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Mobilizing Russian horsepower in 1812

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Horses were of vital importance in Napoleonic-era warfare. For Napoleon the huge loss of horses in the 1812 campaign was even more important than the loss of men. Shortage of horses undermined his hopes of victory in 1813. The mobilization and utilization of Russia's horsepower is a crucial but little-studied aspect of these years. The largest single source of horses for the Russian cavalry in 1813–14 consisted of animals substituted for conscripts in the recruit levies. The first use of this policy occurred in the winter of 1812–13 in the provinces of Volhynia and Podolia and is the subject of this article. Its success led to the policy being adopted across the empire. As well as providing key insights into a crucial aspect of Russia's war effort, this article also illustrates the strengths and weaknesses of Russian provincial administration in these years.

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