Officers on horseback

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Re: Officers on horseback

Postby jf42 » 03 Feb 2015 20:42

grumpy wrote:
I understood the logic to include improved vision in addition to mobility but one might expect this requirement to exist before 1914. Perhaps the double-company? Whereas I have a long list of War Establishments going well back, I was not that fussed about horses!


i imagine mobility on the march would have been the main advantage. Once the enemy came in rifle range, indeed once serious shelling began, the company commander would have to dismount or he would have been put out of action very quickly
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Re: Officers on horseback

Postby mike snook » 03 Feb 2015 23:46

Dear General Sir Herbert

There was a way of fighting then, just as there is now, which is governed by tactical doctrine. In the period we are talking of this was known as the 'infantry drill'. It was regulated on paper by a publication called Field Exercise and Evolutions of Infantry of which there were periodic editions, incorporating fairly slow moving changes from time to time. The Army could not then, and still cannot, make up its size or functions or organizations according to the whim of the next passing general. It all has to be paid for by the taxpayer, by means of the annual 'Army Vote' in the Commons (which also functions as a constitutional safeguard....no army vote, no army...I hasten to add that it is conventionally unopposed, since that ghastly Cromwell feller put the frighteners on everybody). Such things as organizations and numbers of people are therefore regulated by a document, a staff table, known as the unit 'Establishment', according to type of unit and arm of the service. Thus the taxpayer will pay for so many officers in an artillery battery, so many private soldiers in an infantry battalion, so many rifles in a company of sappers etc etc ....and so many officers' horses. In the case of the infantry the number shown against the allowable quantity of horses on the establishment is governed by the 'infantry drill', which states the necessity to have some mounted officers namely....the colonel, the two wing commanders (majors) and the adjutant. Nobody else. The battalion at this time consists of two wings each of four companies. These officers are mounted because they have to dap about the battalion, or one wing of it, and need to do so quickly. Company officers, (the rest), a captain and two subalterns per sub unit, do not have to do that. They can always throw their voice over the frontage or depth of their command. On the rare occasions when they can't do that, as for example in extended skirmish order, they have a bugler (actually two on the establishment) to do it for them. Therefore they have no formal requirement for horses. Thus the taxpayer cannot be expended to fund such beasts.

However, now we are into the officers and gentlemen and knightly class thing. They hunt, they shoot, they ride for fun, when they are not soldiering. So they all own horses which are stabled at their private expense. In a stable garrison (pardon the pun) they would likely have two or three horses. They also take their horses into the field, so that they can ride and shoot and have a lark when they are not actually fighting. Many of them take servants too...to put up the tent, do the cooking, load the pack horse, clean the guns, pluck the partridges, guard the master's kit when he's out etc etc. I am talking about in addition to the soldier servant (later 'batman') who pretty much goes everywhere including into the fight in the ranks of the company (generally). The other servants were civilians in the private employ of the officer: he or they might be an Egyptian fellah, an Afridi, an Nguni African, an ex-soldier, a Greek, a lad from the family estate, or so on ad infinitum.

Then the enemy puts in an appearance. The field officers stay mounted, because that's their job. The company officers have a job too...which does not involve being mounted, so yes, they dismount, send their horses to the rear and take station, on foot, in front of their companies, with swords drawn....precisely in accordance with the infantry drill. They lead on foot from the front. The mounted field officers hang back a bit, because they have wider responsibilities....but we are talking ludicrously short distances which offered no protection worth having.

No 'second in command'....the senior major (a de facto second in command). There were not invariably two majors present in the field, however, (which is I fancy how 'second in command' evolved - but it is a statement of fact not an appointment). And there should not ever have been two majors present (theoretically) in the days of service companies and depot companies, when the senior major commanded the [pre-Localisation Act] depot (but this is rather earlier than the period with which we started ie Egypt 1882). If your interest is Sudanese reconquest...(ie exceptionally late in the period), as perhaps suggested by your user name, then second in command becomes permissible.

