Great Britain

The British Isles have not always been a unified place. Ireland was colonized by the English beginning in the late 16th century. Throughout the 18th century it was ruled by its own Parliament under the king of Great Britain. Even the Kingdom of England, which included Wales, and the Kingdom of Scotland were separate states until 1707, when they formally united to form the Kingdom of Great Britain. Threats to the English throne from the deposed Stuart line persisted up to 1746, only 30 years before the start of the American Revolution, when the last Jacobite uprising was put down.

As power was consolidated at home, colonial settlements, trading and slaving operations, and military forces expanded abroad from Ireland to the Mediterranean, North America, Africa, and India. By the beginning of the American Revolution, over 21% of the British Army was serving in the Americas, while 65% of British troops remained in Great Britain and Ireland. As the Revolution unfolded, Britain found herself in a very different situation than in most previous conflicts. As the American rebellion turned into a war for independence and foreign powers took sides, Britain was increasingly isolated. By 1781, Britain was at war with the newly-declared United States, France, Spain, the Netherlands, and Mysore in India. While states like Russia, Sweden, Denmark, and Prussia had not taken sides, they formed a “league of armed neutrality”, further isolating Britain.

In 1779, the French and Spanish were actively preparing an invasion of England. With much of the army serving overseas against the American rebels or defending Britain’s interests in the Caribbean and elsewhere, the British revived internal defensive measures, such as the English militia, Scottish fencible corps, and volunteer units in Ireland. The war against the largely Protestant, English-speaking Americans became increasingly unpopular, but war against Catholic France and Spain, longstanding enemies, kept popular support for the global conflict going. Anti-Catholic sentiment became so pronounced that it prompted days of rioting in London in June of 1780, which were suppressed by the army.

By 1783, Britain had lost her American colonies, but on virtually every other front she was victorious. The British maintained their power in the Caribbean, survived a three-year-long siege of Gibraltar, and, more importantly, had not faced an actual invasion of the British Isles.

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The British Isles have not always been a unified place. Ireland was colonized by the English beginning in the late 16th century. Throughout the 18th century it was ruled by its own Parliament under the king of Great Britain. Even the Kingdom of England, which included Wales, and the Kingdom of Scotland were separate states until 1707, when they formally united to form the Kingdom of Great Britain. Threats to the English throne from the deposed Stuart line persisted up to 1746, only 30 years before the start of the American Revolution, when the last Jacobite uprising was put down.

As power was consolidated at home, colonial settlements, trading and slaving operations, and military forces expanded abroad from Ireland to the Mediterranean, North America, Africa, and India. By the beginning of the American Revolution, over 21% of the British Army was serving in the Americas, while 65% of British troops remained in Great Britain and Ireland.
As the Revolution unfolded, Britain found herself in a very different situation than in most previous conflicts. As the American rebellion turned into a war for independence and foreign powers took sides, Britain was increasingly isolated. By 1781, Britain was at war with the newly-declared United States, France, Spain, the Netherlands, and Mysore in India. While states like Russia, Sweden, Denmark, and Prussia had not taken sides, they formed a “league of armed neutrality”, further isolating Britain.

In 1779, the French and Spanish were actively preparing an invasion of England. With much of the army serving overseas against the American rebels or defending Britain’s interests in the Caribbean and elsewhere, the British revived internal defensive measures, such as the English militia, Scottish fencible corps, and volunteer units in Ireland. The war against the largely Protestant, English-speaking Americans became increasingly unpopular, but war against Catholic France and Spain, longstanding enemies, kept popular support for the global conflict going. Anti-Catholic sentiment became so pronounced that it prompted days of rioting in London in June of 1780, which were suppressed by the army.

By 1783, Britain had lost her American colonies, but on virtually every other front she was victorious. The British maintained their power in the Caribbean, survived a three-year-long siege of Gibraltar, and, more importantly, had not faced an actual invasion of the British Isles.

Objects in the Great Britain case

Mezzotint portraits of His Most Sacred Majesty George III King of Great Britain &c. and Her Most Excellent Majesty Charlotte Queen of Great Britain &c.,

When these mezzotints were made shortly after King George III’s marriage to Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz in 1761, the new King and Queen were riding a wave of popularity. Britain had conquered all before her during the Seven Years’ War, also known as the French and Indian War, including the downfall of New France and the creation of an unprecedented empire in North America.

