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The Journal of Lieutenant Colonel John Graves Simcoe

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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235th Battle of Guilford Court House

Journal Title.jpg

Last weekend, the Company began our spring campaign with the annual engagement of rebel forces in the vicinity of the Guilford Court House in the Province of North Carolina.  Having set up camp the night prior, the Guards marched several miles on empty stomachs to form up with the body of Crown Forces, which by then included the 71st Regiment of Foot (Fraser's Highlanders) and the 23rd Regiment of Foot (Royal Welsh Fusiliers), among others.  Unfortunately, the Captain and his lovely wife were detained in the northern colonies, but Serjeant Theis ensured we were in proper battle order prior to the day's engagement.

 Crown Forces arrive and prepare to form the first line.

Crown Forces arrive and prepare to form the first line.

 Brigadier General Charles O'Hara of the Coldstream Guards assumes command of the advance.

Brigadier General Charles O'Hara of the Coldstream Guards assumes command of the advance.

Maneuvering through dense brush and wooded terrain, Crown Forces engaged the enemy's first line - then comprised of local North Carolinian militia. Without suffering heavy casualties, and after a brief artillery barrages, the company continued its advance - pushing the militia out of the woods and fixing bayonets to drive up into the second line of Continentals.  It was here where we suffered significant casualties as Lt. Colonel William Washington's light dragoons and the First Maryland Regiment eventually repulsed the Company's progress.

 The Brigade of Guards holds the left flank as Crown Forces advance in open order through wooded terrain to engage the North Carolina militia.

The Brigade of Guards holds the left flank as Crown Forces advance in open order through wooded terrain to engage the North Carolina militia.

We managed to withdraw under fire successfully without excessive casualties, and engaged the enemy once more on Sunday.  By then the weather had turned sour, and by the end of the day many of our own wounded were left to suffer as the storm rolled in.  In the end, and while we did suffer heavy casualties, the British Army and its allies held the field.

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Our Brethren to the North

As in years past, our sister unit - the First Regiment of Foot Guards based out of the Boston area - will be participating in several events throughout the New England region.  While many of us in the 4th Coy hope to join in, please take advantage of these great opportunities to see the Foot Guards in action this year.

26-27 March - Endicott Park - Danvers, MA

16-17 April - Battle Road - Lexington, MA

9-10 July - Battle of Hubbardton - Hubbardton, VT

6-7 August - Old Sturbridge Village - Sturbridge, MA

1-2 October - Fort #4 - Charlestown, NH

22-23 October - Red Horse Tavern, Wayside Inn - Sudbury, MA

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