“Guerrilla Dragoons” of the American Revolutionary War

“Leap of the Field of Revere”. The work of Edward Mason Eggleston

So at midnight Paul Revere rode dead.
His alarming inviting cry
I reached every village and farm,
Breaking drowsy calm and peace.
Suddenly a voice from the darkness, a blow of a fist at the door
And a word that echoes through the ages.
That word from the past is the night wind
Carries over our big country,
Now in the hour of anxiety that disturbed the world,
The whole people, having risen, hears through the darkness,
As at midnight with a call rushes to him
On a prancing horse Paul Revere.
The jump of Paul Revere. G. Longfellow. Translation by M. A. Zenkevich

Military affairs at the turn of the eras. In the previous article about “dragoons with tails” and without them, we talked about a small episode of the War of Independence in the United States – the actions of the British officer Lt. Col. Banister Tarleton’s dragoon unit created there, and also about the fact that there were also dragoon regiments in the army of George Washington. although their numbers were small. However, the topic of the use of dragoon cavalry in the war of 13 American colonies with England seemed interesting to readers of VO, and they asked to cover it in more detail. We fulfill their request.

1st Regiment of Light Dragoons, 1775-1776 Pay attention to Dragoon 4. He has a “jockey helmet” reinforced with metal stripes crosswise. Fig. L. and F. Funkenov. “Wars on the American continent XVII – XIX”, M .: Astrel / AST, 2003, p. 7


Let’s start with the fact that we turn to the book by Liliana and Fred Funkenov, dedicated to the wars of the 17th-19th centuries. on the American continent. From it we learn that the white settlers always lacked horses there, that on the way by sea from Europe they died like flies, so that the cavalry of the colonies was always small. The cavalry was militia, that is, those who, at will, enrolled in it, bought both the horse and the ammunition, and the horse had to have at least 14 palms at the withers, that is, about 1.5 m. Many equestrian colonists wore helmets and half-cuirass (only on the chest), since they protected well from the weapons of the Indians. Since 1740, it became a mandatory requirement for a rider to have two pistols and a carbine.

1st Regiment of Light Dragoons, 1780. Officer 1 has one epaulette, and the trumpeter’s uniform, by analogy with Europe, has reverse colors, that is, what the others had black, he has green, according to the color of the instrument cloth. Fig. L. and F. Funkenov. “Wars on the American continent XVII-XIX”, M .: Astrel / AST, 2003, p. eleven


In 1777, the Congress of the seceding colonies formed as many as four cavalry regiments of the so-called “continental dragoons”. The first was Major Bland’s Virginia Regiment (1776). The regiment’s uniform was a traditional cut for those years, and of two types: dark blue with red trim and brown and green – what cloth when they found it! It was on their leather helmets that a black turban was wrapped, and the “tail” on the crest was made of a white horse’s mane. By the way, the regiment’s shape changed more than once, primarily because its number was small: in 1781, only 60 people, that is, less than a squadron!

The second, Major Eliza Sheldon’s regiment, was created in Connecticut, in fact, was the first to be formed by the decision of Congress. And this was the most numerous unit. There were 225 people in it! Blue uniform with yellow cloth trim. A helmet with a white tail was wrapped in a blue turban.

3rd regiment of light dragoons 1778-1780 Dragoon 1 wears a fringed suede shirt, the traditional dress of American hunters. Fig. L. and F. Funkenov. “Wars on the American continent XVII -XIX”, M .: Astrel / AST, 2003, p. 15


The third regiment, Lady Washington’s Dragoons, is little known. Although there is a document stating that they wore a white uniform with a blue applied cloth. It was commanded by William Washington, cousin of George Washington.

4th Light Dragoon Regiment. 1776-1782 Fig. L. and F. Funkenov. “Wars on the American continent XVII-XIX”, M .: Astrel / AST, 2003, p. 17


The most unusual uniform in terms of color was worn by the 4th regiment. Unusual because it was a bright red, “British” color. The officers sewed it for themselves from English red cloth, which was of good quality, but for the privates … they gave the captured uniforms of the British infantry! As a result, in order to avoid confusion, they were ordered to wear homespun shirts over their uniforms, otherwise they could have been “obtained” from their own.

All four regiments suffered heavy losses, so that their horsemen, those who survived, were constantly attached to other regiments.

However, numerous “partisan dragoons” – in fact, the same militia formations, also participated in the war against the British. But they were created very often in a completely random way: by the will of individual enterprising commanders, and usually they were also dragoons. The first such unit was Harry’s Light Cavalry, or Lee’s Legion, as this unit was also called. It was created by 22-year-old Major Harry Lee, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. The legion numbered about 300 people, but not all of them had horses. He conducted actions against the British that were completely partisan in nature, and even clashed with Tarleton’s loyalist legionnaires. It is interesting that his youngest son will later become … the famous Edward Lee – the legendary commander of the southerners! In the legion, there were successively three types of uniforms: green with yellow trousers and a dragoon helmet with a white tail; all green with a white camisole and a fur longitudinal stripe on the helmet; and, finally, the third one is of light yellow color (!) with applied green cloth and the same yellow camisole.

