18th Century Living History

Posts Tagged ‘68th Society’

“Ye lowsy red-coat rake hells, ye locusts of the nation, you are dogs that would enslave us, plunder our shops and ravish our daughters, ye scoundrels” – 18th Century Billeting

In 18th century, 68th Foot, DLI, Durham Light Infantry, Research, Seven Years War on June 30, 2012 at 12:15 pm

The statement above was probably a common one when considering the nature of the billeting systems of the British Army through to the 1850’s and Cardwell’s Reforms. Although the Mutiny act of 1689 had technically banned the practice of billeting soldiers on only private civilians without prior permission, with number of purpose built barracks largely none existent in England, with forts and other military installation generally only built in Scotland or Ireland. British Soldiers being stationed in the homes and public houses of parts of population remained common practice (Horn;1776). This is especially true of emergencies for instance the town people of Manchester in 1746 during the Jacobite uprising complained and filed a petition against the “One regiment of foot and one regiment a dragoons numbering 900 men, 250 women and children” (Horn;1776, McNeil:1990).

A very friendly British Grenadier – From Moriers paintings of a Grenadier from each regiment, currently held by the Royal Collection.

 The reasons behind the practice of billeting on the local populace were three fold; firstly the bureaucracy of the modern nation state army was in its infancy and had not yet developed the resources to cope with a barracks building programme of any scale. Similarly at least in England the idea of the monarchs standing army was seen as signs of tyrannical and autocratic rule dating back to Cromwell and James II, barrack’s were the embodiment of this threat upon English men’s hard won civil liberties. (Western: 1965, Manning: 2006). Finally the army itself main role was to maintain and restore public order, suppress riots and crush civilian insurrection. In having the army dispersed around the country the government had potentially a company of men at hand not only as a deterrent but also a reactionary force in every local area (Thompson: 1968, Brewer: 1989).


Hogarth ‘March of the Guard to Finchley’

Hogarth’s infamous painting of the British Foot Guard’s march to suppress the Jacobite rebellion perhaps sums up the unwelcome affects of soldiers coming into contact with the civilian populace. These men trained for violence, seemed to be prone to fall into general unruliness.  Similarly those who followed a company or regiment of foot could reap as much havoc on a local population as the soldiers themselves, for example General Wolfe while a colonel complained that he had received “complaints from the people in the neighbourhood of this castle against some women of loose disorderly conduct, supposed to belong to the: garrison; which however is not true.- The colonel, is likewise informed that the soldiers have in an open, indecent, and scandalous manner frequented these same women” (1753).

Similarly the army gave little consideration to the economic affect of housing and feeding its men would have on the local populace. As one colonel stated “we have ruined half the public house upon the march, because they have quartered us in the villages too poor to feed us without destruction to themselves”. Inn-keepers being bound to provide food and lodgings to the cost of 4d per private soldier and 1 shilling per officer below rank of captain, it is clear the sheer magnitude of cost a battalion of foot numbering several hundred could reap on the local civilian population (Brewer: 1989).

Private Walsh tries his luck the with the local population.

It can be assumed that generally civilians disliked soldiers, to the reluctant householder who had to billet their unwelcome military guests, the regulars must have seemed little more than armed policemen living at next to nothing at the expense of honest townsfolk, anti-social and dangerous parasites (Childs: 1982).


And we must go a marching to the beating of the drum!

In General News on May 7, 2012 at 3:01 pm

It’s been a little while since we posted anything on the blog largely because we have been off eventing all over the U.K from Yorkshire in March, Befordshire in April and most recently Cumbria this weekend.

A recruiting party at the Cockermouth Georgian Fayre.


You can see pictures from these events by clicking the links below and browsing on our facebook page.

Coming out of Winter Quarters – Ryedale Folk Museum

Wrest Park – English Heritage St.Georges Day Festival

Cockermouth Recruiting Party – Cockermouth Georgian Fayre

We will be returning to Ryedale Folk Museum this weekend to keep the Kings Peace which has been disturbed by the local population who care not for the Militia Acts.

The Militia Acts having been enacted in 1757 as a way to bolster the home defence of the U.K and potentially free up regular units for campaign. Men in England were balloted to join the embodied militia; however those rich enough could buy their way out of the ballot. This can be seen as arguably a system of conscription by another name.

The act was universally unpopular, especially in the North of England. In 1758 at York Azzises four men were arrested for obstructing the ballot. They were eventually hung for treason. In 1761 at Hexham the North York Militia was ordered in to the town square at Hexham to support the Civil peace. Around 5000 individuals had gathered to protest against the Milita Ballot. Following building tensions the riot act was read, the crowd advanced on charged bayonets with clubs and staves. In the confusion two Militiamen were shot by their own weapons. The magistrates ordered a general fire, by the time the fire ended the 45 men were dead and over 300 were wounded.

