MILITARY ORDERS OF BATTLE
The major North American military developments were: the European power struggle for colonies continuing through the Caribbean; the British and French Seven Years War (known as the French and Indian War by Americans); The American Revolution (also known in America as the War of Independence); and the War of 1812. These military struggles variously involved the British, French, and Spanish military forces to some degree. I have therefore used the same data-structure style across the several Orders of Battle (ORBATS) at this site to facilitate comparisons. I have grouped the contending allies which fought in the American Revolution, since their individual efforts compounded problems for military commanders. The ORBAT represents the specific units commanded by commanders in specific wars, battles, general activities, areras, or periods of time.
The picture below shows a company of the Canadian Governor General's Foot Guards, but the second company of the Ceremonial Guard is from the Canadian Grenadier Guards. The Ceremonial Guard performs a formal military Changing of the Guard in front of the Canadian parliament at Ottawa. The flag shown in the picture is a formal military unit 'colour' (historically carried in battle to help orient soldiers during the 'fog of war'). Since the Ceremonial Guard is not a permanent unit the colours paraded belong to one of the two Guards units. The parent units themselves are based in Ottawa and Montréal respectively, illustrating the difficulty in identifying specific units. To make the identification more difficult, both units include individual augmentees from outside units to maintain their full summer parade strength.
The following pages represent the Spanish, French and British army ORBAT-level data for the 1600-1700s. I have also shown the Americans to 1783, plus the Germans, colonial Loyalists, and the 'Canadians' (many Canadian military units pre-date Canada, which was only created in 1867). (See this link for the colonial formation of Canada.) The Spanish had the biggest army in the Americas, albeit somewhat spread out, and I have shown them first. My purpose is to help document the struggle for control of America and the cost of empire, I have documented the major European armies and identified their regiments which fought in America. No doubt their are some regiments, or battles, missing, but the reader will find the majority of units involved in the struggle for North America are here. (The Spanish were particularly hard to find.)
This explanation should provide a sense of why ORBATS are important. I have focused on the British military, and their battles in America from 1600 to at least 1812 (actually beyond that for most areas). We know there was an Anglo-Dutch battle at New Amsterdam on 18 August 1664, but the Dutch involved were hired by the Dutch East India Company and were not regular army units. ORBATS are the key baseline for a soldier, or military historian as they identify who was where and when they were there. Who fought on the Plains of Abraham, Louisbourg, Lundy's Lane, or at New Orleans? Did Washington win alone at Yorktown in 1781? How much French support was given to America? How much Spanish support was given to America? Unless we know the particular units (usually called battalions, regiments, or corps, at this period), we cannot assess why, or how, military battles turned out as they did. Other factors are important, but who fought whom is the start-point of why.
I have shown the Europeans in America until the 1800s 1775-1783. I have shown British units in the Caribbean to the 1900s. Until 1783, French and Spanish policy was to aid the Americans by distracting the British. Both France and Spain have had additional Caribbean interests up to the twenty-first century.
Caribbean deployments are extensive and remind us that all these countries had interests outside North America. Americans complain about the burning of Washington, but I have shown this was in retaliation for the June 1813 American burning of both Newark (and William Dickson's, house). After the burning of the (then) Upper Canadian capital, the Upper Canadians moved their government to Toronto - and General Dearborn promptly burned that too. Which units burned Washington? I have not detailed Indian participation, which was critical to the British. Not only did Iroquois provide seasoned warriors, but many great battle chiefs including Tecumseh.
In the Americas, European soldiers used a variety of weapons through to the twentieth century, which included: swords (sabers, claymores), pikes (halbberds, spontoons), bayonets, small axe, knives, pistols, and muskets (muskets were of several types, later replaced by rifles). Armies also deployed artillery and used a variety of cannons, mortars, an howitzers to fire solid shot, exploading shells, and small grapeshot.
Muskets were introduced into European armies in the sixteenth century and commonly replaced the pike in the seventeenth century. The Spanish and French initially used the arquebus which was an early form of a cumbersome matchlock, some being fired while propped up on a portable support. The most common British musket was the 'Brown Bess', which was in service from 1722 to 1838 in a variety of different versions. The Brown Bess was a 0.75 calibre flintlock, which commonly fired a 0.69 calibre lead ball. The musket was loaded from the muzzle with a paper cartridge, which was then rammed home with the ball. The typical Land Pattern version had a 46" steel barrel and was 62" long - plus a bayonet: in 1756 and 1768 additional versions were issued with 4" barrels. The musket had no sights and was only considered accurate at 50m.
