Thursday, March 31, 2011

Looking for More Information on Hanging Rock

Last year I spent a considerable amount of time reading and writing about the battle of Hanging Rock, South Carolina, and turned that into an original, and rather detailed, account posted to this blog.

Recently, however, I came across a new piece of information that has led me to rethink some of my conclusions -- a map that is believed to have been made by Colonel Richard Winn, one of the American commanders at that battle.

The direct link to the map is here. It is one of several Winn maps hosted on John Robertson's Online Library of the Southern Campaign of the Revolutionary War website.

On the map, Hanging Rock is at center right. The map identifies the "Tory encampment under Col Brian," the "old field British encampment," and a "Steep Hill"

A map like this should make it easier to understand where and how the battle was fought, but unfortunately I find this map difficult to reconcile with some of the other statements in the source material and with the modern landscape. For example, the map makes it appear that the battle was not fought along Hanging Rock Creek (as has been supposed by myself and others) but along another creek that flowed south and west into the Catawba River. I'm willing to revise my conclusions (including a draft article I prepared), but it seems to me that other information is needed to help make sense of this map. Folks that are familiar with the area -- especially archaeological work that has been performed -- are encouraged to contact me about what they know, or to point me towards persons or sources that may be helpful. Emails can be addressed to me (Adam) at mini_awi "at" yahoo "dot" com.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Life and Death in the Metropolitan Army

The French metropolitan army was the backbone of the French army – the “white coat” counterpart to the British “redcoat.” Americans familiar with the French role during the Revolutionary War are probably most familiar with the army commanded by Comte de Rochambeau that helped win a pivotal victory at Yorktown. However, a much larger proportion of the French army served further to the south, in the West Indies [1]. There, regiments were used to garrison important islands, to serve as shipboard marines [2], and to mount attacks on British-held islands. A few regiments (e.g., Auxerrois, Armagnac, and Dillon) were repeatedly used when the French took the offense. But for even those regiments that mainly spent the war in garrison, the West Indies was an extraordinarily dangerous place. The chief danger, it seems, was disease. Epidemics – which were not uncommon – could kill hundreds of men within a few months, and no army was spared.

Recently I spent some time examining transcribed records to get a better sense of the dangers faced by metropolitan army units serving in the West Indies. The records appear in Les combattants francais de la guerre americaine, 1778-1783 (1905), and include such information as when a soldier enlisted, when and where he died, and (if he survived) when he was discharged from the service [3].

Sample of the records for the grenadiers of Régiment Foix

I then charted the results from a small sample of four infantry companies in order to track life and death in these units over time. I expected to find a significant incidence of mortality in each unit, but I didn’t know how that mortality would be patterned. Would there be a sudden spike in mortality once the unit arrived in the West Indies? Would disease instead be a constant companion, leading to a steady loss of men over time? Or would mortality from disease be relatively unpredictable?

I found, in this small sample, no evidence that regiments began to suffer appalling casualties from disease upon arrival in the West Indies. Instead, disease outbreaks seem unpredictable, beyond perhaps an association with major troop movements (such as the return of d’Estaing’s force to the West Indies from Georgia in late 1779, and the assembly of a large army on Haiti in the Spring of 1782). For each company, the analysis spans the period from May, 1778, to January, 1784. The charts shows the number of enlisted men with each company on a month-by-month basis.

Fusilier Compagnie de Manoel, Régiment Hainault

  • A -- August 16, 1778: The company is in combat for the first time in an engagement between the British Isis and the French César in waters off Rhode Island. Four men are killed in action, and the company is at 94% of its original strength by the end of the month.
  • B -- December, 1778: The company arrives in the West Indies aboard the fleet of Charles-Henri d'Estaing. The company is present at the December 18, 1778, battle of La Vigie, but they are only lightly engaged (1 killed in action). In the following months, enlisted men begin dying at a rate of about 1 per month.
  • C -- October, 1779: The company participates in the siege of Savannah, including the bloody assault on the Spring Hill redoubt. Nine enlisted men die this month (including 5 on the day of the assault). The company is at 76% of its original strength by the end of the month.
  • D -- December, 1779: This month there appears to be an outbreak of sickness while the company is on Grenada. Five men die in December, 8 in January, 4 in February. By the end of February, the company is at 61% of peak strength. The 17 men who perish during this period represent 14% of the company's original complement.
  • E -- January, 1784: A number of men are struck from the company list this month. (Not clear to me is if these men were discharged or if their deaths during the war was belatedly acknowledged). This reduction brings the company down to 40% of its original strength.

