Cavalry vs. Dragoons

major bill

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No dragoons and cavalry are not the same. Dragoons carried long arms, usually carbines or musketoons and were expected to fight dismounted most of the time. Cavalry originally was interned to fight mounted. On a world wide view there were three types of cavalry; heavy, medium, and light. Each had a primary task they were designed to do. Dragoons were usually considered a fourth type of mounted troops.

The dragoons were intended to ride to some point, dismount and fight. In a way they were mounted infantry. Different world armies used all the above types of mounted troops a bit differently. Some nations expected dragoons to be able to fight mounted even if it was not their primary task. Training and equipment for dragoons were different from training and equipment for heavy, medium, and light cavalry.
 

major bill

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In the United States before the Civil War there were dragoons and cavalry. By the start of the Civil War the US Army did not have a need for both and dragoons became a type of light/medium cavalry. During the Civil War some cavalry regiments were expected to fight mostly dismounted but were still called cavalry. Other Civil War cavalry mostly fought mounted but some of these could also fight dismounted. Some Civil War cavalry were not armed to fight dismounted. All were normally just called cavalry.
 

novushomus

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Somewhere between the 18th and 19th centuries, mounted soldiers went from dragoons to cavalry. Are they the same thing? If not, how are they different?

Well, at least in United States military tradition, there had not been a proper cavalry tradition. No hussars, cuirassiers, lancers, or other sorts of heavy horse. The lack of landed aristocratic nobility, the heavily wooded terrain of North America, and the Continental Army's basis on the existing British army model meant that almost all of the cavalry from the American War of Independence onwards were dragoons (Dragoons had been the only British mounted force stationed in the Americas at the time of Independence). This continued until the 1860s when Congress finally designated a cavalry regiment just before the outbreak of the Civil War. Tactically there was little change until the Union cavalry developed the experience to confidently drive home a charge with a saber (see Robert Minty's brigade or Sheridan's corps later in the war).
 
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mofederal

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There is also the Regiment of Mounted Rifles. Dragoons carried a carbine, pistol and saber. The Regiment of Mounted Rifles only rifles, but I would assume they acquired pistols. After the start of the war, the 1st Dragoons became the 1st Cavalry, the 2nd Dragoons the 2nd Cavalry and the 1st Mounted Rifles became the 3rd Cavalry. The Cavalry units were the 1st and 2nd Cavalry. They became the 4th and 5th Cavalry when the unit designations were changed. A last US number was added the 6th Cavalry.
 
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leftyhunter

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In theory isn't the difference cavalry fights mostly mounted and dragoons mostly on foot?
In brief the Civil War was the last major conventional conflict where mounted troops played a major role by the American military. Yes the cavalry fought tge Indians post Civil War but that is low intensity counterinsurgency.
Mounted troops would be used for counterinsurgency similar to the Civil War up to the early 1990s but not by the U.S.
Leftyhunter
 

trice

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There is a great and detailed description of the different types of cavalry in Swords Around A Throne by John R. Elting. This covers the makeup of Napoleon's forces, with additional description of the forces of his enemies and allies. See Chapter XI, "The High Horsemen".

During the Napoleonic wars, Dragoons were considered a type of medium cavalry, but due to a shortage of other types eventually became a general-purpose fill-in for the light and heavy cavalry roles as well. French Dragoons that had served in Spain seemed to do everything and were tougher than old shoe leather.
 

infomanpa

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To make things even more confusion British about the time of the Civil War the British had light dragoons and heavy dragoon. The British light dragoons were viewed as light cavalry, but British heavy dragoons were viewed as medium cavalry.

And am I correct in assuming that the distinction between "heavy, medium, and light" had to do with the weight of the weaponry?
 

major bill

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And am I correct in assuming that the distinction between "heavy, medium, and light" had to do with the weight of the weaponry?

Partly. but it was a great deal decided by the size of the horse and weight to the man. Each at one time had a different mission.
 

mofederal

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During the Napoleonic Wars the French had Heavy Cavalry (Cuirassiers) , Horse Carabiniers-a-cheval, Dragoons, Light Cavalry (Hussars) Chasseurs, and Lancers. This broken down to the weapons each carried and the type of horses used. Some of these type of units disappeared over time, others lasted into WWI. The units were very interesting down to uniforms, horse color and so forth. Other probably know more about these units of horse than me, I just dabble a little into the Napoleonic Wars. It helps that I used to read French.
 

