British ARMY soldier-saint ,Gujerat, India 1817

A dargah for a British army officer from the Raj

Peter Nazareth, TNN Mar 24, 2013, 02.25AM IST
(The dargah of the soldier-saint…)






 

                                                                        India, 1810
 

RATANPUR VILLAGE (KHEDA): When villagers in Kheda get trapped in debt or want their children to do well in studies, they travel to the Colonel-Shah Pir. This is perhaps the only dargah of its kind in Gujarat which is dedicated to a British army officer from the Raj.
Lieutenant Colonel William Carden of the 17th Regiment of Light Dragoons had died here in November 1817. But his legacy as a kind of Robin Hood of the time has survived almost 200 years after his death. Interestingly, both Hindus and Muslims revere this soldier-saint who helped the people during famines and epidemics and also gangs of Pindari robbers.
"He would give away government money to help the poor and fought for exploited people against the rulers of the time," says Dashrath Chauhan, who owns a field near the hillock in Ratanpur village, 3 km from Kheda, where the tomb stands.
"All our wishes are granted here," says Sanjay Jhala, another farmer who lives nearby. "The Muslims offer boiled eggs and cigarettes, some offer English liquor (IMFL). Hindus, generally, offer stuffed toy horses if a wish is fulfilled."
"The period from 1808 to 1820 saw political instability as the Maratha empire was waning. Famines and outbreaks of cholera and other diseases were common. It is likely that Carden was a compassionate officer," says historian Rizwan Kadri.
According to Irish genealogical records, Carden was born in 1768. He may have had a spiritual outlook as he was the son of reverend Richard Carden. He graduated from Trinity College, Dublin University, in 1789 with a bachelor's degree in arts.
He may have been just a soldier with big heart, but the local villagers have turned him into a patron saint. "When he died, he came back as a ghost to help the people, as he thought he hadn't done enough. Occasionally people claim to have seen him on a splendid white horse. As he used government money to help others, the government had his spirit bottled up by a witchdoctor and buried it in the tomb," says Haji Malek, a shepherd at Ratanpur, who learnt of the stories from elders and neighbours.

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William Carden1

M, #362983, b. circa 1725, d. 1766

Last Edited=13 Sep 2009
     William Carden was born circa 1725.1 He was the son of William Carden and Gertrude Warburton.2 He married Anne (?).1 He died in 1766, without issue.1

Citations

  1. [S47] Hugh Montgomery-Massingberd, editor, Burke's Irish Family Records (London, U.K.: Burkes Peerage Ltd, 1976), page 208. Hereinafter cited as Burke's Irish Family Records.
  2. [S47] Hugh Montgomery-Massingberd, Burke's Irish Family Records.

Anne (?)1

F, #362984

Last Edited=11 Jun 2009
     Anne (?) married William Carden, son of William Carden and Gertrude Warburton.1
      Her married name became Carden.

Citations

  1. [S47] Hugh Montgomery-Massingberd, editor, Burke's Irish Family Records (London, U.K.: Burkes Peerage Ltd, 1976), page 208. Hereinafter cited as Burke's Irish Family Records.

Reverend Richard Warburton Carden1

M, #362985, b. circa 1730, d. 1788

Last Edited=13 Sep 2009
     Reverend Richard Warburton Carden was born circa 1730.1 He was the son of William Carden and Gertrude Warburton.2 He married Alicia Hoey.1 He died in 1788.1

Children of Reverend Richard Warburton Carden and Alicia Hoey


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John Carden 2
     John Carden was born in 1720. He was the son of John Carden and Rebecca Minchin.3 He married Elizabeth Craven, daughter of Reverend Robert Craven and Rose Otway, in 1747.1 He died in 1774.1 His will was probated in 1774.4
     His last will was dated 10 December 1766.
     He also had a younger son, and seven daughters.1

     Minchin Carden was born in 1722.3 He was the son of John Carden and Rebecca Minchin.2 He married Lucy Lockwood, daughter of Richard Lockwood, on 23 February 1749.3 He died in 1785.3
     He lived at Fishmoyne, County Tipperary, Ireland.1 He was ancestor of Richard George Carden, of Fishmoyne.1

Children of Minchin Carden and Lucy Lockwood

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 Ratanpur google map

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Who were the PINDARIS ?

historically, an irregular horseman, plunderer, or forager attached to a Muslim army in India who was allowed to plunder in lieu of pay. The name is Marāhi and probably derives from two words, meaning “bundle of grass” and “who takes.”
The Pindaris followed the Marāhā bands who raided Mughal territory from the late 17th century. With the collapse of the Mughal empire in the 18th century, these camp followers organized themselves into groups, each usually attached to one of the leading Marāhā chiefs. But as those chiefs themselves grew weak at the end of the century, the Pindaris became largely a law unto themselves and conducted raids from hideouts in central India. The majority of their leaders were Muslims, but they recruited from all classes.
After the regular forces of the Marāhās had been broken up by the British in the campaigns of 1803–04, the Pindaris made their headquarters in Mālwa, under the tacit protection of the rulers of Gwalior and Indore. They usually assembled in November to set forth over British-held territory in search of plunder. In one such raid on the Masulipatam coast, they plundered 339 villages, killing and wounding 682 persons, torturing 3,600 others, and carrying off much valuable property. In 1808–09 they plundered Gujarāt, and in 1812, Mirzāpur. In 1814 they numbered between 25,000 and 30,000 horsemen, half of them well armed.
At last their practices became intolerable, and in 1816 the British organized the campaign known as the Pindari War (1817–18). The Pindaris were surrounded by an army of about 120,000 men, which converged upon them from Bengal, the Deccan, and Gujarāt under the supreme command of the governor-general Warren Hastings. The Pindaris' protectors in Gwalior were overawed and signed a treaty (1817) against the Pindaris. Their other allies against the British took up arms but were separately defeated. The Pindaris themselves offered little resistance; most of the leaders surrendered, and their followers dispersed.

