This rare occurrence dates back to January 23, 1795. The French Revolutionary Army was pursuing an offensive against the United Provinces, which is currently the territory of the Netherlands. It was the exceptionally cold winter that year that made this rather extraordinary «naval» battle possible.
A French Hussar regiment headed by Jan Willem de Winter, backed by his companions, set out to conquer the Dutch city of Den Helder that served as a stronghold. The advancing horse riders aimed to prevent the Dutch fleet from securing protection from their powerful British ally.
On reaching his destination, the General saw Den Helder's fleet stuck in the bay, trapped by thick ice. The warships, however, still posed a serious threat, and any attack would require elaborate planning. To minimize noise and avoid detection, the Hussars wrapped their horses' hooves in fabric. In absolute silence, they carefully approached the ships and surrounded them. The ice didn't break under the army's weight.
In the morning, a servant of one of the Dutch officers reported:
«Sir, our ship is surrounded by French Hussars!»
The commander rubbed his sleepy eyes and looked through the porthole.
«Where are they? I'll be damned! Those Hussars are right there!»
Overwhelmed by the sudden appearance of the enemy forces, the Dutch sailors laid down their arms at once. As a result of this operation, the French Hussars captured 14 warships with 850 guns, and several merchant ships. No casualties were incurred. It was one of the rare occurrences in naval history when cavalry mounted an assault and successfully captured an enemy's fleet.