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"Cavalry in North America before 1815" Topic


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1,215 hits since 29 Dec 2017
©1994-2018 Bill Armintrout
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Whirlwind29 Dec 2017 4:37 a.m. PST

Which engagements in the FWI, AWI/American Revolution and the War of 1812 had the largest cavalry contingents, for each side involved?

CFeicht Supporting Member of TMP29 Dec 2017 4:50 a.m. PST

War of 1812 probably had more cavalry than the other two, but none of the North American conflicts were cavalry-centric due to the relatively broken terrain amongst other things.

Brechtel19829 Dec 2017 6:12 a.m. PST

During the southern campaigns in 1780-1781 the relatively small numbers of cavalry employed by both sides did some hard riding and fighting, especially at Cowpens and Guilford Courthouse.

Tarleton's British Legion was employed by Cornwallis, and both Lee's Legion and Washington's 3d Continental Light Dragoons distinguished themselves in Greene's campaigns. Washington's charges at both Cowpens and Guilford Courthouse were decisive to the outcome of both battles.

Washington is arguably the most capable cavalry commander of the war in the South, if not the entire war.

Personal logo ColCampbell Supporting Member of TMP29 Dec 2017 6:56 a.m. PST

Washington is arguably the most capable cavalry commander of the war in the South, if not the entire war.

That's Colonel William Washington, second cousin of General George Washington. link

And don't forget that there were a number of local cavalry/mounted infantry on both sides in the south and in the New York/New Jersey area. But these were small units who were primarily used on raids and foraging ("cattle rustlin') expeditions.

Jim

Winston Smith Supporting Member of TMP29 Dec 2017 6:58 a.m. PST

Gloucester Point featured both British Legion and Lauzun's Legion of hussars and lancers.

RudyNelson29 Dec 2017 8:09 a.m. PST

Jackson breaking the Siege of Talladega used several Mounted Gunman units to close the circle on the Upper Creek warriors. The Georgia and Mississippi contingents conducted several sweeps with their mounted troops. Most Mounted troops were used to guard supply routes and patrol the vast spaces between points.

In the American Revolution, the British and Patriot forces used mounted troops at lot in the Carolinas.

23rdFusilier Supporting Member of TMP29 Dec 2017 8:18 a.m. PST

Johnson's mounted Rifles from Kentucky during down and routing the 41st regiment at The Battle of the Thames.

Son of MOOG29 Dec 2017 9:25 a.m. PST

Chrysler's Farm in 1813 featured a charge (actually 3) by the US 2nd Dragoons against the British 49th Foot to save the retreating American guns.They saved the guns and earned a measure of respect from the British for their bravery.
Interestingly enough, the same 2 units had also met at Stony Creek on the Niagara frontier earlier that same year and the 2nd Dragoons were also at Beaver Dams a few weeks later (though without seeing much action).
At the 2nd battle of Sackett's Harbor (also in 1813) the US Army detachments defending the town and shipyards were comprised of some regular infantry units but a large portion were 1st US Dragoon Regiment, both mounted and dismounted.
A squadron of the British 19th Light Dragoons was present and very active during the Niagara campaign of 1814 also.
Hope this helps,
Tom D

Whirlwind29 Dec 2017 9:34 a.m. PST

Lots of interesting information so far, but no answer to the central questions:

What was the biggest cavalry force employed by the US in the War of 1812 or Patriots during the Revolution/SWI?

What was the biggest cavalry force employed by the British in the FIW, AWI/Revolution or War of 1812?

What was the biggest cavalry force employed by the French in the period?

historygamer29 Dec 2017 9:50 a.m. PST

No Brit cav in F&I

historygamer29 Dec 2017 9:52 a.m. PST

No French cav either.

Whirlwind29 Dec 2017 9:55 a.m. PST

No French cav either.

Were there any French cavalry with Montcalm?