As to dismounting in the presence of the enemy, (I know, jf, you are talking of 1914 when your point is entirely sound), I would encourage everybody to look at the Crimea and the Mutiny when you see the mounted field officers riding about in the most extraordinarily dangerous circumstances (and being killed or maimed with almost tedious inevitability it must be said). It was simply not done to dismount....until it started to become ridiculous in the face of brother boer. Colonel Deane rode up the spur at Laing's Nek in January 1881, which most will instantly know is the last occasion on which colours were carried in action (for good reason). I have stood beside the good colonel's grave. It starts to become acceptable to dismount maybe in the 1870s [improved weapons technology etc] but certainly not before that. [Probably the Continentals and N Americans started dismounting a touch before the British, because they had 'proper' wars against people who could shoot with rifled muskets when we did not. Though an awful lot of American officers were killed on horseback 61-65...which is the point.] There was a terrible row in 57-8 because Havelock wrote up his ADC son in despatches for riding in front of the 64th when the major (acting OC/CO) was on foot, but when you look into it, the major dismounted because his horse had become unmanageable. It was not the first attack of the day and the major had been mounted all day up to the moment of the boy Havelock's bid for glory. It was very controversial. Sir Colin Campbell (not present in India at the time) took a very dim view of ADCs riding anywhere near a regiment and subborning its officers, and duly issued a very strongly worded general order about the behaviour of non-regimental mounted officers. If memory serves me correctly General Havelock was dead by then which rather cleared the field for Sir C to let rip: Sir H should not have sung the praises of his son in that context.

It might be added that artillery officers also stayed mounted - which is fine given their normal line of work, but not so handy when you are manhandling guns through an Indian street.

Odds and ends...I have the impression that in some regiments it was never done for subalterns to take horses into the field, but this is an area of inconsistency. Certainly captains did. Commissioning from the ranks - very rare. Much more commonplace in the Peninsular Army when there was a shortage of officers. So much for Richard Sharpe...he would have been pretty commonplace in those days, but not in our period. Sergeant Major to Quartermaster was the typical route, but at much longer intervals than the two years or so which is the norm now. There are instances of commissions being declined for want of money and fear of the embarrassment which might ensue. The price of a horse depends on its quality. Line officers might sneer at one of their own on a nag, but they wouldn't have worried what the QM was riding. In principle horses were affordable, even for ensigns and quartermasters, which is not to say that there were no officers in straitened circumstances and no exceptions to the rule of thumb I have advanced. But a horse was pretty much a must have..far better that you bumped the old debt up a bit than went without a horse and got laughed at.

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M
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Re: Officers on horseback

Postby Josh&Historyland » 04 Feb 2015 02:07

Mike, actually there's not allot of field officer's dismounting in America. Colonel Smith dismounted during the retreat from Concord (dubiously to let others ride! 8) ) but Howe's staff were shot to pieces from their horses at Breed's Hill. Fraser was killed at Saratoga in 1777, a target for a Yankee rifleman mounted on his horse. Colonel Webster led the 23rd (RWF) from the front ahorse directly against entrenched Militia at Guilford Courthouse in 1781.

I think as you said, the army worked in response to the techonolgy etc, a horse was the most mobile thing around, and rifle sights to a while to shall we say "Lengthen". ;)
From a horse, a field officer could obviously see over the heads of his own men and thus direct them easier, and react quicker to unfolding events, whereas to properly control dressing and keep the men firing properly a company officer was better on his feet.

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Re: Officers on horseback

Postby mike snook » 04 Feb 2015 03:16

Quite so Josh.

I am not referring to British officers fighting Americans, but to north fighting south in the age of the Enfield and similar. I have, incidentally, stood where Simon Fraser fell too. A very fine officer, whose regiment I had the privilege to join some little while later!

'That officer on the white horse is a host unto himself'.

