. Does anyone have a reference for this, or for a contempory French cavalry unit wearing such armour in the 1740s?


I don't know about Irish cavalry in French service, but there was an unbroken tradition of cuirassiers with actual cuirasses in Austria going all the way to the Napoleonic period and afterwards. There were also other armies that still maintained the armoured cuirassier tradition in the 1740s, like (if I'm not mistaken) the Danes. So I wouldn't be surprised at all if the French still had some genuine cuirassiers by this time, if not necessarily of Irish stock.

(OK, I was lazy. The French actually had the Cuirassiers du Roi, too. Still no idea about Fitzjames, though. Just in case you're confused about the CdR being the only unit authorized to wear cuirasses "over the coat," there were other French line cavalry regiments that wore cuirasses under the coat.)
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Stephen Curtin




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PostPosted: Thu 21 Apr, 2011 1:53 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks Lafayette that clears alot up. I would still like to find some info on the arms, armour, and uniform of Fitzjames' horse.
Éirinn go Brách
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Stephen Curtin




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PostPosted: Thu 26 May, 2011 10:03 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Well after some more looking I've found a site describing the uniform and equipment of Fitzjames' horse http://www.kronoskaf.com/syw/index.php?title=Fitz-James_Cavalerie though I'm not sure where they've gotten their info from. It mentions that the tricorn hats were lined with skullcaps, does this mean that the helm was attached to the hat, or was it just worn under it? Do we know if their any padding used under the helm? Does anyone here know what the sabers used by these troops looked like?
Éirinn go Brách
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Gottfried P. Doerler




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PostPosted: Thu 26 May, 2011 3:41 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

i think, actually most european countries have an unbroken tradition of cuirassiers from the 1590s to the 1870s.
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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Mon 06 Jun, 2011 8:33 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Stephen Curtin wrote:
It mentions that the tricorn hats were lined with skullcaps, does this mean that the helm was attached to the hat, or was it just worn under it?


The best clues we have are from earlier practice in the 16th and 17th centuries. If I'm not mistaken--it has been quite a long time since I read about the subject--the iron cap was separate from the hat and in many cases was only worn in major encounters (i.e. significant battles and assaults) and when there was time to dress up, not on garrison duty or in regular patrols along siege-lines. The statement that the tricorne was "reinforced with an iron skullcap for combat" can be taken to imply a continuation of the older custom for the relatively restricted usage of a separate cap. That being said, there were also examples of hats being actually made of iron and covered in felt to resemble a regular hat, though I suspect this would not have survived into the 18th century.

It's worth noting that the 1740s is the era usually attributed to the development of the modern military salute (which, unlike earlier gestures, doesn't involve removing or lifting the hat), and this may have had an impact to the way the iron cap was worn. Not that we're certain about this--cavalry always had the option of saluting with the sword instead, so any change to a cap-based salute might not have been particularly relevant to them until much later than the timeframe we're discussing anyway.


Quote:
Do we know if their any padding used under the helm?


We don't, but it's very likely that the presence of padding and its amount would have varied greatly from unit to unit and probably even within the same unit. Remember that soldiers wore leather-lined wigs at this time and these wigs probably qualified as some sort of padding in themselves.


Quote:
Does anyone here know what the sabers used by these troops looked like?


Again, I'm pretty sure this would have varied from man to man since neither the French nor the English seem to have begun issuing standardized patterns of swords to their cavalry (though I may be wrong about the French). Realistically there would have been a mixture of insular (Anglo-Scottish) and Continental basket-hilts and possibly some straight-bladed sabres with curved hilts (forerunners to later heavy cavalry broadswords).
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Stephen Curtin




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PostPosted: Mon 06 Jun, 2011 10:33 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks Lafayette that very was helpful.
Éirinn go Brách
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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Mon 06 Jun, 2011 11:54 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Gottfried P. Doerler wrote:
i think, actually most European countries have an unbroken tradition of cuirassiers from the 1590s to the 1870s.


Not 100% sure but in the first year(s) of WWI I think some European armies still used breast plates and metal helmets cuirassiers as lancers.

Machine guns sort of took care of making this obsolete by 1915.

I think the Polish even had a cavalry charge against German tanks in 1939/40 WWII ( Lancers again, but not sure if these where using breast plates ? ).

You can easily give up your freedom. You have to fight hard to get it back!
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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Mon 06 Jun, 2011 12:20 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jean Thibodeau wrote:
I think the Polish even had a cavalry charge against German tanks in 1939/40 WWII ( Lancers again, but not sure if these where using breast plates ? ).


No--Polish cavalry charged the infantry that formed up follow-up elements behind the German Panzer spearheads. On one occasion these cavalrymen got mauled when armoured cars arrived to reinforce the infantry, and Axis correspondents arriving later were made to believe that the dead Polish bodies left on the field were those of cavalrymen suicidally charging against tanks.
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Gottfried P. Doerler




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PostPosted: Mon 06 Jun, 2011 2:32 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jean Thibodeau wrote:
Not 100% sure but in the first year(s) of WWI I think some European armies still used breast plates and metal helmets cuirassiers as lancers.

thats true. and not only as ceremonial guards, see foto

Quote:
I think the Polish even had a cavalry charge against German tanks in 1939/40 WWII ( Lancers again, but not sure if these where using breast plates ? ).

since the demise of the winged hussars in the ~ 1740ies, polish lancers (then called "uhlans") were lighter, serving without protective armament. (though not as "light cavalry" in the meaning of not taking major actions in pitched battles.



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French_heavy_cavalry_Paris_August_1914.jpg
french cuirassiers leaving paris august 1914
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Glen A Cleeton




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PostPosted: Mon 06 Jun, 2011 9:12 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Second empire carabinier (courtesy of Jean Binck)

Wasn't the noted tank episode with the Uhlan acting as mounted infantry/rifle/artillery brigades?

Cheers

GC



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Carabinier2nd Emp.jpg

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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Fri 17 Jun, 2011 10:36 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Gottfried P. Doerler wrote:
i think, actually most european countries have an unbroken tradition of cuirassiers from the 1590s to the 1870s.


An unbroken lineage of units named "cuirassiers," perhaps. But many of those units ceased to wear cuirasses somewhere in the late 18th century and became cuirassiers only in name.


Glen A Cleeton wrote:
Wasn't the noted tank episode with the Uhlan acting as mounted infantry/rifle/artillery brigades


Not quite. While Polish cavalry--like practically all other post-WW1 cavalry--mostly operated as mounted infantry, in this case they performed old-fashioned cavalry charges against the rather overconfident German follow-up elements. And succeeded in most cases!
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