Sunday, September 13, 2015

New Model Army: The Horse and Dragoons

New Model Army: The Dragoons

The New Model initially had only one regiment of dragoons, commanded by Colonel John Okey. This was 1,000 strong, with ten equally-sized troops of 100 men. The dragoon was a hybrid soldier, a cross between infantryman and trooper, and the company organization in Okey's regiment reflected this. Each company had a captain, a lieutenant, a cornet and a quartermaster-cavalry ranks; but each company also had two drummers for signalling, as in infantry units.

Initially Okey's regiment followed the true dragoon or mounted infantry practice, i.e. they arrived on the field of battle on horseback but dismounted to fight. However, it would appear that they began to function more and more as regular cavalry, and in 1650 they were officially converted into a regiment of horse (receiving thereby substantial pay rises!). The strength and number of companies in a dragoon regiment varied considerably, depending on the task to hand. Morgan's Regiment, for example, raised for service in Scotland in 1651, had in October of that year eight troops-but in January 1653 we find only four troops each of only 60 men. Dragoon units were fairly easily raised, for most counties had companies of militia dragoons. They were particularly useful units for 'police' duties; and it is rare to find all ten companies of Okey's Regiment serving together after the Naseby campaign.

New Model Army: The Horse

The basic unit of cavalry was the troop, averaging some 60 troopers but rising occasionally to as many as 80. Generally there were six troops in a regiment, but instances of eight were not uncommon. Cromwell's own regiment of horse, dubbed 'The Ironsides', was a double-strength regiment of 14 troops, and upon the formation of the New Model provided enough men for the entire regiments of Fairfax and Whalley, with a cadre left over to form a basis for other units. Once the New Model cavalry became organized the regimental strength settled down at six troops of 100 men each.

The colonel and the sergeant-major each commanded a troop, the remaining four being led by captains. Troop officers were a lieutenant, a cornet and a quarter-master. The colonel's troop was frequently led by the senior lieutenant of the regiment since, as in the infantry, the colonel was often a general officer, absent on other duties.

The cavalry are one instance in the New Model of strengths being up to establishment, and sometimes even over the required figure. In the force Cromwell led to Ireland in July 1649 he had an overstrength regiment of horse of 14 troops under his personal command. This was subsequently split in two, and Cromwell's major, Thomas Shelloourne, was given command of the second regiment.

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