7thWisconsin

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Basically, in the United States, ALL cavalry were dragoons. The designated Dragon regiments lost their official designation as the war progressed. There was the 6th PA lancers, but they also carried long arms and turned in their lances in 63. In 64, the "1st U s Hussar" regiment was fielded, but they were armed, equipped and trained like any other cavalry regiment. Sometimes the mounted infantry were just that: infantry who rode to the fight but dismounted for action. There were never any heavy regiments in the sense of being shock troop cavalry. The evolution of cavalry tactics in the civil war is often credited with being part of the change in cavalry tactics worldwide as Napoleonic tactics of mass and shock gave way to the modern tactics of artillery fire and dispersion.
 

leftyhunter

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Say again? I had no idea. Any example countries?
The Rhodesian Grey Scouts during the Rhodesian conflict of 1964 to 1980. The South West African Territorial Force up to Namibian Independence circa early 1990's. Horse bourne infantry could would track guerrillas by horseback.
Has a general rule the horsebourne infantry perfered to fight on goot but they were taught to lay liw and charge the enemy. The Grey Scouts were armed with Belgian Fn-Fal which is a good sized battle rifle in 7.62 x 51mm Nato. The SWATF might of switched from the FN FAL to the South African verison of the Israeli Gali in 5.56 Nato post 1980.
You can look up the SWATF mounted troops on You Tube on A.J. Venter's documentary " Namibia Last Domino"
A.J. Venter made a number of documentaries on the war in Nambia 1965- 1990 or thereabouts.
You can You Tube " Rhodesian Grey Scouts. I have seen one reference to the Columbian Army also using horse in their long running recent counterinsurgency against the FRAC. I havent researched it.
Leftyhunter
 
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Carronade

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Heavy cavalry were literally that, the biggest men on the strongest horses, intended for use on the battlefield, to beat the enemy - foot or horse - by the sheer power of their charge. Heavy cav horses needed a lot of maintenance, had to be properly fed and cared for, which could be problematical on campaign. They were not as constantly active as the light cavalry, scouting, skirmishing, etc.

As others have noted, dragoons originated in the 1600s as mounted infantry; the strength of an army was sometimes broken down as "horse, foot, and dragoons". They sometimes functioned as pioneers, scouting and preparing routes for the army, carrying tools like axes in addition to their weapons. Over time they came to spend more time operating on horse, but their ability to fight on foot remained useful. For example, Napoleon used them extensively in Spain, where it was difficult to support large numbers of horses, and where the terrain often required dismounted operations. His proposed invasion of Britain included a division of dismounted dragoons, who could fight on foot until they captured horses.

One change wrought by rifled weapons was that charges across the battlefield were no longer feasible, so cavalry turned to dragoon-type roles.
 

thomas aagaard

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Charges against steady infantry was not feasible before the rifled musket was invented... the number of steady squares that was broken during the Napoleonic was is limited to about a handful.
(but obviously forcing the enemy infantry into square could be the goal in it self)

And there were successful cavalry charges after it was invented. (including in 1870, against colonial forces and in both world wars. despite boltaction rifles with magazines and machine guns)
So cavalry still trained to charge.

Also it was still usefull if the enemy broke and ran...

The infantry simple had a better change of beating the attack off when in line... and to be succesfull the cavalry would need better tactical conditions than before.
 

Burning Billy

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Say again? I had no idea. Any example countries?

The last cavalry charge by a U.S. Army unit was early in the Second World War, when elements of the 26th Cavalry (Philippine Scouts) charged Japanese infantry during the invasion of the Philippines.

"Bent nearly prone across the horses' necks, we flung ourselves at the Japanese advance, pistols firing full into their startled faces. A few returned our fire but most fled in confusion. To them we must have seemed a vision from another century, wild-eyed horses pounding headlong; cheering, whooping men firing from the saddles."

---Lt. Col. Edwin Ramsey, on the last cavalry charge in US history
 

leftyhunter

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Somewhere between the 18th and 19th centuries, mounted soldiers went from dragoons to cavalry. Are they the same thing? If not, how are they different?
If you goggle" reddit.com 16th Columbian cavalry you should get some pictures of Columbian cavalry they still apparently use horse to this day for COIN. No swords they use Gails.
Leftyhunter
 
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