Pindari

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:-http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pindari

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Thuggee Cult

Thuggee Cult - Top 10 Secret Societies of the World
Thuggee were organized gangs of professional assassins who traveled in groups across India for several hundred years. They were first mentioned in the Ẓiyāʾ-ud-Dīn Baranī dated around 1356. For some years, India’s British administrators had been hearing reports of large numbers of travelers disappearing on the country’s roads; but, while disturbing, such incidents were not entirely unusual for the time. It was not until the discovery of a series of eerily similar mass graves across India that the truth began to dawn. Each site was piled with the bodies of individuals ritually murdered and buried in the same meticulous fashion. In the 1830s they were targeted by William Bentinck, along with his chief captain William Henry Sleeman, for eradication. They were seemingly destroyed by this effort. Thug Behram one of the world’s most prolific serial killer headed this group in early 1800s. James Patton, an officer of East India Company in his manuscript credited him with the murder of 931 victims between 1790-1840.
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17th light dragoons

1760 Officers and Men




This is an illustration painted for J.W. Fortesque's 'History of the 17th Lancers' by J.P. Beadle providing us with a view of all ranks of the period when the 17th were just starting. This was one of the new Light Dragoon regiments to be created as such instead of the previous efforts where certain troops were selected from Dragoon regiments and converted to light dragoons.
The mounted officer in the forground is talking to the farrier who is dressed completely differently to the rest of the men. He wears black clothes with white cuffs and trim. At his left side hangs an axe and rolled up apron. The axe is to kill lame horses. Farriers can be seen in the present day Household Cavalry in dark blue coats carrying axes. But a farrier's main function was to shoe horses. He also wears a fur cap with a horse-shoe badge in front, the traditional sign of a farrier.
Behind the officer is the trumpeter dressed differently again, this time in reversed colours ie. white coat,red facings instead of red coat, white facings. His hat could be mistaken for a pirate captain's hat, a bicorn with skull and crossbones badge (or motto) on it. This badge has been worn from the beginning up to the present day. It is not without precedent as it was used by German hussars at about this time (the 5th or Totenkopf Hussars). The regiment was raised by Colonel John Hale who served with Wolfe in Quebec. He was greatly affected by the death of Wolfe and decided to use the deaths head as the badge of his new regiment in memory of him. The official birth date of the regiment is 7th November 1759 when Col. Hale received his commission to raise the regiment.

Uniforms | Regimental details






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by Stephen Luscombe


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17th Light Dragoons in North America




History


HISTORICAL RECORD OF

THE SEVENTEENTH
REGIMENT OF LIGHT DRAGOONS;
LANCERS:
CONTAINING AN ACCOUNT OF
 
THE FORMATION OF THE REGIMENT
IN 1759,
 
AND OF ITS
 
SUBSEQUENT SERVICES
TO
 
1841.
 
ILLU STRATED WITH PLATES
 
LONDON:
JOHN W PARKER, WEST STRAND.

In the mid 1830's, the British Governement recognized the accomplishments of its army by authorizing the compilation and publication of a series of regimental histories.  The transcription has been adapted only to fit within the contraints of presenting it in this format.  All puncuation and spelling variations have been left as they were found.  The timeline dates placed in the book's margins have been placed seperately within the body of the text.  The page numbers of the original book have been placed in bold type.  We hope the reader will not find these modifications too distracting.
 
1759
The institution of entire regiments of Light Cavalry, as part of the standing army of Great Britain, in the spring of 1759, was attended with such signal success, that, after the formation of the two splendid corps of Eliott and Burgoyne, which were numbered the Fifteenth and Sixteenth, King George II. was induced to carry the plan to a still greater extent, and to augment the Light Dragoon establishment with five additional regiments, which were numbered the Seventeenth, Eighteenth, Nineteenth, Twentieth, and Twenty-first Light Dragoons. The first of these additional corps was raised in Scotland by Lord

page 10
 1759
 Aberdour; it never consisted of more than two troops, and was disbanded at the termination of the seven years' war, in 1763.   The second was embodied in Hertfordshire, under the superintendence of Lieut.-Colonel John Hale,   from the Forty seventh Foot, an officer who had served with credit in Europe and America, and who was the bearer of the public despatches announcing the victory at Quebec on the 13th of September, 1759, and the fall of  the brave Major-General JAMES WOLFE,   a name which will be ever recorded among the heroes of the British army.
 This corps was numbered the EIGHTEENTH Light Dragoons; but after the reduction of Lord Aberdour's regiment it obtained rank as  Seventeenth, and, now bears the title of the "SEVENTEENTH LANCERS."    Its first rendezvous was at Watford and Rickmansworth, and it consisted of four troops. The first troop was raised by Captain Franklin Kirby, from Lientenant (sic) in the Fifth Foot; the second by Captain Samuel Birch, from Lieutenant in the Eleventh Dragoons; the third by Captain Martin Basil*, from Lieutenant in Eliott's
* Captain BASIL exchanged to the Fifteenth Light Dragoons5, and was killed at Emsdorf on  the 16th of July, 1760.

page 11
1759
Light Horse; and the fourth by Captain Edward Lascelles, from Cornet in the Royal Horse Guards.
Of this corps, Lieut.-Colonel JOHN HALE, whose merits had procured for him the favour of his sovereign, was appointed Lieut.-Colonel Commandant, by commission dated the 7th of November, I 759; and purposing that his regiment should consist of men of decided character, who would emulate the glorious example of the heroic WOLFE,  whose gallant conduct the Colonel had witnessed, he procured His Majesty's authority for his regiment to bear on its standards and appointments the "Death's Head," with the motto, "Or Glory," which it has continued to bear to the present time.
 The zeal of the officers, with the popular feeling of interest, which existed in England at this period, and particularly in London and the southern counties, in favour of light cavalry, occasioned the regiment to be speedily completed with men and horses, and, in the beginning of December, it marched to Warwick and Stratford upon Avon, and soon afterwards to Coventry, where it was augmented to six troops.
 In January, 1760, the following officers were 1760 holding commissions in the regiment-

page 12
1760                      Lieut.-Colonel Commandant, JOHN HALE
                                 Major, JOHN BLAQUIERE
           Captains                       Lieutenants                        Cornets.     

    Franklin Kirby                      Thomas Lea                     Rob. Archdall
    Samuel Birch                        William Green                   - Bishopp
    Martin Basil                          Joseph Hall                       - Stopford
    Edward Lascelles                  -  Wallop                         Henry Crofton
    John Burton                          -  Cope                            Jos. Moxham
    Samuel Townehend              Y. Peyton                         Daniel Brown
              Adjutant, Richard Westbury, -~Surgeon, John Francis.

