1st Battalion, Royal American Regiment (Rifles)History
(60th Regiment of Foot)
The King's Royal Rifle Corps was raised in the American colonies in 1756 as the 62nd (Royal American) Regiment to defend the thirteen colonies against attack by the French and their native American allies. After Braddock's defeat in 1755, royal approval for a new regiment, as well as funds, were granted by Parliament just before Christmas 1755 - hence the regiment's traditional Birthday of Christmas Day. However parliamentary delays meant it was 4 March 1756 before a special Act of Parliament created four battalions of 1,000 men each to include foreigners for service in the Americas.
According to a Regimental history compiled in 1879 by a captain in the Kings Royal Rifle Corps, in November 1755 Parliament voted the sum of 81,000 Pounds for the purpose of raising a Regiment of four battalions, each one thousand strong for service in British North America. Parliament approved an Act, “To enable His Majesty [George II] to grant commissions to a certain number of foreign Protestants, who have served abroad as officers or engineers, to act and rank as officers or engineers in America only, under certain restrictions and regulations.” The Earl of Loudon, who as Commander-in-Chief of the Forces in North America, was appointed Colonel-in-Chief of the Regiment. About fifty Officers’ commissions were given to Germans and Swiss, and none were allowed to rise above the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.
According to a modern history of the Regiment, the idea for creating this unique force was proposed by Jacques Prevost, a Swiss soldier and adventurer, who was a friend of the Duke of Cumberland (William Augustus, who was the King's second son and was Commander-in-Chief of the British Army.) Prevost recognised the need for soldiers who understood forest warfare, unlike the Regulars who were brought to America in 1755 by General Braddock.
The regiment was intended to combine the characteristics of a Colonial Corps with those of a Foreign Legion. Swiss and German forest fighting experts, American colonists and British volunteers from other British regiments were recruited. These men were Protestants, an important consideration for fighting against the predominantly Catholic French. The officers were also recruited from Europe— not from the American colonies— and consisted of English, Scotch, Irish, Dutch, Swiss and Germans. It was the first time foreign officers were commissioned at British Army officers. The total Regiment consisted of 4,160 enlisted men, 101 officers and 240 non-commissioned officers. The battalions were raised on Governors Island, New York. The regiment was renumbered the 60th (Royal American) Regiment in February 1757 when the 50th (Shirley's) and 51st (Pepperel's) foot regiments were removed from the British Army roll after their surrender at Fort Oswego.
Among the distinguished foreign officers given commissions in the 60th (Royal Americans) was Henri Bouquet, a Swiss citizen, whose ideas on tactics, training and man-management (including the unofficial introduction of the rifle and 'battle-dress`) would become universal in the British Army some 150 years later. Bouquet was commanding officer of the 1st battalion, and with his fellow battalion commanders, set about creating units that was better suited to warfare in the forests and lakes of north east America. The Royal Americans represented an attempt to produce a more able soldier who was encouraged to use his initiative while retaining the discipline that was noticeably lacking in the irregular units of colonial Rangers that were being raised at the same time.
The new regiment fought at Louisbourg in 1758 and Quebec in 1759 in the campaign which finally wrested Canada from France; at Quebec it won from General James Wolfe the motto Celer et Audax (Swift and Bold). These were conventional battles on the European model, but fighting during Pontiac's Rebellion in 1763 was of a very different character. The frontier war threatened the British control of North America. The new regiment at first lost several outlying garrisons but finally proved its mastery of forest warfare under Bouquet's leadership at the victory of Bushy Run.
The 60th were uniformed and equipped in a similar manner to other British regiments with red coats and cocked hats or grenadier caps, but on campaign, swords were replaced with hatchets, and coats and hats cut down for ease of movement in the woods.
During the Napoleonic Wars the regiment saw action in the Peninsular War. The first four battalions had been raised as regular line battalions, but in 1797 a 5th battalion had been raised and equipped entirely with the Baker rifles, and wore green jackets with red facings. The mixing of rifle troops and muskets proved so effective that eventually the line battalion light companies were replaced with rifle companies. The line battalions found themselves in several different theatres, including the West Indies. The rifle battalion was soon joined by a second, and these found themselves in the Peninsula with Wellington's army, serving along with the 95th Rifles, and the King's German Legion rifle units. A 7th battalion was eventually raised as a rifle battalion specifically for service in the American War of 1812.