NEMO ME IMPUNE LACESSIT
Captain James Murray commanded Reid’s Company of the 42nd (Highland) Foot in 1757. Although at this time companies were named for their notional commanding officer, often another man commanded, and his company, named for him if he were major or captain, would be taken over temporarily by another; such were the tangled webs of nomenclature woven by the system of seniority in the British army of the time.
A full company is a bit too large a force for a normal game of Sharp Practice, but a half-company is a pleasing size for a game, allowing some additional supporting units without things getting out of hand. More pleasingly still, a half-company was a recognised tactical sub-unit and were often used independently, for instance, as garrisons or, more romantically, as raiding columns such as that commanded by Lieut. Quinton Kennedy of the 44th Foot, who took a half-company of the 42nd Foot deep into French-claimed lands in the summer of 1756.
Happily there is an extant muster roll for Reid’s company, so the names and status of all the men are known. Now this muster roll is actually from 1758, but it provides enough historical flavour for my purposes, so I’m using it for my highland half-company in the Saindoux Campaign. The officers at least are the same, as the excellent second volume of Sons of the Mountains by Ian McCulloch reveals. Buy both volumes of this superb work here rather than paying over the odds from allegedly ‘specialist’ shops.
Capt. Murray himself will command this half-company, assisted by the junior of his two lieutenants, David Milne and the company’s only ensign, Charles Menzies. Milne’s name is persistently spelt wrongly as ‘Mill’ or Mills’ in the rolls, a tradition with which I shall continue.
Two of the company’s four sergeants, McAndrews (or M’Andrews as he appears on the rolls, officers seem to have been Mc- but the other ranks were invariably M’-) and Watson. The sergeants of the 42nd were loathe to swap halberd for musket and it was not until directly ordered, in 1759, that they abandoned their fearsome badge of office in the field.
Sergeant Cumming and Corporal Stewart will assist Ensign Menzies in controlling the skirmish line.
The drummer, one of two in the company, is Alan Campbell and there is also a piper, Walter M’Intyre. Although it’s sometimes thought that pipers were always supernumerary and unofficial, in fact various highland battalions were allowed them, in varying numbers, as an official part of the battalion, and many were ‘on the footing of a Drum.’
A chaplain was available to the 42nd, and he may, from time to time, put in an appearance. Adam Ferguson was ever to be found ‘in the hottest of the fire, praying with the dying, attending to the wounded, and directing them to be carried to a place of safety.’
Forty-eight men make up the rank and file of the half-company. Two corporals, an unknown number of gentleman volunteers (there were always a large number of these in a highland battalion of the time, as more men sought commissions than were available and many of those opted to serve in the rank and file whilst messing with the officers, hoping to be nominated to fill any vacancy in the officer ranks), and of course the bulk being private soldiers, who nonetheless often regarded themselves as gentlemen, frequently being the sons of tacksmen, the second rank of highland society after the clan chiefs.
In Sharp Practice terms the force comprises 99 points:
- Leader Status III (Capt. Murray)
- Leader Status III (Lieut. Mill)
- Leader Status II (Ensign Menzies)
- Leader Status I (Sergt. Cumming)
- Leader Status I (Sergt. M’Andrews)
- Leader Status I (Sergt. Watson)
- Leader Status I (Corporal Stewart)
- ‘Physic’ (Reverend Doctor Ferguson)
- Musician (Drummer Campbell)
- ‘Holy Man’ (Piper M’Intyre)
- Six Groups of 8 Highland Regiment of Foot Line
- Three Groups of 6 Highland Skirmishers
The figures are mainly by Redoubt Enterprises. They are rather nice models and there’s a decent number of poses available. The big downside is that unfortunately Redoubt aren’t very speedy at dispatch, neither are they especially good at answering emails or the phone, although they do sometimes pick up. To my mind they are the best models for highlanders in the earlier part of the war, although the North Star Military Figures highlanders, which I have used for the skirmishers, look good, and are in more of ‘campaign dress’ with a wider range of poses (which is better for skirmishers of course but makes a regular line look a bit ragged for my taste).