by Bernhard Schwertfeger
In the beginning the establishment of the two heavy and the three light dragoon regiments of the Legion was the same:
In the beginning every regiment consisted of 4 squadrons with 2 troops, all together 8 troops. In the summer of 1811 all 5 regiments were increased to 5 squadrons, that is 10 troops. In October 1813, during its service in the campaign on the lower Elbe under the command of Count Wallmoden-Gimborn, the 3rd Hussar Regiment had 6 squadrons. Shortly before the battle of Waterloo all cavalry regiments were formed with 4 squadrons.
Officially from 1813 on there was a change in names. From that date on the three light dragoon regiments were called hussars, although they had worn their uniform and accoutrements since their formation. At the same time - the end of 1813 - the two heavy regiments were equipped and renamed as light ones. To make it easier in this context we are only talking of three hussar and two heavy (light) dragoon regiments.
2nd Light Dragoon Regiment
A troop consisted of:
The quartermaster wore an officers uniform with minor changes. With an order dated 24 June 1809 the company quartermasters were abolished and only a regimental one kept. A sergeant major substituted him in every company, who soon was called Quartermaster, too. The quartermaster was the highest noncommissioned officer of the company. He had the right to arrest every sergeant and man, although he had to report this immediately to his company commander.
The surgeon reported immediately to the regimental commander. The assistant surgeons position in respect to the formers was the same as that of the company officers to their captain. The surgeons had to provide their own horses, "as they are under no circumstances allowed to ride a company horse". The same was true for the veterinary surgeon. Every month the enlisted men were examined for veneric diseases or the itch. It is interesting to note that those sick men, who did not report themselves sick and had to be treated in the hospital, had to pay 1 shilling for every guard and sixpence for every stable guard they missed to their comrades.
An officer was ordered as regimental horse trainer, a corporal served as company trainer. The regimental trainer had to break in the difficult horses, additionally he had to train those officers, "who needed it by judgement of the field officers", for one hour daily. To aid him, he was allowed to choose two roughriders from the regiment, who were then appointed corporals and received additional pay. The next highest ranking noncommissioned officer after the quartermaster was the sergeant major. He served as an aide to the adjutant, had to be present at every parade and when detachments with men from different companies were to depart, to help the adjutant in forming the ranks. He was responsible for the transmission of the regimental orders to the surgeons.
The most senior captain commanded the squadron, both of the lieutenants one troop respectively. The most junior cornet with the guidon was positioned in the middle, the most senior cornet behind the front to supervise the 2nd rank together with the junior captain. Every troop was divided into 2 divisions, accordingly a squadron consisted of 4 of them. During exercises with the regiment the lieutenant colonel commanded the 1st, the senior major the 2nd, the junior major the 3rd and the senior captain the 4th squadron; the other officers took the next position according to seniority.
The uniform of the cavalry of the Legion was especially becoming. The heavy dragoon regiments wore scarlet coats with long tails, white trousers (in the beginning these were made from plush), high black boots with strap-on spurs. The 1st Regiment had dark blue collars and facings, the 2nd black ones. 2 rows of gold buttons with the royal cypher, crown and band (Kings German Dragoons), for parade dress only one row of buttons of the same size in the middle, white shoulderbelt, cocked hat with red-white feather plume made the officers dress complete; the enlisted men always had only one row of buttons. In bad weather the officers and the quartermaster were allowed to wear simple blue overcoats with 2 rows of buttons.
The heavy dragoons were armed with long broad swords, which were easy to handle because they were not too heavy, nevertheless they had great force, smoothbore carbines (With a powder load of 3/8 small weight and a shot weight of 1 1/8 small weight the shooting distance of the carbine was 180 paces, although this was less than the French rifled carbine.) and a pistol for every man (Smoothbore pistol without back and front sight, effective shooting distance around 50 paces, was mainly used for signal shots.).