Grenadier Compagnie de Pecomme, Régiment Gatinois

  • A -- August, 1779: The company occasionally gains new recruits during this period. Four enroll in August, 1779, bringing the company to a peak strength of 103 enlisted men.
  • B -- October, 1779: The company is spared from the horrific assault on Savannah’s Spring Hill redoubt. (The chasseur company, however, does take severe losses). One death is recorded this month.
  • C -- February, 1780: The disease outbreak that took a heavy toll on Régiment Hainault appears to have affected Gatinois as well. Four enlisted men's deaths are recorded this month.
  • D -- October, 1781: The company is present at the siege of Yorktown, and the grenadiers lose 4 men killed outright during the assault on Redoubt #9, and an additional 3 men at other points during the siege. Several deaths are also reported in Virginia in November -- probably from men that fell ill or that succumbed to their wounds. The losses reduce the company to 79% of its peak strength.
  • E -- August, 1782: Three enlisted men die during what is perhaps another period of illness. The company falls to 73% of peak strength.
  • F -- April, 1783: A number of enlisted men transfer to the French colonial Régiment du Cap (Probably it is their intention to remain in the West Indies beyond the conclusion of the war).
  • G -- August, 1783: The war is effectively over, and many of the enlisted men are discharged. The discharges occur in waves, with the largest number (13) occurring in August, 1783.

Chasseur Compagnie d'Artel de Veinsberg, Régiment Touraine

  • A -- July, 1781: The company reaches a peak strength of 125 enlisted men.
  • B -- October, 1781: The company is present at the siege of Yorktown, but no deaths are recorded among the enlisted men.
  • C -- January, 1782: Five deaths are reported this month; three occur on Martinique and are likely due to illness, the other two are combat fatalities on St. Kitts
  • D -- June, 1782: The company is transferred to Cap François (Haiti). En route the company is present at the battle of The Saintes (April 9 & 12), but the vessel carrying them is not heavily engaged and only 1 death is recorded. Severe illness strikes the company at the Cap starting in June.
  • E -- October, 1782: The main period of illness at Cap François ends. From May to November, the company suffered 28 deaths, reducing it to 68% of peak strength. Nearly 1/3 of the company died in a little more than 1 year, and only three or four of those deaths appear to be combat related.
  • F -- January, 1783: Five more deaths are recorded at Cap François in the first part of 1783. Other reductions in strength after this time are due to men being discharged.

Compagnie de Sigoyer Grenadiers, Régiment Foix

  • A -- March, 1779: The company reaches a peak strength of 98 enlisted men.
  • B -- October, 1779: Seven enlisted men die during the month of October. The company participates in the siege of Savannah (including the assault on the Spring Hill redoubt), but most of the deaths appear to be due to illness, including several among ill men that were left behind on the island of Martinique.
  • C -- December, 1779: Seven enlisted men die during the month of December. The deaths occur on the islands of Martinique, St. Vincent, and Grenada, and also at sea. Either the company has been divided among several posts, or the company has left sick men at each of several places it has been stationed. At the end of the month, the company is down to 81% of peak strength.
  • D -- April, 1782: Two enlisted die aboard the Magnanime during naval operations
  • E -- July, 1783: A handful of men are struck from the rolls or are discharged; discharges continue as the war winds down.



1. For an excellent history, see René Chartrand (1992). The French army in the American War of Independence.

2. Such troops were used to board enemy vessels, repel boarders from enemy vessels, and to fire on the gunners serving enemy vessels.

3. I was of course working under the assumption that these records are accurate and complete for these companies (a difficult point to gauge).

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Third Line at Guilford Courthouse

Earlier this month I began writing about the March 15, 1781, battle of Guilford Courthouse, North Carolina. Most of the posts I have planned will involve the recreation of the battle with military miniatures, but a few are concerned with areas of research.

In this post I discuss the American "third line" at Guilford Courthouse -- the part of the battlefield where the American Continentals were deployed and where the Americans hoped to stop the British attack.

Visitors to Guilford Courthouse National Military Park (website) are probably aware that there has been a certain amount of controversy concerning where the third line was stationed. Some years ago, the National Park Service concluded that the area in which several monuments had been placed was not in fact the correct location. The "old" and "new" third line sites are roughly indicated below.

The map at left is from the one that I prepared for this project; the fields were drawn in such a way as to be consistent with the new interpretation.

