Author: Bert Gevaert

The use of the saber in the army of Napoleon: Part IV – Wounds caused by the saber

  Continuing with his four part series on The use of the saber in the army of Napoleon, Dr. Bert Gevaert now presents the fourth part: Wounds caused by the saber Introduction Soldiers and officers in the army of Napoleon led a life full of risks and sometimes the list of injuries a soldier could receive in his career was absolutely impressive. Marshall Nicolas-Charles Oudinot (1767-1847) was injured about 25 times in his military career (Haythornthwaite, 2002a, p.47): 1793: ball in the head (Haguenau) 1794: leg broken by ball (Trèves) 1795: five saber cuts, one ball (Neckarau) 1796: four saber cuts,...

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The use of the saber in the army of Napoleon: Part III

  Continuing with his four part series on The use of the saber in the army of Napoleon, Dr. Bert Gevaert now presents the third part: Individual martial prowess on the battlefield Stories about individual swordsmen are the most fascinating ones and in this chapter I will briefly present some spectacular stories of individual sword or saber wielding bravery on the battlefield. The power of cavalry lied in a mass force of thousands of armed men, augmented by the speed and weight of their horses, which made them into a huge and heavy hammer to smash the enemy, as...

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The use of the saber in the army of Napoleon: Part II

Continuing with his series on The use of the saber in the army of Napoleon, Dr. Bert Gevaert now presents the second part: Antoine Fortuné de Brack: Avant-postes de cavalerie légère (1831) De Brack was a French officer who participated in several military campaigns of Napoleon and who obtained the Legion of Honor for his conduct in the battle of Wagram (5-6 July 1809). From 1807 till 1812 he was member of the 7th Hussars and from 1812 till 1815 he served in the 2nd Lancers of the Guard (the famous Red Lancers). After the defeat of Napoleon he went...

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The use of the saber in the army of Napoleon: Part I

“The sword is the weapon in which you should have most confidence, because it rarely fails you by breaking in your hands. Its blows are the more certain, accordingly as you direct them coolly; and hold it properly.” – Antoine Fortuné de Brack ([1831], 1876, p. 51) Though Napoleon (1769-1821) started his own military career as an artillery officer and achieved several victories by clever use of cannons, edged weapons still played an important role on the Napoleonic battlefield. Swords and sabers could dominate battles and this was certainly the case in the hands of experienced cavalrymen. The general...

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The use of the sword in the Great War: Faded glory or deadly efficiency?

 “Now’s your change, Charles – after them with the sword!’  With a thunder of hooves, Hornby led 1st Troop in hot pursuit of the Germans, followed a short while later by 4th Troop.  The Dragoon Guards caught up with the Germans – from the 4th Cuirassier Regiment – in the village of Casteau, but as well as the patrol they were also confronted by a large group of enemy cavalry.  Undaunted, Horby drew his sword and charged.”  With these words, Adrian Gilbert (2014, p. 16) describes the very first moment of the first major battle the British fought in the...

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Towards a new approach in HEMA-tournaments: Let’s fence naked!

The end of a new year and the beginning of a new year is for many people the ultimate occasion to launch new resolutions: losing weight, stop smoking, not spending too much money on certain things etc., etc.  Some of us even have specific HEMA-resolutions: train more, daily swinging of the kettle bell, running once a week or why not… saving money for that beautiful sword you saw?  With this text, we want to propose a new resolution: get rid of your protection and let’s fight naked! In December 2011 Mike Cartier of the Meyer Freifechter Guild wrote a splendid article in which he enthusiastically – and for some of us even controversially – proposed to lay down our protection and to start fighting as our ancestors did in the Fechtschule.[1]  This means we have to take away all our protection when we fight or better… only rely on our own skills and sword by means of protection. Mike Cartier’s text was for some members of the Hallebardiers (Brugge, Belgium) a revelation. One of our main reasons to start with this way of fencing was our growing unhappiness about the present tournaments in the HEMA-world.  We don’t criticize the great talented fighters today and the enormous efforts certain clubs dedicate to organize world famous tournaments.  The problem is different, because we see several things which are in our opinion not...

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