Mounted infantry were infantry who rode horses instead of marching.
The original dragoons were essentially mounted infantry. According to
the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica, "Mounted rifles are half cavalry,
mounted infantry merely specially mobile infantry." Today, with motor
vehicles having replaced horses for military transport, the motorized
infantry are in some respects successors to mounted infantry.
3 19th century
4 20th century transition
5 Falkland Islands
6 See also
7 References and notes
8 External links
The origins of mounted infantry go back to at least the beginnings of
organised warfare. With the weight of ancient bronze armour national
champions would travel to battle on chariots before dismounting to
fight. With the evolution of hoplite warfare, some hoplites would
travel to battle on horseback, before again dismounting to take their
place in the phalanx. Early pre-Marian Roman military had units
consisting of mounted infantry with units clinging to the saddles of
the cavalry to take them to battle and then dismounting to fight.
Gallic and Germanic warbands were reported to use double-riders, with
a second warrior joining a horseman only for a short distance before
dismounting to fight on foot. The
Han Dynasty also
extensively used mounted infantry in their campaigns against the
Xiongnu confederation. During many of the Han campaigns, the vast
majority of the army rode on horseback; either as mounted cavalry or
mounted infantry who fought dismounted.
Other notable infantry to use the horse to enhance their mobility
include the Genoese crossbowmen, and
Viking raiders who would gather
all the horses they could find in the vicinity of their landings.
A French dragoon (c. 1700).
Dragoons originally were mounted infantry, who were trained in horse
riding as well as infantry fighting skills. However, usage altered
over time and during the 18th century, dragoons evolved into
conventional light cavalry units and personnel.
Dragoon regiments were
established in most European armies during the late 17th century and
early 18th century.
The name is possibly derived from a type of firearm (called a dragon)
carried by dragoons of the French Army. There is no distinction
between the words dragon and dragoon in French.
The title has been retained in modern times by a number of armoured or
ceremonial mounted regiments.
With the invention of accurate and quick firing repeating rifles in
the middle of the 19th century, cavalry started to become increasingly
vulnerable. Many armies started to use troops which could either fight
on horseback or on foot as circumstances dictated. Fighting on
horseback with swords or lances would allow rapid movement without
cover from enemy fire, whilst fighting on foot with rifles allowed
them to make use of cover and to form defensive lines.
The distinction between cavalry and mounted infantry was in practice
somewhat vague, but the mid-19th century onwards some cavalry units in
the American Civil War, the
Boers in the First and Second Boer Wars
and others usually fought as mounted infantry. The first mounted
infantry units to be named as such were raised during the
Mexican–American War (as the
Regiment of Mounted Riflemen, but
Regiment in 1861) and others followed, for
example in Australia in the 1880s. Terms such as "mounted rifles" were
often used. The
French Foreign Legion
French Foreign Legion used mule-mounted companies from
the 1880s. Each mule was shared by two legionnaires, who took turns
riding it. This arrangement allowed faster and more prolonged marches
that could cover 60 miles in one day.
In the British Army, infantry units in some parts of the British
Empire had a mounted platoon for scouting and skirmishing. In
addition, many locally raised units such as the Ceylon Mounted Rifles,
Cape Mounted Rifles,
Natal Carbineers and Marshall's
Horse fought as
mounted infantry. In the Second Boer War, the British copied the Boers
and raised large forces of their own mounted infantry. Among various
ad hoc formations, the
Imperial Yeomanry was raised from volunteers in
Britain in 1900 and 1901.
As part of the lessons learned from that war, British regular cavalry
regiments were armed with the same rifle as the infantry and became
well-trained in dismounted tactics.
20th century transition
Many European armies also used bicycle infantry in a similar way that
mounted infantry used horses. However they were handicapped by the
need for proper roads.
The Australian 4th Light
Horse Brigade which took part in the cavalry
charge in the
Battle of Beersheba (1917)
Battle of Beersheba (1917) during
World War I
World War I are
labelled as mounted infantry brigade in popular media, however they
were in fact mounted rifles as were the New Zealand Mounted Rifles
Brigade which also took part in this battle. Mounted rifles regiments
lack the mass of a mounted infantry battalions, as a light horse
brigade could only muster as many rifles in the line as a single
battalion. Consequently, their employment reflected this lack of mass,
with the tactics seeking to harness greater mobility and fire to
overcome opposition, rather than echeloned mass attacks.
Mounted infantry largely disappeared with the demise of the horse as a
means of military transport in the 1930s and 1940s. Germany deployed a
few horse-mounted infantry units on the Russian Front during the
Second World War, and cyclist units on both fronts as well, and both
Germany and Britain (which had used cyclist battalions in the First
World War) experimented with motorcycle battalions. Germany also
utilized organic horse and bicycle mounted troops within infantry
formations throughout World War Two, although bicycle use increased as
Germany retreated into its own territory. Japan deployed cyclists to
great effect in its 1941 to 1942 campaign in Malaya and drive on
Singapore during World War II. A horsed cavalry regiment of the
Philippine Scouts assisted in the defense of the
Philippines at the
onset of World War II. The 10th Mountain Division of the U.S. Army
also maintained a Mounted Reconnaissance Troop throughout World War
Two, which saw service in Italy and Austria during the war.
Countries with entrenched military traditions like Switzerland
retained horse-mounted troops well into the Cold War, while Sweden
kept much of its infantry on bicycles during the snow-free months.
After the Falklands War, due to the distances involved when
British Army infantry units were taught to ride Welsh
mountain ponies.
References and notes
^ Rosenstein, Nathan (2010). "War, state formation, and the evolution
of military institutions in ancient China and Rome". Rome and China:
Comparative perspectives on ancient world empires. New York: Oxford
University Press. p. 54. ISBN 978-0-19-975835-7. Instead,
the military focus under the Han [...] as well as professional
soldiers during his campaigns.
^ Fitzpatrick, Jim (1998). The Bicycle In Wartime: An Illustrated
History. Washington, DC: Brassey's Inc. ISBN 1-57488-157-4.
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