BRITISH NORTH AMERICA (BNA)
First there were the Indians and then the Spanish, French, British, and Dutch. They all used water as a highway. Champlain blocked entry into the interior at Québec on the St Lawrence River. John Keagan noted the French and British fought from either end of the Richelieu and Hudson Rivers to control this route. The patient construction of New France and the true development of what might be called 'Canadian spirit' by the French settlers is a remarkable story. How they acquired and lost this continental empire and what roles our family played are the subject of a later review. There are many family connections to the British army in British North America, including Captain Geale of the Irish Regiment, Peter Johnson of the Cameronians, and the Clauses as Indian Superintendents. Peter Johnson captured Ethen Allen during the American attack on Québec in 1775. My mother's ancestor, Sir William Johnson, was appointed the Superintendent for Northern Indian Affairs; and also served as both a colonial major general and a British army colonel. Sir William won considerable fame at the 1755 Battle of Lake George and the 1759 capture of Fort Niagara.
Europeans had difficulty in coping with the natives, whom they called Indians, and both English and French settlers suffered. I have tried to highlight some basic elements of their story. However, the central theme is the defeat of New France, the subsequent loss of America to George Washington, and the creation of Canada. Once France was defeated the Americans no longer needed Britain for protection. Washington was responsible for building the army to defeat the British, heralded by trapping Major General, Lord Charles Cornwallis at Yorktown in October 1781. Militarily, the British lost because of poor planning, logistical support problems, insufficient resources, underestimation of their enemy, and a lack of public support (even Lieutenant General Howe was sympathetic to the Colonials). Southern Loyalists showed the same spirit that led to the later Civil War and Americans fought each other as well as the British. The French, who had supported the colonial Americans, later regretted their support of America, as the returning French soldiers carried back revolutionary ideals, which spelt the end of the French monarchy. Amongst Mackenzies, Alexander Mackenzie crossed Canada to find routes to both the Arctic and Pacific oceans. Our Mackenzies arrived later and helped to settle Upper Canada, now called Ontario.
C is for Colonies
Military Influence In British North America
Britain did have a lot of colonies, and especially in the Americas. Although I am primarily interested in North America, there were also colonies to be had in the Caribbean (by which I include Central America here, since it borders on the Caribbean), and in South America. Colonies required protection and were a good base to strike at European opponents; and much British North American history is thus military. Great events cause political disagreements and create military conflicts. Trying to follow British units and their names is confusing. Even more difficult can be trying to decode provincial town names, after their spellings have changed and the history is a little hazy. I have provided, albeit incomplete, simple outlines of some military background histories at this site. I have addressed English, French, Spanish, and other European armies and I also traced some Canadian and American Militias and Volunteer units. I have termed these data Orders of Battle (ORBAT) detail and dedicated space to these ORBATs.
Unfortunately, the British military reorganised more than once and regiments formed for war were disbanded for peace, or amalgamated with other regiments and renumbered and renamed. Tracking army regimental titles is a tough order, since governments changed military titles for bureaucratic reasons. I have used the website regimental.org and various regimental websites as references where possible. I have distinguished between the American Continental army and colonial militias. I have tried to be wary, however, since the European armies reorganised and allocated the same identities to different units at different times. Regrettably, military reorganisations impacted on the wars involving both colonial Canadians and Americans. No British battle honours were awarded for the American Revolution. nor to Canadian units for the War of 1812.
Most of the ORBAT detail concerns army cavalry and infantry regiments and I have not attempted to identify naval movements since naval personnel information seems to evade me. The British navy was omnipresent and critical to projecting and supplying British power in North America. Declarations of war against Britain by France (1778), Spain (1779) and the Netherlands (1780) led to support for a fleet of 30 French and 34 Spanish ships of the line off Plymouth in August 1779. Europeans were encouraged to challenge Britain by the American defeat of Major General John Burgoyne at Saratoga in 1777 and they were motivated by the opportunity to strike at Britain through America. The French particularly wanted revenge for their several defeats of 1758 and 1759 and that led to Admiral DeGrasse sailing from the Caribbean with 28 ships (later increased to 35) in August 1781 to defeat Admiral Hood's 19 ships and trap Cornwallis at Yorktown. Consequently, additional European military personnel should be assumed to have been present in North America. Notable are the numbers of Scottish regiments raised in 1776 and the 1814 post-Napoleon era increase in British regiments in Canada. I have documented also national commanders and Governors General of Canada.
