The Continental Light Dragoons, 1775–1783

Conversions in 1:76 Scale

2nd Continental Light Dragoons

Airfix offers mounted figures in each of its army packs of the American Revolution, Washington's Army and British Grenadiers. Except for the headgear, these miniatures are dressed in the same fashion as the cavalry of the period. Conversion is simple, requiring only a swap of heads.

The converted figures have been painted to represent the 2nd Continental Light Dragoons, based on an illustration in John Mollo's "Uniforms of the American Revolution". At least some members of this regiment are recorded wearing French style brass dragoon helmets, instead of the typical black leather cap with a coloured turban, and yellow tassels. A bill signed by Colonel Blackden of the 2nd Light Dragoons provides further evidence that brass for the helmets was purchased.

Suitable heads with brass helmets may be scrounged from French Napoleonic Cuirassiers made by Airfix. The new heads are attached with pins cut from 0.6 mm piano wire, and secured with superglue or PVA white glue. The Napoleonic cuirassier helmet has a taller crest than the earlier French dragoon helmet, but the difference is hardly noticeable at this scale.

If Airfix figures are unavailable, Revell's Seven Years' War Austrian Dragoons may be used instead, although their large cuffs would have to be cut down to resemble the closer fit of American revolutionary uniforms. Heads in 1:72 Scale may be taken from ESCI's French Cuirassiers.

Parts Required

  • Mounted American Officer, Airfix 01739
  • Mounted British Officers, Airfix 01740
  • French Cuirassier Helmets, Airfix 01736

Light Dragoons, Legionary Corps, and State Cavalry

Cavalry played an important role in the war, providing scouts, patrols, escorts, mounted and dismounted skirmishers. Mounted troops were difficult to raise, and very expensive to maintain, and there were rarely more than 1,000 Continental Light Dragoons available at any time during the war. The 1st, 3rd, and 4th Light Dragoons were amalgamated in 1780, following heavy losses. The mixed unit had four troops, and it was later designated the 3rd Legionary Corps. Officers and NCOs of the 1st and 4th regiments subsequently reformed their units. All four regiments of Continental Light Dragoons were converted to Legionary Corps in 1781, composed of mounted and dismounted troops.

Continental Light Dragoons 1777-1781

Regiment Coat Waistcoat Headwear
Col. Bland's Virginia Horse, 1776.
1st Continental Light Dragoons, 1st Legionary Corps, 1781
brown, with green facings, brass buttons green black cap, green turban, yellow tassel
2nd Continental Light Dragoons, Col. Blackden.
2nd Legionary Corps, 1781
blue, with white facings, white buttons white brass helmet, tan turban, white crest
3rd Continental Light Dragoons, Col. George Baylor's Dragoons.
3rd Legionary Corps, 1781
white, with light blue facings, white buttons white black cap, lt. blue turban, white feather
4th Continental Light Dragoons.
4th Legionary Corps, 1781
green, with red facings, white buttons red black cap, black turban, white crest
Provost Corps, 1778-1783, Major Bartholomew von Heer blue, with yellow facings, white turnbacks, white buttons yellow black cap, black turban, black crest

Legionary Corps 1781-1783

Cavalry Element Coat Waistcoat Headwear
Charles Dabney's Virginia Legion, Major Nelson's Corps of Cavalry blue, with blue facings (red for officers), blue turnbacks, white buttons white black Tarleton, black crest
Pulaski's Legion*, 1778-1780. Count Pulaski's Polish troopers carried a lance with white over red pennon. Two uniform styles are known, the second one being using during the southern campaign. blue with yellow trim, blue facings with yellow trim, white turnbacks, white buttons and hussar lace white black cap, silver star,
grey turban, white plume, white crest
Pulaski's Legion*, 1778-1780. Count Pulaski's Polish troopers carried a lance with white over red pennon. Two uniform styles are known, the second one being using during the southern campaign. blue, with red facings, red or white turnbacks white black cap, silver star, grey turban, white plume, white crest
Armand's Legion, Col. Armand, Marquis de la Rouerie. The second uniform style was seen during the southern campaign. blue, with buff facings, white turnbacks, brass buttons white black tarleton, white plume, black crest
Armand's Legion, Col. Armand, Marquis de la Rouerie. The second uniform style was seen during the southern campaign. blue, with buff facings, brass buttons buff black tarleton, white plume, black crest
Lee's Legion, Detachment of 1st Lt. Dragoons, Major Henry Lee buff, with green facings, brass buttons green black cap, green turban, yellow tassel

State Cavalry

Troop or Regiment Coat Waistcoat Headwear
Connecticut 11th Militia Regiment, Light Horse Company blue, with blue facings, brass buttons white tricorne, gold lace
Rhode Island Independent Troop of Horse, Captain-General's Cavaliers blue, with white facings, brass buttons white
NY, Albany County Troop of Horse blue, white buttons Tricorne, silver lace
NY, King's County Troop of Horse blue, white buttons red Tricorne, silver lace
Light Horse of the City of Philadelphia, 1774-1783 brown, with white facings, white buttons white black cap, yellow turban, foxtail crest
Pennsylvania Light Horse** brown, with white facings, white buttons white? Round hat, silver trim, bucktail
Virginia Light Horse*** blue, with red cuffs
South Carolina Regiment of Horse, 1761-75 blue, with red facings, brass buttons red Tricorne, gold lace
North Carolina Light Horse blue, with red facings

* The Polish troopers of Count Pulaski's legion may qualify as trained lancers in wargames.
** It is known that the Pennsylvania Light Horse carried a yellow standard.
*** Virginia Light Horse was apparently armed a spear, tomahawk, and two pistols.

On campaign, officers and troopers stowed their personal gear in large leather saddlebags. Two Pistols were standard issue, and they were carried in British pattern pistol holsters with fur covers, attached forward of the saddle. If regimental saddle blankets were available, they would have been in the coat colour, edged in the regimental facing colour. Most regiments had turnbacks in the facing colour, except where noted above.

Continental Light Dragoons are a must have for anyone interested in the American War of Independence. The units are so attractive that the collector and wargamer will want them all. Light dragoon figures are not readily available, but conversion is easy, because of the limited numbers of mounted troops involved in the war. Only 2 figures per regiment are required if a grand-tactical game system like Volley & Bayonet is used.

Anthony De Lyall & Klaus Schultheis

Bibliography

Frequently Asked Questions

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American Revolutionary War Miniatures