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What was the nominal strength of a company in a British Regiment during the American war of Independence?

What was the nominal strength of a company in a British Regiment during the American war of Independence?


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How were these organised into Divisions, Grand Divisions or battalions?


Having dug out Lineage Book of British Land Forces 1660-1978, Volume 2 (Frederick 1987) from the library, I have discovered that that the nominal strength of a regiment of foot in 1775 was 737 men. Regiments were composed of 10 companies: 8 battalion companies, a grenadier company and a light company. A full strength company would consist of 3 officers (usually a captain and subalterns, either lieutenant or ensign rank), 2 drummers (fifers in grenadier companies), 6 NCOs (2 sergeants) and 62 private soldiers. The regiment general staff would make up the rest.

During the 'American War' some regiments were granted a further 2 companies for recruitment purposes, bringing their upper limit to 811. Guards regiments sometimes had larger companies of 100 or more.

However, at the start of the war, the average regiment consisted of only 477 men - particularly if on service in the English Establishment (other territories varied further). Grenadier and light companies were detached to form their own battalions (such as the famous 'bloodhounds' of the 2nd Battalion of Light Infantry) which further reduced regimental numbers. Quite often, regiments were split across barracks and rarely paraded together, which compounded recruitment problems (it was a volunteer army). It also made large scale military manoeuvres difficult, to the point that regiments were having to train together for the first time in the theatre of war. (Houlding 1981, Spring 2010 - see below)

According to the Manual Exercise 1764 (last printed in 1778), each company would form a subdivision, 2 companies form a grand division. The Battalion is formed of several grand divisions.

Divisions were formed to perform the firings. In the exercise, mass firings (three ranks firing by battalion) were practice. However, in America, General Howe countermanded these orders and instructed divisions to fire in the alternate fire method used by Wolfe in the French and Indian Wars. Further to this, divisions would form in 2 ranks at open order and fire by company, giving the captains and subalterns significant initiative.

To complicate matters of regimental strength further, due to the lack of cavalry and broken, rough terrain in America, the usual European Order of Battle was distilled into smaller, more mobile forces with detachments and transfers commonplace, particularly for flank units.

Further Reading:

Houlding, J. A (1981) Fit for Service: The training of the British Army, 1715-1795 Spring, M (2010) With Zeal and Bayonets Only: The British Army on Campaign in North America, 1775-1783


A traditional British regiment was divided into 3 battalions. A standard battalion had nominally 800 foot soldiers. A standard regiment, 2400 soldiers. Quoting from "A New and Enlarged Military Dictionary" by Charles James (1802):

REGIMENT, (regiment, Fr.) a term applied to any body of troops, which, if cavalry, consists of one or more squadrons, commanded by a colonel; and, if infantry, of one or more battalions, each commanded in the same manner. The squadrons in cavalry regiments are divided, sometimes into six, and sometimes into nine troops. The battalions of British infantry are generally divided into ten companies, two of which are called the flanks; one on the right consisting of grenadiers, and another on the left formed of light troops. There is not, however, any established rule on this head; as both cavalry and infantry regiments differ according to the exingencies of service in time of war, or the principles of economy in time of peace. We are humbly of opinion, that every regiment of foot should consist of 2400 men, making three battalions of 800 each.

the companies would have irregular sizes, from the same volume:

COMPANY, in a military sense, means a small body of foot or artillery, the number of which is never fixed, but is generally from 50 to 120, commanded by a captain, a lieutenant, and an ensign, and sometimes by a first and second lieutenant, as in the artillery and flank companies of the line. A company has usually 3 or 4 serjeants, 3 or 4 corporals, and a drums. In the guards the companies consist of 120 men each, as in the artillery.

You can refer to the same source for other such information.


British Occupation of New York City

On August 22, 1776, New Yorkers heard the cannon blasts of the Battle of Long Island. Five days later, an expeditionary force of over 32,000 British regulars, 10 ships of line, 20 frigates, and 170 transports defeated Washington&rsquos troops at Kip&rsquos Bay and invaded Manhattan Island. Thus began seven years of British occupation in the City of New York.

New York City during the American Revolution was characterized by a complex web of loyalties, with familial, political, and mercantile ties interwoven in a tightly packed space. Much as today, the shores of the Hudson and East Rivers hardly limited connections between people and commerce throughout the war. However, an already dense area had to cope with the addition of two armies and imposition of wartime regulations, creating a unique environment in which political, class, and economic concerns constantly tugged at the population.

With every Continental Army victory in surrounding areas, particularly at Saratoga in October 1777, the city dealt with a massive influx of Loyalist refugees moving behind British lines out of concern for their own safety. William Franklin, the former British Royal Governor of New Jersey, wrote to John Allen also acknowledging that he &ldquoremoved to New York in the year 1777 from New Jersey where he suffered greatly by the Rebells for his loyalty.&rdquo 1 The additional population density only added volatility to the city&rsquos short fuse.

From the beginning of the occupation in late August 1776, the British imposed martial law on the city. Though General William Howe established an American-staffed police force, the British Army effectively managed all law enforcement activities. And while this police force was charged with suppressing unsavory activity by the army, the British certainly caused their fair share of damage to the city itself. Contemporary accounts noted soldiers&rsquo frequent patronage of the city&rsquos red light district, various taverns and saloons, and systematic looting of American patriots&rsquo property.

British occupation was also characterized by permeable boundaries that allowed a thriving black market trading operation. With family members, often women, in particular, evading checkpoints and traveling frequently from New Jersey to the city, authorities had significant difficulty containing this illicit trade. With two armies to feed in the immediate vicinity, this was a serious problem, serious enough to merit the attention of George Washington. In February 1779, he lamented, &ldquoI cannot, consistent with my feelings and my duty suffer those only to reap the Benefit of a trade, who from their peculiar characters can gain admittance within the Enemy&rsquos Lines.&rdquo 2 Washington corresponded frequently with Governor William Livingston of New Jersey on the illicit trade. In November 1777, Livingston wrote to Washington, &ldquoThis Evil instead of being checked has grown to so enormous a height that the Enemy as I am informed is plentifully supplied with fresh Provisions, & such a Quantity of British Manufactures brought back in Exchange as to enable the Persons concerned to set up Shops to retail them.&rdquo 3 New Jersey passed a law in 1778 entitled &ldquoAn Act to Prevent the Subjects of this State from going into, or coming out of, the Enemy&rsquos lines without permissions or Passports, and for other Purposes therein mentioned.&rdquo It was amended throughout the war. 4 Likewise, on the British side, General Howe strictly enforced Parliament&rsquos Prohibitory Act, a measure passed in 1775 prohibiting commerce with the American colonies. 5 In November 1776, Howe made a proclamation &ldquopermitting goods to leave town provided that a permit were procured from the Superintendent of Exports and Imports.&rdquo 6

African Americans, too, took advantage of the porous boundaries to better their circumstances. Enslaved people belonging to residents of New York City took advantage of the confusion to obtain their freedom, often slipping across to New Jersey and elsewhere via the same illicit trade routes. As a result of Lord Dunmore&rsquos proclamation and similar offers granting freedom to all able-bodied enslaved people who left patriot masters to join the British side, they had great incentive to risk a crossing. 7 Officials took note and regulated accordingly. New York Governor George Clinton wrote to Washington in 1778 that a Loyalist referred to as Mr. Smith attempted to travel with enslaved people: &ldquoBefore Mr. Smith left the Country, he applied to me concerning his Male Servants, which the Commissioners did not conceive themselves authorized to permit him to take with him as they might be imployed to fight against their Country. The Slaves he might have sold if he had pleased.&rdquo 8 Enslaved people on both sides also used the presence of the British Army as leverage in negotiating for better conditions and treatment with their masters. Historians speculate that the wartime situation likely contributed to New York becoming one of the last northern states to pass emancipation laws.

On November 22, 1783, American troops led by General Washington and Governor Clinton entered New York City and ended the British occupation. 9 Much was left to be determined&mdashincluding the fate of New York&rsquos Loyalists and the status of enslaved people who enlisted with the British&mdashbut undoubtedly, the occupation left an indelible mark on the New York area.

Zach Sanders
George Washington University

1. Recommendation by Governor William Franklin, February 18, 1779, American Loyalists: Transcript of various Papers relating to the Losses Services and Support of the American Loyalists and to His Majesty&rsquos Provincial Forces during the war of American Independence, preserved amongst the American Manuscripts in the Royal Institution of Great Britain, London, 1777-1783, reel 23, page 45, Manuscripts and Archives Division, New York Public Library, New York, New York.

2. &ldquoFrom George Washington to Joseph Reed, 12 February 1779,&rdquo Founders Online, National Archives, last modified June 29, 2017, http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/03-19-02-0185. [Original source: The Papers of George Washington, Revolutionary War Series, vol. 19, 15 January&ndash7 April 1779, ed. Philander D. Chase and William M. Ferraro. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2009, pp. 183&ndash185.]

< 3. &ldquoTo George Washington from William Livingston, 22 November 1777,&rdquo Founders Online, National Archives, last modified June 29, 2017, http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/03-12-02-0350. [Original source: The Papers of George Washington, Revolutionary War Series, vol. 12, 26 October 1777?&ndash?25 December 1777, ed. Frank E. Grizzard, Jr. and David R. Hoth. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 2002, p. 354.].

< 4. Judith Van Buskirk, Generous Enemies: Patriots and Loyalists in Revolutionary New York (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2002), 59 Seizure Act of October 8, 1778, Wilson&rsquos Acts, page 8, number V (1778), accessed October 17, 2017, http://njlegallib.rutgers.edu/hw/statutes.html.

5. Great Britain, A collection of all the statutes now in force: relating to the revenue and officers of the customs in Great Britain and the plantations (London: C. Eyre and W. Strahan, 1780), 1459.

6. Howe quoted in Van Buskirk, Generous Enemies, 113.

7. John Murray, Earl of Dunmore, By his Execellency the Right Honourable John Earl of Dunmore, his Majesty's Lieutenant and Governour-General of the Colony and Dominion of Virginia, and Vice-admiral of the same. A proclamation Declaring martial law and to cause the same to be (Norfolk, 1775), Library of Congress, accessed October 17, 2017, https://www.loc.gov/item/rbpe.1780180b/.

8. &ldquoTo George Washington from George Clinton, 7 September 1778,&rdquo Founders Online, National Archives, last modified June 29, 2017, http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/03-16-02-0575. [Original source: The Papers of George Washington, Revolutionary War Series, vol. 16, 1 July&ndash14 September 1778, ed. David R. Hoth. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2006, pp. 535&ndash536.]

9. Van Buskirk, Generous Enemies, 181.

Bibliography:

Chopra, Ruma. Unnatural Rebellion: Loyalists in New York City during the Revolution. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2011.

Van Buskirk, Judith L. "Crossing the Lines: African-Americans in the New York City Region During the British Occupation, 1776-1783." Pennsylvania History: A Journal of Mid-Atlantic Studies 65 (1998): 74-100.

Van Buskirk, Judith L. Generous Enemies: Patriots and Loyalists in Revolutionary New York. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2002.


More Comments:

Susan Skrabanek - 9/28/2004

Wait just one minute here. it is a huge mistake to jump to 9/11 as the single flavor of terrorism at play, and I don't think this original article made that connection. Certainly no one disputes that Al Quaida's 9/11 and similar attacks around the world are unjustifiable, and I can understand outrage as the response to drawing parallels between some of the activities of American colonists in this regard. But that assumes that all the people that are currently being labeled as "terrorists" by us are one united ideological group. Clearly, they are not. Just look at the various factions at work in Iraq if you need confirmation of this. That is not to defend the actions of all of these people, or to even say I or anyone else on this discussion board is positioned to sort one kind from another. But it is dangerously simplistic to just dismiss all of the opposition to our actions, particularly in Iraq, as somehow equivalent to 9/11.

For example, please don't forget that while there is a very nice laudable new draft constitution in place in Iraq right now, there are also something on the order of 100 "Orders" that Paul Bremer passed before the transition. For example, Order 39 allows foreign companies to own 100 percent of Iraqi assets outside of the natural-resource sector (which is most of Iraq's manufacturing industries, banking industries, basically everything that isn't oil) and any investors can take 100 percent of the profits they make in Iraq out of the country. They are not required to reinvest one penny, and they are also not taxed on those profits whatsoever. Under the same order, they can sign leases and contracts lasting up to 40 years. While the subsequent Iraqi government can overturn this order, they cannot do so easily or quickly, and in the event they do, the investors are entitled to sue the government for the value of the balance of the contracts. This certainly doesn't square with UN Security Council Resolution 1483 passed May 2003, which while recognizing the US and Britian as Iraq's "legitimite occupiers" and thereby empowering Bremer to enact laws as Iraq's administrator without Iraqi representation, it also still requires that both the US and Britian "comply fully with their obligations under international law including in particular the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and the Hague Regulations of 1907.” These laws were created to prevent occupying powers from economically stripping the nations they administer, and provides explicitly that occupiers do not own the various assets of a country such that they can authorize the sale of those assets to third parties. Neverthless, Order 39 was passed, and while we may not hear much about it in this country, the economic effect of this order most assuredly is not lost on the average Iraqi. This, among other far reaching Orders Bremer enacted, was one of the main points of contention Ayatollah Ali al Sistani, as one example, vehemently opposed and threatened to refuse to acknowledge the provisional government, the constitution, or any of Bremer's orders as a result. In light of the fact that the rules of law currently in effect in Iraq make it extremely difficult if not impossible for Iraqis to rebuild and have ownership in their own infrastructure, instead providing unprecedented sweetheart business incentives to foreign investors only, I don't think it is so difficult to understand why foreign businessmen from a broad spectrum of nations have become the targets of choice for horrific acts of violence. In light of Order 39, the rather logical response of the oppressed is, heck, if the occupiers are going to hold a fire sale of all our stuff, maybe we'll just make it too damn scary to show up to the cash register. Given the oppressive nature of the economic circumstances, what should we really expect? Why, if we really want to see Iraqis live autonomous, free lives in a democracy, would we go to extraordinary lengths to cut them out of the ownership aspect of their own assets, while making the same extraordinarily attractive to foreigners? When the British forced the colonists to buy British goods when other countries offered the same products at lower prices, in order to help keep companies like the East India Company from going under, our ancesters said, take your tea and stick it! and we dumped it in Boston Harbor, among many demonstrations of our unwillingness to submit to these unfair, oppressively imposed economic measures. Yet, now we find ourselves in the role of King George wondering why those darn stubborn Iraqis don't just tow the line like we tell them to.

Terrorism is the one effective tool left to the militarily weak when confronted by what they perceive to be intolerable circumstances perpetrated by the militarily strong. You don't have to like it any more than I do, but the parallels between things our forefathers have resorted to under similar circumstances are really not that different. The acts themselves are more violent today, but we by and large live in a more violent world I doubt seriously if our American Revolution was fought today, that we would be satisfied in expressing our outrage with the British by simply dumping tea in Boston harbor for example.

I'm not defending these people--but I am saying, it is a dangerously simplistic mistake to paint all of these people with the same 9/11 brush, particularly when our own history with regard to resorting to things considered "outrageous" and being "acts of terrorism" is not all that dissimilar. With every act of defiance from the colonists, King George (ha, his name was George too) got angrier and angrier, and attempted to clamp down even harder--and look where that strategy got them.

Feemer - 12/14/2003

If you thick it bias to allow the content to be mostly anti-american then i guess you agree that the western media is bias in the opposite direction.

Zach White - 10/9/2003

I introduce to you all your average college student. Thank you, sir, for such a vivid display of intelligence, sincerely. In no way have you just aided in the furthering of a stereotype, one that paints us as gibbering idiots who'll do anything for attention. Indeed, let it be known that none of us actually give a damn about furthering our education. We're all just in it for that piece of paper that'll help us compete in the job market.

Your sense of humor is impressive. You DO know that non sequitur humor became old a long time ago, yes? Same goes for poo and fart jokes.

Have fun with your drinking games, buddy.

Stephanie - 10/9/2003

I would like to say right off the bat that I am reading this article for a history class, and that would explain the immature and grossly misspelled messages that are above. I do want to say, that the right-wing pseudo intellectuals become enraged by anything that smells slightly of anti-American sentiment, and even things that don't. The author of this article is simply comparing the means by which these revolutions took place. One had a morally sound reason the other has a religious radical motivation. These are two completely different motivations. This article is not treason, nor is it anti-American, rather it is a logical analysis of history. What this assignment has taught me, if nothing else, is that I do not know who to trust, when looking back on history. How can I be sure that I am being told the truth?

Brooks Bockelman - 10/8/2003

This response is toward all the readers out there who have no idea what they are talking about. Obviously, many of you have never herd of heroification. Heroification is where our, the United States, textbooks use a degenerative process to make people over to be heroes. Basically the educational media fail to teach the truth, in an effort to clear any blemishes from our past. Our country doesn't want to admit that we have done many things that we would look down upon. Many of the people that respond to this article are very naive in that they seem to think that our country does no wrong. Well, they are wrong and they need to know that our country has plundered, stolen, and even killed many innocient civilians. Plus they need to stop putting down Jessie Lemisch, he is by no means an anti-American. He just understands how the rules of military tactics work, and that there is always an imbalance in military powers. And he is also right in that privateering, and other forms of terrorism, is just a method for the "underdog," to balance out the tower.
Don't get me wrong, I by no means believe we deserved the 9/11 attacks, but people who read this article need to understand the point of the article, and not focus on the relationship to the 9/11 attacks.

