Sunday, April 24, 2016

Flag of the British Legion


Tarleton's portrait.  I am grateful to have
it in such high resolution to be able to
see Reynolds' details.

Banastre Tarleton’s British Legion  is one of the most famous units in the American Revolution.  In this portrait by Sir Joshua Reynolds, Tarleton wears the uniform of the British Legion.  Two cannons and three flags (one buff and two red) appear in the portrait.  Most likely they are trophies won in war.


But in the upper left hand corner of the portrait is another flag.  Rather than being draped on the ground this one is flourished triumphantly by a trooper of the British Legion.  Is it the flag of the Legion?  We don’t know; however it has several distinctly British elements.


The upper left canton is white with a greenish-gray bird.  Is it a swan? (1)  Lighting appears to be shooting from the bird into two corners of the canton.  The flag’s ground is dark red or brown.  In the lower left canton (below the white canton) are two artillery pieces.  In the center is a dark circular laurel wreath enclosing a red “L” written in cursive script.  Above the “L” appears to be a crown.


Clicking on this picture will enlarge it
so that you can see what the text
is describing.
I have numbered the elements of the flag on the detail of Reynolds’ portrait and use the same numbers here.  This allows a comparison of my text with the painting.

  1. The bird appears to be a swan.  Firstly, the bird’s neck is bent downward, like swans in heraldry.  It is certainly not an eagle or hawk, as neither of them have such a long neck. Secondly, a distinct representation of swan (with a golden crown around its neck and a golden chain attached to it) is a symbol of British royalty.  Most intriguingly, the bird appears to wear a golden chain.
  2. The artillery pieces are quite unusual on a British flag.  It is possible, however, that they represent enemy cannons captured by the Legion.  This could be a forerunner of the later system of “battle honors”, where a regiment would be granted the right to put the name of a battle it fought in on its flag.  Battle honors were officially introduced in the regular British army in 1784. (2)  However, it is quite possible that units were embellishing their flags with honors and trophies before 1784.  And since Tarleton’s legion was not a regular unit (until 1781[3]), it would be more likely to have unofficial elements on its flags.
  3. The crown is of the British type known as the Crown of Saint Edward.
  4. The laurel wreath is very common on American Revolution-era British flags.  It usually enclosed the regimental number or badge.  There is an “L” within the wreath, possibly standing for “Legion”?
    Is this the flag of the British Legion?  More research is needed, but it certainly has enough British elements to rule out the possibility that it is a captured French or American flag.
    My reconstruction of the Legion's flag
    The last picture shows my reconstruction of this flag.  I owe credit to many Wikimedia contributors for creating some of the elements used in the flag.  Specifically, the swan and Crown of Saint Edward were created by Wikimedia User: Sodacan and licensed under a Creative Commons 3.0 License.  The cannon was created by Wikimedia User: Heralder and licensed under a Creative Commons 3.0 License.

  1. pg. 237, A History of the Uniforms of the British Army volume 3 by C. C. P. Lawson
  2. pg. 128, A History of the Uniforms of the British Army volume 3 by C. C. P. Lawson
  3. On March 7, 1781, the British Legion was put on the American Establishment with 5 other Loyalist regiments.  This meant that they were regular (professional) soldiers and their officers would receive half-pay when they retired or the regiment was disbanded. Royal Provincial Website.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

The Trial of Edward Braddock part 2

Part Second: Braddock's Character Defended, by Captain Robert Orme and George Anne Bellamy

An outcry broke in the court as the prosecutor finished.  Some applauded him, while others voiced their opposition.  A man in a red coat and blue cuffs leapt from his seat before being admonished to sit down.  “Every one’s evidence in turn, sir,” said the bailiff.

“Having heard the charge from the prosecution, we will now hear the evidence of the defendant’s character.  Captain Robert Orme, will you present your evidence?” asked the judge.

A portrait of Captain Robert Orme
“Certainly, my lords,” said the gentleman who had risen before.  Eagerly, he took the witness stand and, waiting for perfect silence and attention, began.

“My name is Robert Orme, and I am a lieutenant in the Coldstream Guards. (1)  I was an aide-de-camp to General Braddock, and served him during his appointment as Major-General.  I was with him from England to his untimely demise in battle against the perfidious French.”

“You were in close contact with the General then and can give us an estimation of his character?”

“Yes, my lords.  ‘I judge it a Duty to vindicate the Memory of a Man whom I greatly and deservedly esteemed…it is very hard [that] the bluntness and openness of a Man’s Temper should be called Brutality and that he who would hear Opinions more freely than any man should be accused of Obstinacy and Peremptoriness.’” (2)

Captain Orme sat down and the judge called on the next witness.


