British soldiers during the American Revolutionary war

#1
I have a US colleague who needs some info on the British Army during the Revolutionary War (as they call it). He's looking at the Battle of Cowpens (1781) and needs some info on the following:

I must accurately describe how a soldier was expected to load within 15 seconds and fire online and describe the two or three ranks advancing forward, what a dragoon is and what the cavalry job was.

If someone could suggest a good website on the soldiers' drill of the times I would much appreciate it. I will have to demonstrate for the crowd. Don't need the overall tactical piece but the drill and expectations of the individual soldier.

There are many mis-beliefs among the Americans about how the American Revolution was fought using Indian Tactics and won against the British who would blindly stand in the middle of a field and be shot at by us good/smart Americans hiding in the trees. Us historian/soldiers know better. Most decisive battles were fought in open fields. Within the 15 seconds it takes to reload most distances the armies were fighting could be closed with the bayonet. This would be a disaster for men spread out amongst the trees. I need to tell the story of the British Soldier drill. Do you have something simple?
He's determined to tell it well from the British point of view and bring it to life. Your suggestions would be most welcome.
 
#3
This sites quite good for Revolutionary War Battles

http://www.britishbattles.com/battle-cowpens.htm


Typical the septic wants to know about one of the few battles they won :roll: tell him to look at all of them for a better picture of the war
 
#4
wellyhead said:
Typical the septic wants to know about one of the few battles they won :roll: tell him to look at all of them for a better picture of the war
LOL - he didn't get to choose the battle someone else did. And he's absolutely not typical - he wants to portray the British side properly instead of what he considers to be the usual stereotypical American view of us from the 18th century.

Thanks both of you.
 
#6
An interesting project scary, as said all the popular thumbnails run against a lot of reality, but the overriding factor is that Britain gave up control, though I wonder how many Americans are aware it was not a wham-bam 1776 quick war and the relinquishment was not formalised till the Second Treaty of Paris on 15 April, 1783.

The view/history of the ‘winners’ typically prevails, though makes it harder to appreciate actual events.
e.g. events of 15/16 Sept 1776, the popularist comment:
”Harlem Heights, NY 16 Sept. 1776 Nathanael Greene involved in engagement against British and Hessians. British driven back to their lines.”

While from a Hessian (German) account:
”On the 15th of September, British troops from Long Island, crossed the East River and routed the American force at Kip’s Bay (presently 34th Street). Washington moved his troops to north-western Manhattan (present day Columbia University). A small force of British and Hessians were involved in a small skirmish at Harlem Heights, the Americans held their position.”

And:
”16/17 November 1776 - The Army [British/Hessian] marched 22 English miles to New York (City) via Kings Bridge to Fort Washington, New York. Fort Washington was situated on a steep hill between the Hudson river and the Harlem Creek. The American’s in Fort Washington surrender to the British and Hessians but not after losing about 450 killed and some 2,800 Americans captured.”

The popular American history states: ”Fort Washington, NY 16 Nov. 1776 American commander surrendered Fort Washington to the Hessians.”

The Americans make much of Rogers Rangers and how their irregular tactics influenced American military – and yet, Rogers, Butler etc fought for the British?

They also frequently seem to pass over the importance of the French Navy in the war, and, definitely do not like to mention how the new American militia elected to bring Canada into the revolution, yet their superior numbers got their butts kicked and the remnants fled south. Even the French colonials at Quebec city preferred to fight with the British rather than join the Americans.

Nothing changes the end result of course.

No.9
 
#10
smoojalooge said:
surely to have a revolution you have to have been an independant nation to start off with
Given that a sizeable majority in the American colonies were actually either loyalists or neutral (Indians, foreign nationals, religious colonies, etc), then the war might be defined as a coup or state-sponsored (France & Spain) sedition.

An interesting aspect of the fledgling American government is that they were actually actively debating having someone as King (Washington apparently turned down the honour) - which rather sweeps away the modern myth of a revolution for democracy......

