The History of the 47th Regiment of Foot 

The historic regiment was raised in Scotland in 1741 as Sir John Mordaunt’s Regiment of Foot, and was ranked 58th in order of seniority. In 1743, Mordaunt was replaced as Colonel by Lieutenant-Colonel (later Lieutenant General) Peregrine Lascelles. The regiment would fight its first two campaign’s as Lascelles’.

The original 47th Regiment of Foot, also known as the 4th Regiment of Marines, was raised in 1739 and fought in the War of Jenkin’s Ear. The Regiments of Marines were disbanded in 1748, which meant that Lascelle’s Regiment became 47th in seniority.

In 1751, regiments were officially known by their seniority number (47) rather than the name of their Colonel. In 1782, the 47th were given the county title ‘Lancashire’.

General Peregrine Lascelles

General Sir John Mordaunt

Prestonpans and the ‘45

The War of the Austrian Succession raged across continental Europe, but Lascalles’ were engaged in road-building in Scotland. When the Young Pretender raised the standard of rebellion in 1745, the regiment was probably mostly Scottish in character, and with no real combat experience. Despite this, it became part of General Sir John Cope’s small army which aimed at suppressing the rebellion before it had time to spread. On 21 September 1745 both the Government and Rebel armies set off early to gain an advantage over their opponents, but the inexperienced Government troops panicked and broke in the face of a Highland charge.

Major John Severn of Lascalles’ later described how ‘A large body of their Left rush’d on obliquely on our Right Flank, and broke the Foot as it were by Platoons, with so rapid a Motion, that the whole Line was broken in a few Minutes.’[i]

Charles Edward Stewart

'Bonnie Prince Charlie'

King George II

Cope’s army of some 4000 men lost some 150 dead and 1326 prisoners. Stuart Reid found two former members of Lascalles’ attempting to re-enlist in Stafford, claiming to have escaped from Edinburgh. One of them, Thomas Harvey, was sentenced to death at Carlisle, later commuted provided he re-enlisted. This suggest that Harvey had been captured at Preston Pans and been amongst many prisoners who had joined the Rebels.

Part of the regiment were part of the Edinburgh Castle garrison which held out throughout the ’45 Rebellion.

Quebec and the French and Indian Wars, 1750 – 1763

 

In 1750, the regiment sailed to Nova Scotia amid a deteriorating international situation in North America. In 1754, tension erupted into warfare when George Washington and the Virginia Militia ambushed a French party at the Battle of Jumonville Glen. The following year, General Edward Braddock led his army to disaster at the Battle of the Monongahela. Back in Nova Scotia, Lascelles’ was part of a successful attack on the French Fort Beausejour.

Their next action was the Siege of Louisbourg. This was a French fortress located between the British territories of Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, and blocked the Royal Navy’s access to the St Lawrence River. Their performance was such that they were honoured by General James Wolfe with the title “Wolfe’s Own”.

The following year, Wolfe led his army up the St Lawrence River to Quebec. On 31 July, Wolfe made a landing at the Montmorency Falls, 3 miles east of Quebec City. Although the attack failed, Sergeant Edward (Ned) Bowood, of Lascelles’ Grenadier Company penned a song 'Hot Stuff'.

The Siege of Louisborg, 1745

General Wolfe then planned to attack Quebec from the west. On the night of 12/13th September he landed his army at the Anse de Foulon and occupied the Plains of Abraham by dawn on the 13th. Lasceles’ and Kennedy’s (43rd Foot) occupied the centre of the British line. They fired just two volleys at the French which brock and defeated them. As the French fled back to the city gates, it became apparent that both General Wolfe and the French commander, Montcalm, were mortally wounded. Demoralised, the French surrendered but the city had been battered during the summer-long siege, and this reduced the amount of accommodation for the victors during the bitter Canadian winter which was to follow.

