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The Napoleonic Wars 1792-1815

The Forgotten Fencibles

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The Forgotten Fencibles

Postby Connaught » September 1st, 2011, 6:32 pm

On 1 February, 1793 Great Britain was once again at war. The declaration of war by the French Republic caught Great Britain at a disadvantage as it had both disbanded most of the newly raised regular regiments of 1776-1783 after that conflict had ended and reduced its own peacetime establishment to practically nil.[1] While it immediately took steps to recruit its regular regiments for general service, it also established a regular force of Fencible Regiments, for home service only, to augment the Embodied militia of the Kingdom. This force was especially necessary in Scotland, which had no large militia force of its own until 1798.

The term 'fencible' may come from 'defencible' and means a defence force. There had been fencible regiments raised for home defence both for the Seven Years War and the American Revolution.[2] The number of regiments raised, however, was nowhere near the number raised for this conflict. Fortescue described them as, "regular troops originally enlisted for service at home, and for the duration of the war only, and were designed to liberate the regular army from the United Kingdom for service abroad."[3] Many of these regiments did sterling service in the garrisoning of Ireland and others volunteered for general service, one saw action in Egypt; as well as, providing garrisons in England and overseas to free regular line regiments.

As early as 20 February 1793 the first commanding officer of a Fencible Corps was gazetted [Duke of Atholl of the Royal Manx Corps] and on 1 March 1793, the first seven Colonels of Fencible Regiments in Scotland were gazetted. The precedence of the seven regiments was determined by having the seven Colonels simply draw numbers. These early Scottish Regiments were formed by the leading Clan Chiefs and landowners in the areas where they were recruited. So you see them raising units from the tenants of their lands, almost like the Clan Regiments of old, such as the Sinclair's and Mackay's in Caithness, the Campbell's in Argyll and Breadalbane, the Cameron's in Lochaber, the Sutherland's in Sutherland, the Gordon's in the North, the Montgomerie's in the Western Lowlands, the MacDonell's in Glengarry and the Grant's in Strathspey, etc. Even in the Fencible Cavalry you see similar examples, the Linlithgow Troop raised by a Livingstone, the Ayr Corps by a Dunlop, Lothian units by a Kerr or Hamilton, Roxburgh Corps by a Scott and the Dumfries Regiment by a Maxwell. The first Scottish Fencible Regiments, originally, consisted of one Colonel, one Lieutenant Colonel, one Major and five Captains. Per company they had one Lieutenant, one Ensign, three sergeants, four corporals, two drummers and 71 privates. They were to be completed within three months and the bounty granted for enlistment was three guineas. Their headquarters were Grant's at Forres, Wemyss's at Inverness, Montgomerie's at Glasgow, Breadalbane's at Perth, Lorne's at Stirling, Gordon's at Abeerdeen and Hopetoun's at Linlithgow.
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