Virginia Provincials

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

Origin and History

In 1754, fearing the encroachments of France on the Ohio Country (present-day western Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Michigan), Governor Dinwiddie of Virginia authorised the raising of 2 companies of provincial infantry for the defence of Virginia. The Assembly of the province also agrred to raise a total of 6 companies of infantry, but by the middle of the year, only 5 companies had been raised. George Washington was appointed lieutenant-colonel of the provincials, with Joshua Fry the acting colonel of the regiment. This was the first Virginian regiment in the war.

Late in 1754, the 5 original companies were broken up into 10 independent companies, with no field officer. The companies were again reformed into a true regiment in 1755, this time into 16 companies. It was at this time that a new uniform replaced the old one.

An additional regiment, the 2nd, was raised on March 30 1758, under the command of Colonel William Byrd, but it was disbanded in December of the same year at the end of the campaign.

In 1762, the 1st regiment as well was disbanded.

During the Seven Years' War, the 1st regiment was commanded by:

The second regiment was commanded by:

  • from March 30 to December 1758: Colonel William Byrd.

Service during the War

1st regiment

In 1754, the regiment (about 300 men) under the command of Colonel Fry and Lieutenant-colonel George Washington undertook the expedition that led to the encounter at Jumonville Glenn and the killing of Jumonville, and which culminated in the humiliating surrender of Washington's force at Fort Necessity, which capitulated, ironically, on July 4. Prior to that expedition, the regiment was apparently in Alexandria, Virginia.

In May 1755, nine companies of Virginia militia (about 50 men each) joined Braddock's expeditionary force at Fort Cumberland at the junction of Wills Creek with the Potomac. They took part in the disastrous expedition against Fort Duquesne (later Fort Pitt, present-day Pittsburgh) where, on July 9, Braddock suffered a heavy defeat in an ambush on the Monongahela. The British force first retreated to Great Meadows (July 13), then to Fort Cumberland. On August 2, it left this fort for Philadelphia. Afterwards, many companies of the regiment were apparently garrisoned at Fort Cumberland, charged with the defence of the frontier against regular Indian raids. The regiment was kept in active service throughout the following winter.

From 1756 to 1757, small detachments of the regiment were involved in numerous minor actions along Virginia's extensive wilderness frontier.

In April 1758, part of the regiment was 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. In September, a detachment of Virginians took part to a raid on Fort Duquesne but the affair was mismanaged and several men were killed when counter-ambushed by the French and their Indian allies. At the end of November, Forbes' Army marched on the fort which was destroyed by the French before retiring. At the beginning of December, Forbes' troops began their march back to Pennsylvania. The task of holding Pittsburgh for the winter was assigned to Lieutenant-colonel Mercer, of the Virginians, with 200 Provincials.

In 1759, part of the regiment was garrisoning Pittsburgh.

By 1762, the 1st regiment was in Fort Lewis, Virginia, where it was disbanded.

2nd Regiment (1758)

In April 1758, part of the newly raised regiment was 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. In September, a detachment of Virginians took part to a raid on Fort Duquesne but the affair was mismanaged and several men were killed when counter-ambushed by the French and their Indian allies. At the end of November, Forbes' Army marched on the fort which was destroyed by the French before retiring. At the beginning of December, Forbes' troops began their march back to Pennsylvania. The regiment was disbanded at the end of the campaign.

Uniform

Uniform in 1754-1755

Even though there is a formal uniform for Virginia Provincials, in 1754, Washington complained that his men "are now naked and cannot get credit even for hatts..." By September 11 1755, Washington reported that he had received 50 uniforms. It is far from certain that the uniform described in this section has ever been worn on a wide basis within the regiment.

Privates

Uniform in 1754 - Source: Ibrahim90 from a template by Frédéric Aubert
Uniform Details
Headgear
Musketeer black tricorne laced white with a black cockade (left side)
Grenadier none
Neckstock white
Coat red with white buttons on the right side and 1 small white button in the small of the back on each side
Collar none
Shoulder Straps none
Lapels none
Pockets horizontal pockets
Cuffs red (slashed in the british pattern) with 3 white buttons on the sleeve above each cuff (one is hidden by the cuff.)
Turnbacks red
Waistcoat red with small white buttons
Breeches 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


N.B: deserter descriptions also mention some soldiers with leather breeches, or a red uniform turned blue. however, most soldiers were described as having "red coats", and furthur letters confirm red faced red as the main uniform.

Troopers were armed with a musket and bayonet. soldiers were supposed to have hangers as well.

Officers

Officers wore a similar uniform to the private soldiers, with the following differences:

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

During the campaign of 1755, Washington and other officers wore buckskin shirts.

Musicians

???

Uniform in 1755-1763

New uniforms had been ordered in London in the fall of 1754 and were received prior to the campaign of 1755. However, by 1758, these uniforms were rather worn out. In May 1759, a witness mentioned that "the ordinary soldiers have no uniforms nor do they affect any regularity".

Privates

Uniform - 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 blue with white buttons and unlaced buttonholes
Collar none
Shoulder Straps blue or none
Lapels red with five or six white buttons
Pockets horizontal pockets
Cuffs red (slashed in the british pattern) with 3 white buttons on the sleeve above each cuff (one is hidden by the cuff.)
Turnbacks red (usually bobbed for campaigning)
Waistcoat red with horizontal pockets, each with 3 buttons
Breeches blue or leather
Gaiters brown or black (for campaigning)
Leather Equipment
Crossbelt natural leather
Waistbelt natural leather
Cartridge Box black leather
Bayonet Scabbard black leather
Scabbard black leather
Footgear black or brown shoes.


Troopers were armed with brown bess and bayonet. hangers were supposed to worn, but often a hatchet or tomahawk was worn on campaigns instead.

N.B: a painting of George washington, as Colonel of the Virginians, dated from 1772, shows red breeches instead of blue. However, the regulation from the war stipulated blue, not red, breeches.

Officers

Officers wore a black tricorne laced silver; a blue coat faced and cuffed scarlet and trimmed with silver lace; a scarlet waistcoat edged silver; blue breeches. They were also distinguished by

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

Musicians

???

Colours

King's Colour: Union with its centre decorated with a rose and thistle wreath around the regiment abbreviation "VA Regt" in gold.

Regimental Colour: white field (no mention of the red St. George cross usually appearing on white British regimental colours); centre device consisting of a rose and thistle wreath around the regiment abbreviation "VA Regt" in gold. The Union in the upper left corner.

King's Colour - Source: Stephen Thomson from a template by PMPdeL
Regimental Colour - Source: Stephen Thomson from a template by PMPdeL

References

Campbell, J. W.: A History of Virginia from its discovery till the year 1781, Petersburg (Va), 1813, pp. 102-139

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

Howison, B.: History of Virginia from its Discovery and Settlement by Europeans to the Present Time, Vil. I, Philadelphia: Carey & Hart, 1846, pp. 452-496

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

Sheppard, Ruth: Empires collide – The French and Indian War 1754-63, Osprey Publishing, 2006

The Virginia Regiment

Wikipedia – Virginia Regiment

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