55th Foot

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Hierarchical Path: Seven Years War (Main Page) >> Armies >> British Army >> 55th Foot

Origin and History

The regiment was raised at Stirling in Scotland in December 1755. It initially ranked 57th until the disbandment of the 50th Foot and 51st Foot in North America in 1757. The regiment then became the “55th Regiment of Foot”.

During the Seven Years' War, the regiment was commanded by:

  • since December 25 1755: George Perry
  • from September 28 1757: George Augustus Viscount Howe
  • from July 14 1758: John Donaldson
  • from October 28 1758: John Prideaux
  • from July 20 1760: James Adolphus Oughton
  • from August 20 1762 to August 3 1774: William Gosnel (aka Gansell)

Service during the War

In 1757, the regiment was selected for the planned campaign against Louisbourg or Québec. On May 7, the transport fleet sailed from Cork, Ireland, arriving at Halifax on July 9. However, three French Naval Squadrons reinforced Louisbourg that summer and the British expedition was cancelled. On September 28, George Augustus Viscount Howe was appointed colonel of the regiment. Howe was probably the first high ranking British officer to take interest into the art of forest warfare. To learn it, he joined the irregulars in their scouting parties, shared the hardships and adopted their dress. He then began to impart the lessons that he had learned to his men. He introduced several changes. Officers and privates all wore identical uniform making it difficult to sharpshooters to systematically pick officers as their target as they used to do. He also modified the uniform to adapt it to forest warfare, cutting the coat skirts off as well as the the hair of his soldiers, browning the barrels of their muskets, replaced gaiters with leggings, and adding more provisions in knapsacks to increase the autonomy of his troops. This current of idea had already begun to permeate British command, Colonel Bouquet of the 60th Foot and Brigadier Forbes both considered that British troops should adopt the art of war of the Indians.

Lack of winter-quarters at Halifax forced the relocation of the 55th Foot to the area around Albany and the Mohawk Valley.

In July 1758, the regiment took part in the expedition against Carillon (present-dayday Ticonderoga). On July 5, it was embarked at the head of Lake George. On July 6, at daybreak, the British flotilla reached the narrow channel leading into Lake Champlain near Fort Carillon and disembarkation began at 9:00 a.m. On July 6, Howe was killed during the initial skirmishes with the French. On July 8, the regiment fought in the disastrous Battle of Carillon. At daybreak on July 9, the British army re-embarked and retreated to the head of the lake where it reoccupied the camp it had left a few days before.

In 1759, the grenadiers of regiment took part in the expedition against Fort Niagara which surrendered on July 25. Meanwhile, by the end of June 1759, the rest of the regiment had joined the British army assembled under the command of Lord Jeffrey Amherst, at the head of Lake Saint-Sacrement (present-day Lake George) for the planned expedition against Carillon. On Saturday July 21, after a long delay, the regiment finally embarked aboard the flotilla which set sail over Lake Saint-Sacrement and reached the Narrows at the outlet of the lake before nightfall. At daybreak on Sunday July 22, the British force disembarked, occupied the heights, and then advanced to the line of entrenchment of Carillon. On the night of July 23, most of the French force retired down Lake Champlain, leaving only 400 men to defend the place as long as possible. At 11:00 p.m. on July 26, the French, who had abandoned the fort, blew one of the bastion to atoms. On August 1, the British force also took possession of a destroyed Fort Saint-Frédéric (present-day Crown Point) which had been abandoned by its French garrison. The British force then spent months rebuilding the two forts and adding some outworks while vessels were being built to take command of Lake Champlain. It was not until October 11 that the British troops re-embarked aboard their flotilla. On October 18, due to bad weather, Amherst resolved to cancel out the expedition and to retreat to Crown Point. The regiment wintered at Fort Saint-Frédéric.

In August 1760, the regiment joined the army under the command of Amherst who participated in the three pronged attack against Montréal whose garrison surrendered on September 8.

