‘Poor Bloody Infantry’
Here you are – a Redcoat with Sir Arthur Wellesley’s army. It’s 1808, and you and your mates’ve been sent to Portugal to chase the local girls, drink yourselves insensible and…oh, yes, to see off Boney’s bandits.
One problem is that to get anywhere in this damned country you must march. Ten miles a day, fifteen; twenty, maybe. The weather’s boiling hot, you’re wearing a heavy wool uniform more suited to Flanders in midwinter, and you’re carrying about eighty pounds of kit on your back. And sometimes you might have to fight at the end of the march. So it’s little wonder you look up at passing cavalrymen with hateful jealousy. How dare dragoons be issued with a horse to take the strain. Snobs, they are; jumped-up pretty-boys who wouldn’t know a real day’s work if it smacked them in the face.
And when you reach the end of your march, you probably have to bivouac in the open (no tents – not enough mules to carry them), cut wood for a fire, cook your own food and clean your musket. Life’s hard for a ‘foot-slogger’.
Well, what about the average dragoon? Of course, he only has to march if he wants to give his horse’s back a rest. And the horse does carry all his kit. But when a cavalryman reaches his destination, he must find shelter for his horse, unsaddle, fetch water, find forage, bed the horse down if he’s managed to secure a proper stable, feed it, check it for injuries and loose shoes, brush it off, clean his equipment (that’s saddlery, sabre, pistol AND carbine – a short musket). Only once his horse has been cared for can he think about doing everything the infantryman has to do and probably finished doing an hour earlier! And before he marches the following morning, it’ll be water, feed, check, brush, saddle…all over again.
Of course, the poor bloody infantryman just has to pull his boots on and pick up his gun. And maybe make himself something to eat. Dragoons, however, rarely bothered with breakfast.
They never had the time.