BLTC Press Titles

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Vanity Fair

William Thackery

The Picture of Dorian Gray

Oscar Wilde

Novalis Including Hymns to the Night

Novalis, George MacDonald, Thomas Carlyle

Shakti and Shakta

John Woodroffe


by Lewis Edward Nolan



There is, perhaps, no branch of the whole science of war which has engaged so little of the attention of military writers as that which refers to the employment and formation of cavalry; while at the same time it must be admitted, that few branches of the service are really more important than this.

On looking, however, closely at the subject, it is easy to understand why this should be the case. The tactics of cavalry are not capable of being reduced to rule, like the mechanical operations of the engineer, or even the slower and more methodical movements of infantry.

With the cavalry officer almost everything depends on the clearness of his coup-d'ceil, and the felicity with which he seizes the happy moment of action, and, when once action is determined upon, the rapidity with which his intentions are carried into effect. There is little time for thought, none for hesitation; and, once the movement is commenced, its successful accomplishment is the only thought allowed to pass through the mind of the commander.

Much, then, must partake more of the inspiration of genius than of the result of calculation and rule. Still there is a great deal in the profession of a cavalry officer which can be reduced to writing, and which it is most important he should know and carefully study; many things which his knowing beforehand will enable him to profit by, or, having carefully thought over, will suggest to him in the hour of need, expedients that no amount of service, or of thought, would ever enable him to perceive without previous reading and long study of the subject.

Nothing, however, can well be more difficult than to attain to this in the present state of the literature on the subject. Few, if any, special books exist, as before stated, treating exclusively of cavalry, and none certainly of any importance in the English language, so that the student must pick out for himself, from the histories of campaigns and battles, or, from general treatises on the art of war, those parts he stands in need of; and as these are seldom written by persons intimately acquainted with either the difficulties or advantages of this arm of the service, he must elaborate his conclusions for himself, and often form the most imperfect and erroneous data.

It is not pretended that the present little treatise will supply this desideratum in military literature, or serve as anything but a stop-gap to supply for a time the place of some more worthy treatise, which, it is hoped, may before long occupy its place. Still the author, having served in the continental cavalry, and with our own in India, and having thought much on the subject during a tolerably extended acquaintance with the cavalry of various nations, hopes that he may not be deemedforward in contributing his mite towards an improvement in the literature of Cavalry, and in offering such suggestions as he hopes may assist in bringing forward this important arm to the level of. the intelligence of the age, and to the improved condition to which all branches of the service must be brought, if they are to compete successfully with their rivals in the next great struggle that may take place.

The sudden transition from peace to war is a critical moment for all armies, but more particularly to those whose officers are deficient in the theory of their profession.

Take for instance our cavalry in the last great European war; they were superior to that of most nations in the headlong courage of the men, the quality of their horses and equipments, but unfortunately inferior in tactics : the published despatches of our greatest commander bear too frequent testimony to the fact that our officers often neglected to provide reserves when they charged, or to take other necessary precautions, the want of which entailed occasional defeat upon our troops, in spite of the determined bravery which they displayed upon all occasions.

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