Participant accounts strongly support the new interpretation. Here is Lieutenant-Colonel Henry Lee’s description of third line area:

“Guilford court house, erected near the great state road, is situated on the brow of a declivity, which descends gradually with an undulating slope for about a half mile. It terminates in a small vale, intersected by a rivulet” [1]

The courthouse is near the junction of the two roads on the map. The "rivulet" presumably what is today called Hunting Creek, the stream that crosses the width of the map. His description goes on to place the open ground on which much of the third line fighting took place as between the courthouse and the rivulet, on either side of the road.

The new third line position is on a hill that is much higher and broader than the old third line position. It more clearly can accommodate the two brigades of Continentals that fought at Guilford Courthouse.


At the beginning of the battle, the third line consisted of two Virginia regiments that averaged about 385 men each (both officers and enlisted men), two Maryland regiments that averaged about 340 men each, and a two-gun battery commanded by Captain Ebenezer Finley. The Virginia regiments formed a brigade on the right of the line, the Maryland regiments formed a brigade on the left of the line, and Finley’s battery was located roughly between them [2].

Maps of the third line at Guilford Courthouse usually present the American deployment in a simplified manner: either a simple straight line or four closely aligned rectangles (one for each Maryland and Virginia regiment). However, the source material allows for a more precise understanding of how each regiment was positioned. Some key passages are quoted below. [3]

  • Major-General Nathanael Greene: the Continentals presented “a double front, as the hill drew to a point where they were posted, and on the right and left were two old fields.”
  • Lieutenant-Colonel Banastre Tarleton: “The flanks [of the two Continental brigades] did not dress up to the center, but were drawn back, so that each brigade presented a different front…”
  • Lieutenant-Colonel John Eager Howard: "the first [Maryland] regiment... was formed in a hollow, in the wood, and to the right [west] of the cleared ground about the Court house." " station [was] on the left of the first regiment, and next the cleared ground..."
  • Lieutenant-Colonel John Eager Howard: "The second [Maryland] regiment was at some distance to the left of the first, in the cleared ground, with its left flank thrown back, so as to form a line almost at right angles with the first regiment."

The exact spacing of the troops on the third line is not known, but a “close order” formation seems likely. As three of the four regiments were in a wooded area, it does not seem likely that the troops were packed closely together (which anyway does not seem to have been the norm by the late war; see this website for a lengthy discussion). A reasonable guess, I think, is that 12 inches separated each man. If correct, than the Virginia regiments had a front of around 480 feet each, and the Maryland regiments had a front of around 425 feet each. [4]

Taking all these points together, I believe the regiments were deployed on or near the spots indicated on the map below. The blue lines represent, from left to right, the 1st Virginia, and 2nd Virginia, the 1st Maryland, and the 2nd Maryland. The two blue “t”s represent the two cannon in Finley’s battery. The orange lines represent watercourses or ravines. Note that the left and right flanks may have been anchored on ravines. The historical New Garden Road roughly corresponds with the road marked in red-and-white that runs from the top of the map to the bottom. Notably, there may have been a gap at this point in the American line – perhaps to accommodate the retreat of the first and second American lines. [5]

Here is what the regiments look like on the battlefield map I created.



1. Henry Lee. (1812). Memoirs of the war in the Southern Department of the United States

2. I discussed the American order of battle here. To the best of my knowledge, the source material does not directly indicate where Finley’s battery was located, although there are certain clues. Based on these, Lawrence E. Babits & Joshua B. Howard (2009) in Long, obstinate, and bloody: The battle of Guilford Courthouse concluded that "Finley's two six-pounders were situated on the terrace's southwest corner" where they covered the most probable British routes of attack (p. 144). I believe this interpretation is probably correct, but there are minor differences in our maps.

3. A useful compendium of sources for the battle of Guilford Courthouse can be found here. Howard’s account is quoted in Babits & Howard, ibid. and in James Herring and James Barton Longacre’s (1835) The national portrait gallery of distinguished Americans, Vol. 2

4. Here is the very crude math: 18 inches (presumed width of a typical 18th Century soldier) + 12 inches (as described above, the assumed spacing between soldiers) * 385 (estimated men in 1st Virginia) / 2 (usual number of ranks) = 5775 inches, or 481.25 feet.

