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"3rd (Prince of Wales) Dragoon Guards in the Peninsular War" Topic

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Duc de Brouilly20 Oct 2019 12:01 a.m. PST

I was hoping someone could help me with the horses ridden by this regiment. In particular, the colour of the horses and whether their tails were cropped. There's some information in the Osprey Warrior Series British Cavalryman 1792 – 1815 but not on the 3rd Dragoon Guards.

Any information much appreciated.

BillyNM20 Oct 2019 2:02 a.m. PST

Have you seen this previous thread?

Personal logo Artilleryman Supporting Member of TMP20 Oct 2019 2:13 a.m. PST

The horse tails would undoubtedly have been cropped. It was the general method in Britain at the time and certainly the practice in the Army. (Wellington commented that the silhouette of a British cocked tail was more of an identification feature than the colour of the uniform.)

British heavy cavalry at the time tried to have as dark a horse colour as possible. Blacks for preference. However, on campaign this would probably have gone by the way as any suitable remount would have been used.

The other thing about horse colours is that greys were not apparently used for trumpeters unlike the practice on the Continent. (interestingly, today, trumpeters in the Household Cavalry do ride greys while those in the King's Troop RHA have 'troop-coloured' horses, i.e. chestnuts.

von Winterfeldt20 Oct 2019 3:28 a.m. PST

this might help

a pdf download link of an article by Anthony Dawson

PDF link

I found this article quite revealing a lot of details and highly usefull

ReallySameSeneffeAsBefore21 Oct 2019 9:49 a.m. PST

As regards British cavalry of the Napoleonic period vs those of the c18th- the horse after 1799 were 'nag tailed' (cut short to about one third to one hald natural length) but they were not 'docked' as in the c18th. Docking involves severing the actual tailbone itself and leaving just a stump. The Lifeguards' and Blues' horses had tails of full natural length. The light cavalry had had nag tailed horses since just after the SYW. Army order of 10 August 1799- quoted in Brereton- History of the 4/7th Dragoon Guards 1980.

Also in the 1799 Army Order, in recognition of changes in breeding practise in the previous few decades making black horses much harder to obtain, the regulation colour of the horses was changed. Only the 1st King's Dragoon Guards, 1st Royal Dragoons, and 3rd King's Own Dragoons, along with the Lifeguards and Blues, were to retain black horses. The Greys of course kept their famous mounts.
But for the rest- "All the other Regiments of Heavy Cavalry on the British Establishment are to be mounted on nag-tail'd horses of the Colours of Bay, Brown and Chestnut." The 2nd DG (Queens Bays) already had these by tradition of course.

The old black horses took a while to leave the ranks completely but by the time of the Peninsular War- I think all would be gone.

So for the 3rd DG in the Peninsula- brown, bay and chestnut horses with short (but not completely cut) tails.

Duc de Brouilly21 Oct 2019 2:17 p.m. PST

Thank you all for your informative an interesting posts.

I think I will be going for bay horses with cropped (or nag) tails. Most interested to read Artilleryman's point about the trumpeters being mounted on troop coloured horses, rather than greys. I didn't know this before but that is how I will paint the trumpeter's house.

Again, many thanks to you all; much appreciated.

4th Cuirassier22 Oct 2019 12:10 p.m. PST

@ Seneffe
The Lifeguards' and Blues' horses had tails of full natural length.
Are you sure?
A horse's tail naturally comes down almost to the ground. This Denis Dighton painting shows one about half that length and one docked:


Genty shows this Life Guards guidon bearer apparently on a grey (although it could be a blue roan) with a shortened tail:

I've no dog in the fight, I just have some 20mm Household cavalry to paint at some point :-)

ReallySameSeneffeAsBefore22 Oct 2019 3:27 p.m. PST

Very interesting and a good spot.

It's certainly in the regulation for both the Lifeguards and Blues.

I've just had a quick check of some hard copy books and prints and found three contemp illustrations of the Lifeguards post-1796 (portraits of Capt Chalon and Quartermaster Ransome, and an Atkinson print of a trooper), all with natural long tails falling below the hock of the back leg.

