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"Rifles and other surprising facts of Saratoga campaign" Topic

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©1994-2017 Bill Armintrout
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historygamer Supporting Member of TMP11 Dec 2016 7:59 p.m. PST

"Although Washington ordered that men serving in the rifle battalions be "none but such as are known to be perfectly skilled in the use of these guns (rifles), and who are known to be active and orderly in their behavior," their actual prowess in the use of the rifle is questionable. Most were drafted from musket-armed regiments and had to transition to army-issued rifles that were not their own. Given that the rifle battalion numbered about 400 officers and soldiers and were engaged for most of the battle (Freeman's Farm), one might expect that they should have been capable of shooting down every British soldier in the field that day(given their numbers and time engaged).

The Saratoga Campaign: Uncovering an Embattled Landscape. Chapter – The Tactics of the Battle of Saratoga, by Eric Schnitzer, page 54

historygamer Supporting Member of TMP11 Dec 2016 8:01 p.m. PST

More interesting stuff coming.

Winston Smith Supporting Member of TMP11 Dec 2016 8:17 p.m. PST

Was it Goering?
Some German general was joshing with a Swiss general who told him that the Swiss had 500,000 soldiers.
Goering asked what he would do if the Germans invaded with a million men. (Goeringer was a famous diplomat…)
"We will just have to shoot twice."

I forget the exact numbers but it took several hundred shots fired by either side to cause a casualty.

Personal logo Dale Hurtt Supporting Member of TMP Inactive Member11 Dec 2016 10:04 p.m. PST

Interesting indeed! Both your post and Winston's "response"! grin

historygamer Supporting Member of TMP12 Dec 2016 6:41 a.m. PST

Yeah, I'm pretty sure Goering played no role in the campaign, but you never know. :-)

Green Tiger Supporting Member of TMP12 Dec 2016 6:44 a.m. PST

Or it could just be that rifles aren't as effective as people think?

B6GOBOS Inactive Member12 Dec 2016 6:49 a.m. PST

"My riflemen would have been of little service if they had not always had a line of Musquet and Bayonette men to support us" General Daniel Morgan

historygamer Supporting Member of TMP12 Dec 2016 7:12 a.m. PST

Interesting comment, but the truth in the first battle is that the rifles and Lights were not working as a team at all. Schnitzer says the rifles had to rely on the terrain and other obstacle for defense as the Lights were all the way at the other end of the American line during the first battle.

It makes you wonder if Morgan had tactical command of the Lights, or Dearborn was on his own. That problem was corrected by the second battle.

historygamer Supporting Member of TMP12 Dec 2016 3:06 p.m. PST

"However, despite being well-armed, one shortcoming of Continental and militia equipment alike was the inability of their cartridge pouches to carry substantial amounts of ammunition. Thus, American soldiers went into battle with significantly less ammunition, then did their enemies."

pg 54

"Each British and German soldier were issued 100 rounds of ammunition before the battle, and the army was therefore better equipped to sustain itself in a prolonged engagement."

pg 55

Major Bloodnok12 Dec 2016 6:07 p.m. PST

If the Regulars and Hessian were being issued 100 rounds apiece most of those rounds are not held in the cartridge box. British shoulder boxes will usually hold +/- 36 rounds. They were often divided with a top block holding 18-29 rounds, the rest underneath in a tin tray. One pattern has a block of wood drilled for 18 rounds top and bottom. When the top row was exhausted the block was flipped over. What didn't fit in the box was carried in eight – ten round packets in pockets, haversack, knapsack, whatever. The British "belly boxes" usually held 18 rounds. Rebel shoulder boxes could range from 16 rounds up.

historygamer Supporting Member of TMP12 Dec 2016 6:56 p.m. PST

I think the most common pouch carried by the Crown was a 29 round box. The Rawles flip block held 18 up and down (it's what my unit carries). The American pouches were smaller.

Often tin canisters were carried with extra rounds. Eric says that the rounds would likely be carried in the knapsack by the Brits.

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP13 Dec 2016 3:42 a.m. PST

Dearborn's Light Infantry and Morgan's Riflemen were brigaded together for the specific reason that riflemen on their own were vulnerable to regulars armed with musket and bayonet.