IronDuke596 Supporting Member of TMP29 Dec 2017 10:20 a.m. PST

RE The War of 1812:

Battle of the Thames, 960 mounted Kentuckian infantry (not classic cavalry though);

As stated most of the Niagara and Upper Canada battles consisted of a small squadron of cavalry on each side.

Battle of Bladensburg; about 300 Maryland Militia cavalry, 50 D.C. militia light dragoons and about 100 Virginaia light dragoons totaling 450 cavalry. The British managed to acquire approximately 40-60 horses that were mounted by gunners and wagon train soldiers.

Supercilius Maximus29 Dec 2017 11:13 a.m. PST

I can't recall any mounted engagements in the FIW; the French had a unit of scouts in bearskin caps, and a few British/Provincial ranger/militia units had a mounted troop or two, but there's no evidence of them clashing.

Largest AWI cavalry combat I can recall is the encounter between Tarleton and Lauzun at Gloucester, during the early stages of the siege of Yorktown. About 300+ per side.

Potentially, there could have been a larger action in potential option in early 1778, when Pulaski was temporarily put in command of all four Continental light dragoon regiments. However, Pulaski brought problems with him and was not popular with American officers, so there might have been command problems.

Proportionately, the War of 1812 didn't really have more cavalry, just slightly more troops who happened to be mounted, but mostly fought dismounted.

Winston Smith Supporting Member of TMP29 Dec 2017 11:45 a.m. PST

You can buy true 25mm FIW French "cavalry" from RAFM.
I use them as tax collectors in skirmish Games. Very pretty figures. Oddly, they fit in quite well next to "30mm" Fife and Drum cavalry because both are "anatomically correct" sculpts.

Lilian29 Dec 2017 11:50 a.m. PST

with the French there was only the (first mounted canadian unit) small Corps de Cavalerie from may 1759 to september 1760, only 205 men, that is the scout unit in bearskin mentionned above

picture

of course for the AWI the famous Légion de Lauzun with 300 Hussars partially armed with lances, but no Lancers

2 cavalry units sent to North America were the 2 companies from Condé and Belsunce-Dragoons in Savannah in 1779 not having the great honor to serve at horse if not mostly on board

Supercilius Maximus29 Dec 2017 12:12 p.m. PST

Washington is arguably the most capable cavalry commander of the war in the South, if not the entire war.

Arguably is very much the word here – provided you ignore all his failures. Washington was beaten by Tarleton at both Bee's Plantation and Routledge's Plantation, and his command was almost destroyed at Monck's Corner, forcing the amalgamation with the 1st CLD (the newly-combined unit subsequently losing an engagement at Lenud's Corner). At Hobkirk's Hill, his failure to execute a flanking manoeuvre led to Greene losing a battle he should have won, and at Eutaw, it was his miscalculation in either riding too close to a piece of dense woodland, or actually charging into it (depending on whose version of events you believe – both show a lack of competence) that again led to him losing many men unnecessarily, and his own wounding and capture.

That said, he also made a timely charge at Guilford and had some successes in minor engagements against Tarleton and (it has to be pointed out) considerably lesser opponents, and is credited with rebuilding the 3rd CLD after the Tappan incident.

Whilst Cornwallis would later remark that "there could be no more formidable antagonist in a charge, at the head of his cavalry, than Colonel William Washington" such an epithet puts him no more than on a par with Tarleton. In fact, I would suggest that his impetuosity possibly makes him the American equivalent of Tarleton. Simcoe and Lee were generally more dependable and adept at the less glamorous, but often much more important elements of the petite guerre/kleine krieg than Washington.

Personal logo miniMo Supporting Member of TMP29 Dec 2017 1:25 p.m. PST

Redoubt has some Corps de Cavalerie too:
link

I haven't bought any yet. Focusing on '58 right now. But if we keep gaming FIW at the club, I will likely break down and buy some eventually.

nevinsrip Sponsoring Member of TMP29 Dec 2017 1:41 p.m. PST

Hmmm…Wasn't it Tarleton who had his entire force destroyed at Cowpens?
And wasn't it Wm Washington who routed him?

