Saturday, February 26, 2011

Almost There

For some weeks I've been making preparations for a new major project. Mainly these preparations have involved painting some new regiments of miniatures. I've been trying to complete five new regiments, and I'm now about 3/4 of the way through that task.

One of the units that is now complete is the 2nd Maryland Regiment. Half the figures are by Minifigs, the other half are by Jeff Valent miniatures. The figures are fairly compatible --for example, cartridge boxes and cocked hats are of about equivalent dimensions. However, the Minifigs are more robust, and these figures' muskets (especially the bayonets) are noticeably larger. I may yet trim back the Minifigs' bayonets to reduce the differences.

2nd Maryland Regiment

One of the other units I’m currently working on is Lee’s Legion. The figures were painted green based on a comment their commander (Henry Lee) made about their uniforms while they served in the northern theater. The figures are dismounted dragoons by Freikorps and Peter Pig Miniatures, but I will be using them to represent Lee’s infantry companies. They are such lovely metal figures that I had to find some use for them.

Lee's Legion Infantry (work in progress).

This unit is thought to have changed to light-colored coats with green facings late in the war, as evidenced by the following portrait of Lieutenant-Colonel Henry Lee.

Henry Lee

When I started painting the figures I was working under the assumption that the green uniforms were in use for most of the time the regiment was in service. Then I recently read the following description of Lee’s men in John Robert Shaw’s memoir. Shaw was a soldier in the British 33rd Regiment, and he was captured by some of Lee’s men in early March, 1781.

He wrote:

“Scarcely had we gone half way up the lane, when seven of Lee’s light horse made their appearance: my companion swore there was Tarleton’s light horse coming, and, says he, ‘we shall be taken up on suspicion of plundering, and get 500 lashes a piece.’ ‘No;’ said I, upon observing their brown coats, and white cockades, ‘no, friend, you are deceived; these must be the rebels.’ Having therefore discovered his mistake, he began to cry;--but for my part, I thought it very good fortune.—As they were advancing towards us, we concluded to go and meet them; which we accordingly did, and falling on our knees begged for quarter; which they granted us…” [1]

Based on this description, I think I will repaint the units' coats a whitish brown. [2] It's an annoyance to catch this only when the figures were so close to completion, but better now, I suppose, than after the figures are varnished.


1. Source: The Life and Travels of John Robert Shaw (1807/1930).

Also on the subject of clothing, Shaw wrote that after he was captured, a rifle officer ordered Shaw and his companion to strip: “…the officer drew his sword and swore, if we did not comply, he would run us through. So they took our clothes, not leaving us even our leggings or shoes; and God knows, they wanted them badly; for such ragged mortals I never saw in my life before, to pass under the character of soldiers.”

2. The description, of course, applies to the mounted portion of Lee’s Legion. To the best of my knowledge, it’s uncertain whether Lee’s infantry also adopted this look, or wore blue coats, like other Continental infantry, or wore something else entirely.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

On Lexington Green (5)

In several previous posts, I’ve walked through much of the source material on the start of the Revolutionary War at Lexington Green, and concluded that there are at least four different plausible scenarios by which a gunshot (or perhaps several) started the outbreak of violence.

What happened after this initial shot (or shots) is in little dispute: British light infantrymen opened fire on the retreating Lexington militia.

The senior British officer on hand, Major John Pitcairn, blandly recorded that “without any order or regularity, the Light Infantry began a scattered fire, and continued in that situation for some little time, contrary to the repeated orders both of me and other officers that were present.”

British Lieutenant John Barker described the scene more vividly:

“…our Men without any orders rushed in upon them, fired and put ‘em to flight; several of them were killed, we cou’d not tell how many, because they were got behind Walls and into the Woods [i.e., the militia had fled]; We had a Man of the 10th light Infantry wounded, nobody else hurt. We then formed on the Common, but with some difficulty, the Men were so wild they cou’d hear no orders; we waited a considerable time there, and at length proceeded on our way to Concord…”

For the Lexington militia, and the dozens of spectators loitering around the green, emotions quickly swung from apprehension to horror:

Timothy Smith: “I saw a large body of Regular Troops marching up towards the Lexington Company, then dispersing, and likewise saw the Regular Troops fire on the Lexington Company, before the latter fired a gun. I immediately ran, and a volley was discharged at me, which put me in imminent danger of losing my life.”

