History vs. Hollywood: The 2d Virginia Regiment in “TURN”

The AMC series Revolutionary War drama TURN is loosely based on the Culper Ring, a spy ring organized by Major Benjamin Tallmadge which operated primarily in New York, Long Island, and Connecticut. Episode 3 – “Of Cabbages and Kings” opens with Tallmadge and General Scott encountering a group of retreating soldiers and refugees. They confront one of the soldiers and ask what regiment he is from.

Screen Shot 2014-04-21 at 4.26.52 PM

After the soldier avoids the question, Scott goes on to say “You’re 2d Virginia Regiment, you’re supposed to be at Fort Lee.”, to which the soldier replies with his account of the fall of Fort Washington and evacuation of Fort Lee.

Screen Shot 2014-04-21 at 4.27.10 PM While the entire series thus far has taken liberties with the historical timeline, none of the story in this brief scene as it relates to this soldier of the 2d Virginia Regiment has any basis in historical fact.

The 2d Virginia Regiment was not present at Fort Lee. In the summer of 1776, Congress called for Virginia to send reinforcements to the Main Army near New York. It may seem logical that the 1st and 2d Virginia Regiments would be sent, as they were most senior and the 2d had seen fighting at Great Bridge, that is not how it played out. Early in the war when the choice was between the politician Patrick Henry as colonel of the 1st Virginia Regiment and French and Indian War veteran William Woodford, the Committee of Safety gave preference to Woodford’s experience.

When Henry left military service to become governor and other capable officers came into their own however, Woodford’s abrasive personality became a detriment. The effects of Woodford’s demeanor became evident when General Andrew Lewis offered the “post of Honour” to the regiments to be sent north if their men reenlisted for three years. Captain George Johnston related what happened in his letter to Major Levin Powell dated 6 August 1776:

“D’r Sir: In obedience to Congress, two Regiments are ordered to N. York instantly. Gen’l Lewis, as a lure to the 1st and 2nd, directed that they should be re-enlisted for 3 years to seize the post of Honour as he terms it, hoping that the men’s well grounded Complaints would thus be hushed into peace. But Alas! human nature is not so easily smothered, and to Col. Woodford’s great mortification, the 1st almost to a man swallowed the bait, while his 2nd resisted his eloquent harangue at their head, and silently rejected the intended honour he proposed doing them by delaying his resignation that he might lead them on to the Field of Glory. They say that they will Col. Scott, but he is ordered to the 5th and I question much whether Col. W. will immediately resign, tho’ he is certain they will re enlist; twill be tried tomorrow.”

The 2d Virginia Regiment would remain in Virginia until January 1777, when it was finally sent north, passing through the Eastern Shore of Maryland to suppress “Insurgents in Somerset and Worcester Counties”, before joining the Main Army in New Jersey:

“War Office (Baltimore)
Feby 14th 1777
The 2d Virginia Regt now on Duty against the Insurgents in this State & the 7th Regt now in this Town, both whereof consist of about 600 Men fit for Duty, have orders to march to join Genl Washington but are directed to avoid Philadelphia on Acct of the Small Pox. The Board have directed me to inform you of their coming & that they are to halt in the Neighbourhood of the Town or proceed to Trenton if Safe & there wait until they are provided with Cloathes Arms & Accoutrements – Their Arms have been ordered after them, as they were left in Virginia under the direction of that State they may be otherwise applied. You will be pleased to order all Necessaries to be provided for them that they may hasten to Head Quarters in New Jersey where their assistance is apprehended is much wanted.”
Papers of the Continental Congress, Item 147, vol. I, folio 67, National Archives, Record Group 360.

Charles Scott A post-war portrait, likely as major general in the Kentucky militia c. 1792-94

Charles Scott
A post-war portrait, likely as major general in the Kentucky militia c. 1792-94

General Scott wasn’t a general yet. Charles Scott would certainly have recognized a soldier of the 2d Virginia Regiment if he met one. Early in the war, Scott was lieutenant colonel of the 2d Virginia Regiment in 1775 and saw action with it at the Battle of Great Bridge in December 1775. As mentioned in the above letter from Captain Johnston, the men of the 2d would have taken the offer to join the Main Army if under the command of Scott, but he had been promoted to command the 5th Virginia Regiment.

As colonel of the 5th (which saw service in the New York campaign along with the 1st, 3rd, 4th and 6th regiments,), Scott served with distinction during the “Forage War” following the Battle of Princeton in early 1777. He was promoted to Brigadier General in April 1777, commanding troops throughout the Philadelphia Campaign and a battalion of “picked men” at the Battle of Monmouth, before furloughed in 1778. He would come back to active duty to recruit troops to reinforce the Southern Army, joining the garrison at Charlestown just prior to its capture in May 1780. he would remain a prisoner of war until exchanged in July 1782.

