Saturday, January 3, 2009

17th Light Dragoons

[Minor edits 12/25/09]

The 17th Light Dragoons was one of two regiments of horse that the British dispatched to North America during the American Revolution. The 17th was sent to Boston and dismounted volunteers of the regiment served at Bunker Hill (1775). The following year, the regiment accompanied William Howe to New York and led the nighttime flanking march preceding the battle of Long Island (1776). At White Plains (1776), the regiment attacked the retreating Americans in what was probably the first cavalry charge of the war. The regiment was also at Fort Washington (1776), albeit in a minor capacity. The following year, the regiment participated in operations around New York, including the Danbury raid (1777), and the capture of Forts Clinton and Montgomery (1777). In the winter of 1777-1778, the regiment was with Howe at Philadelphia, and detachments saw action at White Marsh (1777), Crooked Billet (1778), and Barren Hill (1778). As the war shifted back to New York, the regiment was present at Monmouth (1778), New Jersey, and Pound Ridge (1778), New York. At the end of 1778, the 16th Light Dragoons was returned to England and the able horses and enlisted men were drafted into the 17th. In December, 1779, a part of the regiment accompanied Henry Clinton to South Carolina and participated in the siege of Charleston (1780), Monck's Corner (1780), Lenud's Ferry (1780), and Waxhaws (1780). Another part remained in New York and participated in Knyphausen's raid into New Jersey and saw action at New Bridge (1780). The detachment in the South returned to New York after the battle of Waxhaws; another detachment, however, was sent to South Carolina in January, 1781, where it subsequently suffered heavily at Cowpens (1781). Some members of the 17th were also present at Yorktown (1781), where Banastre Tarleton credited them with rescuing him during an engagement with Lauzun's hussars and lancers.

Cornet James Simmons of the American 3rd Light Dragoons remembered that at Cowpens the 17th “wore a uniform of red and buff, with Sheep Skin, on their caps.” The official facing color of the regiment was white. Don Troiani has completed a couple of paintings depicting the 17th at the time of Cowpens (here and here).


Thomas Balch (1857). Papers Relating Chiefly to the Maryland Line During the Revolution. Balch's book has a transcription of Simons' letter to William Washington. His book can be downloaded from this site.

Richard Cannon (1841). Historical Record of the Seventeenth Regiment of Light Dragoons-- Lancers.

Philip R. N. Katcher (1973). Encyclopedia of British, Provincial, and German Army Units 1775-1783. Stackpole Books.

The recreated 17th Light Dragoons have a very informative website, which can be found here.

1 comment:

  1. Good link to the regimental history on Google Books. That has been an invaluable resource for books like that, along with contemporary diaries.