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'A gaping silken dragon,/Puffed by the wind, suffices us for God./We, not the City, are the Empire's soul:/A rotten tree lives only in its rind.'

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Far flung battle line...

I was off to Londinium today, and will be tomorrow, but I was greatly comforted by Simcoe's Military Journal: a History of the Operations of a Partisan Corps, called The Queen's Rangers, Commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel J.G. Simcoe, During the War of the American Revolution, which seemed an apposite read a day after the 4th July. As dedicated readers of this blog may remember, I bought this journal in March but was then distracted by the Duke of Tradgardland's reading suggestions re the Austro-Hungarian Empire in the Great War. But I was very glad I took Simcoe with me today, and was able to escape into the late 18th Century as all around me peered at i-pads, kindles, i-phones, blackberries and all the other anti-human trash of our present age. Simcoe's journal is both a fascinating account of light infantry actions and a profoundly human memoir. I was interested to read how closely the Queen's Rangers, and other Loyalist corps - such as the British Legion - worked with the 'Yagers' (sic), a formidable co-operation between skilled woodsmen from Europe and Loyal Americans:

Queen's Rangers, horse and foot, and Jaegers are well represented in my own forces, and a small part are shown here...

... along with 17th Dragoons, who also worked with these men.

Of Simcoe's humanity, let me quote from an account of a bloody night attack that included unintended deaths:

'The surprise was complete, and would have been so, had the whole of the enemy's force been present, but, fortunately for them, they had quitted it [Hancock's house] the evening before, leaving a detachment of twenty or thirty men, all of whom were killed. Some very unfortunate circumstances happened here. Among the killed was a friend of Government, then a prisoner with the rebels, old Hancock, the owner of the house, and his brother: Major Simcoe had made particular enquiry, and was informed that he did not live at home, since the rebels had occupied the bridge. The information was partly true; he was not there in the daytime, but unfortunately returned home at night: events like these are the real miseries of war.'

Of these Loyal Americans little is known now in Britain. Of course, English-speaking Canada is, in large part, their memorial, but, it is sad that in Britain there is no memorial to them. I have seen a plaque on a house in Beverley, Yorkshire, that mentions a Loyalist officer refugee, and I think that Simcoe is remembered in one of our Cathedrals, but there is no national memorial. But they are not alone in that...

'Some few of the Rangers were wounded, among whom, Sergeant M'Pherson of the grenadiers died; in every respect he was much to be lamented.' 

Perhaps the Scottish Government might like to remember some of these men. And a small memorial might be an idea in Dublin too. 


  1. Figures look great and I like the cloth scenery idea too. Some good points indeed re Loyal Americans .
    I too find it hard to be surrouned by kindles and people watching films etc on portable equipment esp on the train in the morning at around 6.50 a.m. It seems all wrong to me. 24/7 communication too has blighted our society I fear!
    Glad the book is proving to your taste.I have been slowly over years been building up my awi component of my library too .It is a fascinating period.I am particularly interested in the campaign leading to Saratoga.I guess it is the combination of German troops,native americans,loyalists etc that I find so interesting...

    1. I'm rather a fan of the uses of corduroy. As well as fields etc, I've used them on the rooves of buildings as tiles (suitably painted). I have a pretty endless supply of the stuff, as I bought a roll of it from a local fabric shop a couple of years ago.
      Saratoga, mmmm, just what did happen to the captured British troops? Not paroled, but 'disappeared'.

  2. Thanks for mentioning this book. I feel some what abashed that I have just downloaded a pdf version to read electronically but better than not reading it at all. My own Loyalist troops are for the upstate New York frontier, Butler and Brant etc so no cavalry, more's the pity. I enjoyed the pictures of your lads.

    The memory of the Loyalists is indeed strong in southern Ontario and in the Maritime provinces where many settled. Having grown up in less loyal Montreal, I never paid much attention to the AR until I went to school amongst the fading ramparts of Ft St Jean which was besieged by Montgomery in 1775 and held him up long enough for Quebec to organize a defence. A nearly forgotten campaign with several good small wargame sized engagements.


    1. Hello Ross. You are, of course, the wargame master of the North American conflicts - and much appreciated for that! As for cavalry, I wonder. As you will see when you read Simcoe's journal (albeit in an odd form!), it appears that it was normal for Loyalist infantry in the Corps to be temporarily mounted in the fashion that would later be known as 'mounted infantry'. So, there may well be scope for mounted men in green on your table. The rebel attempt on Canada in 1775 is absolutely fascinating - a heroic march by the rebels (led by none other than Benedict Arnold himself!), and the active, spirited defence of Quebec by English and French speakers alike - it gladdens my heart still!