Thomas Fessenden: “[The Lexington] Company of Militia dispersed every way as fast as they could, and while they were dispersing the Regulars kept firing at them incessantly”


The exchange of fire on Lexington Green presents a couple of interesting challenges to those that would visually represent it. First, it is unclear how the firing began. Second, it’s clear enough that the subsequent exchange of fire was extremely one-sided. Eight Massachusetts provincials were killed, another 9 were wounded, and others were spared only by the inaccuracy of British musketry [1] and the rapidity of their flight. Few of the Lexington militia got off a shot.

Doolittle’s depiction was made early in the Revolutionary War and its purpose seems to have been not only to document events, but also to editorialize. He makes it clear that the British were the aggressors. The Lexington militia is shown running from the coldly deliberative British infantry, leaving behind the bleeding bodies of their friends and neighbors [2]. The blunt, ugly message is dulled only by the crudity with which it was executed.

Later paintings borrowed Doolittle’s vantage point, but not his message. In these cases, the purpose appears to have been to memorialize those who fought the British. The artists left ambiguous how the firing started, but instead focused on (and arguably took some historical liberties with) the resistance by the Lexington militia. Doolittle depicted murder. Later artists memorialized brave men defending their liberties.

Amos Doolittle

Howard Pyle

William Barnes Wollen



1. Elijah Sanderson: “All was smoke when the [British] foot fired. I heard no particular orders after what the commander [Pitcairn] first said. I looked, and, seeing nobody fall, thought to be sure they couldn’t be firing balls, and I didn’t move off. After our militia had dispersed, I saw them firing at one man, (Solomon Brown,) who was stationed behind a wall. I saw the wall smoke with the bullets hitting it. I then knew they were firing balls.” In Elias Phinney (1825). History of the Battle of Lexington on the morning of 19th April, 1775.

2. As described in previous posts, American accounts are inconsistent in their description of how the firing started. They implicitly acknowledge that once the British infantry fired, some Americans began to return fire. Doolittle presented a particularly inflammatory version of the event, in which the Lexington militia is all but a hapless victim of purposeful British aggression.

Friday, February 18, 2011

On Lexington Green (4)

In a recent post, I described, from the British point of view, some of the events immediately preceding the opening of the Revolutionary War on Lexington Green. Five British officers who were on the green when the shooting started recorded their observations -- Major John Pitcairn, Lieutenant William Sutherland, Ensign Jeremy Lister, Lieutenant John Barker, and Lieutenant Edward Thoroton Gould. Of these, Pitcairn, Sutherland, and Lister clearly asserted how the firing began. Barker and Gould belonged to the 4th Regiment of the Foot; the light infantry company of this regiment may have been just entering Lexington Green at the time and they may not have participated in the initial exchange of fire. [1]


The Battle of Lexington; propagandistic engraving by Amos Doolittle (click to enlarge). The British entered Lexington Green between the two tall buildings on either side of the tree at center. To the left is Buckman’s Tavern, to the right is the Meeting House. Major John Pitcairn (the mounted officer) indicated that the Meeting House was to his left (not behind him) when the firing started.


Major Pitcairn, who commanded the British vanguard, recorded that:

When I arrived at the end of the Village, I observed drawn up upon the green near two hundred of the rebels. When I came within about one hundred yards of them, they began to file off towards some stone walls on our right flank - - The Light Infantry observing this, ran after them - - I instantly called to the soldiers not to fire, but surround and disarm them and after several repetitions of these positive orders to the men, not to fire, etc.

Tensions were extraordinarily high at this point, and the sound of gunfire from some quarter caused the light infantry company of the 10th Regiment to open fire.

As described in a previous post, American spectators were confident that the first shots were fired by the British, but their accounts are so inconsistent that it is unclear which, if any, is accurate.

The British accounts are similarly inconsistent.