   Ten months after the authority for its formation was issued, the regiment was directed to march to Berwick, and place itself under the orders of the Commander-in-Chief in North Britain; it arrived in Scotland in October, and was stationed in that part of the United Kingdom during the following three years.
1761 
In the spring of 1761 the regiment sent a draft of fifty men and horses to Germany, to serve under Lieut.-General the Marquis of Granby, and the
1762
Prince Ferdinand of Brunswick; and in 1762 hostilities were terminated by the treaty of Fontainbleau
1763  
The restoration of peace was followed, in 1763, by reductions in the military establishment of the kingdom; but this was one of the corps selected to be retained in the service, and Lient.-Colonel Commandant John Hale was promoted to the colonelcy of the regiment by commission dated the 27th of April, 1763.
page 13
1764  
From Scotland the regiment embarked, in 1764, for Ireland, where it was stationed during the succeeding eleven years.
1768  
The following particulars respecting the clothing and guidons of the SEVENTEENTH  Light Dragoons, are  extracted from His Majesty's warrant, dated the 19th December, 1768.
COATS, -scarlet, with half-lappels; lined with white; white collar and cuffs; white metal buttons, and the button  holes ornamented with white braid.
WAISTCOATS AND BREECHE, -white.
HELMETS, ornamented with white metal and a scarlet horse-hair crest.
BOOTS, -reaching to the knee.
CLOAKS, -scarlet, with white capes.
HORSE FURNITURE, -of white cloth; the holster caps and housings having a border of white lace with a  black edge; XVII, L. D. to be embroidered upon the housings, upon a scarlet ground, within a wreath of  roses and thistles; the king's cipher; with the crown over it, and XVII, L. D. underneath, to be embroidered  on the holster caps; the officers to have a silver tassel on their holster caps, and at each corner of their  housings.
OFFICERS, -to be distinguished by silver lace or embroidery; silver epaulettes; and crimson silk sashes worn  round their waists,
1768
QUARTER MASTERS, -to have no lace or embroidery on their coats; to have silver epaulettes, and crimson  sashes.
SERJEANTS, -to be distinguished by narrow silver lace, and crimson and white sashes.
TRUMPETERS, -to wear hats with white feathers; white coats faced with scarlet, and ornamented with white  lace with a black edge; red waistcoats and breeches.
GUIDONS, -the first, or King's, guidon to be of crimson silk; in the centre the rose and thistle conjoined, and  crown over them, and His Majesty's motto, Dieu et mon Droit, underneath; the white horse in a  compartment in the first and fourth corners; and XVII, L. D. on a white ground, in a compartment in the  second and third corners: the second and third guidons to be of white silk; in the centre the "DEATH'S HEAD" on a crimson ground, within a wreath of roses and thistles on the same stalk, and the motto " Or  Glory," underneath; the white horse on a red ground, in the first and fourth compartments; and the rose  and thistle conjoined, upon a red ground, in the second and third compartments; the third guidon to be  distinguished by a figure 3,on a circular red ground, underneath the motto.
 
page 15
1768
1770 
 
Colonel John Hale, having been appointed Governor of Limerick, was succeeded in the colonelcy of the regiment by Colonel George Preston, from the lieut.-colonelcy of the Scots Greys, by commission dated the 2nd of November, 1770.
1775  
While the SEVENTEENTH were in Ireland, they had the reputation of being a well-disciplined and an efficient corps, and on the breaking out of hostilities, in 1775, between Great Britain and her North American colonies, the high character of the regiment occasioned it to be the first cavalry corps selected to proceed across the Atlantic.  It embarked from Ireland towards the end of March, and landed at Boston on the 24th of May.
 Soon after the regiment arrived at Boston, the American troops attempted to establish themselves on Bunker's Hill, but were driven from thence, after a sharp engagement, on the 17th of June.  During the action a party of the SEVENTEENTH volunteered to proceed dismounted with the reinforcement sent from Boston to support the troops engaged.
 Notwithstanding their defeat at Bunker's Hill,
page 16
1775
the American troops crowded round Boston in such numbers, and constructed such extensive works, that the British were kept in a state of blockade on the land side, and were so distressed for fresh provisions, that live cattle, vegetables, and even fuel, were sent from England for their use. These supplies proved insufficient, and the troops endured much distress. In the mean time the Americans, possessing every necessary article in abundance, began to act with vigour, raising batteries and opening a cannonade on the place.
1776  

