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Re: More Riflemen Questions

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  • Joyce & Mike Barbieri
    ... Mike, A couple tardy thoughts on your thoughts. ... placed on NOT ... believe ) ... correct? I don t know about the not native catagorization of these
    Message 1 of 9 , Jan 2, 2005
      --- In Revlist@yahoogroups.com, umfspock87@c... wrote:

      Mike,

      A couple tardy thoughts on your thoughts.

      > I recall that for the big Battle Road reenactment, emphasis was
      placed on NOT
      > having rifles, or fringed hunting shirts in the event because ( I
      believe )
      > these things were not native to Massachusetts. Is my recollection
      correct?

      I don't know about the "not native" catagorization of these items.
      Hunting shirts certainly did not commonly appear in civilian dress in
      New England. As far as I know, they came along in a military context
      in both the Rev War and the earlier French wars.

      > Were rifles nonexistent in New England?

      Rifles did exist in NE but I am not sure to what extent. It's
      possible their presence just didn't/don't get the publicity that they
      receive in the mid-Atlantic region. It's also possible that people
      didn't need the range and accuracy of rifles in the wooded wilderness
      of the northeast. It's not that common to get a clear shot at a
      target over a few dozen yards away. The slow, heavy slug of a musket
      will tear through branches and brush better than a lighter rifle
      projectile.

      > It's clear that rifle units were raised in PA, MD, VA, NC, SC,
      (and I assume GA but I don't know of any offhand ), but what about
      the states north and east of PA?

      None that I know of in New England. The recreated 1st NH has a rifle
      section but I am not sure if that is historically accurate.

      > I've seen references to Ranger Units from New England, but did they
      carry rifles? There were Connecticut Rangers (under Col. Knowlton )
      and Seth Warner's "Green Mountain Boys" (from VT right?) Did they
      carry rifles?

      From what I have read, Knowlton's carried muskets. And, yes, Warner's
      Regt. came from VT--Continentals, by the way. As far as I know, they
      commonly carried muskets but I seem to remember reference(s) to a
      couple rifles in a company or two. Next time I go into the Rutland
      Library, I'll have to hunt down/up a friend of mine who has done
      considerable research into Warner's and ask him.

      As for my own unit--Benjamin Whitcomb's Independent Corps of Rangers--
      I have found zero reference to rifles in over 25 years of research
      the group. I have found numerous references to muskets and bayonets,
      however. And, by the way, Congress raised Whitcomb's and the unit
      seems to have lasted longer than other ranger units--1776-1781.

      > It seems that if they didn't they still had a lot in common with
      rifle
      > companies in terms of their tactics. That brings up another
      point...
      >
      > I'm probably more interested in Riflemen because of the tactics
      they used
      > rather than just the weapon.

      The tactics they used depended upon the situation. The two full-time
      companies of Whitcomb's, Thomas Lee's Rangers (also Continentals from
      VT), some of Warner's, and a few men from other units spent much of
      their time in small (2-6 men) scouting parties traveling 100+ miles
      into Canada. Tactics here call for either staying invisible for a
      couple weeks or blending in with the lips (local indigenous
      populations) by dressing as Canadians or savages. They would stay
      with friendly Canadians and/or bring in on horseback a few weeks
      worth of supplies and hide them somewhere in the coutryside. Not much
      opportunity to do this kind of activities at our events.

      They would also go out on shorter scouting circuits--40-60 miles--in
      parties of 10-20 men. The larger party meant the ability to have a
      firefight--something the men in Canada had to avoid. On occasion,
      these groups got into woods warfare with Brit parties. In this
      situation, cover and skulking skills meant a lot. Both these and the
      smaller parties went out in the winter as well necessitating winter
      survival skills.