According to Pitcairn, the first shots occurred while the militia was retreating, and the shots came simultaneously from behind a wall and from the meeting house:

some of the rebels who had jumped over the wall, fired four or five shots at the soldiers, which wounded a man of the Tenth, and my horse was wounded in two places, from some quarter or other and at the same time several shots were fired from a Meeting House on our left

According to Lister, the first shots came from some men in the open:

they gave us a fire then ran off to get behind a wall.

According to Sutherland, the first shots came from Buckman’s Tavern, then some moments later from some men on the other side of a hedge:

We still went on further when three shots were fired at us, which we did not return, & this is sacred truth as I hope for mercy these 3 shots were fired from the corner of a large house to the right of the Church when we came up to the main body which appeared to me to exceed 400 in & about the Village who were drawn up in a plane opposite to the Church, several officers called out to throw down your arms & you shall come to no harm, or words to that effect which they refused to do. Instantaneously the gentlemen who were on horseback rode amongst them of which I was one, at which instant I heard Major Pitcairn's voice call out 'soldiers don't fire, keep your ranks, form & surround them, instantly some of the villains who got over a hedge fired at us

So what is one to make of the British and American accounts? Below I list some tentative conclusions:

First, although observers may have twisted the truth to some degree, there is no evidence of a conspiracy to lie about the events at Lexington within either the pool of American sources or the pool of British sources. Each set of statements appears to be about as reliable (or rather, as unreliable) as the other.

Second, there is a measure of agreement that either one shot, or a few shots occurring in close succession, immediately preceded a volley by the British regulars.

  • Benjamin Tidd and Joseph Abbot: “the regulars fired, first, a few guns, which we took to be pistols from some of the Regulars who were mounted on Horses”.
  • Major Pitcairn: “some of the rebels who had jumped over the wall, fired four or five shots”
  • Levi Harrington and Levi Mead: “some of the Regulars, on Horses, whom we took to be officers, Fired a Pistol or two on the Lexington Company, which were then dispersing: These were the First Guns that were Fired…”
  • Lieutenant Barker: “one of the rebels fired a shot”
  • Thomas Fessenden: A British officer “fired a Pistol, pointed at said Militia”

Third, there is good reason to believe that observers’ perceptions of the event were strongly colored by their expectations.

For example, spectator William Draper believed Major Pitcairn was shouting “fire! fire! damn you, fire!” to his Regulars, but the Lexington militia (among others) did not. More believable is that Draper heard Pitcairn shouting, but he didn’t quite make out everything Pitcairn said. Pitcairn has himself saying the word “fire” more than once, but in the context of telling the troops not to fire. If Draper heard only part of what was said and saw the light infantry fire a moment later, he could have well become convinced that Pitcairn had ordered the troops to fire.

Another example: Major Pitcairn thought he heard simultaneous gunfire from his right (a wall) and left (the meeting house), but no other British officer, and no American source, claimed that shots were fired from the meeting house. Pitcairn had reason to believe that the Americans were assembling and their intentions were hostile before riding into Lexington. He also may have seen some men running from the meeting house after the firing began. Perhaps gun shots to his right echoed off the building to his left, creating the perception of simultaneous gunfire.


So, who fired this first shot or shots on Lexington Green? Because the source statements are so inconsistent, any interpretation of the event must overlook some of the evidence. However, some scenarios are more believable than others, and I list four of the more plausible scenarios below. What scenario do you think best explains what happened?

Scenario #1: The Lexington militia started the firing. As Pitcairn and Sutherland claimed, some Americans jumped behind a wall (or “hedge”) and fired several shots at the British. These men were acting without orders and their actions were seen by few, if any, of the Americans on or around the Green.

Scenario #2: One of the mounted British officers fired a pistol or two. This officer would have been behind Pitcairn, Sutherland, and the others, and none of the British were looking in his direction. Perhaps the officer fired a pistol in the air so as to goad the militia into dispersing, but in so doing he inadvertently triggered a volley by the regulars.

Scenario #3: An accidental discharge started the firing. British officers were galloping about on horses, members of the Lexington militia were scrambling over a wall to safety -- accidental discharges were not rare events and perhaps this is what caused the nervous regulars to begin shooting.

