Thursday, 12 December 2013

1st Pennsylvania Regiment


There has been some confusion over the numbering of the first and second Pennsylvania regiments. The 1st Pennsylvania Regiment, raised as the second troop from Pennsylvania, is also known as the Pennsylvania Rifle Regiment, Thomson's Rifle Battalion, or 1st Continental Regiment. As two of their names tell us, they were armed with rifles. And with these they played a decisive part in breaking the morale of the Hessian regiments at Trenton, probably also killing Colonel Rall.
The colours of this troop are preserved until today - at least in some shreds. So we know what the figures in the central field looked like, and what the inscription was. The contemporary description, however, is not what you would call precise:

"Our Standard is to be a deep green ground, the Device a Tyger partly enclosed by toils attempting the pass defended by a hunter armed with a spear in white, on crimson field the motto 'Domari nolo'”.
At least we know from it that the bunting was green, and the central field crimson. The flag was made of silk. The inscription above the figures reads "P.M.I.st Rt." (= Pennsylvania Militia, 1st Regiment). The Latin motto "DOMARI NOLO" on a banner below the central group means "I refuse to be dominated".
Part of the central field of the original flag

One of the surviving shreds shows the central group, the hunter with his spear and the tiger trying to escape from the net in which it is caught. It is much more detailed than most reconstructions show, being painted onto the silk.
Reconstruction of the regimental colours

Doctor James Thacher from Barnstable who knew the troop from many encounters, provides the following description of the soldiers:
 
"They are remarkably stout and hardy men; many of them exceeding six feet in height. They are dressed in white frocks or rifle shirts and round hats. There men are remarkable for the accuracy of their aim; striking a mark with great certainty at two hundred yards distance. At a review, a company of them, while in a quick advance, fired their balls into objects of seven inches diameter at the distance of 250 yards [...] their shot have frequently proved fatal to British officers and soldiers who expose themselves to view at more than double the distance of common musket shot."
(James Thacher, "Military Journal during the American Revolutionary War from 1775 to 1783".)


As figures I chose the Perry riflemen. One of them wears a coat. Following the deserter description of 24th July 1776, I painted it as "an old coat of winestone color". The others wear white hunting shirts. Officer, drummer and ensign were borrowed from Redoubt's Line Infantry in hunting shirts. The officer was given a J├Ąger rifle, of course, instead of his pole weapon. Not a bad change, I think.

The regiment
Ensign and officer (Redoubt)
In case my regiment is regarded too small by my fellow players, I can easily fill it up with men of the Hanover Associators which I painted accordingly.




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