2d Virginia Regiment September 1775-February 1777

2d Virginia Regiment
September 1775-February 1777

The prescribed uniform of the 2d Virginia was not a brown coat faced red. Even if the 2d Virginia Regiment had been present at the evacuation of Fort Lee, it was not issued a brown coat faced red for its soldiers. In November 1777 the regiment was most likely still been wearing its purple hunting shirts and round hats as originally authorized in the fall of 1775. It wouldn’t be until it marched north that it would receive regimental coats made in Philadelphia by regimental tailors at the expense of Colonel Alexander Spotswood. These coats were short blue coats with “with white binding on the button holes.”

The only instance of a member of the 2d Virginia Regiment wearing brown faced red would come in late 1779 for its junior officers. In 1778 and again in 1779 the regiment received French-made blue regimental coats faced red with its officers wearing the same. There was not enough fine blue cloth for the officers however. Colonel Christian Febiger writes on November 30, 1779 that he was “extremely sorry the blue cloth did not hold out for all for all the officers.” and a month later the Virginia Public Store daybook records Ensign George Blackmore receiving “1 3/4 brown cloth, 1 1/2 light colored cloth, 3/16 yards scarlet, 3 yards shalloon, 3 yards course linen, 1 1/2 yards fine linen.” for his uniform.

September 11, 1777: Battle of Brandywine

“He [Colonel Alexander Spotswood] commanded the second [Virginia] regiment, at the battle of Brandywine; and, it was said by a British writer, one Smith, that it was the only regiment that left the field of battle in good order.”

– Francis Brooke

The Battle of the Brandywine, was fought on September 11, 1777, in the area surrounding Chadds Ford, PA. The battle, which was a decisivevictory for the British, left Philadelphia, the revolutionary capital, undefended. The British captured the city on September 26, beginning an occupation that would last until June, 1778.

Edward G. Lengel explains the positioning of the Continental Army in his article, The Battle of Brandywine: “Washington concentrated the American defenses at Chad’s Ford, but also prepared to prevent possible British flanking movements to the south or north. Pyle’s Ford, an easily defensible crossing and the only practicable one south of Chad’s Ford, was covered by two brigades of Pennsylvania militia under Brigadier General John Armstrong. Nathaniel Greene’s 1st Division, composed of the 1st and 2d Virginia Brigades under Brigadier Generals Peter Muhlenberg and George Weedon, was entrusted with the primary defense of Chad’s Ford. Greene’s troops straddled the Nottingham road leading east from the Brandywine. To Greene’s right was Brigadier General Anthony Wayne’s 4th division containing two brigades of Pennsylvania Continentals. Colonel Thomas Procter’s Continental Artillery Regiment was placed on some heights commanding Chad’s Ford to Wayne’s right.” The 2d Virginia Regiment was assigned to Weedon’s Brigade of Greene’s Division.

Lengel further writes that “What remained of the three divisions fled a mile further east to Dilworthtown, just north of which place Greene’s division was forming up. Washington had dispatched Greene to this place after learning of the fall of Birmingham Hill, and he now arrived to supervise the positioning of Greene’s troops. By this time the 1st division was the last fresh American division on the field. Knyphausen had assaulted Wayne’s and Maxwell’s positions around Chad’s Ford at five o’clock, rapidly driving them back and capturing all of Procter’s guns. The position at Dilworthtown was therefore critical if the rest of the army (including Armstrong’s militia, which had not been engaged but was busy retreating eastward) was to be preserved.

"Weedon's Run" by Pamela Patrick White & Bryant White, http://www.whitehistoricart.com

That this position held until sundown was partly because of Washington’s careful positioning, at Sullivan’s suggestion, of Brigadier Generals Peter Muhlenberg’s and George Weedon’s brigades respectively on the front and flank of the British advance. As the Hessian grenadiers marched on Dilworthtown, Captain Johann Ewald [of the Hesse-Cassell Jaegers] wrote, they “received intense grapeshot and musketry fire which threw [the Germans] into disorder, but they recovered themselves quickly, deployed, and attacked the village.’

[General James] Agnew’s 4th Brigade…occupying at Ewald’s suggestion a hill on the flank, ‘ran into several American regiments’ of Weedon’s brigade [2d and 10th Virginia Regiments], preparing to fall upon the German’s flank. ‘At this point,’ Ewald wrote, ‘there was terrible firing, and half of the Englishmen and nearly all of the officers of these two regiments (they were the 46th and 64th Regiments of Foot) were slain.’ Fortunately for the British, an English artillery officer arrived opportunely with two six-pounders on Weedon’s flank, breaking up their attack. By this time it was growing dark and Greene’s men could follow their compatriots to Chester while the British remained in Dilworthtown, tending the wounded of both sides.”

