Monday 31 July 2023

Dragoons and Dragoon Operations in the British Civil Wars 1638-1653

Dragoons and Dragoon Operations in the British Civil Wars, 1638-1653’ by Andrew Abram is one of offerings from Helion in their Century of the Soldier series. It is also number 99 in the series and to be honest it of the doesn’t seem two minutes since the first book in this prolific series appeared in print. Apologies for yet another book review but I’m still away from home so no games or even painting to report upon just yet but back home on 15 August and that’s where I’m staying until next year!

The book’s sub title could very well be along the lines of ‘everything you ever wanted to know about dragoons but didn’t ask’. This quite weighty book provides the reader with a comprehensive description of every aspect of what being a dragoon meant and entailed in the British Civil Wars. They were said to be ‘jacks of all trades’ but in truth many units were masters of many, such as combined arms tactics and specialist operations.

The first half or thereabouts of the book provides us with a comprehensive description of the origins and roles of dragoons, tactics ( including the aforementioned specialist operations, their organisation, pay and other benefits, clothing, equipment, standards and everything to do with horses, their care and feeding and horse harness. I found the latter area of discussion provided an especially interesting insight given the importance of horses to their role on the battlefield and on campaign.

The second half investigates the dragoons in action, with the Oxford army, that of the Earl of Essex, the Eastern Association and the New Model Army. These provide a detailed understanding of their role and operations. There were some very good units, often recruited from veterans of Continental warfare, and very many poorly led ones, especially in the early days of the wars.

The book is well written and an engaging read, and furthermore is really interesting, insofar that I lost myself in it for several hours when reading it for this review. The narrative is supported by a wide range of illustrations and several tables. Some are contemporary images, others photographs of present-day historic locations that feature in the text.

I am not aware, and stand to be corrected, of any other authors who have written such a detailed account of this rather overlooked subject; traditional views often hold dragoons in some level of contempt when compared to the more dashing cavalrymen, but it’s all very ‘apples and pears’. Prince Rupert among many commanders understood and utilised their unique skills both on and off the battlefield, and having read this book I am now much more appreciative of the importance dragoons played in the Civil Wars. This is yet another book worthy of a place on my groaning bookshelves.

ISBN 978-1-804511-95-4. 334 pages, softback

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