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Regiment of Light Dragoons (United States)

The Regiment of Light Dragoons was a unit of the U.S. Army in the early nineteenth century. It was first activated in 1808. During the War of 1812, it was temporarily designated as the 1st Regiment of Light Dragoons when the War Department created an additional similar regiment. On May 12, 1814, the additional regiment was consolidated with the 1st Regiment, which reverted to its unnumbered designation. The regiment was consolidated with the Corps of Artillery on May 17, 1815.

Regiment of Light Dragoons
Active1808 — 1815
DisbandedMay 17, 1815
Country United States
Branch United States Army
CampaignsWar of 1812
CommandersWade Hampton (1808-1809)
Leonard Covington (1809-1813)
Jacint Laval (1813-1814)
James Burn (1814-1815)



On April 12, 1808, following the ChesapeakeLeopard Affair, the U.S. Congress passed legislation authorizing an increase in the size of the U.S. Army, to include a regiment of dragoons.[1][2]


The Regiment of Light Dragoons was authorized on April 12, 1808 under an Act of Congress of the same date. It consisted of a regimental headquarters and eight troops. The regiment was never completely organized or mounted and served as light infantry. It was re-designated the 1st Regiment of Light Dragoons since an act on January 11, 1812 created a second regiment (2nd Regiment of Light Dragoons). A further act of March 30, 1814 resulted in the two regiments being consolidated, on May 12, 1814, into one Regiment of Light Dragoons with eight troops. An act of March 3, 1815 reducing the size of the army led to the regiment being consolidated with the Corps of Artillery on May 17, 1815. Officers whose services were no longer required were discharged on June 15, 1815.[3][2]


Neither the 1st nor the 2nd Regiment were used as consolidated units during the War of 1812. Generals frequently used their assigned dragoons as escorts, couriers and scouts rather than fighting men.[4]

At the Second Battle of Sacket's Harbor May 29, 1813, Lieutenant Colonel Electus Backus rallied troops of the regiment and of other Regular Army units to counterattack a British breakthrough. The British force was defeated, but Backus was mortally wounded.[5] Backus died of his wounds on June 7.[6]

At the Battle of Bladensburg on August 24, 1814, Lieutenant Colonel Jacint Laval led 140 men of the regiment. Laval's troops were placed in support of infantrymen who later broke and ran. Many of the dragoons joined the disorderly retreat. Laval led his remaining troops in an orderly retreat toward Georgetown.[7]


  1. ^ Fredriksen p. 12
  2. ^ a b Heitman pp. 78—79
  3. ^ Elting p. 2
  4. ^ Unwin p. 49
  5. ^ Ganoe p. 131
  6. ^ Heitman pp. 179
  7. ^ Neimeyer pp. 33-36


  • Cole, David. "Survey of U.S. Army Uniforms, Weapons and Accoutrements" (PDF). Center of Military History United States Army Washington, D.C., 2013. Retrieved October 20, 2014.
  • Elting, John R. Amateurs, to Arms! A Military History of the War of 1812 (1st ed.). Chapel Hill, NC: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill. ISBN 0-945575-08-4.
  • Fredriksen, John C. (November 2000). Green Coats and Glory: The United States Regiment of Riflemen, 1808–1821 (1st ed.). Youngstown, New York: Old Fort Niagara Association, Inc. ISBN 0-941967-22-0.
  • Ganoe, William Addleman (1942). The History of The United States Army. New York, New York: D. Appleton-Century Company. Retrieved October 24, 2014.
  • Heitman, Francis B. (1903). "Historical register and dictionary of the United States Army". War Department. Retrieved October 19, 2014.
  • Neimeyer, Charles P. "The Chesapeake Campaign 1813–1814" (PDF). Center of Military History United States Army Washington, D.C., 2013. Retrieved November 15, 2014.
  • Rauch, Steven J. "The Campaign of 1812" (PDF). Center of Military History United States Army Washington, D.C., 2013. Retrieved October 20, 2014.
  • Urwin, Gregory J. W. (1983). The United States Cavalry: An Illustrated History, 1776-1944. Norman, Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma Press. Retrieved October 23, 2014.

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