AHC: Heavy jezail-armed dragoons in Napoleonic warfare

I think they'd be more useful less as heavy infantry and more as quasi-horse artillery. They can be used in more difficult terrain, and would take less time to set up than unlimbering a battery of six pounders. Attach a squadron of heavy gunners to a cavalry brigade and have them blast one corner of a a square right before the rest of the riders charge.

Really, I think it'd be interesting to see a full spectrum of firearms on the European battlefield, from muskets to cannon, with jazayers and zamburaks bridging the gap. Something like a one ounce ball musket, a four ounce jazayer, a one pound zamburak, and then your conventional 3/4/6+ pounder field artillery. I think the battalion gun would have a longer lifespan if it was something like a zamburak, having a stock and sights you can easily aim with.
The camels appear to have been an important feature of zamburaks; I wonder whether the Europeans would have bothered trying to import and breed them.

Or maybe it would take the form of something like an Ottoman "Abus" gun, the weird looking flintlock recoilless rifle-looking breechloading tripod thing? https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abus_gun
 
Last edited:
The camels appear to have been an important feature of zamburaks; I wonder whether the Europeans would have bothered trying to import and breed them.

Or maybe it would take the form of something like an Ottoman "Abus" gun, the weird looking flintlock recoilless rifle-looking breechloading tripod thing? https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abus_gun
Well, there was no need for the “Europeans” to do something exotic because the camels were available in the arbitrary defined Europe/Asia border areas (and even on the European side, in Kalmykia where they have Kalmykian Bactrian), which were within the Russian Empire (of course, from the British perspective Russia could be not-European so I’m sticking to the geographic aspect of the term). 😜

However, their only military usages that I’m aware of were during conquest of the CA in the cargo carrying capacity. According to Kuropatkin, they were used in thousands and had been dying in thousands because deployment within framework of a military expedition was quite different from the usage on the trade caravans and (I was quite surprised to learn this) the camels were very sensitive to the inconveniences.
 
Well, there was no need for the “Europeans” to do something exotic because the camels were available in the arbitrary defined Europe/Asia border areas (and even on the European side, in Kalmykia where they have Kalmykian Bactrian), which were within the Russian Empire (of course, from the British perspective Russia could be not-European so I’m sticking to the geographic aspect of the term). 😜

However, their only military usages that I’m aware of were during conquest of the CA in the cargo carrying capacity. According to Kuropatkin, they were used in thousands and had been dying in thousands because deployment within framework of a military expedition was quite different from the usage on the trade caravans and (I was quite surprised to learn this) the camels were very sensitive to the inconveniences.
Yeah, I'd heard they were fragile as far as temperatures or other unusual conditions go, too. (EDIT: Wiki claims Bactrian camels, at least, can handle cold well.) If accurate, that might be a problem in deploying them in the middle of (geographic) Europe for the Napoleonic Wars.

Though they might make an appearance (or a bigger appearance; maybe they already existed) in the Middle Eastern theater against Napoleon.
 
Yeah, I'd heard they were fragile as far as temperatures or other unusual conditions go, too. (EDIT: Wiki claims Bactrian camels, at least, can handle cold well.) If accurate, that might be a problem in deploying them in the middle of (geographic) Europe for the Napoleonic Wars.

Though they might make an appearance (or a bigger appearance; maybe they already existed) in the Middle Eastern theater against Napoleon.
According to Kuropatkin, they are very sensitive to getting a proper watering and food and are not doing well carrying the rectangular boxes. The differences between the caravans and military uses were in the fact that the caravans had been “camel centric” while in the military expeditions they were a part of the whole: after being loaded had to wait until the column is ready to march and the same goes for the marching schedule. During the reasonably limited in its scope Geok Tepe expedition few thousands of them died from the exhaustion but alternative, using the wagons, was not practical while operating in a desert.

Does not make too much practical sense to deploy them in the Central Europe because it allowed usage of the more effective wagons.
 
Well, OK, because the whole argument is drifting far away from what I wrote, let me clarify: (a) in 1740s out Russia was in a reasonably close contact with Persia and specifically with Nader Shah (Russia returned most of the territories conquered by Peter I and Nader Shah sent a huge embassy to St-Petersburg), (b) as such it was in a good position to find out about the military developments in Persia and pick up what makes sense, (c) however, taking into an account that at that time things “Eastern” (from the Russian perspective) were inferior just be the virtue of not being “European” such a borrowing would be extremely unlikely.
In that case, I agree with you. If having Russia adopt a Persian idea is too unlikely, maybe a viable alternative would be to have some French (English, Prussian, Austrian, whatever) officer go to Persia on a diplomatic mission, see the heavy guns there, and bring the idea back to his home country.