The Death of General Wolfe , Quebec, 1759

Annus Mirabilis

1759 was the “year of miracles” for the British Army and the Royal Navy. After the disasters which had befallen British arms in the early years of the war, 1759 saw a major series of victories. As well as Quebec, Fort Ticonderoga in modern-day New York State was captured. In India there was victory in Madras and in Germany another victory at Minden. At sea, the Royal Navy defeated the French at Quiberon Bay and Lagos.

Some historians also see 1762 as a Second Annus Mirabilis, with more victories in Germany and Portugal, and the capture of Martinique, Havana and Manila.

The 1760s

The winter of 1759/60 was a challenging time for the British Army in Quebec. They were besieged by French troops operating from their base at Montreal. On 28 April, 1760 a second battle was fought outside Quebec, the Battle of Sainte-Foy. This was a French victory, and the British withdrew into the city. The arrival of HMS Lowestoffe raised the siege.

The 47th remained in North America until 1763 when it returned home. Ten years later, the regiment again sailed for North America, once again to protect His Majesty’s Loyal American Subjects.

The War of American Independence 1775-1783

In 1763 the 47th left Quebec for Ireland where they served uneventfully for the next ten years before again sailing across the Atlantic, this time to garrison the restive American Colonies, being quartered first in New Jersey.

Lexington and Concord In the autumn of 1774 the Regiment was moved to Boston, where British forces were being concentrated to counter the growing threat of armed insurgency. In the early hours of 19 April 1775 a small British force including the Grenadier and Light Companies of the 47th set out for Concord, some 20 miles away, to destroy a colonial munitions depot. At Lexington they were confronted by the local militia and the first shots of the American Revolution were fired. A further engagement followed at Concord and the British column’s return march to Boston, reinforced at Lexington by a relief force including the rest of the 47th, was carried out under sustained fire from concealed insurgents

Bunker’s Hill The British forces in America were greatly outnumbered and Boston was besieged by the colonists, but on the arrival of reinforcements the British General Gage decided to break this investment by capturing the commanding heights of Bunker’s Hill on the Charlestown peninsular. The Americans were strongly entrenched in a redoubt on the outlying Breed’s Hill feature against which, on 17 June 1775, the British force was most rashly launched in a frontal assault. Twice the attackers were bloodily repulsed, but a third desperate assault, in which the 47th took a leading part, carried the redoubt at bayonet point. Victory had been dearly bought, for nearly half the British assault force became casualties in an unnecessary triumph of dogged discipline and invincible gallantry over poor generalship.

The Battle of Bunker Hill, 14th June 1775

Saratoga. Early the following year the 47th were withdrawn to Canada where, after raising the American siege of Quebec and expelling them from Canada, they joined Major General Burgoyne’s expeditionary force for a decisive move against the rebel colonies. After early successes on the Canadian/New England frontier, including the capture of Fort Ticonderoga, Burgoyne marched south to link up with Major General Howe. This combined operation was directed by a Minister 3,000 miles away in London who had unfortunately neglected to inform Howe. Burgoyne set out in September 1777 with some 7,200 men, including the main body of the 47th.  Detachments of the Regiment had been left to garrison the captured posts of Fort George and Diamond Island which they subsequently held against American attacks. The advance was strongly opposed from the start, and near Stillwater on 19 September Burgoyne with some 5,000 men was confronted by over 13,000 Americans in an entrenched position. A close, desperate but indecisive action followed, while a further gallant attempt on 7 October to turn the rebels’ flank met with a counter-attack in overwhelming force. 

Mounting British casualties and growing American strength now forced Burgoyne to retire. The 47th moved ahead to secure the road north and reported that a route could still be forced through the encircling enemy, but Burgoyne decided to halt at Saratoga, where the exhausted remnants of his force were surrounded. On 17 October a Convention was signed whereby Burgoyne’s army was to march out with the honours of war and be given free passage to England.  Unfortunately the American Congress did not keep faith with the Convention and the main body of the 47th were held as prisoners. Many soldiers of the Regiment eventually escaped but the remainder were not released until 1783