55th Regiment, Compy. of Light Infantry (1759-1764

 The Light Infantry Company.

"form a company of men from each regiment, and those to be the most active, with Proper Officers: 

These to be called light infantry of the regiments...."

- Henry Skinner Journal



                 Warfare in North America, dictated that the British Army adapt and change the way they went into battle.  British officers already in the beginning of the French and Indian War, knew that irregular troops would be of great use.  This is evidenced by their authorization, of ranger companies among the Provincials and the formation of independent companies such as, Rogers’ Rangers and Goreham’s Rangers.  The Duke of Cumberland wrote, “teach your troops to go out upon scouting parties:  for ‘till Regular Officers with men that they can trust, learn to beat the woods & to act as Irregulars, you will never gain any certain Intelligence of the Enemy, as far I fear, by this time you are convinced Indian Intelligence & that of Rangers is not all to be depended upon.”1  In the fall of 1757, Lord Loudoun ordered a cadet company to be formed.  Major Robert Rogers’ wrote in his journal;

                “About this time Lord Loudoun sent the following volunteers in the regular troops, to be trained  to  the ranging, or wood-service, under my command and inspection; with particular orders to me to instruct them to the utmost of my power in the ranging-discipline, our methods of marching, retreating, ambushing, fighting, &c. that they might be the better qualified for any future services against the enemy we had to contend with, desiring me to take particular notice of each one’s behaviour, and to recommend them according to their deserts, viz.”2 

Among those volunteers were Mr. Christopher, Mr. Hamilton, Mr. Still, and Mr. Young of the 55th Regiment of Foot.3 

         In 1758, there was the formation of two light infantry units among the regulars, the 80th Regiment of Light Armed Foot under Colonel Thomas Gage and the Provisional Light Infantry Battalion in Nova Scotia, under a American-born regular officer George Scott of the 40th Regiment.  General Jeffery Amherst, commander of the operation to take Louisbourg ordered the battalion's formation, General Orders, May 12, 1758:

“A body of light infantry will be formed, from the different corps, to act as irregulars; the regiments, that have been any time in America, are to furnish men such as have been most accustomed to the woods, and are good marksmen; and those from Europe are to furnish active marchers, and men that are expert at firing ball; and all in general must be alert, spirited soldiers, able to endure fatigue.”4

This body of light troops was of great use to the British during the siege.  Though the Battalion was provisional, the light infantry companies were unofficially kept on, after the reduction of Louisbourg by General Amherst.  He wrote in his journal on the 22nd of September 1758 as he marched his troops to New York through the colony of Massachusetts; "I marched by the left, Light Infantry of the Highlanders forming the advanced Guard and Grenadiers & Light Infantry of the Royal the rear Guard"5


            Following Abercrombie’s debacle at Ticonderoga in the summer of 1758, autumn brought a new Commander-in-Chief of British forces in North America, and that would be no other than Jeffery Amherst.  He did not forget the usefulness of the light infantry and would again call upon the formation of light infantry.  During the winter Amherst ordered his officers to “practice their men at firing at marks, whenever the weather permitted:  to form a company of men from each regiment, and those to be the most active, with Proper Officers:  These to be called light infantry of the regiments they belong to…”7  In Major Rogers’ journal there is a letter from R. Townshend dated Feb. 26, 1759 from New York stating, “We have chose out one hundred men from each regiment, and pitched upon the officers to act this year as light infantry…”6  By March the light infantry companies were to be completed, the orderly book of Alexander Moneypenny states “The Light Infantry companies to be form’d directly…” in it’s entry for March 4, 1759.8

1 Cuneo, John.  Robert Rogers of the Rangers.  Fort Ticonderoga Museum.  Ticonderoga, NY 1988.  p. 54 -55.

2 Rogers, Robert and Bouquet, Henry.  Warfare On the Colonial American Frontier:  The Journals of Major Robert Rogers & An Historical Account of the Expedition Against the Ohio Indians in the Year 1764, Under the Command of Henry Bouquet, Esq.  Dresslar Publishing.  Bargarsville, IN 1997.  p. 52.

3 Ibid.. p. 55.

4 Knox, John.  An Historical Journal of the Campaigns in North America For the Years 1757, 1758, 1759, and 1760.  Greenwood Press. New York 1968.  p. 207.

5 Amherst, Jeffery.  THE JOURNAL OF JEFFERY AMHERST.  Edited by Clarence Webster.  University of Chicago Press.  Chicago, IL 1931.  Page 88.

6 McCulloch, Ian.. “Wtihin Ourselves…The Development of British Light Infantry in North America During the Seven Years War.” Canadian Military History. Vol. 7. No. 2 Spring 1998.  p. 48. 

8 Moneypenny, Alexander.  “Moneypenny Orderly Book”  The Bulletin of the Fort Ticonderoga Museum Vol. XIII, No. 2. June 1971.   Fort Ticonderoga Museum, Ticonderoga, NY.  p. 171.



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