United States. Military Commission to Europe.

Report of the Secretary of war : communicating the report of Captain George B. McClellan ... one of the officers sent to the seat of war in Europe, in 1855 and 1856 online

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and thong, in the fashion of a Mexican girth. Valise of cloth, not materially different from our

own. Forage bag of coarse white linen, open in the middle.

Bridle and hits. — By all the regular cavalry a curb and snaffle are
used, both of steel. There are three marked peculiarities in the
curb bit : it hooks to a ring at the end of the cheek strap, as showr.
in the annexed sketch ; the rings are attached to the branches by
means of swivels ; the branches are reversed, that is, their convexity
is turned towards the front.

With regard to the manner of fastening the bit to the head stall,
it will be perceived from the sketch that the little ring which is
passed through the end of the hook of the branch, and rests against
the flat side of the latter, effectually prevents the bit becoming
unhooked, unless the ring is raised by the finger.

The snaffle bit, a plain one without horns, is fastened to the head
stall by a chain and toggle, like the centering bits in the United
States service. This arrangement of the curb and snaffle permits
the men to feed their horses during short halts without incon-
venience; the Eussian cavalry officers represent it as being everything that can be desired. The
curb chain is of steel, and very heavy. There are three patterns of the curb used, of different
degrees of severity.


The head stall and reins are of black leather ; no martingale. Crown piece single, and has
a spare curh chain on top of it. Cheek pieces huckle to the crown piece, on each side, by one
buckle. Each cheek piece is a single strap, split at bottom to receive the rings by means of
which the bits are attached.

The nose band passes through loops on the cheek pieces.

Two plaited cords of black leather run diagonally across the horse's face, from the brow band
to the nose band; there is a leather rosette at their intersection.

There is nothing peculiar about the halter ; by attaching the snaffle bit and reins it becomes
a watering bridle ; halter rope 9 feet long and half an inch in diameter.

Forage cord, for use when sent foraging, half an inch in diameter. Currycomb and brushes
large and coarse ; brushes have the back and edges covered with black leather. Mane combs of
metal and of horn.

Spurs of steel, and permanently screwed to the heel of the boot.

Lancers have a lance boot attached to each stirrup.

The Cossack saddle has a thick padding under the side boards and on seat ; it places the man
very high on his horse, so that his feet are always above the bottom of the belly.

Their bridle has but the simple snafHe bit, no curb nor martingale.

The Cossacks of the guard have spurs ; the others have whips, slung to the wrist, instead of

The Mussulmen cavalry make use of the well known oriental horse equipment.


The tree being girthed tight, the pouches are filled ; in these are j^laced the hatchet, curry-
comb, brush, mane comb, and other cleaning utensils, with various small articles. The over-
coat is then rolled into a long, thin roll, and strajiped to the tree over the pouches ; the roll falls
down on each side, and is of such a length as to be just covered by the schabraque. If the
uniform coat is to be carried on the saddle, it is placed as described for the overcoat.

The small blanket is then folded and placed on the tree.

The schabraque is put on and secured.

The valise, containing shaving utensils, soap, and under clothes, is now strapped tightly to
the cantle, over the schabraque.

The forage bag, containing habitually three days' rations, is strapped to the cantle, over the
valise, and lays on the schabraque, falling down on each side between the valise and saddle.
The stable frock is carried either with the forage bag or overcoat.

The hay, made up in elliptical rings by hay ropes, is strapped to the cantle, and lays on the
schabraque behind the man's leg.

The forage cord and halter are attached to the rear of the side boards, under the schabraque.

Spare boots are carried on top of the valise, under the flap, heels outward. The camp kettle
fits on the end of the valise, and is secured there by straps. One man of every three carries a
copper camp kettle as above ; every man a small hatchet ; one man in every platoon carries a
spade, slung to the pommel, the blade in a leather case.


Cuirassiers. — Steel helmet, breast, and back pieces ; these are in some regiments of bright
steel, in others gilt, in others painted black.


Sabre, (pallascli,) a straight, flat, double-edged blade, 39 inches long ; it is the sabre described
in Thiroux, pp. 146 — 148, as the model of "L'au XI et XII;" steel scabbard ; guard of brass,
and of the basket form.

