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The Lost Legion(s)

In a 2003 Journal of Military History article entitled, "The Origins of the Legion of the United States," Andrew J Birtle compellingly argues that the Swiss-born officer Henry Bouquet, a legendary colonial-era commander of the 60th Royal Americans,* victor at Bushy Run, provided the likely causal re-organization and doctrinal, if not nominal, inspiration for the creation of the short-lived (1792-1796) "Legion of the United States," an (for the times) innovative combined arms force that successfully defeated the old Northwest Indians at Fallen Timbers under General "Mad Anthony" Wayne. (That Bouquet was undoubtedly influenced by first-hand experiences and knowledge of subordinates such as ranger James Smith seems certain - see related post in this blog entitled Getting it Right - Assessing a Nondoctrinal Foe for Doctrinal Change.)

Birtle succinctly traces the classical and the concurrent eighteenth century European influences on the Legion name. Yet, in so doing, he debunks the previous assertions by a considerable number of eminent military historians who inferred the name 'Legion" was chosen to sweeten the smell that the stink of any "standing army" odor would cause, or because the ancient Roman appellation, despite its obvious militarist ring, resounded to the ears of the founders steeped as they were in republican virtue and seeing the new nation as a reincarnated Rome - arrayed against despotic or barbarian foes.

He also chronicles how "usual" Congressional wisdom, based on cultural fears of a "standing" army in the form of a sizable and potent regular force, federal control of the militia, and "cost-control" measures (measured by money and not needless soldier and non-combatant lives saved by a competent, well-funded deterrent), defeated earlier and various "Legion" proposals by Baron Von Steuben and Henry Knox.

Only accumulated military disasters (under Harmar and St Clair) led to an eventual Legion scheme being adopted - again a version offered by the persistent Knox as Secretary of War. Yet, the Legion's own success, soon rendered this formation superfluous to Congressional "wishes" (later the combat efficient Rifle Regiment, formed from 1808-1821, would get the governmental axe).

The tie-in to Bouquet is logically deduced by Birtle based on two factors. First, by delineating and illustrating the close similarities in overall organizational structure and troop numbers in comparison with Knox and Wayne's eventual force. And, second, by recalling that Knox was a pre-Revolutionary bookseller. As Birtle best explains the case he makes:

"Bouquet's manuscript appeared as an appendix to William Smith's An Historical Account of the Expedition Against the Ohio Indians, in the Year MDCCLXIV Under the Command of Henry Bouquet, first published in Philadelphia in 1765, but reprinted in London and Philadelphia in 1766 and Dublin in 1769. If, as the traditional argument has gone, Knox had used his bookseller business to gather texts on military history and ancient Rome, surely he must have been aware of such a frequently reprinted book on a topic more directly relevant to conditions in America than the musings of Caesar, Vegetius, and Saxe. Moreover, Washington had served with Bouquet during the French and Indian War, and officers of the Continental Army used Bouquet's essay as a handbook during the Revolution.17 Thus, while the Legion of the United States may have owed its spiritual heritage to ancient Rome and eighteenth-century precepts of petite guerre, it seems probable that prior experiences in frontier warfare, as recorded by Bouquet, served as a concrete guide for the organization and doctrine of the Legion of the United States."

A reading of Bouquet's "Reflections on the War with the Savages of North America" is now easily available for reading and even downloading as a pdf at Google Books - God bless it! - although its changed format for display and note taking - which magically appeared this past week etc., is less user-friendly than previous (another software enhancement!?).

Birtle appropriately concludes:

"As a progenitor of the modern, combined-arms
division, the Legion of the United States was at the forefront of military thinking of its time. So what happened to it? Neither the states nor the federal government made any effort to reorganize the militia along legionary lines. As for the regular army, success proved the Legion's own worst enemy. After a period of intense training, Wayne led the Legion to a decisive victory over the Indians of the Northwest at the Battle of Fallen Timbers in August 1794. With the Indians of the Northwest vanquished and tranquility restored to the frontiers, a tightfisted and antimilitaristic Congress drastically reduced the size of the army in 1796. Although the Washington administration endeavored to preserve the legionary structure, it found it impossible to do so in light of the diminished manpower levels. Consequently, the army reverted to the traditional regimental pattern, with companies distributed for garrison duty across the length and breadth of the frontier. One of the most innovative and progressive responses to the military and geographical conditions of the New World had come to an end."

