Thursday, January 03, 2019

Dismounted 17th Light Dragoons

First points on the painting tally for 2019..  I put down entirely to the fact that the whole family were off doing other stuff on Christmas day, so I had an uninterrupted 5 or 6 hours, and found myself drawn magically to the painting table!

You may remember that in the first of the two outings of Abundance Farm scenario last year (here [clicky]) DG and I had been somewhat stymied by the lack of ability for our cavalry to occupy the barn due to a lack of dismounted figures..  I remedied that at Colours, with the purchase of enough figures to make up four bases from the very helpful fellow at Eagle Miniatures [clicky] and first off the painting table are these, who are destined for the forces of King George as dismounted 17th Light Dragoons - the 'Death or Glory boys'

First some work in progress shots..


...nice figures, but huge compared to the vintage Minfigs figures they will be fielded with, absolutely OK though, fielded on their own as they will largely be ...

John Hale - piccie courtesy Wikipedia
The 17th Light Dragoons trace their formation back to Wolfe's victory at Quebec in 1759 - Colonel John Hale of the 47th Regiment of Foot (a close friend of Wolfe's, by the by) carried the news to the King of the victory over the French, and in thanks (as was the way) the King granted him a gratuity of five hundred pounds, ten thousand acres in Canada and a commission to raise one of the five new regiments of Light Dragoons that were being planned as part of preparations for the Seven Years War.

John Hale's regiment was allotted the 18th designation, however, the Scottish regiment which carried the 17th title was disbanded after proving unsatisfactory, and in 1763 the regiment was re-designated as the 17th.

The Light Dragoons main distinction from their heavier (and more expensive) cousins was the type of horse employed - the Light Dragoons used smaller/lighter horses. Originally, the Light Dragoons were not equipped with swords, their main armament (and the  second distinction) was a carbine (which was capable of taking a bayonet in support of their partial infantry role) along with pistols and an axe.

They were trained to be able to fire from the saddle.


Note the deaths head emblem and the source of their nick name..  the first documented use seems to have been by a German Hussar regiment known as the 'Totenkopf' Hussars, and as many British regiments had served in Germany as part of the Seven Years War it is probable that's where the idea originated, in fact one the 17th's nicknames is still the 'The Tots'..  other sources have also said it was in honour of Wolfe himself..

The 17th never did see action in the Seven Years War.. in fact they didn't see action for the first 16 years of their existence, their first operational deployment was the American War of Independence..

...final product, varnished and based...


The 17th landed at Boston in 1775 in time for Bunker Hill, and overall spent 8 months in the city before being transferred to Halifax where they got remounts as best they could from available sources.

Their first real action was Long Island [clicky] where Howe did not take full advantage and 9,000 Americans managed to row to safety on Manhattan Island. The 17th were in almost continuous action, either as a regiment, or detachment they were present at at the Battle of White Plains in October at the Battle of Fort Washington in November, and the following year at the Battle of Forts Clinton and Montgomery in October.  After being transferred to Philadelphia in the winter of 1777, they were present at the Battle of Crooked Billet in May 1778 and the Battle of Barren Hill later that month (where they faced the French for the first time).

Politically and militarily the British position in Philadelphia was poor, and in June the British started to evacuate it. The 17th guarded the baggage train which was sent on ahead, though they were brought back briefly to help Clinton prevent an American force from attacking the main column.


The regiment spent the summer of 1779 in New York, before being transferred to the Carolina's by ship (and where most of their horses died during transit due to a heavy storm en route).

When the regiment landed in Savannah they were attached to the British Legion (under Banastre Tarleton) and after finding what remounts they could, the 17th as part of the Legion went on an extended patrol - interesting side note, the Legion wore green coats, but as British regulars the 17th insisted on keeping their red coats even though they were in a poor state of repair.

In their first action they fought off an attack by American irregular horsemen, and then took part in a surprise attack on an American force guarding the road to Charleston. The night attack was a success and soon after this the American garrison at Charleston abandoned the city.