Sabre knot, a flat strap of brown leather.

Sabre belt, of white leather waist belt, with slings ; plate hooks, like those of United States
officers, and is worn under the cuirass.

Each man has one pistol, with percussion lock ; a cord is attached to a ring in the butt, and
passes around the neck ; the jpistol is carried in a holster on tJie ivaist belt ; this rule is general
for all the cavalry.

In each platoon are four men wlio act, when necessary, as skirmishers ; thej are armed with
rifled carbines, the barrels of which are about fifteen inches long ; the carbine sling is like that
in use in the United States service, and is worn very short ; the rammer is attached to the sling.

A cartridge box, holding twenty rounds, is slung over the left shoulder ; the box is attached
to the belt by swivels ; cap pouch on cartridge-box belt on the breast. The front rank men are
armed with lances lOi feet long ; pennons on the lances.

Lancers. — Lance 10| feet long ; pennons of same color as facings of the uniform ; sling of
leather ; point of lance seven inches long ; a lance boot attached to each stirrup.

The sabre is three feet long in the blade ; a little less curved, and rather broader and thinner
than the United States light artillery sabre ; scabbard of steel ; guard with but one branch, and
of steel.

Sabre knot as for cuirassiers. Sabre belt of brown leather, and worn under' the coat. Each
man has one pistol, as for cuirassiers. Four men in each platoon carry rifled carbines, with a
longer barrel than that of the cuirassiers ; these men have no lances.

Cartridge-box as for cuirassiers. ,

Hussars. — Sabre, sabre belt, pistol, and cartridge-box, as for lancers. Four men in each
platoon carry a rifled carbine, the rest a smooth bore carbine ; the carbine is always carried on
the sling, there being no carbine boot. Hussars have a sabretasch.

Dragoons. — Each man of the first eight sq[uadrons armed with sabre and musket ; the 9th
and 10th squadrons armed as lancers.

In the first eight squadrons the arms, &c. , are as follows :

Sabre blade and hilt as for hus.sars.

The annexed sketch shows the peculiar arrangement of the scabbard and belt ; the scabbard
being of leather, tipped with brass, the rings on the convex edge ; bayonet scabbard attached to
flat side of the sabre scabbard, by brass bands ; the belt, a Circassian shoulder belt, without
waist belt, and of such a length that when the sabre is drawn the top of the scabbard is just
under the left elbow ; when the sabre is in the scabbard the hilt is between the elbow and the

Smooth bore musket, with the ordinary bayonet ; the piece about four inches shorter than the
United States musket, and somewhat lighter ; it has a common musket sling. It is usually
16 ©


carried in a water-proof gnu case, with a separate sling, over the right shonhler, mnzzle up,
barrel against the back ; this case opens by a slit under the stock, which is closed by straps and
buckles; the butt end is sewed up. Cartridge-box carried as for hussars, but contains 40 rounds.

The sergeants alone carry pistols.

Cossacks of the guard. — Sabre and scabbard like those of the dragoons, except that there is no
giiard, and no bayonet scabbard. Sabre belt like that of hussars. Musket like that of dragoons,
but no bayonet. Cartridge-box like that of dragoons. Lance lOA feet long, witliout pennon ;
instead of having a lance bucket attached to the stirrup, a leather strap is fastened to the butt
of tlie lance, and the foot run through the loop before placing it in the stirruii. Each man also
carries a pistol on his waist belt.

Cossacks of the line of the Caucasus. — Sabre and scabbard as for the Cossacks of the guard ;
sabre belt like that of the dragoons. A long musket slung over the shoulder ; cartridge box as
for Cossacks of the guard ; pipes for ten or twelve cartridges sewed on the breast of the coat.
Two or more i^istols, on waist belt, and in holsters. A long, broad poniard. No lances.

Tscherkesses. — Armed as Cossacks of the line of the Caucasus. The ofBcers carry bows and
arrows, to enable them to cut off sentinels without creating an alarm.

Other Cossacks. — Usually armed with lance, sabre, and pistol. About ten men in every
squadron carry muskets ; in some cases all the men have muskets.

Mussulmen of the guard. — Armed in the oriental style.

All the irregular cavalry carry their arms very close to the body, and so arranged as to make
the least possible noise.