Some British soldiers, like Colonel Thomas Dongan (who was appointed as Governor of New York in 1682), were able to think strategically. Dongan understood the significance of the Hudson River Valley route into Canada and made a buffer area by an alliance with the Iroquois. The French also understood the Hudson's significance and built forts to keep the British out. The British army of 1775 may provide some insight into the nature of war during this era. There was then a British army strength of 48,647 men, of whom about 3,000 were invalids. The British army then had 39,294 men in the infantry, 6,869 cavalry and 2,484 in the artillery. In 1783, the British army had grown to 110,000 men, plus seventy Loyalist colonial regiments in North America and 30,000 mercenary Germans, plus some Irish and others. When these Europeans arrived, many soldiers were landed at the major Southern colonial port at Cape Fear in North Carolina - not an encouraging name. When they left they were drafted before they were actually assigned to a new garrison, new Regiment, or place of duty.
The British soldiers were paid eight pence per day, but more than seven pence was deducted by the Crown for food, uniforms, medicine, etc. A man's equipment weighed about 60 pounds and getting dressed for a parade took three hours. Loading the Brown Bess musket, then commonly available to all armies, took twelve separate movements, and it was still inaccurate over 50 paces! Discipline was harsh and up to 1,000 lashes on men's backs was often ordered for theft, insubordination, etc. There was a considerable gulf between the officers and men, perhaps because officers were required to purchase their commissions. The English army was looked on as a profit-making business up to WW I.
War in British North America (BNA) was often about land, which gave trading wealth and power. National interests were based on greed. The Spaniards exported gold and silver as fast as they could. The French, like the Indians, were not interested in land itself, but in the fur trade, which access control gave them. The British interests, however, were typified by the Ohio Land Company, which received a grant of Indian lands in 1749. "Soon English colonists who were killed were likely to have dirt stuffed into their mouth". The Indians understood that the white man's greed was limitless and his promise worth nothing (Sir William Johnson was an exception), and so Indians made total war using terror and every trick they could.
Warfare in BNA varied greatly from the European war of manoeuvre. While Montcalm in New York and Washington's French allies at Yorktown used siege artillery, the Indians used guerrilla tactics to defeat Braddock at Monongahela. British soldiers were forced to cope with the entire range of confrontation. Certainly they lost to Washington, but they did well overall. The European soldier had to learn Indian methods of warfare and adapt the counter actions to win. In 1755, in crossing the Monongahela River Major-General Braddock led his troops into an ambush near Fort Duquesne. He was a good soldier trained to fight in Flanders in the Prussian style; however, he didn't take advice and alienated nearly all the Indians who might have helped him. The French, and Indians were behind trees and Braddock and 900 of his soldiers were killed. George Washington was there with his Virginia Regiment and said that during the 60-mile approach march, 'every molehill was levelled and a bridge was thrown over every stream'. The British did well in 1759 under Wolfe at Québec, against both Indians and Montcalm's French, and Sir John Johnson beat the Americans in the woods at the 1777 Battle of Oriskany; but the British suffered 1,000 casualties on Battle of King's Mountain. Warfare was different in America.
The 1745 Colonial struggle for Louisbourg settled a question of how to control French pirates. Governor Shirley, of Massachusetts, assembled a fleet commanded by Commodore Peter Warren of 13 ships and 90 transports of various sizes, with 4,000 men and a total of 218 guns commanded by William Pepperrell. Shirley had no professional officers or engineers and his artillery underlined the difficulty of Colonial military planners. Their guns were a mix of calibres and ranges and yet none would dent the walls of Louisbourg and they were all outclassed by as few as three French ships. However, our ancestor, Warren, captured Louisbourg and the army commander, William Pepperrell, captured some French 42-pounders. Both Shirley and Pepperrell received baronetcies.
