Tuesday, 28 April 2020

British Light Infantry

The light company of the 49th Regiment of Foot was part of the 2nd Light Battalion formed in North America by General Howe's order of 14th May 1776. The other companies came from eight other regiments. They kept the uniform of their parent regiments, so we find a number of different facing colours within the battalion: buff (40th and 52nd ), white (43rd), deep yellow (44th), deep green (45th and 63rd), full green (49th), dark green (55th),  and black (64th).
I decided to have the light company of the 49th because they had red feathers o their caps respectively hats. This was to commemorate their leading role in the Battle of Paoli on September 14th, 1777, when they slaughtered about 60 American troops and wounded and caught 200 in a 1 o'clock night attack on the American camp. It certainly was a bloody affair, though it can not be called a "massacre" as the Americans did. In the darkness the soldiers seem to have got out of control, many of the corpses showed up to nine cuts and stabs from bayonetts, and the British are said to have refused to give quarter. It was one of the many war crimes in the American Revolutionary War, which were untypical for the warfare of the 18th century.
I bought the British infantry set by Warlod Games, assrembled them, adding a few parts from my spare parts box. And then I painted them using the Royal Warrant as a guide line.
There I read: "those regiments which have buff waistcoats, are to have buff-coloured accoutrements. Those which have white waistcoats, are to have white."

My first attempt
Having finished the painting I realized that in the picture The Battle of Paoli by the Italian painter Xavier De la Gatta the troops are wearing black acoutrements. I exchanged views with my playmates, and painted my white belts black. I couldn't deny the fact that De la Gatta's painting The Battle of Paoli is regarded as depicting the affair quite accurately. This was possible through the eyewitness help provided by a British officer, Richard St. George, who took part in the battle.
And the painting showed quite clearly black shoulder belts.
Detail of the painting by Xavier De la Gatta (1782)
So I painted the accoutrements black.

Thinking that I had now finished my figures, I was confronted with an addendum of the Royal Warrant of 1768. It says:

"N.B. Since these regulations have been issued, a light company has been added to each corps of infantry, and, I am informed, have the following appointments:

Jackets; black leather caps, with 3 chains round them, and a piece of plate upon the centre of the crown; in the front, G.R. a crown, and the number of the regiment; small cartridge boxes, powder-horns, and bags for ball; short pieces, and hatchets
However, there are no hatchets on the sprues! (Nor are there any sabres for the grenadiers. Someone must have forgotten to read the Royal Warrant.)
First I couldn't think of any solution. But then, in the early morning hours, when my brain is most productive in solvings problems which bothered me the previous day, I got the information to have a look into the box of cut-away parts of my flats. And there they were: all kind of pole arms with blades and  axes that could be cut to hatchets. I glued them to my figures, painted them, and my light company was properly equipped. 
The troop consists of an officer, a sergeant, and twelve men. All are wearing hats with red feathers, and I used all kinds of arms to produce a variety of postures. So I had to add the missing wings with oil filler. I would have liked a different type of leg-wear, but the figures are clothed in white breeches, stockings and short spatter-dashes. That couldn't be helped. 

firing and loading figures

NCO commanding
Officer and hornblower

Then I thought I should add some dirt splashes and green stains on the knees from kneeling in the grass. They looked just too smart in their white netherwear.
slightly stained wite uniform