But- I haven't actually found any of the Blues with long tails- and in fact I've found one contemp illustration that looks like about 1813, with a nag tail like the Dighton painting. Only a quick whizz through some of my books and prints though.

So maybe, although the regulation applied to both Lifeguards and Blues- the latter didn't implement it for some reason.

Separate point- I also quickly turned up three contemp illustrations of Napoleonic British cavalry musicians mounted on greys- Lifeguards (not clear which regt), 4th Dragoons (who also retained their tradition of recruiting black soldiers as musicians till at least the 1820s), and 17th Light Dragoons. I'm sure I could find others- so that regulations too seems to have been honoured somewhat in the breach.

4th Cuirassier22 Oct 2019 4:06 p.m. PST

The uncertainty is either annoying or liberating :-)

For me the main thing is, I am NOT going through the faff of trimming the tails off metal horses until / unless I absolutely have to :-)

This for example is a fairly normal tail length and you can see why this wouldn't work for a troop horse – that's got to be some seriously high maintenance:


dibble22 Oct 2019 7:01 p.m. PST

It seems that commanding Officers kept the tails of their mounts long (Probably as an aid to recognition).

I did post this picture of the Scots Greys on manoeuvres some months ago

When I have the time I will post more contemporary Pictures.

dibble22 Oct 2019 10:11 p.m. PST

Right! Here are some of those pictures I promised, which are part of my archive. I had posted similar sets over on Armchair General a few years ago but these are the re-edited versions. And believe me when I say I have a lot more in a similar vien


dibble22 Oct 2019 10:17 p.m. PST

von Winterfeldt22 Oct 2019 10:21 p.m. PST

thank you very much for all those interesting immages

dibble22 Oct 2019 10:21 p.m. PST

END PS Sorry about the repeats

von Winterfeldt23 Oct 2019 1:10 a.m. PST

you should publish a book with all those wonderful contemporary pictures and comment them

ReallySameSeneffeAsBefore23 Oct 2019 1:26 p.m. PST

Thanks Dibble. Fantastic, and fantastically inconclusive (I mean that in a very good way) source material. That is a really good library of contemp illustrations. I'll see if I can scan the hard copies of the LGs I referenced above.

I think the chaps billed as the Scots Greys are more likely a Fencible or other volunteer cavalry unit- or maybe Yeomanry or LDs with the print just miscoloured from an original sketch. They appear to be wearing Tarleton helmets so unlikely to be the Greys, despite the apparent colour of their mounts.

Absolutely excellent post- many thanks.

dibble23 Oct 2019 4:58 p.m. PST

They are Scots Greys, Painted by Thomas Rowlandson. Or rather in pen, ink and watercolour.

PS. I know from experience the frustration pertaining to the British Army of the period so I do my best to be accurate with what I post.

Because the picture depicts the Greys unusually I admit in Tarleton caps, it would not surprise me that the issue of such head-dress went unrecorded especially in the late 1700s which this depiction of the regiment clearly is of. The chop and change of issued uniform styles within the cavalry arm made this point in time (1780-1805) the most confusing of all

4th Cuirassier24 Oct 2019 12:04 a.m. PST

The Tarleton appears to have been almost the "default" headgear at times. Not only did light dragoons wear it, but so too did the yeomanry, a number of foot volunteer units, and even garrison artillery. I wouldn't be at all surprised to find the RNBD doing so. Were they always dragoons or were they ever light dragoons?

42flanker24 Oct 2019 4:13 a.m. PST

Traditionally, the 2nd (Royal North British) Regiment of Dragoons had been 'awarded' grenadier caps after the battle of Ramillies in 1706 with the earliest evidence for these coming from an illustration in the 1742 'Cloathing Book.' They were authorised to wear bearskin grenadier caps from 1768 but appear not to have adopted these till circa 1777. Stationed in England from 1795 until 1814 there seems no reason why they should not have been fully uniformed according to regulation.

