Major Scott's Provisional Light Infantry Battalion
The British Flag Flew Over the French Fortress of Louisbourg in July of 1758 — But Not Before Major George Scott and His Strike Force of Light Troops and Rangers Conducted Their 'Irregular' Tactics To Pave The Way For Victory
In preparation for the intended expedition against the fortified town of Louisbourg on Cape Breton Island in 1758, Major General Jeffery Amherst ordered to be organized and trained "a Body of light troops . . . to oppose the Indians, Canadians, and other painted Savages of the Island", who would "entertain them in their own way, & preserve the Women and Children of the Army from their unnatural Barbarity". He further stated that "when the light troops have by practise & experience, acquired as much Caution & Circumspection as they have Spirit & Activity, These howling Barbarians will flee before them." In a letter to the Duke of Richmond dated Ile Royale, 28 July, Brigadier General James Wolfe writes "we have establish'd a Corps of light Foot, that might be infinitely usefull, tho' at present they are not so, from particular causes. They are Cloath'd and Arm'd a la Legere - commanded by Officers adapted to that service. . ."
The commander of the light troops was Major George Scott, an officer of Major General Peregrine Thomas Hopson's 40th Regiment of Foot, who was familiar with irregular tactics. Orders issued on 12 May 1758, stated that "the rangers, and light infantry, appointed to act as rangers, are to be commanded by Major Scott." He was to serve with distinction both during the Louisbourg campaign and later with Major General James Wolfe at Quebec in 1759.
Major Scott was to "teach his Corps to attack and defend themselves Judiciously, always endeavoring to get upon the Enemy's flank and equally watchfully to prevent their surrounding them". Further, they were to "be instructed to choose good posts and to lay themselves in ambuscade to advantage, to be alert, silent, vigilant and obedient, ready at all times to turn out without the least noise or least confusion." They were to "always march in files and generally fight in a single rank pushing at the Enemy when they see them in confusion and that the ground favors their efforts never [to] persue with too much eagerness nor to give way excepting a very great unequality of numbers." They also were to "avoid huddling together, & running into a Lump."
This body of Light Infantry was formed from all the British corps involved in the expedition. Those who had been in America for some time were to furnish men "most accustomed to the woods" and "good marksmen." Those recently arrived from Europe were to provide those that were "active marchers" and "expert at firing ball." In general, all were to "be alert, spirited soldiers, able to endure fatigue."
Some corps were to provide a lieutenant and twenty men, while others supplied a lieutenant and thirty men, except Fraser's 78th Highland Regiment, which furnished 100 men. According to an anonymous spectator of the siege, "these Light Infantry were a Corps of 550 Volunteers chosen as Marksmen out of the most active resolute Men from all the Battalions of Regulars, dressed some in blue, some in green Jackets and Drawers, for the easier brushing through the Woods; with Ruffs of black Bear's Skin round their Necks, the beard of their upper Lips, some grown into Whiskers, others not so, but all well smutted on that part, with little round Hats like several of our Seamen." The French termed Scott's men as "the English savages". The Rangers were described as having "a more cut-throat, savage appearance", while the Light Infantry appeared more as "artificial savages." This is further confirmed in a letter by an anonymous writer who writes "I have mentioned the light infantry: They are a body of men draughted out of the regiments, and cloathed something like the Indians, to scour the woods."
A member of Major Scott's Provisional Battalion maintains his equipment.
A member of Major Scott's Provisional Battalion maintains his equipment.
The Light Infantry were armed with a "Fusil, Cartouch-Box of Balls and Flints, and a Powder horn slung over their Shoulders." On 17 May, orders required the Light Infantry "to exchange their heavy arms for those of the Artillery" which were lighter in weight. Further, all the Light Infantry and Rangers were to be "furnished immediately with seventy rounds per man of ammunition" which they were to demand from Colonel George Williamson, commander of the Royal Artillery, and "three flints per man." Amherst's directives had also previously remarked that when the men "use their powder horns to load, they must take particular care not to put too much powder in their pieces, & to have paper ready cut, or Tow to charge with, in proper Portions."
As the weather in Cape Breton was "moist and foggy", particular orders were issued that "the Light Infantry should fall upon some method to secure their arms from the dews and the droppings of the Trees when they are in search of the Enemy", but what measures were used is not mentioned. One could speculate, however, that the reason for this order was to give Major Scott the opportunity to utilize a design he had proposed to Lord Loudoun in 1757 in which he described ways in which to accouter Rangers. One of these suggestions was to provide them with a cloak of painted canvas lined with bays and a boot or pocket made on the right inside. In this manner, a Ranger could keep dry, warm, and his firelock from becoming wet and inoperative in damp weather. Cloaks were also mandated to be carried by volunteers serving with Scott's men, which also lends to this possibility.