The actual 68th was ordered to Durham to help keep the peace in 1761 although with less bloody consequences than what has become known as the Hexham Riots!

“For the Soldiers to hut” – The British Soldier Shelter during winter in the Seven Years War.

In Research on February 13, 2012 at 2:41 pm

Although it was general military practice for regiments to enter ‘winter quarters’ during the colder months of a year, generally between October and March. Sometimes regiments would be required to remain in the field during these periods. As such the men would be forced to continue to use tents. Although the standard British Army tent of the period no doubt did the job of keeping some of the elements off the private men we know from the works of Captain Bennett Cuthbertson that if a regiment was to remain in the field it would often be given the order “For the soldiers to hut”.

Cuthbertson was a Captain in the 5th Regiment of Foot and his military treatise was perhaps written to replace the some what dated manual written by Humphrey Bland. Bland’s treatise which had been originally published in 1727 but was still certainly in use having been through several editions. Certainly officer in the Continental Army during the Revolution were encouraged to ‘study Bland and other treatise’. Although it is worth worth noting that Cuthbertson treatise was published in 1768 and therefore after the end of the Seven Years War, the 5th had indeed fought throughout the war and were indeed at the ‘Raid of Cherbourg’ in 1758, Warburg in 1760, Kirch Denkern in 1761 and Battle of Wilhelmsthal in 1762. For the most part we do not know how for certain how much of Cuthbertsons work relates to current practice in the 5th or indeed if it was practiced across the army. Certainly his recommendations frequently appear in Order Books verbatim, the number of editions and the above fact would imply his recommendations were widely read and available.  

Improvised shelters have a long history in European armies as shown in this 15th/16th century example.

It can be argued with some confidence that Cuthbertons section on hutting is reliable; certainly there is historical provenance of hut building in European armies from the 15th/16th century as shown in the image above. Similarly Cuthbertson states “The hurdled Huts were in general use in the allied Army in Germany last war”. This coupled with the 5th war service would suggest he indeed was speaking from previous experience.

So what exactly are huts? Cuthbertson gives us a clear description of what exactly Huts are and how they are to be constructed.

“in most case, the most expeditious and ready method, is, to provide square hurdles, large enough to cover a Tent, when resting slope ways against the upper edge of each other; they must be a foot on every side longer than the Tent, to leave sufficient Room for stricking: a piece of wicker-work is next to be fitted to the front, by way of a door, to move at pleasure: these hurdles and wickers being properly made and fixed, a thick coat of thatch (ether straw, sedge or rushes) is to be laid on them, we secured and bound”.

Hurdles like those used today for fencing have been used for centuries and it stands to reason that this is what Cuthbertson may have been talking about.

The description provided by Cuthbertsons paints a vivid picture of ‘huts’ and in apparently “nothing can be warmer than one of these habitations”. We can assume that the hurdles that he refers to bear some resemblance to hurdles used over the centuries as simple fencing and pictured above. Certainly soldiers who had come from a labouring background, as so many did in the mid 18th century before the industrial revolution had taken full grip of the country, would have some experience of constructing these. With regards to thatching, again we can assume that the soldiers would have some experience of this and example of thatching of shelter by W.H Pyne and although not military in nature provides us a good basis for what this may have looked like.

A possible example of a basic thatched structure.

Hutting could be adapted to other circumstances and Cuthbertson also describes how the system could be used to create an enclosed Kitchen area, where the soldiers could “enjoy themselves with great comfort and satisfaction, until they chuse, or it is proper, to retire to their huts.

“young trees should be collected, about the size and length of hop-poles, and placed in a circular form round the out-side of the Kitchens, sloping upwards to a point, exactly in the same position, the poles are fixed, after the hop gathering is finished, leaving a sufficient opening on one side, for the men to enter, and weaving small boughs or rushes through the poles”

The image below from a German Manual called “What it is necessary for each officer to know during a campaign.” This lean-to side design is shown being used to shelter a small fire.

Using both Cuthbertsons vivid descriptions and images like those above for inspiration it should be possible with some degree of accuracy to recreate a style of Hut as used by the British Army during winter months inGermanyduring the Seven Years War.

Selected References:

 Cuthbertson, B. (1968) Cuthbertson’s System, For the Complete Interior Management and Oeconomy of a Battalion of Infantry. Boulter Grierson.

 Unknown. (1738) Was ist jedem Officier waehrend eines Feldzugs zu wissen noethig (trans., “What it is necessary for each officer to know during a campaign”) Mit zehen Kupferplatten (trans. “with ten copper plates”), Carlsruhe.

