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Maryland Light Dragoons - Who are we

 

The War of 1812 Maryland Light Dragoons is a living history unit just completing its early stages of development. Currently (March 2007, nearly four years into the start of unit) there are about a dozen members (all riders/drovers and most of them with horse), collectively performing historical, safety and period uniform research and portraying an 1812 cavalry unit (and civilian support/visitors) in the northern Chesapeake region since August 2003. The group has selected to represent a typical Maryland Militia cavalry unit of summer and fall, 1814...the height of the British Chesapeake Campaign of the War of 1812 which culminated in the successful defense of Baltimore in September. There were over four dozen troops of Maryland horse, each authorized to 48 mounted men but perhaps averaging 40 horsemen, for a total of close to 2000 Maryland militia cavalrymen in 1814. Maryland termed their horse militia "light dragoons". In Europe, this would typically denote more agile, smaller horses, but with heavily armed riders often capable of fighting afoot, and traditionally with a dragoon-style leather helmet. However, in the United States, light dragoons was more a generic term for light, mobile, scouting cavalry, as compared to medium or heavy cavalry optimized, equipped and trained for an opposed charge (present in Europe, but not in North America at the time in troop or squadron numbers. (See section in this website under 'other cavalry unit history' for 6th Inniskillings, a heavy dragoon unit that served as couriers for the later portion of the Chesapeake Campaign).

 

Our research indicates that by September 1814 some of the MdLD cavalry troops were in helmets (many were in easier-to-obtain shakos, probably mostly of leather) and they were armed with pistols (vice the more typical carbine of European light dragoons of this period). The curved light dragoon sword was the primary weapon in both Europe and in North America. We of MdLd-recreated have selected to be able to shift headgear (helmet/shako) to be able to portray most Maryland Light Dragoon units accurately depending on the commemorative events we are assisting with and what MdLD units were in action or in the region, scouting, of the particular action. We have information from a surviving original Maryland Light Dragoon jacket and several period and primary sources (text and pictoral...see sources portions of this website). Whereas the British, French and some other European light dragoons had brought the art of light cavalry to a high state of professionalism (see "Diary of a Cavalry Officer" in the sources section), the Maryland Militia light dragoons were a part-time and volunteer force, useful for scouting and rapid redeployment, but limited in their combat expertise. They were unopposed by enemy cavalry... the British were landing numerous raiding parties consisting typically of Royal Navy seamen and Royal Marines (a dozen to several hundred men). Then in August and September of 1814, General Ross of the British Army led a significant force of nearly 5000 men (Army, Navy and Marines, with artillery and rockets) to take and burn Washington DC and then challenge Baltimore.

 

The Maryland Militia Light Dragoons did perform a couple charges against infantry during the campaign (elements of the 1st at Defense of Baltimore and 8th/Wilson's at Caulk's Field). The MdLD living history unit is sponsored by Hancock's Resolution (and operating the 501c3 umbrella of Friends of Hancock's Resolution), a historical site near Baltimore

 

We also have impressions of British 16th Light Dragoons in the Pennisular War, 15th Hussars and 6th Inniskillings (heavy cavalry).

 

We are always recruiting new member, preferably young and fit male riders with suitable horse and fiscal ability to outfit in period garb (but all ages, either sex, cultural background, any health or wealth can aid, we have two "convertible dragoons," and we intend to also portray dismounted cavalry and townspeople with a horse/transport bent, including sidesaddle and wagon) are most welcome. See additional information in the 'recruitment' section of this website.