John Elting's The Battles of Saratoga and Harold Peterson's The Book of the Continental Soldier are very useful references regarding regulars, militia, and riflemen.

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP13 Dec 2016 3:43 a.m. PST

Regarding the OP-what was the 'issue rifle' of the Continental Army?

Supercilius Maximus13 Dec 2016 5:02 a.m. PST

Whilst the "received wisdom" is that Morgan's and Dearborn's commands were intended to serve together, there is quite a lot of evidence that they did not do so until the Bemis Heights action in October, and that on 19th September the two units served in different parts of the front line. The first act of the day in that battle consisted of Morgan's men ambushing Forbes' pickets as the British advanced, then got carried away and were driven back (with some loss it appears) by a bayonet charge by some companies of the 24th – using the tactic that had been adopted to deal with unaccompanied riflemen at Long Island the year before. Morgan himself writes of the difficulties and frustrations of trying to control his men during this action – perhaps it is worth noting that, at Bemis Heights, they seem to be operating in smaller groups, some of them personally directed by Morgan, in amongst the rest of the Continentals?

Whilst there was no "issue rifle" the Main Army did, after Morgan's return following the Convention, acquire a central stock of rifles which could be issued to individuals. These were mainly acquired by giving muskets to rifle-armed men around the same time that light companies became an official part of the Continental establishment.

At some point in late 1778 or early 1779, Washington ordered a rifle detachment re-created, using rifle-armed men from the Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania Continental regiments (which mostly retained a rifle company) and such other men as could prove their skill with them, those without rifles to "draw them from the stores".

Incidentally, there are numerous accounts of poor shooting by rifle-armed units: Weitzels' Mills (where Webster rode his horse across a mill pond whilst under fire from men in a log cabin on the other side), Cowan's Ford (where a Guards officer rode his horse 500 yards across a river and was only shot when the horse climbed up the bank that the riflemen were hiding behind), and Spencer's Ordinary (where Ewald leads a charge of three QR companies against 100-200 rifle-armed militia, resting their weapons on a fence, and loses only a dozen casualties from their single volley). It may be worth noting that Morgan was at none of these actions.

historygamer Supporting Member of TMP13 Dec 2016 7:06 a.m. PST

Unlike the British, there was no standard rifle for the Continentals. They got what they got and all were civilian grade weapons, likely of varying caliber and quality. The fact that at least some of the men had never handled a rifle before is shown in their performance.

SM- Eric states the rifles were charged by a detachment of Lights, but he gives no further details. I know the 24th was regarded as all being like Lights, so who knows. I find it interesting that men from Fraser's detachment came over into Hamilton's zone of operations much to the relief of Forbes' 100 man picket from the 9th. Eric states that when the picket ran back to the British lines they were shot at by the Brits. Bad day to be a picket.

The thing that strikes me about this battle after reading it is that it was almost fought one unit at a time. Certainly Arnold (not on the field) fed the Americans in that way. Hamilton appears to have held the 9th back and only deployed two battalions onto the field. Other than the 24th at the McBride Farm, Fraser seemed rather under-engaged.

vtsaogames14 Dec 2016 6:03 a.m. PST

Historygamer: does that book have good maps or should I just get the Kindle version?

historygamer Supporting Member of TMP14 Dec 2016 7:54 a.m. PST

There are lots of maps on the archeology work. There are two period maps in the battle section that are in color, but a bit hard to figure out on the placement of troops.

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP14 Dec 2016 8:01 p.m. PST

From The Battles of Saratoga by John Elting, 26:

'On 6 August Major Henry Dearborn noted '…it is in General Orders for a company of light infantry to be formed from each Continental Regiment immediately;' on the 19th he recorded, 'I am appointed to the command of 300 light infantry who are draughted from several regiments in the Northern army and to act in conjunction with Col Morgan's Corps of Riflemen.' These light infantry units were being formed throughout the Continental Army, obviously on Washington's orders. They were to be picked soldiers-young, active, reliable, brave, and good shots. Their weapons were the musket and bayonet; possibly they also carried tomahawks. Their mission was the same as that of the British light infantry-skirmishing, raiding, advance guard and outpost work. In this campaign they also would form a fast-moving yet solid battalion behind which Morgan's riflemen could rally if caught at a disadvantage by British infantry. (Morgan seems to have called them 'bayonets.') They became one of the Northern Army's two elite units.'

