The Light Infantry were perhaps the most flexible component of the British Army during the American War of Independence, performing an impressively wide array of roles, from scavenging for supplies to daring (if controversial) raids, as well as their familiar role as skirmishers and even taking a place in the line of battle when required.
We start with a look at the earlier history of the British Light Infantry, largely focusing on the North American experience, where light infantry units were formed during the Seven Years War and provided to be very effective. We then look at the situation between the end of the Seven Years War and the outbreak of the American Revolution, a period that saw the Light Infantry disbanded, reformed, and the start of a light infantry doctrine. Here the author shows a good understanding of the often rather informal way in which new ideas could spread through the army in this period, through the experiences and enthusiasm of individual officers, rather than though more formal printed documents. This is supported by extracts from memoirs which include accounts of how light infantry ideas reached the author.
The section on equipment and uniforms shows that the Army did actually put some thought into these units, modifying their uniforms to make them better suited to their role (although still leaving them in bright red!). The same is true of their recruitment, where the peacetime emphasis on being shorter than average was rather ignored and the more significant areas of marksmanship, intelligence etc rose to the fore.
The section on their operations covers an impressive range of activities. The light infantry emerge as determined and aggressive, but perhaps over-aggressive, gaining a reputation for committing massacres (most of which were mainly battlefield victories that embarrassed the Americans and were then used for propaganda) and for being amongst the most determined looters in the army. Finally we look at the long term impact of the light infantry, which owed much to the influence of key officers who had served in North America, most famously General Sir John Moore.
British Light Infantry on the Eve of the American Revolutionary War
Weapons, Clothing and Equipment
Recruitment and Motivation
Impact and Influence
Author: Robbie Macniven