Light Dragoons of the 18th Century British Army
There's not much more dashing than a cavalry officer astride his mount!
Our hero, Colonel Duncan Starrett, in The Colonel and The Enchantress is an officer for the Light Dragoons. Much research was dedicated to learning about the campaigns in which the dragoons were involved, the types of horses, the training of the horses, the battle strategies, the uniforms, and so on.
The role of the Dragoons changed over time, depending on who was king and the needs of the British Army. Earlier in history, there was light cavalry and heavy cavalry, the Dragoons being exclusively heavy cavalry.
The roles were reassigned in the 18th century to combine some of the light cavalry duties with some of the heavy cavalry duties, thus creating the Light Dragoons. The role shifted again in the 19th century to disband most of the regiments of Light Dragoons and turn much of the remaining into Hussars, Lancers, or Guards, which are varying forms of heavy cavalry. All forms of light cavalry would soon be a thing of the past. This website offers some great overviews and pictures of the different types of cavalry and how they evolved. It's brief but good.
When charging, the men rode at a steady pace in a line with mere inches between each other. The idea was to create a wall of horseflesh. The charge had to be well-paced to ensure no one broke formation and the horse would have enough endurance to last the fight. The horses used were much larger than those in the light cavalry. Later horses, as seen in and after the Napoleonic Wars, would be geldings and mares, but the horses seen in earlier wars and campaigns were mostly stallions.
The uniforms of the Light Dragoons changed over time. The earlier uniforms looked little different than infantry. One of the first changes made to the uniforms was the color, namely by distinguishing Dragoons in blue or grey coats from the traditional red, though some regiments chose to keep the red. Each regiment had its own distinct uniform, typically chosen by the colonel. During and after the Napoleonic Wars, the uniforms developed their own style altogether, unique to the Dragoons.
The Dragoons are a fierce lot, as they are the first line in battle, the ones that clear the way for the foot regiments. Something especially interesting is it was in the Light Dragoons where the Duke of Wellington first distinguished himself in battle.
Something that really helped my research into the ever-evolving cavalry types and roles was to learn about individual regiments--where they fought, how they fought, what they wore, who led them, etc. This website is one of the most detailed I found about a regiment of Light Dragoons. The entire site is devoted to learning about this particular regiment, including arms carried, uniforms worn, battles fought, etc.
Another helpful element of the research was to read the war diaries and letters written by officers during the time, though not exclusive to Light Dragoons. Since our hero is part of the Flanders Campaign, my hope was to find journals from those battles, but I wasn't terribly picky since I doubted I would luck into something so specific. Alas, luck was on my side. Behold this article, which just so happens to be a journal of an officer from the Flanders Campaign--Lieutenant Charles Stewart. The journal covers 1793-1795, a perfect reference. And you know how much I love sources like this!
The bottom line really comes down to our hero being a sexy man riding into battle atop a stallion. It doesn't get much sexier than that. Wink.