The camels appear to have been an important feature of zamburaks; I wonder whether the Europeans would have bothered trying to import and breed them.
Could they be used with horses instead of camels?
 
the lancers in many European armies had been copied from the Polish uhlans, which is quite easy to figure out by their headgear (below are British lancers in India) and I doubt that Kipling had in mind Poland when he was talking about ‘East”.
You are right about Kipling, but there are indications that uhlans could indeed be regarded as an "Eastern" feature somewhat. Frederick the Great of Prussia specifically recruited Muslims (mainly Bosniaks) for his first Uhlan regiment, presumably on the basis that the corresponding Polish units were seen orginally as a Lipka Tatar thing.
(The word "Uhlan" itself has an ultimately Tatar etymon for that matter).
Of course, there's the fact that in Poland itself there was widespread (and quite fanciful) self-image as an "Eastern" country in the eighteenth century (whereas being "Western" basically meant absolutism, I suppose, ironically enough in hindsight).
 
You are right about Kipling, but there are indications that uhlans could indeed be regarded as an "Eastern" feature somewhat. Frederick the Great of Prussia specifically recruited Muslims (mainly Bosniaks) for his first Uhlan regiment, presumably on the basis that the corresponding Polish units were seen orginally as a Lipka Tatar thing.
(The word "Uhlan" itself has an ultimately Tatar etymon for that matter).
Of course, there's the fact that in Poland itself there was widespread (and quite fanciful) self-image as an "Eastern" country in the eighteenth century (whereas being "Western" basically meant absolutism, I suppose, ironically enough in hindsight).
Yes, “uhlan” is a Tatar word and practice of hiring both Muslims and Christians from the Balkans was rather common and not limited to Prussia (Russia was inviting Serbs and Albanians for its first hussar regiments and Croats had been serving in the Austrian army). And, of course, there were the whole Kalmuk regiments in the Russian army (as a part of the Cossack Host).

However, while the units of the light lancers did exist in Poland earlier, the first “uhlan” regiment is seemingly reasonably modern: “Colonel Aleksander Ułan, was the commander of a Polish light cavalry regiment in the service of Polish-Saxon kings, Augustus II the Strong and Augustus III. After Ułan's death his regiment was nicknamed Ułanowe dzieci (Ułan's children) and Ułanowe wojsko (Ulan's army) and then shortened to Ułans. Prior to 1764, all Polish-Lithuanian Tatar cavalry regiments in Saxon service were named Ułani (Uhlans or Ulanen).” I suspect that by the late XVIII the Tatar ancestry of the Lipka nobility did not make them more exotic than the Princes Yusupov or numerous Russian noble families with the Tatar ancestry. Anyway, there was nothing “Eastern” in the uhlan uniforms.

1593354035922.jpeg


As for Old Fritz, his usage of the Bosnians could be explained not as much by his fondness of the history but by the practical considerations like an absence of the “native” cadres for the light cavalry in Prussia. These cadres could be easily found on the Balkans. The Croatian irregulars proved to be quite effective but they were already taken by Austrians, the Serbs tended to go to Russia so the Bosnians were rather logical choice. Just as for the initial hussar regiments (created in 1721) Prussians had been using the Hungarians and in1741 Frederich established a further five regiments, largely from Polish deserters.https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hussar#Hussars_of_Frederick_the_Great


But this was different from borrowing a fundamentally new idea from the ...er... “inferior Asians” and while Nader Shah warranted certain degree of a respect, the Persians were considered in Russia circa 1740s as the exotic barbarians. If anything, their embassy was confirming this perception: it initially included 16,000 with 20 cannons and 14 elephants and Russians mistook it for an invasion, sent to Astrakhan 5 infantry and 6 dragoon regiments and refused to let it in. After the prolonged discussion size of the embassy was cut down to “only” 2,128 (with the elephants). And when it come to the wars with Persia, relatively easy successes probably strengthened “inferiority “ image and made borrowings even less likely. If anything, it was other way around: the Persians were trying to “westernize” their army.