5. Worth noting is that the interpretation presented here is similar to that described by Babits & Howard, ibid. The only real difference in interpretation, as best I can tell, concerns how much of the 2nd Maryland should be placed south of the New Garden Road (they suggest most, I suggest all). As is so often the case, the source material lends itself to more than one interpretation. To imagine what the line would look like according to their account, one should mentally move the 2nd Maryland regiment north until the right flank of the regiment crosses the New Garden Road.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Surrender at Lavaltrie

This is the most recent entry in a series of posts on the American invasion of Canada. The previous post can be found here. For an index of all posts, see here.

British Governor Guy Carleton abandoned Montreal on November 11, 1775, and headed for Quebec. Carleton sailed with an 11-vessel flotilla that included the British regulars that had garrisoned Montreal. The flotilla reached Sorel on the 15th, where they found their passage blocked by American forces under Colonel James Easton. Easton had placed a 12-pounder gun was placed in a gondola that was rowed out into the shipping channel. He also had on shore one battery of two 6-pounders, and another of one 9-pounder and three 12-pounders. Overseeing the guns was Lieutenant Martin Johnston of Lamb’s artillery company.

When the British vessels neared these guns, the Americans fired seven cannon balls into the lead vessel (probably the Gaspee), causing havoc on board [1]. According to Benjamin Trumbull, the British then attempted to land some of “their men and Effects,” but they were thwarted by Canadian volunteers allied with the Americans. The flotilla then turned about and anchored upstream.

Easton sent a message to Carleton, in which he gloatingly wrote, “You are very sensible I am in Possession at this Place, and from the Strength of the United Colonies on both sides, your own situation is Rendered very disagreeable.” He warned that if Carleton did not surrender, “you will cherefully take the Consequences which will Follow.”

Soon thereafter, Easton advanced some guns close to the British anchorage, and forced them to retreat still further upstream. This time they anchored near Lavaltrie.

From Sorel to Lavaltrie. The routes taken by the American forces are conjectural.

When American Brigadier-General Richard Montgomery learned that Carleton had been trapped, he asked Colonel Timothy Bedel to take his regiment (Bedel’s Rangers) and the Green Mountain Boys to Easton’s assistance. As an incentive to the troops, he offered them “All public stores, except ammunition and provisions.” Bedel’s men chose to march; the Green Mountain Boys did not.

At Lavaltrie, Governor Carleton weighed his options. The wind was still not in his favor, and the Americans were closing in. He accepted the offer of one of his Canadian ship captains (Bouchette) to lead him past the Americans in a small boat. Carleton then ordered Brigadier-General Richard Prescott to make his way as best he could with the flotilla. As a last resort, Prescott was to throw his guns and gunpowder overboard and surrender.

On the night of November 16-17, Captain Bouchette, Governor Carleton, and two of Carleton’s aides (de Lanaudière and de Niverville) rowed quietly downstream (the oars were wrapped in cloth to dampen the noise). When their boat neared the Americans, the men silently paddled with their hands. By morning, they were well out into Lac Saint Pierre. Carleton reached Quebec on the 20th.

Prescott did not attempt a breakout, and on the 19th he agreed to surrender. The Americans thus captured 11 officers, 9 sergeants, 5 drummers and fifers, 113 rank and file, a large number of sailors, some prominent French and English Canadians, and a few artillerymen. Also on board was a large supply of provisions, including 760 barrels of pork and 675 barrels of flour. Prescott had most of the gunpowder thrown overboard, but the Americans still captured much-needed ordinance and ammunition [2].

In this manner, the Americans finished off the 26th Regiment of Foot, and Montgomery obtained the means to convey his army from Montreal to Quebec. Montgomery was astonished by the ease of this victory, writing “I blush for His Majesty's troops! Such an instance of base poltroonery I never met with!”


1. As was the case with the attack on the Fell, I’m unsure how many casualties were inflicted. At least one soldier was killed -- a sergeant in the 26th Regiment (see here).

2. Most of the infantry were from the 26th Regiment; the rest were odds and ends of the 7th Regiment and the Royal Highland Emigrants. Click on the following links for a tally of the loss in officers, enlisted men, ordinance, and provisions.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Americans at Guilford Courthouse

In this post I briefly describe the American army that fought at the battle of Guilford Courthouse and I show a 15mm-version of this army that I put together.

The American army at Guilford Courthouse consisted of a variety of units including infantry, artillery, and cavalry, Continentals and militia, old soldiers and new recruits. The order of battle, described below, is based primarily on two sources. The first is an obscure (but enormously valuable) troop return that was completed 2 days before the battle. The second is a recent history that provides a wealth of information on the individual units. [1]

American Order of Battle

Commander: Major-General Nathanael Greene

Virginia Continental Brigade (Brigadier-General Isaac Huger commanding).

