AHC: Heavy jezail-armed dragoons in Napoleonic warfare

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
I like those abus.

Europeans would call jezails wall guns, muskets too heavy to shoot without a swivel attachment to a wall or a stake. A mobile infantry unit carrying wall guns, shovels and axes could ride out and set up simple defended trenches or abbitis that no cavalry could pass, and only a determined infantry attack would take. I don't know why it was never done.
 
I like those abus.

Europeans would call jezails wall guns, muskets too heavy to shoot without a swivel attachment to a wall or a stake. A mobile infantry unit carrying wall guns, shovels and axes could ride out and set up simple defended trenches or abbitis that no cavalry could pass, and only a determined infantry attack would take. I don't know why it was never done.
If I'm remembering the jazayerchi wiki and/or scholarly accounts correctly, I think somebody said that they *did* dig in from time to time on crucial ground before their enemies could reach it.
 
Continuing with the theme of introducing odd weapons to European Napoleonic warfare, this thread's challenge is to introduce one or more units of mounted infantry armed with oversized muskets comparable to the Persian heavy jazayer / jezail.

Such a weapon would have precedents in a gunpowder army. Similar to the European amusette, which the Hessians used in the Revolutionary War, the jazayer -- 18ish kilograms, approximately 24mm -- was a major feature of Nader Shah's Persian army in the early/middle 18th century. (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Military_of_the_Afsharid_dynasty_of_Persia). It had longer range and more penetrating power than a European musket, but was considerably heavier. Presumably, this added weight explains why jazayer troops were primarily mounted infantry; it would be hard to lug a weapon like that around on foot. Jazayerchi were used on the battlefield against targets ranging from regular infantry to charging armored elephants. (They punched right through the latter.)

The challenge is to have mounted jazayerchi-style units in one or more European armies during the Napoleonic Wars. Bonus points if they are actually effective in some role or other, rather than being an experimental curiosity.
There's an old view that French cavalry was better than English because French horses were worse- when the horses ran away, they weren't strong enough to run very far, and when the men ran away, mutinies, or went out on a militarily useless looting and raping spree, same thing. Maybe European cavalry with weaker muskets was better for generals- mutinous troops were more easily controlled.
 
There's an old view that French cavalry was better than English because French horses were worse- when the horses ran away, they weren't strong enough to run very far, and when the men ran away, mutinies, or went out on a militarily useless looting and raping spree, same thing. Maybe European cavalry with weaker muskets was better for generals- mutinous troops were more easily controlled.
So basically you are saying that the generals had been mostly interested in the ...er.... “best worst case scenario”. 😂
 
There's an old view that French cavalry was better than English because French horses were worse- when the horses ran away, they weren't strong enough to run very far, and when the men ran away, mutinies, or went out on a militarily useless looting and raping spree, same thing. Maybe European cavalry with weaker muskets was better for generals- mutinous troops were more easily controlled.
I disagree. While the French were notoriously bad horsemen, that had nothing to do with their use of carbines. The carbines were to be used on patrol and on guard duty, not on the battlefield. And when they were used in battle, it generally did not go very well. The whole thing about French cavalry being far superior to English cavalry was its superior organization, which enabled the French in the Napoleonic Wars to smoothly coordinate large bodies of horsemen better than any other European power could.
 
The whole thing about French cavalry being far superior to English cavalry was its superior organization, which enabled the French in the Napoleonic Wars to smoothly coordinate large bodies of horsemen better than any other European power could.
Also, discipline. Wellington complained on at least one occasion that his cavalry treated battle like a foxhunt, and were liable to go haring off after the first enemies they routed instead of reforming so they could be put to use breaking more enemy formations.
 
So basically you are saying that the generals had been mostly interested in the ...er.... “best worst case scenario”. 😂
Yes, 'best worst case scenario' is good. Look at the areas where cavalry used jezails or wall guns- I don't know of a case of well-disciplined armies or civil order. As you see below, there are a lot of enthusiastic views about Napoleonic cavalry.
 
Yes, 'best worst case scenario' is good. Look at the areas where cavalry used jezails or wall guns- I don't know of a case of well-disciplined armies or civil order. As you see below, there are a lot of enthusiastic views about Napoleonic cavalry.
Well, the Napoleonic cavalry was a very good and sometimes almost insanely brave battlefield force so there is definitely a lot of the reasons for enthusiasm. It suffered from not taking an adequate care of its horses due to the general absence of the “horse culture” (but it seems that in 1812 the Polish and German cavalry units suffered similar exhaustion-related losses) and it was not very good in scouting but this would apply to many other contemporary regular cavalries.