Turd Burglar - 10/7/2003

I LOVE TO EAT POO TACOS. I COULD EAT THEM ALL DAY LONG. IT ESPECIALLY MAKES ME HAPPY WHEN I GET A BIG POO STACHE.

Tim thomas - 10/7/2003

i have never read a better article in my life, this really hits the spot. The way this autor uses his words really makes a person think. oh yea, i am also a doushe bag!

Mike hunt - 10/7/2003

this writer is just saying that the writers of your dear textbooks just put what the populous this country want to be toold. you bunch of tools!

Erica - 10/6/2003

That was mature. At least Don puts up an applicable argument instead of turning an intelligent debate into a let's-see-who-can-swear-the-most-to-make-the-other-mad war.

Brad Knight - 4/2/2003

Be aware that W.P. Fallin runs a bulletin board where you can discuss current affairs and politics.

You are welcome as long as:

You hate the Democratic Party
You hate Bill Clinton
You hate Hillary Rodham Clinton
You hate France
You hate the UN
You hate Germany
You hate Illegal Immigrants
You hate Liberals
You hate the European Union
You hate the Euro
You hate Islam
You hate Socialism
You hate the New York Times

Snickering at the weak and "stupid"

Jessie - 3/25/2003

They did however rape Vietnamese women and children, killed the innocent and massacred in the name of "freedom." Not just in Vietnam but to list the countries affected by American terrorism would take too long. Don't get me wrong, innocent people of 9/11 did not deserve what they got. But the American government's arrogance, ignorance and disregard for nations that do not uphold American interest will all but assure these acts will be repeated.

Jessie Nguyen - 3/25/2003

You are naive and misinformed. In your eyes, your military fights with honour and only against those who are able to retaliate. Millions across the globe KNOW otherwise. Amerian Terrorism is prevalent but not acknowledged by its citizens because they're brainwashed. Don't take this as a personal attack. Instead take the opportunity to research the atrocities and crimes committed by troops in Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, El Salvador, Cambodia. many countries have suffered at the hands of the US Army.

To strengthen your support for your government, it is necessary to examine the validity of claims made against it. This will help you understand more and beyond what is taught at these fine educational institutions.

KCStylee - 2/17/2003

Don is a dick. People are entitled to their opions shit head. Shut the fuck up and stop arguing.

Chris Pulakos - 12/9/2002

To many times we judge others, before we judge ourselves. This is just another example.

Benjamin Raty - 10/6/2002

I see your points, and thank you for addressing mine. I suppose I was speaking in a more general sense I wasn't addressing this article about the colonists privateering, nor was I expressing confusion over Al Qaeda's stated goals and plans.

What I was referring to, more specifically, is that in our desire to defend ourselves, I worry that we may be overlooking our own contributions to this crisis. No, I am not saying we should curl up in a ball and allow our enemies to cruelly destroy and kill us, nor should we assume responsibility for the crimes committed by them last Fall, or at any other time. Instead, I am suggesting that, when the smoke clears, perhaps we should take a good hard look at ourselves to be certain we're doing everything we can to be as blameless as possible in the way we conduct ourselves throughout the world. Perhaps we should begin examining ourselves now, and do so through the lense of history.

If there were no moral obligations on anyone's part, then this argument comes down to a question of strategy and tactics - how do We defeat Them? Naturally in such a setting questions about our involvement in the events leading up to a conflict would be irrelevant. However, if our nation really was founded upon principles, then principles should be the primary guiding force in our policies (foreign and domestic). I don't believe that revenge, arrogance, and a myopic view of our own importance is of much help.

Nit-picking for the sake of nit-picking is absurd and cowardly, but examining our weaknesses with the intent to strengthen ourselves and make improvements can be of much value, if the chorus of voices against such efforts do not drown them out completely.

I'm not very succinct, for which I apologize. What I'm ultimately trying to say is, just because They committed a terrible crime against Us does not then mean, ex post facto, that we're spotless ourselves. Al Qaeda's lack of morality does not somehow eradicate our own errors, and if we honestly look at our past behavior, we've certainly helped to fuel many of the fires that are now burning bright against us. Regardless of our mistakes, people such as Osama bin Laden are free to choose how they will respond, and they alone are responsible for the choices they make.

Examining our mistakes now at the expense of protecting ourselves would be folly. Instead, let us defend ourselves, eradicate the threats against us (Al Qaeda, et al) and carefully monitor our policies and principles in the future so that we don't create another Osama bin Laden or Saddam Hussein (whom we initially "cultivated" as assets against other failed projects of ours, such as Iran). We may be quite content and happy with our society and our technological, military, and economic prowess, and why not? However, to allow this contentment to develop into arrogance toward the rest of the world is foolish. The United States is great for the intangibles it represents, not the material wealth it has accumulated.

Jake Scott - 9/30/2002

I don’t believe that the majority would agree with his statements on terrorism simply because they misinterpret what he’s really trying to say. I don’t think that Lemisch is trying to justify terrorism today through our nation’s use of it long ago he’s simply trying to explain the practice of terrorism and the repetitious cycle of how it has appeared and the manner it has been dealt with throughout history. It has hit home to me now that there are masses of closed-minded people living in our world today just through reading a few responses to Lemisch’s writing. In one of these posted messages, William D. Brewer, a “well-educated and logical” man states “by churning out self-hating, specious trash like this, you demean yourself”. He also says “I am aware of my country’s failings, past and present. But I love it nonetheless, and I find no reason to manufacture reasons to hate it”. Sadly, I believe that this man’s view embodies the negative ideals that this essay is primarily written about if our nation’s history isn’t totally positive, righteous, and full of reason, we should totally wipe it from the history books and from any mention of it whatsoever. America, past and present, is full of virtues and vices. God help William D. Brewer and the masses like him if they ever have to think about a debatable point in history ever again. It may be hard for us to link our country’s acts with some sort of terrorism in the American Revolution, but isn’t asking the question “why?” what education is all about? Eat that, William D. Brewer.

Josh Lawrence - 9/15/2002

Perhaps it may also occur eventually--and hopefully--to Professor Lemisch that the American "Revolutionaries" were not, as popularily described, revolutionaries they wanted things to stay as they had been for the near two centuries that there had been British colonies. The colonies each had a legislature that was often quite comparible to the legislature put into effect after they won their revulotion. The "terrorists of the 18th century" were protecting an invasion of a tyrranny in which their main qualm with was Britain's refusal of acknowledging the colonial legislatures.

I may be mis-informed, but I do not believe that the Taliban has been invaded by a tyrranny that wished to disrupt is legilature rather, I believe that the Osama's regiment attacked civilians because of their cowardly nature.

If the idea that the U.S. attacked civilians, as the terrorists of today have, is still held by people then perhaps they would want to consider this. The United States targets militaries that are designated for combat with foreign peoples in time of war. Germany and Russia targetted civilians and only fought other armies when they couldn't avoid it. The Taliban, at the bottom of the list, targetted the World Trade Center, because of what it was: a WORLD TRADE CENTER and the most populated area on earth (if you look at it two dimensionally). The latest's quest is for world domination while the earliest's mission is to try to create world agreement enough to maintain peace.

Lastly, I would just like to give my credentials. I am a 17-year-old student who has been at college for the past year and will have an associate's degree in 8-9 months. If America is worried about it's youth, let them worry about their old let them worry about their current in power but first, look at themselves before they look elsewhere. If I am mis-informed, please write a post and I shall research it and try to find the correct--most informed--way to understand history.

Alec Lloyd - 8/26/2002

The questions may be honest, but the argument is not.

We already know why al-Qaeda hates us: they hate us because we are an obstacle to their goal of building a World Islamofascist Empire. How many Bin Laden tapes do you have to watch to figure this out?

They are NOT attacking us because of our 18th century shipping depredations, nor because of differences in environmental policy, corporate accounting errors, the legacy of the slave trade or Japanese internment during World War Two. No nation has ever won a war by trying to "understand" why it is under attack, they win by FIGHTING BACK.

Given the massive preponderence of force we enjoy, it must be pleasant to sit back and nit-pick about America's past evils. However, it is worth pointing out that those "terrorists" WON against a vastly superior power all those centuries ago, in no small part because of a lack of resolve on Britain's part. For this they lost some colonies, but soon recovered. The price of our failure in the present war is the destruction of Western Civilization itself.

Perhaps when the esteemed professor faces a Sharia religious court for crimes against Wahhabi Islam he can point out that we're all terrorists and no one is fit to judge another.

Alec Lloyd - 8/26/2002

I was going to reply, but Mr. Pyle far outstripped anything I could offer. Well done.

HNN should be ashamed to publish this blatant political screed, which any undergrad with a moiety of military history from the period could refute. The only redeeming feature is that it is instructive of how far safe, tenured academics are willing to contort history to blame the country that shelters and sustains them.

This piece is an embarrassment to academia and HNN.

Markham Shaw Pyle - 8/24/2002

Douglas Ryan, too charitably, I would submit, contends that Professor Lemisch has a point, whatever his motives. It is precisely his 'central point' – irrespective of any readings into his text of what may or may not be his agenda – that is facially wrong.

This purportedly 'indisputable' central point – which I think Douglas Ryan correctly abstracts as '. great powers have the major role in defining what methods of warfare are legitimate and what are illegitimate, and therefore what kinds of combatants are entitled to the protections of POW status and what kinds are not' – is simply incorrect.

Imprimis, the law of war is not, as Professor Lemisch would have it, 'laid down by militarily strong nations . [whose governments] define their modes of making war as legal . while criminalizing alternate modes of warfare rising from the limited strength of the militarily weak.' The law of war has developed from moral and equitable precepts ultimately religious in their origin, and was developed largely at the hands of religious institutions and individual churchmen and theologians. It was the papacy, long before there was a 'king's peace' to offend against, that declared 'the Truce of God,' Treuga Dei, and called upon successive Holy Roman Emperors as their secular arm to enforce the same. Take the Second Lateran Council of 1139, for instance, and its ban on certain classes of weapon (the crossbow, notably). Just War Theory derives markedly from Aquinas and his Thomist successors on the one hand and from Arminian Protestant Reformers, notably Richard Hooker in England and Hugo Grotius, of course, in Holland, on the other.

Grotius is generally regarded as the father of the modern concept of applying legal principles to warfare and what has Grotius to say? 'I saw in the whole Christian world a license of fighting at which even barbarous nations might blush. Wars were begun on trifling pretexts or none at all, and carried on without any reference of law, Divine or human,' he says at the outset and again, 'For God has given conscience a judicial power to be the sovereign guide of human actions, by despising whose admonitions the mind is stupefied into brutal hardness.'

Moreover, in the halcyon Edwardian days that preceded the Great War, it is, I think, universally acknowledged that the Royal Navy was still the classic sample of a pre-eminently powerful navy serving one of Professor Lemisch's Naughty Old Hegemons. Yet it was the British – led by the redoubtable Jacky Fisher – who, at the pre-War Hague Conferences, resisted 'criminalizing' various aspects of naval warfare that in fact were of more utility to the lesser powers than to the Royal Navy.

Not even someone too dim not to recognize the phrase 'left culture' as a peculiarly risible oxymoron could be so silly as honestly to believe that the law of war, a concept evolved by transnational religious bodies, is actually a construct put together by more powerful nations to trammel weaker ones.

Which brings us, secundum, to the fact that Professor Lemisch is pretty evidently not a naval historian per se, whatever his background with the short and simple annals of merchant mariners.

Were he an historian of naval operations and combat, he would recognize that, for example, the privateers of the Elizabethan era were the servants of the two preponderant open-ocean naval powers of the period, England and the Netherlands, and it was Spain that, for all its ponderous capacity to wage land warfare, was the weaker naval power, even after the Portuguese anschluss and despite its Mediterranean experiences, Lepanto included.

In the American Revolution, the British made use of privateers (such as the vessel West Florida, operating out of Lake Pontchartrain) as well, to project added power in such auxiliary theaters as the Gulf of Mexico. The Americans's Spanish allies, under Galvez, captured a dozen privateers in the course of the Revolution. Pace Professor Lemisch, then, it is simply incorrect to say that privateering was eo ipso the weapon and mark of the weaker power, although it has certainly been so used.

I here pause to note that Professor Lemisch's effusions on Ben Franklin's one-man crusade against privateering are a bit curious in light of such facts as that Dr Franklin helped negotiate, and signed, the 1785 Prusso-American Treaty that includes matter of fact provisions for privateering in concert if engaged against a common enemy, that while in Paris during the war he commissioned three privateers himself (the Black Prince, Black Princess, and Fearnot) so as to capture as many RN sailors as possible (thus forcing a cartel of exchange so as to get the imprisoned American privateers out of such places as the Old Mill, Plymouth, and Forton, in Portsmouth), and that Franklin is not recorded as objecting to Art. I, Section 8, of the Constitution in all his time as part of the Convention that drafted that document. A minor point, perhaps, but significant of the sloppiness that pervades Professor Lemisch's argument: particularly in light of

the fact that the Prussian treaty, and contemporaneous treaties and proposed treaties ('of amity and commerce,' usually) between the United States and such comparatively minor states as some of the 'Barbary' statelets, various German and Italian statelets, and, for that matter, decrescent Spain, together were treaties between effective 'equals' in 'power relationships' at least insofar as any naval might was concerned, yet they recognized privateering as legitimate and hardly worthy of remark and

in light of the other inconvenient fact that, thanks in part to HMG's having already secured final peace treaties with Spain and France, Britain had the whip-hand in concluding the 1783 Treaty, and had the whole thing been about 'power relationships and the way in which more powerful states criminalize weaker states's methods of warmaking,' then – especially with Professor Lemisch's complaisant, anti-privateering Franklin present – privateering would have been banned in the document.

Professor Lemisch's claims again do not pass muster.

It is equally incorrect to suggest that the 1856 Declaration of Paris was an imposition of new and self-serving rules by stronger maritime powers upon weaker ones, just as it is a flat misrepresentation for Professor Lemisch to say the United States 'refused to abide by [this] international treaty.' (What the United States did was decline to join the damn thing, a very significant distinction legally and ethically, and one the professor is anxious to elide for his own, rather obvious reasons.)

In fact, the 1856 Declaration of Paris reads, in pertinent part, 'The Governments of the undersigned Plenipotentiaries engage to bring the present declaration to the knowledge of the States which have not taken part in the Congress of Paris, and to invite them to accede.' That the United States declined the invitation to accede to any such thing is not, as Professor Lemisch would have the unwary believe, proof – he would doubtless say 'further proof' – of American criminality. As the Declaration concludes, '[t]he present Declaration is not and shall not be binding, except between those Powers who have acceded, or shall accede, to it.'

Moreover, Professor Lemisch is again disingenuous in asserting that 'the U.S. refused to abide by [the 1856 Declaration of Paris], stating that, as a small-navy nation, it needed privateers.' The United States declined to accede to the Declaration when a proposed American amendment, exempting all private property from seizure upon the high seas, was not universally accepted. By the same token, the United States has ever since voluntarily abided by the Declaration's precepts, partially in the War Between the States and wholly in the Spanish-American War and all subsequent conflicts.

It may finally be noted that the signatories to the Declaration represented the parties to the Crimean War and its settlement: France, Great Britain, the Ottoman Empire, Sardinia, Russia, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and Prussia. If Sardinia, Prussia as it existed in 1856, the Sublime Porte, and the Habsburgs represent, as Professor Lemisch necessarily insists they represent, the 'strong naval powers' on a par with Russia and France, much less the British Empire, I have clearly missed one hell of a memo.

Tertium, we come to the most tendentious aspects of Professor Lemisch's repellent little exercise in intellectual dishonesty.

Professor Lemisch's first sleight of hand is to use the word 'terrorism' – a fairly modern word for a phenomenon that is in degree, if not in kind, all too modern – out of context, and apply it indiscriminately to American actions at the time of the revolution (or at least, formally, to what the British allegedly considered American actions to constitute). This is simply false. HMG did not consider the Americans 'terrorists.' The government and the Crown considered them, simply, 'damned rebels.'

The illegitimacy of American privateering was not that it was privateering – God knows there was a hoary British tradition of just that – but that it was American: a rebel government – de facto and precisely not, in the British view, de jure – had neither the right nor the power to issue letters of marque. To the extent there is an iota of truth to Professor Lemisch's assertion that '[w]hen privateersmen were captured, they were not recognized as prisoners of war, since they were civilians,' their alleged 'civilian' status derived not from their privateering, but precisely from a refusal to recognize them as legitimate privateers because they represented 'rebellious colonies to boot.' (Mr Lincoln, Mr Secretary Stanton, and Mr Secretary Welles adopted precisely that reasoning vis-à-vis the Confederate States: the entire Confederate States Navy were, in the Union's view, pirates, because the CSA had not the legitimacy, in Yankee eyes, to commission vessels of war.)

Indeed, you may catch sight of the pea between the thimbles in Professor Lemisch's sleight of hand by considering this statement of his: 'By the time of the Revolution (1776 - 1783), privateering had become an old American institution and industry, which lured the young to sea with seductive promises of a share of the booty.' Note that: 'by the time of the Revolution,' privateering was a long-standing enterprise in the colonies. That can be true if and only if the colonies, at the behest of or at least with the assent of the Crown and the British government of the day, had engaged for some period before the Revolution in privateering on behalf of – you guessed it – Great Britain. And that is of course the case, as Anderson, for example, relates in his recent history of the Seven Years's War: Anglo-American privateers worked with the Royal Navy against a weaker opponent (certainly weaker at sea), the French.