  • 1st Virginia Regiment (Lieutenant-Colonel John Green)
  • 2nd Virginia Regiment (Lieutenant-Colonel Samuel Hawes)
  • Separate light infantry companies [2]
  • Total: 778 rank and file present and fit for duty [3]

Maryland Continental Brigade (Colonel Otho Williams commanding).

  • 1st Maryland Regiment (Colonel John Gunby) [4]
  • 2nd Maryland Regiment (Lieutenant-Colonel Benjamin Ford) [4]
  • 1st Delaware Regiment (2 Companies) [5]
  • Total: 630 rank and file present and fit for duty [3]

Virginia Militia Brigade (Brigadier-General Edward Stevens commanding).

  • Militia from Augusta, Halifax, Lunenburg, Pittsylvania, Prince Edward, and Rockbridge counties
  • Total: 508 rank and file present and fit for duty

Virginia Militia Brigade (Brigadier-General Robert Lawson commanding).

  • Militia from Amelia, Brunswick, Charlotte, Cumberland, Mecklenburg, and Powhatan counties
  • Total: 615 rank and file present and fit for duty

North Carolina Militia Brigade (Brigadier-General John Butler commanding).

  • Militia from Caswell, Chatham, Granville, Guilford, Mecklenburg, Orange, Randolph, Rockingham, and Rowan counties
  • Total: 324 rank and file present and fit for duty

North Carolina Militia Brigade (Brigadier-General Thomas Eaton commanding).

  • Militia from Edgecombe, Franklin, Halifax, Martin, Nash, Northampton, and Warren counties
  • Total: 730 rank and file present and fit for duty

Rifle Regiments

  • Units from western Virginia and North Carolina (one corps was led by Colonel William Campbell, another by Colonel Charles Lynch)
  • Total: around 400 rank and file present and fit for duty

Light Dragoons and Partisan Corps

  • William Washington’s Light Dragoons: 102 rank and file present and fit for duty
  • Lee’s Legion: 82 infantry and 86 cavalry rank and file present and fit for duty
  • Several small units of state or militia light dragoons [6]

Miscellaneous Units

  • Continental Artillery (two 2-gun sections) [7]
  • North Carolina Continentals [8]


The American Army (click to enlarge).

Close Up

Here is the finished American army. One 15mm figure represents 20 actual combatants. The figures have been arranged into three lines, as they were during the historical battle, but this image is not meant to convey the details of their historical deployment (this will be covered in an upcoming post).

The first American line consisted of the two brigades of North Carolina militia [9, 10] and flank corps commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel William Washington (at left) and Lieutenant-Colonel Henry Lee (at right). The flank corps were comprised of light dragoons, light infantry, and riflemen.

The second line consisted of the two brigades of Virginia militia [10].

The third line consisted of the two brigades of Continentals. The Virginians are on the left, and the Marylanders are on the right [10, 11].

2nd Virginia Regiment

American Dragoons. These include some newly-painted Lee's Legion dragoons and a couple of older militia dragoons.



1. An electronic copy of the troop return is available in the George Washington Papers hosted by the Library of Congress. See here.

The recent history is: Lawrence E. Babits & Joshua B. Howard (2009). Long, obstinate, and bloody: The battle of Guilford Courthouse. UNC Press.

In general, I will be talking about the formations within the American army very loosely. The exact composition of these units falls outside the scope of the research that I’ve conducted, and the reader is advised to see Babits & Howard, ibid. for much more detail on this subject.

2. Two companies commanded by Captain Phillip Huffman and Captain Andrew Wallace.

3. Readers may note that my interpretation of the American order of battle differs slightly from that of Babits & Howard, ibid. For example, I count the Virginia and Delaware light infantry companies towards the troop totals for the Virginia and Maryland brigades, respectively, whereas Babits & Howard did not. To be clear, I agree with Babits' & Howard's interpretation of the role these light infantry companies played during the battle.

4. Lieutenant-Colonel John Eager Howard later summarized the situation of the Maryland line at this time. He wrote:

“The Maryland line consisted of 7 regiments about half full when we marched into [South] Carolina. After the actions of the 16th and 18th of August 1780 [i.e., Camden and Fishing Creek] what men we had left were formed into two regiments and the supernumerary officers sent home.--The Maryland troops with me at the Cowpens were picked out of the two regiments….