"At three o'clock on the following morning the advanced guard of dragoons and mounted infantry approached Monk's Corner, and charging and routing the enemy's guard on the main road, dashed forward into the American cavalry camp. The enemy was surprised, all who made resistance were speedily cut down; favoured by darkness, General Huger, Colonels Washington and Jamieson, and seven others, took refuge in some swampy grounds near the camp; and one hundred and fifty dragoons and hussars, four hundred horses and fifty waggons loaded with arms, ammunition, and clothing, were captured." this from 'HISTORICAL RECORD OF THE SEVENTEENTH REGIMENT OF LIGHT DRAGOONS; LANCERS: CONTAINING AN ACCOUNT OF THE FORMATION OF THE REGIMENT IN 1759, AND OF ITS SUBSEQUENT SERVICES TO 1841' by JOHN W PARKER and printed in 1830 - stirs the blood doesn't it!. 

The Legion followed up with with each horse carrying a cavalryman and an infantryman(!) and soon caught up with the Virginian forces of the American army under Burford (travelling one hundred and five miles in fifty-four hours!) at Waxhaws. The British force charged the column despite being outnumbered and were victorious.

With South Carolina largely pacified the 17th were ordered back to New York - but a few men (along with the sick/wounded) were left behind to continue serving with the Legion and they were present at Camden, and conspicuous in the following pursuit.

Over the winter of 1780/81 reinforcements to the 17th arrived and were again attached to the Legion to bolster numbers. The Legion was ordered west to cover Cornwallis's left flank for the coming campaign to recover northern Carolina. In pursuit of Morgan, Tarleton managed to force battle at the Battle of Cowpens. American regulars were placed behind the militia (thus forcing them to fight and also offering a tempting target for the British) and cavalry was held in reserve.

The British made their typical frontal assault but were tired and hungry, and the the American militia held them up long enough that when they finally got to the American third line they found Continentals, and then cavalry and militia attacking from the flanks, and the British attack, and force, fell apart..

The Legion (not surprisingly) broke and ran though apparently the 17th held their nerve in retreat. An attempt by Tarleton and the 17th to save their guns failed, but one of the histories reports that he was successful in recovering the baggage.

The 17th were withdrawn to Souther Carolina during the subsequent failed campaign to take Northern Carolina, and were then ordered to New York in light of intelligence an attack was imminent. Shortly after the British surrendered at Yorktown, the 17th surrendered at Gloucester in 1783, and returned to Ireland.

"Death or Glory" indeed!

14 comments:

  1. Nice work on these Steve. I quite like those Eagle figures. Another option would be a conversion of the Perry AWI infantry in Saratoga helmets, there's a greater variety of poses available.

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    1. True enough Peter, I think Dixon do one as well.. I reckon I could probably use this one if added a bit of green stuff..

      http://www.miniaturefigurines.co.uk/images/catalogue/AWI%2069.jpg

      ...but as is the way of these things "here and now" was the order of the day, and instant gratification was the only way forward.. besides, they are characterful so I will ignore the fact they are giants.. :o))

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  2. Your dragoons look fab, Steve! Basing is attractive as well. Nice!

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    1. Cheers Jonathan.. appreciated... and Happy New Year!

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  3. They're beautiful, Steve! That red really works well.

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    1. Cheers Scott... my trusty Daler Rowner red ink, painted over a black primer that was 'damp brushed' white all over.. self shading and quick... there's a wealth of detail on these figures that I mostly ignored to be honest... good enough for the table top though... and Happy New Year!

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  4. Grand addition to the AWI set up! Keep it up!

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    1. Thanks David - riding the wave of New Year optimism at the moment.. ;o)

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  5. Useful addition to your forces and excellent figures, I'm amazed how many figure manufacturers and sculptors there are about these days Steve, we're all spoilt for choice. I had not heard of Eagle Miniatures, but the link shows quite a large range.

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    1. Happy New Year, Lee... yes, Eagle were not on my radar either but they seem to have to come to prominence over the last year or so?? Nice figures, well priced, and when I saw him he was happy to sell in singles... not really my scale, but if it were they'd be a "go to" for sure..

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  6. Lovely figures and a nice bit of history to go with them. Well done!

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    1. Cheers Lee.. good luck to you and Ray in the paint challenge...! Happy New Year as well..

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