That time when a naval fleet was defeated by Cavalry,
In 1795 pretty much ever major power in Europe was determined to quash the newly formed French Republic. Enemies attacked from all sides, and in the Netherlands one of the most unusual events in military history would occur; the defeat of a naval fleet by a cavalry force.
As part of the French Revolutionary Wars, France initiated a surprise attack and invasion of the Netherlands. After captured Amsterdam in January of 1795, the French commander Gen. Jean-Charles Pichegru learned that the Dutch fleet was anchored off of Den Helder, 90km north of Amsterdam, and were quickly removing the ice covering the port’s bay so that they could escape to Britain. The winter was very cold that year, so much of the rivers and coastal bays were frozen over. Gen. Pichegru gave one of his commanders, Brig. Gen. Jean-Guillame de Winter command 8th Hussar Regiment and the 15th Line Infantry, and ordered him to make haste to Den Helder and either capture or destroy the Dutch fleet before they could escape.
To travel to Den Helder as fast as possible, Gen. de Winter order each Hussar to carry an infantrymen with him on his horse. The men arrived 3 days later, and quietly made their way through Den Helder without being spotted by Dutch sailors. The next morning they lined up at the bay’s shore and found the ice still intact, with the Dutch fleet still trapped in the harbor. On the morning of Sept. 23rd, 1795, Gen. de Winter ordered his men to charge the Dutch fleet. With the 8th Hussars at the lead, the French galloped over the ice and attacked the Dutch ships. The Dutch, unprepared for a cavalry assault, were not cleared for action and hadn’t even loaded their guns. By the time the Dutch were ready for combat, dismounted Hussars and infantry were scaling the ships and climbing on the decks.
The attack on the Dutch fleet was a successful, with 14 ships of the line and 880 guns captured. It was the only time in history a naval force has been defeated by a cavalry charge.