The Destruction of the French Cavalry

Captain Victor Dupuy of the 7th Hussars, describes the daily routine of the pursuit and the wearing effect it had on the cavalry.

“Every day from five o’clock in the morning we skirmished with the Cossacks,


and sometimes this lasted until ten or eleven at night.  They carried away everything they could from the villages, and drove out the inhabitants who took refuge in the forests. Then they set fire to the villages.  If, by a bold maneuver or a sharp attack we did not allow them time for this, their artillery would fire incendiary shells, which produced the same result, setting alight the thatched roofs.”

“This method of waging war we found very prejudicial.  After days spent entirely in fights and fatigues, we could scarcely find enough to eat and often had nothing to give the horses, whose number dwindled every day in alarming fashion.”

“The chief cause of the destruction of our cavalry was the little care taken.  After fighting all day we were made to bivouac in windmills on parched heights denuded of all resources.  Only with the utmost difficulty did we manage to procure a little bad forage; and often, in the middle of of the day, the horses dropped with fatigue and hunger.”

“Though hard to credit, it is nevertheless true that at the battle of Borodino our division, which had numbered 7,500 horsemen at the crossing of the Niemen, had not even one thousand, and this immense gap was certainly not caused by the enemy’s fire!  But the King of Naples [Marshal Murat], who in face of the enemy knew so well how to make use of the cavalry, did not know how to preserve it by ensuring supplies or at least by placing it within reach of subsistence.”

Source: 1812: Napoleon’s Defeat in Russia by Antony Brett-James, p. 99



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