The King’s presence looms over the entire Revolutionary period, often literally in formal portraits and coats of arms on public buildings across the world. Although they were issued in his name, the King did not develop the policies that led to American anger at Britain. However, he and his advisors came in for a great deal of criticism. Even as the Revolution began, many Americans leveled their anger at Parliament, not the King, but as tensions rose, the King increasingly became the target of resentment, both literal and figurative. George’s reign ranks as the third longest of any British monarch. Despite being vilified in American history, he was generally well-respected in Britain, especially after the American Revolution as he led the nation’s fight against Revolutionary France.

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When these mezzotints were made shortly after King George III’s marriage to Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz in 1761, the new King and Queen were riding a wave of popularity. Britain had conquered all before her during the Seven Years’ War, also known as the French and Indian War, including the downfall of New France and the creation of an unprecedented empire in North America.

The King’s presence looms over the entire Revolutionary period, often literally in formal portraits and coats of arms on public buildings across the world. Although they were issued in his name, the King did not develop the policies that led to American anger at Britain. However, he and his advisors came in for a great deal of criticism. Even as the Revolution began, many Americans leveled their anger at Parliament, not the King, but as tensions rose, the King increasingly became the target of resentment, both literal and figurative. George’s reign ranks as the third longest of any British monarch. Despite being vilified in American history, he was generally well-respected in Britain, especially after the American Revolution as he led the nation’s fight against Revolutionary France.

The English Militia

Greater reliance on the Royal Army and hired foreign troops to wage Britain’s wars caused the English militia to wither by the early 18th century. This changed with the threat of French invasion during the Seven Years’ War, and a new militia law was passed in 1757. This was a very different conception of the militia than in the colonies. Men between 18 and 50 were added to a county list, and men were randomly selected to fill each county’s quota if volunteers did not materialize. Although raised in one county, the militia could serve anywhere in the kingdom, but not outside. This new militia was reactivated during the Revolutionary War to provide greater defense of the British Isles as the threat of yet another invasion loomed. The new militia provided additional avenues for officers to signal or confirm social status, but relied on men from the lower classes to bear the brunt of service, as wealthier individuals could easily buy substitutes to avoid serving if selected.

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Greater reliance on the Royal Army and hired foreign troops to wage Britain’s wars caused the English militia to wither by the early 18th century. This changed with the threat of French invasion during the Seven Years’ War, and a new militia law was passed in 1757. This was a very different conception of the militia than in the colonies. Men between 18 and 50 were added to a county list, and men were randomly selected to fill each county’s quota if volunteers did not materialize. Although raised in one county, the militia could serve anywhere in the kingdom, but not outside. This new militia was reactivated during the Revolutionary War to provide greater defense of the British Isles as the threat of yet another invasion loomed. The new militia provided additional avenues for officers to signal or confirm social status, but relied on men from the lower classes to bear the brunt of service, as wealthier individuals could easily buy substitutes to avoid serving if selected.

Silhouette portrait of Captain Moule, Worcester Militia

This silhouette depicts 34-year-old British Captain Philip Moule of the Worcestershire Militia in full uniform. Unlike American militias, the English militia appeared nearly identical to the regulars with red coats and government-supplied arms. At various points during the war, the militias joined the regulars at large military camps to train. Large camps popped up in southern England, particularly at Coxheath and Warley in 1778 and 1779, when invasion fears were high. These camps became social as well as military events, drawing men, women, and children from far abroad, including nobles and even the royal family. Moule accompanied the Worcestershire Militia to Warley Camp in 1778 and again to Coxheath in 1779, both over a hundred miles from Worcester, where the regiment was raised.

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This silhouette depicts 34-year-old British Captain Philip Moule of the Worcestershire Militia in full uniform. Unlike American militias, the English militia appeared nearly identical to the regulars with red coats and government-supplied arms. At various points during the war, the militias joined the regulars at large military camps to train. Large camps popped up in southern England, particularly at Coxheath and Warley in 1778 and 1779, when invasion fears were high. These camps became social as well as military events, drawing men, women, and children from far abroad, including nobles and even the royal family. Moule accompanied the Worcestershire Militia to Warley Camp in 1778 and again to Coxheath in 1779, both over a hundred miles from Worcester, where the regiment was raised.

1757 Marine or Militia Musket and Cumberland Militia Hanger

Unlike American militias, English militias were armed by the government with standardized weapons. In the 1750s, the Ordnance Department developed new weapons for the militia, which were not as fully finished as those for the regulars and were cheaper to produce. Introduced in 1757 and modified to include steel rammers in 1759, the firearm here is the Marine and Militia pattern of musket. A number of militia regiments were reformed in 1770, mustering for a month each year, and were probably armed with muskets like this. They were last produced in 1776; after that point, replacements would have been standard army patterns.