Good luck to Scareyspice's correspondent: I have many dear American friends, many of them highly educated and intelligent. However the "Mel Gibson" version of history is firmly welded into the national psyche, and its near impossible to get them to even consider a neutral historical version of events - even those from US historians.
 
#11
Going back to the original point, didn't they give a TP of loading drills in one of the 'Sharpe' movies? But then again as it was TV they may have been complete bollox.
 
#12
It is possible to effectively reload and fire a brown bess in 15 secs (done it myself once) if you follow the loading cycle of the times, i.e with unpatched ball. However I did it on a range at my own firing point. Trying to do it in a line with all your mates, in stiff uniforms with full kit, while facing uncoming fire musket fire, cannon balls and canister would complicate matters, the 3rnds a minute rule is more realistic in my view.

Add to that the possibility that you may be relaoding with a bayonet on....
 
#13
This "stiff kit" thing...yes at a levee in Brighton for the King but on campaign the "stiffness" of kit would have been somewhat degraded.
 
#14
They were still doing that "queue" thing with their hair, which have been bloody uncomfortable - having it pulled back so tight that some toms had problems closing their eyes...
 
#15
Blind_Pew said:
Smoo.
It was a Revolution coz they won in the end :( Effing Sceptic Bastards.
OK, happen to be the proud colleague of Ms. Scary herself. Don't know the reference to Sceptic so please give it to me in plain UK words as if I was a Squadie. You won't hurt my feelings.

In a lame attempt to be one of you: I've been really, really, really drunk in Trafalgar Square so one of your officers dubbed me an honorary Squadie for my efforts. Spent several hundred in pounds Sterling in one of those old book shops you have there(many in that area--touristy as you all know) as proof prior to the Ale fest. Reading currently about a guy named Wellington from that very same book shop. Interesting chap. In America we would call him "balsy".

I've actually found your drill manual from the 1770's. It is insanely complicated. How some people could make something as simple as loading and firing an inaccurate semi-reliable musket as the Brown Bess is inconceviable.

After checking out a few of your web sites above. Can anyone paraphrase for this US officer how a British soldier was expected to load and fire a musket in plain modern day English without all the drill included(the sergeant moved here with the line moving here and the sergeant saying this etc. etc etc.). I'm trying to explain how it was done to a bunch of other US officers. Cartoons are good too.

Many thanks and to all of you a Happy New Year. May it be a damn better one than the last. Cheers.

Major Cali/Dawg
 
#16
Major_Dawg said:
Blind_Pew said:
Smoo.
It was a Revolution coz they won in the end :( Effing Sceptic Bastards.
OK, happen to be the proud colleague of Ms. Scary herself. Don't know the reference to Sceptic so please give it to me in plain UK words as if I was a Squadie. You won't hurt my feelings.

In a lame attempt to be one of you: I've been really, really, really drunk in Trafalgar Square so one of your officers dubbed me an honorary Squadie for my efforts. Spent several hundred in pounds Sterling in one of those old book shops you have there(many in that area--touristy as you all know) as proof prior to the Ale fest. Reading currently about a guy named Wellington from that very same book shop. Interesting chap. In America we would call him "balsy".

I've actually found your drill manual from the 1770's. It is insanely complicated. How some people could make something as simple as loading and firing an inaccurate semi-reliable musket as the Brown Bess is inconceviable.

After checking out a few of your web sites above. Can anyone paraphrase for this US officer how a British soldier was expected to load and fire a musket in plain modern day English without all the drill included(the sergeant moved here with the line moving here and the sergeant saying this etc. etc etc.). I'm trying to explain how it was done to a bunch of other US officers. Cartoons are good too.

Many thanks and to all of you a Happy New Year. May it be a damn better one than the last. Cheers.

Major Cali/Dawg
Septic is ryhming slang Septic Tank = Yank.

As for how to load the musket. Try almost any of the Sharpe books, there is an easy to follow narrative guide in nearly all of them.

