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25289Re: American Light Infantry

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  • md5_yager
    Jun 1, 2005
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      I'd hazard that an answer to your question could almost fill a small
      book. But to take a very general overview, here are some personal

      As for light infantry companies in regular US regiments, I'll leave
      that for rep's/historians of those recreated units.

      As for State militias up to the War of 1812, I offer some
      observations from personal study. The short answer is that
      one could make a claim that all of the state militias were "light"
      infantry, in that their military training (drill, maneuver
      evolutions, etc.), where there was any, was never on a par with
      regular infantry. State militia service traced back to the earliest
      colonial periods, being a requirement for able-bodied males in the
      designated age range, which varied over time, but often from 16-50.
      For the vast majority, this meant nothing more than being a name on
      the company commander's muster role, and maybe showing up at
      infrequent drills.

      Virginia for a time used militia districts to determine who was in a
      company, based on census location. The numbers I have seen in
      Virginia the post-RevWar period suggested a variable 60-80 men per
      company. If a militia draft occurred, it usually did not mean
      everyone reported due to hardship that would result in agrarian
      culture. Attempts were made to get enough of the company to
      volunteer, to meet quotas. And there was a process for substitutes.

      No companies in southwest Virginia or western North Carolina, for
      example were designated 'light infantry', since many of these were
      (for historical and weapons reasons) designated rifle companies. This
      was economical, as a hunting frock was often the official State
      uniform. And it capitalized on long-standing familiarity with rifles,
      and hunting dress. (I know some may think this sounds like its from a
      Davy Crockett movie script, but know that there were small Indian war-
      party raids in east Tennessee, albeit infrequent, into the mid 1790s.)

      In most areas, it appears that men were also free to constitute their
      own independent, uniformed companies. Incredibly, there was no public
      fear or shock at the sight of organized groups of men carrying and
      drilling with guns in public in those times. People actually welcomed
      it. But I digress... Uniformed companies could be found in Baltimore,
      Maryland, and some other cities. Maryland had companies which
      retained the name "Light Infantry" from the RevWar period right up to
      the time of the War of 1812. Baltimore also had a independent "Yager"
      company. (you Prussian fans spelled it as "Jager" or "Jaeger"). At
      the battle of North Point, Baltimore, Maryland in 1814, historical
      records show they functioned as skirmishers, although evidently armed
      with muskets. There was a independent, uniformed "First Baltimore
      Light Infantry Company" at the same battle, that traced back to the
      Revolutionary War. But I have not yet seen evidence they fought
      independently from other line infantry companies in the 5th Regiment,
      Maryland Militia they were attached to. Local military commanders
      attached rifle units to at least a couple of the infantry regiments
      at that battle. But organizationally, a Rifle Battalion was a
      separate entity.

      ... This only gives a few details about variation from State to
      State, and within each State. (As I said, you could fill a small
      book.) US law mandated State militias, but their organization,
      uniforms, training, and fighting quality was a proverbial 'patchwork-
      quilt'. The War of 1812 certainly brought to light many of the
      organizational and political management problems of the US Government
      relying on augmenting US forces with State militias.

      Dave Welch
      Sadtler's Baltimore Yagers Company
      5th Reg't, Maryland Militia

      --- In WarOf1812@yahoogroups.com, "dan_055" <dan_055@y...> wrote:
      > This may be a dumb question, but did the American
      > regular regiments have light companies? How about
      > the State or militia regiments?
      > If not, what happened to all the light infantry
      > made famous during the revolution?
      > Thanks,
      > Dan
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