This is not to say that there were no borrowings whatsoever. Even before conquest of the Caucasus was over, uniform of the Cossacks of Kuban had been copying the local dress, the regular troops fighting on the theater had been getting a local headgear (папаха) and a local sword, “shasqua” , was adopted not only by the Cossacks but by all Russian cavalry and the officer corps.

However, I’m not sure that a prolonged fighting in the Central Asia and wars with Persia produced any noticeable borrowings. Even adoptions from the Caucasus did not extend to borrowing a convenient shape of a cavalry rifle (a much smaller stock than in the “conventional” rifle).
1593351770737.jpeg

As far as Poland is involved, the delegation that came to Paris in 1645 (?) to arrange marriage of Wladislaw and Maria Gonzaga was considered by the French quite “Eastern” due to the demonstrated luxury: the precious stones everywhere, silver stirrups on the horses, etc. were quite different from the French fashions. Of course, in their turn the Poles (no matter what they thought about themselves) were considering Russians as inferior Asians. 😂 OTOH, I’m not aware of the Polish (or any other) uhlans of the Napoleonic period being considered “Eastern” troops: their historic past was forgotten.

BTW, the Brits encountered dzhezil during their conquest of Afghanistan (admittedly, well after the time of discussion) but did not (AFAIK) adopt it or its idea even if it proved to be a serious weapon.
 
Last edited:
In that case, I agree with you. If having Russia adopt a Persian idea is too unlikely, maybe a viable alternative would be to have some French (English, Prussian, Austrian, whatever) officer go to Persia on a diplomatic mission, see the heavy guns there, and bring the idea back to his home country.
I’m not sure that any noticeable Persian-British or Persian-French relations existed in the 1730s-50s (the first treaties in both cases belong to the early XIX) and while the weapons were still there during the later times, the effective troops were seemingly gone and the Persians were routinely beaten by the small Russian forces. Why borrow anything from them?

The weapon was still there when the Brits started fighting in Afghanistan (Kipling mentioned it 😜) and seemingly was still quite effective but was the idea picked up?

Edit: Regarding the British attitudes toward Persia, I’ll highly recommend (if you did not read it) “The Adventures of Hajji Baba of Ispahan” by James Morier who spent years in Iran as a diplomat in the early XIX. Would you care of adopting anything from the people whom you disrespect that much (of course, the book is a satire but the attitude shows and the Persian representative in London had been protesting against its publishing).

BTW, this book is one of the cases when translation to the foreign language is (arguably) better than original. 😜
 
Last edited:
I’m not sure that any noticeable Persian-British or Persian-French relations existed in the 1730s-50s (the first treaties in both cases belong to the early XIX) and while the weapons were still there during the later times, the effective troops were seemingly gone and the Persians were routinely beaten by the small Russian forces. Why borrow anything from them?
There was some Anglo-Persian relations in the early 1600s when the Shirley brothers helped modernize the armies of Abbas the Great and the EIC provided naval support to the conquest of Hormuz. Relations seem to have petered out after that.
 
Could they be used with horses instead of camels?
Dunno; it's a good question. I tried googling horse-mounted saddle cannons, but couldn't find anything. Horses do tend to be skittish. Absence of historical evidence for a practice *anywhere* is often a bad sign about its viability. But it's quite possible I missed something.
 
Last edited:
Dunno; it's a good question. I tried googling horse-mounted saddle cannons, but couldn't find anything. Horses do tend to be skittish. Absence of historical evidence for a practice *anywhere* is often a bad sign about its viability. But it's quite possible I missed something.
Rather unlikely. To start with, you can hardly mount even a single falconet on a horse and ride it (horse, not falconet) and on a camel they were quite often mounting two falconets/zamburaks (see mounting below).
1593366968797.jpeg

Then, how would you fire it while riding ?
1593367049305.png

In a kneeling position it would be much lower than when on camel’s back and would not be very convenient to use
1593367145194.jpeg

Zamburak caliber was 40-65mm with the cannonball weight between 300 and 800 gram. So you’d need to place, besides a rider and falconet itself (*), 40 cannonballs (each weighting between 300 and 800 grams). Quite an extra burden for an average horse.

And advantage for the ...er... “Western” (😜) usage at the time of Napoleon would be what? By the late XVIII the falconets were still used in the “peripheral” wars (seemingly were in use during ARW) but in Europe even 3 pounders had been steadily squeezed out by the heavier calibers and zamburaks were one-/two-pownders.