Did not quite get the part regarding the the cavalry using the wall guns (anyway, in Nader’s army the troops with the heavy guns were infantry). What are you trying to say?
 
I was talking about the Russian Empire, not Britain. Unlike Britain, even in the early XVIII Russia had border with Persia and from its perspective “East” was “Asia” (culturally, if not necessarily geographically) and “West” Western Europe and they were looking to the “West” in the military matters (all the way to the loss of the common sense). Of course, some of the Cossack tactics were considered “Asiatic” even if these methods had been adopted from the people who lived in Europe (Tatars).

As far as the Brits are involved, most of the Europe is to the East from the islands so my statement would not make sense (I doubt that in mid-XVIII Britain was considering the American colonies as a source of the military ideas so the “West” would not work). BTW, by the time the Brits got their lancers (which, as I understand was in the Napoleonic times), 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”. 😂
View attachment 560636
I actually think the British didn't add Lancers to their army until after the Napoleonic Wars. They found that Napoleonic Lancers had a reach advantage against the long swords of British Heavy Cavalry.
 
I actually think the British didn't add Lancers to their army until after the Napoleonic Wars. They found that Napoleonic Lancers had a reach advantage against the long swords of British Heavy Cavalry.
Yes, it seems that the British lancers are post-Napoleonic (I was too vague in my initial definition) and influenced by the Napoleonic wars: “Although the weapon's use had endured in parts of continental Europe,[30] the lance had not been in British service for more than a century.[31] Its reintroduction by the Duke of York, Commander-in-Chief of the British Army, owed much to the performance of Napoleon Bonaparte's Polish Uhlans.[32] The lancer regiments adopted their own version of the Uhlan uniform, including the czapka-style headdress.” https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/17th_Lancers
Of course, by that time any reference to the Eastern “historic roots” would be irrelevant except in a purely academic sense.
 
Last edited:
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.
No self respecting horse would ever let you fire something like that near it's head twice. Training horses to not be gun shy is hard enough, training it to have what the navy would call a swivel gun go off 12 inches from it's head is impossible. Having even a small cannon ball wiz 6 inches past it's ear would make a horse bolt. Camels are bigger, dumber creatures, that can be taught to lower their head, as in the illustration, I don't think you can train a horse that way.
 
No self respecting horse would ever let you fire something like that near it's head twice. Training horses to not be gun shy is hard enough, training it to have what the navy would call a swivel gun go off 12 inches from it's head is impossible. Having even a small cannon ball wiz 6 inches past it's ear would make a horse bolt. Camels are bigger, dumber creatures, that can be taught to lower their head, as in the illustration, I don't think you can train a horse that way.
Well, this would just add to the strictly technical impossibilities that I mentioned (not sure that even Percheron horse would be physically adequate for the task of carrying all that extra weight on its back). BTW, how about a risk of the back of a horse being damaged by a recoil? Not being a horse specialist I can only guess.

Which leaves an option from the RCW (photo below). Replace machine gun with <whatever> and you are getting a truly mobile mini-horse artillery. 😜

Of course, with pretty much anything short of a machine gun or its equivalent it would be grossly inefficient unless deployed in the big numbers and using a tactics attributed to Nestor Mahno and even then I’m not going to speculate regarding effectiveness of its XIX equivalent.
1593619718498.jpeg
 
Well, this would just add to the strictly technical impossibilities that I mentioned (not sure that even Percheron horse would be physically adequate for the task of carrying all that extra weight on its back). BTW, how about a risk of the back of a horse being damaged by a recoil? Not being a horse specialist I can only guess.

Which leaves an option from the RCW (photo below). Replace machine gun with <whatever> and you are getting a truly mobile mini-horse artillery. 😜

Of course, with pretty much anything short of a machine gun or its equivalent it would be grossly inefficient unless deployed in the big numbers and using a tactics attributed to Nestor Mahno and even then I’m not going to speculate regarding effectiveness of its XIX equivalent.
View attachment 562230
You might try to carry them on Mules, and then dismount them. General George Crook, the best of all the Indian Fighting Generals used Mules when ever possible to replace wagon trains, to carry supplies, and heavier gear, like Gatling guns. It just seems more practical to me that if you want this kind of intermediate level firepower you should develop a light 2 lb. cannon, to fire a cannister round. As it's been pointed out in this period small cannon were being phased out, and replaced with guns of at least 4 lbs. Guns in the 2 lb. range didn't come back till the late 19th Century in the form of rapid fire, breach loading shell guns.
 