Francis Brooke (who served as a lieutenant in the 1st Continental Artillery Regiment) recalls the service of his father-in-law Colonel Alexander Spotswood and the 2d Virginia Regiment at the Battle of Brandywine in his memoirs: “He commanded the second regiment, at the battle of Brandywine; and, it was said by a British writer, one Smith, that it was the only regiment that left the field of battle in good order.” This is corroborated by Captain John Peebles of the 42nd Regiment of Foot‘s grenadier company writes in his diary that the men of Weedon’s Brigade were “…the Enemy’s best troops…”

Video from the 2010 Reenactment

Photos from the 2010 Reenactment

Photos on Flickr

October 4, 1777: Battle of Germantown

"The Battle of Germantown" by Xavier della Gatta, 1782

The heroism and gallantry of the second Virginia regiment I cannot help particularly mentioning; they would do honour to any country in the world. It is universally believed they behaved the best of any troops in the field.”

— Virginia Gazette, October 17, 1777

Virginia Gazette, October 17, 1777

Extract of a letter from York town, Pennsylvania,
dated October 8, 1777.

Our loss is pretty well fixed to seven hundred killed, wounded, and missing; that of the enemy not certainly known, but surely very great, as you may judge by the following intelligence, brought this evening by General Green’s aid de camp, and which he says may be relied upon: General Agnew, Colonels Walcot, Abercrombie, and Thomas Byrd, from Virginia, with General De Heister’s son, killed; General Kniphausen wounded in the hand; and between two and three hundred waggons, loaded with wounded, sent to Philadelphia.  That General Howe had sent about two thousand Hessians over Schuylkill (denoting a retreat) and that he had refused to let any of the inhabitants of Philadelphia go to see the field of battle”.

“General Schuyler writes us, the twenty ninth of September, that if superior numbers, health, and spirits, can give success, our army in the Northern department will have it this campaign.

“For my part, I do not despair of success in this quarter also.  Another such battle as the last will totally unfit General Howe for pursuing farther hostilities this campaign, and again possess us of Philadelphia.”

This moment an express arrived, with a letter from Captain William Pierce, dated Skippack camp, 12 o’clock P.M. the day which the above bloodly battle was fought.  It contains sundry particulars, but the printed has only time to relate the following, viz.  Our glorious general, after animating speech to his army, directed them to hold themselves in readiness to march at 6 o’clock, with two days provision, ordered large fires to be made in the camp, and the tents to stand still nine at night, when they were to be struck, and put into the baggage waggons.  The army marched all night, arrived at Chestnut Hill about day-break, and immediately fell upon the enemy’s picket guard, with such fury and firmness, that they were instantly routed, with great slaughter.  The whole army then pushed towards Germantown, but were met by the main body of the British army consisting of about ten thousand men, when a hot and dreadful engagement ensued.  After an incessant fire of cannon and musketry, for upwards of an hour, the enemy gave way in all quarters and our men drove them, with fixed bayonets, for near two miles, when they formed again.  Our men, with steadiness and intrepidity, broke them a second time, and they retreated in great disorder to Germantown, with our whole army in close pursuit of them, till they got about half way the town,

"...when they took up in houses..."Cliveden, the home of Benjamin Chew, was used by British forces during the battle

when they took up in houses, and opened upon our men two or three field pieces with grape shot, which played with such violence that general Sullivan’s division gave way, and we, in turn, were beat back better than two miles.  Both armies, being greatly fatigued, shewed a willingness to discontinue the fight, and ours were ordered to march to Skippack creek, where they are now encamped.  The enemy contented themselves with their last advantage, and retired to their old quarters at Germantown.  They must have had 1000 killed dead on the field, and at least 1500 wounded.  A Captain, and twenty five men, fell into our hands.  Our loss does not exceed three hundred killed, and five hundred wounded.  We brought off two field pieces, and two waggons loaded with baggage.  General Nash is mortally wounded with a cannon ball.  Col. Hendricks is wounded below the left eye, but likely to recover; he behaved with such heroism, that he was the admiration of the field.  Lieut. Col. Parker, of the second Virginia regiment, a brave officer, got wounded in the leg, and it is said the bone is broke.  Col. Matthew Smith, our deputy adjutant general, got his leg broke by a grape shot.  Cornet Baylor, of light horse, had one half of his foot shot away.  Major Jameson had his horse killed under him, but he himself was unhurt.  Capt. Dickinson was slightly wounded in the knee.  Capt. Thomas Edmonds was so badly wounded, that he died in a few hours.  Capt. Eustace, of the first Virginia regiment, was killed dead on the spot.  Two Maryland colonels, of the name of Stone, were wounded, and many other officers, that I cannot recollect at present.  The heroism and gallantry of the second Virginia regiment I cannot help particularly mentioning; they would do honour to any country in the world.  It is universally believed they  behaved the best of any troops in the field.  Indeed the whole continental army is composed of a set of brave men; and if the different states would exert themselves to raise their different quotas, general WASHINGTON would put an end to the contest immediately.  The artillery I cannot overlook; it was served, in every instance, to admiration.  Col. Josiah Parker behaved like a hero. Brigade Major Scott does honour to his country, and in the action shewed himself to be one of the first military characters in our army.  Capt. Moss, of the first Virginia regiment, I must not forget; he is truly a brave man.  The Carolina troops fought like heroes. —  The Delaware Frigate fell into the enemy’s hands, it is said by the treachery of the crew; but the river is still ours, and I am convinced Philadelphia will be again in a few weeks.