It might be argued that two types of head dress would have represented a an unwarranted expense; the laying aside of the distinctive caps regarded as the unwelcome loss of an honorary distinction. There are indications that senior officers wore cocked hats when standing orders did not require the grenadier head dress, otherwise all evidence suggests that the grenadier cap in its various forms was the regulation headdress of the 2nd RNB/ Royal Scots Greys until the suspension of Full Dress in 1914.

The Number '2' and the colour of the mounts clearly indicate that the Scots Greys are the intended subject of the Rowlandson watercolour.

Whether this was drawn from life, was worked up from a mixture of imagination and imperfect information (confusion of fur crests/fur caps?) or perhaps related to a projected change of uniform before the introduction of the heavy dragoon helmet circa 1812, it's difficult to say. The 'clubbed' queue visible on the necks of the men in theory date the image to 1808 or earlier. The overall trousers would not date from much earlier than that.

All in all, intriguing.

ReallySameSeneffeAsBefore24 Oct 2019 1:06 p.m. PST

I'm really pretty sure that the print does not actually represent the Scots Greys- although Rowlandson may well have titled the print thus. He was very talented but not a military artist, being best known for his political and social satire. I strongly suspect that he just coloured, for the general market, a very nice pen and ink drawing of some other cavalry- LDs, Yeomanry or Fencibles, added a crude '2' on the holster caps (which was never AFAIK seen on the Regiment's actual appointments) and sold it to some undiscriminating publisher as representing the Scots Greys.

The belting is also that of the 1790s Light Dragoons. Hard to be sure- but I think the original pen and ink shows short boots- coloured over in this print to look like overalls.

As indicated above, whatever numerous variations of headgear were worn by the British cavalry in the rather laissez faire 1790s and early 1800s- one variation I have never seen any illustration of or seen any reference to- in nearer fifty years of interest than forty- is heavy cavalry in Tarletons, and certainly not the Greys.

PS- I believe the famous Wheatley painting 'the encampment at Brighton' actually shows the 16th LD rather than the 15th. Both had scarlet facings with white/silver lace- but I think that's the Queen's cypher on the schabraque.

dibble24 Oct 2019 2:36 p.m. PST

Right. I have shown through contemporary pictures that De bosset and Hamilton-Smith were incorrect Re: British distinctions of several regiments that have been repeated over and over ever since. Would the Greys wear their expensive bearskins even on exercise or fatigue duties? is it clear that Buff faced regiments wore buff leather?

Ever seen a contemporary picture of a Greys trumpeter? I posted a contemporary, naive painting of an 1815 picture of a night encampment picture which depicts a trumpeter's head leaning on his arm which shows the chevrons on the arm, which I posted here some years ago

You know what! I think I should start another thread posting (almost) everything I have edited on the contemporary illustrations pertaining subject of the British army, regular, militia/yeomanry and Volunteers.


42flanker24 Oct 2019 10:23 p.m. PST

"Would the Greys wear their expensive bearskins even on exercise or fatigue duties?"

I wondered about that possibility but then surely they would wear the forage cap, provided for that purpose- or even a plain dragoon cocked hat, if we allow ourselves to speculate that far.

The Tarleton was an expensive full dress item in itself and as has been pointed out, while eminently more practical cavalry headgear than a tall bearskin, it was a light cavalry item and so non-regulation headgear on two counts.

"I think I should start another thread posting (almost) everything I have edited on the contemporary illustrations pertaining subject of the British army, regular, militia/yeomanry and Volunteers."


dibble25 Oct 2019 1:34 p.m. PST

All the same, many people assume and run with that assumption where evidence is lacking. I keep an open mind.

I have many, many contemporary pictures that have no information attached to them. They may seem to be of a certain unit but if I have no way of finding hard evidence to what the picture pertains to, It stays firmly in my 'unknown' files.

I have read many, many accounts from scant to detailed of Yeomanry and Volunteer units of the era, I have yet to read of a cavalry unit other than the 2nd Royal Scots Dragoons who were mounted on greys exclusively. If anyone has such documented evidence (of such a wealthy unit) I would be only too happy if they would share it with me. it would be fascinating indeed.

