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SCHEME OF A RIFLE CORPS by William Priest from "Travels in the United States of America Commencing in the Year 1793, and Ending in 1797"

 "by WILLIAM PRIEST, Musician, Late of the Theatres Philadelphia, Baltimore and Boston"
SCHEME OF A RIFLE CORPS—of forming the corps—rifles—powder— accoutrements and dress—exercise 
a section from Travels in the United States of America Commencing in the Year 1793, and Ending in 1797. With The Author's Journals of his Two Voyages Across the Atlantic.
Author: William Priest
Release Date: March 11, 2004 [EBook #11545]

Philadelphia, September 22d, 1795.
I find from a perusal of the english papers, that fencibles are raising in all parts of the country, and every precaution taking, to put the kingdom in the best state of defence, in case of an invasion. I have for some years thought a few regiments of riflemen would much contribute to this desirable end.
Some lessons I have received in the use of the rifle, from back woodsmen, since my arrival in America, have confirmed me in this opinion.
I know it will be objected, that the rifle is not a fair weapon. Perhaps it is not.—I should be sorry to see it in general use in the european armies: but surely it may be used to repel an invader, without any infringement of the Law of Nations.
What I would recommend to Government on this subject is, first,


Beside the officers who have paid any attention to this method of fighting during the last war in America, some of the most experienced back woodsmen and indian chiefs should be sent for from Canada.
Independent of the regiments on the ordinary establishment, I would recommend one of select men, with better pay, &c., to be formed from the other rifle corps; merit being the only recommendation.
Volunteer companies, in different parts of the country, might soon be formed, composed of gentlemen, sportsmen, gamekeepers, &c. Proper persons should make the circuit of the kingdom, to instruct them in some of the most necessary particulars; such as loading, with the proper use of the patch; to draw a level, making a just allowance for distance, &c.


I would by no means recommend contract let proper encouragement be given to gun-smiths, to supply rifles of the best construction, loading from the muzzle.—Their being of an uniform length, or bore, is of no consequence, as every man should cast and cut his own ball.
The barrel, mounting, and lock, should be covered with a composition, to render them as dull, and as little discernible, as possible. The locks should always be in the very best firing order, and constructed to give fire as easily as the nature of the service will admit. Oil, for the inside of the rifle, should be regularly served; and the flints should be of a much better quality than those used in muskets.


Every thing depends upon this article's being of an uniform degree of strength: it should be of the best quality, but not glazed.


Cannot be better than those used by the rifle corps in this country, except perhaps that the latter should be of a dusky green, the colour died in the Highlands of Scotland for plaids; even the cap should be of this colour: a sort of helmet, constructed so as to afford a rest to fire from, when lying on the belly.
It may perhaps be presumption in me to say any thing on this subject; but I cannot help thinking it should be the reverse of what is used in the Line. They should be encamped as much as possible in a woody country, as the art of freeing, as the back woodsmen call it, is one of their best manoeuvres. Their whole time should be taken up in the real study of their profession, not in powdering, pipeclaying, blacking, polishing, and such military fopperies.
The rifle out of the question, I do not think slow, deliberate firing sufficiently attended to in the english army. Want of ammunition first introduced it into this country at Bunker's Hill, and afterward at Sullivan's Island. The carnage that ensued was a fatal proof of it's efficacy.
I have often thought, that the success of our navy was in a great measure owing to cool, deliberate firing; and there is no doubt but that the military fame of our ancestors was owing to their great superiority in shooting the long bow; for the exercise of which, butts were erected in every village in the kingdom.—
Yours, &c

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Book overview: "a musician offers an account of his travels through the Mid-Atlantic and New England. He offers commentary on Native American contact, social life, and hunting game and fishing (a passion of his)."