Mounted gendarmes.- — Sabre and belt like those of hussars. Dragoon musket ; bayonet scab-
bard on the waist belt ; cartridge box on a shoulder belt. Pistol carried either on the saddle or
waist Jjelt.

Officers wear a sabre similar to that of their men.


In each regiment of cavalry, and battery of artillery, the horses are all of the same color.

The Russian cavalry is, probably, the best mounted in Europe, certainly the best on the con-
tinent. The English heavy cavalry horses may be somewhat better, but they have nothing for
light cavalry to compare with the mass of the Russian animals for that purpose. The heavy
cavalry horses are mostly purchased in the provinces of Tamboff and Woronege, at an average
price of $90 each.

The light cavalry horses are obtained from the Ukraine and the Steppes, at an average price
of $45.

The artillery horses are bought in all parts of the empire, at about the same rate as those for
the light cavalry.

There are no slaras (breeding studs) for the general service of the army. There is a commis-
sion charged witli the general direction of the purchase, inspection, and distribution of remount

They, if necessary, establish sub-commissions, in convenient localities. The horses are piir-
chased by cavalry officers detailed for the purpose, and are then, if practicable, inspected by the
commission, or one of the sub-commissions. Having passed the inspection, they are distributed
among the regiments, at the rate, in time of peace, of about 150 per regiment each year. The
colonel of the regitaent then distributes them among the squadrons, where they are broken in


and drilled by tlie old soldiers, under the direction of the ca^jtain commanding. The Eussians
have nothing corresponding to the "captain instructor" of the French service.

Horses are purchased at the age of from three to five years ; those purchased at three years
old are not used for a year or more.

About eight years' service is expected of a horse.

Eemount horses enter the squadron at from four months to one year from the commencement
of their drilling ; depending upon the age of the animal, his disposition, &c.

Mares are preferred as a general rule, but geldings and stallions are also used; and it is stated
that no particular inconvenience is found to result from the employment of stallions.

The horses being once assigned, always remain with the same men. Officers purchase their
own horses, and are allowed forage, or a commutation therefor.


These are numerous, large, and well constructed.

The windows are usually arranged as in the French ; Eussian stoves are freely used for
warming them.

The floor is of earth and sand. There is a wooden wainscot lining, about six feet high, and
havinsc an inclination of about ? ; the corners not rounded oif.

The riding house of the chevalier guard, in St. Petersburg, is 300' long, 95' wide, and 25'
ceiling. One near the Paul palace is 595' long, 126' wide, and 25' ceiling. The great riding
house at Moscow is much larger. The two latter are used for drills and inspections during the
winter. There are no pillars in any of these.


There is nothing remarkable in the Eussian stables. The floors are generally of plank, a little
straw being kept under- the horses fore feet during the day ; in some stables the floor is of clay.

As a general rule, the simple swinging bar is used to separate the stalls ; sometimes there is
no division whatever ; for wicked stallions the stalls are boarded up.

In many cases they use no hay rack ; merely a long wooden trough, one end of which is
divided off for the oats.

In some cases they use wooden or iron racks and mangers.

In some stables a bin is arranged for the litter, under the manger ; in others it is kept in the
stable yard, under cover.

The saddles, bridles, and other equipments, are usually kept in the stables ; the bridles being
hung on pins attached to the stall posts; the saddles, blanket, &c., on a shelf extending
between the heel posts.

Some of their stalls are six feet wide ; as a general rule they are quite large. The stables are
well ventilated, and kept in good order.

In some stables the quarters for the men are in the 2d story, over the stables.

The horse hospitals are usually in separate buildings, with separate box stalls, (about
9' X T',) boilers for making mashes, &c.
. The horses are cleaned twice a day, watered twice or thrice, and fed three times.

The daily ration for a light cavalry horse is 9 pounds of hay, 11 quarts (13f pounds) of oats,
3 pounds of straw. The heavy cavalry horses receive 2 quarts of oats more than the light


The hay is generally chopped before being fed to the horses.

The ration is increased with the difficulty of the service ; the above being a minimum for
easy garrison service.

The liorses are shod in each squadron by its shoeing smith.

Tliere in nothing peculiar in the shoes, wliich are light, but strong, and with small heels.


