COMPANY OF LIGHT INFANTRY
The Light Infantry Company could equate to today’s Rangers. Forming on the left of the line, the Light Infantry Company was comprised of nimble, active men, and served as the scouts and skirmishers of the Regiment. This elite company would very often screen the front and flanks of the battalion on the march or as it advanced into battle.
You may notice that the uniforms are a bit different. The Lights wear black belting and have red waistcoats, or vests, instead of white. This helps to camouflage the company in the woods. The caps worn are leather with chain sewn in concentric circles to help protect against cavalry sabre blows. Contrary to history's common vision of a British soldier of 1775, Light Infantry would actually fight “guerrilla” style behind rocks and trees and through the woods often in pairs of two.
Light Infantrymen were some of the best drilled soldiers of the army as they had to learn the regular British Army Manual of Arms as well a separate book of Light Infantry Maneuvers. All Light Infantrymen were trustworthy volunteers selected from the current Battalion (“Hat”) companies. It was extremely important that these men volunteered for Light Infantry service as very often they had to be trusted to work independently from the Regiment, and sometimes from their own company. Light Infantry commonly were the first troops in to a battle and the last to leave it providing valuable cover for the rest of the Regiment.
Light Infantry on Lexington Green
A good historical explanation of Light Infantry comes to us from Dr. Robert Honeyman, who was a Scottish immigrant that settled in Virginia in 1772. Less than a month before the events at Lexington and Concord , Dr. Honeyman was visiting Boston , Massachusetts , on March 22, 1775, where he observed the practices of the Light Infantry drilling on Boston Common. He noted in his journal a relatively good and accurate summation of the Light Infantry:
“Every Regiment here has a company of light infantry, young active fellows; & they are trained in the regular manner, & likewise in a peculiar discipline of irregular & bush fighting; they run out in parties on the wings of the Regiment where they keep up a constant & irregular fire; they secure the retreat; & they defend their front while they are forming; in one part of their exercise they ly (sic) on their backs & charge their pieces."