However, Birtle does not address the unsourced claim I read in wikipedia's "Legion of the United States" entry that asserts a more non-bureaucratic explanation for the Legion's demise:
"It is a common misnomer that the Legion was abandoned in 1796. After the death of General Anthony Wayne in Erie, Pennsylvania on December 15, 1796, his second-in-command, Brigadier General James Wilkinson (later found to be a spy for the Spanish government) tried to rid the army of everything Wayne had created including the Legionary structure of the army."

Whatever the explanation, chalk it up to another example of a (then) relevant, responsive organizational scheme, and nominal "lineage" lost in the woods of an ever-changing political and cultural landscape; never to emerge onto the great plains and deserts of our future frontier.

Which of today's re-organized BCTs calls itself "The Legion" or "The Legionnaires?" - why not? - not fitting? - for that matter what about "The Long Marchers" "The Longhunters," "The Long Knives," "The Green Rifles" "The Voltiguers" "The Foot Riflemen" or "Sharpshooters" - all pulled, derived, or modified from our army's history pages - we can "go tell the" "Spartans" because, indeed, we have two BCTs rather recently sporting that fitting? nickname. (see related posts). The last time I checked - the original Spartans never parachuted anywhere!

By comparison, consider how over 200 years: the 62nd (Royal American) Regiment of Foot 1756 - became the 60th (Royal American) Regiment of Foot 1757 - became 60th (The Duke of York's Own Rifle Corps) - became 60th (King's Royal Rifle Corps) 1830 - became one of three regiments of Green Jackets Brigade 1948 - became the 2nd Green Jackets, The King's Royal Rifle Corps 1958, became one of three battalions in Royal Green Jackets Regiment 1966. This regiment was again amalgamated in 2007 to form the five regular and two territorial battalion regiment The Rifles. The regiment's traditions are preserved as the 4th Battalion, The Rifles which is a redesignation of the 2nd Battalion, Royal Green Jackets.

read Reflections on the War with the Savages of North America in:
Historical account of Bouquet's Expedition against the Ohio Indians in 1764, by William Smith, 1765
also at
Historical account of Bouquet's Expedition against the Ohio Indians, in 1764, by William Smith, Charles Guillaume Frédéric Dumas, Francis Parkman, 1765, republished in 1907

Cavalry in the War of Independence, by Charles Francis Adams, Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society, Volume 43, Massachusetts Historical Society, 1910, pp. 547-593

later published as part of:
Studies military and diplomatic, 1775-1865, by Charles Francis Adams, 1911
In 1931, Colonel John W. Wright, to Adam's to task on Washington and the Revolutionary Legions, of Pulaski and Lee, but also found his Mounted Riflemen example of some merit; see:
Notes on the Continental Army, by John W. Wright, The William and Mary Quarterly, Second Series, Vol. 11, No. 2 ands 3, Apr and Jul., 1931
John Brooke
The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, Vol. 19, No. 3 (1895), pp. 387-396

The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, Vol. 16, No. 4 (Jan., 1893), pp. 423-429

"Mad Anthony Wayne," by Lynn Tew Sprague, Outing, Volume 47, 1906

, by John R. Elting
The Classical Journal, Vol. 57, No. 1 (Oct., 1961), pp. 29-32
American Indian Military Leadership: St. Clair's 1791 Defeat, by Leroy V. Eid, 
The Journal of Military History, Vol. 57, No. 1 (Jan., 1993), pp. 71-88

The Origins of the Legion of the United States, by Andrew J Birtle. 
The Journal of Military History. Lexington: Oct 2003. Vol. 67, Iss. 4; pp. 1249-1262

Just checked the Frontier Battles blog and they have an excellent 5 part series entitled:


2008 September 20
by William F. Sauerwein

Sauerwein covers the Wayne-Wilkinson feud in some detail and the continuing deteriorating state of the legion after its great victory. As we approach another Fourth celebration, I particularly found his concluding words and recommendation from this 5 part scholarly blog article , both memorable and worth repeating"

