British Light Infantry Sergeant, Germantown , Pennsylvania 1777.
I originally made this figure in rather a rush back in 2006 , for Ransome Chua’s book on 1/6th scale figures. I felt we needed more figures from an earlier period , since the book was getting rather WW2 heavy.
The simplicity of the outfit commended it as a quick 18th century subject to tackle, having no lace , no facings , simple kit , so I did him in record time.
It’s nice sometimes to revisit and revise older figures , so I’ve recently had another go at him , partly prompted by finally getting my own bayonets cast , and having learnt how to make proper scabbards for them .
So he needed a refit , and one thing led to another with a few improvements .
The original inspiration came from a Barthorp plate , showing the very practical uniform adopted by Howe’s army during the 1777 campaign , which was based on some watercolours painted by a very capable Italian artist, F.X.Gatta .
I have been unable to trace a big copy of the painting, but this little version gives some idea of the scene, at the Chew House outside Germantown on 3rd October which was succesfully defended by the 40th Foot against Washington’s attack :
Washington attempted to launch a surprise attack on Howe’s army encamped aroung Germantown , but the attack foundered in fog and against a determined and rapidly organised defence .
Amongst Howe’s Army were two combined Light Infantry battalions, made up of the Light companies of all the battalions involved , on which this figure is based.
The full dress outfits worn by British Infantry of the period were very elaborate , and it has become part of the popular mythology promulgated by 19th c.US historians and artists that such men were pipeclayed , overdressed automata flogged into the service of a wicked tyranny.
The truth is always more interesting than the myth .
This old view is now entirely exploded, particularly by the American research prompted by their re-enactment movement .
The British Army adapted very quickly to the peculiar conditions of war in North America, modifying their uniforms and tactics to cope with the forested terrain , and their nimble opponents. They had plenty of experience , having been engaged in such warfare in Canada within living memory.
The chief innovations were the introduction of Light Infantry tactics, skirmishing in open order to counter the Patriot riflemen , and the reduction of the Line from three ranks to two , which maximised frontages for fire. Since there was almost no threat from cavalry, two ranks and more open order were entirely feasible, and reduced casualties . The men were also trained to reform quickly and charge with the bayonet .
They must have got it right , because the British won most of the battles , but lost the war because of a combination of French intervention , impossibly long supply lines and some really bad generalship ; and, of course , an increasingly professional Patriot army.
The figure wears :~
A simple slouch hat , with the usual black cockade, and the addition of a racoon-tail plume. Blocked craft felt , and part of a fluffy toy...
Over the shirt, a short waistcoat worn beneath a simple red jacket , without facings or lace , probably specialy made for the campaign rather than cut down from the full-dress coat.( scratchbuilt ).
“ Mosquito trousers” rather than breeches and gaiters ( converted from the DiD Bruce trousers with part of the waiscoat to provide the gusset over the foot ) .
Black crossbelts with a GR plate : I rather over-polished this, and it's giving off a blinding reflection ; pouch and bayonet, haversack and tinplate canteen ( own casting ) .
The figure looked mature enough to be a Sergeant , so I have added the worsted sash, with a blue stripe for his parent regiment .
Technically Sergeants carried fusils , a lighter shorter musket , but in war conditions such niceties probably went by the board , and he carries the Short Land Pattern like all his men( my own resin model ).
The knapsack is goatskin ( another toy ) , carried with the two shoulder straps in the style learnt from the Native peoples in Canada , and recently adopted to replace the simple bag snapsack on a single strap.
Since the pics were taken for the book , I have replaced the jacket with a longer better-cut one from brushed cotton rather than the polysuede I first used , and added an accurate bayonet and shoulderbelt plate .
The base reflects the early autumn : I bought some of those lovely little leaf cutter stamps, and cut out some fallen leaves from a brown paper bag.) these are really nice, and very cheap from craft shops ).
A little paint both colours and glues them to the base.