The Royal Fencible Americans
by Richard Eckert
In 1775 seeing the tensions growing in the New England colonies particularly in Boston, MA a prominent land owner in Nova Scotia by the name of Joseph Goreham proposed a Battalion of Light Infantry or Royal Fencible Americans. Which wrote the following to Gov. Francis Legge:
“Proposed to raise a Battalion of Light infantry or Royal Fensible Americans, To consist of Five Companies. 1 Lieut. Col. Commandant and Captain, 4 Captains, 1 Capt. Lieut., 4 Lieutenants, 5 2d Lieutenants or Ensigns, 15 Sergeants, 15 Corporals, 5 Drummers, 300 Privates, 1 Adjutant, 1 Surgeon, 1 Surgeon’s Mate. That they be clothed and armed as Light Troops and put on the same Establishment of Pay as the late 80th, Gage’s Light Infantry and [this] Corps to be employed on the like Services.”
The proposal was accepted and recruiting began in Boston, New Foundland and in and around Halifax. By summer 1775 roughly 200 men composed the Royal Fencible Americans.
At this time uniforms were whatever each man had on hand, being dressed in there civilian clothing, which caused much hardship during the cold Canadian winters. In response Goreham permitted them to wear blankets or rugs in lieu of greatcoats when on sentry at Fort Cumberland in 1776.
In 1776 a force of more than 400 rebel militia soldiers marched toward Fort Cumberland, fighting commenced Nov.10th and continued until the rebels retreated on Nov,29th 1776. The RFA fought bravely but at the cost of 13 killed and 56 men captured by the Rebels with minimum casualties on the rebel side.
During 1777, The RFA along with other Loyalist regiments were finally issued proper uniforms. Including Green with White Facings coats, white small cloths (shirts, waistcoat, & breeches), 2nd Model Brown Bess Musket, belly box, black round hat with white trim, leather belts were of buff color, gaiters were also issued but no record states color or whether they were knee or half gaiters
After these new uniforms were issued, a detachment of RFA were sent down to New York State to reinforce British fighting during the Saratoga Campaign. During this time members of the 6th Connecticut Regiment and one member from there 3rd Connecticut Regiment deserted their respected regiments and joined the RFA. No further record shows just how many other men joined the RFA’s during this campaign.
Seeing that the fighting wasn’t going well, the RFA retreated back to Nova Scotia and was stationed in Fort Cumberland til the end of the war. In late 1779 the RFA’s were reissued new uniforms of Red Coats faced Black and with white lace for officers. And with many soldiers already converting there belly box cartridge boxes to Shoulder Boxes.
On Oct. 10th 1783 they were disbanded with the end of fighting. Officers and men received land grants plus tools and provisions if they chose.
Uniform issued 1775 – 1776
Uniform issued 1777 to late 1779
Uniform issued late 1779-1783