Tuesday, 28 April 2015

2nd Partisan Corps

The 2nd Partisan Corps or Lee's Legion was a crack mixed cavalry and light infantry unit of the Continental army. It was commanded by Henry Lee, nicknamed Light Horse Harry for his abilities as a light cavalry leader.
The biggest problem with the unit are their uniforms. This term must be put into the plural form as the unit obviously changed its attire several times.
For example the infantry wore purple trousers and jackets when in the north (cf. Don Troiani's Soldiers of the American Revolution, p.158).
Don Troiani's version of Lee's infantry in the northern campaign
The dragoons were on several occasions mistaken for Simcoe's Queen's Rangers and Tarleton's British Legion who both wore green uniforms.
Lee's Legion cavalry officer by Don Troiani, wearing the green "coatee"
This does not necessarily mean that Lee's horsemen wore green jackets. However, Lee himself, in his Memoirs speaks of his dragoons wearing "green coatees [i.e. short jackets] and leather [buff] breeches".
A painting by Charles Willson Peale shows Henry Lee in 1782 in a buff coat with green facings, gold buttons and epaulette, and black sword belt.
Portrait by Charles Willson Peale, 1782
Seen from a distance, the green facings and the Tarleton helmets could well cause a misunderstanding.
Supply records suggest  that at least some of the unit were clothed in blue coats with red trim and white linen. A picture of an infantryman in "Uniforms of the American War of Independence" by Digby Smith and Kevin F. Kiley shows a short green jacket and buff gaiter trousers for 1780-81.
Smith and Kiley infantryman of 1780-81
Keeping all this in mind I decided to have my dragoons in buff faced green, and my infantry of the corps in green "coatees" with black facings and buff trousers. One of the officer figures by Perry is wearing a long coat with turn-backs. So he got the blue faced red outfit that an officer is reported to have had made for himself. He could well be the courageous lieutenant Manning.

Lieutenant Laurence Manning of the legion's light infantry.
Portrait by John Trumbull
(Yale University Art Gallery)
Dragoon by Don Troiani in the uniform I chose for my horsemen
Supposed guidon of Lee's dragoons
Still the whole unit kept some kind of uniformity. I paid tribute to this. Only the infantry officer is wearing a blue coat faced red.
Legion cavalry
Officer, trumpeter, ensign
And the infantry arm:
Legion light infantry
Officer in blue and red
Rank and file

1 comment:

Mike B said...

Really interesting unit - another must have unit for the collection! Thanks for the research.
Mike B