Friday, February 5, 2016

British Regulars from the Movie Alone Yet Not Alone


I recently watched the movie Alone Yet Not Alone.  It is set in the French and Indian War and follows the journey of a young girl captured in an Indian raid.  She lives with the Indians for four years until she escapes and reaches safety at Fort Pitt.  While much of the clothing and the scenery is visually beautiful, this movie unfortunately contains two historical errors.  I will deal with the first one in this post and the second one later.  This is not a full movie review, but perhaps I will (later) give a brief overview of what I thought of the movie itself.

Production photo of the British battling an Indian.
Picture from Alone Yet not Alone's Facebook page:
https://www.facebook.com/aloneyetnotalone
In Alone yet not Alone, the British regulars are portrayed as lacking in hand to hand combat skills and having no concept of teamwork.  Thankfully, this portrayal is confined to one scene because all other fight sequences are between the Indians, colonists, and French.  Their depiction of the British soldiers is as follows

 

*Spoiler warning*

 The heroine of the story named Barbara Leininger has finally reached British-held Fort Pitt in the year 1759.  She and her three companions call across the Ohio River for help.  To investigate them, a British-manned bateau is launched from Fort Pitt.  After ascertaining that Barbara and her friends are true refugees and not decoys to lure them into ambush, they disembark to conduct them to Fort Pitt. 

Suddenly they are attacked by a lone Indian named Hannawoa, who shoots one Brit with his musket and charges headlong toward the rest.  They respond with a scattered volley of shots and charge Hannawoa one at a time.  The first redcoat swings his musket butt like a club but is dispatched by Hannawoa.  Two other soldiers run up to their foe without attempting to injure him with their muskets (which oddly enough do not have bayonets fixed).

Left: a painting of a grenadier of the 46th Regiment
Right: a photo of a private soldier, possibly of the 46th
The British officer draws a pistol, shoots Hannawoa in the shoulder and draws his sword, but is defeated.  Now Barbara fumbles in the belt of the wounded officer, draws another pistol and shoots Hannawoa.  As he hits the earth, a British soldier skewers him with a bayonet.

*Spoiler warning ends*

           

This, then, is their portrayal of the British soldiers of the French and Indian War, with no group cohesion and not generally armed with bayonets.  How does it compare with history? 

Author Stuart Reid is an expert on British infantrymen of the 1700s.  He says: “…The individual soldier probably found it more easy and effective to simply butt-stroke rather than to stab his opponent in a hand-to-hand skirmish.  Contemporary bayonet fighting drills consequently reflected and stressed the need for soldiers to act in concert rather than individually.”  (1, emphasis mine)

In his attack in Quebec in 1759, General James Wolfe stressed the importance of the bayonet: “The light infantry of this army are to have their bayonets, as the want of ammunition may at some times be supplied by that weapon, and because no man should leave his post, under pretence that all his cartridges were fired.  In most attacks of the night it must be remembered that bayonets are preferable to fire.” (2)

This is the red-with-blue-lapel-and-cuff
uniform discussed in the text.
Having established that British soldiers were armed with the bayonet and knew how to use it, let us look briefly at group cohesion.  The redcoats in the movie are a detachment of 6 men drawn from two regiments: the 46th and the 60th Royal Americans. (3)


The uniform of the 60th Royal American Regiment
From the Seven Years' War Project at
http://kronoskaf.com/syw/index.php?
 “Nothing will make a soldier like service,” said Sir William Erskine (4) in 1776 and the 46th and 60th Royal Americans were seasoned campaigners.  In 1758, the 46th and 60th had participated in the Battle of Fort Carillon (5).  In 1759, they were involved in a campaign to capture Fort Niagara, where they decisively defeated a force of French soldiers, couriers du bois and Indians at the Battle of La Belle Famille. (6)  Because of their previous battlefield experiences, these men would be very competent soldiers.

Considering their previous service and their distinct victory over the Indians at the Battle of La Belle Famille in 1759, it is unwarranted (to say the least) to depict these tough regulars as incompetents.  While the Indians were excellent warriors, by 1759, the British too had learned the ways of woodland warfare.  Why should one side be portrayed as nearly invincible while the other is made up of bumbling buffoons?

I’ll end with an apropos quote from Timothy J. Todish and Todd E. Harburn: “In the end, both the Indians and the British were just doing their jobs for the cause they believed in.” (7)

 

  1. pg. 38, Like Hungry Wolves: Culloden Moor 16 April 1746 by Stuart Reid (London: Withrow & Greene Ltd, 1994)
  2. pg. 16 Quebec 1759 by Stuart Reid (Oxford: Osprey 2003)
  3. This is a tricky point.  Their specific combination of plain white lace on blue lapels and cuffs is closest to the 2nd Coldstream Guards.  The Coldstreams, however, were nowhere near North America, as they were in London in 1759!  The 60th Royal Americans were stationed in North America in various detachments, but their blue lapels had no lace.  I have decided to identify them as the 60th despite the white lace.
  4. pg. 120, With Zeal and With Bayonets Only by Matthew H. Spring (University of Oklahoma: Norman, 2010)
  5. Because the dating in Alone Yet Not Alone is not explicitly given, these soldiers could either be garrisoning Fort Pitt as the expedition to take Fort Niagara assembles; alternately, Niagara could be in British hands at this point because it surrendered on July 25, 1759.
  6. pg. 107, The British Military and the Pontiac Indian Uprising of 1763-1764 by Timothy J. Todish and Todd E. Harburn (Fleischmanns: Purple Mountain Press, 2006)


 

3 comments:

  1. AYNA is rife with historical inaccuracies. Very few of the pieces of clothing are correct in any way and they are almost never worn properly.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Canadian film? Has to be the glorious Native and the ridiculous Military of the Colonial Kingdom. Politically spot on.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This is an American film, but we also struggle with these portrayals of incompetent Europeans and sharpshooting natives in our films. This type of mythology does not benefit the movie's viewers, because it gives them a distorted view of history.

      I hope you enjoyed this study!
      ~Jordan

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