Friday, February 29, 2008

IR No. 80 – Gage’s Light Armed Foot

1758 Gage, 1762 Wilmot

Unit History
The regiment was raised in the spring of 1758 by Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Gage of the 44th Foot specifically to act as light infantry in North America. The reasons light troops were raised stem from the disaster that overtook Braddock's column on the Mongnahela River in 1755 combined with the bitter truth that the British were unable to depend on their German allies for light troops having found most Provincial units hapless. They needed specialized units capable of meeting their irregular opponents on equal ground and tactics were needed to assist the line troops in dealing with irregulars. Lord Loudoun, as British commander-in-chief in America set about this task with a vengeance. Scouting companies were formed from the better Provincials to provide long distance intelligence gathering. Promising line officers and enlisted men volunteered to go out on these scouts "to learn the ropes”. They were then to return to their battalions and pass on what had been learned.
The 80th Light Armed Foot, the first Light Infantry Regiment in the British Army, was raised in addition to the above mentioned scouting companies. Nearly 500 men strong and organized into five companies, it served in the failed attempt on Ticonderoga. The regiment is best known for fighting at Bernetz Brook on July 6, 1758, two days before the Battle of Ticonderoga. It was at Bernetz Brook that the British Army suffered a great loss with the death of Lord Howe. His death disheartened the British troops just prior to Ticonderoga. The unit continued to campaign in the area of the Champlain Valley in 1758, participating in General Amherst's occupation of Ticonderoga and Crown Point in 1759 and advancing to Montreal in 1760. Some of its personnel served at Detroit with distinction during Pontiac's "rebellion." The men wore short brown coats with brown facings, no lace, and black buttons. By 1760 however, the men began to receive red coats with orange-brown facings, which changed to yellow the following year, but were back to orange brown again by 1763.
The unit was disbanded in 1764.

The unit came about because I received a strange assortment of American Front Rank figures from the AWI from Robert Swan over Christmas 2005. Scraping a dozen together to make a light unit was an easy choice but finding a unit which fit all the figures was a challenge and lead to this exotic unit. The uniform is modeled on the unit in late 1760 and in transition from the brown uniform to the red coat with orange brown facings. The mixed nature of the uniform also places the unit in the distinct Light Troop bucket of the troops gracing my gaming table.

J. Mitchell, British and American Troops in North America during the SYW, Seven Years War Association Journal Vol. XIII No.3
M. Nichipor, William Howe's Light Infantry Discipline "Loose File and Open Order" , 18th Century Military Notes & Queries No. 10.

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