Pennsylvania Provincials

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

Origin and History

In July 1755, after Braddock's defeat in an ambush on the Monongahela, Pennsylvanians, who until then had no militia forces, started to organise its defence. The governor gave orders to build forts at Carlisle and Shippensburg and to organize 4 companies of volunteers. In October, the French and Canadians with their Indian Allies began to launch raids on the border of Pennsylvania. On November 25, a "Militia Act" was passed in response to the border massacres perpetrated by the Susquehanna and Ohio Delawares. On November 27, the Assembly of Pennsylvania voted funds to build forts and to replace militia companies with a Provincial Regiment which was originally formed from preexisting volunteers and militia around the Susquehanna River. Most men enlisted for less than six months.

In March 1756, the regiment was formally organised into two battalions: the one east of the river were commanded by Lieutenant-colonel Conrad Weiser, while the one to the west of the river was led by Colonel John Armstrong. Later, a third battalion was raised under Colonel William Clapham, to defend the area of Augusta, Pennsylvania. Afterwards, the Pennsylvania Provincials were reorganized into 2 regiments: the 1st (Augusta) regiment, formed of one battalion under Clapham, and the 2nd, comprising the other two battalions.

By 1758, Weiser's battalion was broken up and distributed among the other two battalions. the 1st and 2nd regiments were integrated into a single regiment, under the overall command of Governer William Denny, with the 1st commanded by Armstrong, and the 2nd by Lieutenant-colonel James Burd. In March, the Assembly agreed to raise 23 new companies of recruits. Of these, 16 were formed into a 3rd battalion under one Hugh Mercer, with the balance of the recruits going to the other two battalions, under Armstrong and Burd. These companies were disbanded at the end of the campaigning season. also, a company each of the 1st and 2nd battalions was converted into light horse. These were described by Bouquet as being poorly armed with a small hanger.

In 1761, only 300 Pennsylvania Provincials were still in service.

The last Pennsylvania Provincials, who garrisoned Fort Augusta, were disbanded in 1764.

Service during the War

Throughout the war, Pennsylvania Provincials remained on the western frontier to guard their province against Indian raids.

In the spring of 1757, many soldiers of the regiment stationed at Fort Augusta abandoned their post because they had not been paid since a while, leaving the fort seriously undermanned.

In April 1758, 2,700 Pennsylvanians, mostly Scots, were assigned to the expedition against Fort Duquesne under Brigadier John Forbes. By the end of June, Forbes' army was on the march from Philadelphia, slowly progressing towards Fort Duquesne by Raystown, Shippensburg and Loyalhannon. At the end of November, Forbes' army marched on the fort which was destroyed by the French before retiring.

Uniform

Privates (1758)

Uniform from 1758 - Source: Ibrahim90 from a template by Frédéric Aubert
Uniform Details
Headgear
Musketeer black tricorne laced white, and a black cockade
Grenadier none
Neckstock white
Coat green with white buttons and unlaced buttonholes
Collar none
Shoulder Straps n/a
Lapels red with white buttons
Pockets horizontal pockets, each with 3 buttons
Cuffs red (slashed in the british white) with white buttons
Turnbacks n/a
Waistcoat red with horizontal pockets, each with white buttons
Breeches leather
Gaiters indian leggings or brown gaiters
Leather Equipment
Crossbelt natural leather
Waistbelt natural leather
Cartridge Box black
Bayonet Scabbard black
Scabbard black
Footgear black


Troopers were armed with a variety of muskets and bayonets. many were outdated, heavy, and often were bound by tapes instead of screw.

Officers

  • a sliver gorget.
  • silver lace on pockets, vest, and buttonholes.
  • a silver aiguilette on the right shoulder.
  • a crimson sash.

Musicians

???

Colours

A letter from the regimental proprietor, Conrad Weiser, to Captain Christian Busse, one of his company commanders, mentions the existence of colours, even specifying that they had been paraded at Easton on the occasion of the treaty. However, there is no description of what these colours looked like. Therefore, we can assume that the regiment carried a regimental colour and that Captain Busse's company carried a battalion colour.

A group of reenactors ( I. Battalion, Pennsylvania Regt. has tried to reconstruct the colours of the regiment based on the royal warrant that was in effect at the time. Here is a brief description of these conjectural colours.

King's Colour: the Grand Union with the title of the battalion, "I. BN. PENNa REGt", surrounded by a cartouche frame in gold, all surrounded by the "union" wreath of roses and thistles on the same stalk.

Battalion or Company Colour: the cross of St. George on a white field, with the same central device as the King's Colour.

References

The Company of military historians, Military uniforms in america: The era of the American Revolution, 1755-1795, Presidio Press, 1974

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

Stephenson, R. S.: Pennsylvania Provincial Soldiers in the Seven Yeras' War, in Pennsylvania History, University of Virginia, pp. 196-204

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

Acknowledgement

TheBaron for the information on the colours carried by the regiment.