Crown Forces Soldiers

Obelisk monument
The Crown Forces Monument honors the British and Hessian regiments, who served at the Battle of Guilford Courthouse.

NPS Photo

Order of Battle

British Army: Lt. Gen. Charles, 2nd Earl Cornwallis

The Brigade of Guards: Brig. Gen. Charles O'Hara
1st Battalion: Lt. Col. Chapple Norton
2nd Battalion: Lt. Col. James Stuart
Guards Light Infantry Company: Capt. John Goodricke
Guards Grenadier Company: Capt. William Home

Webster's Brigade: Lt. Col. James Webster
23rd Foot: Capt. Thomas Peter
33rd Foot: Capt. Frederick Cornwallis

Leslie's Brigade: Maj. Gen. Alexander Leslie
2nd Battalion, 71st Foot: Capt. Robert Hutcheson
Von Bose Regiment: Maj. Johann Du Buy

Auxiliary Troops

British Legion: Lt. Col. Banastre Tarleton
Jaeger Company: Capt. Wilhelm Friedrich von Roeder
Royal Artillery: Lt. John McLeod, Lt. Augustus O'Hara, and Lt. John Smith
Royal North Carolina Regiment: Lt. Col. John Hamilton

Unit Descriptions

The Brigade of Guards were considered the elite of Cornwallis's army. The British Army had three regiments of Foot Guards who traced their lineages to the 1660s. The brigade saw their first combat in the Revolutionary War at Long Island. They fought in the 1776 New York campaigns and in the 1777 Philadelphia campaign. Afterwards, they fought at Monmouth and served in the New York garrison until 1780. They joined Cornwallis's southern army in January 1781.

The 23rd Regiment of Foot, or Royal Welsh Fusiliers, compiled an impressive battle record prior to Guilford Courthouse.

The 33rd Regiment of Foot was the training regiment for the British army. Lord Cornwallis commanded this regiment.

The 71st Regiment of Foot, or Fraser's Highlanders, were raised in 1775 at Inverness, Edinburgh, and Glasgow. They saw extensive service in the Revolutionary War, playing particularly notable roles in the Southern Campaign. The 1st Battalion was captured at Cowpens, and the 2nd Battalion fought at Guilford Courthouse.

The Musketeer Regiment Von Bose arrived in America in 1776. They were garrisoned in New York from 1776 to 1780. The Von Bose joined Cornwallis's army in December 1780 and endured privations in the Race to the Dan.

The Royal Artillery Regiment served in almost every action of the war. This regiment was the first to face off at the Battle of Guilford Courthouse, battling Singleton's battery on New Garden Road.

The Ansbach-Beyreuth and Hesse-Cassel Jaeger Corps were considered an elite light infantry unit. Jaegers fought in many Revolutionary War actions.

The British Legion earned a reputation for brutality after the the supposed Waxhaws Massacre of May 1780. Lt. Col. Banastre Tarleton helped organize his unit, raising it in 1778. The Legion were a mixed provincial unit of infantry and cavalry. The Loyalists who filled their ranks hailed from New York, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey. In addition to Waxhaws, Tarleton's Legion survived the defeat at Cowpens where they were held in reserve. They also saw combat at Camden, Blackstock's, and Hanging Rock.

 
Five Hessian soldiers stand in print, wearing blue coats with white facings, one with bearskin hat, and one is a drummer
Members of the Regiment Von Bose

Courtesy of the Brown University Library

Hessians

Nearly 30,000 total “Hessians” served in North America but they were not all form Hesse-Kassel, a small principality in what is today Germany. The reason that term is used to reference all these Germanic soldiers is due to the fact that the overwhelming majority of them (18,000) came from that one state. As for the Hessians at Guilford Courthouse, the Regiment Von Bose were indeed true Hessians, while the Jaeger Company here may have had a mixture of men but predominantly from Ansbach-Bayreuth.

Often called “mercenaries” this is an ongoing misconception of these soldiers. The individual was not a “soldier of fortune” lending his services to the highest bidder, nor was he profiting from his kingdoms service at a unit level. Hessians were like most other professional soldiers, signing a contract of service (lasting 24 years, but with liberal leave practices in peacetime) and receiving regular pay, food, a uniform and equipment. The ruler of their state, the “Landgrave” received payments from the British government for the service of his army, essentially a subsidy which the British had a preexisting habit of using to supplement their own army.

 

Jaegers

German rifle units serving alongside the British army, Jaegers were well trained light infantry. A company of about 50 were present on the north end of the British line at Guilford Courthouse. A reoccurring myth of the Revolution is that the British were beaten because they did not understand light infantry or guerilla tactics, but the British army not only employ rifle units, they also have their own light infantry units, all trained to operate in loose or “open” order in rough terrain. The French and Indian War (1754 – 1763) was hugely influential to both Americans and British alike, when it came to refining combat doctrine in North America.

Last updated: September 28, 2023

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