An early mention of Scott's unit is found in the journal of Captain John Montresor under the date of 16 May when he writes "the Rangers under the Command of Major Scott encamped on the East side of R(iver) opposite Halifax call'd Dartmouth, composed of a number of men from each Regiment with Provincials." The Provincials were the actual Ranger units that also operated with him.
Captain John Knox writes of "a large detachment of chosen men from the troops going against Louisbourg, under the command of a Major, . . . ordered to scour this province, burn their [the Acadians] settlements, and direct their course afterwards towards the straits of Canseau [Canso], in order to cut off the retreat of the Acadians in their return." Although Knox does not specifically name this force as Scott's, the references to "a large detachment of chosen men from the troops . . . under the command of a Major" and the type of duty they were sent on would surely fit Scott's Battalion. If Scott's Light Infantry were sent, then this was their first assignment of consequence and provided them with the opportunity to practice their skills away from Halifax while awaiting the rendezvous of the expedition against Louisbourg.
If this was not Scott's first directed assignment, then his first mission was the evening of 6 June when General Amherst "sent for M. Scot, Lts. Leslie and Tonge to enquire into a possibility of landing and marching from the bottom the Bay." After Scott's reconnaissance of the Louisbourg coastline, he reported he "was obliged to take hold of trees to get up" in the area he reconnoitred, and Amherst writes he didn't "like the scheme."
On 8 June , Major Scott's command of Light Infantry and Rangers were on the extreme left flank of the British assault under the overall command of Brigadier General James Wolfe. Their target was the Anse de la Cormorandiere [Bay of the Cormorant], later named Kennington Cove as a result of the ship by that name having provided covering fire for Wolfe's landing.
As Wolfe's brigade approached the shore of the cove, they were subjected to a galling fire from small arms and cannon. Just as it seemed "the fate of the Expedition seemed to depend upon this moment & the most Sanguine almost despaired of setting foot on shore", some of the Light Infantry landed "on shore at a Spot which the Enemy thought too steep to need either Men or Intrenchments to Guard it, Major Scott who Commanded the light Infantry & Lt. Browne with several others were on shore in an Instant & being soon supported Came upon the Flank of the Enemy's Intrenchment & decided their fate, . . . they" [the French] "soon left the Coast clear" for the rest of Wolfe's men "to land there also", & the French "Retreated into the Woods with the greatest precipitation."
Another account of the landing recorded in a letter from a French officer (attributed to Thomas Pichon) states that "Major Scot, upon this occasion, performed a most gallant action. General Wolfe, who at that time was busy in reimbarking the troops, and putting off the boats, ordered him to climb up the rocks, where they had already sent a hundred men. The major went thither with the troops under his command; but his own boat arriving before the rest, and being staved to pieces the instant he landed, he climbed up the rock by himself. He was in hopes that the hundred men who had been sent before him, were engaged by this time with our people; but seeing no more than ten, he resolved with this small number to get a-top of the rocks. There he found ten savages, and threescore French, who killed two of his men, and wounded three. Still this brave Englishman would not, even in this extremity, abandon a post, on which the success of the whole enterprize depended. He desired the five soldiers remaining not to be dismayed; and even went so far, as to threaten he would fire upon the first man that would flinch. In the mean time, he had three balls lodged in his clothes, and would have had all the seventy Frenchmen upon him at once, were it not for a copse that was between them, and through which he fired a few shot. At length this hero (for I cannot help doing justice to his valour) was seconded by the rest of the English troops, who perceiving there was no other way to succeed, determined to run all risks in order to carry this point." Major Scott and Lt. Browne were also accompanied by Lieutenant Hopkins and Ensign Grant of the 35th Regiment. Once they flanked the entrenchments and the French began to flee, "Brigadier General Wolfe with a small body pursued them within Cannonade of the Town" and this established for Amherst the point at which his camp would be safe from the fort's cannon.
