Thursday, 21 November 2013

Pending projects ~~ The First Colonial Soldiers

After the relative success of my '1699' and '1714' half-pay lists, the last of which good pretty nice reviews in The Irish Sword and the Journal of the Society of Army Historical Research, a number of new projects were started.

One of these projects will be written together with an Englishman of name, and with a good deal more experience in writing. Apart from the topic, on which more shortly, this cooperation is already very inspiring and instructive.

The topic of this project focusses on colonial soldiering in the 17th and early part of the 18th centuries. Whereas this topic is pretty well covered in literature for the period of the later 18th century (King George's War, the French and Indian Wars), this is much less true for the preceding period.

Thus, the scope of the project is related to the early years of settlement and colonisation of New England, the West Indies and, to a lesser degree, West Africa and the East Indies, and more in particular to the garrisons of these colonies: The First Colonial Soldiers. Also dealt with are 'European' overseas possessions like Gibraltar, Dunkirk and the Channel Islands.

For each colony, or overseas possession, an introductory narrative is provided with the relevant background information on the genesis of that colony. More important, and the main topic of the project, are the 'colonial soldiers', the garrisons in those colonies. Lists of troops are provided, regulars and militia, with dates of commissions and organisational / regimental details. Whereas information on regular troops is - relatively - well known and available, the parts on the various colonial militias are often the result of new research and compilation of information from various sources.

Furthermore, the militia had, almost by definition of being the local form of defence, strong bindings to the local community and administration of the colonies. Reading the history of these militias, and their officers, reads like a history of the colonies.

The First Colonial Soldiers is expected to be published by July 2014. Visit this blog for updates, or check the publisher's site.

Monday, 21 October 2013

Some regimental establishments

Following the earlier post on the size of the regiment of foot, and the various (official) establishment listed, this post will actually detail some of these establishments. This post will look at the regiments in the Low Countries.

As stated previously, regiments in the Low Countries numbered 867, 876 (no typo) or 938 men. How does these numbers translate in companies, sergeants and privates.

Let's start with the largest. This establishment was authorised already in the conflict for regiments serving in the Low Countries. The regiments were composed of thirteen companies: twelve battalion companies and one of grenadiers. Besides the private men, each company consisted of three officers - captain, lieutenant and ensign, or a captain and two lieutenants for the grenadiers, three sergeants, three corporals, and two drummers. The battalion companies had 60 private men, the grenadier companies were slightly larger with 70 men. Together with 5 staff officers - chaplain, adjutant, quarter-master, and the surgeon and his mate - this adds up to 938 men.

The smallest is a big odd, but it existed. This regiment had only twelve companies, 11 battalion and one of grenadiers, at the same establishment as the large regiments, with also five staff officers. This was the regiment of William Evans. It was raised in April 1703, and went to the Low Countries the same year. Though at first established with 938 men, and thirteen companies, part of the regiment was drafted in 1704 to regiment that went to Portugal. The result was this 12 company establishment.

The middle sized regiments, there were four of them in the Low Countries, were all part of the augmentation of 20,000 men to the Confederate forces agreed upon in 1703. Four of the regiments of this augmentation were English, and established with 876 men. These regiments also had thirteen companies, and five staff, and had the same number of officers, non-commissioned officers and drummers. However, the difference was in a somewhat lower establishment of the companies: each company had 56 men.

The estimates for the forces show these establishment until the end of the conflict, and it is interesting to know why the regiments of the augmentation were somewhat smaller than those of the earlier British contingent.

Sunday, 13 October 2013

What was the size of a regiment of foot?

After a couple of months of research for other projects, I returned to the reductions after the War of the Spanish Succession (see also my Half-Pay officers for 1714). Here I looked into the question on the size of a regiment. More in particular, and do keep it simple, the size of a regiment of foot.

Anyone, including me, with some knowledge of the British army, and the Marlburian period, would probably answer that a regiment numbered 13 companies with one of grenadiers.

However, a careful look at the establishment lists of the armies between 1701 and 1712 reveals a variation that must have given contemporary quartermasters severe headaches. And it gives some nice number-crunching.

Let's use the estimate for the armed forces for 1711 as an example (see the Calendar of Treasury Books):
In the Guard & Garrisons, i.e., the regiments serving in England or in garrison on the colonies we have regiments of 760, 809, 834, 876, and 951 men. Judging from the reductions, the regiments were all established with 12 companies.

In the army in Flanders we find regiments of 938 and 876 men. The ones with 938 men were definitely established with 13 companies, the ones with 876 men most likely.

When we move to the Iberian Peninsula, the situation was as worse as at home: regiments of 725, 785, 834, 845 and 876 men. All regiments appear to have been established with 12 companies.

After the reductions of 1712-14 we find the following establishments:
at Dunkirk, 669 men to a regiment of foot with 12 companies
in Flanders 613 to a regiment with 12 companies
at Minorca 625 men with 12 companies
at Gibraltar 500 with 12 companies
In England/Scotland, including the West Indies, 445 men with 10 companies
in Ireland,  444 men, also in 10 companies
(the one man difference between England and Scotland was the Quarter-Master, for whom was no room on the Irish Establishment).

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Podcast on the War of the Spanish Succession

Andrew Tumath contributed a nice article in the latest issue of the Journal of the Society of Army Historical Research on the British army in Spain after the Brihuega disaster. In the note about the author, it was mentioned that mr Tumath hosts a history podcast called A New History Podcast.

