Massachusetts Provincials

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Hierarchical Path: Seven Years War (Main Page) >> Armies >> British Army >> Massachusetts Provincials

Origin and History

In 1745, some 3,300 Provincials from Massachusetts took part in the siege and capture of Louisbourg.

Each regiment counted about 500 men organized in companies of 50 men.

Service during the War

In May 1755, 2 battalions (John Winslow and Scott under the overall command of Monckton) of Massachusets Provincials took part in the expedition against Fort Beauséjour which was captured in June. For the rest of the summer these troops participated in the deportation of the Acadians.

The same year, in August, another body of Massachusets Provincials (about 900 men) took part in the expedition against Fort Saint-Frédéric (present-day Crown Point) led by William Johnson of New York. A fort initially known as Fort Lyman (soon renamed Fort Edward) was built on the Hudson River at the carrying place leading to Lake Saint-Sacrement (present-day Lake George). At the beginning of September, Johnson's force resumed its advance and reached Lake Saint-Sacrement. On September 8, it fought in the Combat of Lake George where part of Johnson's was ambushed by a French force under Dieskau. The Colonials were badly mauled and retired to Johnson's camp. The French followed up but their attack on Johnson's camp was repulsed, Dieskau being wounded and captured. Johnson did not organize any counteroffensive but built Fort William Henry on the shore of Lake Saint-Sacrement. On November 27, when Johnson retreated to the Hudson, he left contingents from each province to garrison Fort William Henry during the winter.

Finally, still in 1755, another body of Massachusets Provincials (about 300 men) was spared to accompany Shirley in the planned expedition against Fort Niagara, an expedition which did not go farther than Oswego before being cancelled.

In February 1756, the Province of Massachusetts agreed to raise 3,000 men, under overall command of John Winslow, for the planned operations on Lake Champlain. These troops were organised into 6 regiments:

  • Colonel Jonathan Bagley's (10 coys for a total of 599 men)
  • Colonel Joseph Dwight's (10 coys for a total of 548 men)
  • Colonel Richard Gridley's (9 coys for a total of 503 men, including 1 coy of artillery train)
  • Colonel Ichabod Plaisted's (9 coys for a total of 485 men)
  • Colonel Timothy Ruggles' (9 coys for a total of 458 men)
  • Colonel Joseph Thacher's (9 coys for a total of 432 men)

For the campaign of 1757, Massachusetts provided 1,800 men under the command of Joseph Frye. On August 1, Webb sent up a detachment of 200 regulars under Lieutenant-colonel Young and 800 Massachusetts Provincials under Colonel Frye to reinforce Fort William Henry which was the target of a French attack. Other troops from Massachusetts were posted at Fort Edward and other places on the frontier. On August 4, Massachusetts authorised its militia, under the command of Lieutenant-general Sir William Pepperell, to march to the succour of Webb. On August 9, Pepperell was in Springfield preparing his expedition when he received intelligence of the fall of Fort William Henry. When the news reached the governor in Boston, he immediately gave orders raise a regiment of artillery and to gather all mounted troops of militia and one-fourth of all foot militia regiments (to the exception of those of the counties of York, Nantucket and Duke). In case of the approach of the French army, it was proposed to make a stand on the east bank of the Connecticut River. By August 18, when it became clear that Montcalm did not intend to advance further in Brtish territory, the governor of Massachusetts revoked his orders to raise the militia. Those on the march returned home.

In the Spring of 1758, the General Assembly of Massachusetts agreed to enlist 7,000 men for the reduction of Canada. Indeed, 4,500 men could be voluntarily enlisted and the remaining 2,500 men had to be drawn from the militia and impressed into the service. They all marched to Lake George to make a junction with General Abercrombie. In July, the 6 Provincial regiments from Massachusetts (Bagley, Doty, Nichols, Preble, Ruggles, and Williams) took part in the expedition against Carillon (present-day Ticonderoga). On July 5, they were 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 8, they 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. Meanwhile, after the surrender of the fortress of Louisbourg on July 27, a regiment of Massachusetts Provincials garrisoned the place.

