A Popular History of The Great War/Volume 1/Page 189

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THE COSSACKS IN THE FIELD


The Cosvsack horseman had to veil his main army and clear its path through forts, blockhouses and bridgeheads, while appearing to be merely a border raider. Excellently was he suited for this kind of work. Far in advance of the tramping foot soldiers and the labouring big gun teams, moving at the rate of eight miles a day, the Cossack kept up a continual skirmish with every sort of hostile arm—cavalry, scout, infantry- men, and gunners in fortified places, and even armoured trainsJ Helped only by his own light artillery, he fought in every mannerpractisedbymodemtroops. Hechargedwithhislance; he dismounted and took positions with the bayonet that all Russian cavalry carried; at need, he entrenched, g.nd proved himself a marksman. The Cossack was a member of a military caste, born, bred and trainedentirelyforalifeofwar. Hisancestors,hammen^dinto shape by a continual conflict with* warlike Mongol races, had built up the kingdom of Poland and then, to preserve their in- dependence, had gone over to the' duke of Moscow and become theempire-buildersofRussia. NeverhadtheCossackenjoyed himself as he did in Galicia against the Hungarians and’ Austrians. On their unfortunate heads he emptied all his box of tricks. It would be interesting to learn from some survuvor of the famous cavalry division of the Magyar Guards, who met the Cossacks near Lemberg, and then—after a railway journey across Europe—encountered the British lancers and dragoons at Ypros, which of his two foes he found the more formidable. Certainly the Cossacks were more tricky fighters than the British horsemen. Theircleverhorsemanshipwasequaltothatofany performer in the circus. In Galicia, when hvard pressed, they fell “dead"’ in heaps, their "'dead”horsesbesidethem. Astheenemycametosearchtheir bodies the dead men used their carbines with surprising effect. Another time a lierd of little Cossack horses would stampede, and the riderless animals would sweep towards some guarded bridgehead or blockhouse. Even little Cossack horses were useful to Austrian soldiers; they could be sold for good money to Galician farmers. But, just before the animals were caught, grey figures swung from beneath them, lance in hand, and charged. It was like a show in the arefia, but deadly for the spectators. When it came to a straightforward cavalry fight, sabre against sabre^ the Cossack still won.

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