Sunday, 5 April 2020

Chasseurs Volontaires de Saint-Domingue

The 500 Chasseurs (ratio 1 : 20)
This was a really interesting regiment of the French Army. It was established by Royal Ordinance of March 12, 1779 and was to consist of free coloured men (gens de couleur) and freed slaves of the colony of Saint-Domingue . Although it was a regiment of coloured troops, the officers were Whites, with the exception of its commander, Laurent François Lenoir, Marquis de Rouvray. Second in command was a white officer, Major General François, Vicomte de Fontanges.
Header of the Royal Ordinance
The regiment of light infantry (chasseurs) was to consist of 800 men, organzied in 10 companies. The enlisted men per company comprised 88 fusiliers, two drummers, eight corporals, four sergeants, and one "fourrier". The regimental officers were a colonel, a lieutenant colonel, a battalion commandant, a major, and an aide-major. But this was their paper-strength. Their actual stregth at Savannah was some 500 men, due to a high proportion of deserters.
Picture of a Chasseur volontaire de Saint-Domingue
(Men-at-Arms Series 244, Plate B3)
The description of their uniform  and equipment in the Ordommance reads as follows:
The uniform shall consist of a coat of blue cloth, lined with light grey linen (bleached a quarter white), stand-up yellow collar, and green cuffs and lapels. The cuff is adorned with three white buttons at the end, the front with six large buttons, one at the top, two in the middle, and three below the waist. The pocket has no buttons and is cut horizontally. There are buttons on the shoulders of the coat with small epaulettes, which shall be of the same colour as the facings. Waistcoat and breeches are of white cloth.
The uniform of the drummers shall be new and in the pattern of the King’s Small Livery.
The hat is simple, adorned with a white and yellow plume.
 Clothing and equipment will be furnished at the expense of the King for those who cannot themselves provide them , and those who present themselves clothed and equipped, will be taken into consideration, as well.
Arms will be furnished from the magazines of the King for the completion of the companies."
Loading Chasseurs
Of course, there are no figures for this unit. So a lot of adapting was necessary. I decided to use sets of plastic figures by Warlord Games in order to achieve a broad variety of postures which I thought necessary for a unit of light infantry. Unfortunately there are no kneeling or bending figures among them, and I saw no possibility of transforming figures from the sets. I bought a set of Hessian Infantry because they wear long gaiters like French soldiers, and a set of British infantry, because their heads for line infantry are similar to French headgear.
I widely neglected the recommendations for assembly and made up my own figures from the parts of both units.
Major General François, Vicomte de Fontanges
Furthermore a bit of tinkering was necessary. I used my Dremel drill to scratch off the tin flasks of the Hessians. I their place I drilled a hollow. I then used some 2.3 mm beads and tiny brass nails to produce something looking like gourd flasks, which the French army used, and glued them in place. The epauletts of French chasseurs were then sculpted with oil filler.
Chasseur on the workbench
Another problem were the plumes which are mentioned in the ordinance and which are not provided with the plastic sets. I had to soften parts of the plastic over a candle, and then to shape the plumes with my set of small tongs. That demanded a high proportion of concentration because the plastic easily catches fire before becoming soft enough for being brought into the right shape.
The seargent
Finally a had a unit of 29 separately based Chasseurs, including an ensign with an imaginary flag (which they probably didn't have at all).
The imaginary ensign (just for the table, and completely unhiistoric)
The drummers

The Chasseurs were part of the French command under Admiral Charles Henri Hector, Comte d'Estaing. The unit was to support the Continental Army in Savannah. There the chasseurs acted as scouts before the beginning of the hostilities on September 8, 1779. They were considered one of the most homogeneous and efficient allied group, fighting with obstinacy and boldness.Their losses were heavy. At Savannah twenty-five men were reported wounded or killed.

Laurent François Lenoir, Marquis de Rouvray
After the campaign the  majority of the regiment served in Saint-Domingue as garrison troops. Some soldiers accompanied d'Estaing and Rouvray to Versailles, and did not return to Saint-Domingue until 1780, and 148 men were sent to garrison Grenada and 100 stayed there until 1782.
Firing line
One company of 62 men accompanied the casualties from Savannah to Charleston and then participated in the defense of the city in 1780. When Benjamin Lincoln surrendered Charleston to General Clinton more than 60 Chasseurs volontaires were taken prisoner. Despite being free men, they were judged to be prizes of war and were sold into slavery.
This act was little better than the practice of the North African Barbary pirates and slave hunters, who had been  fought by the Royal Navy since the 17th century, another example of British hypocracy. By the way, the word "Barbary" derives from Greek "Bárbaroi", meaning "barbaric".