Scenario #4: The first shot was not fired away on Lexington Green. British officers recorded that shots were repeatedly heard in the countryside on their march towards Lexington. They took these shots to be a signal for the militia to assemble. Perhaps the sound of one of these shots echoing around the green made it sound like several shots had been fired, and each party assumed it came from the other side. If this shot (or shots) was fired at a distance, the sound would have been somewhat muffled, and that might explain why Pitcairn and Sutherland thought the shots came from buildings or walls and why a handful of Americans thought it came from an officer’s pistol.


1. By comparison, the Doolittle engraving appears to depict two British companies deployed in line of battle (presumably those of the 4th and 10th), one of which is firing on the Lexington militia.


Some readers may note that in this series of posts I have not invoked certain sources. My impression is that those that have been discussed include the most trustworthy accounts of the battle and that the omitted statements do not greatly affect the perception of events.

Montreal Campaign: Index

Below is a listing of blog posts I’ve written concerned with the operations of Brigadier-General Richard Montgomery’s operations in Canada in 1775 – especially the siege of Fort Saint-Jean and the subsequent capture of Montreal.


The Invasion Begins:

Battle of Longue-Pointe (September 25, 1775)

Battle of Longueuil (October 30, 1775)

The Siege of Fort Saint-Jean (September 17-November 3, 1775)

Fight at Sorel (November 8 & 15, 1775)

Epilogue: Triumph & Tragedy

Some Military Units:

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Fruits of Victory

The guns at Fort Saint-Jean fell silent late on November 1, 1775. The next day was spent in negotiations, and the formal surrender took place on the 3rd.

The surrender ceremony was brief. At 10 AM the Americans assembled their regiments and marched to within 50 yards of the fort. There, according to an American artilleryman, “we halted and was all drawn up in a rank and stood there till the regulars got ready and marched out with all their arms and 2 field pieces.” [1]

The British troops are then embarked in a number of bateaux and taken into captivity. For them, it is a bitter defeat. One Juchereau dit Duchesnay, a militia officer, wrote bitterly to a friend, “Notre résistance nous a fait obtenir les honneurs de la guerre et la douce satisfaction d'être traînés à Connecticut: un coup de fusil au travers du corps à Montréal me ferait beaucoup moins de peine et de tort.” (Roughly: ‘Our resistance has obtained us the honors of war and the sweet satisfaction of being dragged to Connecticut; a shot through the body in Montreal would cause much less pain and harm’). [2]

The victorious American commander, Brigadier-General Richard Montgomery, soon pressed on to conquer the rest of Canada. By the 7th, most of Montgomery’s men streamed into the village of La Prairie, across from Montreal. On the 11th, a large contingent crossed from La Prairie to L'île St. Paul in the middle of the St. Lawrence. British Governor Guy Carleton realized the futility of trying to hold Montreal any longer, and he embarked the city’s garrison and a large amount of supplies on 11 vessels. Late in the day this flotilla heads down the St. Lawrence towards Quebec.

On the 12th, the city of Montreal entered into surrender negotiations with Montgomery. With Carleton gone, the city walls were defended by local militia. The Montrealers were primarily concerned about property rights and the continued free exercise of religion. The negotiations proceeded smoothly, and the surrender took place the following day.

Winter weather hit the area at this time, which caused much hardship for the Americans, as recorded by journalists:

  • Aaron Barlow on November 7th: “The weather being cold makes it very uncomfortable living in tents.”
  • Benjamin Trumbull on November 9th: “It begins to rain, the Ways are dirty and Slippery so that it is difficult to Walk without falling. The Whole Country is water and mud & not a dry Spot to be found.”
  • John Fassett on November 12: “Went to a Dutchman’s house to get a dram… where were a number of Yorkers of the First Battalion, cursing and swearing and damning themselves and one another. It seemed like a hell upon earth. Fair weather but cold.”


While working on this project, I've painted a number of 15mm miniatures to represent soldiers from the British garrison and the American army. Some of these appeared in past posts; here are some that I don't believe I've posted before.

The Garrison. Pictured are troops of the 26th Foot, an officer of the 7th Foot with a brass 24-pounder, a Royal Artillery officer, and the officer's wife.

The Besieging Army. Pictured are one of Lamb's cannoneers with a brass 12-pounder, General Montgomery, and some Connecticut Continentals.


