Weapons of War: Cavalry

Muskets were very inaccurate weapons and it was only the discipline of a large number of men firing them shoulder to shoulder - creating a wide wall of lead - that made it useful at anything over 100 metres.

The Sabre

There were dozens of types of sabres used by cavalry during the Napoleonic Wars.

Britain had two main styles, the 1796 pattern light-cavalry sabre (pictured) and the straight-bladed 1796 heavy-cavalry sabre, but this did not stop a whole host of various weapons being used at the whim of the men who led their regiments.

Unwieldy and poorly balanced, the 1796 patterns were used as hacking weapons and while they would cause terrible wounds the use of the edge of the blade rather than the point resulted in fewer killing strokes.

French horsemen preferred to use the points of their swords and run the enemy through so there was a large disparity in casualties between the two styles. The French suffered more ghastly wounds, while the British more initial deaths.

The Lance

The main proponents of the lance - a 30-centimetre point on the end of a 240-centimetre shaft - were the Poles, Austrian Uhlans and Russian cossacks, whose fighters had used the weapons for centuries.

Napoleon Bonaparte's famous lancers were excellent for pursuing fleeing infantry, or trying to break up squares by outreaching bayonets.

Other cavalry, however, were seemingly not too worried by the longer reach as once past the razor-sharp blade of the lance the swordsman had the advantage.

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