Dr. James Wallace to Michael Wallace

Head Quarters Army, Oct. 12, 1777

Dear Sir: I received yours two days after the action at German Town whilst I was in the midst of fatigue and hurry with my sick wounded, among whome was our friend Col. Blackburn, who was wounded through the thigh, has been under my care ill within these few days I left him at Baltimore in care of Dr. Brown. I make no doubt but by this time you have a very ostentatious account of the drubbing we had at German Town. We most certainly were drubbed, let the account which you have received be what they will. I wish it was in my power to give you a just account of the action. I believe few know. But this much is evident that we attacked the enemy early in the morning before it was quite light, and drove them some distance, when all of a sudden we retreated in a very confused state and left many of our wounded on the field. The 9th Virg’a Reg. was all taken to a man; the manner in which they were taken does them much honour, if it be true. It is said they fought their way into the commons of Philadelphia and on the army’s retreating they were left without any support, and were surrounded and all taken.

The whole of this affair appears a mystery to me. Many of the officers have told me that when they were ordered to retreat they were then pursuing the enemy, who were flying before them; they were astonished to the last degree when they retreated from the highest expectations of success. Our army is now [in] exceedingly good spirits. We increase every day with the militia from Virginia, we have rec’d a reinforcement of about 1500 Continental troops from New England.

We lost only one officer out of our Regiment, which was Mr. Die of Capt. Willises company. Our Lieutenant Col. Parker was wounded in the leg. Since the action we have lost a fine officer from our Reg’t, viz., Col. Spotswood, who has resigned and gone home. I wrote you a day or two before the engagement at Brandy Wine which I imagine you have not rec’d. Many of my intimate acquaintances were killed; the third Virg’a Reg’t was cut to pieces.

Narrative of My Life; For My Family, Francis T. Brooke

The General was neglectful of his affairs, and was better fitted for the army than for the pursuits of civil life.  He commanded the second regiment, at the battle of Brandywine; and, it was said by a British writer, one Smith, that it was the only regiment that left the field of battle in good order.  He was again in the battle of Germantown, where his brother, Capt. Spotswood, being badly wounded, was thought to be dead; whereupon he sent his resignation to Gen. Washington, having made a contract with his brother, when they entered the army, that if either should be killed, the survivor should return home to take care of the two families.  When it was known that Capt. Spotswood was still alive, a prisoner in Philadelphia, he wished to return to his command in the army; but General Washington replied to his letter to this effect, that he could not be reinstated in his former command, because many officers had been promoted after his resignation…General Spotswood spent a great deal of his fortune in the army; and representing a claim for his land, before a committee of the Senate of Virginia, I heard General Meade, who was a member of that committee say, that he knew the fact, that while the army of the North was naked of clothing, General Spotswood had clothed his whole regiment out of his own pocket, in Philadelphia.

September 3, 1777: The Battle of Cooch’s Bridge

The September 3, 1777 battle of Cooch’s Bridge between Brigadier General William Maxwell’s corps of light infantry (which consisted of 100 men from each Continental brigade, as there was no Continental light infantry at this time) and a combined force of the 2nd battalion of light infantry (a composite British force made up of the light companies of several regiments), German jaegers and hat companies, and British artillery was a major skirmish prior to the battle of Brandywine, and the only significant battle to take place in Delaware.

On Tuesday, September 2, 1777, General William Howe was at Grey’s Hill, Lieutenant General Wilhelm von Knyphausen was stationed at Buck Tavern, also called Carson’s, (south of Summit Bridge), Major General Charles Grey was at Lum’s Pond, (then called Mill Dam). General George Washington reconnoitered around Mill Dam but did not see any troops and wrongly believed that Knyphausen must have rejoined Howe.

That evening, Washington, in Wilmington, wrote to Maxwell, near Cooch’s Bridge:

I do not know where the Sign of the Buck is, I therefore cannot say whether it will be proper for you to leave your present post to go and attack the party that is said to be thereabouts. If it is upon your left as I suppose it is it will be by no means proper, because while you were gone down, the enemy might advance from Grey’s Hill to Christeen and cut you off from us.

General Caesar Rodney was at Noxontown with about 370 Kent County militia. He knew the enemy were moving toward Christiana Creek and wanted to cause them some trouble. He wrote to Washington that he: “kept his light horse, about 17 or 18 in number, out beating up the enemy’s quarters, and gaining what intelligence he could of the enemy’s movements.” Rodney’s men exchanged shots with the enemy around Buck Tavern, alarming the whole camp; but he and the Delaware militia had no part in the Battle of Cooch’s Bridge.