Even Professor Lemisch lets slip the obvious fact, fatal to his argument, that '[t]he Americans were not granted the recognition of prisoner-of-war status, but were rather deemed rebels…. Prisoners taken into Mill were told that they were committed "for rebellion, piracy, and high treason"….' Precisely. It is on par with General Gage's refusal to grant General Washington certain of the courtesies, let alone the customs and usages, of war, because, as he sneered, 'I acknowledge no rank that is not derived from the King.'

Is this uncomfortable fact consonant with the frankly absurd claim that twenty years after the Seven Years's War, Great Britain's quarrel with American privateers was that they were privateers, rather than that they were rebels and thus not legitimately privateers at all? Of course not, and presumably Professor Lemisch is not such a fool as not to know this. Which in turn means he is being . disingenuous, shall we say?

Having attempted – disingenuously at best – to conflate terror attacks with privateering, the legitimacy of which in fact turned solely on the question of whether or not the commissioning government were itself legitimate, Professor Lemisch begins his second game of three-card monte by trying – pace Douglas Ryan's innocent conviction that Professor Lemisch has no agenda and is not concerned to establish moral equivalency claims – to conflate the Revolution with the motives of al-Qaeda, its methods with theirs, and the imprisonment of Americans as 'rebels' with the detention of unlawful combatants as, well, unlawful combatants.

This is as false as it is contemptible, and it is hard to imagine that the falsehood is not deliberate and witting (when a man who is not a fool acts the part of a man who must be either fool or knave, there are not too many innocent conclusions to be drawn, folks).

What are the evidences of Professor Lemisch's having this agenda? Well, it's hard to beat such expressions of naked animus as 'our country has an extraordinary and continuing record of killing civilians in warfare. Among the powers of the strong is the power to deem such killings by themselves to be legal and proper, while killings by the weak are deemed improper.' (It's even worse that the first statement, at least, is demonstrably false.) But let us set the man's obvious bias aside and consider the merits – if any – of his claims.

Item: the claim that 'Today's disputes around indefinite detention and the use of terror against civilians should take note of the fact that American civilians were victims of this kind of detention during the Revolution, and the U.S. was born in what was seen at the time by its more powerful adversary as a form of terrorism.' To the extent the 'American civilians' referenced are crew members of captured privateers, they were not civilians it is Professor Lemisch's point in other places that they were PWs being wrongly treated as civilian criminals. The reason for their detention and for the circumstances of their treatment was not that they were 'terrorists,' a word North and Germain would not have recognized, but that they were unlawfully commissioned by an illegitimate rebel government, and were thus – and only thus – traitors.

By comparison, detainees held by the United States as unlawful combatants are not treated or considered as civilian criminals as such (though they may have committed civilian crimes) or as traitors their assigned status as unlawful combatants derives from a series of international conventions, most recently the Hague and then the Geneva Conventions, and ancillary conventions relative to such matters as the protection of civilians and of commercial aircraft. And these conventions are not the imposed fiats of a few powerful nations, but rather represent the common conviction of nations great and small, the signatories and High Contracting Parties thereto.

Item: the colonists engaged in 'a very effective form of legalized piracy called privateering. Privateers were denounced by the British in ways that resonate with the denunciation of terrorists that we hear these days. When these Americans were captured by the British, they were not recognized as legitimate prisoners of war but were rather held in special camps, with reason to expect they would be hanged.'

The term 'legalized piracy' is an oxymoron. Privateering is precisely not piracy, being undertaken in the service of and by commission of the national government as a measure of war.

Professor Lemisch may, idiosyncratically, find British complaints about American privateering 'resonant' with the civilized world's unanimous condemnation of al-Qaeda, but he offers no discernible reason why anyone else ought. In fact, the British criticism had everything to do with the privateering's being American (that is, rebel-chartered) and nothing to do with its being privateering, as we have seen.

The British refusal to recognize the American seamen as PWs, likewise, was bound up entirely with British non-recognition of the American government they served (a non-recognition that, insofar as the creation of an independent American government was the dispositive issue of the war, could hardly be avoided).

It is impossible for anyone with the least smattering of intellectual honesty to conflate this in any way with the current situation of

detained unlawful combatants

in the service of no government whatever,

taken in arms but not in uniform,

belonging to an organization without any recognizable chain of responsible military command,

hiding within civilian populations,

and regularly engaged in acts of perfidy as defined in international law (to which covenants and conventions the nations of which the detainees are citizens are all signatories. Yes, even Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia).

These detainees are stunningly textbook examples of what unlawful combatants taxonomically ARE, and their treatment is equally a textbook example of what unlawful combatants are to expect under international law.

Item: '[w]hen privateersmen were captured, they were not recognized as prisoners of war, since they were civilians … Franklin had admirable and prescient Enlightenment feelings about the involvement of civilians in wars. But Franklin's idealism got noplace.'

As commissioned privateersmen, these men were not civilians, nor were they non-combatants, save only to an enemy that refused to recognize the legitimacy of their commissioning authority (just as the North would do to Confederate regular naval personnel, let alone privateers). Straining to establish an analogy with current detainees at Guantanamo and elsewhere is liable to give anyone less intellectually boneless than Professor Lemisch a severe hernia.

Item: 'They were held indefinitely in special camps … places of bad food, overcrowding, bad health, brutal guards and harsh punishment. [***] Today's detentions by the U.S. are very similar to what was done to Americans by the British during the Revolution.'

This is simply facially false, and utterly base. Currently detained unlawful combatants in US custody, so far from being condemned to bad food, overcrowding, illness, brutalization, and punishment, are being afforded every privilege they are entitled to under Conventions III and IV of the 12 August, 1949 Geneva Conventions, and it may be a trifle more than they are entitled to (note those documents's references to saboteurs, unlawful combatants, and perfidious acts).

Item: 'Americans used what the British defined as illegitimate means in their quest for legitimacy and independence. [***] Although we are rightly revolted by suicide bombing and other attacks on civilians,' – damned decent of the professor to grant that concession, isn't it? – 'this is clearly a method that helps weak powers do battle with stronger powers, partly correcting the military imbalance – as did privateering.'

By contrast, of course, and leaving aside the incessant false statement that privateering was eo ipso a weapon of the weaker power, our enemies are using what all the world, in conventions too numerous to detail, defines as 'illegitimate means' of conducting hostilities: in addition to which, they are conducting hostilities as a private criminal gang, without even the fig leaf of an affiliation with any present, proposed, or prospective government. They're not even nation-based revolutionaries, they're merely a widespread coalition of racketeers. And notice how the Good Professor manages to sneak suicide bombers – a 'Palestinian' phenomenon – into what purports to be an examination of the methods, motives, and detentions of extremists who have contracted to attack, not Israel, but the United States. Yeah, that was real slick, there.

And what 'quest' are we looking at here? What is the end that the gentleman would insinuate justifies these means? It is at least assuredly not independence (from whom?) or legitimacy: again, the detainees whose plight this is ostensibly about are members of a transnational, non-state criminal gang that has no such purposes. It makes as much sense to speak of their actions in terms of a 'military' imbalance as it would to speak of the Sicilian Mafia as engaged in infantry operations against the police.

No, the harder you look at Professor Lemisch's tissue of tendentiousness, his congeries of falsehoods and half- and quarter-truths, the more you see it for what it is: the scaffolding for his petty, historically false little agenda. And the more it becomes evident that he not only has no point, he has no shame. His propositions are false in detail, deliberately misleading overall, logically invalid, historically inaccurate, and politically and morally despicable.

I wash my hands of the man.

Don kates - 8/23/2002

Mr. Karr's comment is simply unresponsive: during WWII, the US and Britain deliberately, INTENTIONALLY, killed many civil-
ians by area bombing Japan and Germany respectively Japanese troops killed hundreds of thousands of Chinese civilians both directly and by bombing the Nazis notoriously murdered vast numbers of civilians throughout Europe under Mao China killed vast numbers of its own civilians, especially during "the great leap forward Stalin's Russia deliberately killed Russians by the the tens of millions in the 1930s and thereafter
Nothing even remotely comparable in intention and scope happened (by the U.S.) in the Phillipines or other places mentioned by Mr. Karr.

Ronald Dale Karr - 8/22/2002

If one could estimate the numbers of civilians killed by all of the nations in the world in the 20th century, undoubtedly Germany and the Soviet Union would top the list. But who would be next? Japan? Cambodia? China? Iraq? Yugoslavia? Certainly not the land of the free and the home of the brave!?

Or could it be? A lot of Philipinos, Germans, Japanese, Koreans, and Vietnamese fell victim to U.S. bombs and bullets.

John Horst - 8/22/2002

Any point that he might have is lost on his failed attempt at reinventing history, in the same way that Mr. Bellesile's points have been lost in his fantastic account of the history of colonial America. Regardless of how desperately either of these authors want things in history to support their particular agenda, simply stating vehemently over and over again the same misinformation will not make it so.

Douglas Ryan - 8/22/2002

This is not my field, but it seems to me that Professor Lemisch's detractors (how's that for an understated description)are missing or (more likely) distorting his point. Though I admit his title, by announcing that 'The United States Was Born in "Terrorism" and Piracy', might lead one to believe he is morally equating revolutionary-era privateers and modern terrorists, it seems clear to me, upon reading past the title, that he is not doing so. After all, he clearly sympathizes with the former (describing, for instance, the horrors they suffered in prison) and says that "we are rightly revolted by" the actions of the latter.

It seems to me that the main comparison he is drawing is, rather, between England of the late 18th century and the U.S. of today. And it is not (at least, not obviously from the text) a moral comparison he draws but an historical one, between their positions of power relative to their attackers. The central point seems hard to dispute: that great powers have the major role in defining what methods of warfare are legitimate and what are illegitimate, and therefore what kinds of combatants are entitled to the protections of POW status and what kinds are not.

Now, it is not clear to me what Professor Lemisch would say this parallel implies about how we should view today's events and today's Guantanamo detainees. I fear it is this: that Americans should see a glimmer of their former selves in Al Qaeda members, who are reduced to practicing what are generally regarded as illegitimate methods of warfare because they lack the option of exerting power through legitimate means. IF that is his point (and it may not be), I would only respond that while it may be a good argument for granting them more legal rights than they are presently being afforded, it is a weak argument for granting them sympathy, for the glimmer of similarity is very faint indeed. First, the powers of destruction held by well-funded modern terrorists, sheltered by distant foreign governments, are far greater than those available to revolutionary-era privateers, and those powers have all-too-often been exercised in recent years against targets which by no stretch of the mral imagination could be termed legitimate (i.e. military). Second, if one hopes to win sympathy (from me, anyway)for one's use of illegitimate means of securing the legitimate goal of self-determination, one must be able to present credible evidence of prior efforts to achieve that goal through legitimate means. But Usama bin Laden is (or was, if he's dead) no frustrated politician a la John Hancock he is a bandit who pays for political protection and otherwise shuns formal political processes. Finally, it is doubtful whether Al Qaeda's goal is anything nearly as legitimate as self-determination for Arabs or Muslims or the Third World or whatever it seems to me that if the organization has any vision of a better world, it is that of a repressive theocracy.

As I say, thought, on the matter of the implications of his parallel for today's problems I may have caught Professor Lemisch's 'drift' all wrong. If so I would be very interested to hear his reply.

John HOrst - 8/22/2002

According to the British 'Cruizers and Convoys' Act of 1708, English sailors were paid handsomely for doing their jobs. It is idiotic to suggest that America invented the concept of
"to the victors go the spoils of war". It is true that the English government often resorted to using pressgangs to man their ships, particularly in time of war, but their primary goal was to attract desirable, able bodied and motivated men. Thus the prize money concept.
The author is confusing English propoganda for an objective observation of the day. The English new right well that in order to maintain support at home for the war in America, they'd have to portrey the patriots as lawless thugs and savages, (e.g., terrorists), definitely in the minority. They would have to impress upon their own society that they were in fact saving the majority of law abiding British subjects in North America from this lawless rabble. Another example of this propaganda was the English attempt at disparaging the practice by American riflemen of shooting British officers in battle. This was yet another demonstration that the rebels were lawless thugs, (e.g., terrorists), intent on undermining the very principles of "civilized" war.
Yet, the Americans did not invent this, (the Prussians did) they simply perfected it. In fact, the English thought it was a good idea too, and allowed Patrick Ferguson to form a select group of riflemen to counter the American sharpshooters.
Additionally, the English army failed to recognize the Militia fighting them in the early years of the war as "legitimate prisoners of war" as you put it, as evidenced by the slaugther of many who attempted surrender at New York and other places (remember "no flint" Grey). But I suppose we should call such famous groups as the Maryland 400 (who Washington lovingly deemed "the old line)terrorists and complete your analogy. Good attempt at revising history, Mr. Lamisch, unfortunately it simply doesn't fly.

Benjamin Raty - 8/21/2002

Disregarding this article for a moment, and speaking in more general terms, the question I have is: what is constructive criticism? It seems, from what I've read, that people only label criticism constructive when it comes in a form that is not threatening one that they can easily reject, either logically or emotionally.

What is wrong with questioning why other people in the world hate us? Are we so secure in the workings of our nation - especially our foreign policy - that we feel we can do no wrong, and that no other nation or people may have a legitimate grievance against us? Isn't introspection a good thing? As historians isn't it our duty to examine the events of the past so that, among other things, we can offer some sort of explanation for the happenings in our world?

Wouldn't labeling a person as anti-American for questioning the majority imply then that the behavior and ideas of the majority are always justified? If no one raises any critical questions, are we assuming that the majority always acts morally, while by virtue of not being a part of this majority, those in the minority are necessarily in the wrong?

I mean these as honest questions, and not merely an attempt to argumentative. I am simply a student who is a bit taken back by how personal and acidic these arguments have become. If anyone wishes to answer them, I'd be very appreciative.

William D. Brewer - 8/21/2002

I am sure that a lofty academic such as Jesse Lemisch will not be interested
in answering the criticism of a conservative layperson such as myself. But
I found his article comparing U.S. privateers with modern terrorists so
infuriating, I can't help but respond.

Anyone with the slightest acquaintance with history will know that the
assertions made in this article are false, the arguements specious, and the
comparison of privateers to terrorists ridiculous. The obvious anti- U.S.
bias is clumsy, obvious, and offensive in the extreme.

It is well known that letters of Marque and other privateering arrangement
were used by many countries, over many centuries. it is also understandable
that while considered legitimate in the eyes of the sponsor, the privateer
was usually just a pirate in the eyes of the intended victim. But to
suggest that this equates to one man's terrorist being another man's freedom
fighter is ridiculous.

It is true that the history of piracy and privateering contains many
examples of what we would call criminal,barbaric behavior. But I challenge
Mr. Lemisch to present one example of a wartime U.S. privateer deliberately
engineering the mass slaughter of British civilians, particularly women and
children, for the express purpose of terrorizing England.

This equivalence of Privateers with terrorists is little better than a
baldfaced lie, unsupportable by historical evidence or common sense. I
shudder to think how much anti U.S. propaganda and outright nonsense this
malefactor has shoved into the eager ears of unsuspecting students.

I am sure that by now this message has been deleted as an angry rant from
another right wing nut, firmly in the grip of mindless, sheeplike
patriotism. But on the off chance it is being read to the end, I assure you
this is not the case. I am aware of my country's many failings, past and
present. But I love it nonetheless, and I find no reason to manufacture
reasons to hate it, and assume the worst at every turn.

Since 9/11, the academic world has gone into overdrive, imploring us to ask
ourselves why they hate us. Outside of the Colleges, this message has
fallen flat with leaden thump. Ask yourself why. Do you really believe we
are all just mindless, ignorant sheep? I fear many of you do. But rest
assured, I am well educated and logical, and I know exactly why I believe
what I believe, and I have no doubts about where my loyalties lie. There
are many millions who feel as I do. If you have constructive criticism, we
will listen. But by churning out self hating, specious trash like this, you
demean yourself, and detract from the value of any reasonable criticism you
might have.

William Penn Fallin - 8/21/2002

Why do you find it desirable to publish such anti-American propaganda as the one you did on Privateering? Is this your chosen method of subtly informing your readers about just how BAD you think America is as a nation?

The extent of your efforts in trying to legitimize the murderous Islamic terrorists as nothing more than just "good ole boys" fighting for a "legitimate" cause, sets one to wondering if you (perhaps) are on the payroll of one Osama bin Laden or the Royal House of Saud.

Oh yes, one more thing, do you really welcome notes like this or do they get cast aside with the normal disdain of the self appointed liberal INTELLECTUAL?

I know other people have written you but I see no evidence that you even acknowledge them. I'll refrain from any further discussion on your despicable piece until I know that my words are going some place other than your trash bin.

William Penn Fallin
Editorial Columnist
Coffee County News
Douglas, Georgia

Paul Bird - 8/21/2002

I think anyone, especially a professor emeritus, should be careful about ascribing moral equivalency between American revolutionaries and Muslim terrorists. My knowledge of the privateers is minimal, but it sounds like their primary goal was to disrupt trade, not to kill civilians. A vital and fundamental difference. The problem I have with these types of articles is that the authors define terrorism so broadly it becomes a meaningless term.