The lull in operations also provided Wayne opportunities for sending Knox an updated report of his intentions and his problems. Of importance he emphasized the problems of supplying his force in the field, something that always hindered western operations. He further informed the secretary of war of the pending resignation of one of his critical contractors, Major John Belli. Wayne further mentioned the critical problem with expiring enlistments, particularly in the longest serving units, the 1st and 2nd Sub-Legions. Previously the 1st and 2nd US Regiments, the bulk of these men enlisted for the St. Clair expedition in 1791. He pointed out that within six weeks time each of these units might number no more than “two companies each.” Furthermore most of the enlistments of the 3rd and 4th Sub-Legions expired in the coming summer of 1795. He described his Legion as “nearly Annihilated” by expiring enlistments, forcing the abandonment of “all we now possess” in the West....
Wayne journeyed east almost immediately following the signing of the treaty for several reasons. With the fighting over and his troops engaged in mostly routine work the time seemed ripe for this visit. First he lobbied in Congress for the ratification of this treaty without relying on messengers. Second he contradicted the stories, mostly circulated by Wilkinson, of his mismanagement of the Legion and the campaign in general. Third, he hoped for circumventing the efforts of some members of Congress for reducing the size of the Legion. It seems that the Congress always traditionally, and irresponsibly, reduces the size of our military forces without considering the strategic implications. On a personal level, Wayne hoped that he might succeed Knox as Secretary of War.
The Senate ratified the Treaty of Greenville on August 3, 1795 and Washington signed it on December 22nd. This occurred before Wayne’s arrival in Philadelphia, on February 6, 1796, and he then focused on the other issues. With his popularity, Congress avoided any criticism of his conduct as commander-in-chief of the Legion. He further won concessions regarding the post-war strength of the military forces: four regiments of infantry, two companies of dragoons and one “corps” of artillery. This force became known as the United States Army, effective on October 31, 1796, with few other changes. However, Washington did not select Wayne as Secretary of War because of his “financial troubles,” and selected James McHenry....
Upon achieving success Wayne returned west, for continuing his duties and supervising the peace. When he arrived at Fort Greenville he found Wilkinson, who now desired a journey east. Wayne performed his duties on the frontier, including the occupation of Detroit and other posts evacuated by the British. He further addressed the supply problems of both his troops and the Indians, now under his care.Meanwhile Wilkinson collected evidence against Wayne, mostly false, and renewed his charges against Wayne. He found allies among his political cronies, mostly from western delegations, and tried damaging Wayne’s reputation. Furthermore, Wilkinson did not like McHenry, describing him as a “mock minister,” and used his recent appointment against him.
Unfortunately Wayne died on December 15, 1796 while at Fort Erie and, like a true soldier, requested burial at the foot of the flagpole. Mercifully, he did not know of the treachery Wilkinson planned for him, or at least no historical source references it. When he learned of Wayne’s death, Wilkinson wisely withdrew his charges and McHenry easily granted his request. Wilkinson now achieved his ambition and became the new commander-in-chief of the Army, his tenure as troubled as the man....

Unfortunately today few Americans know of the great service Wayne gave his country, both during the Revolution and the Indian war. The Battle of Fallen Timbers did not solve all of America’s problems, but it did guarantee the young nation’s survival.
It further established the power and authority of the new constitutional government and thwarted the secessionist movements. Through the use of military force, the nation defended its frontier settlements from the depredations of Indian raids. It further ended the unhindered movement of foreign agents sowing mischief through American territory. The victory also provided a measure of respect from those foreign nations, who previously sought our destruction.
Domestically, most Americans realized a new pride in their nation, and its new form of government. While they still suspected the power of governments, they appreciated its power in defending them. They further accepted the supremacy of federal law in regional and interstate differences, perhaps grudgingly, but they accepted it.
With the Indian threat subdued for the time, a tide of migration across the Appalachian Mountains almost tripled the population of the West...An economic boom transformed former frontier settlements like Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and Louisville into booming cities.
This economic boom benefited the entire country as western residents advertised in the East for “skilled tradesmen.” With the promise of “work plenty, and good wages” these skilled workers developed the vast natural resources of the region. Furthermore, within a few years western farmers developed the fertile land into a dominant agricultural region. Eastern markets flourished from the western development as did the transportation industries, and all associated enterprises.
Therefore, Wayne’s victory at Fallen Timbers made the United States of America a united, politically solvent nation. It furthermore created the conditions for economic solvency as well, and the US Treasury no longer sat empty. July 4th marks the day when American leaders formalized their break with England, like when a somewhat naïve adolescent leaves a parent’s home. August 20th marks when we made the world accept our independence, as when the adolescent earns the respect of adults. The US proved itself capable of self-government, defending its citizens, establishing its sovereignty and meeting the challenges of a harsh world.
The Americans that lived in our new nation survived economic hard times, domestic disputes, a “war of terror,” foreign threats and an uncertain future. Our military personnel of that time suffered immense hardships in a “foreign” land facing a competent, ruthless enemy. They further faced administrative mismanagement, insurmountable logistical problems, political interference and dissensions among their leaders. Furthermore, they recently experienced a devastating defeat in which about half of the force died a hideous death. Yet more Americans volunteered, suffered the hardships and defeated this competent enemy in a quick, decisive victory.
I strongly recommend that we maintain July 4, 1776 as our national Independence Day and that we enthusiastically celebrate it. However, I recommend that we celebrate August 20, 1794 as the day that our nation reached maturity and self-reliance. Without the victory at Fallen Timbers the future growth of the US remains doubtful, and even its independence seemed at risk. Wayne and his troops established America’s perseverance in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds and deserve a place of respect in our history.
Today our history educators barely acknowledge the challenges faced by the newly independent United States of America. Furthermore, it almost never mentions the individuals who met these challenges, and whose sacrifices overcame them, unless it disparages them. Our failure at understanding these challenges does not prepare us for our current, and future, challenges. These individuals bequeathed on us a promising national future and our challenge becomes maintaining that national promise for future generations."

