“The British Are Coming!”: My AWI British Army (Part 1: The Elite Corps)

Last summer, following a conversation with my old mate Antony Oakley about our past games, I decided to dig out my old 28mm American War of Independence (AWI) armies and do some games with our old favourite, British Grenadier! rules.  This of course, then led to the inevitable round of buying and painting new units to fill gaps in the collection and allow certain scenarios to be played.

The most pressing need for the British was a second Grenadier Battalion and Light Infantry Battalion, as a lot of the battles fought around New York and Philadelphia featured at least two of each and my existing British army only had one of each.  I was also badly in need of some British Light Infantry skirmishers.

Above:  As was standard practice in the 18th Century, the British massed all the regimental ‘flank’ companies (i.e. the Grenadier Companies and Light Companies) in America into combined elite battalions.  Initially one battalion of each type was formed at Boston and fought in the Battles of Lexington-Concorde and Bunker Hill in 1775.  As the army rapidly expanded in 1776, up to four Grenadier Battalions and three Light Battalions were serving in the New York theatre of war.  After the conclusion of the Long Island Campaign, these were all massed as part of Cornwallis’ ‘Elite Corps’, along with the Guards Brigade, Von Donop’s Hessian Grenadier Brigade and other elements.  The Guards Brigade also had their own tiny ‘Flank Battalion’, formed from their own elite companies.

General Burgoyne simultaneously formed another Grenadier Battalion and Light Infantry Battalion from the British regiments serving with his army in Canada (as well as a Brunswicker grenadier battalion).  After the withdrawal of the main army from Philadelphia to New York and the launching of new expeditions to Rhode Island and the Southern Colonies, the various expeditionary forces almost always formed elite ‘flank’ battalions, even if it was just a grouping of both elite companies from one or two regiments.

Above:  My 1st Grenadier Battalion was painted in 2005, mostly using Wargames Foundry figures, though for some reason they weren’t doing grenadier command packs at the time, so I used some Perry Miniatures command figures.  Both sets were sculpted by the Perries, but the Wargames Foundry are slightly more ‘heroic’ in scale, being rather chunkier, but similar enough to mix without too much issue.

Above:  It’s been a while and I’ve been scratching my head, trying to work out which regiments the combination of facing colours represent, but I think it’s probably representative of the 1st Grenadier Battalion during the New York Campaign of 1776 (4th, 5th, 10th, 17th, 22nd, 23rd, 27th, 35th, 38th & 40th Regiments of Foot).

Above:  My 2nd Grenadier Battalion was painted late last year and this time used Perry Miniatures figures throughout.  They’re very similar sculpts to the old Foundry figures, but are slightly less ‘corn-fed’ and lack the goatskin backpacks of the Foundry grenadiers.  Aside from the backpacks, they appear to be the same sculpts from the neck down.  In contrast, the Perry grenadiers in charging and firing poses, as well as the command packs, are completely new sculpts, wearing ‘American trowsers’ rather than the regulation breeches, stockings and half-gaiters.

Above:  My 2nd Grenadiers are based on the battalion’s composition for the 1777 Philadelphia Campaign, namely the Grenadier Companies of the 37th, 40th, 43rd, 45th, 46th, 49th, 52nd, 55th, 57th, 53rd & 64th Regiments of Foot, the 71st Highlanders and the Marines.  Each battalion’s grenadier company is represented by two figures.  However, the Marines formed two battalions in America, so should probably have four figures, but I’ve only given them two.  The sharp-eyed will also notice that I’ve temporarily omitted the 71st Highlanders, who had two battalions in America, so I will at some point add another base of four figures for those.

