HM 40th Reg't of Foot, Light Coy

THE recreated 40th Regiment Light Company draws on many period sources to recreate its uniform, tactics and material culture. This page is intended to be a repository of many of these documents, paintings and artifacts. Previously unknown resources come to light all the time, helping us to strengthen our portrayal. Check back frequently to see what we've come across recently. Below, find many of the primary materials which document our impression.

"The most dreadful scene"

In 1782 the Italian artist Xavier della Gatta painted scenes from the Battle of Paoli and the Battle of Germantown. Likely commisioned by either Lt. Richard St. George Mansergh St. George or Lt. Martin Hunter, both of the 52nd Reg't of Foot's Light Infantry company, and corresponding to descriptions and other illustrations of the events, these paintings provide a unique look at the uniforms and formations of British troops in action during the mid-war period of the American War for Independence. According to Lt. Hunter:

[General Grey] came to the head of the battalion and cried out "Dash on, light infantry!" and, without saying a word, the whole battalion dashed into the wood, and guided by the straggling fire of the picket, that was followed close up, we entered the camp and gave such a cheer as made the wood echo. The enemy were completely surprised; some with arms, others without, running in all directions in the greatest confusion. The light infantry bayoneted every man they came up with. The camp was immediately set on fire, and this, with the cries of the wounded formed altogether one of the most dreadful scene I ever beheld. Every man that fired was instantly put to death.

Click here to see the painting.

"Head Quartrs Amboy 20th. Apr. 1777"

An orderly book of the 40th was captured during the course of the war and resides with the papers of George Washington at the Library of Congress. Insight into the day to management of a British regiment is documented including details of guard mountings, equipment wanting, haircuts, provision returns, women and children following the army, names of recruits and brigade formations as a few examples. An invaluable resource.

8th: June 1777
The Commanding Offrs: of Companays Are Desired: to turn out this Evening at Roll Call two of the properest men they have of A twelvemonths standing as Soldiers in the Regt for the Lt: Infantry That Capt: Wolfe may Chuse out the Numbr: he wants to Compleat his Compy: to 50 Rank And File

Click here to view the orderly book in it's entirerty at the Library of Congress.

Click here to read selected transcriptions from the orderly book.

"This mutual defense and confidence is one of the most essential principles..."

There are a number of period writings detailing the use of Lighty Infantry in North America during the rebellion. Of these, Townshend's orders to the Light Infantry on the Irish Establishment is perhaps the most pertinent to the recreated 40th's impression as it details company level commands and maneuvers. Fittingly, the 40th was part of the Irish Establishment. Marching, horn and whistle commands, use of cover, posting of sentries and much more is preserved in these orders from 1772.

It is to be particularly observed that each file has an entire dependence upon itself and that the firelocks of the front and rear men are never to be unloaded at the same time. When the front rank man fires, the rear rank man is to make ready and step up briskly before his comrade, but is by no means to discharge his firelock until the other has loaded, and then he is to step briskly before the rear rank man, and this method to be followed until a signal shall be given for ceasing to fire. This mutual defense and confidence is one of the most essential principles of Light Infantry.

Click here for the orders.

"We are now ... properly ... enwigwamed."

On campaign, the Light Infantry frequently traveled faster than the army's baggage. Tents were often not available to the men when the battalion encamped for the night. A variety of improvised shelters where employed in those situations, including brush huts commonly known as wigwams. Other times, they slept on the ground with nothing but the blanket they carried sheltering them from the rain and cold.

Bat[talio]n orders [19 September 1777] ... Commanding officers of Companys will not Alow their Men upon any Pretence wath [sic] ever to quit their Arms, Except to make Wigwarms, without his Leave untill the Picquetts are Posted.

Click here to read more about the British army sheltering on campaign.

Historical Records of the 40th (2nd Somersetshire) Regiment

Printed in 1894, a historical record of the 40th regiment of foot was compiled. It is free on Google books, and has much information about the 40th in the American War for Independence.

The object of this work is to supply, as far as possible, a want long held by the 40th Regiment, viz, a full and accurate history of it's services, from the formation of the regiment, in 1717, to the present time.

Click here to read the book on Google.