ORIGINS OF THE 95th


The 95th Rifles were not an original idea. The roots can be traced back in a number of areas:

The success of the French and Indians using sniping tactics during the French Colonial War in America
This led to the formation of the 60th (American) Regiment under the Swiss emigre Henri Bouquet. These men were trained to skirmish through woods, using tactics such as dropping to the ground when they came unexpectedly under fire. They were still "redcoats" and officially still carried muskets but many used rifles anyway.
Ferguson's experiments with breech loading rifles and skirmish tactics
An innovative officer, Patrick Ferguson began experiments with breech loading rifles during the American War of Independence. He knew that to overcome the entrenched resistance of Horse Guards the rifle had to fire at least as quickly as a musket. Having developed an effective breech loading rifle, he gained permission to trial his rifle with a small battalion of men in America, and developed very successful skirmish tactics. Unfortunately the British commander saw it as an attempt to fob another of Horse Guards' wild ideas off on him (much the same attitude as Wellington had towards rockets) and disbanded the battalion at the first opportunity. While in existence, Ferguson's Rifles were very successful.
The development of specialised skirmishing troops in European Armies
The French had voltigeurs and chasseurs, who acted as tirailleurs, the German states had Jaegers, the Portuguese had Cacadores, etc. Napoleon developed the techniques of using these, in conjunction with an artillery barrage, to soften up a defensive line but it should be noted that he refused to allow rifles to be used. He regarded them as too slow loading to be of use in battle. Coote Manningham and William Stewart had first hand experience of this continental development in the Helder Campaign of 1799. Additionally, Manningham had extensive experience commanding Light Troops in the West Indies.
The increasing professionalism of the British Army
Britain had been almost continually at war (somewhere or other in the world) for nearly 50 years so a generation of officers had grown old who had never had the chance to forget the lessons of war. The Duke of York's experience as a young aristocrat pushed into a too-senior position in a campaign and his subsequent appointment as Commander-in-Chief (where he could implement some of the lessons he had learned) meant that the British Army of 1800 was very different to the British Army of 1789. The promotion system was more regulated, a military college for officers was being set up and the government was taking more responsibility for the regular army (slowly eliminating the need for privately raised regiments).
The creation of the 5/60th
In December 1797 a special act of Parliament was passed creating a 5th battalion of the 60th (American) regiment officered and manned by foreigners (mainly German) to serve in America. The battalion was to be commanded by Francis de Rottenburg, a commander in the tradition of Bouquet. The regiment was to be dressed in green jackets with red facings and armed with rifles (the Hompesch at first, later replaced by the Baker).

Thus there was a chain of events in place which undermined the old, entrenched attitudes at Horse Guards.


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Last update 13/2/03