On 9 June, parties of Light Infantry and Rangers were "ordered to patrole round the Rear of the Camp from the left Wing to the Back of the Post at Kennington Cove, to prevent all Surprize and Disturbance from lurking Indians, Canadians that were expected, or any scattered Parties of the Enemy that might have been cut off from the Garrison the Day before, or occasionally detached out of it afterwards." Two days later orders were issued for 400 Light Infantry and Rangers "to march . . . and take Post in the Woods, round the upper part of the north East Harbour, there [to] lay in Ambush, and cover the March of a Detachment of the Army", which was to be commanded by Wolfe for the occupation of Lighthouse Point. In pursuance of these orders, on 12 June, "at 2 oClock . . . the Light Infantry and Rangers under the Command of Major Scott, marched according to orders." When they arrived at the point, they discovered the "Battery destroyed by the Enemy, and but 4 pieces of Cannon left, which they had spiked up." The other guns were thrown down on the rocks. They also found two small encampments that had been deserted by the Enemy "with their Tents standing", as well as provisions, utensils and more disabled cannon. Upon Brigadier Wolfe's arrival at Lighthouse Point, "the Light Infantry and Rangers marched back to the Grand Camp." These tents, and others found abandoned by the enemy were to be "given to the five companies of Rangers", while the regiments were "to furnish tents for their own light infantry."
Louisbourg in North America showing the Light House when the city was besieged in 1758
Louisbourg in North America showing the Light House when the city was besieged in 1758. Drawn by Capt. Charles Ince and engraved by P. Canot.
The following day, the French sent out various parties to attack the British and impede their progress. At noon, a party numbering between 200 and 300 "made a Sally from the Garrison upon their advanced Party - but in about an hour and an half they were repulsed by some few Regulars and Light Infantry." The British casualties were one killed and seven wounded, among whom were Lieutenant Richard Allen of the 35th and Lieutenant Moses Lilley of the 40th Regiment.
Those Light Infantrymen who were taken sick or wounded and sent to their regiments as a consequence, were ordered to be returned to the Light Infantry corps as soon as they were recovered. Undoubtedly, this was due to the fact that these men had already received valuable training and experience, but also because they were originally selected because of the earlier mentioned qualities; other replacements would be less suited for the required mission.
As a result of an enemy sortie on 13 June, orders were issued on the 19th directing Major Scott to march with a large party of Light Infantry "to the left of the picquets, taking post between them and Major Ross's post at the end of the north-east harbour; and to be ready to attack and fall on the flank of any parties that may attempt to land, or come out of the town on that side." If he saw "a rocket fired on the back of the hills behinds [sic] the grand battery", he was to "make all the shew" he could of having a large contingent there. He was also to report "anything extra-ordinary" to the officer commanding the pickets.
As mentioned earlier, orders had been issued allowing "any of the volunteers that chuse to serve with the light troops . . . to do it, taking care to be provided with a cloak, a blanket, and a good quantity of ammunition." They were to serve with the Light Infantry until the trenches were opened, and Major Scott was "to dispose of them, so that they may have some command, and act as Officers." Wolfe's letter quoted earlier stated "the Volunteers are mix'd amongst them, at the head of Divisions & Squads." They were to receive provisions along with the corps. The corps was augmented on 15 June by a lieutenant and thirty men of the 28th Regiment. The volunteers were withdrawn on 18 July when they awaited Wolfe's orders. The enemy once again sent out a sortie on 26 June with the intent of burning a blockhouse on the left that the British were building. The attack was conducted at noon, numbering about 60 men, who were successful in getting two men into the blockhouse with a barrel of pitch, "but Mr. Scott (who had sent the alarm initially) sent a party so quick on them that they retreated without effecting it, and he drove them into the Town very fast." On the 29th, "some Indians shewed themselves and killed one of our Men - the Light infantry pursued, killed and scalped two, and brought in another of them."
Again on 1 July, a sortie was sent out about 6 o'clock in the morning consisting of 200 men, this time to "get old Palisades and wood." In this incident, Major Scott and 100 Light Infantry were joined by Brigadier General Wolfe who "as usual [was] in the most Danger." The Light Infantry soon forced the French "to give way, retreating from Hill to Hill facing about at times & returning the Smart Fire" of Scott's men. At dusk, the Light Infantry and Highlanders advanced in front of the west gate of the town and about 700 to 800 yards from it. "Skirmishing between the Light Infantry and Straggling French, each one making a Stone his Breast Work", continued the next day.
The enemy, numbering about 100, attempted to approach the advanced posts on the morning of the 5th, "but returned without attempting anything, a Party of Light Infantry Posted at the Foot of a Bridge over the Bassasoy every night to prevent the French from crossing."
Again, on the 15th before daybreak, the enemy attacked Captain Sutherland at the end of the northeast harbor. "The Grenadiers of Brigadier Wolfe's Corps went to sustain him, and all the light infantry." A French deserter revealed the party had numbered 100 of a party of 203 led by Charles Deschamps de Boishebert. Major Scott was shown the road leading to this enemy contingent, but they were able to escape him.
