Army and Empire
British Soldiers on the American Frontier, 1758-1775
Publication Year: 2005
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
Title Page, Copyright
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...
1. The British Occupation of the West
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...
2. Frontier Fortresses
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...
3. Military Society on the Frontier
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...
4. The Material Lives of Frontier Soldiers
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...
The World of Work
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...
Diet and Foodways
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...
7. Physical and Mental Health
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...
“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...