The 3rd and 4th Grenadier Battalions had been disbanded by this time, as had the 3rd Light Infantry Battalion.  The 1st Grenadier and 1st Light Infantry Battalions both comprised companies from the 4th, 5th, 10th, 15th, 17th, 22nd, 23rd, 27th, 28th, 33rd, 35th, 38th & 44th Regiments of Foot.  The 7th & 26th Regiments (reforming in Staten Island) and the 54th Regiment (part of the Rhode Island garrison) retained their elite companies.  Curiously, the 42nd Highlanders at this time had their elite companies detached, but not attached to an elite battalion.  The 42nd’s Light Company turns up at the Battle of the Brandywine as an independent unit assigned to Cornwallis’ Elite Corps, but I’ve no idea what the Grenadier Company was doing (the Grenadier Companies of the 42nd & 71st Highlanders had formed the 4th Grenadier Battalion during the campaigns of 1776).

Above:  British combined elite battalions always lined up in order of regimental seniority, but not in the obvious way from right to left!  This is a classic trap for the unwary figure-painter… The senior regiment would always stand on the right flank (so far so good), but the second-most-senior regiment would stand on the left flank of the line and then the remaining regiments would alternate by flank, working inwards, with the most junior regiments in the centre.  So in the 2nd Grenadiers, the battalion was lined up from the right flank to left flank (left to right as we’re looking at them), 37th, 43rd, 46th, 52nd, 57th, 64th, Marines, 71st, 63rd, 55th, 49th, 45th, 40th.

Above:  The right wing of the 2nd Grenadiers.  As senior regiment, the grenadiers of the 37th Foot (yellow facings) are on the right flank, then the 43rd (white), 46th (yellow), 52nd (buff), 64th (black) and Marines (white).  Note that regiments with buff facings also had buff smallclothes, belts and tail-turnbacks.  Those items of dress were white for all regiments without buff facings.

Note the Pioneer Sergeant belonging to the 64th Foot; he wears the shorter Fusilier-pattern fur cap with a red-enameled plate showing crossed axes, a leather apron and has his axe slung across his back.  He also has yellow lace, which was a peculiarity recorded for NCOs of the 64th Foot.

Note also the black sling supporting the Marine officer’s wounded arm.  Black silk ‘bandages’ are mentioned in a few accounts from the late 18th Century and Napoleonic Wars, as being de rigeur for officers, as they wouldn’t show the blood.  These might simply have been spare neck-stocks.

Above:  The left wing of the 2nd Grenadiers.  The officer waving his hat wears the deep green facings of the 63rd, then the 55th (dark green), 49th (green), 45th (green) and 40th (buff).

The white bearskins of the 40th Foot are something of a mystery and the sources are deeply confused and contradictory.  The story goes that in 1765, Catherine the Great of Russia gave a consignment of polar bear pelts to George III.  These were then allegedly given to the 3rd Foot Guards and some other regiments (variously described as the 13th, 14th, 15th, 17th & 40th Regiments of Foot) to make grenadier bearskins.  Some say that only the drummers wore white bearskins (shown in paintings of the 13th & 14th Regiments) and it’s also alleged that the 30th Regiment had dressed its drummers in white bearskins as early as 1755.  To muddy the waters further, another source claims that only the 40th equipped its entire grenadier company with white bearskins and yet another source claims that in 1768 the 40th Regiment’s ‘bearskins’ were actually made of white goatskin (which at the time was generally used to make backpacks).

I asked Brendan Morrissey about this and he says that the answer is that nobody really knows and in any case, almost all regiments in America probably adopted hats in order to save wear and tear on the expensive grenadier and light infantry caps!  But doing away with bearskins would be boring on the tabletop…  So as ‘nobody really knows’, I decided to give them the white (goatskin) caps. 🙂

Above:  The 1st Light Infantry Battalion.  I painted these in 2005, using Wargames Foundry figures and the mix of regiments was taken from the Philadelphia Campaign of 1777.  As mentioned above, the 1st Grenadier and 1st Light Infantry Battalions in 1777 both comprised companies from the 4th, 5th, 10th, 15th, 17th, 22nd, 23rd, 27th, 28th, 33rd, 35th, 38th & 44th Regiments of Foot.  When lined up, these would be (from right to left) 4th (blue), 10th (yellow), 17th (grey-white), 23rd (blue), 28th (yellow), 35th (orange), 44th (yellow), 38th (yellow), 33rd (red), 27th (pale buff), 22nd (pale buff), 15th (yellow) & 5th (gosling green).  Sadly however, I lined these up in slightly the wrong order when taking the photo! 🙁