In the field each horse carries, habitually, 3 days rations of oats and hay. The animals are
sometimes tied by the halter to a j^icket rope, or a picket stake, and sometimes fastened by the
right fore foot to a picket rope on the ground.

When picket pins are used they are cut by the men on the spot, or carried along if it is
expected to encamp in a place destitute of timber. The Cossacks hobble their horses.

The Russian cavalry do not spare their horses at drill, or on the march, but bestow all
possible pains upon them in the stable, or in camp. In bivouac, or in camp, they are clothed
with the saddle blanket if the weather is bad and cold.

The habitual gait on the march is the walk, of about 3^ miles per hour; sometimes the trot is
used ; every hour or so a halt of a few minutes is made, -after which the men lead the horses for
about three-quarters of a mile. An ordinary march is from 16 to 26 miles a day, depending
on the nature of the country.

The Cossacks regard a march of 45 miles as nothing extraordinary.

After drill the horses are walked until" they are cool.

They are never unsaddled until quite cool.

At squad drills, in warm weather, some men are present with buckets of water and sponges
to wash out the horses mouths occasionally.

In the translation of the regulations for field service iu time of peace and in time of war will
be found much information in regard to these subjects. In the field, the cavalry carry 1 day's
rations in a haversack.


There are two peculiarities which cannot fail to arrest the attention and command the reflec-
tion of the observer of the Eussian cavalry ; these are : the general division of the cavalry into
regulars and irregulars ; and the corps of dragoons.

The irregulars may be comprehended in the general name of Cossacks. Yet their pecu-
liarities of armament, costume, and action are as varied as their origin ; while the sources of
the latter arc as multifarious as the tribes which compose the mass of Russian nationality, and
the circumstances which, through centuries of warfare, have finally united, into one compact
whole, a multitude of conflicting and heterogeneous elements. But, with all this diversity,
there are important and peculiar characteristics which pervade the mass, and are common to
every individual, with as much uniformity and certainty as that with which the firm govern-
ment of the czar is now extended over them. These peculiarities are: intelligence, quickness
of vision, hearing, and all the senses ; individuality; trustworthiness on duty; the power of
enduring fatigue, privation, and the extremes of climate; great address in the use of weajions ;
strong feeling for their common country; caution, united with courage, cajDable of being excited
to the highest pitch; in short, the combination of qualities necessary for partisan troops. The
events of more than one campaign have proved, however, that these irregulars can be used
successfully in line against the best regular cavalry of Europe.


Circumstances of geography and climate have given to these men a race of horses in every
way adapted to their riders ; the Cossack horse is excelled by none in activity and hardiness.

The Cossack neglects no opportunity of feeding his horse ; during short halts, even under fire,
he gives him whatever is to be had ; the horse refuses nothing that is ofi"ered him, and eats when-
ever he has the opportunity, for he has not acquired the pernicious habit of eating only at regular
hours. Some idea may be formed of the power of endurance of the Cossacks and their horses
from the fact, that, in a certain expedition against Khiva, there were 3,500 regular Eussian troops
and 1,200 Cossacks ; of the regulars but 1,000 returned, of the Cossacks but 60 perished.

The tendency of events, during the present century, has been to assimilate the organization
of the Cossacks to that of the regulars, to a certain extent ; whether the effect of this has been
to modify or destroy their valuable individual characteristics may yet remain to be proved in a
general war ; the events of the campaign of Hungary are said to indicate that more regularity
of action has by no means impaired their efficiency.

This brief description of the qualities of the irregular cavalry indicates at once the use made
of them in war ; they watch, while the regulars repose. All the duty of advanced posts, patrols,
reconnaissances, escorting trains, carrying despatches, acting as orderlies, &c., is performed in
preference by the Cossacks ; the consequence is, that, on the day of battle, the regular cavalry
are brought upon the field in full force and undiminished vigor. Under cover of these active
irregulars, a Eussian army enjoys a degree of repose unknown to any other ; while, on the other
hand, it is 'difficult for their antagonists to secure their outposts and foil their stealthy movements.

The rapidity and length of their marches are almost incredible ; a march of 40 miles is a com-
mon thing ; they will make forced marches of TO miles ; in a thickly settled country they have,
in two days, made six marches of ordinary cavalry without being discovered.