Barbara kessel - 8/21/2002

Don kates - 8/19/2002

Piling falsehood on falsehood, the author concludes by asserting that the U.S. has an "extraordinary" record of killing civilians. As any honest evaluator familiar w/ the history of warfare in general, and guerrilla war in particular would say, the U.S. has a very ORDINARY record of murdering civilians, from the Seminole Wars through the Phillipine insurrection to Korea and Vietnam, w/ some tragic episodes in other wars thrown in. Regardless of the nationality involved armies commit atrocities in wartime and the suppression of guerrillas invariably occurs with particularly hideous atrocity. Compared to the record of European nations in their colonial wars, there is (at worst) nothing extraordinary about the American record.
Reference may also be made to WWII in which the U.S. engaged in terror bombing of civilians in Japan and, to some extent, in Germany as well. Britain's record in WWII is far worse. And, though the Nazis' record as to terror bombing is not nearly so bad, both the Nazis and the Japanese engaged in the torture and murder of civilian populations (and suppression of guerrillas) far beyond anything the U.S. has ever done. Perhaps the author would call the Nazi-Japanese record "super-duper-extraordinary."

Don kates - 8/19/2002

Had the author stuck to the fairly meagre facts he provides, the article would not have been publishable. So he had to lard it w/ ridiculous comparisons. There is no comparison at all between privateering and the homicidal barbarity of the Guantanamo pris- oners. To make the two comparable the facts would have to be altered to assume that American privateers boarded British civil- ian vessels, raped children, raped and murdered their mothers -- both common and NEVER punished in Afghanistan under the Taliban -- and also arbitrarily maimed and murdered civilian sailors be- cause of their dress or hair styles also that American priva- teers wantonly bombarded civilian buildings w/o any provocation and with the only purpose being to kill civilians.


Queen's Own (Royal West Kent Regiment) during WW2

WW2 Battalions of the Queen's Own Royal West Kent Regiment

1st Battalion:
September 1939: The Battalion was part of 132nd Brigade, 4th Infantry Division.
1940: Battalion with the same Brigade transferred to the 44th (Home Counties) Division and was sent to France as part of the British Expeditionary Force.
June 1940: Evacuated from Dunkirk and returned to the UK.
Early November 1942: The Battalion and the 6th took part in ‘Operation Torch', the Anglo-American invasion of French Algeria.
March 1943: The 1st and 6th Bn took part in the Tunisia Campaign.
1943: Joined again with the 6th Battalion in the Italian campaigns.
January 1944: Battalion in the same division was now attached to the 12 Brigade and took part in the Italian Campaign.
15 December 1944: Took part in the Greek Civil War that broke out in Athens after the German withdrawal.

2nd Battalion:
September 1939: The 2nd Battalion was part of the garrison of Malta.
June 1940: Italians launched air-raids against the island of Malta.
Early in 1942: The Battalion was now defending Luqa Airfield, Malta and faced serve air-raids by the German's
09 May 1942: From an aircraft carrier reinforcements of Spitfires flew in and the Battalion helped them to refuel.
20 November 1942: Malta's siege ended.
June 1943: Were in North Africa and part of 234 Infantry Brigade.
20 September 1943: Still with 234 Infantry Brigade were sent to Samos as part of a force to occupy islands in the Aegean
12 November 1943: Was ordered to reinforce the island of Leros which was being invaded by the Germans.
16 November 1943: Most of the survivors were captured by the Germans after they were overwhelmed by air attack. Less than 100 managed to escape and sent back to the UK.
02 May 1944: They were amalgamated with the 7th Battalion to form a new 2nd Battalion and shortly after in the same month became part of 61 Infantry Division.
1945: Sent to Germany.

4th Battalion:
1940: The Battalion was part of the 132nd (Kent) Brigade. It was sent to France attached to the 44th (Home Counties) Division and was part of the British Expeditionary Force.
May/June 1940: A long with the same Division was evacuated from Dunkirk and returned to the UK where it remained for a couple years.
May 1942: Was shipped out to North Africa.
July 1942: Had arrived with the 5th Battalion in Egypt. They joined the 8th Army and fought at the Battles of Alam Halfa and Alamein
December 1942: Were sent to Burma. They became part of 161st Indian Infantry Brigade, 5th Indian Division. They stayed with the Brigade throughout the war.
April- May 1944: Became attached to the British 2nd (Infantry) Division.
05 April 1944: Set off to Kohima, North-East India to reinforce the Garrison against Japanese forces
May-June 1944: became attached to the 7th Indian (Infantry) Division.
March 1945: Returned to 5th Indian Division.

5th Battalion:
1939: The Battalion was part of 132nd Infantry Brigade
1940: It was sent to France attached to the 44th (Home Counties) Division and was part of the British Expeditionary Force.
May 1940: Evacuated from Dunkirk and returned to the UK
July 1942: Had arrived with the 4th Battalion in Egypt. They joined the 8th Army and fought at the Battles of Alam Halfa and Alamein.
1943: Joined the 6th Battalion in the Italian campaigns
1944: In action at Casino and up the Peninsula to Florence, the Gothic Line and finally entering Austria

6th Battalion:
1939: The Battalion was attached to 36th Infantry Brigade.
19 April 1940: Still with the same Brigade, Battalion was sent to France became part of 12th (Eastern) Infantry Division and part of the BEF. where it underwent training and performed labour duties.
May 1940: They were overrun by the German's at Doullens and all survivors except 20 or so were taken prisoner.
09 June 1940: Back in the UK, it was reconstituted.
November 1942: Was now part of the 78th Infantry Division and played a major roll in ‘Operation Torch', the Anglo-American invasion of French Algeria.
1943: Joined by the 1st and 5th Battalions in the Italian campaigns
1944: In action at Cassino and up the Peninsula to Florence, the Gothic Line and finally entering Austria.

7th Battalion:
03 September 1939: It became attached to the 44th Infantry Division.
07 October 1939: Became part of the 36th Infantry Brigade.
19 April 1940: Still with the same Brigade, Battalion was sent to France became part of 12th (Eastern) Infantry Division and part of the BEF. where it underwent training and performed labour duties.
May 1940: The Brigade was overrun by the German's at Albert. Only about 70 avoided capture and returned to the UK.
08 June 1940: It was reconstituted.
Battalion remained in the UK attached to different Brigades.
02 May 1944: Battalion was used to reform the 2nd Battalion.

9th Battalion:
1940–42: The Battalion became 6th Support Group (or sometimes known as Pivot Group) for the 6th Armoured Division.


Siege of Boston and Fortification of Dorchester Heights

In early July 1775, General George Washington (1732-99) arrived in the Boston area to take command of the newly established Continental army. Washington’s goal was to drive the British from Boston, and in order to do this, his army required weapons. That winter, Colonel Henry Knox (1750-1806) oversaw an expedition to transport more than 60 tons of captured military supplies from New York’s Fort Ticonderoga back to Boston. In May 1775, the British-held Ticonderoga and nearby Fort Crown Point had been seized by colonial forces under Benedict Arnold (1741-1801) and Ethan Allen (1738-89). After a challenging journey across snowy terrain, the armaments, including more than 50 cannon, reached the Boston area in late January 1776.

Some of the cannon were placed in fortifications around Boston, and beginning on March 2 used to bombard the British for two days straight. On the night of March 4, several thousand of Washington’s men and more of the Ticonderoga cannon were moved into position at Dorchester Heights, overlooking Boston and its harbor. British General William Howe (1729-1814) realized his troops could not defend the town against the Continental army’s elevated position at Dorchester Heights, and soon decided to leave. On March 17, the eight-year British occupation of Boston ended when British troops evacuated the town and sailed to the safety of Nova Scotia, a British colony in Canada.


Bombarding the Fort

Lieutenant Bird completed the initial investiture of the fort on August 4 and with the arrival of St. Leger's main body, the siege was vigorously prosecuted by artillery bombardment beginning August 5. Failing to inflict damage to the sod-work and palisades of the fort, St. Leger withdrew his troops, forming two camps, one on the high ground to the north of the fort, and the other to cover the lower landing on the river, to its south. The Indians were deployed along the low swampy ground between the two camps along a frontage of five thousand yards(7). General Philip Schuyler commanded the Northern Department of the Continental Army from his headquarters in Stillwater, near Albany. Upon receiving intelligence from a half-Oneida named Thomas Spencer of St. Leger's advance, he forwarded orders to General Herkimer in Tyron county to stop the British advance. Congress appointed Herkimer a brigadier September 5, 1776. Born in 1728, he was forty-eight, short and slender with a dark complexion with black hair and bright eyes. He was normally cautious and deliberate but also untested in battle. He was considered a natural leader in the German community, having been elected to the chair of the Tryon County Committee of Safety soon before his commission. Upon receiving his orders, he raised a call for volunteers between the ages of sixteen and sixty to join his command at Fort Dayton, located about thirty miles east of Fort Stanwix down the Mohawk River. It was vital to destroy St. Leger's force before the Tories rose in its' favor, Herkimer told his men. The prospect of Tyron county falling to the loyalist cause and being overrun by British regulars and bloodthirsty Iroquois warriors inspired many to join Herkimer. The presence of his brother with the invaders made led some militia to distrust Herkimer's loyalty, nonetheless, the 800 militia marched from Fort Dayton on August 4, taking with them 400 ox-carts carrying supplies for the fort. (8) According to William Stone's history of the Saratoga campaign, Herkimer's militia "hurried forward in their march without order or precaution, without adequate flanking parties, and without reconnoitering the ground over which they were to pass" (9). The troops encamped on the 5th at Whitestown in the vicinity of Oriskany, eight miles from Fort Stanwix. Here a band of sixty Oneidas joined Herkimer's column. (10) Herkimer's plan was to force a passage to the fort and trap St. Leger between the two American forces. He sent three messengers ahead with his plan and instructions that he would not advance to Fort Stanwix until he heard a report of three cannon shots. (11) The messengers, Adam Helmer and two unidentified troops left on the evening of the fifth, but due to the slow passage of the swamp between Whitestown and Stanwix, the messengers did not reach Fort Stanwix until 11:00 a.m. on the sixth. (12) By 9 o'clock on the 6th, Colonel Cox, one of Herkimer's regimental commanders and Colonel Isaac Paris, a member of the Tyron county provincial council, demanded that Herkimer order the troops forward. .Paris recalled that Herkimer's brother was a loyalist and called the general "either a Tory or a coward" for not progressing against them (13). Herkimer was finally incensed enough to assemble his troops and prepare to march. The militia was divided into four regiments under Colonels Ebenezer Cox, Jacob Klock, Frederick Visscher and Peter Bellinger (14). The troops were organized into three files. Three regiments were followed by the baggage train which was then followed by Colonel Visscher's two-hundred-man regiment as the rear guard. The troops marched four miles along a corduroy road west to Fort Stanwix. (15)

The Prussian Nobleman Who Helped Save the American Revolution

The baron wore an eight-pointed silver star on his chest, etched with the word Fidelitas. “Squad, halt!” he shouted—some of the few English words he knew. He walked among the 100 men in formation at Valley Forge, adjusting their muskets. He showed them how to march at 75 steps a minute, then 120. When their discipline broke down, he swore at them in German and French, and with his only English curse: “Goddamn!”

It was March 19, 1778, almost three years into the Revolutionary War. The Continental Army had just endured a punishing winter at Valley Forge. And a stranger—former Prussian army officer Baron Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben—was on the scene to restore morale, introduce discipline and whip the tattered soldiers into fighting shape.

To one awestruck 16-year-old private, the tall, portly baron in the long blue cloak was as intimidating as the Roman god of war. “He seemed to me the perfect personification of Mars,” recalled Ashbel Green years later. “The trappings of his horse, the enormous holsters of his pistols, his large size, and his strikingly martial aspect, all seemed to favor the idea.”

Some of the baron’s aura was artifice. Von Steuben had never been a general, despite the claim of the supporters who recommended him. A decade past his service as a captain in the Prussian army, von Steuben, 47, filled his letters home with tall tales about his glorious reception in America. But the baron’s skills were real. His keen military mind and charismatic leadership led George Washington to name him the Continental Army’s acting inspector general soon after his arrival at its camp in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. In less than two months in spring 1778, von Steuben rallied the battered, ill-clothed, near-starving army.

“They went from a ragtag collection of militias to a professional force,” says Larrie Ferreiro, whose recent book, Brothers at Arms, tells the story of foreign support for the American Revolution. Ferreiro considers von Steuben the most important of all the volunteers from overseas who flocked to America to join the Revolution. “[It was] Steuben’s ability to bring this army the kind of training and understanding of tactics that made them able to stand toe to toe with the British,” he says.

Born into a military family in 1730—at first, his last name was the non-noble Steuben—he was 14 when he watched his father direct Prussian engineers in the 1744 siege of Prague. Enlisting around age 16, von Steuben rose to the rank of lieutenant and learned the discipline that made the Prussian army the best in Europe. “Its greatness came from its professionalism, its hardiness, and the machine-like precision with which it could maneuver on the battlefield,” wrote Paul Lockhart in his 2008 biography of von Steuben, The Drillmaster of Valley Forge.

Von Steuben spent 17 years in the Prussian army, fought in battles against Austria and Russia during the Seven Years’ War, became a captain, and attended Prussian king Frederick the Great’s elite staff school. But a vindictive rival schemed against him, and he was dismissed from the army during a 1763 peacetime downsizing. Forced to reinvent himself, von Steuben spent 11 years as court chamberlain in Hohenzollern-Hechingen, a tiny German principality. In 1769, the prince of nearby Baden named him to the chivalric Order of Fidelity. Membership came with a title: Freiherr, meaning “free lord,” or baron.

In 1775, as the American Revolution broke out, von Steuben’s boss, the Hechingen prince, ran out of money. Von Steuben, his salary slashed, started looking for a new military job. But Europe’s great armies, mostly at peace, didn’t hire him. In 1777, he tried to join the army in Baden, but the opportunity fell through in the worst way possible. An unknown person there lodged a complaint that von Steuben had “taken liberties with young boys” in his previous job, writes Lockhart. The never-proven, anonymously reported rumor destroyed von Steuben’s reputation in Germany. So he turned to his next-best prospect: America.

In September 1777, the disgraced baron sailed from France to volunteer for the Continental Army, bankrolled by a loan from his friend, French playwright Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais. A letter from America’s diplomats in Paris, Benjamin Franklin and Silas Deane, vouched for him and reported that France’s minister of war and foreign minister had done so too.

But Deane and Franklin’s letter also falsely claimed that von Steuben was a lieutenant general and exaggerated his closeness to Frederick the Great—“the greatest public deception ever perpetrated in a good cause,” wrote Thomas Fleming in Washington’s Secret War: The Hidden History of Valley Forge. Why? Only the highest recommendation would make an impression back home. Congress, desperate for volunteers earlier in the war, had been overwhelmed by unemployed Europeans eager for military jobs, and the number of officers from overseas had begun to stir resentment among American-born officers. “Congress had sternly warned they wanted no more foreigners arriving in America with contracts for brigadier and major generalships in their trunks,” Fleming wrote. Though von Steuben didn’t exaggerate his accomplishments to Franklin and Deane, he went along with the story once he got to America—and added some flourishes of his own. At one point, he even claimed he’d turned down paid positions with the Holy Roman Empire to serve in the United States.  

Von Steuben landed at Portsmouth, New Hampshire, on December 1, 1777, with four French aides to translate for him and a large dog named Azor. His exaggerated reputation spread fast. In Boston, he met John Hancock, who hosted a dinner for him, and chatted up Samuel Adams about politics and military affairs. Next, von Steuben headed to York, Pennsylvania, the temporary American capital while the British occupied Philadelphia. Aware that the Continental Congress had soured on foreign volunteers, von Steuben offered to serve under Washington and asked to be paid only if America won the war. They took the deal and sent von Steuben to Valley Forge.

“Baron Steuben has arrived at camp,” Washington wrote soon after. “He appears to be much of a gentleman, and as far as I have had an opportunity of judging, a man of military knowledge and acquainted with the world.” Washington’s confidence in von Steuben grew quickly. Within two weeks, he made the baron acting inspector general and asked him to examine the Continental Army’s condition.

“What [Steuben] discovered was nothing less than appalling,” wrote Fleming in Washington’s Secret War. “He was confronting a wrecked army. A less courageous (or less bankrupt) man would have quit on the spot.” Unlike the American forces in New York, who had beaten the British at Saratoga in fall 1777, the army in Pennsylvania had suffered a series of defeats. When they lost the Battle of Brandywine in September 1777, the British had seized Philadelphia. Now—following common military practice of the era—they had camped for the winter. But Valley Forge, their winter quarters, was nearly as punishing as battle: hastily built huts, cruel temperatures, scarce food.

The baron found soldiers without uniforms, rusted muskets without bayonets, companies with men missing and unaccounted for. Short enlistments meant constant turnover and little order. Regiment sizes varied wildly. Different officers used different military drill manuals, leading to chaos when their units tried to work together. If the army had to fight on short notice, von Steuben warned Washington, he might find himself commanding one-third of the men he thought he had. The army had to get into better shape before fighting resumed in the spring.

So, von Steuben put the entire army through Prussian-style drills, starting with a model company of 100 men. He taught them how to reload their muskets quickly after firing, charge with a bayonet and march in compact columns instead of miles-long lines. Meanwhile, he wrote detailed lists of officers’ duties, giving them more responsibility than in English systems.

Soldiers gaped at the sight of a German nobleman, in a French-style black beaver hat, drilling poorly clothed troops. Though von Steuben raged and cursed in a garbled mixture of French, English, and German, his instructions and presence began to build morale. “If anything, the curses contributed to Steuben’s reputation as an exotic character who was good for a laugh now and then,” wrote Fleming.

