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"AWI battalion divisions and size limits" Topic


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673 hits since 4 Jan 2013
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Jagger04 Jan 2013 9:39 a.m. PST

My understanding is that AWI regiments/battalions were typically organized into 4 divisions of 2 platoons each for battle.

So I am wondering about the very small and very large regiments and their organizations. What was the minimum number of men needed to be able to form a functional division? I assume with the small battalions, if they did not have enough men to form 4 funtional divisions, they would form less than 4 divisions and perhaps combine with other small regiments to give 4 total divisions. Or perhaps they could operate perfectly well with 2 or 3 divisions rather than 4.

And with larger regiments/battalions, such as the combined grenadiers or highlanders or German battalions, I assume they would form 2 wings each of 4 divisions rather than 1 wing with 4 huge divisions. Or would they?

I guess it boils down to what are the upper and lower acceptable size limits of divisions for optimal field performance. So what are the maximum and minimum number of men acceptable to form a single operational field division of a battalion during the AWI?

historygamer04 Jan 2013 11:50 a.m. PST

My rule of thumb is that British 8 hat company battalions had about 320 men. The rebel regiments/battalions tended to be around 200 to 220 men strong.

The flank companys always had more men, closer to authorized, and were kept so, drawing from the hat companies.

The basic fighting unit was the company, which contained two platoons (strength allowing). Two companies were formed into a large unit (sub-division), and two sub-divisions made up a division (have a battalion). Actual field strengths often made this a paper exercise though.

But, to answer your question, the basic firing unit and logistics unit would be a company.

German companies were larger, so I'll let someone more knowledgable on them answer that one.

Oh, some of the very large British regiments (such as the 42nd and 71st) often fought in wings, thus further confusing the issue.

historygamer04 Jan 2013 2:42 p.m. PST

Oops, wrong nomenclature. They were Grand divisions, not divisions. There we go. :-)

Personal logo RNSulentic Supporting Member of TMP04 Jan 2013 4:07 p.m. PST

Look at von Steuben's regulations. They basically say what HG just said, but Steuben orders that any battalion must have 8 platoons formed into 4 divisions, and that a platoon has to be a minimum of 10 files (in two ranks), and that no regiment that has less than 80 files can form a battalion, but must be amalgamated or used on detachment, and that any regiment that has more than 160 files, must be formed in two battalions. Doing the math, a battalion would be anywhere from 160 to 320 muskets. This doesn't count the officers.

Jagger05 Jan 2013 9:09 a.m. PST

Wow, I am surprised at the American standard battalion at 160-320 men. I just checked the Monmouth OOB and I only saw one regiment stronger than 320 men.

I wonder what the regs were for the British. Using the same Monmouth OOB, almost half the British regiments were larger than 320 men. I suspect they must have had a larger number of files per battalion.

historygamer05 Jan 2013 5:17 p.m. PST

There were no Britsh regs on that that I am aware of. Intead, it was more of a practical handling of large and small units in the field.

I suspect the larger American units were converged ones such as the rifles, or Lights. But just a guess off the top of my head.

Supercilius Maximus06 Jan 2013 3:31 p.m. PST

The thing to remember about the American infantry at Monmouth is that many of the Continental units were either
a) amalgamations of 2, 3 or more "regiments" that had shrunk to mere cadres (eg Wood's 4th/8th/14th VA @ 400, and Olney's 1st/2nd RI @ 330); or
b) the converged battalions of "picked men" who made up the Advance Guard under Lee/La Fayette, averaged around 320-340, but these are only estimates as no accurate returns of these units were made (the men are recorded as "on detachment" or "on command" in the returns of their own regiments, but even these include men on other detached duties so can't be a definitive number); or
c) units from specific States which had "bulked out" their Continental regiments with levies of militia eg New Jersey, whose four regiments averaged 324; and
d) each Continental line brigade sent 25 picked men to join a special unit formed to serve with Morgan.

The vast majority of the Continental regiments/battalions had between 120 and 250 men present; the five Additional regiments averaged under 100.

The British infantry at Monmouth averaged as follows:
- 21 line bns (42nd as 2) totalling 6750+ ave. 322
- 2 guard bns (minus flank coys) totalling 660 ave. 330
- 4 flank bns (as 8 wings) totalling 2819 ave. 352

[1 flank and 9 line bns were not engaged]

I think the only relevant British "regulation" is the provision in the 1764 Manual for reducing the number of ranks from three to two if the number of files in each company/platoon fell below 10.

German infantry at Monmouth averaged around 520 for the 2 line regiments and 370 for the 3 grenadier battalions; there was also the "briagde" of survivors from Trenton, whose 3 units averaged 260. German units invariably formed two wings, each of two divisions/four platoons, regardless of type or size of the regiment/battalion.

historygamer06 Jan 2013 6:57 p.m. PST

So the cool thing is that most of your units then should be about the same size, and you can blend uniforms in the same unit (same stands with same uniforms) to represent the American converged units if you like.

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