When the militia was revived in the 1750s, all soldiers still carried short swords, or hangers. This pattern was likely developed around that time, and examples from many counties are known. Except for grenadiers, non-commissioned officers, and drummers, swords were abandoned by the army in 1768. In the militia, the use of swords varied. By the time of the American Revolution, some militia regiments dutifully reported swords for their grenadiers alone, while other regiments were fully equipped or lacked them entirely. The Cumberland Militia only reported swords in 1781, and then only for their grenadiers. This older sword may have been returned to stores.

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Unlike American militias, English militias were armed by the government with standardized weapons. In the 1750s, the Ordnance Department developed new weapons for the militia, which were not as fully finished as those for the regulars and were cheaper to produce. Introduced in 1757 and modified to include steel rammers in 1759, the firearm here is the Marine and Militia pattern of musket. A number of militia regiments were reformed in 1770, mustering for a month each year, and were probably armed with muskets like this. They were last produced in 1776; after that point, replacements would have been standard army patterns.

When the militia was revived in the 1750s, all soldiers still carried short swords, or hangers. This pattern was likely developed around that time, and examples from many counties are known. Except for grenadiers, non-commissioned officers, and drummers, swords were abandoned by the army in 1768. In the militia, the use of swords varied. By the time of the American Revolution, some militia regiments dutifully reported swords for their grenadiers alone, while other regiments were fully equipped or lacked them entirely. The Cumberland Militia only reported swords in 1781, and then only for their grenadiers. This older sword may have been returned to stores.

Pastel Portrait of Henry Martin

This portrait was likely painted after the sitter, Sir Henry Martin (1733-1794), was appointed Commissioner for Portsmouth in England. Martin had been a captain during the Seven Years’ War (also known as the French and Indian War), serving at the Siege of Louisbourg in 1758. His American connections ran deeper, though: he was the older brother of Josiah Martin, the last colonial governor of North Carolina.

Martin is depicted in the uniform of a captain, a rank he retained when appointed as Commissioner for Portsmouth, overseeing one of the largest naval bases in Britain. He was also the governor of the Royal Naval Academy there, which was the only formal school for educating midshipmen. Naval activity took on a renewed significance in the wake of France, Spain, and the Netherlands’ entry into the war and the very real threat of an attack on the southern English coast, where Portsmouth was located. Martin was appointed Comptroller of the Navy in 1790 and made a baronet the following year.

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This portrait was likely painted after the sitter, Sir Henry Martin (1733-1794), was appointed Commissioner for Portsmouth in England. Martin had been a captain during the Seven Years’ War (also known as the French and Indian War), serving at the Siege of Louisbourg in 1758. His American connections ran deeper, though: he was the older brother of Josiah Martin, the last colonial governor of North Carolina.

Martin is depicted in the uniform of a captain, a rank he retained when appointed as Commissioner for Portsmouth, overseeing one of the largest naval bases in Britain. He was also the governor of the Royal Naval Academy there, which was the only formal school for educating midshipmen. Naval activity took on a renewed significance in the wake of France, Spain, and the Netherlands’ entry into the war and the very real threat of an attack on the southern English coast, where Portsmouth was located. Martin was appointed Comptroller of the Navy in 1790 and made a baronet the following year.

Pastel portrait of Lord Garlies, Midshipman

During the global American Revolution, George Stewart, Lord Garlies, later 8th Earl of Galloway (1768-1834), began a long naval career that would end with him as an admiral and member of Parliament. He entered the Royal Navy as a midshipman in 1780. He served in the Battle of the Dogger Bank on August 5, 1781, one of the few British actions against the Dutch Navy, in which a Dutch Baltic convoy and their escort were forced to return to port. Lord Garlies was also present at the dramatic 1782 relief of Gibraltar that sustained the isolated British garrison with supplies and provisions and allowed them to hold out against combined French and Spanish forces.

When this portrait was painted in 1785, shortly after the end of the Revolutionary War, Lord Garlies was still a midshipman serving aboard the sloop HMS Marquis de Seignelay, where he was appointed in 1782. As its name suggests. Marquis de Seignelay was built in France as a privateer. Sailing out of Le Havre between 1779 and 1780, she may have taken as many as 40 British vessels before she was captured by the British. Taken into Royal Navy service in 1782, she sailed mostly in home waters as part of the maritime defenses of Great Britain until 1786.