I am sure other poster/spotters will expand on this with the best book title/chapter/page/ISBN :)

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0009K75X6/?tag=armrumser-20
 
#17
So we go from a simple request on British tactics and get an interesting diversion as to whether the revolutionary war was either justified in being revolutionary or a revolt. To the victor go the spoils, including being able to call it whatever we want to. Viva la revolution and all that. I have nothing to add about trying to manhandle the Brown Bess...I probably would have gotten frustrated, chucked it at the enemy, and ditched the bright red uniform and learned how to low crawl quick fast an in a hurry.
 
#18
I would have thought that some of the many re-enactment groups would be avble to supply the details about minor details of British Military practice in the 1770s. I once used a group for a battlefield tour of 7 year war battles in Germany and they were very good on the practical details.

For example, we had a discussion in the recee about how an 18th Century army might advance through the brush and woodland on the tops of the ridges East of Hameln. "We" included arguably the best historian of these wars and thought the units needed to break ranks and scramble up a 45 degree wooded slope. The reenactors argued from period drill books that the C.18th Mentality was to apporach at a slow march in close formation. A couple of experiments suggestsed that they were right and at a slow march 4k men could have assaulted the steep side of the escarpment.

There are a shed load of links to Americans who specialise in dressing up as British Soldiers of the period. Those that are genuioen re-enactors and into living history should be good about all the questions your friend asked.

For what its worth, there is plenty of evidence that the British troops were quite adaptable. The red coats faded to russet brown and uniforms seem to have been modified for frontier work. Contemporary pictures show that the ally C18th redcoat cut his coat short to combat jacket length, tgrimmed down the brim of the tricorne to create a patrol cap and carried a Silverman Tomahawk as well as a bayonet.

The British Loyalists tended to be dressed in Green and one of their leaders also introduced a really revolutionary weapon - the breach loading rifle.

The American Continental Army was trained to operate in a similar way to Briotish Reguilar Troops. skirmishers shooting from behind cover could inflict casualties, but couldnt capture ground. For that you needed disciplined troops willing and trained to close with the bayonet. The initial Rebel tactics were dictated by their lack of disciplined troops.
 
#19
Well, I wouldn't go so far as to dismiss American guerilla tactics completely. It's true that most battles were fought in the open, but remember that Gen Washington had experience serving the Crown in the French and Indian war, where he warned his commander that there bright red uniforms were going to make them target practice for the indians in the trees. He happened to be right about that.

However, we need to de-gibsonise the war
 
#20
The British did their musketry drills with live ammo. Doing this over and over until it became second nature. The drill breaks down the individual movements to make it easier to learn, just as any instruction book will do. The combination of movements results in the loading sequence which will become one fluid motion with practice. The French and no doubt the American regulars had their drill sequences too, so in terms of loading time on the field, things evened out between sides, also using the same "unreliable" muskets. The skirmishers on all sides had the freedom of loading as they saw fit since they had more independence.

It would be reasonable to assume that the loading drill would be used on the field for the first few volleys, then the importance would be on maintaining the cadence of the volley rather than formal reloading technique as the enemy got closer (I'm sure there where many squaddie tricks to keep your Bess barking fast for a good few shots which are lost to us today). As for reliability, the main problem is the flint. The flash hole from pan to breech is huge on service muskets so even with heavy fouling in it, you would still get ignition and the ball is much smaller than bore size so you can keep dropping them down after a good few shots with just the weight of the ramrod without having to bash the thing down due to fowling build up, but really, who cares if a few misfires occur when you are sending a battalions worth of lead at your enemy standing obligingly 100m-50m away as it was in those days. Any closer and its swords and bayonets anyway.

American skirmishers generally had long rifles which were even longer to load due to needing to force the ball into the rifling. The Brits had them too, in the form of rifle brigades armed with Ferguson breechloading rifles. They were fewer in number, but faster to load.

Ye gods, I was born in the wrong century 8O :lol:
 

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