 In March, 1776, the King's troops evacuated Boston and sailed to Halifax. The SEVENTEENTH landed at Halifax, and remained in Nova Scotia about two months; in the early part of June they again embarked, and, sailing towards New York, landed on Staten Island in the beginning of July. At this place the army was reinforced with troops from Great Britain, also with a body of Hessians; and the SEVENTEENTH, commanded by Lieut.-Colonel Samuel Birch, were attached to the Highland Brigade under Brigadier-General Sir William Erskine.
 On the 22nd of August a landing was effected on Long Island; on the 25th the American piquets were surprised by detachments of the SEVEN-
page 17
1776
TEENTH under Captain Oliver de Lancey; and at nine o'clock on the evening of the 26th the regiment led the van of the army from Flatland across the country to seize on a pass in the heights extending along the middle of the island. Arriving within half a mile of the pass, an American patrole was captured, and Lieut-General Clinton learning that the enemy had not taken possession of the pass, it was immediately occupied. Passing the heights at day-break, the regiment moved towards Bedford, where it arrived about half-past eight o'clock, and immediately attacked a large body of Americans, who were quitting the woody heights to join their army in the fortified lines at Brooklyn; some desultory fighting took place, in which the SEVENTEENTH evinced great gallantry;- Lieutenant William Loftus particularly distinguishing himself, -and the Americans were driven back with severe loss: General Sulivan, two brigadier-generals, and ten field officers being among the prisoners. The SEVENTEENTH routed the American cavalry at the village of Jamaica, and at the close of the action Lieut.-General Clinton and Brigadier-General Sir William Erskine thanked the officers and men of the regiment for their gallant conduct. General Sir William Howe
page 18
1776
stated in his public despatch, "The behaviour of both officers and soldiers, British and Hessians, was highly to their honour.  More determined courage and steadiness in troops have never been experienced, or a greater ardour to distingtuish themselves."
 On the night of the 29th of August the Americans abandoned their works, and crossed the East-river to New York.  Long Island having thus been reduced, with little loss, the SEVENTEENTH embarked from thence, and, Crossing the river, took part in forcing the enemy to evacuate New York: the regiment was also engaged in the action at Pelham-manor on the 18th of October. Advancing up the country the regiment joined the army on the 20th of October, and on the 28th it was one of the corps engaged in forcing the passage of the Brunx River, and in chasing the Americans to their entrenchments at the entrance of White Plains.  The regiment had one man and five horses killed; Lieutenant William Loftus, four rank and file, and three horses wounded.  The Americans withdrew from their lines, when the British retired to undertake the siege of Fort Washington, and at the storming of the lines and redoubts near the fort, on the 16th of
page 19
1776
November, the SEVENTEENTH Light Dragoons supported the infantry, and had one man wounded.
One troop of the regiment formed part of the force under Lieut.-General Clinton, which sailed from New York on the 1st of December, landed on Rhode Island on the 8th, and overpowering the American troops, reduced the island to submission to the British Government. This troop remained on Rhode Island during the succeeding twelve months under Major-General Earl Percy, and afterwards under Major-General Prescott.  Five troops of the regiment were stationed, during the winter, at New York and other places in the vicinity of that city.
1777
   The Americans having formed extensive magazines at Danbury and other places on the borders of Connecticut, a detachment of the SEVENTEENTH formed part of the force sent from New York, under Major-General Tryon, to destroy the stores.  Sailing from New York in transports, the troops arrived, on the evening of the 25th of April, 1777, off Norwalk, landed without opposition, and commenced their march at ten o'clock that night for Danbury, where they arrived about two in the afternoon of the following day. On their approach the American soldiers fled, and as no carriages
page 20
1777
could be procured to bring off the stores, they were destroyed by fire; the flames communicating to the town,  it was also consumed. On the following morning the British commenced their march back to their shipping, but had to fight their way through troops assembled to oppose them. They overthrew one body of Americans at Ridgefield, routed another party at the Hill of Campo, and afterwards embarked without molestation for New York.
 In June the army took the field, and endeavoured to draw the American forces under General Washington from their strong position in the mountains in the Jerseys, but without success. The British General afterwards embarked with the greater part of his army on an expedition against the populous and wealthy city of Philadelphia, taking with him the Sixteenth Light Dragoons, and leaving five troops of the SEVENTEENTH at New York, and one troop at Rhode Island.
 From New York one troop of the SEVENTEENTH embarked, dismounted, in the early part
of October, with the expedition against Forts Montgomery and Clinton.  Having landed at Stoney-point, on the 6th of October, the troop of
page 21
1777
the SEVENTEENTH formed part of the column under Major-General Vaughan, which captured
one of the forts by storm on the same evening; the other fort was abandoned by the Americans.
 After returning from this enterprise the troop rejoined the regiment at New York, and during the winter the SEVENTEENTH embarked for Pennsylvania, and were stationed at Philadelphia under General Sir William Howe.
1778  
In the spring of 1778 a succession of detachments ranged the country for many miles round
Philadelphia, and opened communications for bringing in supplies of provision, in which service the SEVENTEENTH were actively employed.
 The American troops were encamped in Valley Forge, and Captain Lord Cathcart, of the SEVENTEENTH, being sent out with twenty-five men to reconnoitre the enemy's position in the direction of White-marsh, ascertained that a patrole of ten American soldiers had taken possession of a house on the road leading to that place.  The men of the SEVENTEENTH surrounded the house, and his lordship summoned the Americans to surrender; but they had barricaded the door and windows, and refused to obey the summons.  A few men of the SEVENTEENTH dis-
page 22
1778
mounted, sent some shots through the door, and approached the house to try the effect of cold steel, when the Americans begged for quarter, and were taken prisoners to Philadelphia.  This excursion of twenty-eight miles was performed without a halt.
 On the evening of the 3rd of May a small detachment of the regiment left Philadelphia to co-operate with the troops destined to drive nine hundred Americans, under Brigadier-General Lacy, from. their post at Crooked Billet. The Americans retreated, but were overtaken, attacked, and one hundred and fifty men killed, wounded, and taken prisoners; their baggage was also captured, and sold for the benefit of the troops employed in this service.
 Three thousand Americans, under the Marquis de la Fayette, took post on Barren Hill, seven miles in advance of General Washington's camp, and a detachment of the regiment formed part of the force sent against this portion of the American army. On the morning of the 21st of May, as the British approached, the Marquis de la Fayette made a precipitate retreat; but his rear was overtaken by the dragoons, and some execution done.
page 23
1778  
The French monarch having acknowledged the independence of the revolted British provinces, and concluded a treaty with them, the nature of the war became so far changed that the evaenation of Philadelphia took place, and the army proceeded to New York.  In the march from Philadelphia, through the Jerseys, the SEVENTEENTH were actively employed, and performed much severe and harassing duty; the route lying through woods, over rivers, and along difficult roads, with the enemy hovering on the flanks and rear, occasioned the services of the light cavalry to be much required. On the 28th of June, as the last brigade descended from the heights of Freehold, in New Jersey, the enemy appeared in the rear and on both flanks, and some sharp fighting took place; when the SEVENTEENTH, being with the advance guard, were ordered from the front to take part in the engagement. The enemy was repulsed; the army resumed its march, and one troop of the regiment, being in advance, took part in putting to flight a body of Americans. Having crossed the channel to Sandy Hook, the army embarked from thence for New York.
 Soon after their return from Philadelphia the strength of the. SEVENTEENTH was increased by
page 24
1778
the receipt of many effective men and all the serviceable horses from the Sixteenth Light Dragoons, which corps was ordered to return to Great Britain; the horses were many of them American, as the Sixteenth had only eighty English horses left.
  From New York the regiment was sent to the east end of Long Island, where it remained during
 1779
the winter; and in the spring of 1779 it was ordered to take up a position in advance of the lines in front of New York.
 The SEVENTEENTH was the only British cavalry regiment in America, and no other corps was sent out; there were, however, several independent troops of provincial cavalry in the British service, also a corps, partly cavalry and partly infantry, commanded by Captain Lord Cathcart of the SEVENTEENTH Light Dragoons, who held the rank of' Colonel in the provincials, and also another corps, or "legion," as it was more frequently called, under Colonel Banastre Tarleton. This legion had usually a select party of the SEVENTEENTH attached to it, who wore their own uniform, and became celebrated for their excellent conduct on the out-post duty, also for their daring spirit of enterprise when employed on detached services. While serving remotely from the head~quarters,
page 25
1779
their own uniform became worn out, and they were offered the dress of the legion; but they were proud
of their regiment, and they preferred patching up their old clothing to preserve the distinction*.
 The post occupied by the regiment in front of New York was held for the purpose of clearing the country of tbe hostile parties, and keeping the roads clear to enable the supplies of the army to be brought in, and skirmishes occurred almost daily.
 Serjeant THOMAS TUCKER, of the SEVENTEENTH Light Dragoons, traversing the country with twelve men, came suddenly upon a small American fort, when he leapt into it and made the garrison prisoners.  TUCKER accompanied the regiment from England as a volunteer; he evinced signal bravery on all occasions, and was rewarded, on the 10th of April, 1779, with a commission of cornet in the regiment: he proved an efficient officer.
 In the winter, when the French fleet and land forces, after having been repulsed at Rhode Island and Savannah, withdrew from the American coast, General Sir Henry Clinton fitted out an expedition
*This anecdote of the corps was related hy His Majesty King William IV., who, when Prince William Henry reviewed the regiment while it was stationed at New York and, in 1833, related at his own table some particulars respecting its services in America.
page 26
1779
against South Carolina, where the mildness of the climate, the richness of the country, its vicinity to Georgia, and its distance from the position occupied by the American army under General Washington, pointed out the advantage and facility of conquest. A detachment of the SEVENTEENTH Light Dragoons, attached to Tarleton's legion, formed part of the force employed on this enterprise. The fleet sailed towards the end of December, but was dispersed by strong gales of wind, and the tempestuous weather occasioned the death of nearly all the horses.  The transports in which the
1780
SEVENTEENTH and Tarleton's legion were embarked, took refluge from the tempest in the harbour of Tybee, an island near the coast of Georgia, from whence the officers and soldiers proceeded in boats to the island of Port Royal, where a number of horses of an inferior description were procured.
 The SEVENTEENTH and Tarleton's legion were quartered at Beaufort, from whence they proceeded to join Brigadier-General Patterson, who was proceeding from Savannah, with a body of infantry, to reinforce the expedition under Sir Henry Clinton, who had undertaken the siege of Charlestown.  The inhabitants of the country through which the detachment had to travel
page 27
1780
having heard of the loss of the cavalry horses at sea, many of them equipped themselves as cavaliers, to confine the British to the line of march, and prevent them collecting horses in the country. Some of these cavaliers insulted the front of the column, but were overthrown by a charge of the dragoons, and the SEVENTEENTH took some prisoners and a number of horses, without any loss on their part; but in the neighbourhood of Rantol's bridge the Americans captured an officer and several foot soldiers.
 After a march of twelve days through a country intersected with rivers, rendered difficult by heavy rains, and infested with enemies, the SEVENTEENTH arrived on the banks of the Ashley river with a large quantity of forage and some horses, which they had collected on the march: the cavalry of the detachment halted at Quarter House, but the infantry joined the army before Charlestown.
 On the 12th of April, 1780, the men of the SEVENTEENTH advanced, with other troops, to cut off the communications of the garrison of Charlestown with the adjacent country; they halted that night at Goosecreek, and on the evening of the following day they moved silently towards one of
page 28
1780 the enemy's posts of communication on Cooper's river,-several corps co-operating in the movement. At three o'clock on the following morning the advanced guard of dragoons and mounted infantry approached Monk's Corner, and charging and routing the enemy's guard on the main road, dashed forward into the American cavalry camp. The enemy was surprised, all who made resistance were speedily cut down; favoured by darkness, General Huger, Colonels Washington and Jamieson, and seven others, took refuge in some swampy grounds near the camp; and one hundred and fifty dragoons and hussars, four hundred horses and fifty waggons loaded with arms, ammunition, and clothing, were captured.  The enemy's infantry at Biggin's bridge were routed by a charge with the bayonet; the boats at Bonneau's ferry were also seized, and the American army in Charlestown was closely invested.
            On the 6th of May Lieut.-Colonel Tarleton advanced at the head of a patrole of one hundred and fifty men of the SEVENTEENTH and dragoons of the legion, to gain inteirigence, when he was overtaken by a loyal American, who informed him that a strong body of the enemy's cavalry had taken a British foraging party, of an officer and