For the campaign of 1759, the General Assembly of Massachusetts agreed to enlist 5,000 men into 6 Provincial regiments. From this force, 400 men were to be employed under the governor, as a guard or defence in building a fort at the mouth of the Penobscot River. Soon the General assembly resolved to raise 1,500 additional men. About 2,500 men were sent to garrison Louisbourg and Nova Scotia. Several hundreds served on board ships of the British Royal Navy. The remainders of the Massachusetts Provincials joined the forces of General Amherst for the planned expedition against Carillon on Lake Champlain. In July, they took part to the capture of the abandoned fort. Another 300 men were raised upon Wolfe's application and they joined his force in the Siege of Québec where they were used as pioneers. Exceptionally, the Massachusetts Provincials serving at Louisbourg and in Nova Scotia were held in service for the winter.

In 1760, Massachusetts agreed to field some 5,500 men in addition to the 2,500 men already serving in Louisbourg and Nova Scotia. However, only 3,300 men enlisted and only 700 men out of 2,500 agreed to remain in Louisbourg and Nova Scotia. Most of the Massachusetts Provincials took part in the three pronged attack against Montréal, being part of Amherst's main force advancing from Lake Champlain.

In 1761, the General Assembly of Massachusetts agreed to raise 3,000 men to replace the British regulars troops redirected to the West Indies.

In 1762, the General Assembly of Massachusetts agreed to raise 3,200 men.

Uniform

In 1755, Massachusetts Provincials received a blue uniform with red facings. The province also provided them with a powder horn, a bullet pouch, a blanket, a knapsack and a wooden bottle or canteen. Each private could supply his own musket, being retributed for it, or receive one from the province.

Privates

Uniform - Source: Ibrahim90 from a template by Frédéric Aubert
Uniform Details from February 1757
Headgear
Musketeer black tricorne laced white with a black cockade on the left side
or a black felt round hat with a 6 cm brim.
Grenadier ???
Neckstock white
Coat blue with a white button on each side in the small of the back
Collar none
Shoulder Straps blue fastened with a small white button
Lapels red with 6 white buttons
Pockets horizontal pockets, each with 3 white buttons
Cuffs red with 2 white buttons on the sleeve above each cuff
Turnbacks red
Waistcoat red with white buttons
Breeches blue (red before 1756), but red, black, brown, drab, or green breeches were also worn
Gaiters blue or green wool leggings
Leather Equipment
Crossbelt natural leather
Waistbelt natural leather
Cartridge Box natural leather
Bayonet Scabbard ???
Scabbard ???
Footgear black shoes


N.B.: 3 battalions raised in 1761 still received blue uniforms but with different distinctive colours: blue, red, and green

Troopers were armed with a musket, an iron-hilted cutlass or similar sword.

Officers

Officers wore uniform similar to those of the privates with the following differences:

  • Company officers: gold laced tricornes, gold laced waistcoats
  • Major and above: often wore an all red coat with large, round, red cuffs with gold lace

Musicians

???

Colours

Colonel Flag: Red field. The Union in the upper left corner

Regimental Flag: several regiments probably carried colours decorated with a pine tree

References

This article contains texts taken from the following books which are now in the public domain:

  • Barry, John S.: The History of Massachusetts: The provincial period (1692-1775), Boston, 1857, pp. 198-232
  • Hutchinson, Thomas: The History of the Province of Massachusetts Bay, London: John Murray, 1828, pp. 28-100

Other sources

Chartrand, Rene: Colonial American Troops 1610-1774, Osprey Publishing, Oxford, 2002

Fort Ticonderoga: 1759 Relief & Refit – General Amherst's Army of 1759 – Massachusetts Provincials

Lawson, Cecil C. P.: A History of the Uniforms of the British Army, Vol. III, London: Kaye & Ward, pp. 190-225

The Massachusetts Provincial Battalion

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