You might try to carry them on Mules, and then dismount them. General George Crook, the best of all the Indian Fighting Generals used Mules when ever possible to replace wagon trains, to carry supplies, and heavier gear, like Gatling guns. It just seems more practical to me that if you want this kind of intermediate level firepower you should develop a light 2 lb. cannon, to fire a cannister round. As it's been pointed out in this period small cannon were being phased out, and replaced with guns of at least 4 lbs. Guns in the 2 lb. range didn't come back till the late 19th Century in the form of rapid fire, breach loading shell guns.
Quite agree.

What I was talking about in the RCW example was, however, a tactics completely different: the machine-gun carts had been riding in a full speed toward the enemy (especially enemy’s cavalry) then were making a turn (don’t ask me how the were doing synchronization) and then riding away while shooting their machine-guns. As I said, with the single shot weapons and situation quite different from the RCW usefulness of such an arrangement is highly questionable.
 

Not as bad as it may seem>

Chariots, horse archers and the caracole were used successfully against massed infantry. Synchronization was trained into the unit.
Seems like a job for an organ gun.
 

Not as bad as it may seem>

Chariots, horse archers and the caracole were used successfully against massed infantry. Synchronization was trained into the unit.
Seems like a job for an organ gun.
That was amazing. You could mount that on a hand cart, use premade paper powder charges, to speed reloading, and a two man team can go Dinosaur hunting.
 
You might try to carry them on Mules, and then dismount them. General George Crook, the best of all the Indian Fighting Generals used Mules when ever possible to replace wagon trains, to carry supplies, and heavier gear, like Gatling guns. It just seems more practical to me that if you want this kind of intermediate level firepower you should develop a light 2 lb. cannon, to fire a cannister round. As it's been pointed out in this period small cannon were being phased out, and replaced with guns of at least 4 lbs. Guns in the 2 lb. range didn't come back till the late 19th Century in the form of rapid fire, breach loading shell guns.
Actually, the German army still has one squadron of mule-troops training in Bavaria. The idea is that two mules between them can carry all he parts of one light field gun and they are able to move along mountain paths and cliffs no mechanized armor can handle. So in combat a two-man/two mule team will go into the mountains, climb to an otherwise impossible vantage point overlooking a pass or an enemy camp, asseble their cannon and harass the enemy as they move below them.

A good part of today's mule-mountaneers strategy is of course that they all have radio so they can coordinate their attacks and plan their positions so the different teams cover each other. For Napoleontic warfare, this is off course ASB, but I think there would be some value in a 'rapid deployment artillery' build around the heaviest cannon one pack-horse could carry or otherwise the heaviest cannon one single man can assemble, operate and fire by himself. Again, it IS still a cannon so the dragoon must dismount, assemble the gun and fire from firm ground, while being in one place the whole time. However it also IS a cannon -albeit a light one- that can suddenly show up at the enemy's flank.

As for the reason the 'dragoon artillery' came to be, I would go with the most human approach: a turf war between an army's cavalery and it's artillery over who gets to support who and who is giving the orders. So eventually a very frustrated general of the mounted troops will decide: "We don't need this kind of xxxx from you, General Breechloader. We can have our own cannon support. Watch us!"
 
Last edited:
Well, the Napoleonic cavalry was a very good and sometimes almost insanely brave battlefield force so there is definitely a lot of the reasons for enthusiasm. It suffered from not taking an adequate care of its horses due to the general absence of the “horse culture” (but it seems that in 1812 the Polish and German cavalry units suffered similar exhaustion-related losses) and it was not very good in scouting but this would apply to many other contemporary regular cavalries.

Did not quite get the part regarding the the cavalry using the wall guns (anyway, in Nader’s army the troops with the heavy guns were infantry). What are you trying to say?
I was trying to say that when small groups on horseback had guns that could hit reliably at a distance it was hard to enforce military discipline on them, or keep civil order.
 
Top