page 29
1780
seventeen mounted light infantry, prisoners, and was moving towards Lenew's ferry. Stimulated by this news, the pa trole quickened its pace, and arrived at three in the afternoon in the presence of the enemy's videts.  The SEVENTEENTH instantly charged the American out-guard, which was routed, and pursued upon the main body; the enemy was surprised; five officers and thirty-six soldiers were cut down; seven officers and sixty dragoons were made prisoners, and Colonels White, Washington, and Jamieson, with some other officers and a few so1diers, escaped by swimming across the river, but many were drowned in the attempt.
 The foraging party, captured by the Americans in the morning, was rescued as the ferry-boat was pushing off to convey the men across the river.
 In this enterprise the British had only two men and four horses killed; the patrole joined the troops under Lieut.-General Earl Cornwallis on the same evening, but upwards of twenty horses died of fatigue.
 Charlestown surrendered to the British arms on the 12th of May.   Soon after this event the SEVENTEENTH were attached to the troops under Lieut.-General Earl Cornwallis, and marched up
page 30
 1780
the north-east bank of the Santee river in pursuit of a body of Americans under Colonel Burford, who was retreating to North Carolina.  Lord Cornwallis halted at Georgetown, from whence forty of the SEVENTEENTH, one hundred and thirty of Tarleton's legion, a hundred mounted infantry, and a three-pounder, followed the Americans by forced marches. After travelling one hundred and five miles in fifty-four hours, the detachment approached Wacsaw, on the confines of South Carolina, at three o'clock in the afternoon of the 29th of May, and the advance-guard, overtaking the enemy's rear, took a serjeant and four American light dragoons prisoners. Three hundred and eighty American infantry, a detachment of cavalry, and two six-pounders, formed for battle in an open wood; the British, though not half so numerous, (many men and the only gun with the detachment being unable to keep up,) moved forward in three columns to charge their opponents; the men of the SEVENTEENTH being in the centre column under Captain Talbot. The Americans remained steady until the British were within ten yards, and then fired a volley, which produced little effect; and before the smoke cleared away, their ranks were broken, and the British were cutting
page 31
1780 them down with a terrible carnage. In a few minutes the conflict had ceased; one hundred
Americans lay dead on the spot, two hundred were made prisoners, and three colours, two guns, and a number of waggons containing stores and baggage, were captured by the British, who had only five officers and soldiers killed, and twelve wounded; Lieutenant Matthew Pateshall, of the SEVENTEENTH, being among the wounded.
 Thus South Carolina was cleared of the enemy's troops, and, in a few days after this exploit, the detachment joined Earl Cornwallis at Camden, a town situate on the east side of the Wateree river.
 In the mean time General Sir Henry Clinton had returned to New York, and had left orders for the SEVENTEENTH to follow; the detachment, accordingly; embarked from South Carolina, leaving the sick and a few men attached to Tarleton's legion behind, and joined the regiment at New York, where it had remained under General Knyphausen.
 The Americans made great efforts to regain possession of South Carolina; but their army of six thousand men, under General Gates, was routed at Camden by two thousand British, under Earl Cornwallis, on the 16th of August.
The

