Monday, 7 June 2010

40’s in your 40’s, Wargaming in 40mm.4

The organisation and economics of an infantry regiment of 1775 – 1777, The British, Part 4:

So our company of 1776 is at field strength of around thirty eight of all ranks! Our company is also performing manouevres in two ranks owing to the changes implemented by the army commander General William Howe.

The company has now been split into two platoons each of 16 soldiers and then sub-dived into two sections! The section is the sub unit for movement and forming up. The lead platoon has two Corporals forming on the right and left, the second platoon has the third Corporal formed up on the left, when the company is formed into line there are three Corporals formed in the same rank, the Sergeants take post ready to coerce the enlisted men to carry out the given command.

These orders are given by the Company Officers which were then passed on to the rank and file by the Sergeants with the assistance of the company drummer and Corporals, all maneuvering was done in two ranks by the sub-sections, it has been mentioned in some books that owing to the class system of the time the officers did not directly speak with the common soldier, they communicated through the Nco’s.

The 18th Century battlefield is a noisy and hectic place, two bodies of soldiers would march and maneuver to bring about a solid front to face off against one another to deliver a steady disciplined volley, the idea was to force the other body to break either by being forced to retire or run and rout.

A steady wall of soldiers advancing with bayonets leveled after delivering steady fire could be quite unnerving to inexperienced soldiers, as time went by during the war the opposing regulars would virtually become on an even par with one another.

The current plan then is to form a complete regiment on 1:1 based on the information that I have stated in the previous post’s, the time given for painting the figures is quite time consuming and we want to be able to get on the table to game, we have two companies completed for this purpose.

Moving forward we have decided to game using smaller formations, the 1:1 project will come to pass as time goes by and as the figures slowly get painted. Phase 1 will be to field a Brigade on the table, our main period of interest is between 1775-1777 and the war in the northern states and seeing as we have the 37th Foot as our main core unit we are looking at the New York campaign of 1776.

New York 1776, the 37th were formed up into a brigade of four line regiments under the command of Major General Valentine Jones, the 3rd brigade consisted of the foot regiments of the 10th, 37th, 38th and the 52nd, these other three line regiments had already been in the colonies for some months, either all or part of these regiments had already seen some action, the flanks companies had already been in the fight against those rebellious colonists, the 38th and 52nd Foot had even been at the battle at Bunker Hill the previous year.

Also with the 10th & 38th Foot Regiments having yellow facing’s will help in our ultimute goal of a complete 1:1 37th Foot, although the 38th facings were designated a darker (more orange) yellow in the 1768 Royal Warrant, we will use a darker colour when painting up this unit, the other slight problem being that the 37th yellow has been described as canary yellow in clothing returns that we have seen from the PRO (National Archives) at Kew, either way I am pretty sure we can live with this.

Colonel Tavington.


General Staff said...

thanks for the detail in your posts. It makes it even more interesting to a history nerd like me. Also I added your blog to the blogs I follow and I posted it for all of my visitors to see. please keep up the good work.

Colonel Tavington said...

General Staff, thank you for your kind comment, I see you follow the war in the South, my last visit to North and South Carolona was back in 2008 where I went to a few sites, last year I managed to get to GCH on a drive North from Atlanta.

Likewise I am about to add your blog as one I follow.


Col. T

Sarpedon said...

Col Tavington

I’ve just read through your blog on “40’s in your 40’s” and congratulate you on an audacious project. But could I advise caution before undertaking such a vast endeavour. At least until you have read Matthew H Springs 2008 book “With Zeal and With Bayonets Only: The British Army on Campaign in North America, 1775-1783”.

Springs’ research is the latest word on understanding how the British army actually fought in the American Revolution. His discussion on how a battalion formed for battle will be of great interest to you. Open or extended order was the normal formation. The correct alignment of companies by seniority was not always adhered to. Battalions in battle often operated in two wings each under its own commander. Due to the extent of many of the battlefields fought over, the limited number of troops involved and the adoption of extended formations, companies often operated semi independently, especially in the elite formations (grenadier and light battalions). Firing by sections, platoons and other subdivisions was not often used. In fact fighting in the traditional linier style was rare, given the nature of the terrain. All battalions seemed to have operated more like light infantry. The line would be loose. Men would operated by files, each pair advancing semi independently from tree to rock to tree one firing while the other moved forward and inturn covered his comrade’s advance.

He even discusses whether colours were actually carried in battle and his first hand descriptions of what the British soldier were seen to be wearing would send Don Troiani into conniptions. (Troiani’s most recent painting of the Guards at Guilford is a real disappointment. It seems to ignore totally all the evidence we have on this unit. Sad.) Turned down hat, short coat without lace and overalls or American trousers as they were called! Perry miniatures are very good though I personally think they should not have lace but then again that’s me.

As you can see I’m very taken with this book. It is a revelation or perhaps a Revolution in thought on the Revolution.