Above:  Light Companies wore the grenadier-style shoulder-wings, red waistcoats and black belts, along with high-fronted leather caps known as ‘Keppel’ caps.  These caps were circled with black-enameled iron chains as a form of protection from overhead sword-cuts and as a consequence are often known as ‘chain-caps’.  However, some light companies (such as those of the 4th, 5th, 45th & 71st Regiments) are recorded as wearing light dragoon-style helmets.  Wargames Foundry actually do suitable figures for those, but I didn’t realise it at the time.

Note however, that by 1777, most infantry were probably wearing ‘slouched’ hats or ‘cap-hats’ (i.e. lightweight felt caps converted from cocked hats), ‘American trowsers’ and simple ’roundabout’ jackets, as shown being worn by the Light Company of the 40th Foot in the famous De La Gatta painting of the Battle of Germantown.

Above:  Most Keppel caps were decorated with white edging and variations on the theme of a crowned ‘GR’ or ‘G III R’ cypher, often with the regimental number.  However, some had ‘LI’ and a few had ‘ancient badges’, such as the lion rampant of the 4th Foot, ‘Britannia’ for the 5th, the Prince of Wales’ Feathers for the 23rd and a white castle on a blue disc for the 27th.  Some also had coloured cloth ‘turbans’ and some pre-war examples had brass front-plates.  As with the grenadier caps, these were expensive items that in reality were probably left in barracks and replaced with slouched hats soon after the start of the war.

N.B.  When painting these, I mistakenly believed that the light companies of the buff-faced regiments (22nd & 27th Regiments) retained their buff waistcoats and belts, but in fact they should have the same red waistcoats and black belts as the other companies, though with buff breeches.

Above:  The 2nd Light Infantry Battalion was painted late last year, this time using the new Light Infantry figures by Perry Miniatures.  These lovely figures are less ‘corn-fed’ than the Wargames Foundry figures, or indeed the earlier figures in the Perry Miniatures AWI range.  The headgear is moulded separately, so each pack of six figures comes with six Keppel caps, six peaked caps with plume and six ‘butterfly caps’ or ‘cap-hats’.  they’re also wearing the typical campaign ‘American trowsers’, which came in whatever colour of cloth was locally available, but I’ve done all these in white (i.e. linen).

Above:  In addition to the formed 2nd Light Infantry Battalion, I also painted a dozen Light Infantry skirmishers for those times when you want to deploy them in their intended role, instead of as elite assault-infantry!  I could use at least another dozen skirmishers.

Above:  The Light Company of the 55th Foot.  I couldn’t find any recorded examples of this regiment’s headgear, so gave them peaked caps with fairly generic white lace edging, crowned ‘GR’ cypher and regimental number ‘LV’.

Above:  The Light Company of the 49th Foot.  Again, I couldn’t find any recorded examples of their headgear, so went again with the peaked cap, this time with a crowned ‘LI’ inscription (matching a design recorded for the 46th Foot) and the number ’49’.  I also gave them a green feather, which wasn’t official at this time, but was increasingly being used to signify light companies.

Above:  The Light Company of the 40th Foot are recorded as wearing this pattern of Keppel cap; devoid of lace edging, but bearing the crowned ‘GR’ cypher and the regimental number ‘XL’.

Above:  The Light Company of the 64th Foot are recorded as wearing this pattern of ‘cap-hat’ or ‘butterfly cap’, having white lace edging but no white band, bearing the crowned ‘GR’ cypher.  Note that the sergeant has yellow lace; as mentioned above, this was a peculiarity recorded for the 64th Foot.  His NCO status is also indicated by the crimson waist-sash with facing-coloured (i.e. black) central stripe.

Above:  A Light Company of Marines.  Two battalions of Marines were formed for service in America and there were probably therefore two Marine Light Companies present, though I’ve only painted a single base of two figures.  Their headgear is modelled on a recorded Marine Keppel cap from before the AWI, which had a red ‘turban’ and was decorated on the front with the royal crest in white metal.