'Morgan's Corps of Riflemen was the other. Like the Light Infantry it was a temporary organization, formed only in June, but already blooded in New Jersey's maneuvering. Its core seem to have been Morgan's 11th Virginia Regiment, filled up with whole companies or individual soldiers from Maryland and Pennsylvania Continental regiments. In fact, there may have been more Pennsylvanians than Virginians in its ranks, but Morgan mixed them up thoroughly. Most, if not all, of its personnel were from frontier districts and had experience in Indian warfare; all were good marksmen with their long Pennsylvania rifles. There is no indication that they had any special drill or training, but Morgan's driving personal leadership kept them under control in almost any situation. Colonel Daniel Morgan…was an immensely strong 6-footer with a roaring voice and indomitable courage. He had been Arnold's right hand in the invasion of Canada, and had won his colonelcy by his diehard heroism at Quebec. He joined the Northern Army on 30 August with 331 effective rank and file and 36 sick-Dearborn said '400 riflemen.''

Interestingly, Morgan and Dearborn had both served on the Canadian expedition in 1775 under Arnold.

Virginia Tory16 Dec 2016 5:58 a.m. PST

All the maps for Freeman's Farm are clear--Morgan's rifles ended up mostly on the far right flank, others dispersed in small groups interspersed with the other Continental regiments.

Dearborn was off on the left, dueling with Fraser's wing and does not appear to have had much of anything to do with Morgan during the first engagement.

As far as the expertise of Morgan's battalion, I think the new book casts some doubt on that--as noted, they had enough guys in the field to do a lot more damage than they did historically.

The Lights Eric refers to were probably from Balcarres' battalion, if not the 24th, who were busy engaging with the Continental left.

Another interesting point--total lack of Rebel leadership on the field. Poor and Learned, who provided most of the troops that day, appear to have stayed in the Bevis Heights fortifications most of the day, with Learned only venturing out close to the evening.

How you'd model that with BG or any other system is a bit of a mystery to me. Also explains the disjointed way the Continentals arrived and engaged on the field.

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP16 Dec 2016 7:10 a.m. PST

All the maps for Freeman's Farm are clear--Morgan's rifles ended up mostly on the far right flank, others dispersed in small groups interspersed with the other Continental regiments. Dearborn was off on the left, dueling with Fraser's wing and does not appear to have had much of anything to do with Morgan during the first engagement.

'At about 1245 the British center column's 100-man picket led by Major Gordon Forbes moved in extended formation across the wooded 'gutter' and advanced into the open field on the northern side of the clearing. Their purpose was to flush out American sentries posted at the farm who had been holding up the center column's sentinels since about noon. Forbes and his men entered the field and maneuvered up the low rising hill toward the fences and house, behind and within which the American sentries were firing. At that moment, the front of Morgan's rifle battalion arrived to support the outnumbered sentries. Forbes' men opened fire on the advance party of riflemen, but with little effect, and Morgan's riflemen stepped up the pace to close the gap. A further exchange of fire and overwhelming numbers resulted in Forbes and his men falling back to the safety of the woods from where they came. The riflemen, moving as a column a distance ahead of Dearborn's light infantry, sought to take tactical advantage of the developing situation, and pursued the retreating redcoats. But the advancing riflemen overextended themselves and were outflanked by British light infantry reinforcements sent from Fraser's advanced corps. This unexpected strike scattered the rifle battalion and caused it and the sentinels to withdraw to the south.'-The Saratoga Campaign: Uncovering an Embattled Landscape, 48.

'After the scattered retreat of the riflemen and sentinels, Dearborn positioned his corps of light infantry about 275 yards southwest of Freeman's house on the commanding rise of ground in the nearby woods. Upon reaching their destination, Dearborn formed his men into line and, using the trees as cover, waited for the inevitable sight of British troops pouring out onto the field. Meanwhile, the riflemen, scattered into disparate groups and detachments from the initial shock of being outflanked, were in the process of being reformed by Morgan in the woods about a half mile south of the farm.'-Saratoga Campaign, 48-49.