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Re: Officers on horseback

Postby Josh&Historyland » 04 Feb 2015 13:52

A very fine officer indeed, poor chap, there is a memorial were he fell is there not? I thought you meant the ACW, but I thought I'd just throw in some British examples of riding into danger in North America to demonstrate how field officer's were meant to behave etc. (Though Wolfe was killed on foot at Quebec, but that was because they didn't take horses up the cliff).

I've heard of runners and gallopers. I assume that Campbel therefore preferred the former when it came to ADC's? It might have been confusing when looking for a field officer to mistake him for a subaltern riding with a message in the smoke, just because he was mounted. Though what he felt about cavalry orderlies must be interesting.

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Re: Officers on horseback

Postby grumpy » 04 Feb 2015 16:23

A colleague on the Great War Forum has confirmed that the war establishment of horses for company commanders was as late as 1913, herewith:

Infantry Training 1911, the last edition before the four-company organisation was introduced, states that the CO, senior major and adjutant will be mounted, also a "third field officer" if one is present. Company commanders were not mounted.

It appears, therefore, that giving company commanders horses does coincide with the new organisation introduce (IIRC) in about November 1913.

For ceremonial parades, company commanders were not mounted, even from 1914 ("Ceremonial" 1912 as amended) and as you know, their equivalents on the modern Queen's Birthday Parade are still not mounted.
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Re: Officers on horseback

Postby mike snook » 04 Feb 2015 17:44

Josh,

Gallopers and runners are not closely defined terms but are generally taken to refer to non-commissioned messengers; you can guess which arms of the service they relate to! They are not the same thing as ADCs who are personal assistants to a general and function as junior staff officers. They would often in the horse and musket era ride orders (written or oral) about the battlefield on behalf of their general. If it was important and oral the message would not go with a galloper but with an ADC. If simple enough (not requiring elucidation) it might go with a galloper. Unfortunately not all junior staff officers mastered the art of elucidating the 'commander's intent' vide. 'There, my lord, are your enemy, there, my lord, are your guns.' [or words to that effect]!

Yes there is a Fraser marker on the wheatfield at Saratoga.

I giggled at the idea, which struck me, of Wolfe carrying his horse up, rather than the other way round!

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M
Last edited by mike snook on 05 Feb 2015 00:15, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Officers on horseback

Postby Josh&Historyland » 04 Feb 2015 19:07

Mike.

Understood, though of course an ADC could undertake the same function as a galloper, in terms of message sending I never knew runners and gallopers were terms for NC's and thus different categories, that's useful.

(Hopefully it would have been a little horse if not the other way around! Wolfe was just a slight little man after all, and lugging a charger up to Abraham would probably have done for him before the French got him!)

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Re: Officers on horseback

Postby HerbertKitch12 » 05 Feb 2015 10:37

mike snook wrote:Dear General Sir Herbert

There was a way of fighting then, just as there is now, which is governed by tactical doctrine. In the period we are talking of this was known as the 'infantry drill'. It was regulated on paper by a publication called Field Exercise and Evolutions of Infantry of which there were periodic editions, incorporating fairly slow moving changes from time to time. The Army could not then, and still cannot, make up its size or functions or organizations according to the whim of the next passing general. It all has to be paid for by the taxpayer, by means of the annual 'Army Vote' in the Commons (which also functions as a constitutional safeguard....no army vote, no army...I hasten to add that it is conventionally unopposed, since that ghastly Cromwell feller put the frighteners on everybody). Such things as organizations and numbers of people are therefore regulated by a document, a staff table, known as the unit 'Establishment', according to type of unit and arm of the service. Thus the taxpayer will pay for so many officers in an artillery battery, so many private soldiers in an infantry battalion, so many rifles in a company of sappers etc etc ....and so many officers' horses. In the case of the infantry the number shown against the allowable quantity of horses on the establishment is governed by the 'infantry drill', which states the necessity to have some mounted officers namely....the colonel, the two wing commanders (majors) and the adjutant. Nobody else. The battalion at this time consists of two wings each of four companies. These officers are mounted because they have to dap about the battalion, or one wing of it, and need to do so quickly. Company officers, (the rest), a captain and two subalterns per sub unit, do not have to do that. They can always throw their voice over the frontage or depth of their command. On the rare occasions when they can't do that, as for example in extended skirmish order, they have a bugler (actually two on the establishment) to do it for them. Therefore they have no formal requirement for horses. Thus the taxpayer cannot be expended to fund such beasts.