Uniforms were issued for national armies from c1670. By the Seven Years' War (1756-1763), individual uniforms had been designed to include (at both government and personal expense): low-healed shoes, or boots (some specialist units wore Indian moccasins); hose, or socks (usually knee high); gaiters (made of canvas or leather and worn from the shoe top to mid-thigh); leggings (made of wool or deerskin); breeches (worn high-waist to knee and closed with buttons); shirts (usually of linen with a wide body and used for sleeping as well as dress); cravates and neck scarves (also called stocks); waistcoats (of wool, worn to mid-thigh); uniform coat (knee-length of wool, with different lapel colours for regimental identification, officers identified by lace and gold or silver trim, closed with metal buttons); hats (usually felt tricorn with colour variations, also mitre hats for grenadiers and bonnets for highlanders, and swatches of coloured material termed a cockade in anticipation of future regimental badges); sashes, shoulder knots, aguillettes, gorgets (to differentiate ranks); and wool watch coats to calf-length or oilcloth ponchos (sometimes available in limited numbers for units). Additional items like mittens, scarves, and heavy wool leggings were considered personal items.
Hats and the detail of jacket and pant design varied in colour and cut by nation and regiment. The basic elements listed above were usually provided for all soldiers deployed to the Americas regardless of nationality from the 1750s. Spanish soldiers in the North American Southwest, Mesoamerica, and South America were often poorly supported as Spain was distracted by European wars. British units were usually the best supplied because of their support in parliament. Militia and Provincial units were universally not so well paid, dressed, or equipped.
Unsurprisingly, officers brought up to 10-12 uniforms, mattresses, towels, tables, chairs, china, crystal, kitchen equipment, wine, lanterns, beds, bedding, pillows, books, and servants. Generals might bring hundreds of packing boxes, plus more servants, wives, and pet dogs, etc. Cavalry were expected to bring all the additional equipment for their horses (officers would be expected to bring spare horses, plus grooms and tack).
Most soldiers were also issued personal equipment to be carried individually. Such typical equipments included: a haversack; canteen; cartridge box; belt; frog (a leather fastening to attach to the belt a sword, knife, bayonet, or small axe); sword or axe; scabbards; musket; bayonet; knapsack; wool blanket; tent; large axe; cooking kettle; ammunition bags (with musket cleaning tools and materials); and powder horns. Cavalry, artillery, engineers, and specialist officers and units would be expected to bring additional specialist equipment peculiar to their function.
I have used a variety of common terms across this data to enable the reader to grasp concepts. The terms are not strictly accurate in a military sense, but do indicate general action. 'Amalgamated with' is intended to indicate a merging with another unit, whereas 'Amalgamated to form' is intended to show a new unit title from multiple parent units, which themselves then ceased to exist. 'Disbanded' is not only intended to imply formal military disbandment, or cessation of duties, but gone out of existence; and also merged with another unit, but taking the other unit's name (thus the first unit title no longer existed as an active unit). Sometimes a unit was disbanded due to excessive casualties and its remnants distributed amongst several other units, or merely paid off. I have tried to suggest understanding of what the unit did in a given engagement by using common terms like Attacked, Surrendered, Defeated, Burned, etc.
I have used the same format to portray units and their service across all ORBATS. I have further allied the French and Spanish with the Americans, since both European nations formally declared war against Britain, contributed wealth and manpower to aid the emerging Americans, and actually fought the British in both America and the Caribbean. I am aware that the Spanish actions are not so well known, but many individual Spanish unit engagements are documented in this data.
I have tried not to include misleading manpower details, but I estimate a full-strength, rough guide of 300 men per British cavalry regiment and 500 men for a British infantry battalion (bn): (to add confusion some units were double that in strength.) Rarely will these units have been at full strength and then they had casualty, picket, sick, etc, deductions. Generally guard units were larger than line units because they had more political connections to get replacements. Many regiments had companies and smaller detachments on remote tasks, often engaged with their enemy. Eyewitness accounts give some strength indications, but were all the men equally trained and equipped? Strength is a difficult yardstick: the Swiss Meuron Regiment was hired by Britain with a regimental strength of 12,000 men (organised in 20+ bns). We may only be certain that Lieutenant General Burgoyne's expeditionary strength in September 1777 was considerably less than it had been in June 1777.
