If you have not come across it (although I suspect you will have) John
Keegan's 1976 The Face of Battle contains quite a nice critique of the
'standard' approach to understanding military action, including European
cavalry charges from the 15th to 19th centuries.
Other -- more specialist -- studies of cavalry in particular periods may
also give quite good descriptions of how soldiers on horses were actually
used. From the 17th century onwards, contemporary manuals are also
available, which should give a very good idea of what soldiers on horseback
were actually expected to do and how soldiers on foot would meet cavalry
Incidentally, during the 17th century, the most common major weapon for most
cavalry units was the pistol, fired at at the trot at close range while
infantry were still reloading heavy muskets: rank after rank would fire this
way executing a manoevre called the 'caracole'. Cavalry could either retire
or then push against infantry units showing disorder. Attack at the gallop
with swords / sabres / lances only is much later and Keegan has interesting
things to say about how this worked in practice.
Hope this helps!
PS I ave also passed your query on to the militarch list to see if anyone
there can help. J
--On 30 April 2001, 20:27 +0000 "Mark Lawrence" <[log in to unmask]>
> I apologise for the length of this post.
> If anyone could help me with this I would be very grateful. I have been
> reading a variety of sources of recent as part of my History Major, on the
> nature of the cavalry charge. Historians/authors seem to all use a
> expression in regards to cavalry. 'Shock cavalry' is almost aways the
> reference used.
> What I am trying to ascertain is the meaning of the word shock and whether
> this expression is misleading in its simplicity. Surely there must have
> dramatic change with the introduction of the stirrup. Historians would
> that the use of the stirrup by the early medieval knight changed the
> which the charge was delivered. Yet previous to its investiture there is
> defining description as to how cavalry engaged an enemy on foot.
> My thought on the matter is that 'shock' defines not only the physical
> but also the psychological strain that men would have been under when
> a committed charge of men and horses.
> If anyone has any thoughts, or could put me in touch with somene who may
> an interest in this, then please do so.
> Mark Lawrence
> Get free email and a permanent address at http://www.netaddress.com/?N=1
Dr John Carman
co-Director, 'Bloody Meadows' Project and
Department of Archaeology, University of Cambridge
Downing Street, Cambridge CB2 3DZ, UK
Tel: +44 1223 333323
Fax: +44 1223 333503
Email: [log in to unmask]