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French Line Dragoons

Murat leading dragoons into battle.

Introduction

The dragoons were the workhorse of Napoleon's cavalry tasked to perform such varied roles as scouting, anti-guerilla operations and escort duties. At times, they were even used as infantry - though it was observed that their performance in the dismounted role was generally unsatisfactory. Owing to lack of French heavy cavalry in the Peninsula, French dragoons were also used as shock troops in battle.

Organisation

According to an order dated 24 September 1803, each dragoon company was to be made up of 54 mounted and 36 dismounted troopers (Note - this paper strength was rarely achieved on campaign). 2 companies formed a squadron and 4 squadrons formed a regiment. There were a total of 30 French dragoon regiments during the Napoleonic wars.

Uniforms

Headdress

The Grecian helmet was made of brass and had a long horsehair mane. Each regiment had an elite company and a pioneer section - the troopers of these wore bearskins - even on campaign.

Coat

The coat was middle to dark green. Each regiment had its own distinctive facing colour which was displayed on the lapels, turnbacks cuffs and collars.

Facing Colours:

Scarlet: 1st - 6th Regts

Crimson: 7th - 12th Regts

Pink: 13th - 18th Regts

Yellow: 19th - 24th Regts

Orange: 25th - 30th Regts

(Note - the 2nd, 5th, 8th, 11th, 14th, 17th, 20th, 23rd, 26th and 29th had green collars piped in their regimental facing colour.)

Legwear

Buff coloured breeches with knee-high boots were worn. Dismounted dragoons wore ankle boots and black gaiters in the style of the line infantry.

Left: French dragoon officer. Note the facing colours on collar, lapels and turnbacks. The coat is dark green. Right: French dragoon trooper of the 17th Regt. Note the pink lapels and turnbacks. Also note the dark green collar.

Left: Foot dragoon. Centre: Dragoon trumpeter - note reverse uniform colours and lace on coat front. Right: Dragoon trooper of the 17th Regt in 1812 uniform - note that the new uniform's lapels extend to the waist. (Illustrations reproduced with kind permission of the authors - Fred and Liliane Funcken, Historische Uniformen.)

Note - for the sake of clarity, the above description has been simplified. It should suffice for wargamers. For more detail, please consult the following references:

Haythornthwaite - Uniforms of the Peninsular War

Haythornthwaite - Uniforms of the Russian Campaign

Haythornthwaite - Uniforms of Waterloo

Chartrand - Napoleonic Wars: Napoleon's Army (Brassey)

Napoleon's Dragoons and Lancers (Osprey Men-at-Arms)

Pericoli - The Armies at Waterloo

Fred and Liliane Funcken - Historische Uniformen

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