And though the baron was appalled at the condition of the army he was tasked with making over, he soon developed an appreciation for its soldiers. “The genius of this nation is not in the least to be compared with that of the Prussian, Austrians, or French,” von Steuben wrote to a Prussian friend. “You say to your soldier ‘Do this and he doeth it’ but I am obliged to say [to the American soldier]: ‘This is the reason why you ought to do that: and then he does it.’”

Off the drilling field, von Steuben befriended the troops. A lifelong bachelor, he threw dinner parties rather than dine alone. One night, the guests pooled their rations to give von Steuben’s manservant the ingredients for a dinner of beefsteak and potatoes with hickory nuts. They also drank “salamanders”—cheap whiskey set on fire.

As von Steuben’s work progressed, news of the United States’ treaties of alliance with France reached Valley Forge. Washington declared May 6, 1778 a day of celebration. He asked von Steuben to ready the army for a ceremonial review.

At 9 a.m. on May 6, 7,000 soldiers lined up on the parade ground. “Rank by rank, with not a single straying step, the battalions swung past General Washington and deployed into a double line of battle with the ease and swiftness of veterans,” Fleming wrote. Then the soldiers performed the feu de joie, a ceremonial rifle salute in which each soldier in a line fires in sequence—proof of the army’s new discipline. “The plan as formed by Baron von Steuben succeeded in every particular,” wrote John Laurens, an aide to Washington.

The baron’s lessons didn’t just make the American troops look impressive in parades—under his tutelage, they became a formidable battlefield force. Two weeks after the celebration, the Marquis de Lafayette led a reconnaissance force of 2,200 to observe the British evacuation from Philadelphia. When a surprise British attack forced Lafayette to retreat, von Steuben’s compact column formation enabled the entire force to make a swift, narrow escape. At the Battle of Monmouth on June 28, the Revolution’s last major battle in the northern states, American troops showed a new discipline. They stood their ground during ferocious fire and bayonet attacks and forced the British to retreat. “Monmouth vindicated Steuben as an organizer,” wrote Lockhart. The Continental Army’s new strength as a fighting force, combined with the arrival of the French fleet off the coast of New York in July 1778, turned the tide of the war.

Von Steuben served in the Continental Army for the rest of the Revolutionary War. In 1779, he codified his lessons into the Army’s Blue Book. Officially the Regulations for the Order and Discipline of the Troops of the United States, it remained the Army training manual for decades. The Army still uses some portions of it in training manuals today, including von Steuben’s instructions on drill and ceremonies.

After the war, the governor of New York granted von Steuben a huge wilderness estate in the Mohawk Valley as a reward for his service in the war. Von Steuben died there in November 1794 at age 64. His importance to the Revolution is evident in Washington’s last act as commanding general. In December 1783, just before retiring to Mount Vernon, he wrote von Steuben a letter of thanks for his “great Zeal, Attention and Abilities” and his “faithful and Meritorious Services.” Though his name is little known among Americans today, every U.S. soldier is indebted to von Steuben—he created America’s professional army.

About Erick Trickey

Erick Trickey is a writer in Boston, covering politics, history, cities, arts, and science. He has written for POLITICO Magazine, Next City, the Boston Globe, Boston Magazine, and Cleveland Magazine


60th Regiment of Foot (King’s Royal Rifle Corps)

The King’s Royal Rifle Corps was a British Army infantry regiment, originally raised in North America as the Royal Americans, and recruited from North American colonists. Later ranked as the 60th Regiment of Foot, the regiment served for more than 200 years throughout the British Empire. In 1966 the regiment amalgamated and became the 2nd Battalion The Royal Green Jackets.

The King’s Royal Rifle Corps was raised in the American colonies in 1756 as the 62nd (Royal American) Regiment to defend the thirteen colonies against attack by the French and their native American allies. After Braddock’s defeat in 1755, royal approval for a new regiment, as well as funds, were granted by parliament just before Christmas 1755 – hence the regiment’s traditional birthday of Christmas Day. However parliamentary delays meant it was 4 March 1756 before a special act of parliament created four battalions of 1,000 men each to include foreigners for service in the Americas.

A regimental history compiled in 1879 by a captain in the Kings Royal Rifle Corps, in November 1755 states that Parliament voted the sum of £81,000 for the purpose of raising a regiment of four battalions, each one thousand strong for service in British North America. Parliament approved “An Act to enable His Majesty to grant commissions to a certain number of foreign Protestants, who have served abroad as officers or engineers, to act and rank as officers or engineers in America only, under certain restrictions and regulations.” Earl of Loudoun, who as commander-in-chief of the Forces in North America, was appointed colonel-in-chief of the regiment. About fifty officers’ commissions were given to Germans and Swiss, and none were allowed to rise above the rank of lieutenant-colonel.

According to a modern history of the regiment, the idea for creating this unique force was proposed by Jacques Prevost, a Swiss soldier and adventurer who was a friend of the Duke of Cumberland (William, who was the King’s second son and was Commander-in-Chief of the Forces.) Prevost recognised the need for soldiers who understood forest warfare, unlike the regulars who were brought to America in 1755 by General Braddock.

The regiment was intended to combine the characteristics of a colonial corps with those of a foreign legion. Swiss and German forest fighting experts, American colonists and British volunteers from other British regiments were recruited. These men were Protestants, an important consideration for fighting against the predominantly Catholic French. The officers were also recruited from Europe – not from the American colonies – and consisted of English, Scots, Irish, Dutch, Swiss and Germans. It was the first time foreign officers were commissioned as British Army officers. The total regiment consisted of 101 officers, 240 non-commissioned officers and 4,160 enlisted men. The battalions were raised on Governors Island, New York. The regiment was renumbered the 60th (Royal American) Regiment in February 1757 when the 50th (Shirley’s) and 51st (Pepperel’s) foot regiments were removed from the British Army roll after their surrender at Fort Oswego.

Among the distinguished foreign officers given commissions in the 60th (Royal Americans) was Henri Bouquet, a Swiss citizen, whose ideas on tactics, training and man-management (including the unofficial introduction of the rifle and ‘battle-dress’) would become universal in the British Army some 150 years later. Bouquet was commanding officer of the 1st battalion, and with his fellow battalion commanders, set about creating units that were better suited to warfare in the forests and lakes of northeast America. The Royal Americans represented an attempt to produce a more able soldier who was encouraged to use his initiative while retaining the discipline that was noticeably lacking in the irregular units of colonial Rangers that were being raised at the same time.

The new regiment fought at Louisbourg in 1758 and Quebec in 1759 in the campaign which finally wrested Canada from France at Quebec it won from General James Wolfe the motto Celer et Audax (Swift and Bold). These were conventional battles on the European model, but fighting during Pontiac’s Rebellion in 1763 was of a very different character. The frontier war threatened the British control of North America. The new regiment at first lost several outlying garrisons but finally proved its mastery of forest warfare under Bouquet’s leadership at the victory of Bushy Run.

The 60th were uniformed and equipped in a similar manner to other British regiments with red coats and cocked hats or grenadier caps, but on campaign, swords were replaced with hatchets, and coats and hats cut down for ease of movement in the woods.

During the Napoleonic Wars the regiment saw action in the Peninsular War. The first four battalions had been raised as regular line battalions, but in 1797 a 5th battalion had been raised at Cowes on the Isle of Wight and equipped entirely with the Baker rifle, and wore green jackets with red facings. The mixing of rifle troops and muskets proved so effective that eventually line battalion light companies were replaced with rifle companies. The line battalions found themselves in several different theatres, including the West Indies. The rifle battalion was soon joined by a second, and these found themselves in the Peninsula with Wellington’s army, serving along with the 95th Rifles, and the King’s German Legion rifle units. A 7th battalion was eventually raised as a rifle battalion specifically for service in the American War of 1812.

After the Napoleonic Wars the regiment received a new title: first, in 1815, its name was changed to The Duke of York’s Own Rifle Corps and then, in 1830, to the King’s Royal Rifle Corps (KRRC). In 1858 the Rifle Depot at Winchester was made their headquarters. During the rest of the 1800s the unit was active in China, Canada (Wolseley Expedition), Afghanistan, India, Burma and South Africa. The regiment was deployed during the Second Boer War from the outset playing a key role in the first battle at Talana Hill. Two officers from the regiment were awarded the Victoria Cross Lieutenant Frederick Hugh Sherston Roberts and Lieutenant Llewelyn Alberic Emilius Price-Davies.

In World War I the KRRC was expanded to twenty-two battalions and saw much action on the Western Front, Macedonia and Italy with sixty battle honours awarded. 12,840 men of the regiment were killed while seven members received the Victoria Cross and over 2,000 further decorations were awarded.

After 1918 the unit returned to garrison duties in India, Palestine and Ireland. In 1922 the regiment was reduced from four to two battalions with the third and fourth being disbanded. In 1926 the Regiment was reorganised as one of the first mechanised infantry regiments.

In World War II after initial deployment to France as part of the BEF, the regiment lost two battalions at the defence of Calais (2nd Bn KRRC and 1st Bn the Queen Victoria’s Rifles (TA)) where a Green Jacket Brigade held up the German advance to enable the evacuation of the Allied armies at Dunkirk. Redeployed to North Africa the unit began to see success, continuing with actions in Italy, Austria, Germany and in the Battle of Greece and Crete (where its 9th Battalion, The Rangers (TA), served with 1st Armoured Brigade Group). The 1st Battalion served in the 4th Armoured Brigade that failed to link up with the 1st Parachute Division at the Battle of Arnhem. Rifleman John Beeley was awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross for his actions during Operation Crusader. The regiment was awarded 41 battle honours for service in World War II. Post-war the unit was deployed in Germany.

In 1948, for administrative purposes the KRRC was brigaded with the Ox & Bucks Light Infantry and the Rifle Brigade to form the Green Jackets Brigade.

In 1958 the Regiment was re-titled the 2nd Green Jackets, The King’s Royal Rifle Corps, as were the two other regiments of the Green Jackets Brigade, re-titled 1st and 3rd Green Jackets respectively. In 1966 the three regiments were amalgamated to form the three battalions of the Royal Green Jackets Regiment (RGJ). In 1992 the 1st Battalion, Royal Green Jackets was disbanded, and the KRRC were renumbered the 1st Battalion, with the 3rd Battalion (former Rifle Brigade) becoming the 2nd Battalion. In 2007, the two-battalion RGJ regiment was amalgamated with the remaining Light Infantry regiments, to form the five Regular and two Territorial battalions of The Rifles.

The regiment’s traditions are preserved by the 2nd Battalion, The Rifles, which is a redesignation of the 1st Battalion, Royal Green Jackets.

In World War II these territorial battalions were made formally part of the KRRC as follows:

Over the years the formation of the cadet battalions was changed regularly, due to the changes to do with rules and commanding officer.

The 1st Cadet Battalion owes its foundation to the Reverend Freeman Wills, who was commissioned into the Volunteer Army in the rank of Captain on 26 July 1890. He was also Vicar of St Agatha’s just behind Sun Street, Finsbury Square. On receiving his commission he decided to form a cadet company within the 1st Cadet Battalion, The Royal West Surrey Regiment. The Company quickly expanded to become the 2nd Cadet Battalion, The Royal West Surrey Regiment, at which point he moved the Battalion Headquarters to No. 2 Finsbury Square (and in 1904 to 42 Sun Street, which he had specially built for the purpose). In 1894 he applied to HRH Prince George, Duke of Cambridge, Colonel-in-Chief, to affiliate to the Regiment, with the title of 1st Cadet Battalion, The King’s Royal Rifle Corps. Consent was granted on 8 November 1894 and the Battalion has remained a part of the Regiment ever since.

In the days of its foundation Cadet battalions were privately organized and funded. On becoming a part of The King’s Royal Rifle Corps subscriptions began to flow in and after the commanding officer had spent nearly £1,000, the Battalion was placed on a financial basis, which many Volunteer Corps would have envied. There were to be many ups and down in later years, especially when recognition of the Cadet Force was withdrawn between the two World Wars, but fortunately the enthusiasm and commitment of those involved consistently triumphed over the parsimony of Governments.

In 1900, when volunteers were urgently needed for the South African War, The Commanding Officer, Colonel Freeman Croft-Wills persuaded the War Office to accept a Company of the older Cadets, principally N.C.O.s (Non-Commissioned Officers), the company being enrolled in the City Imperial Volunteers. Around 100 cadets thus served in South Africa with this unit, whilst other Cadets and ex-Cadets served in the R.A.M.C. (Royal Army Medical Corps), and other units. Four were killed in action, one serving with the 1st KRRC at the battle of Dundee, and the others with units of the C.I.V.s. Their comrades erected brass plaques in their memory in the Drill Hall at Sun Street. These are now displayed in the Cadet Company Office here at Davies Street.

In recognition of this service, King Edward VII granted the Battalion the honour of wearing on its accoutrements the Battle Honour “South Africa 1900-1902” (Army Order 151 of 1905). The announcement of this privilege was made to the Battalion by His late Majesty, King George V, then Prince of Wales, when, accompanied by Her Majesty Queen Mary, he distributed the prizes at the Guild Hall in the City of London. The 1st Cadet Battalion KRRC are the only Cadet Unit in the United Kingdom to have been granted such an honour and are permitted to wear the miniature 60th Cap Badge with the single Battle Honour, and call their Cadets “Riflemen”.


Female Spies Changed the Course of the Civil War

After 150 years, America is still haunted by the ghosts of its Civil War, whose story has been romanticized for so long it’s hard to keep the facts straight. In our collective memory of the war, men are the giants, the heroes remembered as fighting nobly for their beliefs. Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s surrender to Union General Ulysses S. Grant at the Appomattox Court House in Virginia on April 9, 1865, has achieved the status of legend, the moment a broken country started to reunite, even though that’s not exactly true .

What’s been largely lost to history is how remarkably influential women were to the course of the Civil War—from its beginning to its end. Without Rose O’Neal Greenhow’s masterfully run spy ring, the Union might have ended the months-old war with a swift victory over the Confederates in July 1861. Instead, the widow leaked Union plans to Confederate generals, allowing them to prepare and deliver a devastating Union loss at the First Battle of Bull Run, also known as the First Battle of Manassas, which caused the war to drag out for four more years. Elizabeth Van Lew, another woman running a brilliant spy ring who also happened to be a feminist and a “spinster,” was instrumental to the fall of the Confederate capital of Richmond, Virginia, on April 1, 1865, leading to Lee’s surrender eight days later.

“Elizabeth Van Lew was probably the most valuable spy of the Civil War—male or female, North or South,” says author and historian Karen Abbott. “She basically won the war for Ulysses S. Grant, and it’s astounding that she’s not a household name.”

All the ways women directly engaged in the War Between the States—from posing as male soldiers, to seducing secrets out of politicians and generals, to operating as spies, couriers, and diplomats—are explored in Abbott’s engrossing narrative nonfiction book Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy: Four Women Undercover in the Civil War, which comes out in paperback September 8. Through these four women’s eyes, we see the whole behind-the-scenes story of the war unfold.

Abbott grew up in Philadelphia in the ’80s, where the Civil War had long faded from the public consciousness. When she moved to Atlanta as an adult, suddenly she was confronted with regular reminders of the Confederate States of America, an illegal government—formed by seven slave states and later joined by four others—that tried to secede from the United States between 1861 and 1865 because newly elected President Abraham Lincoln opposed the expansion of slavery into new Western territories. The Confederacy started a war with the states that stayed loyal to the United States government, known as the Union, on April 12, 1861, when its soldiers fired on the U.S. military-controlled Fort Sumter outside of Charleston, South Carolina.

“It was a culture shock,” Abbott remembers. “I saw Confederate flags on lawns and heard jokes about ‘The War of Northern Aggression.’ One day, I was stuck in traffic behind a pickup truck with a bumper sticker that said, ‘Don’t blame me. I voted for [Confederate President] Jefferson Davis,’ which drove the point home that the Civil War seeps into the daily-life conversation down South in a way it never does up North. It got me thinking about the Civil War, and my mind always goes to ‘What were the women doing?’ And not just any women, what were the ‘bad’ or defiant women doing?”

So Abbott went on a hunt for female spies, and four names came up right away. For each woman, she found an abundance of primary source materials, such as personal archives and hand-written books. Elizabeth Van Lew and Rose O’Neal Greenhow were operating central spy rings for the Union and the Confederacy, respectively—and they both documented their experiences thoroughly. Abbott uncovered two other women who had engaged in Civil War subterfuge and recorded their personal histories in great detail: Sarah Emma Evelyn Edmondson, a Canadian expat who had served as a Union soldier as her male alter-ego, Franklin Thompson and Maria Isabella “Belle” Boyd, a brazen teenager who operated as a Confederate courier and made a game out of stealing weapons from Union camps.

“Elizabeth Van Lew was probably the most valuable spy of the Civil War—male or female, North or South. She basically won the war for Ulysses S. Grant.”

“The more I read about these four women, the more I realized that their stories intersected in interesting ways,” Abbott says. “One woman’s behavior was always affecting another woman’s circumstances, and they were always running into the same people. Rose was watching Emma march on Capitol Hill, and her spying was affecting Emma. Belle had a great scene where she was telling off Union General Benjamin ‘Beast’ Butler, putting him in his place in this very Belle-like brash way. Then, in the next scene, Butler is recruiting Elizabeth to be a spy for the Union. So it was like a big puzzle, and I had a lot of fun figuring out where they all fit.”