To this, I say, Amen!

Another "Lost Legion" of sorts was the U.S. Voltigeur and Foot Riflemen Regiment of 1847-48, see my related posts for more if is a fine summary of the unit couched in a discussion of the Voltigeurs uniform, as adopted by the Confederacy and some commentary from page 161 of Ron Field's  Uniforms of the Civil War: An Illustrated Guide for Historians, Collectors, 2005,
Uniforms of the Civil War: An Illustrated Guide for Historians, Collectors
Ron Field, Robin Smith, 2005, p. 161

In fact, Emory Upton first noted how important the Legion legacy and concept was to the CSA military authorities (one authority estimates about 10 CSA Legions were formed):
On the same day May 21, 1861, that the an "...act was approved to put in operation the government under the permanent Constitution of the Confederate States... the sum of $39,375,138 was appropriated for additional expenses in the military service for the year ending February 18 1862. Of the above amount the sum of $550,485 was appropriated for the pay of 1 regiment of legionary formation composed of 1 company of artillery 4 companies of cavalry and 6 companies of voltigeurs. This regiment  was modeled substantially on the Legion of the United States (abandoned)."
- The military policy of the United States; by Bvt. Maj. Gen. Emory Upton, By Emory Upton, 1907, p.455
- Confederate Organizational Structure-Legion - Johan Steele and ME Wolf threads (the Union had several as well)

Nevertheless, this Confederate Legion - the Hampton Legion - was somewhat short-lived as a full combined arms formation:
* wikipedia - * "Hampton's Legion was an American Civil War military unit of the Confederate States of America, organized and partially financed by wealthy South Carolina plantation  owner Wade Hampton III. Initially composed of infantry, cavalry, and artillery  battalions, elements of Hampton's Legion participated in virtually every major campaign in the Eastern Theater, from the first to the last battle.
A legion  historically consisted of a single integrated command, with individual components including infantry, cavalry, and artillery. The concept of a multiple-branch unit was never a practical application for Civil War armies and, early in the war, the individual elements were assigned to other organizations.
Organized by Wade Hampton in early 1861, Hampton's Legion initially boasted a large number of South Carolina's leading citizens, including future generals J. Johnston Pettigrew, Stephen Dill Lee, Martin W. Gary, and Matthew C. Butler. Originally, the Legion comprised six companies of infantry, two of cavalry, and one of light artillery. The infantry and cavalry fought in the First Battle of Manassas, where Colonel Hampton suffered the first of several wounds during the war. In November 1861, the artillery was then outfitted with four Blakely Rifles, imported from England and slipped through the Union blockade into Savannah, Georgia. By the end of the year, each element of the Legion had been expanded with new companies to bolster the effective combat strength.With the reorganization of the Army of Northern Virginia in mid-1862, Hampton's Legion was broken up and reassigned...infantry element, retaining the designation Hampton's Legion..In March 1864, it was converted to mounted infantry...."

