Uniforms and Equipment



Helmet – Made of leather and brass.  The skull and crossbones or ‘death’s head’ was the regimental crest.  (Yes, pirates have also used this symbol, but they never had a monopoly on it!)  The red flowing crest is dyed horsehair.  The helmet offered some protection from sword cuts, and also served to identify the dragoon as belonging to the 17th.  Our helmets are reproductions based on an actual 17th LD helmet that survives in the Army Museum in Paris.
Regimental Coat – Made of wool, red with white facings.  Even details, like buttons and the ‘lace’ trim are accurately recreated.  The regimental was a primary means of identification.  Another dragoon regiment in North America at this time, the 16th light dragoons, wore regimentals that were red with blue facings.

Boots – some references state that the 17th rode with ‘short boots, like a jockey’, while others describe longer boots with knee guards which are more typical of cavalry.  Whether long or short, boots are the universal mark of a horseman; they protect and stabilize the rider's lower leg. Dismounted dragoons wore shoes and gaiters similar to infantry soldiers.


Saber - the dragoons used a saber that had a single blade, was a straight sword, and hung in a scabbard from its shoulder sling.

Carbine - “British records of 1764 mention a new light carbine with a 28 inch barrel.  This apparently referred to the Eliot version, which was officially recognized in 1773.  Since it was supposedly first produced in the Dublin Castle arsenal, and one of the two light horse units in the American Revolution embarked from Ireland, 17th Light Dragoons, some might have seen action here.  It’s unique rammer has an incised ring to secure it under the nose cap.  The lock markings include Dublin Castle.  It’s length was 44 inches in all and the barrel being 28-3/8 inches and of a .65 caliber.  The weight was 6.1 pounds.”  (“The History of Weapons of the American Revolution” by George C. Neumann, New York, 1967)

Cartridge box – This leather container holds pre-made cartridges (18th century bullets)

Horse (“tack”)

Bridle – consists of the headstall, the bit, and the reins.  The bit fits in the horse's mouth in a space between the teeth.  The horse feels even small movements of the bit; in this way the rider communicates with the horse.  Many different types of bits and bridles have been used over the centuries.   Most references indicate that the military used the ‘double’ or ‘full’ bridle during this period  (see figure).
Head collar – called a ‘halter’ today, this is used to tie the horse when it's not being ridden.   When riding, the bridle was put on over the head collar.
Saddle – the saddle serves several important purposes.  Firstly, it protects the horse's back by distributing the rider's weight over a larger area. Secondly, it allows  the rider to support some of his weight on his feet ( in the stirrups), giving him much more security and providing a smoother ride.  Saddles have changed even more through the centuries than bridles, but during the 18th century, the saddle used by the civilian and military population looked very similar to the modern English saddle. The girth and surcingle keep the saddle in place, and a folded saddle blanket provides padding.
Breastplate – this helps keep the saddle from slipping back.  The crupper, which runs from the cantle of the saddle to the horse's tail, helps keep the saddle from slipping forward.

Other equipment

Depending on the dragoon and his duties, other equipment might have included the following:

pistol buckets – leather containers covered with bearskin held the heavy flintlock pistols of the time period
Farrier's churns

The regimental farrier  (blacksmith/veterinarian in the 18th century) carried his blacksmith and horse-leech equipment as well as a canteen, blanket roll, feed or forage bag, picket rope, or portmanteau (18th century suitcase) that might also hang from the saddle.
17LD Farrier

The dragoon horse might easily carry more than 250 pounds in rider and equipment!

Caring for uniforms and equipment (from Hinde's, "The Discipline of the Light Horse," London, 1778)

    A Receipt to make Black-Balls for Boots -
Take Six Ounces of Bees-Wax, Two Ounces of Virgins-Wax, One Ounce of Hard Tallow, and One Barrel of Lamp Black, well Mixed and Boiled together in an Earthen Pot glazed; when you take it off the Fire, take One Ounce of Plum Gum beaten very fmall, which pour in gradually, stirring it continually till it is quite cold and incorporated; then preferve it for Ufe.

A Receipt A Receipt to keep Arms from Rust -

One Ounce of Camphire to 'Two Pounds of Hogs-Lard, Disfolvc them together and take off the Scum ; Mix as much BlackLead as will bring them to an Iron Colour : Rub your Arms over with this, and let it lie on Twenty-four Hours, then Clean them as well as posfible with a Linen Cloth, and they will keep without the least Rust for Six Months.

    A Receipt for Cleaning the White Jackets - 
    Wet Cleaning.  Boil Pipe-Clay and Whiting in Water very thin, take as much Powder Blue as will just give it a Blue Cast and no more; Lay it on the Jacket whilst Warm with a Soft Brush down the Grain of the Cloth.  When the Jacket is Dry, Rub it with a List or Woollen Cloth, and afterwards Brush it with a Cloathes-Brush.

    Dry Cleaning.  Take a Large Quantity of Bran and a Little Whiting, with about an Ounce of Powder Blue, Mix them well together and put them into a Stocking, Lay your Jacket on a Table, and Rub it very well there-with-, and afterwards with a Piece of Lift, or very fine Woollen Cloth, and then fmooth it with a warm Smoothing Iron, Remembering before you attempt to Clean a Jacket Dry, to take out all the Spots with Soap and a Wet Sponge; when it is quite Dry, proceed as above.

    A Receipt for the White Belts -
Take 1-1/2 lb of Pipe-Clay, 3 Quarts of Water, 1/4 lb of Best Glue, 1/4 lb of White Soap, Boil the Soap and Glue first, till difolved, then Mix it with the Pipe-Clay, and Boil all together for a Quarter of an Hour; when Cold put it on with a Sponge in the usual manner, and when Dry Rub it 'with a Glafs-Bottle.