There were not enough Englishmen to fill the 1775 British army and Lord George Germain tried unsuccessfully to hire 20,000 Russians from Tsaritsa Catherine the Great. Germany was divided into small states and Germans were experienced fighters ideally suited as mercenaries. Thus the British hired Germans and Swiss as professional mercenaries in lieu of maintaining a large standing army. Of the 19,000 Germans, two-thirds were Hessians who proved good, brave soldiers; 3,000 deserted, 500 were killed and 4,500 died from disease. The Dutch, Spanish and to a lesser extent the French were historical casualties of European wars. With the end of Marlborough's War of Spanish Succession (fought primarily in Germany, Holland, Belgium (Flanders) and northern France), their armies declined because of increased costs. An army of the 1600s had few casualties and was not an exorbitant expense. As a comparison of how warfare was changing, in the American Civil War battle of Antietam, there were 23,000 dead dramatising the dramatic increased lethality in weapon technology and lethality over the previous two hundred years.
The Americans of 1775 had no centrally organised army and few competent militias. Many British officers derided their opponents as social inferiors. However, General Clinton recorded that '...the Americans were trained to stratagem and enterprise.' and '...they knew every trick of chicane'. General George Washington is the accepted hero of that war, a war which was unpopular with many Britons. With much patience, Washington nursed his army into being and shared hardships with his men. The relationship between his officers and men was quite different to that in European armies, because Americans fought for shared ideals not money and because they came from all social classes.
In the early 1800s, 7,000 black men were hired in the Caribbean to replace the 70% casualty-rate of the deployed British navy and army from malaria and yellow fever. The strategic defence of Canada was based on the British navy and no great build-up of military strength was evident before the War of 1812, while the British balanced defence of Canada against Napoleon. The Canadian militia was increased by 1807 to 25% of the able-bodied men, and arms were purchased to supply them, but this was no great army. Regular British units were distributed in companies to garrison the Canadian frontier.
The Seven Years' War
The Seven Year-long world war between Britain and France began formally in Europe in 1756, however it started in America in 1754. This was one of the greatest wars the British Empire ever waged: the war, indeed, that made the Empire. Both mother countries had created independent colonies in North America, which complicated national control. In 1754, after learning that the French had expelled British traders from the Ohio country, Governor Robert Dinwiddie of Virginia ordered Major George Washington to take a militia company and inform the French in Ohio that they must leave. Washington was authorised to expel the French by force - if required. Both Dinwiddie and Washington had vested land interests in the Ohio country.
The French learned of the Virginians approach, prepared a diplomatic protest, and two armed parties groped their way to find each other in the forests. When they met at Jumonville's Glen, the Virginians' Indian guides opened fire, and despite a French flag of truce the Seneca Chief Tanaghrisson brutally scalped and murdered the already-wounded French commander, who had brought a diplomatic letter for Washington. The Virginians were stunned into inaction as more butchery took place and Washington bore the responsibility. This was the spark that ignited the War, which spread from America to Europe, the Caribbean, India and South-East Asia, and West Africa.
The War had its roots in the late 1740s when British land speculators encroached into French Ohio country. Both sides had great difficulty sending their best men to America, given their on-going continental European battles, where they saw their disagreements might be resolved by war. The Seven Years' War was fought in Europe, India, the Caribbean, West Africa, and in North America. The defeat of France enabled the creation of Canada and the United States and with that defeat Britain became a global superpower. Britain's gains in the Caribbean and India created enormous new wealth, which offset her later loss of America. Curiously Britain's success was attributable to Sir William Pitt''s strategic grasp of the issues. Anderson sums up the differing French and British war aims brilliantly.
From 1758 onward, the French would fight to maintain their influence in continental Europe while the British would fight to conquer an empire, a difference in goals that would eventually prove decisive." Inevitably, conflicting colonial aims drew in the Europeans, the Indians, of course, lost badly. To understand the issues one must identify the major actors, which were:
Both Britain and France had trouble fighting their war in America because of the time it took to communicate from London and Paris, and because of the trouble in re-supplying their armies in the face of enemy naval actions. Neither nation's soldiers were keen to fight the terrifying Indians in the immense forests. (Braddock's men later referred to their attackers on the Monongahela River as 'Hell Hounds'.) Both Britain and France underestimated the Indians' interests and intentions; and the Indians badly underestimated Britain's covetous interests in Indian lands. By the the mid-1700s, war casualties and European diseases had decimated Indian allies and the Iroquois expanded their Five Nations to include the Tuscaroras. New France was led by le Marquis de Vaudreuil, but he was in complete disagreement with his later senior military commander, Major General Marquis de Montcalm, and both were being outrageously robbed by Bigot the treasurer. The Indians struggled for strategic agreement amongst themselves and control over the Ohio tribes, and the British were equally disunited.
