French Dragoons Organisation
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Originally the French dragoons were called carabins or argoulets and attached to light horse companies. Louis XIII officially created the dragoons unit in 1635.
Usually, dragoon regiments were deployed on the wings of the army positions, in advanced positions or to cover the progression of headquarters. During battles, because of their great mobility, they were used as a mounted infantry reserve. When mounted, dragoons served as cavalry; when dismounted, as infantry.
Each regiment counted one grenadier company.
At the beginning of the War of the Spanish Succession, the French army counted 23 dragoon regiments, but 9 of these regiments had only 1 cadre company. In 1701, 8 of the regiments, which counted a single company, were brought to full strength. In 1702, 8 new dragoon regiments were raised, bringing the number of regiments at full strength to 30. In 1705, 3 new dragoon regiments were raised and the last regiment counting a single company was brought to full strength. In 1708, 1 new regiment was raised, bringing the total number of dragoon regiments to 35. In 1713 and 1714, at the end of the war, 21 regiments were disbanded.
Composition and Organisation
Each dragoon regiment was organised in 3 squadrons for a total strength of 300 to 450 men including officers but excluding the regimental staff.
The staff of a regiment included:
- 1 colonel (instead of mestre-de-camp as the commander of a line cavalry regiment)
- 1 lieutenant-colonel
- 1 major
- 1 aide-major
- 1 chaplain.
Each of the 3 squadrons counted 4 companies.
Each company consisted of:
- 1 captain
- 1 lieutenant
- 1 cornet
- 1 maréchal-des-logis (quartermaster)
- 2 corporals
- 1 oboist (only in the three first companies of a regiment)
- 1 drummer
- 20 troopers (reduced to 20 in December 1699, and then increased to 30 in January 1701 and to 35 in November 1701)
The swallow-tailed regimental colours of dragoon regiments were known as guidons. Each squadron of a regiment carried one guidon. The cornet of the senior company of the squadron carried this guidon. During battles, the cornet and its guidon were placed in the middle of the first rank of the squadron.
Hall, Robert: Guidons and Uniforms of the French Dragoons under Louis XIV 1688-1714, 2001
Sapherson, C. A.: The French Cavalry 1688 - 1715, Raider Book, 1990
Jean-Louis Vial of Nec Pluribus Impar for his kind authorisation to reproduce his articles and material.