In boxing terms, who landed the knockout punch, Bren?

There's not a single high ranking officer, in either army, that didn't have their ups and downs, n'est-ce pas?

Washington by a knockout!!

Winston Smith Supporting Member of TMP29 Dec 2017 2:09 p.m. PST

It was Daniel Morgan who routed Tarleton at Cowpens.

RudyNelson29 Dec 2017 2:44 p.m. PST

The forces used mounted troops in the south during 1812-15, due to the vast distances between key points. At Talladega orders of battle list between 700 and 800 troops. Despite troop enlistment turnover and mutinies, Jackson fielded around 600 to 700 troops at Horseshoe Bend withCoffee having the rank of General.

historygamer29 Dec 2017 7:34 p.m. PST

IIRC the British Legion refused to engage at Cowpens so not much of a cavalry battle there. Lee's and Washington's cavalry units were pretty small.

nevinsrip Sponsoring Member of TMP29 Dec 2017 8:34 p.m. PST

I believe you recall wrongly. In fact, Washington and Tarleton fought a personal duel. And it was the Legion reserve that refused to charge and withdrew.

I also think that Washington had a larger mounted force than originally thought.

Washington had his cavalry augmented by several different
companies of mounted volunteers, including men of the Second Spartan, who were mounted and fought on horseback.
Col Thomas Brandon is said to have several men by himself during the battle.
Washington also had James McCall's men and Benjamin Jolley's command. Both mounted at Cowpens, in addition to a few others.

First hand accounts of the battle on horseback are available in the book "True For The Cause Of Liberty" by Ed and Catherine Gilbert.
"The Day It Rained Militia" by Michael Scoggins also goes in how the war in SC was fought on horseback.

Both worth reading.

nevinsrip Sponsoring Member of TMP29 Dec 2017 8:36 p.m. PST

John, Morgan routed the ground troops.

It was William Washington who engaged Tarleton and drove him off.

rmaker29 Dec 2017 10:56 p.m. PST

The Corps de Cavalerie were not battlefield troops, rather mounted messengers and, to a lesser extent, scouts (though the Indians did that job better).

Supercilius Maximus30 Dec 2017 4:24 a.m. PST

Bill – I'm not saying Washington was a bad commander, just that elevating him to "arguably the best" (and in the whole war, not just the South) really doesn't hold water when you look at his entire record. His personal bravery is beyond question, he was liked by his men (albeit due to an alleged laxness over discipline) and he had several successful moments, but also several failures – some of them eminently avoidable.

Over the course of his several clashes with Tarleton, each had a major success that required the rebuilding of the opponent's regiment, each had minor successes, and each had failures. Both were impetuous and apt to make mistakes because of that. Two of a kind, IMO.

HANS GRUBER30 Dec 2017 5:38 a.m. PST

Regardless of the details of the battle, Tarleton had about 300 cavalry out of a force of about 1100 men at Cowpens. This probably was the largest percent of cavalry in any major engagement of the period.

Supercilius Maximus30 Dec 2017 10:20 a.m. PST

No, the largest percentage of cavalry in the AWI was at Gloucester Point on 2nd October 1781, where Tarleton had 300+ horsemen (190 BL, 90+ QRs and 20+ 17LD) out of around 700 total, against 300 of Lauzun's Legion, plus about 50 State cavalry under Dabney, out of 8-900 total.

However, for various reasons, in neither action was the entirety of the British cavalry engaged.

nevinsrip Sponsoring Member of TMP30 Dec 2017 11:50 a.m. PST

Hey Bren, so who was better?

Supercilius Maximus30 Dec 2017 3:03 p.m. PST

I'd say they were on a par – both had successes and both made mistakes, each having a disaster. As I said, Simcoe and Lee were both superior when it came to the "little war".

Personal logo Bowman Supporting Member of TMP30 Dec 2017 6:07 p.m. PST

No French cav either.

Not exactly. There were French cavalry, but not in any important battle role.

