During the 18th century the great fear of infantry
was a cavalry
attack. If the horsemen
charged infantry from the front, they could probably be driven back with gunfire. If the cavalry managed to attack from the flank
or rear, the infantry could be cut down and slaughtered.
devised to oppose a cavalry attack was the square. In this formation an infantry regiment
would draw up in a square with men on each side facing outwards.
From whichever direction the cavalry attacked, they would be met by a hail of fire. The problem was that on the field of battle, cavalry moved much faster than infantry. For the square to be effective, the infantry had to form square at a moment's notice.
The redcoated British
infantry were amongst the most highly trained in the world
. Time and again enemy
cavalry would charge forwards, only to find that the British rapidly formed square before the impact.
The greatest victory
of the British square was at the Battle of Waterloo
After many hours of heavy fighting, the French Marshal Ney led a massive charge by 5,000 cavalry against the weary British. The British regiments hastily formed square and drove back the ferocious French assaults. Soon after, the French army broke and fled.