“The next witness is George Anne Bellamy, the famous actress.  Mistress Bellamy, will you present your evidence?”

“I was known to the general from my infancy.  (3) He became as a second father to me and before he departed to take command in the colonies, he left his will and silver plate with me.  ‘This great man having been often reproached with brutality, I am induced to recite the following little accident, which evidently shews the contrary.

"As we were walking in the Park one day, we heard a poor fellow was to be chastised; when I requested the General to beg off the offender.  Upon his application to the general officer, whose name was Drury, he asked Braddock, ‘How long since he had divested himself of brutality, and of the insolence of his manners?’  To which the other replied, ‘You never knew me insolent to my inferiors.  It is only to such rude men as yourself, that I behave with the spirit which I think they deserve.’" (4)


  1. The Foot Guards ranks were one higher than in the regular army; thus a lieutenant of the Guards would rank as a captain in the rest of the Army.  This was common practice among European household troops and explains why Orme is sometimes referred to as Lieutenant (his Guards rank), and sometimes as Captain (his effective rank on Braddock’s expedition).
  2. Letter of Captain Robert Orme, found on page xx. Braddock’s Defeat, edited by Charles Hamilton.
  3. pg. 177, An Apology for the Life of George Anne Bellamy.  Read it at:
  4. pg. 29, An Apology for the Life of George Anne Bellamy.  Read it at:

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

The Trial of Edward Braddock part 1

Part First: The Charges Brought, by the movie Alone Yet Not Alone


It came to pass one day that I read a book telling the story of the French and Indian War.  As I read, I contemplated the characters who acted in it: George Washington, Sieur de Jumonville, the Half-King, and General Edward Braddock.  Braddock especially intrigued me.  Here was a man courageous in battle yet defeated and killed by Native American Indians and French Canadians.  Did Braddock’s defeat stem from the fact that he had no Indians on his side?  Was Braddock merely unfortunate, or did he deliberately drive his natives away, atoning for his mistake with his death?


I heard a slight noise as a gentleman in a red coat with gold lace sat down near me.  Looking up, I realized that I was in a courtroom, which was rapidly filling up.  Oddly enough, I sat in a chair in the middle of the court while benches in the two halves of the court contained the rest of the crowd.  On one side I noticed an Indian chieftain seated next to a pioneer settler; on the other, a female actress and a soldier in a red coat.  It was clear that every one was deeply interested in the case.  The audience was, probably wisely, separated into pro and con, defendants and prosecutors.


“Oyez!  Oyez!  Oyez!” shouted the bailiff.  “This honorable court will now come to order to consider the case of Edward Braddock.  In brief, the charges are as follows: Edward Braddock, major-general in the British Army under George II, conducted himself in the 13 colonies with arrogance, and treated with reckless contempt his Indian allies.  This neglect and dereliction of duty caused his defeat and death at the Battle of the Monongahela on July 9, 1755.  The prosecutor will now present his evidence.”


Edward Braddock, from the movie Alone Yet Not Alone
The prosecutor stepped forward and began to read as follows:


Colonel George Washington: “The chiefs of all six tribes request an audience with Your Excellency.”

General Edward Braddock: “Colonel Washington, can’t you see I have no time for savages?”

Washington: “Sir, the chiefs bring with them over 400 warriors.  They will prove invaluable as we near Fort Duquense.”

Braddock: “Invaluable?  Are you suggesting His Majesty’s finest regiments require the assistance of untrained, illiterate savages to win in this battle?”

Washington: “They are masters of stealth and ambush.  We can employ them to protect our flanks.  Your troops cannot shoot an enemy they cannot see.”

Braddock: “Washington, you weary me.  Very well.  Give me a moment and then show them in.”

Washington: “General Braddock, may I present the great Delaware chief, Shingas.

Chief Shingas of the Delaware: “General, my people have lived, hunted on these lands from the beginning of time.  Now we willingly share these lands with the English.  We join you in driving French from these lands.  We ask only once the French are gone, that you grant us lands for hunting to feed our children.”

Braddock: “Never!  Only the British shall inherit this land.”

Shingas: “General, we willingly take up the tomahawk against the French.  We defend your cause with our lives.”

Braddock: “His Majesty’s troops do not need you to win this battle.  No savage shall ever inherit this land.  Is that clear?  Now, begone.” (1)


  1. This transcript is from the movie Alone Yet Not Alone.  For more about this movie, see