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During the global American Revolution, George Stewart, Lord Garlies, later 8th Earl of Galloway (1768-1834), began a long naval career that would end with him as an admiral and member of Parliament. He entered the Royal Navy as a midshipman in 1780. He served in the Battle of the Dogger Bank on August 5, 1781, one of the few British actions against the Dutch Navy, in which a Dutch Baltic convoy and their escort were forced to return to port. Lord Garlies was also present at the dramatic 1782 relief of Gibraltar that sustained the isolated British garrison with supplies and provisions and allowed them to hold out against combined French and Spanish forces.

When this portrait was painted in 1785, shortly after the end of the Revolutionary War, Lord Garlies was still a midshipman serving aboard the sloop HMS Marquis de Seignelay, where he was appointed in 1782. As its name suggests. Marquis de Seignelay was built in France as a privateer. Sailing out of Le Havre between 1779 and 1780, she may have taken as many as 40 British vessels before she was captured by the British. Taken into Royal Navy service in 1782, she sailed mostly in home waters as part of the maritime defenses of Great Britain until 1786.

Portrait Miniature of John Paul Jones

Britain’s island geography kept it mostly removed from the global war, but not entirely. In addition to the very real fear in 1778-1779 of a Franco-Spanish invasion, Continental Navy Captain John Paul Jones very pointedly attacked the British coast to cause a panic. Jones was born in Scotland and participated in various commercial and slaving cruises to the West Indies, Africa, and America. Following a dispute and fleeing prosecution, he settled in Virginia and later joined the American war effort, rising to command of a vessel in the small Continental Navy.

In the spring of 1778, Jones actually landed men on British soil while raiding the port of Whitehaven in the northwest of England, where he had apprenticed as a sailor earlier in life. Days later he again landed men in Scotland, alarming the home islands. Arguably his most famous action was fought just off the Yorkshire coast, where Jones’ Bonhomme Richard fought the HMS Serapis in September of 1779. In the engagement, Jones refused to surrender, and despite his ship being sunk under him, he captured Serapis and sailed safely away.

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Britain’s island geography kept it mostly removed from the global war, but not entirely. In addition to the very real fear in 1778-1779 of a Franco-Spanish invasion, Continental Navy Captain John Paul Jones very pointedly attacked the British coast to cause a panic. Jones was born in Scotland and participated in various commercial and slaving cruises to the West Indies, Africa, and America. Following a dispute and fleeing prosecution, he settled in Virginia and later joined the American war effort, rising to command of a vessel in the small Continental Navy.

In the spring of 1778, Jones actually landed men on British soil while raiding the port of Whitehaven in the northwest of England, where he had apprenticed as a sailor earlier in life. Days later he again landed men in Scotland, alarming the home islands. Arguably his most famous action was fought just off the Yorkshire coast, where Jones’ Bonhomme Richard fought the HMS Serapis in September of 1779. In the engagement, Jones refused to surrender, and despite his ship being sunk under him, he captured Serapis and sailed safely away.

Coldstream Guards Belt Plate and Button

The senior and largest portion of the British armed forces in the 18th century were the three regiments of Foot Guards, the household troops of the British Crown. In total, the 1st, 2nd (Coldstream), and 3rd (Scots) Regiments counted seven battalions between them, totaling some 3,700 men. The letters “CG” in the center of this buckle confirm it belonged to a private soldier of the 2nd Regiment, or Coldstream Guards.

While 1,000 men of the Coldstream Guards were detached to serve in America, the bulk remained in Great Britain during the American Revolution, specifically in London. There some of the Guards actually saw action, but rather than fighting foreign enemies, they fought other Englishmen. The “Gordon Riots” erupted in June of 1780 in response to the long war and the loosening of restrictions against Catholics’ ability to serve in the military. This sparked days of violence by thousands across London, during which the army was deployed, including the Guards. Although exact figures are unknown, it is estimated that between 400 and 700 Londoners were killed by the army.

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The senior and largest portion of the British armed forces in the 18th century were the three regiments of Foot Guards, the household troops of the British Crown. In total, the 1st, 2nd (Coldstream), and 3rd (Scots) Regiments counted seven battalions between them, totaling some 3,700 men. The letters “CG” in the center of this buckle confirm it belonged to a private soldier of the 2nd Regiment, or Coldstream Guards.