The next evening, about 7 o'clock, Brigadier Wolfe made himself Master of a Post occupied by the Enemy's Picquits within about 400 yards of the West Gate . . . Upon approaching the Enemy, they fired some few Muskets at him; when he dispatched an Officer to the adjacent Redan, with Orders for an Officer and 20 of the Light Infantry to cross the Barrasoy Bridge immediately, supported by 20 Grenadiers. They advanced with all Expedition one after another, at about 2 Yards distance from each other, and on the Bridge received three Fires from the Enemy's Breastworks, without any Loss. On the Light Infantry's advancing farther without firing their Pieces, the Enemy's Party retired with much Precipitation towards the West Gate, firing some random Shot in their Flight.
The Light Infantry officer involved in this rout was Lieutenant Browne.
As the siege progressed, every night a party of the Light Infantry was kept without the lines near the bottom of the glacis to prevent the working parties on the trenches and batteries "from being surprized by any sudden Sally of the Besieged."
The French capitulated on the 26th, with the British marching in at 8 o'clock the following morning. With Louisbourg now in their hands, the British had a base of operations from which to launch raids against surrounding towns and villages held by the French. On 8 August, a large party with the Light Infantry of the 22nd, 40th, and 45th Regiments and 143 Rangers under the command of Lord Rollo of the 22nd Regiment sailed for the Island of St. Johns. This resulted in the beginning of the disintegration of Scott's composite Light Infantry battalion.
Major Scott and at least 300 Light Infantry and Rangers embarked from Halifax with Colonel Robert Monckton on an expedition up the St. Johns River on 11 September. On the 20th, Monckton's force landed in the harbor of present day St. Johns, New Brunswick, at the mouth of the St. Johns River. Here they found the French fort deserted. Colonel Monckton "sent off Major Scott with about 300 Light Infantry & Rangers" to make discoveries, but after going above the falls all he found were a few tracks. After returning to the French fort, newly named Fort Frederick, "the Light Infantry and Rangers under Majr. Scott Encamp'd On the Hill above" and behind the fort. Although they were originally encamped in tents, they soon built wooden huts as evidenced in a watercolor executed by Royal Artillery Captain Lieutenant Thomas Davies. The work is entitled "A North View of Fort Frederick Built by Order of the Honble. Col: Robert Moncton [sic], on the Entrance of St. John's River in the Bay of Fundy, Nova Scotia in 1758." The huts are clearly seen in the background on the hillside and keyed with the letter "B" and identified as "Huts built by the Rangers." "A Plan of Fort Frederick" published in A Set of Plans and Forts in America Reduced From Actual Surveys, 1763 by Mary Ann Rocque also shows these huts.
It seems that Major Scott and his Light Infantry may have stayed about the environs of Fort Frederick while Monckton sailed up the St. Johns to carry out his pillage and burn campaign. While he took some Rangers along, no where is Scott or any Light Infantry mentioned. Their staying at Fort Frederick seems reasonable as the Light Infantry was necessary to provide flanking protection for workmen who were repairing the fort.
Shortly after Monckton's return to Fort Frederick, he ordered "Major Scott with the Light Infantry & Rangers . . . for the River Pitcoudiack" where he was "inform'd that the Privateer Schooner & one of her Prizes were lay'd up." Scott was ordered "to bring them off & any Inhabitants he might take - And to burn & destroy all Houses Barns Cattle Grain &c. that he might find & in his Return to send Dank's Company [of Rangers] to Fort Cumberland."
On 11 November, he "weigh'd Anchor at 9 o'Clock in the morning from St. Johns River and by 10 at Night anchor'd in Chipodie Bay". His report tells of the destruction of French settlements and the capture of the French vessels and the taking of prisoners. He arrived safe back at Fort Frederick on 18 November. Five days later, on 23 November, the Light Infantry members were "returned to their respective Corps", thus bringing an end to Major George Scott's temporarily formed command.
This ends the references currently known relative to Scott's Light Infantry corps in 1758. In 1759, with Major General James Wolfe's army on the expedition against Quebec, he commanded the six Ranger companies that were part of the force. For this campaign, the Light Infantry were established as a separate company within each regiment, and were withdrawn again from their parent units and formed as a battalion. They also received a new style uniform.
Gordon, "Copy of Journal Kept by Gordon", Collections of the Nova Scotia Historical Society, 5 (1888), pp. 107-108 (henceforth cited as Gordon).
P. L. Carver, ed., "Wolfe to the Duke of Richmond, Unpublished Letters", University of Toronto Quarterly, vol. 8 (1938), p. 24 (henceforth cited as Carver).
