Saturday, 9 February 2013

Grenadier-Regiment Rall 1776

Well, here are my first Hessians, the Landgrenadier-Regiment Rall of Hessen-Cassel, one of the regiments that perished at Trenton on December 26th, 1776.

Grenadier-Regiment Rall 1776

The first problem I had to cope with, were the figures.
Perry have very nice figures for the regiment. But they all don't wear breeches and gaiters but American "overalls". So they would better fit the regiment in later years. At Trenton their original outfit would not have worn out, I presume. So I decided that my unit should be in the process of transformation. In this way I could use SYW Prussian grenadiers by Front Rank and Foundry Miniatures beside the Perry types, and give Rall's grenadiers some variation.

Officer and Grenadiers by Perry (after shaving)
Officer by Front Rank and (shaved) grenadiers by Foundry
(NCO in the 2nd row by Foundry as well)
All these grenadier types have moustaches, though. And the soldiers of this regiment were clean-shaven. But as the Perry soldiers have them as well, it didn't matter. I had to shave them all. So my first job was scratching and cutting. Minor flaws of the figures I ignored, e.g. that their cartidge boxes are too small for Hessian troops.
I especially liked the caricature-like look of the Foundry grenadiers. Don't they look very much like the sturdy farmer's lads the early Regiment was composed of?
Front Rank officer and Foundry Grenadiers
The main difference of the various figures I used, is height, and the size of the mitre caps. However, as the soldiers of this regiment were not "standard" tall grenadiers but ordinary people (originally the regiment had been some kind of militia, hence the name "Landgrenadier"), I didn't bother too much. People in reality are different, aren't they? And, the uniforms painted and the figures based according to their different looks, the different sizes of their caps don't matter too much. At least that is what I think. The general impression seems right.
There are lots of information about the uniform to be found in books and on the web. Not all are correct though.
Illustration of the uniform of officer and private in 1783
(White Breeches, black neckstock, and different grenadier cap at that time - but still clean-shaven!)
Buff small clothes, middle blue coats without lapels, red facings, brass buttons, white respectively golden lace etc. etc. - not really a problem. Not even the caps with their brass front plate and the blue "bag" and red rim laced white, or gold with the NCOs. Or the white and red pompons of the latter. Or whitened leather belts, but red musket slings. It is all a question of digging into the sources.

Mitre caps: (a) (b) of NCO, (c) (d) of private soldier
The colours however were worth some research. All five colours were lost at Trenton, the Leibfahne and the four Kompaniefahnen. The regiment, consisting of the few soldiers that got away, others that were released, and more who came from Hessen-Cassel as reinforcements, was in disgrace and did not get new colours till after the war. And these colours were completely different! The Leibfahne was white, the Kompaniefahnen light blue with red corner blazes. Some have painted their flags this way.

Leibfahne with green corner blazes (added by me)
Kompaniefahne (Illustration of colours by Hill)
Kompaniefahne in 1783 (after the return to Hesse-Cassel)

However, the colours lost at Trenton can be seen in Charles Willson Peale's painting "Washington at Princeton", lying at the general's feet.
George Washington at Princeton by Charles Willson Peale (1783)
Peale was an eye-witness, and must have known what he saw. At least the green company colours with white corner blazes can be identfied, beside the colours of Füsilier-Regiment von Knyphausen.
Hessian colours after the battle of Trenton
The Leibfahne seems to have been white with green (?) corner blazes, judging from remnants of real ensigns.  I painted my colours according to an essay on Hessian flags by Steven W. Hill. (
I literally painted them (and didn't use my printer), using an "impressionistic" style, which I think to be more appropriate for regiments on the table, whose colours are "flying" anyhow (cf. 1st picture).

For my Brigadier Johann Rall I chose a Prussian officer by Front Rank, which might be thought to be rather portrait-like.
According to the principle to put all blame on the dead, Rall was solely held responsible for the desaster at Trenton, where three crack Hessian regiments were taken prisoner by the rebels. He was a dare-devil commander of the old school, had given proof of his abilities as a leader before, e.g. at Chatterton Hill and at Fort Washington. He was liked by his soldiers who followed his command to attack twice. But perhaps he was too much of a foolhardy commander to take into account the possibility of retreat instead of attack in the face of the despised rebels. And he lost valuable time in the attempt to regain the cannons of his regiment in King Street. Not to leave the cannons to the enemy was a question of honour! He is reported to have said on his death bed that he was happy not to have survived his fame.
Here he is.
Colonel Johann Rall (figure by Front Rank)

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