Henry Cunningham's Dragoons

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Hierarchical Path: War of the Spanish Succession (Main Page) >> Armies >> British Army >> Henry Cunningham's Dragoons

Origin and History

This regiment was raised in 1693.

During the War of the Spanish Succession, the successive proprietors of the regiment were:

  • from 1 February 1693: Henry Conyngham (aka Cunningham)
  • from 26 January 1706: Henry Killigrew
  • from 15 April 1707: John Pepper

The regiment was disbanded in 1714.

Service during the War


In 1704, the regiment campaigned in Portugal where it was attached to Schomberg's Division posted south of the Tagus.


In 1705, the regiment formed part of the British Contingent which took part in the Allied offensive in Extremadura. In August, the regiment was contributed to the Allied force destined for the expedition against Barcelona. From August to October, the regiment took part in the siege and capture of Barcelona.


In 1706, the regiment took part in the campaign in Spain. On 24 January, Colonel Wills advanced with thirty men of the present regiment and 400 foot to San Istevan de Litera. On 25 January, the Chevalier d'Asfeld was approaching the town with nine squadrons of French cavalry, and nine battalions of infantry, when Colonel Wills issued from among the houses with his dragoons and musketeers, and charged the head of the French column with such fury, that it fell back in disorder. At night, Lieutenant-General Cunningham and Colonel Palms arrived with the remainder of the British troops, amounting, when united, to approx. 1,150 men.

On 26 January, 4,000 French advanced to attack this little detachment. Some sharp fighting ensued, during which Lieutenant-General Cunningham and Colonel Wills both were wounded. After a conflict of several hours' duration, the French retreated, leaving 400 men dead on the field of battle. The British had 150 men killed and wounded. The regiment had to lament the loss of its colonel, Lieutenant-General Cunningham, who died of his wounds three days after the combat; and was succeeded in the colonelcy by Lieutenant-Colonel Killigrew, from the Royal Dragoons, who had distinguished himself under the Earl of Peterborough in Valencia.

The regiment, then bearing the title of Killigrew's Dragoons, was stationed at Lerida, and occupied several outposts. A numerous French and Spanish force, commanded by King Philip in person, advanced, and after menacing several towns, appeared before Barcelona. A detachment of the regiment, by forced marches, threw itself into the town, and was employed in the defence of Barcelona.

By October, the Allied army had retreated from Castile to Valencia, and Killigrew's Dragoons (excepting a detachment of 80 men which had formed the Earl of Peterborough’s escort) was stationed in the frontier garrison at the town of Elche, some 13 km from Alicante.

About the middle of October, a body of French and Spaniards commanded by M. de Geoffreville appeared before Elche, and summoned the governor, Colonel Bowles, to surrender. The town was ill-fortified; but the colonel having 400 foot, upwards of 400 dragoons, principally of Killigrew's Dragoons, and 100 Spanish horse in the town, refused to submit. Two days afterwards, the Duke of Berwick arrived with the whole French and Spanish army, and as further resistance could only be a useless waste of life, the governor surrendered. Thus the regiment (excepting the detachment in Murcia under the brave Captain Matthews, and the colonel, lieutenant-colonel and two orderly-men who were at Alicante) was made prisoners of war; and was not exchanged until the end of the campaign of 1707.


For the campaign of 1707 in Spain, a small detachment of 51 men of the regiment was attached to the first column of the Allied army. On 25 April, this detachment took part in the Battle of Almansa, where it was deployed in the first line of the left wing. Of the 51 men present at Almansa, 31 were killed or taken prisoners, and about 20 escaped to Alcira.

Several men and horses of the regiment then joined from command; others from sick-absent; several men escaped from captivity and rejoined the corps, and being mounted on Spanish horses, the regiment brought 81 private dragoons into the field. It was encamped for some time on the banks of the Ebro: and the colonelcy was conferred on Lieutenant-Colonel John Pepper.

At the end of campaign the regiment went into cantonments in Catalonia.

The men of the regiment taken prisoners at Elche were afterwards exchanged; recruits and horses arrived from England and Ireland; drafts of men and horses were received from Carpenter's Dragoons and Essex's Dragoons; a few horses were purchased in Spain.


Such care and diligence had been used by Colonel Pepper, Lieutenant-Colonel Stuart, and Major Boyd, to bring the regiment into as efficient a state as possible, that when it took the field to serve in the campaign of 1708, its excellent condition was highly commended by the Count de Noyelles, the commander-in-chief in Catalonia. A few men of the regiment were, however, left dismounted at Barcelona.

During the summer of this year, the regiment was encamped at Monblanco and Constantino. It was employed in patrolling the mountains and valleys of Catalonia, and in outpost duty between the two armies; no general engagement occurred, but the cavalry had occasional encounters with detachments of the enemy.


The campaign of 1709 was passed by the regiment in Catalonia.


In June 1710, the regiment was at the camp near Balaguer, where Archduke Charles joined the army.

On 27 July, the regiment took part in the Battle of Almenar, where it was deployed in Pepper’s Brigade in the second line of the left wing.

On 20 August, the regiment fought in the Battle of Saragossa, where it was deployed in Nassau's Brigade in the second line.

On 8 December, the regiment was present at the disastrous Combat of Brihuega. The colonel of the regiment, Major-General Pepper, and the major, Thomas Erle were among the prisoners. The establishment at this period was 600 officers and men; but the disaster occurring at the end of the campaign, and after two sharp engagements, the numbers of the regiment were reduced by killed and wounded in action, sick, absent, men on command, on detachment and other exigencies to about 200 officers and men.


In the autumn of 1711, the men taken prisoners at Brihuega were exchanged and restored to liberty; but Pepper's Dragoons are not mentioned among the troops which served in Spain in that or the following year.


After the Treaty of Utrecht, the British troops in Spain proceeded to Minorca, and from thence to Great Britain. The dragoons sold their horses in Spain, and returned dismounted. Pepper's regiment proceeded to Ireland, and was disbanded at the reduction of the army in 1714.


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This article is mainly a condensed and abridged version of the following book which is in the public domain:

  • Cannon, Richard: Historical Record of the Eighth, Or, the King's Royal Irish Regiment of Hussars, London: Parker, Furnivall & Parker, 1843, pp 22-34

Other sources

Dalton, Charles (ed.): English Army List and Commission Registers Vol. VI. (1707-1714), London 1904, p. 4

Campillo, Xavier Rubio: God Save Catalonia! England’s intervention in Catalonia during the War of the Spanish Succession, p. 32

N.B.: the section Service during the War is partly derived from our articles depicting the various campaigns, battles and sieges.


Jörg Meier for the initial version of this article