Partisans in the truest sense of the word, who did not wear any uniforms, were Francis Morion’s irregular cavalry detachment of about 30 people, which the loyalists gave the nickname Swamp Fox. However, there were also many formations of individual states in America that wore uniforms, and, of course, each state had its own. So, back in 1774, a detachment of “Philadelphia light cavalry”, “Connecticut light cavalry” and “South Carolina light cavalry” appeared there. There was even a gendarmerie corps, about which it is known that he was, that he was commanded … a German, became the predecessor of the American military police, but that’s all.

Colonel Arman’s Partisans: Infantry and Cavalry. Helmets with a sultan-caterpillar from the visor to the back – infantry. The riders have copper helmets with a crest and a “tail”. Fig. L. and F. Funkenov. “Wars on the American continent XVII-XIX”, M .: Astrel / AST, 2003, p. 25


But it is well known that wars attract adventurers. The War of Independence on the American continent was no exception. So, for example, two famous Poles in Europe, Tadeusz Kosciuszko and Kazimir Pulaski, went to fight in America against the British together with the Marquis de La Fayette. Congress awarded him the rank of brigadier general, and in 1778 ordered him to command a partisan detachment of 68 horsemen and 200 infantry. Moreover, these riders were more likely to be lancers than dragoons, since they were armed with pikes with bunchuks made of fox tails – the only such unusual identification mark for the entire war. He died in the battles, and his name was given to the fort, which ended up in the hands of the southerners and which in the years of the Civil War was bombarded by the northerners from Parrott’s large-caliber cannons!

Another Frenchman, the 26-year-old Marquis Charles-Armand Taffin de la Royer, also went to fight in America, who also received permission to form a horse detachment of 200 people and command it. He fought on American soil under the name of Colonel Arman, twice reassembled his defeated unit and equipped it himself! At first, the uniforms of his soldiers (half infantry, half dragoons) were olive green, pantaloons brown, and gray stockings and a black cocked hat, but in 1789 they had a beautiful blue uniform with a white instrument cloth. De la Royer himself covered himself with glory, but, returning to France, during the years of the revolution he raised an uprising in Brittany in support of the royalists (although in America he fought for the republic!) And, most likely, died in battle.

Participated in the battles for the independence of thirteen states and hussars, but only French, from the detachment of the Duke de Lozen. At first, it was a volunteer legion that the Duke de Lausin formed from foreigners to serve in the overseas colonies in the navy. But it just so happened that he did not get to the sea. But when the Rochambeau Expeditionary Force landed in North America to help the rebellious colonists in the fight against the British, the Legion of Lausin was in its composition. He took an active part in the hostilities and was the only unit in the insurgent cavalry to wear brightly colored hussar uniforms. True, there were not very many of them – only about 300, but, of course, they stood out very much among all the others in that they wore red and lemon-yellow chakchirs, blue mentics, and officers – impressive fur hats-kolbaki, and even and with a red blade and a sultan. Well, after the victory of the rebels, which ended with the creation of the United States, the legion returned to France and in 1783 was renamed the Lozen hussar regiment. In 1791 the Lozen hussar regiment received the name of the 6th hussar, and later it was renamed the 5th hussar regiment.

British cavalry: 1 – 16th light dragoon regiment, 2 – 17th, 3 – mohawk ally, 4 – dismounted dragoons of the 16th regiment. Fig. L. and F. Funkenov. “Wars on the American continent XVII-XIX”, M .: Astrel / AST, 2003, p. 33


Dragoons, as described in one of the previous materials of this cycle, were the British cavalrymen. Among them were both the actual royal soldiers and the “guerrilla” cavalry detachments of loyalists, analogs of the units of the insurgent army: “Bucks County Dragoons”, “James’ soldiers” of Chester County, “Royal Americans”, “Staten Island Dragoons” from South Carolina. And most of them were wearing red uniforms. There were exceptions, though. The already mentioned volunteers of the British Legion Banastra Tarlton and the so-called Rangers of Her Majesty, who in 1776 were only infantry, but in 1780 received … a hussar squadron of 30 people!

Her Majesty’s Rangers. Horsemen … like hussars (1-2), if you look at the headdress. But in all other respects their uniforms were not at all hussars. Dragoons (3-4) had a more familiar shape. Fig. L. and F. Funkenov. “Wars on the American continent XVII-XIX”, M .: Astrel / AST, 2003, p. 29


So the hussars in the American Revolutionary War fought on both sides, but in very small numbers. In addition to the British dragoons, the Hesse-Kassel rangers, who performed the duties of mounted scouts, and the Braunschweig dragoons, or “dragoons princes of Ludwig,” who first arrived in Quebec and carried garrison service in Canada, and then fought with the colonists, also fought for the king. But there were also few of them: first 282, and then 312 people with 20 officers.

Braunschweig Dragoons 1776-1783 Note that the uniforms of both American and European soldiers were almost the same in cut. However, there were differences! American dragoons wore more “advanced” hats: leather and felt helmets with crests and visors, while those same Braunschweig dragoons still sported their old-fashioned bicorne hats. Fig. L. and F. Funkenov. “Wars on the American continent XVII-XIX”, M .: Astrel / AST, 2003, p. 39


To be continued…

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