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La Cavalerie Russe pendant la Guerre Russo-Japonaise
M. le capitaine Serge Nidvine
Translated from the French 'Journal des Sciences Militaires' August, 1905
Captain Herschel Tupes, 1st U.S. Infantry, September 1905
Annotated & Footnoted by Jeffrey Leser, December 2002
The Russian Cavalry during the Russo-Japanese War
When the Russo-Japanese War broke out everybody was convinced that the numerous Cossack cavalry at Russia's disposal would cover themselves with laurels, not, of course, on the field of battle, but in the very extensive domain of exploration and reconnaissance.
It was also thought that the commander of the Russian forces would frequently send his Cossack troops upon the enemy's rear to cut his lines of communications, to capture his trains and to harass him without ceasing. Finally, it was hoped that during the tactical operations the Russian cavalry would be able to properly inform the staff concerning the actions of the enemy, and of his turning movements especially.
We must remember that the Russian cavalry has actually made several raids on the rears of the Japanese armies but that they have not given satisfactory results.
As for the service of reconnaissance during battle, it was not what it should have been.
We must confess that our reliance on the successors of Ataman Platoff's  famous Cossacks had been based on other things.
It is true that in this campaign the cavalry has often had to operate in unfavorable regions and this may explain in part why it has been thrown so much in the shade. The Russian officers especially have been the first to acknowledge it; one of them, Captain Engelhardt, of the Nerchinski Cossack Regiment, delivered a lecture before the 'Societe Adepts des Sciences Militaires' April 24, 1905, from which we quote the following extracts:
"In general, our cavalry has had to operate over terrain which were unfavorable to it. In the mountains it encountered rocks and torrents that often could not be crossed by fording. On the plains there were other difficulties: the fields were quagmires and the roads were abominable. Finally, we lacked good maps. Such were the difficult conditions under which our cavalry had to act, conditions which have a very great influence on the operations of the army. Our cavalry could only march very slowly; in a single march of about 20 versts (a verst is 1066 meters) one troop had to ford thirteen streams.
Small cavalry bodies could ordinarily cover short distances of 500 to 1,500 meters at a trot. As for large detachments, they were obliged to march almost exclusively at a walk.
In reconnaissance, the cavalry was often obliged to dismount and walk for fear of ambuscades and also because the terrain was badly cut up. When the cavalry was in route column it had to send its scouts out on foot. The result was that in a mountainous country this arm was deprived of its principle quality, speed, for it could march only two or three versts an hour. The information gained by the cavalry would be delivered late at the destination and would often be of no value when the commanding officer would receive it. Furthermore, the power of modern musketry fire rendered the role of our cavalry very difficult.
Generally speaking, our cavalrymen have been able to live on the country, but our horses, on the contrary, have been poorly fed.
At the commencement of the war we had, in all, 6 squadrons and 36 sotnias  doing duty of the first class . The cavalry received reinforcements at the beginning of March and at the close of the autumn (207 sotnias and squadrons); of these the Cossacks made up 63% (the remainder, that is to say 37% of the cavalry was composed of dragoons--fifteen squadrons--and mounted units of the Frontier Guard corps ). The Cossacks of the second class are badly instructed. The Transbaikal Cossacks, in particular, are badly prepared for war; they are brave, intelligent and hardy; but they know nothing of reconnoitering patrols and have not the least idea of outpost duties, they saddle their horses badly……
The horse artillery attached to the cavalry has greatly hindered the marching of that arm in mountainous countries; in defiles it becomes necessary for the men to draw the cannon. The result was that there were cases when it took 17 hours to travel 50 versts."
More than once, the cavalry was obliged to relinquish its artillery, and naturally the absence of its guns had an unfavorable repercussion on the results of the reconnaissance……
The best auxiliaries that an army commander can obtain for purposes of information are spies, patrols and strong reconnaissances. Spies did not give us good service; they furnished but little information that did not have to be verified. Long distance reconnaissance was frequent enough, but touch with the army was also frequently lost. The cavalrymen were frequently obliged to march on foot when traversing the enemy's outposts or skirting around them. Three series of reconnaissance patrols managed to return their horses and then continue their march on foot; the majority of them did not return. The information obtained by patrols sent on long distance reconnaissances would be obtained by the staff only in about two weeks and was consequently not of the least value.
Only the patrols sent out for short distances furnished the staff with valuable information."
Captain Engelhardt also stated that the end of 1904 the commanding general had, in round numbers, 30,000 cavalrymen at his disposal.