The Caracole was a cavalry manoeuvre developed during the sixteenth century in an attempt to allow cavalry to use gunpowder weapons. It was used by German reiters, mercenary horsemen originally dressed in black, thus “Schwartzreiter” or “Black Rider”. Each reiter would carry a number of loaded wheel lock pistols. The reiters would advance in columns several ranks deep. The front rank would fire their pistols, then peel off to the sides, return to the back of the column and reload. In that way the caracole allowed a cavalry unit to keep up a constant fire while reducing the risk to the individual cavalrymen.

The caracole could be useful against static opponents, and was useful for punching holes in lines of pikemen, but it was difficult to perform well, and could be vulnerable to counterattack. Units performing the caracole were particularly vulnerable to the charge of Polish style hussars, who relied on the shock of impact and were armed with lance and sword. At the battle of Klushino (4 July 1610) a force of reiters was attacked by the hussars immediately after one rank had fired and before the next rank was ready to fire, and was swept from the battlefield, resulting in the defeat of a large Swedish-Russian army by a force of Polish cavalry. The caracole went out of use early in the seventeenth century.

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (27 July 2007), Caracole,

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