page 32
1780
men of the SEVENTEENTH attached to Tarleton's legion shared in the conflict.  "The cavalry completed the route with their usual promptitude and gallantry, and after great exertions during the action, continued the pursuit to Hanginrock, twenty-two miles from the place where the action commenced, during which many of the enemy were slain, and many prisoners taken, with one hundred and fifty waggons, and all the baggage and camp equipage. On the morning of the 17th Colonel Tarleton was again despatched in pursuit, and on the 18th surprised seven hundred men, killing one hundred and fifty on the spot, and taking three hundred prisoners, three cannon, and forty-four waggons*."
 During the winter reinforcements were sent from New York to South Carolina, including a detachment of the SEVENTEENTH Light Dragoons, which landed in December, and joined Earl Corn-
1781 wallis's camp on the 6th of January, 1781.
 The SEVENTEENTH were afterwards attached to the troops under Colonel Tarleton, who was directed to force the Americans under General
* Earl Cornwallis's despatch.
page 33
1781 Morgan to pass the Broad river. The British overtook their opponents on the 17th of January, at a place called Cowpens; the Seventh Royal Fusiliers, the infantry of the legion, and a corps of light infantry, with a troop of cavalry on each flank, commenced the action, and soon forced the enemy to give way; but being too eager in the pursuit to preserve sufficient order, Morgan's corps faced about and gave them a heavy fire; this produced great confusion and serious loss, including two guns. The cavalry of the legion quitted the field, excepting about fourteen men, who joined forty of the SEVENTEENTH Light Dragoons, and, at the head of this little band of heroes, Colonel Tarleton made a desperate charge on the whole of the American cavalry, and drove them back on their infantry, recapturing his baggage, and cutting to pieces the detachment of the enemy which had taken possession of it. He afterwards retired to Hamilton's ford.
 Cornet Thomas Patterson of the regiment was killed on this occassion*, and Lieutenant Henry
*During the action the American Colonel Washington called out, "Where is now the boasting Tarleton?" CORNET PATTERSON of the SEVENTEENTH was riding up to attack him, and was shot by Washington's orderly Trumpeter. Annecdote by Lieut.-General Sir Evan Lloyd, who served with the regiment in America.
page 34
1781
Nettles wounded; several private soldiers and troop horses were also killed and wounded.
 When Earl Cornwallis advanced into North Carolina, the SEVENTEENTH were left in  South Carolina, under the command of Lord Rawdon, and had to perform duties which called forth the intelligence, activity, and bravery of the officers and soldiers. The occupation of posts distant from each other gave the light cavalry left in the province full employment in keeping up the communications.  Many of the inhabitants were hostile to the royal cause; they performed their duties of allegiance with reluctance, and broke their engagements at the first opportunity: the troops of the Congress also made incursions into the province.  These circumstances occasioned the duties of the detachment to be particularly harassing; the men and horses were exhausted by constant motion along bad roads, and reduced in numbers by continual skirmishes.  While employed in these duties instances of individual gallantry and devotion to the interests of the service were numerous.  On one occasion, when Private McMULLINS was carrying a despatch to the Commander-in-Chief, he was beset by four militia men; he shot one, disabled another with
page 35
1781
his sword, and brought the other two prisoners to headquarters *.
 On another occasion a despatch of great importance had to be forwarded to Lord Rawdon, through a country infested by the enemy, and Corporal O'LAVERY, of the SEVENTEENTH, being a man of known courage and experience, was selected to accompany the bearer of the despatch. They had not proceeded far before they were attacked and both severely wounded. The bearer of the despatch died on the road; the corporal snatched the paper from the dying man, and rode on until he fell from loss of blood, when, to conceal the important secret from the Americans, should he fall into their hands, he thrust the paper into his wound.  He was found, on the following day, with sufficient life to point to the fatal depository of the secret.  The surgeon declared the wound itself not to be mortal, but rendered so by the insertion of the despatch. Corporal O'LAVERY was a native of the county of Down, where a monument, the gratitude of his countryman and commander, LORD RAWDON, records his fame.
 The services of the British troops in the
*Statement of Lieut.-General Sir Evan Lloyd.
page 36
1781
Carolinas, are spoken of in the ‘Annual Register' of 1781, in the following terms: -"It is impossible to do justice to the spirit, prudence, and invincible fortitude displayed by the commanders, officers; and soldiers during these dreadful campaigns in the Carolinas.  They had not only to contend with men, and those by no means deficient in bravery or enterprise, but they encountered and. surmounted difficulties and fatigues from climate and country that would appear insuperable in theory, and incredible in relation.  During renewed successions of forced marches, under a burning sun, and in seasons inimical to man, they were frequently, when sinking under excessive fatigue, not only destitute of comforts, but even of necessaries that seemed essential to existence.  During the greatest part of the time they were destitute of bread, and the
country afforded no vegetables; salt failed; and their only resource was water and the cattle found in the woods.  It is a melancholy consideration,that such talent, bravery, and military virtue should have been exercised in vain."
 During the summer of this year an attack of the enemy on New York was apprehended, and General Sir Henry Clinton, in a letter to Lord
page 37
1781
Cornwallis, dated the 11th of June, 1781, requested that some of the troops, and, among others, the remaining officers and men of the SEVENTEENTH Light Dragoons, should be sent back to.New York.
1782
Lieut.- General George Preston was removed on the 18th of April, 1782, to the Scots Greys, and was succeeded in the colonelcy of the SEVENTEENTH by General the Honourable Thomas Gage, from the Twenty-second Foot.
1783  
His Majesty having been induced to concede the independence of the United States, the war was terminated by a treaty of peace, and in 1783 the SEVENTEENTH Light Dragoons embarked from New York, and returned to Ireland, where the Tegiment was stationed during the succeeding eleveh years.
1784  
In 1784 the colour of the clothing was changed from scarlet to blue.
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An officer of the 17th Light Dragoons in the late eighteenth century.


Members of the regiment in 1764.


Two private soldiers from the early nineteenth century.


Two private soldiers and an officer, a few decades later.


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Saturday, January 3, 2009


17th Light Dragoons

[Minor edits 12/25/09]

The 17th Light Dragoons was one of two regiments of horse that the British dispatched to North America during the American Revolution. The 17th was sent to Boston and dismounted volunteers of the regiment served at Bunker Hill (1775). The following year, the regiment accompanied William Howe to New York and led the nighttime flanking march preceding the battle of Long Island (1776). At White Plains (1776), the regiment attacked the retreating Americans in what was probably the first cavalry charge of the war. The regiment was also at Fort Washington (1776), albeit in a minor capacity. The following year, the regiment participated in operations around New York, including the Danbury raid (1777), and the capture of Forts Clinton and Montgomery (1777). In the winter of 1777-1778, the regiment was with Howe at Philadelphia, and detachments saw action at White Marsh (1777), Crooked Billet (1778), and Barren Hill (1778). As the war shifted back to New York, the regiment was present at Monmouth (1778), New Jersey, and Pound Ridge (1778), New York. At the end of 1778, the 16th Light Dragoons was returned to England and the able horses and enlisted men were drafted into the 17th. In December, 1779, a part of the regiment accompanied Henry Clinton to South Carolina and participated in the siege of Charleston (1780), Monck's Corner (1780), Lenud's Ferry (1780), and Waxhaws (1780). Another part remained in New York and participated in Knyphausen's raid into New Jersey and saw action at New Bridge (1780). The detachment in the South returned to New York after the battle of Waxhaws; another detachment, however, was sent to South Carolina in January, 1781, where it subsequently suffered heavily at Cowpens (1781). Some members of the 17th were also present at Yorktown (1781), where Banastre Tarleton credited them with rescuing him during an engagement with Lauzun's hussars and lancers.

Cornet James Simmons of the American 3rd Light Dragoons remembered that at Cowpens the 17th “wore a uniform of red and buff, with Sheep Skin, on their caps.” The official facing color of the regiment was white. Don Troiani has completed a couple of paintings depicting the 17th at the time of Cowpens (here and here).

Sources:

Thomas Balch (1857). Papers Relating Chiefly to the Maryland Line During the Revolution. Balch's book has a transcription of Simons' letter to William Washington. His book can be downloaded from this site.

Richard Cannon (1841). Historical Record of the Seventeenth Regiment of Light Dragoons-- Lancers.

Philip R. N. Katcher (1973). Encyclopedia of British, Provincial, and German Army Units 1775-1783. Stackpole Books.

The recreated 17th Light Dragoons have a very informative website, which can be found here.


