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Who provided the British Army with its best soldiers?

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  • Who provided the British Army with its best soldiers?

    Here's a new angle from which to thoroughly explore and stimulate much juicy debate (I might seem like I'm rehashing an old subject that was partially expanded upon and explored nine years ago, in this thread that I initiated, though why not look at it again, and expand upon this subject even further?).

    Back during that extremely trying, daunting, costly and unpredictable conflict (1775-1783), who provided the extremely formidable, thoroughly professional and heavily favored to win British Army with its best and most dependable troops?

    Was it the German Hessian forces (with less than half of the 29,875 German mercenary troops that were sent over being actual Hessians from the Hesse-Cassel region of west central Germany, and who, interestingly enough, were the most feared and fierce of that ruthlessly drilled, amazingly well disciplined and highly proficient bunch of Germanic soldiers)?

    Or was it the kilted Highlanders (always very brave, and always very fearsome in battle, while always proving themselves as super capable, all-terrain soldiers)?

    Or was it the regular British Redcoat formations (featuring many Irish, Welsh and Lowland Scottish soldiers as well as this very high percentage of English ones, all of whom proved extremely professional, tough and steadfast in battle, and as some of history's best soldiers)?

    Some might put forth certain battalions of the Colonial American units, yet to my mind their training as professional soldiers and overall contribution was minimal at best.

    Here's how I see it. If one were to put that question before me, and I resolved to consider it assiduously and thoroughly, I would have to say that the generally crack Scottish Highlanders were the finest overall, and rank them as the best (most especially the famed and ferocious 42nd Black Watch).

    I would then rank the Hessians right up there as well, as I would place them at this very, very close 2nd, overall (and with the British regulars being this mere smidgen behind the Hessians in the proficiency, efficiency, discipline and fierceness department).

    Yet if one were to look more closely, and seek to extract the most elite elements from the Hessian regiments, than the Hessian Jagers would make this ideal candidate for the best and most capable troops that the British had at their immediate disposal, maybe even better than the Highlanders (as the super elite Jagers, who were light infantry and generally magnificent shots, were more than likely the most versatile and adaptable troops in the World at that time, as their overall ability and skill while engaged in this skirmish was unsurpassed).

    Also, weren't certain Hessian and British Grenadier units that were deployed as tough, crack, resilient and fearsome shock troops even more well drilled, more determined, inexorable and scarier than their counterparts in the other, mostly regular infantry units?

    For those elite British and Hessian Grenadiers usually made these outstanding fighters, sturdy and hard men not easily daunted, and trained to get the job done.

    And didn't that particular, fierce and taller-than-average segment of Grenadiers perform superbly and very honorably as well (as well as the Highlanders and the Hessian Jagers?)?

    Basically, although this particular subject is undoubtedly subjective, every answer and opinion will carry much weight, and be very interesting, thoroughly adding on to and enhancing this thread.

    Though, getting back to the original question, I would list the kilted Highlanders and the Hessian Jagers as the finest and most formidable troops that the British had, YET others will surely disagree and dispute that assertion (let the repudiation begin, lol!!).

  • #2
    I am not familiar with the actions of individual regiments outside of the Southern Theater but the 71st Highlanders deserve honorable mention in spite of the disaster at Cowpens, which, I don't think anyone believes it was lost to the fault of the 71st. For regiments from the Provincial Establishment (Loyalists), I think the New York Volunteers deserve a look. Their service saw a number of victories in which they played key roles. Highland Forts, Savannah (they were cited by the commander), Rocky Mount, Hobkirk's Hill, Eutaw Springs, and a number of other engagements. They were considered an elite force recruited primarily from West Chester County early in the war.

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    • #3
      Seems to me you might be blurring the distinction between 'what place of origin provided the best troops' and which 'units were the most effective.'

      Clearly, the two best known Highland regiments, the 42nd RHR and 71st, or Fraser's Highlanders, both had a fiercesome reputation but it might be worth considering the proportion of Irish who served in many regiments of the British army.

      The grenadiers and 'light bobs' of the 'Flank battalions'- especially the 'Bloodhounds' of John Maitland's 2nd Light Infantry battalion during their short career, were Sir William Howe's crack troops. In New Jersey and Pennsylvania the flank battalions had a reputation for plunder and marauding that was not only equalled but bettered by some Hessian units. The Brunswicker jagers were highly professional light troops. Of the line, the 5th, the 23rd, 33rd and 40th come readily to mind but there were surely others.