Digging way back:

For years, Global Security has featured information entitled "Where are the Legions? [SPQR] Global Deployments of US Forces," unfortunately a bit dated, at

with a neat sidebar of information on the original Roman Legions and the admonition:

"You can fly over a land forever; you may bomb it, atomize it, pulverize it and wipe it clean of life but if you desire to defend it, protect it, and keep it for civilization you must do this on the ground, the way the Roman Legions did, by putting your young men into the mud." T.R. Fehrenbach, This Kind of War
  1. Legio I Italica
  2. Legio I Parthica
  3. Legio II Adiutrix
  4. Legio II Herculia
  5. Legio II Parthica
  6. Legio II Traiana
  7. Legio III Augusta
  8. Legio III Cyrenaica
  9. Legio IV Italica
  10. Legio IV Macedonica
  11. Legio IV Martia
  12. Legio IV Scythica
  13. Legio V Alaudae
  14. Legio V Macedonica
  15. Legio VI Ferrata
  16. Legio VII Gemina
  17. Legio VIII Augusta
  18. Legio IX Hispana
  19. Legio X Equitata
  20. Legio X Fretensis
  21. Legio XII Fulminata
  22. Legio XIII Gemina
  23. Legio XIV Gemina
  24. Legio XV Apollinaris
  25. Legio XXII Deiotariana

next up for search and reading:

Conrad E. Harvey's - Army without Doctrine: The Evolution of US Army Tactics in the Absence of Doctrine, 1779 to 1847.

"Abstract: This thesis examines how the United States Army conducted operations and adapted their tactics during the Indian wars of 1779, through the Second Seminole War, and ending in 1847. During this period, the U.S. Army lacked a comprehensive written doctrine that captured how the Army fought its wars so that those skills and techniques could be passed down for subsequent conflicts against Native Americans. This caused the U.S. Army to rely on the experiences gathered from past Indian conflicts as well as the existing texts and publications from contemporary military theorists, such as Henri Jomini and Dennis Hart Mahan. The author examines three periods in time in investigating this hypothesis: the colonial period from 1620 through 1794, the establishment of Indian policies from 1794 through 1831, and the Second Seminole War, which lasted from 1835 to 1842. The scope of the thesis concludes with Dennis Hart Mahan's publication of "An Elementary Treatise on Advanced Guard, Out-Post, and Detachment Service of Troops with the Essential Principles of Strategy and Grand Tactics." Mahan's textbook became de facto doctrine due to its combination of military theory, inclusion of past U.S. Army experiences in Indian warfare, and its acceptance as a training text for U.S. Army officers at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. This text is the end result of over 100 years of American military experience and evolution under fire, proving that the U.S. Army can, and did, succeed against its enemies without formal doctrine."

accessible as pdf at


Over at

the prodigious efforts of one Ralpheus, from the UK, are on display! See for yourself....

Wayne's Legion

This painting by the great H Charles McBarron is the usual depiction of choice for the Legion of the United States and very good it is too. Thought I'd post this blockhouse picture too from about the same period as I tend to associate the Legion with forrtifications. Very much inspired by Roman models the Legion made fortified camps along their progress to Fallen Timbers.

Battle of Fallen Timbers

Tomorrow is the anniversary of this battle in 1794 so it's an excuse to post this really excellent painting by Dean Mosher - more historical paintings on his website.
I'd like to see someone do some decent Wayne's Legion figures - I did a lot of research into them a few years ago with the idea of sculpting some but my sculpting abilities are a bit limited.


Bouquet and Braddock - By Elmo Scott Watson
- The Pentwater News, Jul 15, 1927


The Historic "Black Watch" - By Elmo Scott Watson -Piute County 1928-07-06 [pdf]

Kings Royal Rifles - Bouquet - By Elmo Scott Watson 

Mount Washington News - Sep 8, 1944
... General Alexander's British Eighth army To most Ameri can readers this reference to the loyal Rifles had no special significance although they might have ..

'Harmar's Defeat' Was First Fruits of Military Policy Which Has Sacrificed Americans on Altar of Unpreparedness, by Elmo Scott Watson, Piute County 1940-10-25...


Two Notable November Indian Battles - Wabash - Tippecanoe - Elmo Scott watso - Iron County Record 1931-10-21 {pdf}

"Mad Anthony" Wayne's Victory at Fallen Timbers - By Elmo Scott Watson
- The Pentwater News, Aug 31, 1934



Anonymous said...

Interesting how someone with only military interests would see a book about killing fellow human beings, and "God Bless it!".
As a dissident of Little Turtle, who lead a "moral" people I take offense at this. You noted that the author of the same book was a publisher. He therefore, gained by the expensive of others. Which is what military might is all about.

Perhaps if it was your family, you would consider otherwise, until then, enjoy your misguided greed. Thanks for listening.

Anonymous said...

You might also note this about little turtle: , and the medallion he wore around his next was of George Washington, who he had a great respect for, and to honor the treaties he engaged in with him.

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