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  1. 17th Light Dragoons - The British Empire

    www.britishempire.co.uk/forces/.../17thltdragoons1759.htm
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  2. 17th Lancers - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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  3. Full Histories: 17th Lancers

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  4. 17th Lancers regiment

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    Officer and sergeant of the 17th Light Dragoons in charge of Indian Irregular Cavalry. Signed Limited Edition of 1,150 prints plus 50 artists proofs. From the ...
  5. RootsWeb: INDIA-L Re: 17th LIGHT DRAGOONS

    archiver.rootsweb.ancestry.com › INDIA1999-01
    From: "JillGrey" <> Subject: Re: 17th LIGHT DRAGOONS Date: Thu, 28 Jan 1999 13:22:53 -0000. Helen, Good to have you back on the List! The 17th LD were in ...
  6. RootsWeb: INDIA-L [India-L] 17th Regiment 0f light Dragoons

    archiver.rootsweb.ancestry.com › INDIA2003-09
    From: "susan and peter" <> Subject: [India-L] 17th Regiment 0f light Dragoons Date: Fri, 5 Sep 2003 20:14:44 +0100. The 17th Regiment of Light Dragoons ...
  7. 17th Lancers - FIBIwiki

    wiki.fibis.org/index.php?title=17th_LancersShare
    Mar 2, 2013 – Also known as 17th (Light) Dragoons and 17th Lancers (Duke of ... with the 21st Lancers (Empress of India's) to form the 17th/21st Lancers ...
  8. British Cavalryman 1792-1815 - Page 22 - Google Books Result