The following morning, Wednesday, September 3, 1777, was cool; but the afternoon was excessively hot, as some American troops were reconnoitering around Aiken’s Tavern. They left before British troops arrived in the area. Maxwell stationed his troops all along the road between Aiken’s Tavern and Cooch’s Bridge. After resting and refitting at Head of Elk for over a week, Howe divided his army into two divisions under Earl Charles Cornwallis and Baron Wilhelm Knyphausen. Howe accompanied Cornwallis’s column, which advanced from Head of Elk and reached Aiken’s Tavern, in what is now Glasgow, DE, about 9:00 AM. Knyphausen division, marching from Cecil County Courthouse, arrived an hour later.

Cornwallis’ division, having arrived earlier, proceeded first on the road north from Aiken’s Tavern toward Cooch’s Bridge and Iron Hill. Just a mile north, the vanguard of German jaegers under Lieutenant Colonel Ludwig Johann Adolph von Wurmb encountered outposts of General Maxwell’s light corps. This ad hoc formation had been thrown together to replace Colonel Daniel Morgan’s valuable riflemen, sent some months earlier to aid Major-General Horatio Gates in New York.

Stationed “at the entrance of a wood,” the Americans commenced an irregular fire on the advancing British that continued for two miles up the road. Captain Johann Ewald of the Hessian jaegers, who had gone ahead with six dragoons to scout the road, “received fire from a hedge, through which these six men were all either killed or wounded.” This continued for some time as the Americans fell back from one position to another. Howe’s aide, Captain Friedrich von Muenchhausen, “saw several rebels behind trees, firing at our advancing jaegers, then retreating about 20 yards behind the next tree, then firing again.” Wurmb was meanwhile “continuously in front of the jaegers, encouraging them in every way, both by actions and by words.” Finally, the Americans retreated to the area of Cooch’s Bridge. Von Wurmb wrote of this retreat:

I had the corps form on the right and attack. The captain on the right wing found an opportunity to fall upon the enemy’s flank. After the enemy had shot themselves out of ammunition the fight was carried on with the sword, they being finally put to flight. But they immediately made a stand again and we drove them away the second time when they took post beyond Christeen Creek at Cooch’s Bridge. Here the second battalion of light infantry came to our assistance.

Howe ordered a simultaneous advance on both flanks of the enemy. On the American right, the attempt of Lieutenant-Colonel Robert Abercromby’s light infantry got entangled in the woods and bogged down, in what was known as “Purgatory Swamp,” advancing no further. On the left, Captain Carl August von Wreden with a body of Hessian grenadiers succeeded in gaining the American flank and “cannonaded [them] with some amusettes and charged with bayonets,” driving the Americans back in disorder. Major John André wrote, “their flight afterwards became so precipitate that great numbers threw down their arms and blankets.” Accounts of casualties vary widely, but probably approached thirty British and sixty Americans. What was intended to be little more than a delaying action had turned into a bloody skirmish. The initial tenacity of the Americans, as well as their propensity to break when pressed with the bayonet, was a portent of things to come.

The Americans retreated to rejoin the main army at White Clay Creek. They were pursued about two miles. The British and Germans then returned to Cooch’s Bridge and Iron Hill.

Washington wrote to Congress, two days after the battle:

We have not been able to ascertain the Enemy’s loss in the late Action by any other way, than by a Woman that came from their Camp yesterday, she says she saw Nine Waggon loads of Wounded. I think this probable because we had about forty killed and wounded, and as our Men were thinly posted they must have done more damage upon a close Body, than they received.” (The Writings of George Washington from the Original Manuscript Sources, 1745-1799. John C. Fitzpatrick, Editor.)


Howe made the following comments about the battle:

The Spirite’d Manner in Which Lt Colo Wormb & the officers & Men yesterday Engaged Defeated the chosen Advance’d Corps of the Enemy, Desires the highest Encomicum’s & Calls for the Genl’s Fullest Acknowledgements.

Washington wrote to Congress:

Upon reconnoitering their situation, it appeared probable that they only meant to amuse us in front, and by suddenly passing the Brandywine, get between us and Philadelphia. To prevent this, it was judged expedient to change our position immediately. The army accordingly marched at two o’clock this morning (September 9), and will take position this evening upon high ground near Chadd’s Ford.

Several eyewitness accounts of the battle of Cooch’s Bridge have survived and appear below:

Lt. Henry Stirke, 10th Regiment of Foot, Light Infantry

Septr 3d This morning about 5 O’Clock The Lt Infantry, Grenadiers, Hessian Chasseurs, Queens Rangers, some battalions of Brittish and Hessians, march’d under the Command of Sr Wm How, to take possession of they Iron Hills. About 8 O’Clock ye Hessian Chasseurs, and 2d Battalion of Light Infantry, attack’d a large party of the Rebels, strongly posted at a bridge, at the foot of the Iron hills ; which after a faint resistance, was carried with very little loss. The Rebels had about 50 kill’d, and Wounded ; The 1st Battalion of Light Infantry endeavouring to turn the left flank of ye Rebels, and cu[t] off their Retreat, was prevented by an Impassable morass, which ye Guide was not acquainted with. At this pass there was 500 Regulars, and 300 militia, under the Commd of Genl Maxwell.