The victory at Fort Saint-Jean was a remarkable achievement for a Continental army that was not yet 5 months old.

The garrison that surrendered included the following:

  • 7th Regiment of Foot: 259 men [3]
  • 26th Regiment of Foot: 215 men [3]
  • Canadian Gentleman Volunteers, Officers, and Militia: 75 men [4]
  • Royal Artillery: 38 men [3]
  • Royal Highland Emigrants: 19 men [3]
  • Other Canadian Volunteers: 12 men [4]
  • Native Americans: 2 men [4]

In addition to these land forces, the Americans captured a Royal Navy contingent led by Captain Hunter, and a group of carpenters and artificers, led by Captain Thompson.

The Americans also captured the half-sunk Royal Savage, a row galley, a number of smaller vessels, and a large train of artillery.


1. From the “True journal of Barwick’s Company from New York to Quebec, August 4, 1775 to September 25, 1776.” Robert Barwick was a cannonneer in Lamb’s artillery.

2. From Hospice-Anthelme-Jean-Baptiste Verreau's (1873) Invasion du Canada.

3. From a return dated November 1, 1775, at Fort Saint-Jean. Published in A history of the organization, development and services of the military and naval forces of Canada from the Peace of Paris in 1763 to the present time. Vol. 1.

4. From a “Liste des Messieurs les Officiers & Gentilhommes Canadiens qui ont servit en qualite de Volontaires sous les ordres de Mr. Belletre & pris prisonniers dans la Garnison de St. Jean sous le Commandement du Major Preston.” Published in A history of the organization, development and services of the military and naval forces of Canada from the Peace of Paris in 1763 to the present time. Vol. 1.

A large Native American contingent was present at Fort Saint-Jean when the Americans first advanced on the fort. These men participated in a hard-fought September skirmish, but most left the garrison soon thereafter.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Final Bombardment of Fort Saint-Jean

The siege of Fort Saint-Jean dragged on for weeks. Brigadier-General Richard Montgomery, who led the American forces, was impatient to finish the siege, so that he could capture Montreal before winter set on. In the meantime it was hoped that a second American army, led by Brigadier-General Benedict Arnold, would capture the town of Quebec, thereby completing the conquest of Canada.

Early in the siege Montgomery identified a hill to the northwest as the key spot from which to threaten the fort. In early October, he “had a road cut to the intended ground and some fascines made.” [1]

However, his army disapproved of this plan and Montgomery “was informed by Major Brown that a general dissatisfaction prevailed; that unless something was undertaken, in a few days there would be a mutiny.” The army preferred to bombard the fort from afar -- especially the east bank of the Richelieu. Montgomery confessed in a letter to Major-General Philip Schuyler, that when he laid his plans, “I did not consider I was at the head of troops who carry the spirit of freedom into the field, and [who] think for themselves.”

The British took little action to thwart the Americans beyond the exchange of long-range artillery fire. Occasional sorties were made by armed boats, but these efforts ended once a battery was established east of the fort (October 11). On land, a party of Canadians, led by Captains David Monin and Samuel McKay, ambushed some Americans in the woods (October 9), but no sorties were directed against the American camps or gun emplacements.

By the end of October, Montgomery was ready to bring the siege of the fort to a close. He had been reinforced by mortars and ammunition captured at Fort Chambly, and some additional infantry companies from the colonies (specifically, the bulk of the 1st Connecticut and 4th New York regiments). On October 27-28, he abandoned the fortifications south of Fort Saint-Jean and brought his whole force to Grosse Pointe northwest of the fort. There, construction of a new battery overlooking the fort was begun on the evening of October 29.

Lieutenant-Colonel Rudolphus Ritzema of the 1st New York Regiment oversaw the construction:

“In the Evening I was ordered with 200 Men to erect a Battery [the Ground for which having been previously laid out by the Engineers] within 250 Yards of the Fort—In the Morning the Breast Work & Ambresurs completed”

The British soon learned what the Americans were planning:

“Captn Monin and Captn McKay went out this morning in hopes of getting a prisoner, and if possible to survey the Enemys position. An Officer & 25 Men were order’d to be in readiness to support them. They had been out a very little while, when they fell in with a Man who we afterward found was a straggler from a party of 200 Men, who were very near the same Spot [i.e., they captured one of Ritzema’s men]. The Man inform’d us there were 2,000 Men at the rapids (i.e., the lower Camp) and 50 Indians… He shew’d us the place of the Battery…” [2]

Because of the prisoner’s confession, the new battery quickly became a harrowing place for those that guarded it.