I have reflected bn organisations, which varied by regiment. During the 200 years from mid-1600 to mid-1800 most British regiments had two to five battalions each, of up to 10 companies. The British infantry regiment was not always deployed tactically; it was a family, not a tactical formation: the cavalry used the term regiment tactically. Battalions deployed with a sister bn, depending on the 'luck of the draw'. Spanish, French, German, Swiss, and American regiments fought as regiments as required.
I am, of course, dependant on my sources, which I have identified. The data below are incomplete and no doubt not wholly accurate, but neither are they inaccurate: they must be close to fact. All armies changed their numbering and naming systems several times and I have tried to show initial, final and a few other unit names to ensure identification. When should a unit be given credit for participation in a battle, when it had at least one company engaged, or only when the entire until was committed? The War of 1812, fighting in which did not end until 1815, seems particularly vague in details according to many popular authors. Which Battle of Fort Erie, the American capture, the British siege, or its final recapture? I have made the best of this and hope that it provides some insight.
The intent is that the reader ought to be able to pull out factual engagements and with this ORBAT data weigh some historical battles to be able to judge unit-on-unit effectiveness. There is also, of course, the imponderable quality of leadership. The Spanish started out well, but faded in quality by the nineteenth century. The British commanders Brock and Drummond stood out as leaders, since their peers were so poor. (The British were fighting Napoleon at the time and Wellington had the best commanders in Spain.) While many Indian leaders were often a cut above the quality of their senior British counterparts and often gave sage advice; they are not however, my focus here.
1 See Stuart Reid, King George's Army, 1740-1793, Vol 2, pp. 15-23; and David Hackett Fischer, Washington's Crossing, pp. 31-50. I have also used Internet-accessible versions of regimental histories and specialty web sites such as British Army Roll of Regiments at Regiments.org, British battles.com, American Revolution 1776-1781.org, theamericanrevolution.org/battles, Orders of Battle at orbat.com, www.britishbattles.com. The War of 1812 at casebook..org/battles, French and Indian War at war of 1812.ca, War of 1812 Website, General Brock.com, the War of 1812 at multied.com, Individual Battles and Campaigns - From Colony to Country, the National Library of Canada at nlc-bnc.ca, Behind the Scenes at Louisbourg The Compagnies franches de la Marine of 18th Century Louisbourg, Timeline War of 1812 at the Society of the War of 1812.org, Canadian Intelligence Branch History at Ironsides.8m.com, the American Revolution 1776-1781. and it's era Maps and Charts of North America at Memory.loc.gov, The American War of Independence at Independence.com. However, in the end I have had to piece together the subsequent records from too many secondary sources to highlight one in particular. I also referred to the Ceremonial Guard, at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ceremonial_Guard.
3 I have used a variety of sources here and acknowledge them generally, since I have used my own judgement in detail. Sources include: Roger Cooper, American Revolution 1776-1781. .Org; The Organization Of The British Army In The American Revolution 1776-1781 , Graham Watson; United States: British Regular Troops in the War of Independence, v.1.0 March 17, 2002, independence1776.html, intelligence @ orbat com; Todd F. Mill's site regiments.org; The War Of 1812 Website, HistoryCentral.com; Jim Yaworsky, The 41st Regiment and the War of 1812; The Olive Tree Genealogy, Casebook: The War of 1812; Orders of Battle - Orders of Battle@ORBATS.com; The National Library of Canada, www.nlc-bnc. ca; Timeline of the War of 1812, www.societyofthewarof1812.org;
9 According to Harv Hilowitz, see Revolutionary War Chronology & Almanac, 1754 - 1783, pp. 40-44, during the American Revolution 1776-1781. the British lost 10,000 battlefield dead (of a total of 75,000), the US lost 8,000 battlefield dead (of a total of 28,000, and the Germans lost 5,000 deserters and 7,000 battlefield dead (of a total of 30,000).
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