For instance, Bougainville had cavalry with him as he showed up late at the Plains of Abraham. He decided not to engage Townshend's British and retreated to Montreal.

A year later, Levis employed up to 200 "militia cavalry" at St. Foy. We can assume that some were the same troops of Bougainville, from Montreal. Once again, it seems that the cavalry didn't take part in the battle.

nevinsrip Sponsoring Member of TMP30 Dec 2017 11:27 p.m. PST

Bren, How can they be on par when one clearly outperformed the other in their only head to head meeting?

Supercilius Maximus31 Dec 2017 5:50 a.m. PST

It wasn't their only head-to-head meeting – that's the point. They actually clashed several times, and Tarleton destroyed Washington's command on one occasion, too. It's only Wiki, but check this out:-

link

Bill N31 Dec 2017 8:57 a.m. PST

Did Tarleton beat Washington at Monck's Corner or did he beat the American commander Huger? Did Tarleton beat Washington at Leneud's Ferry or did he beat the American commander White? And do those count, given that in both cases Tarleton surprised the American forces? On the other side did Washington really beat Tarleton at Cowpens, or did Morgan beat Tarleton and Washington helped? All of these are debatable.

I don't agree that Lee was necessarily more dependable than Washington in petite guerre. Lee did engage in it more often, but Washington did some and was successful at it.

My vote for the AWI action with the most horse involved on both sides would be Gloucester.

historygamer01 Jan 2018 6:09 a.m. PST

There were no French cavalry units in the F&I war. There was a fancifully dressed Canadian militia unit that achieved nothing of significance. It was used as scouts (not sure how effective) and messengers. A previous poster already noted the VA provincial unit and this Canadian one. It was even less a cavalry war than the AWI period.

historygamer01 Jan 2018 6:22 a.m. PST

In the Canadian unit's defense they were just well dressed militia.

The VA unit was of no account at Braddock's defeat though they served well enough on the frontier as mobile infantry.

Personal logo Bowman Supporting Member of TMP03 Jan 2018 7:51 a.m. PST

There were no French cavalry units in the F&I war.

That line contradicts the rest of what you wrote. Which I agree with, totally. Even shoddily trained militia dragoons are cavalry. Not good cavalry, but they are cavalry.

It's a moot point anyways. I have a very small French unit painted up simply for "what if" battles for Plains of Abraham and St. Foy. But technically, they played no part of any of the conflicts, as far as I know.

I agree with the scouts comment too. Certainly the Indians were much better in this regard.

historygamer03 Jan 2018 9:48 a.m. PST

There were no French cavalry in the F&I War. I do not consider Canadian units to be French, nor did the French regulars. Same for American provincial units – they were not British. The regular officers of both armies would agree wholeheartedly with my statement. :-)

In regards to the American Indians, they were iffy scouts at best. For both sides, getting them to do anything was like herding cats.

DaleWill Supporting Member of TMP03 Jan 2018 9:51 a.m. PST

Son of MOOG-
"At the 2nd battle of Sackett's Harbor (also in 1813) the US Army detachments defending the town and shipyards were comprised of some regular infantry units but a large portion were 1st US Dragoon Regiment, both mounted and dismounted."

While doing research into Sackett's, I found that about 300 cavalry where sent from the harbor to Utica in the weeks before the battle because there wasn't enough provisions for them. An interesting 'What if.." if they were present for the battle.

Personal logo Bowman Supporting Member of TMP09 Jan 2018 7:29 a.m. PST

There were no French cavalry in the F&I War. I do not consider Canadian units to be French, nor did the French regulars.

I didn't know we were discussing birth certificates. I thought we could assume we meant, "on the French side".

historygamer09 Jan 2018 8:45 a.m. PST

You know what they say about assuming…. :-)

spontoon10 Jan 2018 11:31 a.m. PST

Having lost Culloden as the British player to the Jacobite cavalry; I can attest that ANY cavalry behind you is terrific cavalry!