    books.google.co.in/books?isbn=1855323648
    Philip Haythornthwaite - 1994 - History
    17th Light Dragoons: raised 1759; West Indies 1795-97 (including service as marines), ... Igth Light Dragoons: raised 1781 as 23rd, renumbered 1786; India ...
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Formation
Officers and Men, 1760
The 17th Light Dragoons can trace their formation back to General Wolfe's victory at Quebec in 1759. One of Wolfe's ablest commanders and close personal friend was Colonel John Hale of the 47th Regiment of Foot. It fell to John Hale to bring back to the KIng the mixed news of victory over the French paid for in part with the death of Wolfe. In thanks to the role of Hale, the King granted him a gratuity of five hundred pounds, ten thousand acres in Canada and a commission to raise one of the five new regiments of Light Dragoons that were being planned as part of preparations for the Seven Years War. It was being noted throughout Europe that existing regiments of Dragoons were expensive to raise and maintain and inflexible on the battlefield. Light regiments were being raised to counter these problems of price and maneuverability. It was the Duke of Kingston who had brought the idea back to Britain with a unit being used on campaign against the Jacobites in Scotland in 1745. The unit was disbanded, but the idea of a light cavalry unit had taken hold within the establishment and five new such regiments were duly raised. In fact, originally John Hale's regiment was allotted the 18th designation. However, the Scottish regiment which carried the 17th title was quickly disbanded after proving unsatisfactory in their abilities and appearances. In 1763, Hales regiment was redesignated as the 17th for good. The Light Dragoons main distinction from their heavier cousins was in the type of horse employed. Rather than use the big and burly heavy cart cobs the Light Dragoons preferred the use of smaller, leaner hunter horses (under 15.1 hands). Originally, the Light Dragoons were not equipped with swords of any sort rather their main armament was a carbine that could have a bayonet fitted, pistols and an axe. They were trained to be able to fire from the saddle. Speed and agility (of rider and horse) were prized over strength and sturdiness. These attributes would prove to be valuable ones in the small scale actions common to colonial campaigns for a long time to come.
John Hale set about raising the troop in his home county of Hertfordshire. Recruits were enticed with a bounty of three guineas for service to the King. Recruiting was brisk as Hale marched his new regiment through to Stratford and up to Coventry. The unit never did get to fight in the Seven Years War as was initially intended, it would have to wait sixteen years before it was first sent into action.
Regimental Identity
The evocative Death's Head emblem has been used time and again by desperadoes and tribes from time immemorial. Its first use as a regimental emblem seems to have been by a German unit of Hussars known as the 'Totenkopf' Hussars. As many British units and soldiers had served in Germany at around this time as part of the Seven Years War (1756 - 1763). It is probable that they saw this emblem and revelled in its associations of piracy and plunder - perfect values to a Light Cavalry unit. Indeed, down to the present time the regiment is still commonly referred to as 'The Tots'
American War of Independence
In 1775, the 17th landed at Boston to find that the war was not going well in the colonies. Boston itself was under seige and they had arrived just in time to see the British forces march off to Bunker Hill and face withering fire and casualties from the green patriots fighting like hardened veterans. The regiment spent 8 months holed up in the city with little food for themselves and still less for their horses. It was with relief that they were pulled out to Halifax and rehorsed as well as they could manage. The 17th were soon to be back in the thick of action again, but the lack of imagination of the British generals would time and time again frustrate the abilities of the Light Dragoons. On the action on Long Island the 17th were to find themselves in an excellent position to trap the American army who were pinned with their backs to the river. Unfortunately, General Howe did not take advantage of the situation, and 12,000 Americans rowed to safety to Manhatten Island.
The 17th pursued these forces to the North before transferring to Philadelphia for the winter of 1777. Their goal was to keep communications to the city open. One of the most successful of these operations was when they routed a force of some 450 militia men at the cost of just nine British casualties. In May of 1778, the 17th came across a French force for the dfirst time, commanded by Lafayette. On this occasion, the American French force escaped the main component of the British force. Only the 17th Light Dragoons managed to have any success by rounding up some of the rear guard. However, politically and militarily the British position in Philadelphia was deteriorating and in June the British started to evacuate the city. It was the job of the 17th to guard the baggage train which had been sent on ahead. The 17th were brought back briefly to help General Clinton prevent an American force from attacking the main column. The success of this operation enabled the entire force to retreat the rest of the way in peace.
After spending the summer of 1779 in upstate New York, the 17th were transferred to the Carolinas. Unfortunately, the ships transferring the unit there were caught in a severe storm in which most of the horses died. They landed at Savannah and were attached to the British Legion there. After scraping together a force of horses, the legion set out on a 1500 mile long campaign that did take advantage of the 17th's maneuverability. Their first action brought the unit the valuable prize of new horses when they successfully repulsed an attack by American irregular horsemen. The Legion then took part in a surprise attack on an American force guarding the road to Charleston. The night attack was a complete success and resulted in yet more first class horses for the unit. Soon after this action, the American garrison at Charleston capitulated and the American forces tried to make good their escape. The Legion pursued them relentlessly with each horse carrying a cavalryman and infantryman. They soon caught up with Colonel Buford's Virginian forces. Despite being outnumbered, the British charged the force in three columns. The Americans held their fire for too long allowing the cavalry to get right up and in to them. In the ensuing melee it was thought that the Legion's commander, Tarleton, was killed which in turn enraged the British into fighting with an even greater than usual vigour. After their victory, they discovered that it was only the horse of Tarleton that had been killed, the Legion revelled in a new nickname of 'Bloody Tarleton' ever after.
The force was to continue its light dragoon tactics with the pursual of General Sumter after his defeat by Cornwallis. Moving swiftly, and doubling the infantry up again, the force secretly shadowed Sumter's force waiting for it to camp and drop its guard. Sure enough it did so and the 17th and the infantry struck furiously killing 150, capturing 300, releasing 100 British prisoners and capturing 44 wagons of supplies. General Sumter escaped half dressed and bareback on the nearest available horse. The mobility of the Light Dragoons demonstrated its effectiveness to all, including the Americans who were beginning to learn from these disasters.
The Legion and General Sumter were to clash again on the Tyger River some months later. This time things were much more evenly balanced and only a charge by the 17th averted a disaster by allowing the British infantry to extricate itself. General Sumter was wounded in the battle, but it was clear that the Americans were improving in skill and tactics. Just how far they had come was demonstrated shortly afterwards by the generalship of Nathaniel Greene and Daniel Morgan. Splitting their forces in two, they lay in wait for Tarleton's Legion. American regulars were placed behind the militia (thus forcing them to fight) and cavalry waited on the wings. Sure enough, the British made their typical frontal assault and fell straight into the trap. The American infantry stopped the Dragoons until the American cavalry could hit them from the side. The 17th maintained their morale as the other Legion soldiers began to break and run. A vain effort by Tarleton and the 17th to save their guns was repulsed. Retreating furiously the British infantry (the 7th and 71st) were cut to pieces. This was not the end of the Legion and they did manage to meet Greene, and defeat him, again on the Haw river. However, the political tide was turning quickly against the British and the 17th found themselves having to surrender at Gloucester as Cornwallis surrendered in Yorktown. Indeed, it was left to Captain Stapleton of the 17th to personally hand the copy of British capitulation to George Washington himself.
Central and Southern America
At the end of the American War of Independence, the 17th transferred back to Ireland and spent 12 relatively peaceful years in and around Belfast. However, in 1793 war with France broke out again and Britain was put on a war time footing. Actions against the French were taking place by proxy in the Caribbean and the 17th were duly sent there in 1795 after a rather disastrous campaign had taken place in San Domingo. However, the 17th were to find themselves fighting a rather unexpected foe instead. Soon after landing in Jamaica (by mistake) the local Maroons had started an insurrection. Descendents of escaped slaves, the Maroons knew how to use the local terrain to devestating effect and played havoc with the traditional techniques of the British forces. Soldiers of the 17th were selected to retrain as mountain and jungle warfare specialists and go in after the Maroons. These tactics ultimately proved successful and British forces began to take the initiative from the native Maroons. They were forced to capitulate soon afterwards. The success of these tactics meant that the 17th would be dispatched to Grenada to crush a similar insurrection and then on to San Domingo to fight the French. Unfortunately, Yellow Fever was to be a far more dangerous adversary here and the regiment took horrendous casualties from this scourge. All of this shuttling around the islands of the Caribbean was to leave one lasting legacy to the regiment. The nickname of 'Horse Marines' dates from this time. Its exact origins is unknown - but the amount of time the regiment spent on the waves was not in dispute. Indeed, the sea was to play yet another cruel trick on the regiment when its headquarter ship foundered on rocks on the way home in 1797. All of the men were saved, but their baggage and regimental books were all lost. However, the unit was only to be in Britain for a short while before it was sent back to the Americas. This time to South America. As the Spanish had sided with the French during the Napoleonic Wars, it was felt that Spanish possessions made a legitimate target. An unofficial campaign had been instigated by Sir Home Popham, however despite initial successes the force was defeated by the inhabitants of Buenos Aires. Unaware of this fact, the 17th, and some 3,000 other men, had been despatched to South America as reinforcements. When they reached Rio de Janeiro they learned of the disaster that had befallen the British. The momentum to continue their orders meant that the forced continued toward the River Plate and landed outside of Montevideo. The 17th were without horses and armed with Spanish muskets aquired in Rio. Acting as infantry they helped to repulse two sizeable attacks by Spanish cavalry on the force. The whole force then laid seige for ten days to Montevideo before directly assaulting it. The success of the operation meant that the 17th could find some horses to mount themselves upon. However, the local ponies were shorter and smaller than the ones the Light Dragoons were normally accustomed to. Despite these animals, the 17th and the British waited patiently for further orders as the British government digested events in the area.
The orders they received were to retake Buenos Aires. General Whitelocke was placed in overall charge of the forces but was to prove an incompetent and unfortunate choice. Indeed, he quickly demonstrated his lack of tactical skill when the force was landed outside of Buenos Aires and confronted and harrassed by Spanish light cavalry. Rather than send his own cavalry off to deal with the Spanish forces, he insisted on employing his own cavalry as messengers and bodyguards for himself. Meanwhile, his infantry had to advance without any protection whatsoever. His assault on Buenos Aires was little more successful. He sent his troops through the hostile city with strict instructions not to fire until they had reached the far side of the city limits. One thousand had been killed and fifteen hundred had been forced to surrender before the force even started to fight. It was a complete fiasco and the British were forced to agree to withdraw all of their forces from the country. The 17th were somewhat relieved to find themselves on a ship back to England in 1808. But they were only to remain there for six short weeks before being sent off to a new and exotic destination




India
India, 1810
The regiment landed at Calcutta in August 1808 and were to remain there for a year before being transferred to Surat 200 miles north of Bombay. Here they were more than pleased with the high quality mounts that they were provided with. In 1810 the unit were to see their first action in the sub-continent when they were sent to Mandavi to put down a religious insurrection. There was one serious battle where the unit was forced to engage the locals armed with 14 foot spears. The lancers opted for the more traditional hand to hand attack rather than employ there more than adequate firepower. This decision cost three lives and countless wounds to the unit, although they did triumph over the religious fanatics who had lost some 200 men on the battlefield before being dispersed for good. These small scale wars were a common occurence at this stage of India's history in the British Empire, the next action that the Light Dragoons were invovled in was of a similar nature. In 1817, there was a serious uprising of the Mahrattha and Pindari forces in the interior of the Sub-Continent. The 17th Light Dragoons spent over a year tracking down the fast, mobile and efficient Indian forces in difficult terrain. Although, the biggest danger to the Light Dragoon was not to be any soldier, but sickness and disease. In its fourteen years in India, the regiment lost about eight hundred men to cholera and other illnesses and only some 150 due to fighting. The regiment eventually sailed back to England in 1823 at only a quarter of the strength that it had when it had arrived some 14 years previously.
On their way back to Britain, the 17th put in at St Helena for resupplies. It was here that they learnt that there name had been changed and that they were now to become the 17th Lancers.