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Wooden blocks for simulating the manoeuvres of a squadron of light horse.
Great Britain, circa 1813.
Physical Description:
23 pieces : varnished, paper-covered pine ; small blocks 3.8 x 2.0 x 9 cm, large blocks 13.6 x 8.2 x 5 cm + 1 wooden box (32 x 20 x 13 cm)
Rare Books and Manuscripts
Flat C 2021 4
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Fund
Copyright Status:
Copyright Not Evaluated
Three-Dimensional Artifacts
Ownership inscription of a Capt. Monkman (?), dated 1813, on the top lid of the box. Monkman's name is not found on the official Army Lists; he may have been connected with one of the local mounted volunteer units prevalent during the period.
Original oak box (with sliding lid) containing 23 (of 24?) varnished, paper-covered pine blocks with hand-coloured printed illustrations representing a squadron of cavalry. The set of blocks is comprised of 8 large blocks, representing 12 troopers, which can be joined into pairs held by double dowel joints to form the Left, Left Centre, Right and Right Centre Divisions; together with 15 smaller blocks of individual troopers, 2 of which are trumpeters, and 2 sergeants. It seems likely that this set lacks one of the single troopers, since cavalry organization is based in threes (sixes, twelves).
Although the set looks somewhat like a toy, it was in fact a vital teaching aid in the effort to overcome the impossible complexity of cavalry manoeuvre at the time. In his Peninsular preparation: the reform of the British Army, 1795-1809 (1963), Richard Glover describes the “hopeless state of chaos” of cavalry drill in 1790 (p. 135), and of the efforts of Dundas to bring “manageable uniformity to [this] unmanageable chaos” with his rules and regulations for cavalry in 1795. This system was based on forming in units of threes--which can be observed in the numbering of the figures on the present set of blocks. The system came in for fundamental criticism as late as 1827, as it “produced complicated manoeuvres ... which like Chinese puzzles, only engross time and labour to the unprofitable end of forming useless combinations” (Beamish, notes to Bismarck's Lectures on cavalry, p. 134).
Subject Terms:
Cavalry drill and tactics -- Great Britain.
Dundas, David, Sir, 1735-1820. Principles of military movements.
Great Britain. Army -- Cavalry -- Drill and tactics.
Great Britain. Army.
Military miniatures -- Specimens.
Recreations -- Great Britain.

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