So, it seems by this narrative that both Morgan and Dearborn were in the same sector against Fraser.

John Elting's account of the action confirms this version of events (The Battles of Saratoga, 51-55. The unit schematic on page 54 shows both Morgan and Dearborn on the American left against Fraser).

It should also be noted that Morgan's riflemen and Dearborns' light infantry were both commanded overall by Morgan and the entire provisional organization was referred to as Morgan's Corps. See John Elting, Battles, page 90 for the American order of battle.

Lastly, to which maps do you refer?

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP16 Dec 2016 7:11 a.m. PST

As far as the expertise of Morgan's battalion, I think the new book casts some doubt on that--as noted, they had enough guys in the field to do a lot more damage than they did historically.

They were picked men, not supermen. They did what they were supposed to do, and contrary to some accounts, Morgan didn't win the war on his own, even in the south.

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP16 Dec 2016 7:14 a.m. PST

Additionally, Gates referred to Morgan's command as the 'Rifle Regiment and Corps of Light Infantry.'

So, as a composite as well as a provisional unit, it was one unit composed of both riflemen and light infantry commanded by Morgan.

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP16 Dec 2016 7:16 a.m. PST

Given that the rifle battalion numbered about 400 officers and soldiers and were engaged for most of the battle (Freeman's Farm), one might expect that they should have been capable of shooting down every British soldier in the field that day(given their numbers and time engaged).

This statement in the book is somewhat overdone and an exaggeration. It doesn't make any sense at all.

And the book itself, though, is excellent and highly recommended.

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP16 Dec 2016 7:35 a.m. PST

There are three pretty good maps in John Luzader's Saratoga, on pages 233, 237, and 239 depicting Freeman's Farm and the American deployment.

Morgan's entire corps (riflemen and light infantry) came on the field together and fought together as shown on the first two maps.

When Poor's New Hampshire Continental Regiments (1st, 2d, and 3d) arrived on the field and deployed Dearborn was stationed on the left flank and the riflemen on the right flank.

When Learned's Continental Brigade arrived later Dearborn was then positioned between the 2d Connecticut and the 2d New York Continental Regiments while the riflemen remained on the right flank.

On Morgan's left was the 3d New Hampshire in the final deployment (map on page 241), while the 2d New Hampshire had been in that position upon Poor's brigade's initial deployment.

Initially, then, in the first fighting as already shown, Morgan's riflemen and Dearborn's light infantry fought deployed and fought together. Only when reinforced by two Continental brigades were they separated, and that was because of direction the commander on the field and tactical necessity. Morgan's position on the right flank was still supported by regular infantry armed with musket and bayonet.

historygamer Supporting Member of TMP16 Dec 2016 1:49 p.m. PST

That's not what the passage indicates at all. Schnitzer is rather clear on the fact that Morgan brought his riflemen on unsupported by the Lights. As you noted in the passage above, the Lights drew up on a hill while the riflemen were far in advance of them chasing Forbes (detachment of the 9th Regt) off the field.

Morgan's men were exclusively deployed (early on) fighting Hamilton's brigade, not Fraser's. Dearborn deployed on a hill that was somewhat in between the two British brigades. The point being, while Morgan may have had tactical command over the Lights in this battle, there is nothing to indicate he in fact ordered them anywhere, and in fact, seems to have spent his time rallying his riflemen instead.

historygamer Supporting Member of TMP16 Dec 2016 1:51 p.m. PST

To put this all in further context, Schnitzer is the current Park Historian at Saratoga National Battlefield and Luzader is the retired one. They worked together and as you can see, both wrote chapters in the new book.

Further to the point about not working together, a sizeable portion of the rifles, according to Schnitzer, ended up on the right flank, with no Light support. The British charged them with bayonets, but the rifles were saved by an intervening gully that could not be crossed.

historygamer Supporting Member of TMP16 Dec 2016 1:52 p.m. PST

Luzader's book is in indeed very good.