Reading the book, however, you get a sense that these four recorded stories—all the perspectives of white women—are simply the tip of the iceberg in terms of women’s involvement in the war. In Washington, D.C., Greenhow recruited plenty of society women and girls as her scouts, including 16-year-old Bettie Duvall and even her own 8-year-old daughter, Little Rose. For years, Van Lew relied on a local seamstress and her paid African American employees, including Mary Jane Bowser, a well-educated 21-year-old who posed as an illiterate enslaved woman inside the Confederate White House in Richmond and gathered critical intelligence. Unfortunately, Abbott wasn’t able to unearth any of Bowser’s own accounts of her role in the spy ring.

“Mary Jane is really the other spy in my story,” Abbott says, “I scrounged and scrounged for every scrap of information I could find on her. Reportedly, Mary Jane kept a diary of her time as a spy in the Confederate White House. But one of her descendants in the 1940s or 1950s accidentally threw it out, not realizing what they had. When you hear that, of course, it’s just like a stake in the heart of every historian—to know that an invaluable diary is lost for good. But I put in everything I could about her and also about all the other African Americans that were instrumental to Elizabeth’s operation. If I had had more primary source material, I’m sure my book would’ve been subtitled Five Women Undercover in the Civil War, but as it was, I had to fit her under the umbrella of Elizabeth’s purview.”

Abbott says she would have loved to have featured African American women more prominently in the book, but by and large, she was not able to find enough source material revealing their perspectives. The one exception was Harriet Tubman, who also used her slave escape route known as the Underground Railroad, where African American hymns spread messages through coded lyrics, to operate a spy ring herself. But Tubman’s story was much too large to be contained within the scope of the Civil War.

Even though it was the home base for Union soldiers, Washington, D.C., in many ways was a Southern city, and the U.S. government was riddled with Confederate sympathizers. For example, the brothers of President Lincoln’s wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, were high-ranking Confederate officials. Much of the war was fought along the Potomac River, which forms the border between Maryland and Virginia, the two states that touch the District of Columbia. And those border states in particular were not monolithic in their support of the Union or the Confederacy—the political timbre often depended on which county you were in. Before the Confederate capital moved from Montgomery, Alabama, to Richmond, Virginia, in May 1861, Richmond was home to a significant number of Unionists.

“Many of the Washington residents had come from Maryland, which, although it was a border state, had a lot of slave owners,” Abbott says. “The slave markets had been rampant in D.C. The nation’s capital was a porous, ambiguous place to be, and you didn’t know where anyone’s loyalties lay. All of these people who now worked for the Confederate government had once worked for the United States government and therefore knew a lot of the protocol, the policy, and the insiders who maybe could be turned. The fact that Lincoln’s White House was pretty much open to visitors was just astounding to me, too. Everybody was eavesdropping.”

In this climate, women made great spies precisely because of the way 19th-century society underestimated them. During the Civil War, they “were able to take society’s ideas about the weakness of womanhood and brilliantly exploit them,” Abbott says. “Women were always supposed to be the victims of war, not the perpetrators. One of my favorite quotes in the book is from a Lincoln official, who was completely flummoxed when he said, ‘What are we going to do with these fashionable women spies?’ The idea that women are not only capable of treasonous activity, but they are also capable of executing it more deftly than men was something that had never occurred to these men. The women were either above suspicion, in the case of somebody like Elizabeth Van Lew, or below suspicion, in the case of somebody like Mary Jane Bowser. Nobody even knew she could read, and of course, she was probably the smartest one of them all.”

If they were caught, or on the verge of being caught, female spies could play dumb, helpless, or indignant, declaring “How dare you accuse me? I am a defenseless lady!” Abbott says men didn’t know how to handle it. “Another one of my favorite scenes in the book is the hearing where Rose O’Neal Greenhow is being charged with treason against the United States,” she says. “The prosecution is questioning and badgering her, and she’s turning the tables on them and putting them on the defensive brilliantly. Then one of her interrogators says ‘I don’t think you are bent so much on treason as mischief.’ And it’s like, ‘Mischief? I basically won the battle of Manassas for the South, and I’m up to mischief?’ Even when the evidence was clearly laid out right in front of the men, she was just guilty of ‘mischief,’ because what more could a woman be guilty of?”

The elaborate fashion of Victorian society ladies gave these women plenty of places to hide messages and other contraband—from their big updo hairstyles to their huge hoop skirts to their corsets laced tight against their skin. And according to the decorum of the day, a proper gentleman would never try to peek under a woman’s skirt or ask her to strip. Even taking down one’s long hair was seen as a sexual act and requesting a woman do so was considered highly improper.

“I like the way these spies used gender as this physical and psychological disguise,” Abbott says. Belle Boyd, for example, was “no Elizabeth Van Lew,” but she made good use her layers of petticoats and crinoline. “If she was really effective at anything, it was at smuggling. She recruited other Southern women to smuggle weaponry, like muskets and sabers, under their hoop skirts. The 28th Pennsylvania Regiment near Harper’s Ferry woke one day to find about 200 sabers, 400 pistols, 1,400 muskets, and cavalry equipment for 200 men were gone.”

These women also employed a lot of ingenuity to convey messages in an era before Americans even had telephones or radios. When Greenhow, a 47-year-old widow who was living in Washington, D.C., received word of the Union Army’s plans to march on Manassas, Virginia, in 1861, she encrypted the message using a simple cipher similar to the one in Edgar Allan Poe’s short story “The Gold Bug.” Then she put the message in a tiny black silk purse, and wrapped it in Bettie Duvall’s long, dark hair. To deliver it to Confederate General P.G.T. Beauregard, Duvall dressed as a simple farm girl, claiming she needed to cross the battle lines to return home from the market. Twice daily at 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., Greenhow also transmitted messages to scouts for Confederate Captain Thomas Jordan waiting across the street from her home at 16th and K Streets by opening and closing her window blinds in Morse code. If she were in public, she could telegraph a Morse-code message using her hand fan. After she was captured, she still coded messages in embroidery and letters that would read like pure drivel to an outsider.

Keeping her allegiance to the Union undercover, never-married 43-year-old Elizabeth used her social standing to gain permission to minister to Union prisoners of war being held at an old tobacco warehouse in Richmond. With the help of her African American employees, she provided important prisoners an escape, even using a secret room in her mansion to hide them. When she visited the prison, she often carried contraband in a French plate warmer, but when she overheard the guards say they planned to search it next time, she returned to the prison with the warmer filled with scalding water. She also relied on the prisoners for updates from the front lines and what they overheard from prison guards. She taught them how to use straight pins to puncture a sequence of holes near specific letters in the books she lent them, which would spell out secret messages.

“Elizabeth would bring books and clothing to the prisoners, anything she could get away with bringing them,” Abbott says. “She would take a pin and punch out letters in sequence in these books. The letters would form words, and the words would form sentences. At first, she was asking questions like, ‘What Union soldiers are imprisoned there?’ But then she got more sophisticated with it and started asking about infantry positions and what gossip they were hearing among the Confederate guards. She would ask ‘Do you hear anything about what General Lee is up to?’”

But she didn’t limit her resources to prisoners of war. When Confederate First Lady Varina Davis announced she was looking for a new servant, Van Lew paid her a visit and offered the services of Mary Jane Bowser. What Davis didn’t know was that Bowser was more like a daughter to Van Lew, who sent her to Quaker school in Princeton, New Jersey, and then to Liberia as a missionary for four years. While Bowser played the role of a wide-eyed, uneducated enslaved woman, she was able to read and memorize Jefferson Davis’ top secret plans left on his desk, which he wrote in plain English before encrypting them. She would hide her notes and maps for Van Lew by sewing them into the waistband of some of Varina’s dresses and then delivering them to a Union-sympathizing seamstress, who would take them apart and save the messages for Van Lew. If she had an urgent message, Bowser would hang a red shirt from the White House clothesline. “I thought that was remarkable, the way that they were able to smuggle messages in and out through Varina Davis’ own dresses,” Abbott says.

To communicate this intelligence to Union officials in D.C., Elizabeth had a chain of Union sympathizing couriers, horsemen, and boat operators from Richmond to Washington who would hide escapees and deliver letters, pin-pricked books, and Richmond newspapers to the U.S. War Department. Through her family’s hardware business, she and her brother John filled out an invoice with coded information on the Confederate forces in Richmond: 370 iron hinges (3,700 calvary), 30 anvils (30 batteries of artillery), and 40 vises (4,000 shock troops). John delivered such a message to the North himself, claiming he had to visit Philadelphia to collect on a prewar debt. Union General Benjamin Butler would also write Elizabeth letters in invisible ink, and then cover it with a mundane letter written in regular ink from a pseudonym to an aunt.

Belle Boyd, a 17-year-old shopkeeper’s daughter from Martinsburg, Virginia, who offered her spying services to the Confederates regardless of whether they wanted them, was far less discreet than Greenhow or Van Lew. She employed a wide range of costumes and identities—from a Confederate private to a demure Southern maiden to a flamboyant warrior for the South—and often brought her little black lapdog on courier missions. She even made a costume of a white-hair dog skin that fit over her pet so she could carry messages on his back.

“Belle could become whoever she needed to be in the moment,” Abbott says. “It’s one of her great gifts. She was also incredibly charismatic. I love that she made her dog sort of complicit in all of her spying. She also had a pet crow that she taught how to talk, and the bird said ‘Stonewall’ referring to General Thomas J. ‘Stonewall’ Jackson, whom Belle was obsessed with. I mean, come on! I think one reporter said she wanted to ‘occupy his tent and share his dangers.’ If I were Stonewall Jackson, I think that would’ve frightened me more than anything that the Union Army had in store. Belle was just somebody you could not make up.”

Emma Edmondson—a 19-year-old Canadian who had been living as a Bible salesman using the name Frank Thompson in Flint, Michigan, two years before the war started—decided to travel to Washington, D.C., to enlist as soldier when she heard about the war, motivated by her Christian belief that slavery was wrong. While Frank was definitely a side of Edmondson’s identity, she had to “disguise” her female body by avoiding taking off her uniform. Lucky for her, staying dressed was shockingly easy to do, as the men serving in the U.S. Army rarely bathed or changed clothes, and they often wandered into the woods to do the “necessaries.” The stress of training could have stopped Edmondson’s period, but bloodied rags could also pass as bandages for wounds. After she volunteered to serve as a spy between lines, she added other layers of disguise: She once painted her face with silver nitrate and donned a black wool wig to pose as a enslaved man, and later, played the part of an Irish farm girl—a woman convincingly passing as a man had to pretend to be a woman again.

“I couldn’t believe that anyone could get away with disguising themselves as a slave,” Abbott says. “I’m assuming nobody expected a white person to disguise himself as a slave. I’m sure the other slaves were a bit more skeptical of Emma’s charade than the white people. It’s just bizarre the things that people were able to get away with back then. Today, women wearing skirts would not deter anyone from searching them, if the need arose. These things could have happened only in that particular time period.”

Edmondson was actually one of 400 known women who passed as men to serve in the military during the Civil War. While the War Department required that Union recruits undergo a full physical exam, which would including stripping naked, most doctors were so overwhelmed by the flood of potential soldiers they cut corners and approved the volunteers with a quick glance. Very few of the women posing as soldiers were living as men before the war. Some female privates were fleeing abusive parents or husbands. Some women didn’t want to be separated from their husbands who were enlisting. Others, like Edmondson, felt deeply committed to their side's cause. Most of them, Abbott speculates, were impoverished and in desperate need of the military stipend, $13 a month for Union privates and $11 for Confederates. Abbott was most puzzled by how few got caught.

“I came to the conclusion that they were getting away with it because nobody had any idea what a woman would look like wearing pants,” she says. “People were so used to seeing women’s bodies pushed and pulled in these exaggerated shapes with corsets and crinoline. The idea of a woman in pants, let alone an entire Army uniform, was so unfathomable that they couldn’t see it, even if she were standing in front of them. Emma had such a great advantage over the other women: Here’s somebody who already honed her voice and her mannerisms. She was already comfortable as Frank Thompson, who was a real person to her. She wasn’t going to make any of the rookie mistakes, like the woman who, when somebody threw an apple to her, reached for the hem of her nonexistent apron, trying to catch the apple. My favorite story is the corporal from New Jersey who gave birth while she was on picket duty, like, ‘The jig is up!’”

While Abbott considers Edmondson “gender fluid,” she decided to write about her with a “she” pronoun, as a woman, as opposed to writing about her as a transgender man with a “he” pronoun, in part because Edmondson abandoned her Frank Thompson persona after she deserted the Army—out of fear she was about to be exposed and arrested—on April 17, 1863, and never brought him back. She changed her name to Emma Edmonds and started living as a woman again.

“After the war, Emma ended up getting married and having children,” Abbott says. “Frank Thompson was just as legitimate a person, I think, to Emma, but somebody that she also decided ultimately that she was not. He was, I think, somebody who was convenient to her in that time. She was clearly attracted to men during the war because she fell in love with a fellow private, but who knows if she was bisexual. That’s certainly a possibility that she might not have felt comfortable exploring or even knew how to acknowledge in that time period. She was definitely gender fluid, and Belle was probably as well.”

Part of Emma’s impulse to create Frank Thompson came from a desire to escape the dreary life as a farmer’s wife she saw laid out before her in New Brunswick, Canada, before the war: She suffered at the hands of her abusive father she saw how miserable her sisters were as farmer’s wives and at 16, she was set to be married off to a lecherous elderly neighbor. Men seemed to be the source of her misery but they also had all the power to be free. In her writings, she described men as “the implacable enemy” and wrote how she hated “male tyranny.”

According to Emma’s memoir, she was inspired by a novel she bought from a peddler, Fanny Campbell, the Female Pirate Captain: A Tale of Revolution, which told the story of a woman who disguised as a man and became a pirate to liberate her kidnapped lover. After Fanny freed him, she continued to pose as a male pirate for several weeks, as the pair had more adventures on the high seas. Supposedly, this story fueled Emma to cut her long hair, run away from home, and start living as Frank in the United States.

“She was very much like a second-wave feminist, way before the second wave,” Abbott says. “She recognized that men had the power, and the way for her to attain any of that was to become a man. But she definitely felt comfortable as a man, and I think that that was a vital, integral part of her personality.”

What’s surprising throughout the book is the way old men, like Emma’s neighbor, would openly ogle teenage girls. Back then, the age of sexual consent was right after puberty, which could be as early as age 10 or 12. By age 17, a rival of Belle Boyd’s already dubbed her “the fastest girl in Virginia or anywhere else for that matter.”

“The amount of commentary I read on Belle’s appearance was really shocking to me,” Abbott says. “Everybody had something to say about her body, her face, how ugly she was, how beautiful she was, how she was ‘fast’ how she was. In 19th-century parlance, of course, they didn’t use the word ‘slutty,’ but said she was a ‘fast’ woman. There was so much commentary on her physical presentation and her sexuality, which was interesting, considering that she was only a 17-year-old girl.”

Boyd often used this fascination with her sex appeal to her advantage—flirting with or disappearing in closets with Union soldiers and generals to get the lowdown on the military. “In diaries in the South, nobody admitted to anything more than flirting,” Abbott says. “Nobody was talking about actual intercourse. But you had a Northern reporter saying that Belle was ‘closeted’ for four hours with General James Shields. What was she doing with him for four hours? It’s one of the charming qualities of 19th-century writing. You just have to fill in the blanks and wonder exactly how far things went.”

Boyd and Edmondson weren’t alone in breaking the sexual and gender taboos of the era. In D.C., people whispered about Confederate spy Rose O’Neal Greenhow, who was still considered very beautiful at 47, and all her late-night male visitors. Even before her spying career, influential men of all political stripes—from abolitionists, secessionists, Union military officials, diplomats, and Republican and Democratic Senators and Representatives—shared her bed and spilled their secrets. Even though Greenhow was jailed for leading her spy ring and then exiled to Richmond, she was not received as a hero in the Confederate capital. The Southern ladies snubbed her, gossiping and clucking about her sexual liaisons.

“If I admire anything about Rose, it’s that she was brilliant, clearly, but she also just didn’t give a damn,” Abbott says. “I think she was operating from a place of depression, to the point she didn’t care what others said. She was going to seduce somebody if it was going to be to her advantage in some way, and neighbors be damned. She was completely slut-shamed, but she didn’t care, which is refreshing. The only time she really was given her due by other women was in death. Then, they decided that she had been slut-shamed enough.”

For all the tittering and ideas about propriety and good manners, during the Civil War, women lived in fear that soldiers from the other side would rape them. This fear was particularly heightened in the South when Union soldier began to march on Confederate border towns in Virginia in 1861.

“I read a lot of diaries of Southern women, and they were all terrified of being raped by the Yankees,” Abbott says. “They would talk about how to conduct themselves around Union men, what to be wary of, how to keep them out of the house or how to give them what they asked for, if they wanted food or bounty from the farm. Being raped by a Union private was one of the worst things that could’ve happened to them. I mean, today, rape is still one of the worst things that could happen to any woman. But the concern at that time, unlike today, was about protecting the woman’s virtue and avoiding being sullied. The men in their lives didn’t want their women’s reputations and their families to be damaged by an assault from a Yankee.”

In fact, when we first meet Belle at her home in Martinsburg in July 1861, she shoots and kills a Union soldier for lunging at her mother. “I’m sure she was terrified that they very well could have sexually assaulted her mother,” Abbott says. “The Union generals in charge of her case decided that there was enough evidence of self-defense to acquit her, or to at least not hold her accountable. I’m sure there were some other factors at play, namely that it was early in the war and Lincoln was still practicing appeasement. He didn’t want to create any Southern martyrs. He just wanted things to go away quietly. But also I’m sure there was a legitimate threat there, and Belle acted accordingly.”