Maryland Historical Journal, 1964

Anonymous British diary

Sepr – – the 3 [1777] Our Army Consisting of the Light Infentry gradiers Conoal [Colonel] Morises Raingers and Heaseans Cheeuars Marched at Day Break and fell in With the Rebels At A Very strong pass at Iron hill and they Soon Retreated of[f] to the Woods Leaving ther dead and Wounded on the ground / they had Sixty kild Which was in the Woods Some days befoare they Were found by Information of Some Disarters / 2d [i.e. two] Light Companys of the 2d. Battalion Advanced three Miles of[f] from the picquett and Returnd the same Night With Oppesion

Transcribed by John Rees and posted to RevWar75.com

Major Carl Leopold Baurmeister, Adjutant-General of the Hessian Forces in North America

Tomorrow morning, by five o’clock, camp must be broken and the regiments must be at the front ready to march. The old pickets will have been previously withdrawn. The new pickets of the English regiments will make up the vanguard and take along two of Lieutenant Willson’s 3-pounders; then will follow the English dragoons, except for that one non-commisioned officer and six dragoons who will march at the head of the pickets; then all the quartermasters and officer’s men from the battalions of the 71st Regiment; then the 3rd, (15th, 17th, 42nd, 44th Regiments) and 4th (33rd, 37th, 46th, 64th Regiments) English Infantry Brigades by half companies; then the Hessian Leib Regiment, Mirbach’s Regiment, the combined battalion (the Fusilier Battalion Loos, the remnants of Rall’s Brigade) and half of von Donop’s Regiment, then the baggage (the wagons of the generals first and the rest in the same order as the regiments). The baggage will be followed by the cattle, and the guards assigned to it will keep the drovers in order. The Hessian pickets will patrol along both sides of the baggage and cattle train, keeping particularly close watch on the right, Lieutenant Colonel Heymell (Carl Philipp Heymell) will form the rear with the other half of von Donop’s Regiment, which is to be preceded by Lieutenant Willson’s two remaining 3-pounders. Everyone is warned against setting fire to houses, barns, or other buildings along the line of march. At each building a double post will be left, which is to be relieved by each successive battalion until the rear guard. In addition, one officer and fifteen dragoons will follow the rear guard.

Major Carl Leopold Baurmeister, Adjutant-General of the Hessian Forces in North America 1776-1784 (translated by Bernhard A. Uhlendorf in Revolution in America: Confidential Lettters and Journals, 1957)

General William Howe

The spirited manner in which Lieutenant Colonel von Wurmb & the officers and men yesterday engaged & defeated the chosen advance corps of the enemy deserves the highest encomiums & calls for the General’s fullest acknowledgements.

Major Carl Leopold Baurmeister, Adjutant-General of the Hessian Forces in North America 1776-1784 (translated by Bernhard A. Uhlendorf in Revolution in America: Confidential Lettters and Journals, 1957)

Lieutenant Heinrich Carl Philipp von Feilitsch, Ansbach-Bayreuth Jaegers

The 3rd – We marched out of our camp at four o’clock in the morning. At a distance of two and one-half miles we entered Pennsylvania and shortly thereafter encountered and enemy corps of 3,000 men in the region of Wellstreg, or the Fort Euren Kill, or Katschers Mill (Gooch’s Mill). The enemy stood firm. The fire was extremely heavy and lasted about two hours. Only our corps (i.e. the jaegers) was engaged and a few English. The enemy attacked three times. We lost one dead and ten wounded, while the rebels suffered nearly fifty dead and, according to the deserters, very many wounded. We made few prisoners. Our jaegers conducted themselves well and, after the enemy was driven back, we entered camp during the afternoon not far from that place. The affair began at eight o’clock and lasted until ten. The company had two wounded, a corporal and a jaeger.

Lieutenant (later Captain) Heinrich Carl Philipp von Feilitsch (1752-1827)of the Ansbach-Bayreuth jaeger company (translated by Bruce E. Burgoyne in Diaries of Two Ansbach Jaegers, 1998)

Captain John Montresor

…the Country is close – the woods within shot of the road, frequently in front and flank and in projecting points towards the Road…A Continued Smart irregular fire [ensued] for near two miles.

