Monday, April 22, 2019


"They ought to be taught to give fire on horseback, but their service is on foot," in a very occasional series..

The name possibly derives from an early weapon, a short wheel-lock called a 'dragon', because the first dragoons raised in France had their carbine's muzzle decorated with a dragon's head.

It has also been suggested that the name derives from the German "tragen" or the Dutch "dragen", both being the verb "to carry" in their respective languages.

(By the by, slightly less believably, I have also read that the name is descended from the Latin Draconarius - the standard bearer in Roman cavalry carrying the Draco, the open mouthed dragon headed standard, and also I've read that they got their name from the fact that a galloping infantryman with his loose coat and the burning match resembled a dragon ).

The practice of mounting musketeers for greater mobility probably originated during the late 16th century in the French Huguenot armies of Henri of Navarre. Dragoons were used in the Dutch armies of Prince Maurice of Nassau

Monck recommended that an army have as many troops of dragoons as regiments of horse (ie from one-fifth to one-quarter the strength of the horse)


If we've learned anything by now it's that uniforms weren't ..errr... uniform..  

Their usual attire would have have been that of an infantry musketeer, apart from the fact they would have worn boots and spurs instead of shoes. Helmets were sometimes worn, but even so, not much protection, and they were unsuited to cavalry on cavalry action.

They had swords, but only the officers carried pistols, the rest having either a 'dragon' (a musket-bore firelock with a 16 inch barrel) or a shortened but wide-bore firelock musket, both were normally slung from a swivel on a broad leather shoulder-belt. Ideally these would be firelocks/flintlock/wheel lock, but occasionally they would be match lock (more likely on the Royalist side) and this would affect the ability to fire from horseback.

Dragoons rode small horses or 'cobs' to move into position and then fought on foot.

Reenactor pic courtesy Wars of Louis
XIV blog link below..
Supplied with inferior horses and more basic equipment, the dragoon regiments were cheaper to recruit and maintain than the expensive regiments of cavalry.

Their standards or 'guidons' were a cross between infantry colours and cavalry cornets - about two feet square - and the fringes which some of them feature. What made dragoon guidons really distinctive, however, was their swallow-tailed shape.


Early dragoons were not organised in squadrons or troops as were cavalry, but in companies like the infantry: their officers and non-commissioned officers bore infantry ranks.

The basic building block was a file of  11 men, of whom ten dismounted to fight while the 11th held their horses. A company (I have seen them also called troops despite the previous statement) numbered approximately a hundred and ten men each - five troops seem ordinarily to have sufficed for a regiment, but the New Model (being different) had ten - see below..

Dragoon regiments used drummers, not buglers, to communicate orders on the battlefield.

The New Model had one Dragoon Regiment, with ten 100 man companies, it played a significant role in the early stages of the battle of Naseby by disrupting Prince Rupert's cavalry on the Royalist right wing. In most major encounters of the Civil War each side had one or two Dragoon regiments. 

Initially, dragoons were organised in distinct regiments, but as the wars progressed, the practice grew of attaching a company of dragoons to some of the larger cavalry regiments to provide supporting fire in action and to act as sentries.
From Pinterest but clearly copyright Osprey


Dragoons were mounted infantrymen who rode small horses or cobs to move into position and then fought on foot. Typical dragoon actions during the civil wars were to cover the approaches to a position or to guard the flank, screening flanks or retreats, seizing strategically placed patches of cover ahead of the main army, or giving mobile fire support to the cavalry..

In the closing stages of the Battle of Naseby Okey's Dragoons, who had started the action as dismounted musketeers, got on their horses and charged, possibly the first time this was done.

A single dragoon troop or company was sometimes incorporated into a cavalry regiment, though separate regiments, usually of five or six troops or companies, were probably more usual.

Dragoons were trained to 'give fire on horseback' and very occasionally did deliver mounted charges, but they were still essentially mounted infantry and had not yet managed to assimilate themselves into the cavalry. Without pikes, they would have also have had a hard time trying to stand against attack on foot.

Not surprisingly, dismounted behind a hedge was their favourite battlefield station.

Enough I think..  I'm planning to add at least a regiment per side for this project..


Gush Renaissance Warfare [clicky]

Stay tuned - Brooks is on the painting table, and I have regular cavalry at the basing stage..


  1. Replies
    1. Thanks FoGH - nothing too surprising, but the information about firing from horseback was new to me, and also the practice of sometimes putting a troop of them in with the cavalry for additional fire support...

  2. Dragons in wargaming. Great if you have them...pain in the backside if your opponent does. Not battlewinners by themselves but enough to tip the balance...

    1. Broeders - agreed... the rapid movement and dismounted fire effect is a valuable addition..

  3. That should be 'dragoons' obviously. No G.O.T. Reference intended.

  4. Interesting as always Steve.

    1. Thanks David - I'm looking on these posts as a virtual notebook really - and as I write them, I'm figuring out how to model the various items into a set of rules I still have to write..

    2. the inclusion of Dragoons in this period is critical, in my view, and yet probably the hardest troop type to 'codify' as they were so very new and experimental in their use.

  5. Good read Steve, I like dragoons. That's a great header pic of a Regiment of Foot.

    1. Thanks Lee... and yeah, quite chuffed with them... :o))