May 2, 2008
Dragoons were mounted infantrymen, their designation originating from the French dragon, the large-bore, and therefore close-work, fire-belching short musket—the Uzi of the Baroque Age, a special weapon that came into its own for a small force committed to hanging on for a brief period, if it was to be useful at all. With different emphases, they fought from war to war, hitting hard at a distance, and being professional enough to do so as a matter of essential routine. A heavily armored man who has lost his horse is vulnerable; light cavalry may not have the strength for nasty impact. The point of the dragoon was that he was at his deadliest when dismounted, to seize a bridgehead, to push across a ford. Akin to today’s airborne forces, dragoons struck fast, forcefully, and deep—expecting rapid backup if they were to succeed or being positioned at the flank of an army, flexibly employing their weapons against infantry and cavalry alike.