17th Century Cavalry – Investigations of a Dog

You know how sometimes something big is going on but you don’t hear about it. I feel a bit like that about Gavin Robinson’s blog Investigations of a Dog. The blog was active 2006-2013 but is, unfortunately, now closed. Luckily the site is still up and is well worth a look. It contains some marvellous analysis of certain aspects of 16th and 17th Warfare, particularly the use of cavalry.

Gavin Robinson

Gavin Robinson started his historical career as an undergraduate who trotted out:

standard cliches about how Gustavus Adolphus was totally awesome because he replaced the caracole with shock charges

Since then he seems to be on a self imposed crusade to challenge this and similar myths of the period. A big bugbear of Gavin’s is a myth from the English Civil War that:

[the Earl of] Essex’s cavalry were useless ‘decayed serving men and tapsters’

Gavin has explained how his thinking has developed and he seems imminently qualified to take on the challenge. A MA in ECW Cavalry tactics, a PhD on logistics in the ECW and a book on the same, and his blog Investigations of a Dog. Gavin’s book is available from Amazon USA, UK, and Canada:

Robinson, G. (2012). Horses, People and Parliament in the English Civil War: Extracting Resources and Constructing Allegiance. Gower Publishing Ltd.

As you see from the book title Gavin’s focus is the English Civil War. He mentions the wider European conflicts but focuses on the ECW because he knows English and not any of the European languages. I can sympathise, however Gavin’s focus is a real shame for me because my main 17th Century interest is the Thirty Years War. None-the-less I believe these wars are sufficiently close that Gavin’s observations/conclusions can directly inform aspects of the earlier war.

Royalist Cavalry
The Royalist cavalry attacking at the Battle of Edgehill, 23rd October 1642

Cavalry Tactics

Most of Gavin’s blog is on cavalry tactics. This is great stuff particularly his investigation of the Caracole and the use Dutch and Swedish tactics in the ECW (or not). Posts on hard core cavalry tactics include:

Horses Colliding

Gavin started his challenge to conventional wisdom on cavalry tactics by considering what happens when horses collide,i.e. nothing good. That is a lynchpin in Gavin’s argument against cavalry shock tactics. He observes that any real “shock” would be detrimental to both sides and uses modern examples to illustrate this. Gavin’s blog contains a few posts on this:

Cavalry Operations

Battlefield tactics are one thing but Gavin makes that point that cavalry had uses off the battlefield as well. He has blogged on various cavalry operations:

Cavalry Generals of the ECW

Gavin mentions Gustavus Adolphus a few times in his posts but has no specific post on this “great man”. However Gavin blogged on three famous characters from the ECW. These posts use these characters to make more general observations about cavalry tactics:


Of there is other stuff on Gavin’s blog but only two that feature cavalry:

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