The Cuirassier was the heaviest of the Napoleonic Cavalry , these were big men on big horses often (but not always) with a breast plate or Cuirass hence their name. Many nations employed this form of heavy cavalry with armour such as the Austrians , Prussians and Russians, but the British never adopted armoured heavy cavalry during the war. The Austrian Cuirassiers had only a front plate to their
armour which made them lighter but very vulnerable if engaged from the rear. In French service other elite heavy cavalry gained a cuirass, these were the Carabiniers who became armoured after the Austrian campaign of 1809 on the orders of Napoleon who wanted to reduce causalities among these elite shock troops although it is interesting to note that his concern did not extent to other cavalry and the Cuirassiers and Carabiniers remained the only armoured cavalry in French service throughout the war. Cuirassiers from most countries were armed with a heavy straight bladed sword designed for cutting and being held straight armed during a charge like a spear, this was their primary weapon and they normally resisted attempts to arm them with carbines or any other type of fire arm apart from pistols (which French Cuirassiers carried until 1812). Like many of the Napoleonic cavalry these heavy armoured troops saw themselves as knights of the battlefield and looked down on firearms as weapons of the infantry preferring to use their swords in combat.
How to cite this article: Dugdale-Pointon, TDP. (25 March 2001 ), Napoleonic Cuirassier, http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_cuirassier.html