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      • #4
        There were two British Guard battalions sent to America. These were raised by Drafts from the 1st Foot Guards, Coldstream Guards and the 3rd Foot Guards.

        I found two German states sent excellent units. Hesse-Kassel sent four Grenadier Battalions and two Jaeger Companies. Hesse-Hanau sent a Jaeger Battalion and a "Frei Corps" Battalion. There were other Jaeger units hired, but I don't think they went to America.

        Not all British Regular Battalions were up to snuff. I vaguely recall that the 44th Foot had a hard time in America.

        I would also offer the 60th Foot, The Royal Americans, who were raised in America.

        Pruitt
        Pruitt, you are truly an expert! Kelt06

        Have you been struck by the jawbone of an ASS lately?

        by Khepesh "This is the logic of Pruitt"

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Pruitt View Post
          I found two German states sent excellent units.
          Certainly the best light infantry.

          http://www.jaegerkorps.org/Hesse-Kassel.html

          I would also offer the 60th Foot, The Royal Americans, who were raised in America.
          We had an interesting thread about the 60th but I can't find anything about them serving in the American Revolution:

          http://www.armchairgeneral.com/forum...d.php?t=127547

          Were they stationed in Canada during that time perhaps?
          "Shoot for the epaulets, boys! Shoot for the epaulets!" - Daniel Morgan

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          • #6
            This is what I could find. In 1775, the 60th Foot was in the West Indies. In 1779 the 2nd, 3rd and 4th Battalions were brought to Georgia. They saw the following actions
            4th - Defense of Savannah, Mobile, Pensacola 1781
            3rd - Savannah, Baton Rouge, Pensacola 1781
            2nd - Savannah

            The article does not say where the 1st Battalion went. The three campaigns (Baton Rouge, Mobile, Pensacola) were taken by the Spanish in Louisiana with help from the Cuban Garrison. That might be why the history is hard to find.

            Pruitt
            Pruitt, you are truly an expert! Kelt06

            Have you been struck by the jawbone of an ASS lately?

            by Khepesh "This is the logic of Pruitt"

            Comment


            • #7
              http://www.armchairgeneral.com/forum...2&postcount=49

              http://www.armchairgeneral.com/forum...86&postcount=9

              http://www.armchairgeneral.com/forum...postcount=2673

              Paul
              Last edited by Dibble201Bty; 19 Dec 15, 22:36.
              ‘Tis said his form is tiny, yet
              All human ills he can subdue,
              Or with a bauble or medal
              Can win mans heart for you;
              And many a blessing know to stew
              To make a megloamaniac bright;
              Give honour to the dainty Corse,
              The Pixie is a little shite.

              Comment


              • #8
                I would nominate the 23rd Regiment, The Royal Welch Fusiliers ( "Welsh" is spelt "Welch" in the regimental title).
                There is an active re-enactment group in the USA who have adopted the title, I believe.
                "I dogmatise and am contradicted, and in this conflict of opinions and sentiments I find delight".
                Samuel Johnson.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Just to note that Britain used "mercenaries" in North America in other instances. In 1813 De Wattville's Regiment arrived in Canada. It had been formed in 1801 from a number of Swiss regiments in the British Service but by 1813 only about 20 % of its strength was Swiss the remainder being Germans, Italians, Dutch, Belgians, Greeks, French, Poles, Hungarians and Russians and a number of its officers were British. A real foreign legion in miniature. It had fought in Italy and the Peninsula and was to fight against the Americans. In 1815 the bulk of the regiment were encouraged by generous land grants to take their discharge in Canada and were settled along the Canadian/US border where they formed the basis of a hardened trained militia which on at least one occasion dealt with American incursions.
                  Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe (H G Wells)
                  Mit der Dummheit kaempfen Goetter selbst vergebens (Friedrich von Schiller)

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                  • #10
                    We did.
                    Indyref2 - still, "Yes."

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                    • #11
                      Just to make things clear about the 60th (Royal American) Regiment of Foot. I have dug this quote from Bob Marrion, out for all to peruse. (saves me typing out a diatribe).






