French Dragoon regiments

French Dragoon Regiments
Dragoon of Hautefort
A dragoon of the Hautefort regiment, not
identified yet. by New York Public Library
Note the spurs and the rifle

1 Origins of the Dragoon regiments

A proper dragoon was an infantryman with a horse, meaning he had a musket, pistol, saber and a shovel. The shovel is very significant, because with it the dragoons could entrench themselves just like regular infantry. Other significant aspects of his equipment were the fact that he did not have the expensive horse a cavalryman needed and that he lacked cavalry boots. In theory dragoons should therefore operate just like regular infantry except for the fact that they went to the battlefield on horseback. This meant that they were very suited for taking posts that were out of reach of the infantry, or for escorting convoys.

The big danger in employing dragoons was of course the temptation to use them as a kind of cavalry. In the late seventeenth century the problems attached to this could probably be overcome, but the cavalry tactics of the 1700's were different 1. For them one needed not only a horse that could be used in the massive charges of the day, but also cavalry boots that weighed about 3 kilo's each. These cavalry boots were needed to protect the legs from breaking by being squashed between horses during a charge. Equipping the dragoons with these boots would however make it difficult to fight on foot. Anyway, the French dragoons were indeed expected to able to fight both ways.

2 The 15 French Dragoon regiments

In 1659 the French army had two dragoon regiments: Les Dragons du Roy and le regiment de la Ferté. The regiment de la Ferté had been raised in 1645. The regiment Dragons du Roy had been partly raised in Germany in 1657 and completed in France. In 1668 the Regiment Colonel General was split of from the Regiment Royal as a separate regiment.

The continuous warfare of the decades that followed meant that by 1690 there were no less than 43 dragoon regiments. After the peace of Rijswijk 28 of these were disbanded. At the beginning of the war six new ones were raised. Here is a list of the first fifteen dragoon regiments taken from the list of dragoon regiments that existed in 1714.

3 Notes

1) The topic of changing cavalry tactics realy warrants more attention on a spearate page.