Tuesday, January 28, 2014

A Catalog of US Regular Army Forces, 1814

Going through my notes yesterday, I found an additional page of Madison's Report, which includes the Left Division of the 9th Military District. The Left Division bore by far the brunt of the fighting in 1814 when it crossed the Niagara River in the summer, capturing Fort Erie, winning a hard-fought victory at Chippewa and a stalemate at Lundy's Lane, and retreating again to the fort, where it held out against an intensive month-long siege.

The US armed forces in the War of 1812 fielded a bewildering variety of troop types, and it's worthwhile here to give a brief explanation as to what they were:

Firstly, there were three basic types of soldier of any arm fighting in the war: the professional "regular army" soldier; and the citizens who enlisted as volunteers and militia. Militia, fielded by the states, were by far the most numerous. 

Secondly, each of the three categories of forces fielded units using the three basic arms of the 19th century military: infantry, artillery, and cavalry. These units can be subdivided into line and light infantry; light or horse, foot or field, and heavy or garrison artillery; and light horse or mounted infantry. The regular army list here represents the three arms of the small, professional element of the US forces.

  • Light Dragoons: Two regiments of light dragoons were organized during the war. These were the only regular army cavalry to see service, and consisted of men equipped as light horse, with pistols, sabers, and often muskets or carbines. Though the term dragoon originally referred to mounted infantry, these regiments were purely light cavalry.
  • Light Artillery: A new invention of the age of Napoleon, the light artillery regiment was not equipped as such by the outbreak of war. In theory, each company was equipped with three 2-gun sections, each drawn by horses. The guns were not necessarily lighter caliber than foot artillery. The true difference between light and foot artillery was that all the light artillerists were mounted and equipped as cavalrymen, so that the unit could dash in close to an enemy formation, shoot it to pieces, and dash out before it could be overrun. A French artillery specialist serving in the US Army before the war recommended using heavier guns, such as 8- and 12-pounders. However, most of the light artillery companies served indifferently as garrison troops, foot artillerists, and even infantrymen during the war.
  • Artillerists: There was no distinction between garrison and field artillery during the war on an organizational level. Initially, the army had three regiments of "foot" artillery, each composed of 20 companies. In 1814 these companies, spread throughout the country, were reorganized into a single Corps made up of several four-company battalions. Each field army in theory would be accompanied by a battalion of artillery. These units were trained and equipped as infantrymen, so that in theory they could defend their guns against a close infantry assault, and act as sentries. As an elite service the artillerists were exempt from fatigue duties. Most field artillery companies consisted of two 2 gun sections of six pounders and a 2 gun section of 6-inch howitzers. Heavier field guns were available, and some companies operated 12-pounders. Companies might also be assigned to siege trains or forts, where they operated heavy or seacoast artillery. A battalion of the 2nd Regiment and the entire 3rd Regiment served as infantry formations during the war.
  • Infantry: By far the most numerous, and tactically important element of the army, there were over 40 regular infantry regiments organized by 1813. Each was composed of one (and sometimes two) battalions made up of ten companies, for a strength of 1,000 men per battalion. In reality, most regiments existed far below their authorized strength, and many individual companies and detachments were scattered throughout most regiment's areas of service. In 1813, the President established 12-months infantry regiments as a replacement for the 12-months citizen volunteers who had served in the first year of the war. By 1814, many of these regiments ceased to exist or were rolled up into older organizations that needed the manpower. At the end of the war, the remaining regiments were completely reshuffled so that the modern-day US Army regiments date from 1815. The infantry regiments were not officially organized with elite "flank" companies of light troops or grenadiers, but some companies were designated light troops nevertheless.
  • Riflemen: A Regiment of Rifles had been formed in 1808, with companies scattered in garrisons throughout the US. By 1814 four Rifle Regiments had been formed, including one in Kentucky. Many of the rifle companies were not organized and equipped in time to fight in the war, but the two battalions of the 1st Regiment saw extensive service in both raids and skirmishes and full-scale battles.
  • Sea Fencibles: ten companies of these maritime militias were authorized in 1813 to help defend the harbors of the east coast. They were trained and equipped as infantrymen, but not liable for service in the field. Instead, they normally manned the guns of the seacoast forts. Two companies manned Fort McHenry in Baltimore.
  • Rangers: by 1814 there were a total of 12 companies of US Army rangers. They were not commandos in the modern sense. Instead, they were intended to be armed and equipped as mounted riflemen, able to patrol vast swaths of the frontiers and rapidly respond to and run down raiding parties of Indians. Daniel Boone's son, Daniel Morgan Boone, served as the captain of one such company stationed in the Missouri Territory. Since recruits were expected to supply their own mounts and equipment, there were several companies which remained unmounted, and served on foot. Many of them were simply used to garrison the many small posts and blockhouses in the northwestern frontier.
Here are the remaining troops, including most of the more famous units of Major General Jacob Brown's Left Division:
District No. 9 Continued

Light Artillery 60 66
Dragoons (1 troop mounted) 443 357
Artillerists 624 684
9th Regt. Of Infy. 227 351
11th Do. 492 628
21st Do. 458 664
25th Do. 392 606
1st Rifle Regiment 1st Battalion 345 345
Total 3041 4074

Under orders to join this Division


1st Regt. Infy.

22d Do.

23d Do.

The recruits of the 1st, 9th, 11th, 21st, & 25th under orders to join, amount to

910 910

5348 6613

Is is but the recruits of the Regts assigned to the 9th District which are carried out in this report.

The difference between the effective and aggregate columns of these Regts and particularly of those

composing the Divisions of the right confirms Genl Izard's representation of the wretched condition in

which he found that (illegible).