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The word Dragoon originally meant mounted infantry, who were trained in horse riding as well as infantry fighting skills. However, usage altered over time and during the 18th century, dragoons evolved into conventional light cavalry units and personnel. Dragoon regiments were established in most European armies during the late 17th century and early 18th century.

The name is possibly derived from a type of firearm (called a dragon) carried by dragoons of the French Army. There is no distinction between the words dragon and dragoon in French.

The title has been retained in modern times by a number of armoured or ceremonial mounted regiments.


Origins and name

The establishment of dragoons evolved from the practice of occasionally transporting infantry by horse when speed of movement was needed. An early instance was ordered by Louis of Nassau during operations near Mons in Hainaut, when 500 infantry were transported this way.[1] In 1552 Prince Alexander of Parma mounted several companies of infantry on pack horses to achieve surprise.[1] It is also suggested the first dragoons were raised by the Marshal de Brisac in 1600,[2]. According to old German literature, dragoons were invented by Count Ernst von Mansfeld, one of the greatest German military commanders, in the early 1620s. There are other instances of mounted infantry predating this. However Mansfeld, who had learned his profession in Hungary and the Netherlands, often used horses to make his foot troops more mobile, creating what was called an "armée volante".

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