42flanker10 Jan 2018 3:39 p.m. PST

Ouch. There is no such thing as being slightly screwed

Brechtel19812 Jan 2018 9:05 a.m. PST

Arguably is very much the word here – provided you ignore all his failures.

That's why I used the term 'arguably.' That generally means that the subject can be discussed and argued.

…It's only Wiki…

Not a reliable source…

There are good sources on Washington, two of which I can think of off hand: William Washington American Light Dragoon by Daniel Murphy and William Washington Cavalryman of the Revolution by Stephen Haller. Both have excellent information in them and do make the case for Washington's ability as a cavalry commander.

…provided you ignore all his failures. Washington was beaten by Tarleton at both Bee's Plantation and Routledge's Plantation, and his command was almost destroyed at Monck's Corner, forcing the amalgamation with the 1st CLD (the newly-combined unit subsequently losing an engagement at Lenud's Corner).

Washington didn't command at either Monck's Corner or Lenud's Corner. Further, Tarleton's entire command was destroyed at Cowpens, so much so that his Legion's infantry was not reformed after the action.

At Hobkirk's Hill, his failure to execute a flanking manoeuvre led to Greene losing a battle he should have won, and at Eutaw, it was his miscalculation in either riding too close to a piece of dense woodland, or actually charging into it (depending on whose version of events you believe – both show a lack of competence) that again led to him losing many men unnecessarily, and his own wounding and capture.


Washington led successful cavalry actions at Cowpens and Guilford Courthouse, and the reason that Greene lost at Hobkirk's Hill was that the veteran 1st Maryland flinched in what should have been the decisive attack of the day. Washington commanded capably at both Hobkirk's Hill and Eutaw Springs.

After Guilford Courthouse, Tarleton was only a minor noise in the Carolinas and Lee was not a good battlefield cavalry commander. His actions at Guilford Courthouse left his attached rifle company abandoned on the field, and they successfully retired from the field because of the actions of their commander, regardless of Lee's failures.

That said, he also made a timely charge at Guilford and had some successes in minor engagements against Tarleton and (it has to be pointed out) considerably lesser opponents, and is credited with rebuilding the 3rd CLD after the Tappan incident.
Whilst Cornwallis would later remark that "there could be no more formidable antagonist in a charge, at the head of his cavalry, than Colonel William Washington" such an epithet puts him no more than on a par with Tarleton. In fact, I would suggest that his impetuosity possibly makes him the American equivalent of Tarleton. Simcoe and Lee were generally more dependable and adept at the less glamorous, but often much more important elements of the petite guerre/kleine krieg than Washington.

Cornwallis remark was right on the money and clearly demonstrates Washington's superiority to Tarleton as a cavalry commander.

Washington also performed superbly in the Race to the Dan, as did Lee, and Washington also demonstrated that he could command a force of both cavalry and infantry at Guilford Courthouse, where his dragoons were brigaded with Kirkwood's light infantry and a company of riflemen.

Washington's timely charge in support of the 1st Maryland at Guilford Courthouse was a definite factor in the defeat and mauling of the 2d Battalion of Guards and it was Washington's cavalry, who charged and rode through the Guards at least twice, that was the target for Cornwallis' directed artillery fire.

historygamer12 Jan 2018 9:11 a.m. PST

"…. that was the target for Cornwallis' directed artillery fire."

I hope you are not referring to the myth that Cornwallis fired on his own troops. That was debunked.

Brechtel19812 Jan 2018 12:14 p.m. PST

…A long time ago.

There was British artillery fire, but it was most probably directed at Washington's cavalry.

In short, the artillery fire was not indiscriminate, but specifically targeted.

From Long, Obstinate, and Bloody: The Battle of Guilford Courthouse by Lawrence Babits and Joshua Howard, 161:

'…the enemy's cavalry was soon repulsed by a well-directed fire from two 3-pounders just brought up by Lieutenant Macleod…'-Lord Charles Cornwallis.

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