Prior to the Seven Year's War the colonies had been largely independent of each other, with minimal collaboration as witnessed by four Royal governors (Shirley, Morris, de Lancey, and Dinwiddie) competing for personal business interests across the Allegheny mountains in the Ohio country. The appointment of a military commander-in-chief changed colonial dynamics in America. General Braddock and his successors had authority to impose financial burdens on the colonies, demand logistical support, and order manpower commitment: these burdens were new. Shirley had previously garrisoned provincial troops in towns, but he had paid homeowners for the service. Braddock was surprised to learn that he could not order provincial troops to serve with regular British troops, the provincials pointed to their local contracts of service and threatened to quit. The strains of war on Britain required colonial collaboration in America, which imposed collaboration amongst the colonies and the colonials. An unintended result was an increased awarness of mutual colonial interests and needs, and the divergence of colonial and British interests. In hindsight it seems likely that these developments created a community of colonial attitudes that helped lead to the American Revolution.
The British prime minister of was Thomas Pelham-Holles, Duke of Newcastle. Newcastle did not want a war, since he was ordered by King George II to protect Hamburg, the king's homeland. Any war in Europe would be bound to have either the French, or Prussians threaten Hamburg. Sadly for Newcastle, his minister, the Earl of Halifax, went to the king's heir the Duke of Cumberland for help in sorting out the colonial issue in America. 'Butcher' Cumberland believed in force, not diplomacy and Cumberland insisted on a united colonial front under a commander-in-chief empowered to demand colonial support, and supported by two regiments of British regular infantry. Because Cumberland believed in force, he didn't bother with secrecy and the French learned of Britain's plans. For the French ministry the task was simple: reinforce Québec with new troops and a senior general. The French also relied upon the 30,000-man militia consisting of all able-bodied men in Québec ages 16 - 60. These Canadians were usually experienced woodsmen, adept at foraging in the wilds, and able fighters, albeit untrained in regular army discipline.
Pitt Took Charge
William Pitt, the later British Secretary of State (1756-1760), planned to cripple France by striking at her colonies, while subsidising Prussia to fight France in Europe. It was Pitt who was the architect of the British Empire. While numbers do not tell the whole story they are revealing. In 1759 to confront France Pitt had 23,000 regular British troops plus 17,000 militia colonials, and 13,500 sailors and marines with 200 ships in America, against 5,000 French regular troops, backed by 6,000 militia. Both the French and British dispersed their troops and Indian allies to cover various strategic points from the Ohio River to Fort Louisbourg and down into New York. Of the 12,000 men allocated to Wolfe, however, only 8,500 regulars could be brought to Québec and only 4,600 actually deployed onto the Plains of Abraham.
Brigadier General Edward Cornwallis tried several times to cut the vital French supply route up the St Lawrence River, and in c1751 offered 10£ for each dead McMac Indian as Governor of Nova Scotia. Sir William Johnson had defeated the French commander Baron Dieskau in 1755. In 1758, the British captured Fort Louisbourg on Nova Scotia's Cape Breton Island and Acadia fell, while Fort Frontenac was captured at Kingston. Having been outflanked, the French destroyed their own Fort Duquesne at the end of 1758. Brigadier General Forbes promptly occupied Duquesne, renamed it Fort Pitt, and thus forced the French to abandon a series of local forts. The Marquis de Vaudreuil, Governor of New France, was told there would be no reinforcements until 1760. In 1759, Sir William Johnson captured Fort Niagara and forced the French to burn Fort Toronto, while Major General Jeffrey Amherst captured Fort Ticonderoga and Oswego. The St Lawrence was left undefended by the French and Québec was vulnerable. In 1759, Québec had no ditch outside the walls, no outlying fortifications to protect the walls, badly sited guns that did not cover the open ground, and the town was vulnerable from Point Lévis on the undefended other side of the St Lawrence River. Madame la Marquise du Pompadour was the effective power in France during Louis XV's reign and she decided to leave Vaudreuil and Montcalm on their own.