      The ranger units up here also got involved in larger scale actions.
      Warner's formed at least a third of the American force at the battle
      of Hubbardton. Some of Whitcomb's and Lee's also took part in that
      action. Here, it appears that Warner's functioned as a line unit. I'm
      not sure of what Whitcomb's and Lee's men did--they may have been
      with either Warner's or Hale's 2d NH. At Saratoga, Whitcomb's served
      with Dearborne's light infantry battalion but they also functioned as
      scouts--Whitcomb and a couple of his men being to first to find the
      Brit force on the Heights in late August. I have references to
      Whitcomb's and Lee's men "exercising" relatively regular so it would
      appear that they did practice a manual. Because most of Whitcomb's
      men came from NH and the NH milita used Norfolk, we have chosen that
      manual. We also use Howe's LI manual more and more each event--it's
      great for maneuvering in open or extended order. In the woods, we use
      teams, a relatively high level of agression, and common sense.

      > If musket toting Rangers used the same tactics,
      > perhaps I should re-focus my attention to Rangers.
      Put another way, maybe
      > riflemen can be placed into a larger category of Rangers.. ...along
      with select
      > musket units.

      Now I like that approach! So often, organizers/commanders don't know
      what to do with us. We're certainly not line; we don't wear the fancy
      short coats and plumes of the LI; and we don't carry rifles. Often in
      the past, especially up here where people know us, officers let us go
      out own way and we became something of an "X-factor" at events. Out
      of the northeast, we found ourselve attached to either rifles or
      lights neither of whom really wanted us--too organized for rifles;
      too scruffy for the pretty lights. Lately, we have retained our
      structure and had rifles attached to us which has had mixed results.

      The last comment is that the Brits have a much better grasp on the
      use of ranging units. That's a result of having far higher numbers of
      them than does the American side. We on the side of freedom need to
      get our act together to cover the flanks where those ripe and unripe
      rascals have the distinct advantage. At events where we have had
      roughly equal numbers, we have been able to keep the Brits at bay.

      I'd be interested to hear what other units like us--including rifles--
      have to say about their experiences.

      Mike Barbieri
      Whitcomb's Corps
    • davann@adelphia.net
      ... Happy New Year Mike, A couple Ranger units of note during the F & I conflicts in N. New York, Hampshire Grants and Quebec were associated with Rogers
      Message 2 of 9 , Jan 3, 2005
        ---- chuck smith <longhunter17692002@...> wrote:
        >
        > yes to the rifle not being in new england it.And the dividing line was pa
        >
        > umfspock87@... wrote:Dear List,
        >
        > I want to thank those who have responded on and off list to my first batch of
        > questions. I've always wanted to learn more about Riflemen and finally have
        > the time, and determination, to throw myself full bore into it. That means
        > I'll probably plague the List with a lot more questions ( but hopefully will
        > also contribute some interesting posts as well ). Well, here goes the next batch
        > of questions.
        >
        > I recall that for the big Battle Road reenactment, emphasis was placed on NOT
        > having rifles, or fringed hunting shirts in the event because ( I believe )
        > these things were not native to Massachusetts. Is my recollection correct?
        > Were rifles nonexistent in New England?
        > If a dividing line exists between the states, where is the regional dividing
        > line for rifles? It's clear that rifle units were raised in PA, MD, VA, NC,
        > SC, ( and I assume GA but I don't know of any offhand ), but what about the
        > states north and east of PA ?
        >
        > I've seen references to Ranger Units from New England, but did they carry
        > rifles? There were Connecticut Rangers (under Col. Knowlton ) and Seth Warner's
        > "Green Mountain Boys" ( from VT right ? ) Did they carry rifles?
        >
        > It seems that if they didn't they still had a lot in common with rifle
        > companies in terms of their tactics. That brings up another point...
        >
        > I'm probably more interested in Riflemen because of the tactics they used
        > rather than just the weapon. If musket toting Rangers used the same tactics,
        > perhaps I should re-focus my attention to Rangers. Put another way, maybe
        > riflemen can be placed into a larger category of Rangers.. ...along with select
        > musket units.
        >
        > This emphasis on tactics leads me towards the Light Infantry too, but I want
        > to stay away from the Lights (for now) because I consider them much more
        > related to Line troops than rifle / ranger troops. Besides, I have a pretty good
        > grasp on the Light Infantry up thru 1779.
        >
        > To recap my questions:
        >
        > 1. Were rifles around in New England in the 1770's?
        >
        > 2. Where was the dividing line for Rifle Units among the states?
        >
        > 3. What about some of the Ranger Units that existed? Did they carry Rifles?
        >
        > 4. Did Ranger Units that used muskets use many of the same tactics as Rifle
        > Units?
        >
        > Anyone have an opinion on my ramblings thus far?
        >
        > Thanks for your input and Happy New Year,
        >
        > Mike Cecere 3rd & 7th VA
        >
        >
        >
        >
        >
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        Happy New Year Mike,

