Provincial Cavalry, also known as Yeomanry or Gendamerie depending on the faction, are a type of melee cavalry in Empire: Total War.
These locally recruited cavalry are a valuable aid in keeping order.
These light horsemen are often little more than mounted militia, but with a greater social standing. Cavalry always see themselves as better than foot soldiers, but in this case, it may be true. It is, after all, not cheap to purchase and maintain a decent horse, and this means that men with financial standing make up the majority of recruits.
They are, however, not as disciplined as regular cavalry, simply because they do not have the time or available resources to learn the craft of war as thoroughly. They are, however, extremely useful in policing the rougher, lower orders and keeping the existing social structure intact.
Historically, there are many examples of yeomanry or gendarmes turning on their own citizenry with surprising and horrific violence. They were widely used against the anti-factory Luddites in northern England and, most infamously, were responsible for the Peterloo Massacre in 1819, when the Manchester and Salford Yeomanry charged a mostly peaceful, but excited crowd, and cut down many unarmed protesters.
Cheap, weak, and near-ubiquitously available, Provincial Cavalry are in many ways the cavalry variant of Militia. Along with Regiment of Horse, Provincial Cavalry are some of the first cavalry available to most Western factions. Though they can be trained in many regions, Provincial Cavalry are some of the worst cavalry in the game in almost every way. While they can be called upon to deal with mobs and wavering or tired troops, they tend to fare very poorly against anything stronger than militia. Regiments of Horse are far better where actual fighting is concerned.
Provincial cavalry are renamed Gendarmerie for certain factions such as France and Prussia, and Yeomanry for Great Britain, Scotland, Ireland and the Thirteen Colonies. These variants are identical in every way save name.
The only faction to have provincial cavalry with unique characteristics is the United States, whose provincial cavalry are marginally more expensive but also possess good stamina.