“Journal of Captain John Montresor,” 3 September, 1777, in The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography Vol. 5, ( Philadelphia: The Historical Society of Pennsylvania, 1881 ), 412

Captain Johann Ewald, Jaegers

I…had not gone a hundred paces from the advance guard, when I received fire from a hedge, through which these six men [the dragoons] were all either killed or wounded. My horse, which normally was well used to fire, reared so high several times that I expected it would throw me. I cried out, “Foot jagers forward!” and advanced with them to the area from which the fire was coming…At this moment I ran into another enemy party with which I became heavily engaged. Lieutenant Colonel von Wurmb, who came with the entire Corps assisted by the light infantry, ordered the advance guard to be supported…The charge was sounded, and the enemy was attacked so severely and with such spirit by the jagers that we became masters of the mountain after a seven hour engagement … The majority of the jagers came to close quarters with the enemy, and the hunting sword was used as much as the rifle … The jagers alone enjoyed the honor of driving the enemy out of his advantageous position.

Captain Johann Ewald, Diary of the American War: A Hessian Journal, trans. & ed. By Joseph Tustin, ( New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1979), 77

Sergeant Thomas Sullivan, 49th Regiment of Foot

…after a hot fire the enemy retreated towards their main body, by Iron Hill. They made a stand at the Bridge for some time, but the pursuing Corps made them quit that post also, and retire with loss.

“Before and After the Battle of Brandywine: Extracts from the Journal of Sergeant Thomas Sullivan of H.M. Forty-Ninth Regiment of Foot”, 3 September, 1777 in The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, Vol. 31, ( Philadelphia: Historical Society of Pennsylvania, 1907), 410

General George Washington

September 3: “This morning the Enemy came out with considerable force and three pieces of Artillery, against our Light advanced Corps, and after some pretty smart skirmishing obliged them to retreat, being far inferior to them in number and without Cannon. The loss on either side is not yet ascertain’d. Ours, tho’ not exactly known is not very considerable; Their’s, we have reason to believe, was much greater, as some of our parties composed of expert Marksmen, had opportunities of giving them several close, well directed Fires, more particularly in one instance, when a body of Riflemen formed a kind of Ambuscade.They advanced about two Miles this side of Iron Hill, and then withdrew to that place, leaving a Picket at Couch’s Mill about a Mile in front. Our parties now lie at White Clay Creek, except the advanced Pickets, which are at Christiana Bridge.

The Writings of George Washington from the Original Manuscript Sources, 1745-1799. John C. Fitzpatrick, Editor. Washington, U.S. Govt. Print. Off. [1931-44] September 3, 1777

William Walker, 4th Virginia Regiment

But passing over many interesting circumstances, from the above time to the latter part of August 1777, went on our march to meet the enemy in the State of Virginia as we supposed we were met immediately after passing Chester with an express that the enemy was landing at the head of Elk [River]. At this place 8 hundred men chiefly volunteers called the detached light infantry I being among them the following are the names of the field officers commanding this party, Rich. Parker [Lt. Colonel Richard Parker, 2d Virginia Regiment] , Colonel Heath [probably Willam Heath] with a glass eye Colonel Crawford [perhaps William Crawford] with his leather hunting shirt, pantaloons and Rifle, Colonel Martin [perhaps Alexander Martin] from North Carolina, General [William] Maxwell being the commander we marched to a place called Iron Hill where we remained until the 2nd of September, the enemy being as yet stationary when a very bloody conflict ensued. As no historian has noticed this I refer you to Washington’s Official letters. For myself I can say that this detachment on that day deserved well of their country.

Pension application of William Walker


Recommended Reading: Battle History of the 2d Virginia Regiment

Battle of Great Bridge

Philadelphia Campaign

Paulus Hook


Guilford Courthouse (Hawes’ 2d Virginia Regiment of 1781)

Hunting Shirts

1775-1776: The hunting shirts of used by the Virginia regiments of 1775 were made of osnaburg and had differing finishing details to designate rank and regiment. Research seems to indicate that during the Revolutionary War, “hunting shirt” indicated an open front garment. They would become a defining feature of the early regimental clothing, as Colonel Woodford and others would refer to the soldiers as “shirtmen”.

Most of the exact finishing details come not from the 2d Virginia Regiment’s orderly book, or the orderly book for the regiments encamped at College Camp, but from another Virginia regiment that was serving in the same place during this time, the 6th Virginia Regiment. As there were several general orders being made in regards to all of the regiments at College Camp, the use of short round hats with black binding for instance, it stands to reason that the general construction techniques were the same and that they differed only in regimental distinctions.

The 2d Virginia Regiment’s hunting shirts were most definitely purple and made from osnaburg, however that is all that is known of their appearance from their own orderly book: “It is Expected that each Capt. will with all Expedition Provide Legins for his men & hunting shirts Dy’d of a purple Coulour…” (Orderly Book of the 2d Virginia Regiment, October 27, 1775)   The fabric used and the fact that the men made these shirts themselves is clearly established by several orders and draws of cloth:

Thread Sufficient for the purpose must be Drawn, at the same Time as much as will make each Soldier a Hunting Shirt
Orderly Book of the 2d Virginia Regiment, October 11, 1775

Capt George Johnston Dr P order Colo. Woodford…To 4 yards oznabr. For H. shirts @ 1/6
Captn William Taliaferro Dr P order Colo Woodford…137 yards Oznabr. Hunting Shts @ 1/6