“There was a new regiment (Regiment Extraordinary) sent out from Maryland which had been raised by the state, and it was thought that the officers had been more favored than the officers of the old regiments. It joined us a few days before the action and there were such jealousies among the officers that Genl Greene sent all the new officers home, and made a new arrangement of the two regiments. This was at the time my light infantry [i.e., the troops at Cowpens] joined their regiments. The most of the new men were thrown into the second regiment which was very deficient of officers.”

5. The two companies were commanded by Captains Robert Kirkwood and Peter Jacquett. Kirkwood’s company, which greatly distinguished itself at Cowpens, was assigned to William Washington’s flank corps. Jacquett’s company is thought to have served with the 1st Maryland Regiment, but this hospital return, transcribed by Will Graves, seemingly shows that it was with the 2nd Maryland.

6. These units were attached to serve with either Lieutenant-Colonel William Washington, or Lieutenant-Colonel Henry Lee. Possibly their strength is partially accounted for in the listed troop totals for those units (I say partially, because some cavalrymen were added to those units after the March 13th return). In any case, the strength of these small units is difficult to assess. Some examples of pension applicants claiming service with these units: George Gresham (W2933), a Georgian horseman who fought under Lee, Philemon Holcombe (S4399), a Virginian horseman who fought under Washington, James Hilton (S30484), a North Carolinian horseman who fought under Lee.

7. The gun sections were commanded by Captain Anthony Singleton and Captain Ebenezer Finley. The artillery is notably absent on the March 13 troop return. Were these men treated as part of the infantry brigades? In my calculations I assumed they were not.

8. Babits and Howard, ibid., make a good case that some North Carolina Continentals served at the battle. They proposed that these men were assigned to protect and assist the American artillery.

9. Histories of the battle represent Eaton’s and Butler’s North Carolina brigades as equal in size, but the troop return shows that the former dwarfed the latter. I’m presuming that the imbalance was not as great during the actual battle (e.g., perhaps the men detached to guard the baggage were chiefly drawn from Eaton’s brigade).

10. The troop totals indicated in the pictures above do not exactly match the strength listed above. This is because 1) I added counted noncommissioned officers, musicians, and most commissioned officers when calculating how many figures I needed, 2) I took into consideration that some militia joined the battle after March 13, and 3) I took into consideration that Greene detached a large force of men (mostly, if not exclusively, North Carolina militiaman to judge from pension applications) to guard his baggage train before the battle. I don’t believe the number of men that joined after the date of this return or that were assigned to the baggage train is known; my additions and deductions are speculative.

11. The colors shown carried by the Virginia and Maryland regiments are ahistorical; I wrote about these in a previous post.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Battle Flags for the Continentals

This month I am working chiefly on a battle of Guilford Courthouse-themed project. The last couple of days I prepared some flags for the British and American regiments that fought at that battle.

Flags were not always carried by military units into battle. Some units (probably militia units in particular) did not have them, and other units that did have flags chose not to carry them. There is reason to believe that flags were carried by at least some of the units at this battle. For example, a North Carolina militiaman recalled that the British troops carried "gay banners floating in the breeze" [1].

A few of my miniatures come with attached metal flags. More come with a metal flag pole, but no flag. In these cases one must buy or make a miniature flag for the figure, and then attach it to the pole with glue. I decided to try making paper flags.

I started with two simple cases: the British 23rd and 33rd Regiments of Foot. The flags for these regiments are well documented and electronic copies can be found online. I first downloaded and prepared two sides for each flag using MS Paint. Then I resized the flags to fit 15mm miniatures, and printed them off on a home printer. Finally, I cut out the flags, glued the two sides together and attached them to a flag pole. You can see the results below for the 33rd Regiment.

The result is not perfect (e.g., the edges require a bit of touch up), but certainly pretty good.

I therefore decided to generate some flags for the 1st Maryland and 1st and 2nd Virginia Regiments [2]. Although the historic appearance of these flags is not known, it's possible to draw inferences based on other regimental flags from this period. For example, it appears that stars and stripes were probably common elements on flags (although interestingly they probably did not often occur together); other recurring elements seem to have included patriotic words and phrases, a personification of liberty or America, liberty trees, rattlesnakes, and wreaths and banners. Inspiration can also be found in the flags created by reenactor units and known facts about the regiments (e.g., the 2nd Virginia was known as the "hell-fired blues" [3]).

Using MS Paint I began by making variants on a few simple patterns, but I soon got carried away and generated a slew of flags with these various elements.

