Saturday, October 13, 2012

Pandours, Irregular troops were not all "Rangers"

Bannalist and Pandour, Freikorps Trenck.  By Morier, 1743.
    The Pandour.  What has he got to do with anything?  I believe we don't know enough about them.  They started off as Croatian and Hungarian Irregulars, fighting against the Turks in the 17th century and were absorbed into the Austrian Imperial Forces as Freikorps.  By the mid 18th c, France had incorporated the Freikorps Pandour-style light infantry into the army under Marshal de Saxe.  Writes, BGen Henri Bouquet (victor of the 1764 Battle of Bushy Run),

              "Marshal de Saxe, finding the French Army harrassed by the Hussars and other Austrian light troops formed also several corps of them of different kinds, and the king of Prussia, in his first war, introduced them into his army, and has augmented and employed them ever since with success.  We ourselves made use of them in the two last wars in Europe..." [2]

     Wait a minute...  The British had no idea how to fight in an irregular manner.  The Americans and Native Americans had to show them, right?  I mean, Braddock's Defeat, right?  Wrong.  The following work, also by Morier, was consigned by the Duke of Cumberland,

119th Prince's Own Light Infantry, after Morier (1763) [2]
     Note the similarities in this British Light infantry uniform to that of the Pandour by the same artist:  Hungarian Boots, Hungarian overalls, and what I believe is a hooded talma rolled over the shoulder-all practically identical to their Balkan/Magyar counterparts.  So I suspect that the 119th may have been at least one of the units Bouquet referred to.  Bouquet goes on to say that while the Pandour and the freikorps (an independent legion operating behind enemy lines) gives an idea of warfare in the Americas, the requirements in equipment and training were different for combatting the American Indian.

     I think this is significant.  Marshal de Saxe saw something in the need for these irregular units in Europe, in a time of massive linear engagements with sections locked in three ranks.  Bouquet used these irregulars as a point of reference for his audience:  British Officers who had not fought in the Americas.  For further reading on irregular warfare and light infantry tactics in Europe, I would recommend "The Science of Military Posts" by the French Officer La Cointe, written in 1758 and translated into english in 1761.  La Cointe's text (available for purchase at King's Press and Bindery) describes in detail the detached duties of a light infantry unit in Europe-exactly the sort of things the Pandours and freikorps excelled.  "Dirty deeds and they're done dirt cheap."  A good read.

    What I think is most compelling, is that after the Siege of Prague, a Captain Friederich Von Steuben transferred from the Lestwitz Regiment to the Prussian Freibattalion No. 2 (Von Mayr), serving as its adjutant [4].  The freibattalions, were not line infantry, but similar to their Austrian counterparts, were used as light infantry; scouting, patrolling, reconniassance, ambushing and intercepting isolated enemy formations and lines of communications.  This is the same Von Steuben that turned the Continental Army into the professional force that drove the British Army from New Jersey at Monmouth.  More to follow on the good ol' Baron, as he fought a successful "Small War" against Benedict Arnold in Tidewater Virginia in 1779-80.

    We may need to look more closely into the European irregulars and freibattalions if we are to understand the metamorphosis of Anglo-American and even French-Canadian light infantry in the 18th c.  It was a narrative that involved more than Robert Rodgers or the Iroquois.


[1]  Morier, D.  (1743),  Bannalist and Pandour. Oil on Canvas.  Royal Collection. Retrieved from

[2]  Bouquet, H. (1765).  An Historical account of the expeditions against the Ohio indians in the year 1764.  London, Bradford.

[3] Morier, D.  (1763), 119th (Prince of Wales' Own) Light Infantry, Royal Collection,  Retrieved from 

[4] Lockhart, P.  (2008).  The Drillmaster of Valley Forge.  NY, NY.  Harper Collins. 16-17.

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