The Iranian Quajar army had the regiments of the zamburaks and it was beaten by the Russians. Zamburaks were used against the invading British in the Anglo-Afghan Wars and in the Anglo-Sikh wars and who ended up winning? Actually, the Brits did some useful adoptation of the idea: after 1850, Gatling guns were mounted on camels.

_______
(*) Barrel of the European falconet with a caliber 50mm (2 inches) had been weighting between 80 and 200 kg. Add a lighter version to a total weight and your horse would have to carry, besides a rider, an extra 100kg. Even if we assume that the “Eastern” version was shorter and lighter than “Western” one, this would come at a loss of the range and firepower.
 
Rather unlikely. To start with, you can hardly mount even a single falconet on a horse and ride it (horse, not falconet) and on a camel they were quite often mounting two falconets/zamburaks (see mounting below).
View attachment 561208
Then, how would you fire it while riding ?
View attachment 561209
In a kneeling position it would be much lower than when on camel’s back and would not be very convenient to use
View attachment 561210
Zamburak caliber was 40-65mm with the cannonball weight between 300 and 800 gram. So you’d need to place, besides a rider and falconet itself (*), 40 cannonballs (each weighting between 300 and 800 grams). Quite an extra burden for an average horse.

And advantage for the ...er... “Western” (😜) usage at the time of Napoleon would be what? By the late XVIII the falconets were still used in the “peripheral” wars (seemingly were in use during ARW) but in Europe even 3 pounders had been steadily squeezed out by the heavier calibers and zamburaks were one-/two-pownders.

The Iranian Quajar army had the regiments of the zamburaks and it was beaten by the Russians. Zamburaks were used against the invading British in the Anglo-Afghan Wars and in the Anglo-Sikh wars and who ended up winning? Actually, the Brits did some useful adoptation of the idea: after 1850, Gatling guns were mounted on camels.

_______
(*) Barrel of the European falconet with a caliber 50mm (2 inches) had been weighting between 80 and 200 kg. Add a lighter version to a total weight and your horse would have to carry, besides a rider, an extra 100kg. Even if we assume that the “Eastern” version was shorter and lighter than “Western” one, this would come at a loss of the range and firepower.
Yeah, if somebody really wants small caliber cannons used as mini horse artillery, the Turkish "abus" tripod guns on a pack horse might work as an alternative.

Or just rely on regular light horse artillery.
 
Yeah, if somebody really wants small caliber cannons used as mini horse artillery, the Turkish "abus" tripod guns on a pack horse might work as an alternative.

Or just rely on regular light horse artillery.
And the winner was .... horse artillery.

“mini” things, besides an advantage of being cheaper than the heavier cannons, had been gradually losing popularity on the European continental theaters after the 7YW.
 
Put 4-6 of these heavy jezails without stocks on a lightweight carriage for a volley gun. Use paper cartridges to increase rate of fire. You could make them breech loaders if you want faster rates of fire.

You would do better using a Blunderbuss style grenade launcher using a monopod or bipod.
 
Put 4-6 of these heavy jezails without stocks on a lightweight carriage for a volley gun. Use paper cartridges to increase rate of fire. You could make them breech loaders if you want faster rates of fire.

You would do better using a Blunderbuss style grenade launcher using a monopod or bipod.
Something of the kind Peter I tried to use in his army (central figure on the picture) but it did not work out: grenades were too small to cause a serious damage. However, similar weapons had been used in small numbers until the XIX century. Between 1672 and 1740, the Royal Foundry of Berlin (Königliches Gießhaus zu Berlin) produced 302 hand mortars (Handmörser).
1593377611267.jpeg
 
Perhaps a spigot mortar/rocket shell with a larger warhead. Not sure how much recoil is too much. Need to research elephant guns.

.600 Nitro Express pushes a .620 in (15.7 mm) 900 gr(58 g) projectile at up to 2050 ft/s(620 m/s for 6,850 ft-lbs (9,270 J) from 14-16 lb (6.5-7.3 kg) rifles.
 
Maybe, have someone develop a oversized jaeger rifle and a cup mounted rifle grenade. Grenadiers would be dangerous with that combination, especially with an early Jean Samuel Pauly breech loader.


 
Top