However, now we are into the officers and gentlemen and knightly class thing. They hunt, they shoot, they ride for fun, when they are not soldiering. So they all own horses which are stabled at their private expense. In a stable garrison (pardon the pun) they would likely have two or three horses. They also take their horses into the field, so that they can ride and shoot and have a lark when they are not actually fighting. Many of them take servants too...to put up the tent, do the cooking, load the pack horse, clean the guns, pluck the partridges, guard the master's kit when he's out etc etc. I am talking about in addition to the soldier servant (later 'batman') who pretty much goes everywhere including into the fight in the ranks of the company (generally). The other servants were civilians in the private employ of the officer: he or they might be an Egyptian fellah, an Afridi, an Nguni African, an ex-soldier, a Greek, a lad from the family estate, or so on ad infinitum.

Then the enemy puts in an appearance. The field officers stay mounted, because that's their job. The company officers have a job too...which does not involve being mounted, so yes, they dismount, send their horses to the rear and take station, on foot, in front of their companies, with swords drawn....precisely in accordance with the infantry drill. They lead on foot from the front. The mounted field officers hang back a bit, because they have wider responsibilities....but we are talking ludicrously short distances which offered no protection worth having.

No 'second in command'....the senior major (a de facto second in command). There were not invariably two majors present in the field, however, (which is I fancy how 'second in command' evolved - but it is a statement of fact not an appointment). And there should not ever have been two majors present (theoretically) in the days of service companies and depot companies, when the senior major commanded the [pre-Localisation Act] depot (but this is rather earlier than the period with which we started ie Egypt 1882). If your interest is Sudanese reconquest...(ie exceptionally late in the period), as perhaps suggested by your user name, then second in command becomes permissible.

As to dismounting in the presence of the enemy, (I know, jf, you are talking of 1914 when your point is entirely sound), I would encourage everybody to look at the Crimea and the Mutiny when you see the mounted field officers riding about in the most extraordinarily dangerous circumstances (and being killed or maimed with almost tedious inevitability it must be said). It was simply not done to dismount....until it started to become ridiculous in the face of brother boer. Colonel Deane rode up the spur at Laing's Nek in January 1881, which most will instantly know is the last occasion on which colours were carried in action (for good reason). I have stood beside the good colonel's grave. It starts to become acceptable to dismount maybe in the 1870s [improved weapons technology etc] but certainly not before that. [Probably the Continentals and N Americans started dismounting a touch before the British, because they had 'proper' wars against people who could shoot with rifled muskets when we did not. Though an awful lot of American officers were killed on horseback 61-65...which is the point.] There was a terrible row in 57-8 because Havelock wrote up his ADC son in despatches for riding in front of the 64th when the major (acting OC/CO) was on foot, but when you look into it, the major dismounted because his horse had become unmanageable. It was not the first attack of the day and the major had been mounted all day up to the moment of the boy Havelock's bid for glory. It was very controversial. Sir Colin Campbell (not present in India at the time) took a very dim view of ADCs riding anywhere near a regiment and subborning its officers, and duly issued a very strongly worded general order about the behaviour of non-regimental mounted officers. If memory serves me correctly General Havelock was dead by then which rather cleared the field for Sir C to let rip: Sir H should not have sung the praises of his son in that context.

It might be added that artillery officers also stayed mounted - which is fine given their normal line of work, but not so handy when you are manhandling guns through an Indian street.

