I've never really liked the cavalry much. Give me a solid English Redcoat or an excitable Voltigeur any day of the week. The cavalry were, in my mind better at looting helpless baggage trains, sabring fleeing, broken enemy (broken by whom I ask you?) and charging into the enemy guns on exhausted horses when they should be sensibly retiring. And the uniforms were, even by Napoleonic standards quite ridiculous.
Sadly my perfectly rational prejudices have been dampened somewhat by two books this week which is in itself quite annoying. I'm going to have to transfer my dislike to the artillery and what have they ever done?
The first book is Cavalry Outpost Duties by Antoine Fortune DeBrack, General of Cavalry and Commander of the Imperial Order of the Legion of Honor. Originally published in 1863 this is a fantastic practical guide to operational use of cavalry in the Napoleonic and post-Napoleonic era. It is full of Keith Rocco paintings as well which makes it even better. From Grand guards, piquets, small posts, vedettes and patrols to common horse diseases this is a fantastic book.
The second book changing my mind is A Close Run Thing by Allan Mallinson. The adventures of Matthew Hervey have been going for a while now but I decided as I had not read the last couple I should start at the beginning. They are much more Aubrey/Maturin than Sharpe which is no bad thing but there are several references sneaking in, one to Brigadier Gerard and his sabring of rabbits and another one here:
'My dear Hervey... I hope with all sincerity you will have a brevet out of all of this... but frankly, in this army, I feel sometime you would do better to capture some absurd French eagle!"
Mallinson is himself a cavalry officer and it shows. The books are good reads, occasionally spiced up by digs at the competition.
So, grudgingly I am going to have to give up some of my prejudices against the cavalry. Except for Lancers maybe...