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Weapons and Units of the Grand Armée
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Weapons and Units of the Grand Armée

Cavalry

Napoleon’s cavalry was divided into heavy and light units. The heavy units, cuirassiers and carabiniers a cheval, consisted of brawny men on massive horses. They wore metal chest and back armor and metal helmets, both useful for fending off blows as they overran lines of enemy infantry. Each carried a pistol and a straight, heavy saber used for thrusting.

The light cavalry, used mostly for flanking maneuvers, recognizance and pursuit, wore no armor, and carried curved swords for slashing. Units of dragoons, hussars, and chasseurs a cheval each had elaborate uniforms and matching saddlehorses, and adopted fanciful names like Hussars of Death and Revolutionary Chasseurs.

Cavalry slash with swords

Cavalry regiments consisted of 1,200 to 1,800 men and horses. Massed for the attack, they were an imposing sight. Moving towards the enemy’s troops at a walk, they patiently waited for the signal as shot and shell rained down on them.

Fifty yards from the enemy line, the order was given – "Charge!" With trumpets blaring, the men spurred their horses into a dead run, yelling wildly, sabers flashing.

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