Uniform

In 1755, when the regiment was created, the uniform followed the general pattern for the British line infantry. In 1757, Howe, the new colonel of the regiment, reorganised it as a unit of light troops. He also modified the uniform to adapt it to forest warfare, cutting the coat skirts off as well as the the hair of his soldiers, browning the barrels of their muskets, replaced gaiters with leggings, and adding more provisions in knapsacks to increase the autonomy of his troops.

Privates

Uniform in 1756 - Source: rf-figuren from a template by Frédéric Aubert
Uniform Details (1756)
Headgear
Musketeer black tricorne laced white with a black cockade (left side)
Grenadier British mitre with: a dark green front embroidered with the King's cypher and a crown over it; a small red front flap with the white horse of Hanover surmounted by the motto "Nec aspera terrent"; red back; a dark green headband wearing the number 55 in the middle part behind
Neckstock white
Coat brick red lined dark green and laced and edged yellow (yellow braid with 2 dark green stripes) with 3 yellow buttonholes under the lapels (same lace as above)
Collar none
Shoulder Straps red fastened with a white button (left shoulder)
Lapels dark green laced yellow (same lace as above) with 7 pewter buttons and 6 yellow buttonholes (same lace as above)
Pockets horizontal pockets with yellow laces (same lace as above), each with pewter buttons
Cuffs dark green (slashed in the British pattern) laced yellow (same lace as above) with yellow buttonholes and white buttons on the sleeve
Turnbacks dark green
Waistcoat brick red edged and laced yellow (same lace as above)
Breeches brick red
Gaiters white with black buttons
brown, grey or black during campaigns (black after 1759)
Leather Equipment
Crossbelt natural leather
Waistbelt natural leather
Cartridge Box black
Bayonet Scabbard black
Scabbard black
Footgear black shoes


Troopers were armed with with a "Brown Bess" muskets, a bayonet and a sword. They also carried a dark brown haversack with a metal canteen on the left hip.

Officers

Officers of the regiment wore the same uniforms as the private soldiers but with the following differences

  • silver gorget around the neck
  • an aiguilette on the right shoulder
  • gold lace instead of normal lace
  • a crimson sash

Officers wore the same headgear as the private soldiers under their command; however, officers of the grenadier company wore a more decorated mitre cap.

Officers generally carried a spontoon, however, in battle some carried muskets instead.

N.B.: when Howe reorganised the regiment as light troops in 1757, officers wore the same uniform as privates to make it difficult to sharpshooters to systematically pick officers as their target as they used to do

Musicians

According to the Royal Clothing Warrant of 1751:

The drummers of the regiment were clothed in dark green, lined, faced, and lapelled on the breast with red, and laced in such manner as the colonel shall think fit for distinction sake, the lace, however, was of the colours of that on the soldiers' coats.
The front or fore part of the drums was painted dark green, with the king's cypher and crown, and the number “LV” under it. The rims were red.

Colours

King's Colour: Union with its centre decorated with a rose and thistle wreath around the regiment number "LV" in gold Roman numerals.

Regimental Colour: dark green field; centre device consisting of a rose and thistle wreath around the regiment number "LV" in gold Roman numerals. The Union in the upper left corner.

King's Colour - Source: PMPdeL
Regimental Colour - Source: PMPdeL

References

Aylor, Ron: British Regimental Drums and Colours

Boscawen, Hugh: The Capture of Louisbourg, 1758, University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, 2011

Fortescue, J. W.: A History of the British Army Vol. II, MacMillan, London, 1899

Funcken, Liliane and Fred: Les uniformes de la guerre en dentelle

George II: The Royal Clothing Warrant, 1751

Mills, T. F.: Land Forces of Britain the Empire and Commonwealth (an excellent website which unfortunately seems to have disappeared from the web)

Wikipedia 55th Regiment of Foot

N.B.: the section Service during the War is mostly derived from our articles depicting the various campaigns, battles and sieges.