                      Paul
                      ‘Tis said his form is tiny, yet
                      All human ills he can subdue,
                      Or with a bauble or medal
                      Can win mans heart for you;
                      And many a blessing know to stew
                      To make a megloamaniac bright;
                      Give honour to the dainty Corse,
                      The Pixie is a little shite.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by BELGRAVE View Post
                        I would nominate the 23rd Regiment, The Royal Welch Fusiliers ( "Welsh" is spelt "Welch" in the regimental title).
                        There is an active re-enactment group in the USA who have adopted the title, I believe.
                        Also a book by Mark Urban "Fusiliers" - not bad.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Dibble201Bty View Post
                          Just to make things clear about the 60th (Royal American) Regiment of Foot. I have dug this quote from Bob Marrion, out for all to peruse. (saves me typing out a diatribe).

                          )
                          I have 19th century sources that refer to them as the 60th Loyal American) - just one letter different!
                          Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe (H G Wells)
                          Mit der Dummheit kaempfen Goetter selbst vergebens (Friedrich von Schiller)

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Thanks, Paul.

                            So it seems the 60th Royal Americans had little role in the American Revolution. And since Robert Rogers and his Queen's Rangers had only a minor role, the German Jaegers probably were the best light infantry and skirmishing force fielded by the British during the American Revolution.
                            "Shoot for the epaulets, boys! Shoot for the epaulets!" - Daniel Morgan

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Jaegers all the way!

                              Originally posted by KRJ View Post
                              Thanks, Paul.

                              So it seems the 60th Royal Americans had little role in the American Revolution. And since Robert Rogers and his Queen's Rangers had only a minor role, the German Jaegers probably were the best light infantry and skirmishing force fielded by the British during the American Revolution.
                              I can't disagree with you on that above assertion. For those bad ass, highly skilled and thoroughly proficient Hessian Jaegers were some of the best, most versatile and deadliest soldiers in the World back then.

                              I've also read that they were often found in the vanguard of most advancing British formations, and could move through and skirmish in the woods better than just about any other soldiers in operation in North America (Robert's and the Queen's Rangers excepted. Yet as lethal, exceedingly mobile and highly accurate sharpshooters I would rank the Hessian Jaegers above the heavily Irish, Scottish and Scots-Irish Rangers. Though when fighting up close and personal with knives, musket butts and tomahawks I would give those light infantry Rangers the edge, pun intended, while the Rangers were more likely to go far deeper on reconnaissance missions. Both were equally mobile, aggressive, resilient, self reliant, tenacious and hard fighting, granted the Jaegers played a much larger and more prominent role during the Revolution).

                              And I believe that it was the British General Cornwallis who stated that ""One Jaeger is worth more than 10 rebels soldiers."" Or something to that effect.

                              Yes, the Jaegers were that good, that superbly individualistic, that capable and that professional, as 10,000 such men alone could have won that conflict for the British.

                              Also, I've made mention of the Hessian Jaegers several times in the ""best military units of all time"" thread, as they were the elite of the Hessians, who themselves were pretty elite. The elite of the elite.

                              So therefore it would be this major sin, and this great insult, not to designate the Jaeger units as some of the most elite and formidable troops on the planet back then, as those crack units were as fierce, wily, dedicated, cool under fire, mobile, adept at skirmishing and fierce as any, anywhere, fighting under any flag at anytime.

                              I would be deeply, deeply honored to fight along side that legendary and outstanding group of light infantrymen, men who inflicted much bloody damage upon their colonial counterparts, and the overall battle record of those tough, quick thinking, flexible, insanely persistent and ultra proficient Hessian Jaegers was extremely commendable, and unsurpassed (or ""unequaled,"" as has been written).

                              Basically, ranking the Hessian Jaegers as the finest, best trained and most coolly professional soldiers that fought on either side of that seminal conflict would be NO STRETCH. They might have been the best soldiers in the World--

                              (I would even venture to assert that those thoroughly mobile light infantry units, the Jaegers, were the rough, late 18th century equivalent of the ever ready, extremely dependable, unyielding, super professional, hard as coffin nails and utterly die hard German paratroops of 1940 till middle 1944, the famed and feared Fallschirmjager, who, back in early 1944, were deemed in many quarters as the best soldiers on the planet. Much like the fast moving Hessian Jaegers of the late 1700's they would rather bleed to death than yield, and made spectacular and brilliant use of their surrounding terrain. BAD ASS MOTHER****ERS!!)

                              That's just my take on this subject. Though to each his own.

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