Differences Between the Artillery, Cavalry & Infantry

by Jess Kroll

Military tank going through desert

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Land armies are constructed of several parts, each assigned a specific purpose. As time and technology have progressed, these divisions have been highlighted in various struggles, with early conflicts relying primarily on advancing soldiers, later wars using horses and then tanks, and more modern warfare using long distance heavy weaponry.

Origins

Statue of Alexander the Great in Greece

In the early history of war, land armies consisted of thousands of infantry soldiers, marching on foot and using a variety of weapons against each other. A few soldiers, or a smaller squadron, could be mounted on horses. These mounted soldiers were the cavalry. As weapons developed, especially with the invention of the cannon, armies incorporated heavier, primarily stationary weapons. These weapons and the soldiers who operated them are called the artillery. Generally artillery is used as the first assault to soften up the enemy, then the cavalry (especially modern forms in which tanks have replaced horses) ride through and the infantry follows on foot.

Infantry

running soldiers carrying weapons

The oldest and simplest of the three, infantry refers to foot soldiers – soldiers who do their fighting on foot. These are the soldiers on the ground who engage the enemy directly, and are often in the most danger. In conflicts where terrain, such as jungles and cities, and enemy tactics make it difficult to employ larger weapons, infantry is used to flush out enemy combatants. Infantry often ride toward the fight on trucks and other vehicles, but their fighting is most often done on foot.

Cavalry

The helicopter in airfield

At first referring to mounted soldiers, more modern cavalry consists of armored transports such as tanks and helicopters. Cavalry generally covers ground faster, uses heavier firepower and has better protection than infantry, but are often limited in range of motion and finding enemy combatants in cover without causing excess damage to the area. Essentially, the word cavalry refers to any army unit that is mobile while not being on foot.

Artillery

dangerous tank in a roadblock

Artillery is the large, long-range weaponry that armies often employ against structures such as cities or underground facilities. Modern artillery includes mobile weapon systems, which can include self-propelled artillery (tanks used primarily for long ranged attacks instead of medium ranged combat); weapons towed and planted at a site for operation; multiple rocket systems; and antiaircraft weaponry. While highly destructive, artillery can be slow to move and imprecise, and it can be used to minimize possible threats before the cavalry and infantry move in.

Photo Credits

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About the Author

Jess Kroll has been writing since 2005. He has contributed to "Hawaii Independent," "Honolulu Weekly" and "News Drops," as well as numerous websites. His prose, poetry and essays have been published in numerous journals and literary magazines. Kroll holds a Master of Fine Arts in writing from the University of San Francisco.