Odds and ends...I have the impression that in some regiments it was never done for subalterns to take horses into the field, but this is an area of inconsistency. Certainly captains did. Commissioning from the ranks - very rare. Much more commonplace in the Peninsular Army when there was a shortage of officers. So much for Richard Sharpe...he would have been pretty commonplace in those days, but not in our period. Sergeant Major to Quartermaster was the typical route, but at much longer intervals than the two years or so which is the norm now. There are instances of commissions being declined for want of money and fear of the embarrassment which might ensue. The price of a horse depends on its quality. Line officers might sneer at one of their own on a nag, but they wouldn't have worried what the QM was riding. In principle horses were affordable, even for ensigns and quartermasters, which is not to say that there were no officers in straitened circumstances and no exceptions to the rule of thumb I have advanced. But a horse was pretty much a must have..far better that you bumped the old debt up a bit than went without a horse and got laughed at.

As ever

M


Thanks Mike as ever for the fantastic feedback, very useful and much appreicated.
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Re: Officers on horseback

Postby jf42 » 05 Feb 2015 12:30

The casualty rate amongst mounted officers during the ACW was indeed impressive. I read that 38 Union generals were killed in action; 29 died of wounds. The most notorious case perhaps being thrice-wounded Maj. Gen John Sedgewick whose penultimate words were reported to have been "What! what! men, dodging this way for single bullets! What will you do when they open fire along the whole line? I am ashamed of you. They couldn't hit an elephant at this distance."

The most serious loss among the 75 odd generals killed on the Confederate side was, arguably, the death of Albert Sydney Johnson at Shiloh. Thomas Jackson's death doesn't really count as he was shot by his own men.

Was Cathcart mounted at Inkerman?
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Re: Officers on horseback

Postby Frogsmile » 05 Feb 2015 12:35

grumpy wrote:Quote:

No such thing as a '2IC' either Chris. You mean the senior major!

Army Order 126 of 1896, quoting a Royal warrant, abolished "senior major" and created "2IC", which became an appointment carrying extra pay. As it was an appointment it was possible to be 2IC whilst junior to others.

Clearly this did not play well because AO 154 of 1906 reversed the decision.

By 1914 the Pay warrant has Senior major of infantry drawing an extra 1/- per day.

However AO 472 of 1914 decreed that the New Army battalions would have a 2IC by selection .............

Clearly a MAJOR bone of contention.


This made me smile. As so often with regulations they could frequently be ignored within regiments. Certainly RWF during the 1970s-80s, never referred to the 2IC as anything other than "The Senior Major". I recall that he was invariably a grumpy old bugger and noticeably 'greyer' around the temples than the company commanders. He was thus a passed over Major, but of the most competent type.
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Re: Officers on horseback

Postby jf42 » 05 Feb 2015 14:08

As a matter of interest, in principle would the grumpy old bugger have taken over command the battalion if the worst happened (until a replacement could be parachuted in?).
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Re: Officers on horseback

Postby Josh&Historyland » 05 Feb 2015 14:28

JF.

As far as I know Carthart was mounted, quite a few officers mourned at Alma too, any casualties there?
(First day of Gettysburg Gen John F Reynolds was brought down from his horse leading the Iron Brigade forward)

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Re: Officers on horseback

Postby mike snook » 05 Feb 2015 15:06

It is inconceivable that Sir George Cathcart would not have been mounted! That's the point really.

The 'code' is very important in all this. It was considered that to dismount was to show fear and a bad example which might unsettle the men....doubly and trebly so at times of crisis, such as that pertaining on 5 Nov 1854.

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Re: Officers on horseback

Postby Frogsmile » 05 Feb 2015 22:29

jf42 wrote:As a matter of interest, in principle would the grumpy old bugger have taken over command the battalion if the worst happened (until a replacement could be parachuted in?).


Yes, I am conscious that we have strayed outside Victorian tines here, but RWF were very much a conservative and traditional regiment. As Mike has said the Senior Major was the de facto 2IC and when the Colonel (CO) was away, he was in command. I remember that during regimental (battalion) movement he often commanded either, the advance party, or the main body depending on which of these bodies the Colonel was with. I do not recall him ever staying with the rear party.
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