All writing previous to this text have been rendered obsolete. All contemporary and future writing, painting or blogging will need to take it into serious account.



Colonel Tavington said...


I have said book! Most of my material is from sources in the re-enactment community, as a group we have had access to information from various records! Much of what we have has come from official papers and trying to decipher said material, Springs book is quite informative better than Urwin's Fusiliers! To my mind there has not been a book yet printed that I feel touches on what we are trying to achieve however Mathew Springs is one I strongly recommend.

I have some reuglar contact with Brendan Morrissey who has pitched in what he thinks is the most suited for the period.

Thanks for your input and I am glad that you took the time out to comment!



Sarpedon said...

Col. T

Thanks for replying.

I believe there has been a tectonic shift in thinking about how the British Army actually operated in North America during the Revolutionary period in the last few years. It has been articulated in writing by the likes of Urwin and Spring. But I think it has been taken up more strongly across the Atlantic than it has in America itself.

This is understandable. The new interpretation put the British soldier in a more favourable light than he was previously. He is no-longer the mindless automaton marching shoulder to shoulder in the open while wily, liberty loving, free Colonials shoot him down from behind trees and rocks. He is instead a thinking soldier fighting the Rebels as they themselves fight.

This flies in the face of deeply entrenched myths. It contradicts the central myth of the Revolution that cunning defeated strength, that wit and guile overcame mindless brutality.

Troiani has to paint the Guard as he has done, regardless of what his research tells him, because he is selling to a market that expects the Guard to be dressed as they are in the formation they are in. They need to conform to the expectation Americans have of their Revolution and history be damned. The guy has to sell to his market.

But the myth persists even in the most recent American writing. L.E. Babits two book on Cowpens and Guilford Courthouse are examples of this. In the Cowpens book at the climax of the battle when the 71st (I think) close on the retreating Continentals Babits calculates the timing of the event by using the regulation march rate. As if the 71st were counting cadence at that stage of the battle. They has just attack two enemy lines over a distance many hundreds of yards through broken terrain and he expects them to be in a formed formation marching in step, really!

The map he uses in “Long, Obstinate and Bloody” is also indicative of this line of thinking and very misleading. The British first line Von Bose, 71st, 23rd and 33rd foot (1037 men) are shown as having a frontage of about 850 yards. This would place them in open line, about 1 ½ yards per file. Fine, except that Babits makes no mention of this in the text by way of explanation.
In comparison the Maryland Brigade (7-800 men) is shown with a frontage of about 250 yards. That allows for about 22 inches per file so these two units have their men standing shoulder to shoulder, very closely especially for Americans. Yet again Babits does not explain this.

Why is this important? Well the British line has only a 20% advantage in numbers over the Marylanders yet they have a frontage that is three times as great. To look at the map without considering the real strengths of the units one would get the impression that the British line outnumbers the Maryland line by three to one, which we know is not the case. This map would distort the viewers understanding of the battle unless the author took pains to explain what is being represented and Babits does not do so. Why not?

Anyway, enough of my ranting.

If you have got this far thank you for pressing on and being patient with my ravings.


Colonel Tavington said...


I too get frustrated with the narrow minded diluted and popular view of how great “they” were at beating us! It was amazing when as I re-enactor we came across that general narrow minded concept of the conflict, generally speaking the “Redcoat” acquitted himself quite well in most engagements and battles.

To be honest in recent months I have visited both Yorktown, Saratoga and “Boston” the Park Rangers I met have moved away from the we beat them because we fired from behind tree’s opinion, most of the Rangers I have met are quite open minded to the war, I even found one defend Tarleton and compare him to William Washington and this was one of the park rangers at Cowpens.

As a pro “Lobster Back” I am still waiting for someone to write a decent book which will redress the British Armies involvement, Mathew Spring’s book is a start, I expected more from Fusiliers but felt a little disappointed in its content, I have a copy of Frederick Mackenzie re-printed journal, the Fusiliers book didn’t give me any further insight into a typical regiment of the time.


PS you can email me at if you want to correspond.

General Staff said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
General Staff said...

This was a great debate and I for one appreciate the open discussion. Great job John and Col T. !!!!! The more we do research at Swamp Fox Brigade at battlefields and in primary sources the more we feel the Union Jack should still fly over the colonies. PS I deleted the post before this one b/c my Beagle Churchill thought it was time to go outside and I hit enter before I was done.

Colonel Tavington said...

Gentlemen! I have just finally read the very last chapter of the Fusiliers book! Urwins summary of the campaign of the latter part of the 18th C. was actually beneficial, I put the book down some months ago after reaching the conclusion of Yorktown, to be honest I think its time to plod through the pages again to see if I can change my mind on the contents of said book!

As for another post I am hoping to work towards one over the weekend week as I am able to spend an actual two whole days at home!!!

It looks like I am off to Ohio and Pennsylvannia next week with work! Looking forward to trying to get some time in Pittsburgh as I have an interest in the FIW!