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP17 Dec 2016 6:19 a.m. PST

I know who Schnitzer and Luzader are and have had Luzader's book on Saratoga since it was published.

If you have a copy take a look at the maps that I referenced from it. As posted, Morgan's Corps (riflemen and light infantry) came onto the field together at Freeman's Farm and fought together until the Continental brigades of Poor and Learned came on the field and Dearborn's battalion took its place in line of battle and then the riflemen were stationed on the right flank.

You go where you're sent or assigned.

historygamer Supporting Member of TMP17 Dec 2016 10:17 p.m. PST

I think the rifles were kind of dispersed for much of the battle. Even when they reformed they were not massed altogether.

The odd thing was, there doesn't seem to be anyone in overall command of the American units during this battle, and even Poor and Learned only came on later. I'm not sure if one was the ranking commander, but it seems Arnold was off feeding units into the battle, somewhat piece meal. I'm not sure Burgoyne did a better job either.

historygamer Supporting Member of TMP13 Mar 2017 5:24 p.m. PST

While not part of the Saratoga campaign (I don't think), my friends in the recreated 1st VA Regiment (a very good unit) tell me that they have definitive proof that the riflemen in that unit did not wear the traditional hunting shirt, but wore cocked hats and regimental coats. They say they know this for sure based on clothing disbursements given out over some years and the officers who signed for the received clothing. Interesting. Soooo…. I wonder how many other rifled companies also wore regimental coats? Kind of makes sense if you think about it.

nevinsrip Sponsoring Member of TMP14 Mar 2017 4:22 a.m. PST

I always get a kick of how riflemen are downplayed. Any unit that's incorrectly used by a commander is doomed to failure.

Morgan understood the Rifleman's true value and was one of the few Continental commanders who got the most from them both at Saratoga and again at Cowpens.

Greene quickly learned how to deploy them, while Washington never did.

And Tim Murphy shot Fraser. So there, Brendan.

By the way has anyone else read "Decision on the Hudson" by Luzader? Sort of "Saratoga" light, but there are some really interesting drawings included. Worth checking out.

historygamer Supporting Member of TMP14 Mar 2017 5:51 a.m. PST

Since Washington wanted to create a military force along the lines of the one he was facing, it's not surprising that perhaps some of the riflemen were clothed as the hat companies. The Crown side had more rifles than the Americans, and they all wore uniforms.

I'm not sure about Morgan using riflemen so much as the terrain and circumstances favoring them. Of course a good commander has to take advantage of that as well.

And in regards to Washington vs Greene, correct me if I am wrong but Washington was facing a lot more Crown rifles than Greene ever did – proportionally too. And Washington had a lot more experience with frontier and woods fighting than Greene did. Not that I'm not a Greene fan either. Interesting to note as an aside that Greene basically went broke after the war while Washington retained his fortune. Greene made some really bad investments during the war, especially in some privateers that never paid off. I think Washington pretty much kept to his farming business, and later added a distillery – though apparently he had to be talked into that by his farm manager (Scotsman of course).

Rallynow Supporting Member of TMP14 Mar 2017 1:56 p.m. PST

I always assumed they did wear regimental uniforms. Why wouldn't they? Assuming anyone in the regiment had a regimental coat.

Morgan's bunch are different, I would suppose any all rifle regiment would all be in hunting type shirts.

Bill N14 Mar 2017 2:52 p.m. PST

I suppose your friends in the First Virginia have better sources than I do historygamer. My information indicates the situation was more complex.

In 1777 Virginia continental regiments started getting regimental coats. However I've seen one order for hunting shirts being issued by Virginia supposedly to a company of the First Virginia in 1777. Deserter descriptions for other Virginia regiments in 1777 include references to hunting shirts. Since men in Virginia regiments raised in 1776 had three year enlistments it is possible some were wearing their 1776 hunting shirts in 1777. Some deserters were from regiments raised in 1777 indicating some new hunting shirts were probably being issued to the Virginia line as well. There are indications that Continental authorities were issuing hunting shirts both to the Main Army and to the Northern Army in 1777. I have no idea whether Virginians serving in Morgan's Rifles wore hunting shirts or regimentals at Saratoga.