[Edited to add that I’ve just discovered that while the 1st & 2nd Marine Battalions’ grenadier companies were indeed assigned to the 2nd Grenadier Battalion, the Marines’ light companies accompanied their parent battalions to their new garrison station of Halifax, Nova Scotia!  Aargh!]

Above:  the Light Company of the 63rd Foot.  One recorded example of a Keppel cap belonging to the 63rd shows it to be decorated with the crowned ‘GR’ cypher and regimental number ’63’.  There was no lace edging, but there was a green feather attached on the left side (sadly missing here).

Above:  The 2nd Light Infantry Battalion formed up in close order.  The line-up and facing colours are exactly the same as those listed for the 2nd Grenadier Battalion above.  I could find recorded examples of light company headgear for the 37th, 43rd, 46th, 52nd, 57th, 63rd & 64th Regiments and the Marines, but gave random headgear to the remaining four companies.  The 45th were actually recorded as wearing a light dragoon-style helmet, but that option wasn’t included, so I gave them peaked caps.  As with the 2nd Grenadiers, I haven’t included the two Light Companies of the 71st Highlanders.  The 71st are also recorded as wearing light dragoon-style helmets.

Above:  As with their Hessians, I do like the typical Perry ‘dynamically advancing’ poses.  However, the separate hats, while a nice idea, required a lot of chopping, filing and fettling to make them fit properly and to be honest, were a massive ball-ache.  I think I’ll do my remaining skirmishers in slouched hats!

Above:  A close-up of the right wing of the 2nd Light Infantry Battalion.  The 37th (yellow facings) are on the right flank, then the 43rd (white), 46th (yellow), 52nd (buff), 57th (yellow) and 64th (black).

Above:  The left wing of the 2nd Light Infantry Battalion, starting with an officer of Marines (white), a horny-bloke of the 63rd (deep green, in reversed musician’s colours), the 55th (dark green), 49th (green), 45th (green) and 40th (buff).

Anyway, that’s it for now.  Since the Kolin game I’ve been painting some Swedish Napoleonic odds & sods and the ‘Kurmainz’ Regiment for the Reichsarmee.  I plan on making a concerted effort to finish the rest of the Reichsarmee (17 battalions, 1 cavalry regiment & 6 guns) and the bulk of the Prussian ‘Kleist’ Freikorps (1 battalion, 3 cavalry regiments, 2 skirmisher stands, 1 general and 1 gun) by the end of March, followed by a Big Game (probably the Combat of Strehla) involving the Reichsarmee and ‘Kleist’ Freikorps in April, but the new Napoleonic Russian Mounted Jäger have just arrived from AB Figures and have temporarily distracted me with their loveliness and easy-to-paintness, so I’m presently painting those.  But here’s the progress thus far on the ‘Kurmainz’ Regiment:

This entry was posted in 28mm Figures, American War of Independence, British Grenadier! Rules (AWI), Eighteenth Century, Painted Units. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to “The British Are Coming!”: My AWI British Army (Part 1: The Elite Corps)

  1. Paul Smith says:

    Hi Mark

    As usual astounded with the depth of knowledge!
    Hope to hear about some more AWI action in the not too distant future.

    Cheers Paul

    • jemima_fawr says:

      I’m just astounded that I could find the information again after 18 years… 😉

      AWI is definitely NOT my comfort zone! And if you go back to my British SYW posts, you’ll see that in those intervening years, I completely forgot that critical order of seniority in British grenadier battalions! 🙁

      Yeah, there’s plenty more to come. Lots of units photographed and more to photograph, as well as the postponed Brandywine refight, which has been re-convened for 18th March (every third Saturday of the month is the club’s Big Game Saturday).

  2. Joe Fish says:

    Fascinating, and useful! I will be putting together some combined battalions for a ‘Retreat from Concord ‘ scenario I hope to put on at a local hobby store. Impressive research data.

  3. Pingback: “Don’t Tread On Me!”: My AWI Rebel Army (Part 1) | Jemima Fawr's Miniature Wargames Blog

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