Here is one of the full-sized flags (note the paper is intended to be folded in half to give the flag two sides):

And here is the complete set (if you click to enlarge you will see them at actual size for 15mm miniatures) [4].

So now I have to make a decision -- which of these flags looks most authentic? Which should I use with my Maryland and Virginia regiments? I'm having trouble deciding, and your suggestions are appreciated.


1. See Lawrence E. Babits & Joshua B. Howard (2009). Long, obstinate, and bloody: The battle of Guilford Courthouse. UNC Press. (p. 78).

2. In the source material, the Virginia regiments are generally referred to as John Green's and Samuel Hawes' regiments. Babits and Howard, ibid., refer to them respectively as the 1st and 2nd Virginia Regiments, and I am following suit.

3. See pension application of Lewis Griffin, transcribed by Will Graves.

4. A group of 1st Maryland reenactors carry a flag like the one at upper right in the set. The red and green flags at lower left are "Gostelowe" flags, and a flag resembling the green Gostelowe flag (it depicts a beaver gnawing on a tree trunk) was captured by the British at the battle of Waxhaws.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Struggle for Sorel

This is the most recent entry in a series of posts on the American invasion of Canada, for an index of past posts, see here.

Sorel was occupied by British Lieutenant-Colonel Allan Maclean in mid-October, 1775. Maclean’s force consisted of 120 men of the newly-raised Royal Highland Emigrants, 60-some men of the 7th Foot, and a number of Canadian militia. Maclean brought these men from Quebec with the intention of aiding in the relief of Fort Saint-Jean. He advanced up the Richelieu as far as Saint-Denis, where he found that a key bridge had been cut. Some local Canadians were welcomed into his camp, but these men then slipped away at the first opportunity – taking arms and ammunition with them. Maclean returned to Sorel and awaited the advance of Governor Guy Carleton’s force from Montreal.

Carleton’s army was defeated at the battle of Longueuil, which ended hopes of relieving Fort Saint-Jean. Maclean’s militia returned home once the dispiriting news was received. Maclean returned to Quebec soon thereafter, but he left behind an armed vessel (the Fell) and the detachment from the 7th Foot. Their task was to keep communications open between Montreal and Quebec.

Fort Saint-Jean formally surrendered on November 3rd. The victorious American commander, Brigadier-General Richard Montgomery then launched two strikes designed to capture British Governor Guy Carleton and the British garrison defending Montreal. The first strike was led by Montgomery himself, and was aimed directly at the city. The second strike was led by Colonel James Easton, and was aimed at taking Sorel. Montgomery hoped that Easton would cut off Carleton’s escape route to the east.

Montreal Campaign, Early November (click to enlarge).

Easton’s force consisted of his own regiment of New England provincials, and James Livingston’s Canadian Volunteers. These men were in Saint-Ours by November 3rd, and Sorel by the 7th. The British troops there stayed aboard the Fell, nearly 200 yards offshore. To defeat this force, Easton ordered a battery of two 6-pounders to be constructed on shore.

On the morning of November 8th, Easton’s guns opened fire. The Fell quickly cut its cables and moved downstream, but in the meantime, according to American Major John Brown, “we plumped her through in many places” with “at least twelve rounds.” Brown [1] relished hearing civilians on board crying out “O Lord! O Lord!” as the Americans blasted away. Two sailors on the Fell were wounded: William Money "had his thigh broke... by a Cannon Shot" and William Wadlow "had his right Breast shot off by a cannon shot" [2]. The Fell’s return fire missed the battery and landed in the village instead.

It was a small victory, but now Easton could lay a trap for Guy Carleton’s men.


1. It is remarkable how active the unheralded Brown was in this campaign. Brown tried to enlist the support of the Canadians for the American cause prior to the start of the Revolutionary War (discussed here). Then Brown participated in the capture of Fort Ticonderoga in May, 1775. Brown later became second in command of Easton’s regiment, but he was active in Montgomery’s operations before Easton arrived in Canada. As described in previous posts, Brown captured supplies bound for Fort Saint-Jean, fought the British at Rivière Saint-Jean, captured the village of La Prairie, conspired with Ethan Allen before the debacle at the battle of Longue-Pointe, and played a leading role in the capture of Fort Chambly.