In concluding this subject, it is impossible to repress the conviction that in many of tlie tribes
of our frontier Indians, such as the Delawares, Kickapoos, &c., we possess the material for the
formation of partisan troops fully equal to the Cossacks ; in the event of a serious war on this
continent, their employment, under the regulations and restrictions necessary to restrain their
tendency to unnecessary cruelty, would be productive of most important advantages.

In our contests with the hostile Indians, bodies of these men, commanded by active and ener-
getic regular officers, and supported by regular troops, would undoubtedly be of great service.

The term dragoon was originally applied to troops who were, at the same time, cavalry and
infantry. For example, the French dragoons of the time of Louis XIV would, on one day, as
cavalry, meet and defeat the imperial cuirassiers, and on the next day form the assaulting column
in the attack of a breach.

It is necessary not to confound the true dragoon with such troops as our mounted rifles, for
instance, whose proper purpose is to use the horse merely as a means of rapid locomotion, always
dismounting and fighting on foot upon reaching the scene of action.

The Eussian dragoons are the only real dragoons in the world ; their arms, equipment, &c.,
have been heretofore described.

They are principally employed in covering retreats, occupying isolated posts, making sudden
attacks upon villages, &c.

When they dismount to fight on foot, one man of every three remains mounted, and holds the
horses of the others ; one officer remains mounted with each squadron.

When dismounted, they conform to the infantry tactics.

Since the 9th and 10th squadrons, armed as lancers, do not dismount, each regiment furnishes
a battalion of about 800 infantry.


The idea lias been thoroughly carried out, for they are in reality good cavalry and good

It is a question, at least worthy of consideration, whether it would not be advantageous in the
United States service to make real dragoons of tlie regiments now nominally so, employing them
always in those portions of our territory where the Indians frequent the plains, but retire to the
mountains when hard pressed ; at the same time making the so-called cavalry regiments mere
regiments of light cavalry, to act only on the plains, and not to be expected to fight on foot.

The lances of the front rank of the cuirassiers are intended to be used only in close order ;
while the lancer regiments proper are taught to use the lance both in close and open order.

From the great use of the lance in the Kussian service, it will be seen that it is a favorite
weapon with them.

I have been told by an old general of Cossacks, who served from Austerlitz to Paris, and
against the Persians and Turks, that " the Cossack never uses his sabre, but dejjends altogether
on his lance, and uses his carbine only to give signals." He was also strongly in favor of snaiSe
bits, sharp spurs, and Balaklava charges. Nevertheless the chasseurs d' Afrique told marvellous
stories of the expertness of the Cossack in the use of the musket on horseback ; and the Cossacks
of the line of the Caucasus, engaged almost daily in hand to hand conflicts, have abandoned the
lance, and they are more dreaded by the mountaineers of the Caucasus than any other Eussian

Against the Indians of our plains, who have no sabres, the far-reaching lance would no doubt
be an effective weapon ; yet a light sabre would be about as much so, and far less in the way.


Captain Ist Cavalry.

October 28, 1856.




— Officer.


Original pontion.


. Trumpeter.


Second position.


Commander of division (U squadrons.) ■ . . . . Sergeants.


Lj Privates of front rank.

— Commander of squadron.

— Officers.

Original position.

Privates of rear rank.


Second position.


- Colonel.


-Commander of division (2 squadrons.)
- Commander of squadron.

a Squadron officer.

i Regimental adjutant.

I..-. — - Standard.

_. Private of front rank.

-Private of rear rank.

Final position.


■ Standard.



Final position.




Original position.
fiSHECi , Squadron deployed.

Secoiul position.

Final position.


Column by platoons.

Column of attack.

Squadron deployed.

Column by platoons.

Column of attack.


- Sergeant.
-Principal guide,
a. Private of front rank.

1 Private of rear rank.

H Trumpeter.

" ■ Drummer.

— Platoon deployed.

Squadron deployed.

dSEia. Close column by squadrons. isKj^n .. Close column by squadrons.

Online LibraryUnited States. Military Commission to EuropeReport of the Secretary of war : communicating the report of Captain George B. McClellan ... one of the officers sent to the seat of war in Europe, in 1855 and 1856 → online text (page 16 of 40)