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Ben Townsend

Flankers and marksmen

Here is an interesting snippet from 1808 on the practice of supplementing those performing the light infantry role with additional manpower from line battalions. This is from the Ox and Bucks chronicle of 1913. There are some similarities to the use of rifle companies or sections in line regiments, and to the occasional use of the third rank as skirmishers.

Any more examples?

From "Letters from the Battle of Waterloo" unpublished correspondence by Allied Officers from the Siborne papers ed  Gareth Glover:. p 271

Captain John Crowe 32nd Regt.  Quatre Bras

"Sir James Kempt appeared from the highest part of the Brigades front and called out for the marksmen of the 32nd. I moved my company, being the light company, to the rising ground where the General was. He said pointing to his rear 'Here they are Sir, extend your company as fast as you can and drive them back'
The Sarge!

This may refer to light infantry having more practice in aimed shots, as opposed to plain old line fire, hence terming light troops as being more marksman with their arms.
Ben Townsend

Even within the light companies and rifles there were acknowledged superior shots, viz the riflemen in redcoat regiments, and in the rifles,

"A very disagreeable duty, that usually fell upon a few of the best shots of the battalion, consisted in being obliged to run out, in independent files, to occupy a number of holes, that had been dug at night between our batteries and the walls of the town. From these pits, of which each man had one to himself, our particular business was to pick off any of the enemy who exposed themselves at our guns, on the walls through the embrasures. Many a French man was thus knocked off by us..."

Costello, Leonaur 2005, P127

And the practice of having a few men armed with a different specialist weapon has a precedent too,
"It is very fit that tou have in each company six good fouling pieces, of such a length as a souldier may well be able to take aim, and to shoot off at ease; twelve of them being placed in a day of Battel, when you bring a division of foot to skirmish with an enemy on the flanks of a division of foot; six fowling pieces on the one flank of a division of foot, and six on the other flank, ..... Those souldiers that carry the fowling pieces, ought to have command when they come within distance of shot of that divison of the enemy that they are to encounter with, that they shoot not at any, but at the officers of that divison."
p.103 Observations upon military and poiltical affairs, Geo Monk, Duke of Albemarle, 1671

Like many other units by this time the 79th Highlanders could deploy rather more than a single company of skirmishers if the need arose, and Lieutenant

Alexander Forbes of No. 1 Company recalled that at Quatre Bras two days earlier "Our ground had scarcely been thus occupied when the Enemy's advance appeared. The Light Companies of the 8th Brigade, to which were added the 8th Company and marksmen of the 79th Regiment, were immediately thrown out, when the Action commenced."

The employment of No. 8 company as skirmishers may well have been a long-standing practice for a Lieutenant Kevan Leslie afterwards declared that he had belonget to the regiment's Light Company at Waterloo, yet the regimental rolls show him to have actually served in No.8 Company.
At any rate its employment as skirmishers may help to account for a curious anomaly in the casualty returns. Out of 69 officers and men serving in the company at the commencement of the three days of fighting,only 14 including Lieutenant Leslie were unhurt by the end of it. As for the others, 16 were dead or would die of their wounds, another 16 were badly hurt but would survive, and no fewer than 23 officers were returned as slightly wounded. Most of the other companies tended to return an average of 7 slightly wounded(...)

from Stuart Reids second 'Redcoat' Osprey, p. 60-61. Old Osprey, so no references, but I doubt he would have made this up?

Interestingly, the 79th was brigaded with the 28th, 32nd and 1/95th in Kempts 8th Brigade, it would not be unreasonable to think that the abovementioned ordering out of the 32nds marksmen refers to the same incident as Forbes mentions?

Sibornes letters have these accounts of the deployment of the 79th Light company from both Forbes and Leslie

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