Friday, 3 January 2014

Cavalry on Campaigin

If the life of a Cavalry Trooper in barracks was "Terrible hard", then life on campaign was all that - and more. Not only were the usual duties of tending and feeding the horses strictly adhered to, but pickets and videttes had to be provided, cook houses built, latrines dug and tents looked after.

The 1831 Cavalry Regulations and the Standing Orders of the Scots Greys state that on campaign pickets (in-lying and out-lying) were to be posted one hour before daybreak. An outlying picket, or vidette, consisted of half-a-dozen mounted troopers under the command of an NCO to observe the movement of the enemy and also mask their own unit. The in-lying picket was larger, commanded by an officer, and as the name suggests, placed closer to the camp. Captain William Douglas (10th Hussars) wrote that ‘An Outlying Picket ought to be concealed entirely from observation, either by natural or artificial obstacles.’ Whilst an Inlying Picket ought to be within sight of the camp.


 If the enemy made a serious approach, the outlying picket would fire their carbines, more as a means of raising the alarm than having any effect. They would then circle their horses to the left if infantry were approaching and to the right for cavalry; the speed of the circling gave some indication of the size of the force – the faster the circling the greater the numbers. The picket was to come in one hour after daylight and breakfast would be eaten after the horses had been cared for. The horses were to remain saddled for two hours after coming in and given a ‘small quantity of water’, and were not allowed to ‘gorge themselves’, instead having small, frequent drinks until their thirst was quenched. These two  measures were to stop the horse from catching a chill from cooling down too quickly and also making themselves sick from drinking too much water. The ‘full quantity’ of water was to be given an hour later, at least one hour prior to feeding.  The horses were watered an hour before they were fed to prevent them getting colic. Similarly it was important that horses were not given too-much water before going out on duty. Then, after his horse was fed, each trooper was to ensure that ‘The bridles, bits, stirrup-irons and leathers should be washed’ with sugar-soap and the horses ‘thoroughly groomed.’ Finally, each trooper could get his breakfast.

The daily routine of the Cavalry took on the familiar monotony of barrack life. Troopers would find themselves awakened at around 3am and in the saddle at 4am – pickets were to be post an hour before daybreak, which was estimated to be around 5.15am. It would not get fully light until an hour later. They would remain on Picket until an hour after sunrise when they would be relieved and those men who had been on duty could get their breakfast (usually coffee and bread).

The horses were to be fed and watered four times a day – even on campaign- and the routine was strictly adhered to. Standing Orders of the Scots Greys states that ‘Morning Stables’ was at 5.30am; ‘Noon Stables’ was at 12pm, ‘Afternoon Feed’ was at 4pm and ‘Evening Stables’ at 6pm. The veterinary surgeon and the farrier-major inspected each horse at ‘Morning Stables.’ The Orderly Sergeant would inspect the men's kit after evening stables and could order a Trooper to repair his kit or to draw new items. Boots, shoes, belts, sabres, pustols and carbines were the most vigorously inspected items as they were the differance between life and death. Sabres and their scabbards were to be polished until not a "particle of dirt or rust remained" whilst leather equipment was to be kept dry and "free from moisture".

No comments:

Post a Comment