Greene was operating in the southern backcountry where rifles were relatively common. I am not sure Greene really understood how to use riflemen, but he worked with officers who did. Also it is my understanding Greene's financial difficulties stemmed from him guaranteeing the obligations of army contractors during the war.

historygamer Supporting Member of TMP14 Mar 2017 3:18 p.m. PST

I'll provide more info on the 1st VA when I get it, but it apparently is pretty definitive, at least for that regiment.

IIRC, Morgan's men were drawn from regiments, so it might follow they got what the rest of the men got and not a set of special clothing.

You are correct about Greene, but his financial troubles started before that with some bad investments in Privateers which were viewed as an investment at the time. It only went downhill when he signed for clothing and supplies for his southern army.

I am a Greene fan, but like many leading rebels, he largely ended up broke after the war. :-(

Virginia Tory15 Mar 2017 8:31 a.m. PST

"Morgan understood the Rifleman's true value and was one of the few Continental commanders who got the most from them both at Saratoga and again at Cowpens."

That said, we shouldn't ignore when they were badly handled. If they were so good at scouting, etc. why were they not out figuring out where Burgoyne's columns were? Why was the fight with Forbes' pickets such a disaster?

"Greene quickly learned how to deploy them, while Washington never did."

Greene had appropriate terrain for making best use of them in the south. That said, it didn't stop the British at Guildford. Washington was fighting in much more open terrain and it made use of riflemen much more problematic.

"And Tim Murphy shot Fraser. So there, Brendan."

These seems open to some doubt.


Supercilius Maximus15 Mar 2017 12:25 p.m. PST

Careful, now Bill used to be a homicide detective you know.

On the other hand, taking anything an Irishman's grandson tells you at face value is always risky.

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP15 Mar 2017 1:03 p.m. PST

Greene quickly learned how to deploy them, while Washington never did.

Evidence and sources?

As Washington had Morgan's Rifle Corps formed I doubt the accuracy of the above statement.

nevinsrip Sponsoring Member of TMP15 Mar 2017 2:43 p.m. PST

Evidence and sources?
GCH….Greene copied Morgans plan.

Name one battle where Washington used riflemen effectively?
Yes, he formed a Corps. And immediately sent them as far way as he could.
First to Saratoga and then South.

GW was a patrician and riflemen were backwoodsmen. He disdained their lack of respect for autthority and their drunken brawling. He allowed his personal feelings to blind him to how to use them effectively.

Bill N15 Mar 2017 6:36 p.m. PST

I look forward to seeing what your friends in the 1st Virginia can tell us historygamer. I knew a couple of guys in the unit from my NCMC days in the 1970s, but I no longer have a connection.

Virginia Tory16 Mar 2017 7:31 a.m. PST

"GCH….Greene copied Morgans plan."

Wrongly, as it turned out, with too much space between the supporting lines.

"Name one battle where Washington used riflemen effectively?
Yes, he formed a Corps. And immediately sent them as far way as he could."

Maybe it should be "name one battle where riflemen were decisive?" There aren't that many for a reason.

"First to Saratoga and then South."

Where they could be put to good use. Washington was also fed up with their indiscipline, among other things. Arguably he felt sending them to a commander who might better understand/use them made sense.

historygamer Supporting Member of TMP16 Mar 2017 7:38 a.m. PST

I would point out that after 1778 the war shifted out of Washington's zone of operation, so there was little need of riflemen after that.

I would also point out that Morgan missed the battle at Monmouth. Washington had him in a good position, but poor staff work had him miss out.

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP16 Mar 2017 11:05 a.m. PST

Yes, he formed a Corps. And immediately sent them as far way as he could. First to Saratoga and then South.

First, could you give your sources?

Second, if you are stating that Washington sent Morgan's Rifle Corps 'south' then that never happened, as the unit was disbanded in the winter of 1777-1778.

Again, you have not shown that Washington had no expertise in employing riflemen. He formed Morgan's Corps and sent them to the Northern Army where they would be of some use.