On 25 June 1759 Admiral Sir Charles Saunders brought 168 British ships, 13,500 sailors and 8,500 soldiers to attack the 16,200 French population of Québec. Major General James Wolfe made several probing attacks and suffered 643 casualties. He desperately wanted to bring Montcalm to battle since delay would: bring Bougainville with a strong detachment from the west behind Wolfe; protect the French with winter snows; and force the British fleet to leave . Finally, early in the morning on a foggy 13 September 1759, Wolfe and a small army of 4,600 troops were landed at the bottom of the 500' high cliffs and climbed up following a dried riverbed. In the morning light, the surprised Major General le Marquis de Montcalm made a quick attack to disrupt a complete British deployment and siege. Montcalm attacked without his strong French detachments near Montréal and to the east. Montcalm assembled his 2,900 regulars, 600 local troops, several hundred Indians, and three guns.
At about 0900 in the light rain Montcalm ordered five battalions forward on the Plains of Abraham. French colonials who dropped to fire or stopped by a bush for cover disrupted the advancing French regular troops. At forty yards Wolfe ordered the British to fire and after two volleys with their flintlock muskets (inaccurate over 50 yards) it was over. After ordering the British line forward both Wolfe and Montcalm were mortally wounded and the situation became uncertain. The British occupied the town and garrison fort on 18 September. The French conducted a siege until the arrival of fresh British reinforcements the following spring. In 1760, The French siege of Québec was broken, the British defeated Colonels Lévis and Bougainville and secured both Montréal and Canada.
In 1763, the British decided they didn't really want Canada and tried unsuccessfully to swap Canada for the French sugar island of Guadeloupe; however, the Treaty of Paris formalised Britain's annexation of all of New France. Brigadier James Murray was appointed Governor of Canada. Murray was a realist and aware of the latent threat from the local French population. Murray favoured a tolerant approach to dealing with the new, French-Canadian colonials. Murray's pragmatic attitude was formalised in the unfortunate Québec Act in 1774. The Québec Act defended the former French but offended the New Englanders. New Englanders saw the re-creation of a French threat in the Québec Act.
The Québec Act 'threat' added to economic irritants (meant to favour British profits), and demonstrated British arrogance towards the American colonials. The British parliament became too much of a problem for men like John Adams, who had enjoyed considerable freedom from taxes and had inherited many of their libertarian attitudes from the earlier English civil war. With hindsight, the American Revolution increasingly became inevitable as colonial interests diverged from Britain's.
1 For background see Fred Anderson, Crucible of War, John Keegan, Warpaths, and Frank McLynn, 1759, the Year Britain Became Master of the World, for analysis and detail. Also see RS Stephenson, Clash of Empires, the British, French & Indian War, 1754-1763, for some insights, http://faculty.marianopolis.edu/c.belanger/quebechistory/encyclopedia/SevenYearsWar-FrenchandIndianWar-BattleofthePlainsofAbraham.htm, http://www.cmhg.gc.ca/cmh/fr/page_233.asp, and the map is from Houghton Mifflin, http://www.reisenett.no/ekstern.html?url=http://www.eduplace.com/ss/ssmaps/wrldcont.html.
6 Jock Haswell, The Battle for Empire, p. 184. Major Generals Braddock and Webb were early losers in the new style of American warfare. Braddock was over confident of British fire discipline and certain that he would fight the French under European 'rules'. He was contemptuous of Indians and colonials and never considered them an enemy, let alone a threat. His soldiers were so disciplined they held their positions long after their officers and sergeants were killed and even fired mechanically into other British sub-units. Webb lost Fort William Henry when he might have attacked Montcalm, who was only three kms away.14 Ibid, pps. 212-213.
16 George Stanley, Canada's Soldiers, pp. 84-92. Stanley notes that of Montcalm's troops, only about 11,000 could be considered effective due to desertions and farming leave. A small platoon was stationed at the top of the beach at l'Anse au Foulon, but incompetence led to a surprised defence.
17 Champlain's pilot was Abraham Martin who had a farm there c1620. The actual battle details may be found in Reader's Digest, Heritage of Canada, p. 105-109, and Frank McLynn, 1759, the Year Britain Became Master of the World, p. 144.
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