Captain John Knox, An Historical Journal of the Campaigns in North America For the Years 1757, 1758, 1759, and 1760, ed. Arthur G. Doughty, vol. I: (Freeport, NY: Books for Libraries Press, 1970), pp. 196-198 (henceforth cited as Knox).
Gordon, p. 109.
J. Mackay Hitsman, "Order Before Landing At Louisbourg, 1758", Military Affairs, Fall 1958, p. 148 (henceforth cited as Hitsman).
Knox, p. 207.
Anonymous Spectator, An Authentic Account of the Reduction ofLouisbourg, in June and July, 1758 (London: W. Owen, 1758), p. 18 (henceforth cited as Anonymous Spectator).
John Entick, The General History of the Late War, vol. III: (London: Edward Dilley & John Millan, 1763), p. 227.
The London Chronicle, August 17, 1758.
Anonymous Spectator, p. 18. During the campaign, probably after the capitulation of Louisbourg, at least the light infantry of the Royal Regiment (1st) received French arms. On 6 May 1759, orders were issued in Albany, New York, that the Royal was "to give in to the Store keeper the French Arms that were deliver'd to their Light Infantry at Luisburg." (Alexander Monypenny, Monypenny Orderly Book, The Bulletin of the Fort Ticonderoga Museum (June 1971), p. 184.) Amherst also writes to William Pitt on 28 February 1759 from New York that he had already issued French arms to the light infantry of the regiments that had come from Louisbourg. (William Pitt, Correspondence of William Pitt, Vol. II, ed. Gertrude S. Kimball (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1906), p. 42.)
Knox, p. 209.
Hitsman, p. 148.
This proposal is found in the Loudoun Papers and is referenced as LO 6927. It is owned by The Huntington Library, San Marino, California.
Bay was "a kind of course open woolen stuff having a long nap, sometimes frized on one side, and sometimes not frized . . . this stuff is without wale, being wrought on a loom with two treddles, like flannel." Florence M. Montgomery, Textiles in America, 1650-1870 (New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 1984), p. 159.
John Montresor, "Journals of John Montresor", Collections of the New-York Historical Society for the Year 1881 (New York: New-York Historical Society, 1882), p. 154.
Knox, p. 170.
Jeffery Amherst, The Journal of Jeffery Amherst, ed. John Clarence Webster (Toronto: Ryerson Press, 1931), p. 49 (henceforth cited as Jeffery Amherst).
Anonymous, "Journal of the Expedition Against Louisbourg", The Northcliffe Collection (Ottawa: F. A. Acland, 1926), p. 92 (henceforth cited as Anonymous Journal).
Knox, vol. III, pp. 100-101.
Gordon, p. 115.
Gordon, p. 115; Jeffery Amherst, p. 51; Anonymous Spectator, p. 23; Knox, p.222.
Anonymous Spectator, p. 21.
Gordon, pp. 118, 120; Anonymous Spectator, p. 23; Knox, p. 222.
Anonymous Spectator, p. 23; Anonymous Journal, p. 92.
Anonymous Spectator, pp. 23-24.
Knox, p. 221.
Jeffery Amherst, p. 52; Anonymous Spectator, p. 24; Gordon, p. 121; Anonymous Journal, p. 93.
Knox, p. 235.
Knox, p. 230-231; Jeffery Amherst, p. 55; Gordon, p. 124.
Knox, p. 211.
Carver, p. 24.
Knox, p. 229.
Knox, pp. 222, 238.
Jeffery Amherst, p. 58; William Amherst, Journal of William Amherst in America, ed. John Clarence Webster (London: Butler & Tanner Ltd., 1927), p. 19; Gordon, p. 126; Anonymous Journal, p. 94.
Anonymous Spectator, p. 31.
Jeffery Amherst, p. 60; Gordon, p. 128; Anonymous Spectator, p. 32.
Gordon, p. 128.
This refers to the barachois, a tidal basin in the southwest part of the Louisbourg harbour.
Gordon, p. 130; Anonymous Journal, p. 95.
Jeffery Amherst, p. 67.
Anonymous Spectator, p. 38.
Gordon, p. 137.
Anonymous Spectator, p. 42.
Gordon, p. 149.
Robert Monckton, "Report of the Proceedings of the Troops on the Expedition Up St. Johns River in the Bay of Fundy Under the Command of Col. Monckton", The Northcliffe Collection, p. 102; also published in Collections of the New Brunswick Historical Society, No. 5, (1904), p. 165.
George Scott, "Report of the Tour to Petitcodiac River", The Northcliffe Collection, p. 99; also published in Collections of the New Brunswick Historical Society, No. 13, (1930), p. 101.
Knox, p. 279.