Every heavy regiment hat a rectangular, red kings colour, which showed a white rose and a thistle under a kings crown in the middle. On the reverse one could see the Irish cloverleaf with a white scroll with the motto "Honni soit, qui mal y pense" underneath. 4 small blue and gold bordered shields in the corners showed the letters K.G.D. (Kings German Dragoons) or the white horse. Every squadron also had a scalloped guidon of silk in the colour of collars and facings of the respective regiment with a larger red field in the middle and embellishments like those on the kings colours. The guidons were nearly as high as the colours. The most junior cornets carried the guidons and the colours. Their places were in the middle of the squadrons. The kings colour was placed in the middle of the regiment or of the dressing squadron on the right of the guidon of that squadron.
1st Hussar Regiment – Officer
According to English custom the hussars had no colours. Their armament differed form that of the dragoons. They had a broader sabre and a 2nd pistol. Like the heavy dragoons they had carbines. In the beginning there seems to have been some discretion regarding the uniform. Although the 1st Regiment had been dressed like the British light dragoons, the regiments soon started to dress themselves as hussars. The 3rd Regiment was the first to appear completely in hussar fashion, as its colonel (Joh. Georg v. Reden) procured fur to add to the pelisse, introduced the fur cap and allowed the wearing of moustaches, something uncommon in the English army.
The uniform soon to be introduced in all 3 regiments was that of the British hussars, blue laced jackets with red (1st Rgt.), white (2nd Rgt.) or yellow (3rd Rgt.) collars, white trousers, half boots with screw-on spurs, red-gold hussar sash (officers). The braid and collar lace of the first two regiments were gold, those of the third silver. The officers buttons showed two crossed sabres with the regimental number with crown above and a scroll with the inscription "Kings German Lt. Dragoons". The headwear were fur caps, off duty the officers wore cocked hats and long dark blue or grey trousers.
Every regiment (heavy and light) was allowed to appoint one bugler sergeant and use him as staff bugler, who was part of the establishment. The heavy regiment had a drummer, 8 buglers and 8 musicians; the latter were ordered from the line. The drummer was also part of the establishment; dispensing with one corporal. The hussars did not have a drummer, otherwise the same number of musicians. If a company was detached, ist bugler went with it, but it left ist musicians behind. On formation every company received one bugle and one buglehorn, the remaining maintenance of the "musical band" was paid out of a fund, to which the officers contributed not more than a days pay monthly.
In the beginning the training of the cavalry followed the traditional Hannoverian regulations. As conformity with the British regiments was necessary, on 1 February the Duke of Cambridge introduced new regulations in German. In these all commands were translated into the English language, but the descriptions were in German only. It must be emphasized that in the charge the 2nd rank had to stay four paces behind the 1st and the flanks had to hold back a little, so as to avoid a pressing towards the middle. The penetration had to be made in gallop, beginning one-hundred paces in front of the enemy. A common form of combat was the skirmish. This meant the flankers - especially agile men - were positioned 300 - 400 paces to the front of the squadron and took large distances of 20 - 25 paces. The men of the 2nd rank served as cover for their front rank men and rode ten paces to the left rear of the latter. Now the 1st and 2nd rank both were able to fire their pistols and carbines from horseback; after the firing of one rank, the other one went forward and the first one loaded. It was possible to relieve the skirmishers from the squadron.
2nd Hussar Regiment – Officer
The hussar regiments, as the light cavalry, were responsible for all of the reconnaissance and outpost duties. Soon they performed outstandingly and differed in that respect so favourably from the British cavalry, that, when they served together, nearly all of these duties were imposed on the former. The selection of field officers for the light service was made very carefully. It was possible, that a junior captain was appointed major, the more senior ones however had to stay in their positions, if they discharged of their duties satisfactorily. The Duke of Cambridge insisted in the consent of the officer concerned in such cases, "so that these appointments might not appear as discrete or unjust".
At the end of 1813 the transformation of the two heavy dragoon regiments to light ones was ordered, because sufficient light cavalry was not available. The regiments received the far less becoming uniform shortly before the battle of Waterloo; the shorter English sabre was especially unpopular.
Original text and maps ©
1907 Hahnsche Buchhandlung