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"Did American Provincial units have bayonets?" Topic

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Oldgrumbler06 Aug 2018 9:02 p.m. PST

Blue Moon & other manufacturers often make them with bayonets but did they really have them?

Oldgrumbler06 Aug 2018 9:02 p.m. PST

Blue Moon & other manufacturers often make them with bayonets but did they really have them?

Winston Smith06 Aug 2018 9:11 p.m. PST

If the person could afford them. But that didn't come with the training.
I personally believe that too much is made of provincial units. They were neither fish nor fowl. What did they actually do?

Glengarry506 Aug 2018 9:32 p.m. PST

Provincials were American colonial state regular infantry and were equipped as such with bayonets and sometimes they carried tomahawks in addition. There were Provincial Ranger companies raised by a half dozen states who would typically replace their bayonets with tomahawks.

Personal logo miniMo Supporting Member of TMP06 Aug 2018 10:01 p.m. PST

Yup, all equipment was provided by the Colony, which was re-imbursed by the Crown. At the very least, each would have a plug bayonet.

The French war saved the economy here! The Crown paid in coin, which brought hard cash to the colonies and put an end to rampant inflation. Overall our economy ran on ledger books of value owed, scrupulously recorded in pound value. Debts were typically paid with labour provided by sons aged 1630!

Each Governor was able to (eventually) pay for war provisions with cash when the re-imbursements came in, generally a year or two later. This was a huge boon to the merchants. Soldiers were paid in cash, which allowed them to establish themselves independently in a trade or with farmland out in the sticks at a younger age than otherwise would have been possible.

The Provincials were very highly motivated volunteers, which the Regular army officers mistook for being very poor Regular army soldiers.

In the field, they had precious little time available for training because the Regular Officers kept assigning them to pioneer tasks and guard duties, both of which were time-consuming and physically exhausting, especially given the paucity of rations. They were then lucky if they had accumulated a week's worth of military training before being committed to battle.

22ndFoot07 Aug 2018 6:36 a.m. PST

If you're interested in the relationship between the Regulars and Provincials in the Seven Years War, I would recommend Redcoats: The British Soldier and War in the Americas, 1755-1763 by Stephen Brumwell. An excellent book.

Major Bloodnok29 Aug 2018 4:51 p.m. PST

It depends on one's definiton of "Provincials". If one means militia, then probably not. Until the AWI most colonies militia laws were still based on the 1696 laws of King William & Mary. Swords or "cutlashes" were required not bayonets. In Mass. about 1714[?] bayonets were required the the troops that lived in Boston. In a 1745 militia inspection for the town of Sturbridge, Mass. the most common fine was "in need of all but a gun". The next common was in need of a sword, and one was in need of a hatchet, i've yet to find in Mass. law were hatchets become an acceptable side arm. Nothing about missing bayonets. Mass. Provincials were drawn by volunteers from the militia, and "impressed idlers" (substitutes were allowed). Bounties were given if you enlisted with your own gun, so you can imagine the mix of calibres. If I remember correctly I believe that Johnson wrote that there were only two units at the Battle of Lake George that had bayonets. So I would think that for early F&I very few bayonets as opposed to later on. At one point the Crown supplied 500 muskets to the Colony of Massachusetts Bay in New England which went missing.
Just my tuppence 'apenny.

historygamer30 Aug 2018 5:15 a.m. PST

I am assuming we are talking about the F&I War. Is that correct?

Yes, Oldgrumbler needs to further clarify if he actually mean provincial troops or militia.

The fact that provincial troops were supplied with a stand of arms (musket, bayonet and pouch) has been covered, though I would take exception to the use of plug bayonets at this time period for provincial troops.

I am not sure how highly motivated they were either. Unemployment waxed and waned and soldiers were paid about the same rate as common laborers of the time period. And while it was true that provincial regiments were often assigned some construction duties, so too were the regulars. In fact, there is a very good book on the 60th RAR (Campbell) that says a regular's training was not complete until he participated in building forts/works. They were just the jobs that needed to be done.

On the Braddock Campaign they hired specific men to work as road builders. Constructing forts and covering works for encampments were expected of all soldiers, regular and provincials alike.

The problem with some of the provincial units were their terms of enlistment, often ending after a year. Ironic that George Washington would encounter the same challenges in 1775, 1776, and beyond.

The shortage of bayonets, and even firearms, among the militia of the period (F&I and even Rev War) is well documented as well. While the law might require militia to supply their own arms, that was not always what happened. Read, "Breaking the Back Country" for further details on that.

Oldgrumbler30 Aug 2018 6:16 p.m. PST

FIW. Braddock's defeat, Fort William Henry, etc. I think the American provincial units did but the Canadian militia did not.


historygamer31 Aug 2018 9:02 a.m. PST

Good question on French/Canadian militia. Provincials yes.

Oldgrumbler31 Aug 2018 11:33 a.m. PST

The Osprey book on Braddocks defeat (Monogahela) says that the Canadians did not. Page 72

historygamer05 Sep 2018 9:03 a.m. PST

Makes sense. They were really used for muscle more than fighting on the PA frontier.

Oldgrumbler16 Sep 2018 8:04 a.m. PST

Francis Parkman in his classic history says that in 1755 none of the Proviincials fighting with Johnson had bayonets, but instead had hatchets. A few had blue uniforms trimmed in red but most wore civilian clothes. On my Kindle so I can't reference the page but it is footnote 288

epturner Supporting Member of TMP24 Nov 2018 12:31 p.m. PST

Parkman needs to be used with lots of grains of salt.

Fred Anderson's more recent works are much better and more reliable.

Historygamer is correct in saying a stand of arms consisted of a musket, bayonet, cartridge box and appropriate leather belts.

Sometimes tomahawks or hatchets were substituted or additionally included in the package.

Provincials were recruited for the campaign "season", many re-enlisted since it gave them an air of "respectability", especially if they won and NCO or Officer position.

Units varied in levels of training and competence. Just like Regulars.

Once again, there is a lot of good recent research out there.


Major Bloodnok30 Nov 2018 3:45 a.m. PST

I believe Johnson himself wrote that only two Provincial units had bayonets at Lake George.

Bowman01 Dec 2018 6:08 p.m. PST

Fred Anderson's more recent works are much better and more reliable.

Good to know. Just picked up one of his books this summer at the Fort Ligonier bookshop.

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