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Army and Empire

British Soldiers on the American Frontier, 1758-1775

Michael N. McConnell

Publication Year: 2005

The end of the Seven Years’ War found Britain’s professional army in America facing new and unfamiliar responsibilities. In addition to occupying the recently conquered French settlements in Canada, redcoats were ordered into the trans-Appalachian west, into the little-known and much disputed territories that lay between British, French, and Spanish America. There the soldiers found themselves serving as occupiers, police, and diplomats in a vast territory marked by extreme climatic variation—a world decidedly different from Britain or the settled American colonies.

Going beyond the war experience, Army and Empire examines the lives and experiences of British soldiers in the complex, evolving cultural frontiers of the West in British America. From the first appearance of the redcoats in the West until the outbreak of the American Revolution, Michael N. McConnell explores all aspects of peacetime service, including the soldiers’ diet and health, mental well-being, social life, transportation, clothing, and the built environments within which they lived and worked. McConnell looks at the army on the frontier for what it was: a collection of small communities of men, women, and children faced with the challenges of surviving on the far western edge of empire.

Published by: University of Nebraska Press

Series: Studies in War, Society, & the Military


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Title Page, Copyright

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pp. vii-viii


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pp. ix-x


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pp. xi-xiv

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pp. xv-xx

Few men had greater firsthand knowledge of Britain’s army in America than its mustering agents. James Pitcher, “Commissary of the Musters,” and his two assistants were responsible for verifying the number of soldiers in each regiment. Theirs was important work; the musters, held twice a year, provided an independent account of the army’s strength, serving as a...

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1. The British Occupation of the West

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pp. 1-31

The surrender of French forces at Montreal on September 8, 1760, brought the fighting in North America to an end. Nevertheless, for Sir Jeffery Amherst’s victorious armies there was still much to do: regiments had to be assigned winter quarters in Canada, provincial troops had to be sent home, and several thousand French and Canadian soldiers had to be disarmed...

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2. Frontier Fortresses

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pp. 32-52

Fort Pitt must have been an impressive sight in 1761. Covering over seventeen acres, the fort filled the point of land between the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers, and its massive size (some 66,000 cubic yards of earth were excavated to form its ramparts) emphatically underscored Britain’s claim to the Ohio Country. Yet nestled in the amphitheater-like lowlands...

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3. Military Society on the Frontier

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pp. 53-72

The infantry regiment was the basic unit of Britain’s army in America. Composed, on paper, of roughly 450 officers and men divided into nine, then ten, companies, regiments in the West were most often scattered among a number of garrisons, seldom serving together. To look at the army on the frontier strictly from this organizational perspective, however, would be to...

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4. The Material Lives of Frontier Soldiers

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pp. 73-81

On September 20, 1758, the part of Gen. John Forbes’s army encamped at Loyal Hannon—later Fort Ligonier—took part in a ritual common in eighteenth-century armies. Less than a week earlier, on September 14, a detached force of some eight hundred men led by Maj. James Grant of the 77th Highland Regiment had come to grief outside Fort Duquesne...

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The World of Work

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pp. 82-99

At the end of May 1762, Maj.William Walters of the Royal American Regiment sat down to prepare his monthly report on the garrison at Fort Niagara. Though the report was a matter of administrative routine, the major’s circumstances, and those of his troops, were anything but ordinary. Almost since the day in July 1760 he had arrived at the fort with four companies of...

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Diet and Foodways

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pp. 100-113

Veteran British officers fully appreciated the relationship between diet and the health and discipline of their soldiers. Indeed, “Nothing,” according to long-serving Bennett Cuthbertson, “contributes more to the health of Soldiers, then a regular and well chosen diet.” Moreover, “their being obliged every day to boil the pot; it corrects drunkenness, and in a great measure...

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7. Physical and Mental Health

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pp. 114-144

Early modern European armies were notoriously unhealthy. During the chronic warfare of the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, far more soldiers died of sickness than in battle.Taken together, disease and exposure could cripple an army faster and more completely than a pitched battle.1
Little had changed by the eighteenth century. Dr. John Pringle, senior medical officer for the British army during the War of the Austrian Succession...

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pp. 145-152

“As there is a ship to embark from here some time next week . . . therefore [I] take this opportunity of enclosing a few lines to you . . . of my safe arrival at Quebec.” Thus did eighteen-year-old Jeremy Lister, newly commissioned ensign in the 10th Foot, inform his father in July 1771 that he had reached America. Despite the matter-of-fact style, young Lister must have...


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pp. 153-188


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pp. 189-206


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pp. 207-211

Further Reading

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E-ISBN-13: 9780803204799
E-ISBN-10: 0803204795

Publication Year: 2005

Series Title: Studies in War, Society, & the Military
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OCLC Number: 57447378
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Army and Empire

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Subject Headings

  • Great Britain -- Colonies -- America -- Defenses.
  • Frontier and pioneer life -- United States.
  • Great Britain. -- Army -- History -- 18th century.
  • Great Britain. Army -- Military life.
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