According to Aaron Barlow of the 5th Connecticut Regiment:

“The Regulars discovered our Battery. We guarded it with 100 men, I being one of the Guard. They flung upwards of 100 Bomb shells, some cannon and grape shot at us. Wounded one man, broke two guns. One bomb shell broke within 4 feet of me which made me almost deaf. I believe there were 20 shells broke within 2 rods of me. This night [October 29-30] we dragged four cannon and five mortars to this Breast work in order to play on the Fort.” [3]

The battery opened on November 1, and was joined by the guns east of the fort. Together, they devastated the fort.

A British officer recorded:

“Large pieces of the Wall were knock’d in. The Chimneys of the House in the South Redoubt were thrown down and the few Corners where some little Shelter from the Weather was to be had were now no longer tenable. A great many shot pass’d thro’ the parapets and some wounded Men behind them. 3 Men were kill’d and 4 or 5 wounded. A good deal of provision was destroy’d.—”

British counterfire was also deadly.

According to Benjamin Trumbull of the 5th Connecticut Regiment:

“On our Side one man was killed right out on the Platform, another had his Leg[,] foot and Thigh torn all to Pieces with a shell, had his Leg cut of[f] about nine o’clock as near the trunk of his body as possible, he bore the Operation with great magnanimity but did not Survive the Night. Three more were wounded but two of them very Slightily.”

Late in the day, Montgomery attempted to open surrender negotiations with the British. An officer in Lamb's artillery recalled:

“I received a message from General Montgomery, ordering me to cease firing till further orders; these orders were extremely disagreeable to me, when I saw some of my men bleeding before my eyes, and dying with the wounds which they had received. On our ceasing to fire, the General ordered a parley to be beat...”

The messenger Montgomery sent was one Lacoste, a Canadian militiaman captured at Longueuil. From him, the British learned that Governor Guy Carleton had been defeated and that there was no hope of relief. The garrison was left with enough rations for 8 days at 2/3 the usual allotment, not including those rations destroyed in the bombardment. The British agreed to a cease fire and pondered their few remaining options.


1. A copy of the letter is available here.

The journal attributed to British Lieutenant John André seemingly confirms the wisdom of Montgomery’s assessment. He noted at the end of the siege:

“We may thank our Enemy in some sort for leaving us in such slight field Works the credit of having been only reduc’d by Famine… Their Batterys might with their numbers [of infantry] by means of Approaches have been brought much closer to our Redouts have overlook’d us, destroyed our breastworks, and by a slaughter from which there cou’d have been no Shelter, have render’d our holding out, a meer sacrifice of Men who might have been reserv’d for better Services.”

2. From a journal attributed to British Lieutenant John André.

3. Sources disagree on the composition of this battery. For example, Montgomery referred to "our battery of four twelve-pounders" (see here). Colonel Timothy Bedel wrote, "I have a battery of four twelve-pounders, one mortar, and three royals, fixing at my post" (see here). Ritzema claimed it consisted of four 12-pounders and six Royal Mortars. An officer with Lamb's Artillery company (likely Captain John Lamb himself) stated that it consisted of "three twelve and one nine-pounders, three mortars, and as many cohorns" (see here). For additional comparison, see this description of the American ordinance used during the siege.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Painting Minifigs Riflemen

I always enjoy reading about how others paint their miniatures, and although I am not the most skillful of painters, I thought I would devote a post to describing my process.

In this post, the miniatures I’m painting are four 15mm Minifigs riflemen. These are part of a pack of 24 that include 2 officers and 22 riflemen. The riflemen come in a single pose – running with their rifle. They rather remind me of this rifleman painted by Don Troiani.