        A couple Ranger units of note during the F & I conflicts in N. New York, Hampshire Grants and Quebec were associated with Rogers' Rangers. There are some good accounts of these units employing mostly French made fusils and a few "regionally hewn" fowlers. I don't have my book list with me as I'm on the road, so I'll give you that list when Im return to my office. Also of note, during the WFI, a detachment of Herrick's Rangers under a Capt. (?) were organized under rifleman label.

        Ed Kennedy...are you out there? Do you have the name of the rifle detachment commander?

        All the Best,
        Dave Bridges
        Capt. John Warner's Co. of Rangers
      • Joyce & Mike Barbieri
        ... as Rifle ... Mike, I forgot to ask if you have seen Robert Rogers Rules of Ranging? It s Frog n Feather war but still quite interesting and applicable
        Message 3 of 9 , Jan 3, 2005
          --- In Revlist@yahoogroups.com, umfspock87@c... wrote:

          > 4. Did Ranger Units that used muskets use many of the same tactics
          as Rifle
          > Units?

          Mike,

          I forgot to ask if you have seen Robert Rogers' "Rules of Ranging?"
          It's Frog 'n' Feather war but still quite interesting and applicable
          to Rev War, I'm sure.

          Mike Barbieri
          Whitcomb's Corps
        • J. L. Bell
          Mike Barbieri wrote:
          Message 4 of 9 , Jan 5, 2005
            Mike Barbieri wrote:
            <<Rifles did exist in NE but I am not sure to what extent. It's
            possible their presence just didn't/don't get the publicity that they
            receive in the mid-Atlantic region. It's also possible that people
            didn't need the range and accuracy of rifles in the wooded wilderness
            of the northeast. It's not that common to get a clear shot at a
            target over a few dozen yards away. The slow, heavy slug of a musket
            will tear through branches and brush better than a lighter rifle
            projectile.>>

            I think it's interesting that although rifles were indeed rare in New
            England, tales of legendary American marksmen circulated there
            nevertheless. Here's an extract from a letter by Boston merchant John
            Andrews to William Barrell, 1 Oct 1774:
            “It’s common for the Soldiers to fire at a target fix’d in the stream
            at the bottom of the common. A countryman stood by a few days ago, and
            laugh’d very heartily at a whole regiment’s firing, and not one being
            able to hit it. The officer observ’d him, and ask’d why he laugh’d?
            Perhaps you’ll be affronted if I tell you, reply’d the countryman. No,
            he would not, he said. /Why then/, says he, I laugh to see how awkward
            they fire. /Why/, I’ll be bound if I hit it ten times running. Ah! will
            you, reply’d the officer; come try: Soldiers, go and bring five of the
            best guns, and load ‘em for this honest man. Why, you need not bring so
            many: let me have any one that comes to hand, reply’d the other, but I
            chose to load /myself/. He accordingly loaded, and ask’d the officer
            where he should fire? He reply’d, to the right--when he pull’d tricker,
            and drove the ball as near the right as possible. The officer was
            amaz’d--and said he could not do it againm as that was only by chance.
            He loaded again. Where shall I fire? To the left--when he perform’d as
            well as before. Come! once more, says the officer.--He prepared the
            third time.--Where shall I fire /naow/? [sic]--/In the Center/.--He took
            aim, and the ball went as exact in the middle as possible. The officers
            as well as soldiers /star’d/, and tho’t the Devil was in the man. Why,
            says the countryman, I’ll tell you /naow/. I have got a /boy/ at home
            that will toss up an apple and shoot out all the seeds as its coming down.”
            [Massachusetts Historical Society PROCEEDINGS, 8:371-2]

            J. L. Bell JnoLBell@...
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