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Cavalry vs. Dragoons...

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  • James L. Choron
    All, This is a letter from a friend of mine who is active in Cavalry reinactment. He is pretty good on the subject, and makes some good points. I thought I d
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 30, 2004
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      All,
       
      This is a letter from a friend of mine who is active in Cavalry reinactment. He is pretty good on the subject, and makes some good points. I thought I'd share it.
       
      Jim
      Jim;
       
      Thanks.  I guess the best way to differentiate the three mounted "arms" of Cavalry, Dragoons and Mounted Infantry is to say that Cavalry fights mounted, Mounted Infantry fights dismounted, and the Dragoons can do both.  Of course, seems like any unit that gets horses under them immediately begins to take on "airs", and eventually stops dismounting from them to fight...
       
      One interesting thing I discovered was that in the late 17th Century, the British Army had distinct units of Cavalry and Dragoons.  But in the early 18th Century as a cost saving measure (due to the fact that Dragoons, being of a lower social status than "real" Cavalry, got a significantly lower pay rate), the British converted almost all of their Cavalry over to being called "Dragoons".   They didn't change their equipment, structure, mission or anything else, just the name and the pay-grades of all of the troopers.  Sounds about right...  Thus a "Light Dragoon" of the American Revolutionary War era was just as much a real Cavalryman as the French Hussars of the same period, with the same job... just with a different name. We sort of adopted the concept of calling all cavalry "Dragoons" no matter that they hardly ever dismounted to fight, and kept it until the Civil War.  THEN of course, with nice breech-loading carbines, ALL mounted troops started to dismount to fight when possible, since it was suicide to charge Infantry armed with rifled-muskets.  That of course is the precise time that the US Army changed the name from Dragoons to Cavalry...  just as they were starting to really ACT like Dragoons!!!  Strange stuff indeed.
       
      Oh, just a note for future reference, the 2nd Dragoons was formed in 1836 for fighting in Florida.  They took the name change to Cavalry in 1861, but managed to get re-named Dragoons in 1984!  Pretty cool stuff...
       
      Thanks!
       
      Gordon
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