The initial steps I follow will be familiar to other collectors. First any flash is trimmed or filed away, and then the miniatures are scrubbed with dish soap and an old toothbrush. Next the minis are mounted on popsicle sticks with white glue, and sprayed with primer. These minis were primed with gray (I’ve also used white, depending on availability at my local hobby shop).

Priming is my least favorite part of the process, and so I try to prime all the figures I can hope to paint in one year at one time. (This is done in the summer; the long North Dakota winters prevent priming outdoors for much of the year).

Most of my riflemen have been painted wearing off-white hunting shirts, like the Troiani figure. I decided to paint this batch in brown, as this seems to have been a popular color among some riflemen living on the western frontier. Consider this description by Samuel Houston of Virginia's Rockbridge Rifles:

The men generally wore hunting shirts of heavy tow linen; died brown with bark; they were open in front and made to extend down near to the knee and belted around the waist with dressed skin or woven girths. The sleeves were large, with a wrist band round the wrist and fringed over the upper part of the hand as far as the knuckles. Under the hunting shirt was a jacket made of some finer materials, and breeches of dressed buck or deer skin to just below the knees, with long stockings and moccasins of deer leather... [1]

I won't be able to simulate this look exactly, as the Minifigs riflemen are wearing trousers, not breeches, and leather shoes, not moccasins.

First Session:

The paints I use are Vallejo Game Colors. I start by mixing a modest amount of Cobra Leather with a larger quantity of Dead White and paint the trousers. Then I add a couple of drops of Beasty Brown to the painting tray. The brown is set down next to the leather/white mix, and by mixing them to different degrees in different spots, I create a range of browns. In one spot I also add a touch of Stonewall Grey to create a very pale brown. These colors are used to paint the hunting shirts. After that I add a single drop of black onto the mixed brown, stir it just slightly, and use this imperfectly-mixed brown/black color to paint the hats and feathers. Finally, I add a drop of Pale Flesh off to one side of the painting tray, get the brush good and wet, and paint the hands and faces of the figures.

Second Session:

I paint the rifles, canteens, and axe handles brown. I then add a bit of Dark Fleshtone to this color, and heavily dilute the paint with water to create a wash. Then I liberally apply this mix to the skin parts. I then add a small amount of black and some more water to the wash. I apply this to the hunting shirts, powder horns, bags, and rifles. I place a drop of black on one side of the tray, and paint the shoes and the metal parts of the rifles and axe blades. I then decide to make these riflemen sandy haired. I use Cobra Leather on two of the figures (this makes a surprisingly nice redhead at 15mm scale), then add a touch of black and use this on the other two. I like this mix and I apply it to one pair of shoes to give them a muddy appearance.

Third Session:

A mix Cobra Leather with Dead White 50:50 and use this mix to paint the straps and belts on the riflemen. I then add additional white to some of this mix and use this to repaint several pairs of trousers and a couple of powder horns. The rest of the mix is diluted with brown and I use this to highlight the axe handles and to paint several gun straps, and the backs of the powder horns. Finally, I use Silver and Brassy Brass on the metal parts and with black I do a little touch up here and there and paint the muzzle. By this time the brownish mix is drying out. Taking a ratty old brush I use this to drybrush a little onto the hat feathers. And with that, the figures are essentially complete.


1. Quote appears on p. 68 of L. E. Babits & J. B. Howard (2009). Long, obstinate, and bloody: The battle of Guilford Courthouse. UNC Press.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

On Lexington Green (3)

Last Fall, I commented on depositions made by witnesses to the opening of the American Revolutionary War at Lexington Green (see here and here). These depositions were collected in the days immediately following, and they were soon widely distributed. These depositions have also served as fodder for historians and have greatly shaped views of what took place on that fateful April morning.

Although less widely cited and discussed, journals, letters, and reports authored by British officers also provide a wealth of information about what happened at Lexington. In this post, I relate some of the events described by British sources as leading up to the fight at Lexington.

1. A British expeditionary force departs from Boston. This force consists of two battalions: one made up of light infantry companies, the other of grenadier companies.