Full View -2007 - 232 pages

Now, it is interesting to wonder to what degree, if any, this author's 1795 article inspired or contributed to the formation of several legendary British Rifle units. Obviously the concept was not new to savvy officers with French and Indian War experience and more recent encounters with Morgan's Rifles (the "finest regiment in the world" if Burgoyne  was accurately quoted). Then too, the author was a mere musician!  And yet the article pre-dates the actual formation of the key rifle units the 60th and 95th -

Kings Royal Rifle Corps (descended from the 62nd/60th Royal Americans):
"The first four battalions had been raised as regular line battalions, but in 1797 a 5th battalion had been raised and equipped entirely with the Baker rifles, and wore green jackets with red facings[4]." - wiki

Rifle Brigade - 95th Rifles - "Rifle Corps":
"In 1800, an "Experimental Corps of Riflemen", was raised by Colonel Coote Manningham and Lieutenant-Colonel the Hon. William Stewart, drawn from officers and other ranks from drafts of a variety of British regiments. The Corps differed in several regards from the Line infantry of the British Army. Most significantly, the "Rifles" were armed with the formidable Baker rifle, which was more accurate and of longer range than the musket, although it took longer to load. As the rifle was shorter than the musket, it was issued with a 21-inch sword-bayonet. The riflemen wore dark green jackets rather than the bright red coats of the British line infantry regiments of that time; close-fitting pantaloons, rather than breeches; black facings and black belts rather than white; a green plume on their "stovepipe shakoes" which the light infantry also wore, as well as other accoutrements unique to rifles regiments." - wiki

"There are probably very few people nowadays who have not tolerably clear ideas of the power and deadly precision of modern rifles, for the war in South Africa has brought it home to the least military of our population how rifle-bullets can, and unfortunately frequently do, inflict death or terrible injuries on our soldiers at all ranges up to two miles. It is, therefore, all the more curious to reflect that just one hundred years ago rifles were so little in favour that only one regiment, known as the Rifle Corps, was armed entirely with them, the British soldier in general having for his weapon the famous old musket known as Brown Bess. This Rifle Corps, the lineal ancestor of the present Rifle Brigade, celebrated its centenary on August 25th of this present year.....Like very many other useful and indispensable inventions, the principle of rifling arms had been known for many years, and rifles had been freely used in other countries, before our military authorities would sanction their introduction into our army. During the American War of Independence the Yankees, as they have so often done since, led the way in the adoption of this new invention, and their riflemen did us no inconsiderable damage on many occasions, not only by reason of the accuracy of their fire but also on account of the intelligent adaptation of their movements in extended order to the nature of the ground in which they were fighting,—in other words, by good skirmishing. About the same period sundry Jager battalions were formed on the Continent armed with rifles and equipped as riflemen. Our authorities, however, still persisted in ignoring this, the latest whim as it was apparently considered, and our armies knew it not.
A Militia regiment, the North York, was one of the first to partially adopt rifles, one company being thus armed in 1795, the remainder carrying the smooth-bore musket. There is a rumour to the effect that Colonel Coote Manningham, the founder of the Rifle Corps, saw this company and that he was so favourably impressed with it that he never ceased urging on our authorities to form a regiment of riflemen in the regular army. [my emphasis] Three years later, in 1798, a battalion of German riflemen was added to the 60th Royal American Regiment. It may be mentioned here that the latter corps consisted at this time of four battalions; it had been specially raised in 1756 for the defence of our Colonies in America, where it served with great distinction for over sixty years, being only brought to England between 1825 and 1830, when its title was changed from 60th Royal American to the now famous one of 60th King's Royal Rifle Corps.
The new battalion, the 5th, was formed from two corps of German Jagers, at the time in British pay, and despatched to America. Our authorities however still remained obdurate as regards the formation of a regiment of British riflemen. Finally in 1799, owing to the strong representations of Colonel Coote Manningham and Lieutenant-Colonel the Hon. William Stewart, they at last consented to form an Experimental Corps of the commencement of 1803, the Rifle Corps was incorporated amongst the numbered Regiments of the Line and the numeral 95 bestowed on it; and it was under the official title of the 95th Foot and the colloquial one of The Rifles that the young regiment fought its way to fame in the Peninsular War and at Waterloo. At the famous Camp of Instruction formed at Shorncliffe under Sir John Moore in 1803, the Rifles, in company with their subsequent inseparable companions in arms, the 43rd and 52nd Light Infantry, received that admirable training, based on the Company System, the fruits of which were to be manifested to all the world a few years later in the gallant deeds of the Light Division...."p.468-471
A Century of Fighting, MacMillan's Magazine, Volume 82, by David Masson, 1900