The 18th century: The mark of Frederick the Great

Both in the field and in theory, siege warfare ceased to be regarded as the golden rule. The 18th century saw the reappearance of a form of war that was based, not on conquering strongholds, but on boldly and quickly advancing towards a battle which those waging it sought to be decisive. Two major military figures put manoeuvre warfare into practice – the Marshal of Saxony and King Frederick II of Prussia.

Advocating the return of the shock using a closed-rank charge, Marshal Maurice de Saxe restored the cavalry to a leading role, as witnessed at the Battle of Fontenoy (1745), where he took victory.

You cannot make a poor foot soldier from a good rider, but you can always make a good rider from a bad foot soldier.

Chevalier de Folard, 1669-1752

Under the leadership of King Frederick II of Prussia, the Prussian cavalry underwent a profound transformation: trained for galloping charges in squadrons formed into two ranks, the cavalry included cuirassiers for the shock, the decisive blow. As for the light cavalry (hussars and uhlans), it was ready to provide cover or to exploit the encirclement. The success of Frederick of Prussia during the Seven Years' War (1756-1763) would have an undeniable influence on the art of war in France.

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Jean-Pierre Béneytou, Histoire de la cavalerie française des origines à nos jours, Lavauzelle, 2010, 248p.

Colonel Dugué Mac Carthy, La cavalerie au temps des chevaux, éditions Pratiques Automobiles (EPA), 1989.