ReallySameSeneffeAsBefore25 Oct 2019 1:38 p.m. PST

I agree- I've never come across any mention of any British Cavalry unit mounted exclusively on grey horses except for the then 2nd Dragoons either. But I'm not sure that's really the point here. I think that it's pretty obviously a lightly colourised print of a pen and ink drawing (as you say)- with everything about the style of the uniform, horse furniture and equipment saying 'light cavalry'. It's just been colourised with red coat and grey horses, and had a single large '2' added (quite unlike anything I've ever seen) to the horse furniture of one figure.
As we know, the late c18th/early c19th was a period of significant deviation from regulation uniform- so it is possible that the print really does represent the Greys in a previously undocumented light cavalry style uniform. But on the whole I think it's much more likely to be a lazy knock-off by a gifted but definitely non-specialist journeyman illustrator who produced prints by the hundred on a wide range of subjects and for customers including the equivalent of today's tabloid press.

Dibble, I think you've amassed a really excellent store of images which is of great value and saves a huge amount of effort for others to track down. I certainly think you should publish such a thread as you suggest, and I'll read it with great interest.

Thanks for posting good material.

dibble25 Oct 2019 2:57 p.m. PST

I'll start a thread tomorrow as I have the weekend to myself. It will be in the same vein as the last that I posted on Armchair General in 2016 but updated, corrected and added to. I will also post the Marcaude post-1815 schematics too, which may be of interest to some. I will have a few hundred posts to do, almost all containing two or more pictures. I will also include volunteer units, extant uniform photos and repost the regimental schematics that I produced which I posted before along with the charts of De Bossett, Hamilton Williams etc. god knows how many postings it will take but hopefully I'll get it right.

At least having a thread here on this site will mean I will be able to update it from time-to-time

PS. There will be some East-Indies theatre pictures too.

von Winterfeldt25 Oct 2019 10:49 p.m. PST

please read the article of Dawson, you will see the the Scotch Greys had also other than grey horses

42flanker26 Oct 2019 1:52 a.m. PST

"Royal Scots Greys"

Re. deviation from wearing the grenadier cap in the 2nd Royal North British Dragoons

Entries in orderly books from the 1750s onwards have references to cocked hats worn on parade. The earliest from 1759 reads:
"22 January.—A stiver to be stopped from each man for having his hatt cocked, which the Major hopes the regiment won't be against paying, as it is for their own advantage."

The latest reference to cocked hats I noted was from 1786:
"Glocester, 13th May The Parade to morrow for divine Service is at Eleven oclock. The men to appear in Second Cloathing and in New Hats. Every man to be answerable for his present Hat—which is not to be given away or Disposed of till further order. The officers will be Particularly attentive at their Troop parades to see that the Men wear their Hats agreeable to the following Directions—The first Loop to be Exactly in a Line with the Nose—and the Hat worn as low upon the Brow as Possible."

There is one reference to 'second Granadier caps' and the two successive entries indicate the difficulty of doing full justice to the regiment's distinctive headgear when performing drills:

"Stamford, 24th April 1789. The Troops to march to the feild at 9 oclock tomorrow with the same number of Cartridges as on Wednesday. The Standard to be out. Men to be in their second Granadier Caps, which must be fixed in such manner as to keep firm on the Head During Every part of the Exercise and this the Officers will exemine into before they leave the Parade.

Stamford, 26th April 1789. The Colonel will give Half a Guinea to any Serjeant, Corporal, or Dragoon; who shall contrive the best Method of fixing on the Grenadier Caps, and easiest for the Men, so as in all Situations to prevent them falling off."

Finally, with more direct bearing on the details of the Rowlandson print, in a report on a review of the regiment by George III on Ashford Common, September 24th, 1801 Major-Gen. Cartwright noted: "In marching order the men wear their fur caps—the horse cloth is placed on the saddle, cloak before water deck over saddle bags…no overalls are in use in the regiment."

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