1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Dragoon
DRAGOON (Fr. dragon, Ger. Dragoner), originally a mounted soldier trained to fight on foot only (see Cavalry). This mounted infantryman of the late 16th and 17th centuries, like his comrades of the infantry who were styled “pike” and “shot,” took his name from his weapon, a species of carbine or short musket called the “dragon.” Dragoons were organized not in squadrons but in companies, like the foot, and their officers and non-commissioned officers bore infantry titles. The invariable tendency of the old-fashioned dragoon, who was always at a disadvantage when engaged against true cavalry, was to improve his horsemanship and armament to the cavalry standard. Thus “dragoon” came to mean medium cavalry, and this significance the word has retained since the early wars of Frederick the Great, save for a few local and temporary returns to the original meaning. The phrases “to dragoon” and “dragonnade” bear witness to the mounted infantry period, this arm being the most efficient and economical form of cavalry for police work and guerrilla warfare. The “Dragonnades,” properly so called, were the operations of the troops (chiefly mounted) engaged in enforcing Louis XIV.'s decrees against Protestants after the revocation of the edict of Nantes. In the British service the dragoons (1st Royals, 2nd Scots Greys, 6th Inniskillings) are heavy cavalry, the Dragoon Guards (seven regiments) are medium, as are the dragoons of other countries. The light cavalry of the British army in the 18th and early 19th century was for the most part called light dragoons.