John Graves Simcoe, famous to modern audiences as the "moustache-twirling" villain of AMC's Turn, is a particularly fascinating character of the American Revolution - thanks in part to the writings he left behind.  Simcoe entered the British Army in 1770 as an ensign in the 35th Regiment of Foot, and was later dispatched to the Siege of Boston in 1775.  It was here that he purchased a captaincy in the grenadier company of the 40th Regiment of Foot, where he saw action in the New York and New Jersey campaign and the Philadelphia Campaign.

Simcoe as an ensign in the 35th Regiment of Foot, painted in 1770 by William Pars.

Simcoe as an ensign in the 35th Regiment of Foot, painted in 1770 by William Pars.

He was wounded at the Battle of Brandywine (where he apparently ordered his men not to fire upon three fleeing rebels, one of which was George Washington).  In 1777, he was offered the command of the Queens Rangers, a well-trained light infantry unit that saw extensive action during the Philadelphia campaign and the Battle of Monmouth.

Queens Rangers Light Infantry and Hussar, as they appeared in the 1780s.

Queens Rangers Light Infantry and Hussar, as they appeared in the 1780s.

Simcoe, like Major Ferguson and LtCol Tarleton, was part of a new guard of young and ambitious military officers who sought an alternative means to rise through the British military establishment.  They came from middle/upper-middle class backgrounds, and were able to purchase the first and maybe second commissions as company grade officers.  But they realized that the traditional means to advance was slow, financially intensive and laced with nepotism.  So they sought provincial commands as a way to break out of the establishment, gain near-regimental command, be left to their own devices, and seek professional recognition in the process.

Guardsmen and other interested parties will find "Simcoe's Military Journal: A History of the Operations of a Partisan Corps Called the Queen's Rangers Commanded by Lieut. Col J. G. Simcoe during the War of the American Revolution", published in 1844, particularly enlightening.

Once you get past the complicated English prose common to the period and get used to the vernacular, it offers phenomenal insight into the mind, command philosophy and military tactics of a professional and progressive British officer.  Of note to the 4th Company, Simcoe worked hand in glove with the Guard’s Light Company during the winter of 1777-8 while outside of Philadelphia, and some reference to the Guards and their actions is given.  One example includes details of a particular action:

The General marched all night, and on approaching the enemy's outpost, he formed his column into three divisions; the advanced guard of the centre consisted of the Hessian Yagers, who marched with their cannon up the road that led through the wood, in which the enemy's light troops were posted; the light infantry of the guards advanced upon the right; and the Queen's Rangers on the left; the enemy were outflanked on each wing, and were turned in attempting to escape by the unparalleled swiftness of the light infantry of the guards, and driven across the fire of the Yagers, and the Queen's Rangers. (p. 31)

Ultimately, Simcoe would go on to become the first Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada from 1791 until 1796, and would be play an integral role in introducing institutions like courts of law, trial by jury, English common law, freehold land tenure, and the abolition of slavery.  A far cry from the murderous psychopath modern America now knows him as....but hey, we all need a good villain, right?

Additional Reading:

"Turn to a Historian", an excellent blog by Rachel Smith

Wikipedia, as always...

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