The use of cavalry during the War of 1812 was very different than in Europe where mounted troops were used on the battlefield to smash through enemy infantry. In North America, the lack of large open fields meant that cavalry charges were rare and the dragoons were primarily used to relay messages and act as scouts.
The 19th Light Dragoons were originally raised as the 23rd Regiment of Light Dragoons in 1781. The regiment arrived in Madras, India in 1782, being the first British cavalry regiment to serve in India, and for 16 years it was the only British cavalry regiment on the subcontinent. In 1786, the regiment was renumbered as the 19th Light Dragoons.
The dragoons served in India up until the early 1800s performing garrison duties and fighting in a number of engagements. In 1803, the regiment was led by Major-General Arthur Wellesley, the future Duke of Wellington, in a battle against rebel forces.
In 1806, the regiment was sent to England where it remained until being sent to Canada in 1812. The regiment was scattered in various detachments during the war until being consolidated in 1814. In July 1814, two detachments were present with three officers and 71 men at Fort George, and three officers and 61 men at Long Point.
On July 4 at Street’s Creek, about a mile south of the Chippawa River, a company of Americans were able to ford the creek upstream before the main body of Americans came up. Captain Turner Crooker’s 9th U.S. Infantry saw some British guns that appeared to be isolated. As they approached the guns, the Americans on the far bank watched as their comrades faced a cavalry charge by Lieutenant William Horton’s 19th Light Dragoons. The Americans reacted calmly, firing a volley before withdrawing to a nearby farmhouse for cover. Crooker’s men kept up a steady fire, bringing down eight horses and wounding four dragoons. Despite the casualties, Horton’s actions allowed the British guns to escape.
After Chippawa, the dragoons went on the participant in the Battle of Lundy’s Lane and the Siege of Fort Erie, receiving much praise from senior officers. By 1821, the regiment was disbanded but in 1862 the 19th Hussars formed and were granted permission to inherit the honours of the original 19th Light Dragoons.
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