Lieutenant-General Thomas Gage to William Legge, Secretary of State for the Colonies:

I having intelligence of a large quantity of Military Stores, being collected at Concord, for the avowed purpose, of Supplying a Body of Troops, to act in Opposition to his Majesty’s Government; I gott the Grenadiers, and Light Infantry out of Town, under the Command of Lieut. Colonel Smith of the 10th Regiment, and Major Pitcairn of the Marines, with as much Secrecy as possible, on the 18th at night; and with Orders to destroy the said Military Stores

Boston Area: April-May, 1775 (Click to enlarge).

2. The British land near Cambridge.

Lieutenant John Barker, 4th Regiment of Foot:

[The troops] were landed upon the opposite shore [from Boston] on Cambridge Marsh; few but the Commandg. Officers knew what expedition we were going upon. After getting over the Marsh, where we were wet up to the knees, we were halted in a dirty road and stood there ‘till two o’clock in the morning, waiting for provisions to be brought from the boats and divided, and which most of the Men threw away, having carried some with ‘em. At 2 o’clock we began our March by wading through a very long ford up to our Middles…

3. Six light infantry companies lead the advance.

Major John Pitcairn, His Majesty's Marines:

Six companies of Light Infantry were detached by Lt. Col. Smith to take possession of two bridges on the other side of Concord

4. The British are unable to keep their march a secret.

Lieutenant William Sutherland, 38th Regiment of Foot:

…we marched with Major Pitcairn commanding in front of the Light Infantry… continued for 3 miles without meeting any person. When I heard Lieut. Adair of the Marines who was a little before me in front call out, here are two fellows galloping express to Alarm the Country, on which I immediately ran up to them, seized one of them and our guide the other, dismounted them and by Major Pitcairn's direction gave them in charge to the men. A little after we were joined by Lieut. Grant of the Royal Artillery who told us the Country he was afraid was alarm'd of which we had little reason to doubt as we heard several shots being then between 3 & 4 in the morning, a very unusual time for firing. When we were joined by Major Mitchell, Capt. Cochrane, Capt. Limm & several other gentlemen who told us the whole country was alarm'd & galloped for their lives, or words to that purpose, that they had taken Paul Revierre, but was obliged to lett him go after having cutt his girths and stirrups…

5. British officers on the road learn that a large body of militia has assembled at Lexington, a village on their route to Concord. The leading light infantry companies halt.

Lieutenant Barker:

after going a few miles we took 3 or 4 People who were going off to give intelligence; about 5 miles on this side of a Town called Lexington, which lay in our road, we heard there were some hundreds of People collected together intending to oppose us and stop our going on

6. The light infantry load their muskets

Ensign Jeremy Lister, 10th Regiment of Foot:

To the best of my recollection about 4 oClock in the morning being the 19th of April the 5 front Compys. was ordered to Load which we did.

7. An American soldier “fires” at a British officer.

Lieutenant Sutherland:

I went on with the front party which consisted of a Sergeant and 6 or 8 men. I shall observe here that the road before you go into Lexington is level for about 1000 yards. Here we saw shots fired to the right and left of us, but as we heard no whistling of balls, I concluded they were to alarm the body that was there of our approach. On coming within gun shot of the Village of Lexington a fellow from the corner of the road on the right hand cock'd his piece at me, burnt priming [i.e., there was a flash in the pan]. I immediately called to Mr. Adair & party to observe this circumstance which they did. I acquainted Major Pitcairn of it immediately.

8. The British light infantry march into Lexington.

Major Pitcairn:

when I arrived at the head of the advance Company, two Officers [i.e., Sutherland and Adair] came and informed me that a man of the rebels advanced from those assembled, had presented his musket and attempted to shoot them, but the piece flashed in the pan - - On this I gave directions to the troops to move forward, but on no account to fire, or even attempt it without orders: When I arrived at the end of the Village, I observed drawn up upon the green near two hundred of the rebels.


The incident described by Sutherland (#7) and referred to by Pitcairn (#8) is curious. Why did a lone American militiaman apparently try to shoot Lieutenant Sutherland when he was accompanied by a party of armed men? Did a misfire save Sutherland’s life? Or was the militiaman attempting only to frighten the British officer – not kill him? In either case it was a remarkably reckless action. Also remarkable is that the British (who must have been most astonished) did not attempt to apprehend the man.