Since the earliest days of Warfare mankind has sought to use domestic animals to increase his manoeuvrability on the battlefield and increase the shock impact of his troops. Early use of horsemen was common and most armies of the Ancient World such as those of Alexander the Great and the Romans had considerable numbers of Horsemen. With the development of Stirrups and the refinement of the spear into a specific horseman's weapon, the lance, the shock role of cavalry increased. The Mongol armies were made up completely of horsemen. This role involved into a warrior caste with the Samurai in Japan and the medieval Knight in Europe, as the numbers of cavalry on the battlefield increased and new weapons forced them to adopt new tactics these warrior Castes became a thing of the past but even today the idea of cavalry retains a certain panache. By the time of the Napoleonic wars vast numbers of cavalry were seen on Europe battlefields and large numbers were also used in the American Civil War and in the Indian Wars. The First World War was the death knell for horse mounted troops and by the end of it despite their use with some success in the Middle East Theatre the horseman was gone from the modern battlefield. The opening stage of the Second World War did see Polish cavalry used against German tanks but by then most cavalry had converted to tanks and armoured vehicles. Retaining essentially the same roles they had on the battlefield from ancient times those of Reconnaissance and Shock assault the cavalry of the modern battlefield is seen in armoured units around the world many retaining traditions and symbolism from their horse mounted days. The psychological impact of the cavalry charge has now been replaced by the psychological impact of fast moving heavy armoured vehicles, just as if not even more terrifying for the soldier on the receiving end.
How to cite this article: Dugdale-Pointon, T. (24 December 2000), Cavalry, http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/concepts_cavalry.html