 Najecki, R. (2011) Reproduction Home Page, [Online], Available: http://najecki.com/repro/reproindex.html [13th February 2012].

 Rees, J. (2004) “Soldiers are ingenious animals.” American Civil War Campaign Shelters” [Online], Available: http://www.libertyrifles.org/research/campaignshelters.html [13th February 2012]

 Pyne, W.H. (1806) Microcosm or, A Delineation of the Arts, Agriculture, and Manufactures of Great Britain in a Series of above a Thousand Groups of Small Figures for the Embellishment of Landscape. London

Lambton’s in Afaktor

In General News on December 14, 2011 at 2:07 pm

Fresh off the press, we have had a small piece published about us by those nice chaps at the German living history magazine Afaktor. Decembers issue focuses on the U.K and has features about Denis Severs House, the 13th Foot and the Diehards among many others. It certainly looks well worth purchasing a copy for those who speak German!

If you want to have a look at what the article looked like then why not have a look at our facebook page by clicking here. Or even better why not like our facebook page while you are looking!

Charge Bayonets!

In Research on October 18, 2011 at 10:05 pm

Way back in February we wrote a series of posts about the drill carried out by the 18th century army. One post we never published related to the position of ‘charge bayonets’. As with much of the British armies drill during the seven years war, the position of charge bayonets probably changed.

A painting by David Morier depicting the Highlander charge against Grenadiers of Barrell's Regiment at Culloden in 1746. Morier reputedly used Barrell's (as well as captured highlanders) as models for this painting. It also depicts the charge bayonet position.

Our main sources for drill are the 1757 platoon exercise ordered by the Duke of Cumberland and the famous drill treatise of the period by Humphrey Bland. Each describes the charge bayonets position in similar fashion described and shown below.

A sketch by Lt. Baillie of a Grenadier showing the charge bayonets position as described by Bland and Cumberland around 1753.

“23d, Charge your bayonet. 1. Step forward about eighteen inches with the left foot, bending the left knee, and at the same time seizing the butt with the right hand, (placing the plate full in the palm of that hand) bring down the muzzle so as the firelock may rest upon the left arm, almost level, and as hight as your breast, the left elbow turned out towards the front, the fingers and thumb towards the lock.” (Cumberland: 1757: 11).

The position remains essentially unchanged from the position shown in Morier’s painting 11 years previous. In this instance the charge bayonets is essentially a defensive position and proves difficult to carry out offensive bayonet charges. This was something noted by William Wyndham in his ‘Plan for the Discipline for the Militia of Nofolk’ in 1760. The method of charging bayonets which he described as ‘pressing the piece against the top of your hip’ (14). And pictured in the manual as such:

The Charge Bayonets as described in William Wyndhams Treatise.

Wyndham explains that the above position makes a “a man is firm against shock, and in guard; having the command of his body, feet, and firelocks, to use as he shall see occasion, or opportunity, to defend himself, or annoy his enemy, or advance upon him, if he should give way” (1760:15). This as Wyndham indicates is the same method as used by Britain’s ally the Prussians, although he was fairly confident he had come upon this method by his own accord stating “Our manner of charging bayonets seems to be the same with which the Prussian use in action: so far as we can judge, from the obscure and unintelligible description, given of it in the regulations for the Prussian Infantry, printed in 1757 pag. 35” (1760:15).

In 1764 a new manual was issued replacing the 1757 manual. With this new manual came a new method of charging bayonets for the army which would be similar to that described by William Wyndham.

“#32- Charge Bayonets! (3 Motions)
1st. As in Explanation one.
2nd. Bring the Swell of the Firelock down strong upon the Palm of the Hand, turning upon both Heels to the Right, the right Hand grasping the Piece at the Small behind the Lock, and as high as the Waist-Belt; The Firelock upon a level with the Barrel upwards.”

In many cases official manuals of the Army simply standardised drill and practice all ready occurring in the regiments, certainly Wyndham had seen two regular units drill during the process of writing his treatise and several Prussian military practices had already been adopted during the course of the war. If the 1764 was simply standardising practice already happening, to what extent had this method been adopted by British regiments and at what date?

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In General News on October 10, 2011 at 8:57 am

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Quebec 1759 Photo Gallery

In Events on September 27, 2011 at 12:43 pm

A new photo gallery from our event at Westerham a couple of weekends ago. Westerham is home to Quebec House, a National Trust property and the child hood home of General James Wolfe.

Check out our gallery from Westerham

You can view the gallery by clicking here. Happy viewing!

We’ll soon have the town, down about their ears!

In Events on September 16, 2011 at 2:14 pm

It is nearly a week since we took part at the event at Quebec House and Westerham last weekend. Last weekend of course being the closest to the anniversary of Wolfe and his men triumphant victory over the French at Quebec.