Speaking of morality, all four women in the book see themselves driven by good Christian ethics and God’s will. For Edmondson and Van Lew, slavery was an abhorrent sin that needed to be stopped, while to Greenhow and Boyd, slavery was a part of what they saw as God’s natural order.

“Belle, to me, seems like one of those kids who just takes on their parents’ politics,” Abbott says. “She had been raised in the South, she had family in the Confederate army, so she’s being a Confederate because her parents told her to be. She hasn’t grown up yet and figured out her own politics. It was more of a challenge to write about Rose. Obviously, she was racist, her views were abhorrent, and she said some despicable things. I had a hard time with her at first. I tried to come at her in a way where I could have some empathy for her and write her so she wasn’t just a stock bad character. I wanted to try to find some humanity in her so people could at least understand where she was coming from.

“Rose’s whole life had fallen apart in the years leading up to the war,” Abbott continues. “She had lost five children in four years. She had lost her husband in a freak accident. Her father had been killed by a family slave. And the war cost her access to her friends and the White House. Her Democrat friends—including President James Buchanan, whom she was very close to—were no longer in power. I think she was desperate and also incredibly depressed. That’s not to excuse anything she said or did, but in understanding her, those are the conclusions I came to.”

It’s not to say that many Yankees fighting against the spread of slavery in the war were not racists themselves. Even abolitionists could be racist on some level. “Elizabeth wrote things that today sound incredibly racist. For example, she wrote, ‘The Negros have black faces, but white hearts,’ which, to her, was elevating black people to a level of humanity equal to whites which was, at the time, a progressive sentiment. But oh my God, that’s a really racist thing to say. But she did risk her life for the cause and would not have hesitated to die. I do believe she considered Mary Jane and all of her African American comrades in her spy operation to be equals to her, and she had great love and respect for them.”

While Boyd did not go as far as Van Lew by offering her slaves freedom or pay, Boyd was quite attached to her personal slave, Mauma Eliza, whom raised Boyd since she was a small girl. Boyd even taught Eliza how to read, which was illegal. When the war ended Eliza stayed loyal to Boyd.

“They were complicated relationships,” Abbott says. “I’m guessing some of freed slaves worried about finding work or having no place to go, and that’s why a lot of them decided to stay with the comfort of the devil they knew. Here was a family that treated Eliza well. Belle clearly had great affection for her and taught her to read. Eliza even spoke of Belle fondly, and decades after the war, Belle sent gifts for Eliza’s grandkids. A friendship and a caring developed there beyond that mistress relationship. It was obviously very different than what Elizabeth did with her family slaves, but Belle had her own way. I’m sure Eliza was more of a mother to Belle than her own mother.”

Edmondson, serving as Frank, is the one character in the book who’s actually in the trenches. She was one of 50,000 volunteers that arrived in the nation’s capital for military training after the Confederate attack on Fort Sumter in April 1861. She was a sharpshooter, whereas many of the boys and men coming from cities didn’t even know how to handle a gun. But actually fighting battles was only a small part of the Union’s strategy. The “Anaconda Plan” was actually the tactic that won the war for the North in the long-term. The United States government poured money into setting up a blockade along the coast of the Atlantic Ocean and stationed ground troops all around the border of the Confederacy, destroying bridges, railroad tracks, and telegraph wires to starve the South of food, supplies, and communication from the outside world.

Which means very little of the resources went toward the Union troops themselves. Even when they were camping in Washington, D.C., the men had only stale bread and water contaminated with bacteria for sustenance. Even in the summer, they wore heavy woolen socks with boots that didn’t distinguish left from right.

“At first, the Lincoln administration thought the war was going to be over in 90 days,” Abbott says. “I’m guessing that they just didn’t feel like the men’s shoes were of paramount importance. If the war was going to be over in 90 days, so why bother spending inordinate amount of money on proper and expensive boots? When you consider the sheer amount of money they had to start spending on weaponry and enforcing the blockade, it was just prioritizing.”

Because Edmondson felt it was against her Christian belief system to shoot another person, she volunteered for medical duty. As the Union recruits who joined the war effort in the spring and summer of 1861 languished in Washington, D.C., many of them killed time by visiting local brothels or inviting “camp followers”—or prostitutes that moved into their camp—to share their tents. So in her first months of service, Edmondson treated an endless parade of male genitalia ravaged by venereal disease. “Emma definitely had her work cut out for her being a nurse,” Abbott says. “Luckily, she wrote really colorfully about that.”

The First Battle of Bull Run in July 1861—which took place in Manassas, Virginia, 25 miles west of D.C.—was a grisly affair, killing 4,500 men on both sides, with minié balls and cannonball shells ripping flesh and tendons and rending limbs. Edmondson held dying soldiers choking on their own blood and assisted the surgeon in amputations. Northern accounts of the battle make Confederates sound like absolute maniacs who were slashing throats and cutting off the heads of dead Union soldiers to punt them. Some claim Confederates even cut off ears, noses, and testicles to save as souvenirs. Abbott says that many of these stories were likely exaggerated to make the Confederates seem more monstrous and rally Northerners around the cause. That said, some Southerners did claim to save and wear Yankee bones as charms. Men and women passionately devoted to the Confederacy often talked about “Yankee fiends” or “Yankee beasts” with the amount of dehumanizing scorn usually reserved for black people.

“Both sides obviously exaggerated what the other side was doing,” Abbott says. “It was a PR war where they were trying to persuade people how atrocious and barbaric the other side was—which is not to say that some atrocities weren’t committed. There were definitely women claiming to wear jewelry made of Yankee bones and things like that. But nobody knows exactly what happened on that battlefield. It’s not like anybody saw every single thing that happened. It’s hard to know what’s true and what’s not.”

After the Union’s crushing defeat at Bull Run, General George McClellan was promoted to command the Army of the Potomac and decided his men were simply not ready to fight. The Union maintained its picket against the Confederates on the other side of the Potomac River for a full eight months before engaging in battle again. In fact, most of the Union deaths during the whole Civil War war—two times as many as from battle wounds—were from diseases such as typhoid fever, malaria, and dysentery, the latter of which was caused by the polluted water the men drank. At the time, medical knowledge was so poor that men were treated with mercury and other toxic substances. As the winter of 1861 came and went, men serving in Confederate army camps died by freezing to death.

“These people were literally in each other’s faces,” Abbott says. “As much as the dehumanizing language was common, there were also those unexpected moments of grace when they would set their arms down and play cards or talk about their lives and show pictures. I like those little glimpses of humanity among enemies, because it was overall a terrible, ugly war.”

According to a story on TruthOut, many Southerners recruited to fight were too poor to own slaves and resented the Confederacy for getting them into this mess. By October 1862, General Lee saw his ranks depleted by 60,000, with a third of those men gone AWOL. Some more ardent Southern deserters even fought actively to undermine the Confederacy. The impoverished white men who did fight for the South often did so only because the Northerners were on their turf.

“I definitely think that some Confederate soldiers didn’t care at all about the cause,” Abbott says. “There’s a famous quote where somebody asked a Confederate soldier why he was fighting, and his answer was, ‘Because they’re here.’ This guy didn’t care about slavery one way or another, but the Union troops were on his land so they had a fight. There were turncoats on both sides, and in the Shenandoah Valley, the Union and Confederate lines were so porous. You could go from one town to the next, and the sentiment would be completely changed.”

In a similar way, Elizabeth Van Lew was also loyal to her state—she believed in Virginia and wanted it to stay a part of the Union and abolish slavery. “You hear about all those Southern generals who once fought for the United States government who resigned because they were Virginians first,” Abbott says. “She considered herself a Virginian first, too. She believed that Virginia belonged with the rest of the country, and it was her duty that she stay and fight for Virginia. She could have just fled up North, removed herself from all the danger, and had a cushy existence, but she chose not to.”

In 1863, Rose O’Neal Greenhow was recruited by Jefferson Davis to board a “blockade runner” with her daughter, Little Rose, and escaped to Europe, where she would serve a diplomatic role and attempt to persuade officials in England and France to acknowledge the Confederacy as a legitimate government.

“People were just astounded by her,” Abbott says. “She was very intelligent, fluent in French, and clearly politically savvy. Here was a woman who could discuss politics with as much acumen and insight as any man, and it was to the men’s credit that they acknowledged her prowess on these matters. The fact that Jefferson Davis thought highly enough of her political skills to send her as a lobbyist to Europe was quite remarkable. It was the first time an American woman was sent on a diplomatic mission like that.”

As charismatic as she was, Greenhow’s efforts were fruitless, as both countries could foresee the fate of the rogue band of slave states. The Anaconda Plan was working: By 1864, Confederate soldiers had no shoes, and the prices of food and goods in the South were exorbitant, $1,000 for a barrel of flour and $1,200 for a suit. Southerners were resorting to eating rats, dogs, and cats, and thanks to Van Lew’s spying, Grant stopped a Confederate exchange of $380,000 worth of tobacco for bacon in Fredericksburg, Virginia. In Richmond, citizens rioted over food. In August 1864, Grant issued Circular No. 31, which offered Confederates pardons and a financial incentive to desert their army.

“The blockade strategy really clinched everything for the North long term,” Abbott says. “People were literally starving. It goes a long way to explaining animosity that Southerners have toward the North today. I imagine that people who had ancestors who didn’t even own slaves heard stories of their grandmother or great-grandmother having starved to death. Cities like Atlanta were literally burned to the ground and destroyed.

“It was brilliant of Grant to institute this open-door policy for any Confederates who might want to come up to the North,” she continues. “They wouldn’t be charged with treason, and they would be fed. They would actually have some boots. It was probably starting to sound pretty good to a bunch of Confederate soldiers by that time.”

Greenhow met her end when her ship from Europe was caught returning to Virginia by the blockade on October 1, 1864. Instead of surrendering to Yankees, she attempted to flee with a heavy purse holding gold coins around her neck and drowned.

Edmondson, who had deserted her regiment and returned to living as a woman on April 17, 1863, was, like many of her fellow soldiers, haunted by the war the rest of her life, physically as well as mentally. She had contracted malaria during her tour of duty and, thanks to being thrown from horses and mules, suffered injuries to her left hip and foot that contributed to her perpetual poor health. In 1864, she came out with her memoir of living as man during the war, The Female Spy of the Union Army, and a year later, it was republished with the title Nurse and Spy in the Union Army, selling 175,000 copies, a tremendous number for the time. Eventually, she demanded that she receive a pension from the U.S. Army like any other soldier. Because other soldiers were willing to vouch for her, the U.S. government began to pay her a stipend of $12 a month in 1886. She finally succumbed to malaria 12 years later, at the age of 56.

“By the end of the war, she was completely mentally and physically wrecked,” Abbott says. “On top of that, she had been dealing with stress that the men never had to deal with, wondering if her sex was going to be discovered and facing the repercussions of that, then knowing that Frank had been listed as a deserter, which she could have been hanged for. But she was able to keep it together to carve a successful postwar life, which I find remarkable. I can’t imagine how infuriating the fact she was not getting a pension would’ve been and I’m glad that she fought for that. What an accomplishment! It took a lot of nerve, when here she was admitting that she had duped everybody. She was an interesting mix of strength and vulnerability all the way through her life.”

In the South, the end of war didn’t do much to change the mindset of former Confederates against the racism that perpetuated slavery. Only three days after General Lee surrendered, President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated by Confederate spy John Wilkes Booth. Vice President Andrew Johnson, a Confederate-sympathizing Tennessean, took the office and declared the war over on May 9, 1865 a day later, Jefferson Davis was captured. As president, Johnson aggressively fought any Republican effort to create civil rights or economic opportunities for 4 million newly freed black people in the South and pardoned many of the Confederate officials. No treason trials were held not even for Davis, who served a two-year jail sentence. A group of vigilantes called the Ku Klux Klan lynched and tormented formerly enslaved people all over the South, many of whom had no choice but to work as indebted sharecroppers for the plantations that once enslaved them.

The so-called “Radical Republicans” in Congress took over Reconstruction of the South in 1866, passing the 14th Amendment in 1867, which extended civil rights to formerly enslaved people, and the 15th Amendment in 1870, which extended voting rights to black men. They deployed the U.S. Army to govern the South under martial law in 1867, which lasted until 1870. After General Grant was inaugurated as president in 1869, he worked to suppress the KKK and enable black men to vote and run for office in the South, as businessmen from the North headed South to rebuild railroads and cities and pursue other economic interests there. In 1872, Grant signed the Amnesty Act pardoning 150,000 former Confederate troops. Grant’s successor Rutherford B. Hayes ended the “Radical Reconstruction” in 1877, focusing on reuniting the divided country, but he still couldn’t convince Southerners to accept civil rights for blacks. In the 1870s and 1880s, Southern authors, including Jefferson Davis, started to rewrite the story of the Civil War, a popular narrative that became known as the Lost Cause, wherein Confederates fought nobly to preserve their genteel antebellum way of life.

“The Civil War was this bloody, horrible thing, and then it became a romantic ideal,” Abbott says. “It was almost the last straw for Elizabeth when Virginians erected a statue of General Lee on the main street in Richmond in 1890 and hundreds of thousands of people were thronging it in adulation. It was like, ‘Really? I risked my life and we won the war for this? This is what Virginia is going to be now?’ It was a moment of clarity and a horrible disappointment. She realized what she had lost and what she had won, and the two weren’t quite equal.”

With all this romanticization, Belle Boyd, who may have suffered from a mental illness like bipolar disorder, was able to turn herself into a celebrity of the Lost Cause. In the late 1860s, she started billing herself as “Belle Boyd, of Virginia” as she improvised tales from her 1865 memoir, Belle Boyd in Camp and Prison, onstage in places like Washington, D.C., and New Orleans sometimes she’s even ride onstage on a horse. But in 1870, she had checked into an insane asylum for a brief stay because her mind “gave away,” and then she avoided the spotlight for 15 years, traveling from place to place and struggling with her mental health. Women claiming to be Belle Boyd popped up all over the country, in Martinsburg, in Philadelphia, in Atlanta, and in Corsicana, Texas. She returned to the stage in 1886, opening a one-woman touring show, “The Perils of a Spy” that also played in Northern states such as Iowa and Ohio. The story hinged on her most famous moment—the day she rode through the front lines at the Battle of Front Row to breathlessly inform Stonewall Jackson of the enemy’s strategy.

“Her big claim to fame is how she literally ran into the oncoming fire to warn Stonewall Jackson about the Union forces that were converging,” Abbott says. “Stonewall might have already had that information, but she confirmed it for him. She rewrote her narrative however she saw fit in the moment, which I thought was one of her more charming characteristics. She had an endless imagination. No matter what she was doing, she could find a way to sort of spin it for herself. I love that when she married her first husband, the Yankee, during the war, the first thing she worried about was ‘What is Jefferson Davis going to think? Let me write and assure him that I’m going to convert my husband to the Confederate side.’ Of course, Jefferson Davis was at home not only worrying about losing the war, but his own son had just died. Belle Boyd’s marital situation was the last thing on his mind, but of course, to her, Jefferson Davis was just as obsessed with it as she was.”

On the other hand, Elizabeth Van Lew, who had no way to leave Richmond after spending her fortune on her spy ring, was reviled as a traitor in her hometown. She was called erratic, eccentric, mentally unstable, and masculine, and some people even whispered she was a witch. She continued to pioneer for feminist and anti-racist causes: She campaigned for women’s suffrage and, thanks to President Ulysses S. Grant, became the first female Postmaster General of Richmond, hiring both female and African American employees. She even insisted on being called “postmaster” instead of “postmistress.” Mary Jane Bowser, who had fled to the North in early 1864, returned to Richmond after the war and became a teacher for 200 black children. Meanwhile, John Van Lew lost the hardware business, and Elizabeth petitioned the United States government to help her recoup some of her financial loss, but only received $5,000 in compensation for her spying that brought an end to the war. After she died at age 82 in 1900, locals claimed to see her ghost, which they spoke of to frighten their children saying, “Crazy Bet will get you!”

“Elizabeth’s ending was so tragic,” Abbott says. “She should’ve at least been recognized and had some semblance of respect postwar. She should have been given proper commendations and more of a monetary award from the North than she got. After the war, when she should’ve gone up North to relax and enjoy the fruits of her labor, she couldn’t sell her house and couldn’t afford to leave Virginia. She got stuck in a place that she fought so hard to save and got no respect.”

For women—particularly white women in the South—the war forever changed their lives. The men of marrying age went off to war, and 620,000 soldiers on both sides ended up dead, so living as a pampered belle stopped being an option. During the war, women had to manage their farms, defend their homes, and eventually look for work to support their families.

“Women’s activity during the Civil War paved the way for the women’s suffrage movement that picked up steam at the turn of the 20th century,” Abbott says. “The men, the husbands, fiancés, and brothers were gone. The women had been left in charge. Especially in the South, after the war, tens of thousands of women were widowed and tens of thousands more had husbands coming home who were amputees or physically disabled. The women had to become breadwinners and carve out their own lives, different lives from the ones that they had led in their spoiled antebellum years. That paved the way for women to put themselves in the public sphere in a way that they hadn’t before. One of my favorite anecdotes about Elizabeth is every time she paid her property taxes, she included a note of protest that she shouldn’t be paying taxes because she didn’t have the right to vote. She was at the forefront of the feminist movement.”