While 1,000 men of the Coldstream Guards were detached to serve in America, the bulk remained in Great Britain during the American Revolution, specifically in London. There some of the Guards actually saw action, but rather than fighting foreign enemies, they fought other Englishmen. The “Gordon Riots” erupted in June of 1780 in response to the long war and the loosening of restrictions against Catholics’ ability to serve in the military. This sparked days of violence by thousands across London, during which the army was deployed, including the Guards. Although exact figures are unknown, it is estimated that between 400 and 700 Londoners were killed by the army.

Cavalry Sergeant’s Silk Sash

Sergeants, senior non-commissioned officers, were identified by several means in the British army, including by finer cloth for their uniforms, special lace, and sashes worn around their waists. Unlike officers, who wore solid crimson silk sashes, infantry and cavalry sergeants wore a sash woven with a stripe of the distinctive facing color of their regiment in the center. Cavalry sergeants’ sashes were made of silk, like this here, instead of wool like the infantry, a further distinction for the cavalry, who had a higher status than the foot soldiers.

The blue stripe on this sash indicates a royal regiment, which could be from one of at least 8 of the 25 regiments of horse, dragoon guards, dragoons, and light dragoons that existed at the beginning of the war. One of these, the 16th (Queen’s) Light Dragoons, was commanded by General John Burgoyne and served in America between 1776-1778. Returning to England, the 16th again saw action during the Gordon Riots in London in 1780, where their ejection of protesters from Parliament in Whitehall triggered almost a week of violence.

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Sergeants, senior non-commissioned officers, were identified by several means in the British army, including by finer cloth for their uniforms, special lace, and sashes worn around their waists. Unlike officers, who wore solid crimson silk sashes, infantry and cavalry sergeants wore a sash woven with a stripe of the distinctive facing color of their regiment in the center. Cavalry sergeants’ sashes were made of silk, like this here, instead of wool like the infantry, a further distinction for the cavalry, who had a higher status than the foot soldiers.

The blue stripe on this sash indicates a royal regiment, which could be from one of at least 8 of the 25 regiments of horse, dragoon guards, dragoons, and light dragoons that existed at the beginning of the war. One of these, the 16th (Queen’s) Light Dragoons, was commanded by General John Burgoyne and served in America between 1776-1778. Returning to England, the 16th again saw action during the Gordon Riots in London in 1780, where their ejection of protesters from Parliament in Whitehall triggered almost a week of violence.

Oil portrait of Jeffery Amherst, 1st Baron Amherst

General Jeffery Amherst (1717-1797) rose to prominence during his successful command of the British forces in America during the French and Indian War, overseeing the capture of Louisbourg, Ticonderoga, and Montréal and the final surrender of New France. He left America in 1763 and held intermittent military roles over the next 15 years. Amherst was approached twice, in 1775 and 1778, to lead British forces in America, and each time he refused. He finally accepted a posting as the Commander in Chief of the entire British army, which he held until a change in government in 1782. His most notable role during the war was the military response to the Gordon Riots in June of 1780. Critics suggested he was ineffective in responding to the unfolding situation, although it was not one which anyone had planned or trained for.

This portrait, a copy of a c.1780 original by Thomas Gainsborough depicts Amherst as Commander in Chief of the British army. He wears the uniform of a full general, with the sash and star of a Knight of the Most Honorable Order of the Bath. Amherst had been made Baron Amherst in 1776.

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General Jeffery Amherst (1717-1797) rose to prominence during his successful command of the British forces in America during the French and Indian War, overseeing the capture of Louisbourg, Ticonderoga, and Montréal and the final surrender of New France. He left America in 1763 and held intermittent military roles over the next 15 years. Amherst was approached twice, in 1775 and 1778, to lead British forces in America, and each time he refused. He finally accepted a posting as the Commander in Chief of the entire British army, which he held until a change in government in 1782. His most notable role during the war was the military response to the Gordon Riots in June of 1780. Critics suggested he was ineffective in responding to the unfolding situation, although it was not one which anyone had planned or trained for.

This portrait, a copy of a c.1780 original by Thomas Gainsborough depicts Amherst as Commander in Chief of the British army. He wears the uniform of a full general, with the sash and star of a Knight of the Most Honorable Order of the Bath. Amherst had been made Baron Amherst in 1776.

To view more information about the objects in this exhibit, visit the Ticonderoga Online Collections Database!