The weekend saw the first outing of our soldiers a-frame tent which was shared by 4 men, it proved quite cosy! However we could have done with the 5th man just to make it extra comfortable.

I am happy to say that the overwhelming  number of British regulars amply supported by rangers saw off two French attempts to take our encampment by suprise. Although we did wonder why on earth our leaders hadn’t saw fit to occupy the high ground or post sufficient sentries…..

Our French opponents, who stopped 'making love with their faces' long enough to launch two attacks on our encampment.

A particular highlight other than our fantastic singing was the complimentary comments we recieved about our standard and attention to drill made some of the other groups re-evaluate what they were doing.

Private Walsh S. demonstrates to the awkward section the correct method for charging bayonets breast high.

A excellent event to end the campaign season, we are now going in to Winter Quarters with a potential drill session planned for the end of the year. If you are interested in taking the Kings shilling and joining Lambtons during the winter please contact me at walsh_adam@hotmail.com .

Take the Kings Shilling and join us in 2012!

To Clean the Brass of your Arms

In Research on September 6, 2011 at 2:50 pm

Last week we looked at the idea of cleasiness in the British army in the mid-18th century. Having concluded a soldier did indeed attempt to clean his accoutrements and uniform on home service and large periods of inactivity. We will take a look at how a soldier cleaned himself and his uniform and accoutrements.

A useful books called the “Private soldier’s and militia man’s friend” by Henry Trenchard provides us with much information about this was achieved. A soldier would clean his brasses and buttons using a mixture of “whiting or rottenstone, mixed with spirits” (1786:20) this would in turn be rubbed with leather until clean.

Private Walsh clean his musket using a mixture of oil, brick dust and an emery cloth.

The stock of his musket was also to be waxed and any “the scratches, dents, holes, &c. should be filled with beeswax” (1786:20). The cost of the whiten ammounted to 2 1/2 d per year for the private soldier according to our un-named soldier of the 68th (175).

As side his musket barrel, brasses and buttons. A soldier also had is other accoutrements in the form of belts holding his sword and cartridge box. These were coloured ochre, these was attained by mixing water, pipeclay and ochre to form a mixture which was firstly brushed and then sponged onto the belts. This occurred around once very month, the colour was maintained by rubbing with a ‘ochre ball’ a mixture of ochre pigment, water and pipeclay dried into a ball (Trenchard:1786:27).

To maintain his firelock he carried worms, keys, pickers and brushes the combination of which cost another 3d from his meagre wages (unknown:175).

Finally he would polish his cartridge box and shoes, this he achieved using black balls, a mixture of wax and lamp black formed into a ball (Trenchard:1786:27). Again shoes and cartridge boxes could be rubbed with balls or melted down and rubbed onto his black accoutrements. The cost of black ball alone amounted 2s 6d a year for the private soldier.

Finally his jacket and hat would be brushed. A soldier carried around 3 brushes, one for his clothing and two for his shoes. The shoe brushes cost another 6d from his wages in way of nessecaries (Unknown:175).

We have seen the business of looking clean and soldier like was an expensive, next week we will have a look at the 18th century monetary system and cost of living.

The 68th Foot in North America?

In Seven Years War on July 7, 2011 at 10:28 am

John Lambtons 68th foot will be guesting with NFOE at a living history event at Quebec House at the begining of September. In preperation I’ve been doing some research on the British Soldier in North America and more generally about the 68th foot in North America.

Guadeloupe in 1759, several of the places on the map are mentioned in the Soldiers Journal

Firstly it goes without saying the 68th foot as a regiment per se never served in North America. We do know however men drafted from the regiment did serve in what was then deemed North America. Men of the 68th were drafted to regiments serving in Guadeluope, as mentioned in this extract from ‘A Soldiers Journal’, “when we recieved order to march back Southampton, when we arrived we found the other half of the regiment had been drafted to fill up regiments garrsioned in the island of Guadeloupe”. The soldier of the 68th’s journal continues and he himself is eventually drafted and sails for the Indies.

The soldier was drafted into one of the regiments garrisioning the Islands and would eventually go on to serve in Lord Rollo’s succesful expedition to occupy Dominica and this probably explains why the regiment is sometimes wrongly said to have taken part in the taking of capture. In fact some of draftees may have even taken part in the capture of Havana 1762.

The Siege of Havana, from the National Maritime Museum Collection.

Although drafted ‘a soldiers journal’ makes it relatively clear that the men drafted were done so quite quickly and that there is no mention of a change of regimental uniform occurring. It is therefore probable men in the uniform of the 68th did fight in the North America Theatre at least in 1761 and perhaps up to 1762 depending on the availability of new uniforms.