( To learn more about these female spies and their experiences in the Civil War, pick up Karen Abbott‘s book, “Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy: Four Women Undercover in the Civil War.” )

This article originally appeared on Collectors Weekly. Follow them on Facebook and Twitter.


What was the nominal strength of a company in a British Regiment during the American war of Independence? - History

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George Washington crossing the Delaware River, December 25, 1776, Currier & Ives, Lithograph

American Revolution, a conflict between Britain and 13 of its colonies on the Atlantic coast of North America. It is also called the American War of Independence and the Revolutionary War.

During the course of the American Revolution the Thirteen Colonies declared their independence from the mother country and concluded an alliance with France. As a result of their victory in the fighting that followed, the United States of America came into being. With the Declaration of Independence, the Thirteen Colonies became the states of New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia.

The war began near Boston, Mass., in 1775 and ended formally in 1783 with a peace treaty signed in Paris. Most of the fighting had ended two years earlier, at Yorktown, Va.

This article is divided into four principal sections: 1) Origins of the American Revolution 2) Military Campaigns 3) Political, Social, and Economic Developments and 4) Diplomatic Developments.

Origins of the American Revolution

Had Britain followed the lenient pattern of colonial administration developed in the late 17th and early 18th centuries, the American Revolution might well have been avoided. Under different historical circumstances the Thirteen Colonies might have achieved independent status through an evolutionary process, as did other members of the British Empire.

Rapidly expanding in wealth and numbers, developing a cultural identity differentiating them from Englishmen, and possessing a complex and sophisticated political life of their own, the Americans were certain to resist growing control from London. That they did resist, and finally rebel, indicates a profound change in British colonial policy after 1763. It is, however, impossible properly to understand the American Revolution apart from the 150 years of colonial history preceding it.

The British colonial effort in the 16th and 17th centuries shared certain basic concepts with the policies of France, Spain, and other European powers. Colonial interests were subordinate to those of the mother country, which regarded the colonies as sources of raw materials and as markets for manufactured goods. The British made little attempt to systematize those mercantilistic principles, designed to strengthen the mother country and render it economically independent of other nations, until after the restoration of the Stuart dynasty in 1660. In that year and in 1673 and 1696, Parliament passed the Navigation Acts. These acts reserved the whole trade of the colonies to ships of English or colonial construction, provided that trade in certain colonial "enumerated articles" be confined to the empire, and required that all European products destined for the colonies be brought to England before being shipped across the Atlantic.

A series of Acts of Trade passed in the 17th and 18th centuries were designed to prevent colonial competition with home industries and to reward with bounties the production of needed articles. The Acts of Trade and Navigation were the heart of the Old Colonial System (1660–1763), which envisioned the colonies as part of a great economic, not a political, unit.

The Revolution has been seen by some historians as a movement by the colonists to throw off the shackles of an unfair and oppressive system, stultifying to the economic development of the colonies. It has been held that the Revolution was the inevitable result of one capitalistic economy attempting to impose its interests on another. But modern scholarship indicates rather that the colonists prospered under the Old Colonial System. Although there are instances of enmity toward the Acts of Trade and Navigation, the system largely worked to the benefit of both England and its colonies.

A major reason for lack of colonial opposition to mercantilism, aside from the economic benefits it afforded, was the laxity with which the acts were enforced. No centralized, competent body, vested with sufficient authority to make and enforce colonial policy, existed prior to the French and Indian War (1754–1763). Royal officials in the colonies, especially custom collectors, lacked the means of coercion, and they often were incompetent and corrupt. Evasion of the laws was widespread, and smuggling became a respected profession in the colonies.

So long as English colonial administration was characterized by "salutary neglect," in the words of Edmund Burke, there was little serious friction. When England, after 1763, attempted to reform and tighten the machinery for administration and enforcement, the colonists stoutly resisted.

The British government was slow to think of the American possessions as a political unit. Prior to 1763 the colonies were seen as the king's possessions, with Parliament exercising little control over them other than to regulate their trade. Basically, the Thirteen Colonies were of three types: 1) royal colonies, under the direct control of the crown 2) proprietary colonies, under the control of a proprietor or proprietors, to whom the king granted land and political authority 3) "corporate" colonies, founded by various groups in conjunction with trading companies to which the king granted a charter. and

The degree of political autonomy exercised through local representative bodies varied with the circumstances under which the colonies were founded. From 1660 and after the accession of William and Mary in 1689, the crown pursued a sporadic policy of royalization and centralization. By 1763, only Connecticut and Rhode Island retained their original corporate status. All of the other thirteen colonies except Pennsylvania and Maryland, which remained proprietary, had become royal colonies. This increase in direct crown control would appear to indicate a growth in royal power but it was paralleled by the development and rise to power of the lower house of assembly in the royal and proprietary colonies.

The political history of the American colonies in the 18th century centers largely on the struggle for power between royal authority, represented by the royal governors, and the elected representatives of the colonists in their lower houses of assembly. The three branches of colonial government roughly resembled those of England: the royal governors represented the king, the councils occupied the place of the House of Lords, and the elected assemblies that of the House of Commons.

The royal governors possessed extensive powers, at least in theory. They were the chief executives and military commanders of the colonies they possessed vetoes over all legislation passed by the assemblies, and with the councils, or upper houses, they were the supreme courts of appeal within the colonies. They could summon, prorogue, and dismiss the assemblies. The colonial assemblies viewed their struggle for power with the governors as similar to the long battle for supremacy between king and Parliament in England.

Gradually the assemblies claimed and won extensive power and privileges—or "rights," as the colonists called them. Most important, they came to possess the right to levy taxes and to grant supplies. In several royal colonies, the governors had to rely for their income on temporary grants from the assemblies. The assemblies further used their control over the purse to assume certain executive functions, stipulating how appropriations were to be spent and appointing committees to supervise expenditures.

The colonists accepted parliamentary taxation that had the purpose of regulating trade. But Parliament had never taxed the colonies for revenue Americans certainly would have regarded such a practice as a dangerous and even unconstitutional innovation threatening their self-government. The power of taxation was indispensable to the assemblies' domination of the governors, and the colonists jealously regarded that power as the constitutional right of their elected representatives. Although acts of assembly were subject to review and veto by the Privy Council in London, the Americans believed that their representatives should decide domestic questions.

In fact, two conceptions of the constitution of the empire were developing in the 18th century. From the British point of view, king and Parliament wielded the same powers in America that they did in London. The colonial elective bodies were regarded as derivative, functioning only because they were permitted to do so. To the great majority of Englishmen, Parliament's authority was supreme, and its sovereign power extended over the colonies as well as England. The Americans, on the other hand, considered their elective assemblies to be, in essence, little parliaments—the supreme legislative power in domestic matters for the colonies. The tendency of their political thought was toward a conception of the empire as a federation, with one king and many parliaments.

Antagonism arose between the colonists and Britain during and after the French and Indian War. More properly called the Great War for Empire, this conflict was the culmination of a long struggle between England and France for hegemony in the New World. England emerged victorious, but with a heavy national debt and the immensely difficult prospect of administering vast territorial additions to the empire.

During the war the Americans had continued to trade with the French West Indies despite British efforts to prevent it. Colonial jealousy and disunity had hampered the war effort. After the war, England could reform and enforce her neglected colonial system but the colonies, fearing the French no longer, felt less dependent on the mother country. From the English point of view, the imperial policy after 1763 was by no means designed to destroy colonial "rights and liberties," but to protect and govern an augmented empire, and to tighten a dangerously lax colonial system. The colonies, however, had passed the point where they would submit to an increase in subordination to king and Parliament.

In the early months of 1763 the ministry headed by John Stuart, 3d earl of Bute, decided that a standing army of 6,000 men should be maintained in North America to police the newly acquired lands between the Appalachians and the Mississippi to defend them against the French, Spanish, and Indians and to prevent clashes between the British colonists and the former enemies. The colonists, who were not asked whether they desired the army, were naturally suspicious. Sharing the traditional Whig fear of a standing army and desiring expansion into the new territories, they could not but regard the English army as a threat to American interests.

The Bute ministry also decided that the colonists must help support the new army at an estimated cost of £350,000 a year. Since the British national debt and taxes were high, and the army was stationed in America ostensibly to protect the colonials, the Bute ministry saw no reason why the colonials should not contribute a fair share to the administration of imperial interests. But to the Americans, "imperial" interests did not coincide with their own.

In April 1763 a new ministry headed by George Grenville came into power and pushed through Parliament a series of measures that brought on a crisis in relations with the American colonies. That year a serious Indian uprising, known as Pontiac's Conspiracy, ravaged the English outposts in the west. To pacify the Indians, the British government issued on Oct. 7, 1763, a proclamation forbidding colonial settlement beyond the Allegheny Mountains. American pioneers and land speculators, temporarily checked by this and later measures restricting westward expansion, chafed under what they regarded as an unfair and oppressive policy.

The Currency Act of 1764 forbade the issuance of legal-tender paper money by the colonial assemblies. Lacking hard money, the colonists concluded that the measure would seriously harm their economy while benefiting English merchants who desired payment of debts in sterling. The controversy over paper currency was of long standing, going back to the 1730s in Massachusetts and the 1740s in Virginia.

In April 1764, Parliament passed the Sugar Act, imposing new restrictions on colonial trade and levying a three-penny-per-gallon duty upon molasses imported from the West Indies. Although formally a revision in the regulations of trade, the act was designed to raise revenue. Grenville also secured passage of a resolution stating that it might be necessary to levy certain stamp duties in the colonies. To ensure enforcement of this legislation, admiralty courts in the colonies, functioning without juries, were given jurisdiction over the Acts of Trade. This extended the courts' authority and further limited the cherished right of trial by jury.

In 1765 came the Quartering Act, a measure requiring the colonists to supply quarter and supplies to British troops stationed in settled parts of the colonies.

In the spring of 1765, Parliament passed the famous Stamp Act, which required the colonists to purchase stamps for newspapers, playing cards, dice, marriage licenses, and many other legal documents. Virtually every segment of the American population would be affected by this direct tax. The revenue obtained from the molasses and stamp duties was to be used to pay part of the expenses of maintaining British troops in America.

News of the passage of the Stamp Act provoked protest and open resistance throughout the American colonies. The colonists saw in the Stamp Act and the other measures of the Bute and Grenville ministries a pattern of tyranny. Following the lead of Patrick Henry and the Virginia House of Burgesses, they denounced the tax as unconstitutional, and asserted they could be taxed only by their own elected representatives. Mobs, calling themselves Sons of Liberty, threatened the stamp distributors, destroyed their property, and forced them to resign. No stamps were sold in the Thirteen Colonies except for Georgia, where they were soon removed from circulation.

Through their colonial assemblies and the Stamp Act Congress, which met in New York in October 1765, the Americans demanded repeal of the Stamp Act. Associations were formed to enforce a general boycott of British goods, and economic retaliation proved more effective than petitions and remonstrances. As British merchants and manufacturers began to suffer, they joined the Americans in opposition to the tax. In March 1766, a new ministry headed by the 2d marquis of Rockingham repealed the Stamp Act, but simultaneously Parliament rejected the American principle of "no taxation without representation." The Declaratory Act asserted that Parliamentary authority extended over the colonies "in all cases whatsoever."

The repeal of the Stamp Act was greeted with joy in America, and the colonists resumed their purchase of British goods. But in 1767 the Americans were again confronted with a Parliamentary tax for revenue. Since neither the colonial assemblies nor the Stamp Act Congress had clearly denounced the Sugar Act as unconstitutional, Charles Townshend, chancellor of the exchequer, mistakenly assumed that the colonists rejected only "internal" taxation, and would not object to an "external" import duty for revenue.

In the spring of 1767, Townshend steered through Parliament a series of duties on lead, tea, painter's colors, and various kinds of paper imported into the colonies. The Townshend Act provided that a large part of the funds received was to be used to pay salaries of royal governors and other royal officials in America, thus rendering them independent of the colonial assemblies.

Further reforms in the apparatus for enforcing the Acts of Trade and Navigation achieved the following: 1) the granting of specific legal authority to writs of assistance, or general search warrants 2) the creation of a Board of Customs Commissioners to sit in Boston and supervise the American service 3) the suspension of the legislative "privileges" of the New York Assembly until it complied with the provisions of the Quartering Act of 1765. and

The Townshend duties and the other parliamentary measures of 1767–1768 pushed the colonists to a further repudiation of parliamentary authority. In his Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania (1768), John Dickinson contended that all revenue taxes on the colonists were unconstitutional, whether "external" or "internal," and the colonists generally followed his lead. The Board of Customs Commissioners, often involved in "customs racketeering," infuriated New Englanders. The act suspending the New York Assembly and the scheme to pay royal officials from the Townshend duties further convinced Americans that the right to govern themselves through representatives of their own choosing was in grave danger.

Although American resistance was not so uniform as in 1765, nonimportation and nonconsumption associations again were formed. The economic boycott led British merchants and manufacturers to request repeal of the duties.

In the spring of 1768, Governor Francis Bernard of Massachusetts and the Board of Customs Commissioners informed the British ministry that it was impossible to enforce trade regulations without the presence of British troops. Accordingly, Maj. Gen. Thomas Gage, commander in chief of the British forces in America, was ordered to dispatch at least one regiment of troops to Boston. On June 10, John Hancock's sloop Liberty was seized for alleged violation of the trade acts. Three days later, the customs commissioners fled before enraged Bostonians and took refuge on board the British warship Romney. The British cabinet then ordered to Boston two regiments from Ireland. By the spring of 1769, four regiments were in the city. In May, Gage was authorized to withdraw the troops from Boston, but at the request of royal officials he retained two regiments.

The Bostonians had expected that all troops would be withdrawn, and trouble between civilians and soldiers increased. On March 5, 1770, a mob converged on the hated Customs House, cursing and threatening the lone sentry. Pleas for help brought Capt. Thomas Preston and a file of troops to the rescue. When the mob became violent, the troops opened fire, killing five persons and wounding several others in what became known as the Boston Massacre. Threatened by a general uprising in the wake of the incident, the Massachusetts Council arranged for the withdrawal of the troops from the city.

Under pressure from the colonial boycott and British merchants, Lord North, head of a new ministry, moved on March 5 for repeal of the Townshend duties except for the tax on tea. Parliament acquiesced. Between 1770 and 1773, the duty on tea caused little ill feeling, for the colonists bought smuggled Dutch tea that was much cheaper than English tea. The boycott on English tea was continued, but the partial repeal of duties was followed by a gradual relaxation of the nonimportation associations. The period of calm was deceptive, however. The Americans were now extremely sensitive to any exertion of British authority, and they had grown accustomed to violent resistance.

In 1773, Lord North revived the unsettled issue of parliamentary taxation for revenue. The British East India Company, in serious financial trouble, had 17 million pounds of tea in its warehouses. Under North's leadership Parliament passed the Tea Act, which relieved the company of heavy duties on the tea it brought to England and enabled it to establish direct sale of the tea in America, thus undercutting American importers. The East India Company could now undersell even smuggled tea.

In the fall of 1773 the company sent several consignments of tea to America. There was little doubt that if the tea should be offered for purchase at the low price, it would be bought. But purchase of the tea would mean paying the Townshend revenue duty, and the colonial case against such taxation would be lost. The resistance leaders of 1765 and 1767, supported by the American merchants, were determined to prevent the sale of the tea. In most instances the colonists simply turned back ships carrying consignments of the tea, but in Boston it appeared that customs officials would attempt to sell some of the cargo. On the night of Dec. 16, 1773, townsmen disguised as Indians rowed out to three ships in Boston harbor and dumped the tea into the bay.

The Boston Tea Party provoked a strong reaction in London. Faced by united colonial resistance, George III and the British Parliament had twice retreated. Now they chose to stand firm, to force the colonists to obedience. The result was the passage of the Coercive (Intolerable) Acts of 1774, which closed the port of Boston and increased royal control of the government of Massachusetts. Also included in the Coercive Acts were a new Quartering Act and the Quebec Act, which extended the boundaries of that province into areas claimed by Virginia and Pennsylvania.

First Continental Congress

General Gage was sent to Massachusetts as military governor to enforce the new laws. Massachusetts refused to yield, and the other American colonies rallied to support the Bostonians. While Gage was gathering his troops in Boston and requesting instructions from London, colonial committees of correspondence decided to convene a Continental Congress in Philadelphia in September 1774. Meanwhile, extralegal conventions began to replace royal government and to assume political control in the colonies.

Delegates from all of the colonies except Georgia attended the First Continental Congress, which sat from September 5 to October 26. A redress of grievances, not independence, was the acknowledged objective. But militant leaders such as Samuel Adams and John Adams of Massachusetts and Richard Henry Lee of Virginia led the congress to reject a plan for conciliation offered by Joseph Galloway of Pennsylvania. Instead, the congress demanded repeal of all objectionable laws passed since 1763. It also provided for a Continental Association, which was to enforce a new boycott of British goods. Provision was made for another meeting by May 1775 if England did not meet the demands.

In the early months of 1775, George III, supported by a majority in Parliament, decided to use military force to assert British sovereignty. At the same time that Lord North offered his Conciliatory Resolution, Gage was ordered to move decisively against the rebels. Accordingly he sent out troops to destroy military stores gathered by the Massachusetts patriots at Concord.

At Lexington, on April 19, 1775, British redcoats clashed with Massachusetts militia. Eight Americans were killed and ten wounded. After marching to Concord and destroying such stores as they could find, the British returned to Boston under the harassing musket fire of thousands of enraged farmers. More than 15,000 aroused New Englanders besieged Boston. The War of Independence had begun.


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