One of the series (or should this be podcasts?) is on the War of the Spanish Succession, neatly divided into yearly or half-yearly episodes. Well worth checking out, and listening to. Mr Tumath has a pleasant voice, and narrates eloquently and packs a lot of detail in his lectures. Yet, whilst taking the listeners from Northern Italy to London and then to Portugal, it remains clear and comprehensive.

Highly recommended, though his appreciation of the dreaded and evil Dutch Deputies keeping the Duke from picking his fruits from his victories seems a bit influenced by Chandler et al .......

Monday, 24 June 2013

the Marlborough historiography

For those with an interest in the life and times of the Duke of Marlborough, please check out this rather good read at Jamel Ostwald's blog: What's the matter with the Marlborough historiography

Tuesday, 30 April 2013

A musical intermezzo

On this joyful 30th April 2013 some musical entertainment from the early modern period.

One is called 'Marlbrough ne revient pas', and written after the battle of Malplaquet of September 1709. It tells how Sarah Churchill is told that her husband found his death on the fields of Malplaquet.

Le roi et mort, vive le roi: The funeral march for Louis XIV.

And finally, William Croft's ode for the peace of Utrecht, now 200 years ago.

(Please ignore any commercials)

Friday, 26 April 2013

Book writing ~~ lessons learned

In little over than one year, two books were compiled by the author of this blog and published by Drenth Publishing.As the two books are on the same subject, half-pay officers, this post will compare both efforts and look into lessons learned and differences between the two projects.

Lessons learned:

  •  Never underestimate your audience. However, don't assume your audience is that well informed into the subject you are writing on as you are. So, it is better to write a bit more on some intricate detail, than leave it out (and: you can always remove it afterwards).
  • Who are the people that will buy your book? Or, putting it a bit differently, know about your target audience. This helps in formulating the scope of the project, and finding additional scope to be covered.
  • If I were a potential customer, what would I want to see in such a book.
  • Be critical to yourself. Re-read what you have written, and question yourself: what is the scope, what is the level of detail, what would a reader expect.
  • So, accept that requirements can change!
  • (Unless you have agreed to someone deliver before a certain time, don't set a hard deadline when there are still things to be sorted out.)
  • (So, communicate the fruits of your labour only when the completion is feasible.)
  • Make a print of the document to see what it looks like on paper, or at least view the document in a two-page modus. This will avoid silly mistakes that makes the project look like a rubbish.


  • The second project on the reduced officers for 1699 greatly benefited from technicalities solved in the first project on the half-pay officers for 1714.
  • This meant layout issues: how to present the lists of officers, how to format tables.
  • But it also meant that the design of the cover could be done much quicker.
  • Contact with a printing company was already established.
  • The first project had the benefit of being, partially, based on an existing document. This meant more research time was needed for the second project, even though the information was readily available: the first project run between January and April 2012 (three months), the second between April 2012 and March 2013 (one full year!). 
  • So, where does this extra time from given the 'newby' issues with the first and 'documentation' issues with the second:
    • the second project has an index of officers (should have been done for the first too ...)
    • the introduction in the second project has a more detailed and quantitative approach
    • one appendix was almost a project in itself

When the second project was started, it seemed to be an easy walk-over: the information was present and had 'only' to be arranged and edited. However, during the process the requirements changed a bit by the inclusion of 600+ Huguenot officers, and addition of an index. This explains for a large part the extra time needed.

Now, on to the next project!

Friday, 19 April 2013

A Regimental list of the Reduced officers for the year 1699

Fresh from the press and ready for shipment:

A Regimental list of the reduced officers for the year 1699 
on the English, Scots and Irish Establishments

Please see the publisher's website for more details and ordering information.

This book is the companion volume to the Half-Pay list 1714, that was published in May 2012. Both volumes provide, as the titles indicate, information on the officers that were reduced after the Nine Years' War and War of the Spanish Succession, respectively. But there is more to that. All regiments that were part of the British army, during the respective periods, are detailed (except the subsidy troops), with information on the regimental lineage and a succession of colonels. Moreover, orders of battle are given for a variety of battles, sieges, descents (executed or aborted), expeditions, et cetera.

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Treaty of Utrecht 300 years

Today is a bit of a special day. Today, 300 years ago on 11 April 1713, the Treaty of Utrecht was signed between several of the belligerents of the War of the Spanish Succession and saw an end to the conflict that started in 1701. See the Wiki for some more information.

Though one of the few quality newspapers in the Netherlands, NRC Handelsblad, devotes an article on the Treaty of Utrecht, they miss at least one very crucial point: how did they manage to remove any mention in the article of the Dutch Republic as one of the main, not to say most important, opponents of France? Is this simply lack of the journalist's understanding of history, or that deep ingrained believe in the peaceful past of the Dutch?

It is a bit like writing about the Yalta Conference, and omitting the United States as one of the participants ....

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

New books forthcoming

Though the new year is almost in its fourth month, the lack of postings did not mean that the author had been idling away his time. A lot of time went to the compilation of a list of the officers reduced after the Nine Years' War. Please see the website here: The book can already be pre-ordered, and will be ready for shipment in May or June.

Another book will be re-printed, and this will/should be welcomed by anyone with an interest in the British army during the Nine Years' War. The book in question is John Childs' The Nine Years' War and the British army 1688–97. The book was first published in the early 1990s, and long out-of-print since, and hard to find second-hand. This book still is the only modern narrative on the British army on operations in the Low Countries during the Nine Years' War. A thorough review of this book is found here.