Virginia Public Store Day Book, November 6, 1775

The orderly book of the 6th Virginia Regiment provides more detail: “…a hunting shirt well made and short just to come below the waistband of the breeches…” (Orderly Book of the 6th Virginia Regiment, 26 March 1776 to 26 January 1778, American Collection, National Society Daughters of the American Revolution. September 11, 1776)  Rank apparently also was denoted by finishing details, for this entry goes on to say that the shirts (for the 6th Virginia Regiment) were to be: “Cuffed and Caped with red. The Serjts to be only cuffed with red. the Drummers and fifers to be white & cuffed with brown the Corporals shirts to be the same as the mens but they are to get some red twist & I will put then in the way of making a knot…” Unfortunately, the same extrapolation cannot be made to the what the 2d Virginia Regiment may have done for rank designations as their shirts were entirely one color, therefore there is no contrasting color to use to designate who the sergeants were.

The only additional piece of information is that in March 1776 that money would be provided for their addition: “The Committee allow Cuffs and Capes to be added to the Hunting Shirts of the regular’s at the expense of the Country.” which could be interpreted to mean that contrasting cuffs and capes were to be added (a common detail of Virginia Continental hunting shirts in 1776).

1777-1778: The 2d Virginia Regiment was completely suppled with new regimental coats at the expense of Colonel William Spotswood when they joined the Main Army in 1777 and no mention of hunting shirts are made in the clothing returns of late 1777 or early 1778.  There are only two apparent references during this period:

Deserted from capt. John Willis’s company, on their march to the Northward, a soldier by the name of Jos: Bryant, who lives in the upper end of Westmoreland, and frequently to be seen at mr. Benjamin Johnston’s ordinary, where he was enlisted. He is a well made man, with a dark skin, and black hair, about 5 feet 9 or 10 inches high ; had on when he deserted a dark hunting shirt.
Alexander Purdie, Virginia Gazette, April 11, 1777

Henry Mace, a Private, 5 feet 8 inches high, well set, fair faced, hand a blue hunting Shirt when he went off…
Dixon and Hunter, Virginia Gazette, September 5, 1777

It should be noted that of the thirteen men mentioned in the September 1777 deserter advertisement, Mace is the only one mentioned wearing a hunting shirt and five others are described as wearing regimental coats.  It is quite possible that these hunting shirts were leftovers from 1775-1776 as “dark” could describe purple and “blue” could be a faded purple shirt.  For these reasons, we do not currently use hunting shirts in our 1777-1778 impression other than as something to be loaned to a new recruit for their first few events.

Watercolor by Jean-Baptiste Antoine de Verger

1778-1780: In October 1778, a large quantity of French-made regimental coats were delivered and issued to the Continental Army with enough of a surplus that a second issue was made again in November 1779, “I must first request of you not to permit one of the men to wear their new clothes until the huts are done…” (Febiger Letter Book, 1778-1780, November 30, 1779, Historical Society of Pennsylvania).

The French and state issued bounty clothing issued in 1778 must not have been durable, as in the period between its issue and late 1779, the Virginians were frequently described as being in poor clothing, which was supplemented with hunting shirts:

General Anthony Wayne comments to Washington in September 1779 that the clothing of the Light Infantry was “very ragged — especially the Virginia Line whose coats are so worn out that they are Obliged to Substitute Linen hunting Shirts”

Head Quarters, West Point, September 28, 1779.

My Lord: I have your favr. of the 27th. Supposing the Continental Cloathing delivered to the Virginia line last Fall to be of equal quality with that delivered to the other part of the Army, they ought now to be in better condition than any other troops, as they had [at the same time contrary to my judgment and express desire] a very considerable quantity of state Cloathing in addition to the Continental [which I was sure coming altogether would be misapplied and avail them little].

I have directed Mr. Wilkinson the new Cloathier General who is gone to the Eastward to send immediately forward all the woolen Cloathing of every kind. The moment it arrives it shall be delivered to those most in want. I hope we shall have a sufficiency of Body Cloathing, but in Blankets [and Hats], notwithstanding my repeated remonstrances, I fear we shall fall short. I do not know what stock of shoes are on hand, but I imagine not great. I will write to the Cloathier and know, and will order a due proportion to your division. I hope the new arrangement of the Cloathing department will put it upon a better footing than it has heretofore been. It has occasioned more trouble to me, and has given more disgust to the Officers than any one thing besides in the service.

George Washington to William Alexander, Lord Stirling, September 28, 1779. The Writings of George Washington from the Original Manuscript Sources, 1745-1799. John C. Fitzpatrick, Editor

The common hunting shirt later in the war was open in the front, had a single cape, a simple cuff and light fringe as illustrated in the watercolor by Jean-Baptiste Antoine de Verger, a sublieutenant in the Royal Deux-Ponts Regiment that took part in the siege of Yorktown and painted several American soldiers.