2. There may have been other casualties – these two men were identified in a return of losses (signed by Hector de Cramahé and dated May 25, 1776) among Royal Navy personnel during the invasion of Canada.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Battle of Guilford Courthouse Project

From the end of 1778 through the spring of 1780, the British army made significant gains in the American southern colonies, overrunning Georgia and South Carolina, and threatening to capture North Carolina. However, starting in June, 1780, the British began to meet with setbacks in the North and South Carolina backcountry, and these were later followed by major defeats at King’s Mountain and Cowpens. British Lieutenant-General Charles Cornwallis believed that victory in the south could be secured if he vanquished the Continental army commanded by Major-General Nathanael Greene if he stopped the flow of arms and men from the more northerly colonies. To this end, he advanced his army into North Carolina in early 1781, and chased Greene and his men into Virginia. However, the Americans soon returned to North Carolina, and in greater numbers than before. At Guilford Courthouse, on March 15, 1781, the two armies met in battle, with the fate of the southern colonies on the line.

The Battle of Guilford Courthouse is one that I’ve long wanted to represent with military miniatures. About 20 years I painted up a number of 25mm Minifigs with this goal in mind, but I was quite unskilled, and that plus, well, life (I was a college undergraduate) led me to abandon the endeavor.

At left, 25mm British Guards, painted about 20 years ago; at right, 15mm British Guards, painted last year. (Both sets are by Minifigs).

When I got back into the hobby some years ago, creating a Guilford Courthouse diorama was no longer a major priority, but it continued to be a goal. Earlier this year I decided the time was right for such an undertaking.

There are three major parts to this project: 1) create 15mm miniature versions of each unit at the battle of Guilford Courthouse (specifically at a 1:20 ratio), 2) create a miniature version of the battlefield, and 3) use the miniatures to illustrate the different parts of the battle.

At present, I’m painting the last of the units I need for this representation, and I’m preparing to get started on the miniature battlefield.

In planning out the miniature battlefield, I started with a topographic map of the area, removed modern landscape features and traced the following contour lines: 780, 800, 830, 850, 880. Using MS Paint I filled in the area within each contour line and used lighter colors to represent higher elevations. My intention is to create a series of tiered hills and ridges based on these contour lines that will represent the basic topography of the area, while still providing flat surfaces for the miniatures. The area that I’ve selected to represent includes the scene of most of the fighting. [1]

Decisions about where to place the roads and fields on this map were based on several sources, including the present-day topography of the area, statements by participants in the battle, a map prepared by Lieutenant Henry Haldane (and its derivatives), and statements and maps by historians.

At left, a copy of the Haldane map (click to enlarge), with arrows and text by the National Park Service (a larger version can be found on their website). At right, a modified version of this map, showing the position of the British army (in red), and three American lines defensive lines (in blue) as they were deployed at the beginning of the battle.

For example, the set of fields at the western (bottom) edge of the map represents the Joseph Hoskins Plantation. According to a National Park Service publication, archaeological evidence has shown that these fields abutted the western boundary of the modern National Military Park. I drew in one edge of the fields based on this location (specifically using the maps in Thomas E. Baker’s (1981) Another Such Victory as a guide) and completed the other boundaries based on the Haldane map and present-day topography.

I was (and am) unsure about the exact location of the separate field that is south (right) of the main fields. Banastre Tarleton published a cleaned-up version of the Haldane map in his early history of the southern campaign, but a few years later, Charles Stedman included a modified version of this map in his history of the Revolutionary War. On the Stedman map, the separate field was moved westward (towards the bottom).

Stedman may have intentionally deviated from the Haldane/Tarleton map based on his recollections (Haldane, Tarleton, and Stedman were all present at the battle). Perhaps Haldane’s judgment of the separate field was influenced primarily by its incorporation into the American First Line, while Stedman's judgment was influenced primarily by the proximity of the field to a woodland stream the British right wing had to cross [2]. In any case, I’ve represented the field in a manner that attempts to draw a balance between the Haldane and Stedman maps, and local topography.


1. Areas not represented: the site of the skirmishing near New Garden Meeting House, the site where the “separate battle” is thought to have ended (most of the “separate battle” area is included, however), and the site of a rearguard action between Virginia Continentals and the British Legion. Note that the selected area includes

There has been some controversy concerning the site of the “Third Line” fighting at the battle, with the National Military Park changing its stance on this subject a number of years ago. The map is based on the “new” interpretation.

2. The stream can be seen running diagonally across the lower right portion of the map I prepared. This stream is nearly, but not quite, perpendicular to the road along which the British advanced -- thus this stream may have appeared to be a good basis by which to judge the westerly limits of the Hoskins' fields.