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25335Re: American Light Infantry

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  • md5_yager
    Jun 7 7:09 AM
      Brian,
      Your example of the Mathews County company is a good example of what
      I described as an independent, uniformed company. This "Volunteer
      Rifles" company even had their own constitution. The silver
      epaulettes of their officers must have been splendid. Mathews County
      on the Chesapeake Bay is a pretty far piece from the piedmont and
      mountain counties of Virginia, where the militia rifle companies and
      mounted volunteers were not so fashionably dressed.

      One could devote many pages to the colorful variations of uniform to
      be found among many such companies across the States. Many on this
      list probably are familiar with several excellent published sources
      on such. Variety in militia dress stemmed from many factors. North
      Carolina had a volunteer cavalry with with blue round jackets, and
      white pantaloons. But at the start of the war, there was no
      regulation uniform, leading Governor Hawkins had to draw up a design.
      Major William Hamilton was placed in charge of recruiting in North
      Carolina and promised to equip volunteers in "RIFLE DRESS and give
      you your FAVORITE WEAPON". (I daresay the latter was not a Bess or
      Charleville, subject to the limits of supply from US depots and
      contrators.) Hollywood notwithstanding, the dress of Tennessee and
      Kentucky mounted volunteers is legendary.

      As noted in earlier posting, State militias, both volunteers and
      draftees, were heavily relied upon to augment US Forces. A reader had
      asked what became of American light infantry units of the RevWar
      period. I was suggesting that the role of light infantry units among
      State forces was, by 1812, made unremarkable by sheer weight of
      overall militia quotas States were directed to provide.

      I don't think I implied that light infantry units did not exist, or
      see combat. In fact, several in Maryland were employed like quick-
      reaction teams to respond to British landing parties in the
      Chesapeake. But across the spectrum of State units, both volunteer
      and drafted, the record and tactics suggest to me that it was
      frequently ad hoc, "come as you are" campaigns -- by combatants with
      little-to-no formal military training. But as Horseshoe Bend, New
      Orleans and other battles demonstrate, to borrow a phrase they didn't
      have to "dress for success".

      (Now what did I do with that old coonskin cap, it was here
      someplace... <grin>)
      Dave

      --- In WarOf1812@yahoogroups.com, Brian Howard <chippokes@y...> wrote:
      > Dave,
      > Davy Crockett aside, Virginia did maintain militia
      > companies that were designated "Light Infantry".
      > Governor Barbour in Jan of 1812 specified a Light
      > Infantry uniform of a blue coat with white collar,
      > cuffs, half-lapels, and turnbacks. A white waist coat,
      > blue trousers with white seams, and a black round hat
      > with a black cockade. Many of the more well to do
      > companies designated themsleves as light infantry and
      > adopted variations of this uniform regulation.

      > As for riflemen, I must say you are incorrect with the
      > hunting shirt being the uniform of the rifleman. Yes,
      > the 1812 regulation called for a purple hunting shirt
      > and purple trousers. The Mathews County Rifle companie
      > adopted a uniform of a blue coat with black vest and
      > black trousers. The hat was odd but I don't recall
      > the exact configuration.
      >
      > It's late and I could go into more detail once I get
      > my facts together. I will post more at a later time.
      >
      > Brian Howard
      > 2nd Virginia Regt., 1813-1815
      >
      >
      > --- md5_yager <md5_yager@y...> wrote:
      >
      > > Dan,
      > > 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
      > > opinions.
      > >
      > > 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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