I do believe that you are putting too much emphasis on the efficiency and utility of American rifle units and there is little if any evidence that they were as efficient as you are apparently intending to show.

The riflemen employed in the south by Greene's army were locally raised units or veterans of King's Mountain. They were not Morgan's Rifle Corps.

nevinsrip Sponsoring Member of TMP16 Mar 2017 6:42 p.m. PST


Try this.

historygamer Supporting Member of TMP17 Mar 2017 5:26 a.m. PST

Interesting article, thanks for sharing. Some thoughts come to mind after reading it:

1. It appears Washington did indeed put the riflemen to good use – as long as their temperament allowed anyway. The description of which seems to parallel previous descriptions of American Indians serving with regular forces.

2. While the author's sources seem solid, I couldn't help to note that many were very old too. I'm not saying they are wrong (hey, I'm a Parkman fan), but I suspect the author would get dinged for that in an academic setting (which this is not, nor is the webpage). That said, the age may mean nothing.

3. Given the numbers that showed up, and the newness of such a large deployment of the weapon, it is hard to ding Washington, or anyone else for not knowing how to deploy them tactically. The problem was, given their temperament, and the fact that most people in the military spend very little time in actual combat, the rifles were not a good fit for military discipline which must be maintained all the time. So, just like Indians of the time period, it is not perhaps surprising that they were able to achieve tactical superiority at times, but not sustained operations.

4. Given the information from the 1st VA that they supplied their riflemen with uniforms (regimentals), not all riflemen wore the infamous hunting shirt.

5. The British came on strong in 1776 with rifles of their own. While the use and success (or lack thereof) of the rifles in the hands of the Lights and cavalry is not clear, the value the English placed on the Jaegers is well known.

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP17 Mar 2017 10:24 a.m. PST

Try this.

Printed and read the article. It reinforces the idea that Washington did know and understand how to use riflemen, and that he knew and understood their limitations.

nevinsrip Sponsoring Member of TMP17 Mar 2017 3:03 p.m. PST

HG Washington clearly shows his bias against them and never bothered with Riflemen again. This was a mistake. He dismissed what could have been an asset, because he disapproved of their behavior and lack of military discipline.

Who's responsibility is it when troops behave in an unruly manner? Who's responsibility is is to turn undisciplined men into a fighting force? Where does the buck stop?

That's right, folks. It falls on the Commander.

That's my point.

historygamer Supporting Member of TMP17 Mar 2017 9:15 p.m. PST

That would have been Thompson. He commanded that particular unit.

nevinsrip Sponsoring Member of TMP17 Mar 2017 11:46 p.m. PST

That would have been Thompson. He commanded that particular unit.

No, that would be GW who command the Army. If he found Thompson, lacking he should have replaced him.

Something about where the buck stops.

Supercilius Maximus18 Mar 2017 3:19 a.m. PST

Most army commanders of this era found it difficult to control "irregular" troops Croats, Pandours, Frei Korps, early Highlanders, etc. I think Morgan was the only man who had the force of personality to control these guys (or at least the original volunteers) and even he struggled a bit at Freeman's Farm when they got too enthusiastic after the ambush of Forbes' pickets, and ended up getting jabbed with pointy metal bits by the 24th and Light Infantry.

For all his F&IW service, Washington's command experiences were still fairly conventional, and we should not criticise him for that. As British experiences showed, commanding light troops of any kind (even regulars) was a skill that not every officer possessed. It might also be worth mentioning that no American officer had ever commanded large numbers of backwoodsmen prior to the AWI even Rogers' Rangers (and other similar units) had always contained a leavening (up to 1/3, I believe) of Regular officers and NCOs to provide some disciplinary backbone/control.

In late 1778 or 1779 (can someone confirm?) Washington reformed a rifle-armed unit from PA, MD and VA regiments, with men being chosen from the ranks for their marksmanship and those without rifles I think only PA units still had an integral rifle company at this point being issued them from stores. It strikes me that GW actually had a fairly good handle on the subject, within the limitations imposed by the framework of the Continental Army at that time. He also understood the psychology of the rifleman's potential impact on the enemy, when he suggested the hunting shirt as the Continental Army's first uniform.

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