Last year we bought you a piece on how we built our Jacobite army, in this post we turn our attention to the government force.
It’s often a little too easy to view the government army of the ‘Forty-Five’ as being a homogeneous mass of redcoats occupied by men enlisted in England. For those unfamiliar with the term, ‘redcoat’ is in reference to the colour of the uniform worn widely by soldiers in the British Army from the 17th to the 20th centuries. To some degree, there is truth in this; for example the vast majority of regiments present at Culloden were dressed in this way and indeed most soldiers were English. Within the army as a whole however, there was more diversity with plenty of Scots, and even Highlanders, serving on the government side; it is important to remember that it’s likely that most Scots at the time were not Jacobites and many were fiercely Unionist in outlook. The presence of Dutch and Hessian mercenaries provides further diversity, not just in terms of language and nationality, but also in dress. Lastly it is worth noting that even among the regular British army, not all soldiers wore redcoats; for example the artillery regiments of the time wore blue, while light cavalry often wore green.
Researching the appearance of our government army took much the same path as our Jacobite one. We have drawn from a variety of sources, but the most useful have been books published by Osprey and a visit to the Highland Folk Museum where we met members of Alan Breck's Prestonpans Volunteer Regiment.
Given the predominance of redcoats within the army, building up our infantry has been a relatively straightforward task as LEGO have produced redcoats in some form ever since their first Pirate sets were released in the 1980s. The quality of torsos has improved considerably since then and so we have been able to use minifigures from more recent LEGO Pirates and Pirates of the Caribbean sets. The only modifications we have had to make to these is to change the heads and hands around to give them a more natural ‘fleshy’ colour.
We have used a few different torsos to represent our officers, but these have been chosen solely to denote a difference in rank rather than coming from a historical source. The same could be said of our standard infantry torsos, since the infantry coats of the time were fronted with yellow lapels, which are conspicuously lacking on our LEGO ones. Such are the compromises that need to be made when building a LEGO army; the symbolic must often take precedent over perfect accuracy.
Attached to each infantry regiment were grenadiers; soldiers that represented the elite of the British army. Grenadiers did not wear the usual tri-corn hat of regular infantry, instead wearing a finely decorated mitre-style headpiece. While we cannot recreate the decoration, a mitre may be recreated using a headpiece found originally in Prince of Persia sets. To complete our grenadiers we have also equipped them with a satchel, which is supposed to represent the grenades they carried.
We thought it important that we should in some way show the Scottish, and more specifically, the Highland element of the government army and the obvious choice for this was to build a small company of the 43rd Highlanders (later the 42nd Royal Highlanders), better known as The Black Watch.
The Black Watch’s history goes back to the aftermath of the 1715 rising when the British Government found itself without the resources or manpower to keep a standing army in the Highlands. Instead they kept order by recruiting men from local clans that had remained loyal to the government. This arrangement proved unsatisfactory and in 1725 General George Wade raised six Independent Highland Companies as militia to keep "watch" for crime. These companies were commonly known in Gaelic as Am Freiceadan Dubh, or the Black Watch, probably due to the dark government issue plaids they wore. Four more companies were added in 1739 and in the same year all ten were formed into the 43rd Highland Regiment of Foot.
When the ‘Forty-five’ broke out, the Black Watch saw action at the Battle of Prestonpans in 1745 but then returned to England, partly to counter a feared French invasion and partly because they weren't really trusted not to join the Jacobites. However one of the regiment’s companies fought at the Battle of Culloden, where they suffered no casualties.
The key to creating a convincing LEGO Black Watch was to get the plaids right and fortunately there is a third-party company that makes kilts for minigiures in the Black Watch tartan. These, along with black bonnets rather than tri-corn hats, were placed on minifigures with the standard redcoat torso and the result is a reasonably accurate representation of the regiment’s dress during the ‘Forty-five’. Interestingly, accounts from the time appear to suggest that officers of the Black Watch could choose their own plaids and so our officer is dressed in a red tartan.
One of the key features of the government army was its cavalry. General Wade had favoured the use of dragoons, facilitated by his new roads, as a means of patrolling the Highlands and as such we see modifications, such as the addition of stables at Ruthven Barracks, made to the area’s military infrastructure. Dragoons have been relatively easy to create, because as far as LEGO goes the only meaningful distinction you can make is to put a redcoat on a horse. Other cavalry types take a bit more work.
The government army also deployed a company of hussars, which were a type of light cavalry commonly used in during the 18th and 19th centuries. The role of Hussars was to harass enemy skirmishers, overrun artillery positions, and pursue fleeing troops. The style of combat originated in Hungary and indeed, when Cumberland entered Scotland he had a personal escort of Hungarian cavalry. The Hussars of Cumberland’s army wore dark green and a tall fur hat and we have been able to recreate this appearance using parts from a number of minifigures. The torso has been the crucial aspect here, with the ideal part found as part of Collectable Minifigure Series 8’s Thespian.
Like the cavalry, artillery is another area where the government army had superiority over the Jacobites. At Culloden they were able to field 10 3-pounders and 6 coehorn mortars, which did significant damage to the Jacobite lines before they were able to engage. Creating soldiers for this artillery is reasonably straightforward as they wore dark blue jackets with black tri-corn hats. There are a range of dark blue torsos available from the Collectable Minifigure Series’, Pirates and Pirates of the Caribbean sets, so creating a hierarchy of troops has been relatively straightforward.
The final component of our Government army is the Germanic one – the Hessian mercenaries. Hesse-Kassel was a state in the Holy Roman Empire that for its size had a relatively large army, which it paid for by renting out to other warring countries. Great Britain’s Hanoverian monarchy were of course German themselves, in fact George II was born and bought up in Germany and remained Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg (Hanover) and Prince-elector of the Holy Roman Empire until his death. Britain and Hanover were already engaged in the War of the Austrian Succession and were able to draw on their allies and indeed familial ties, first the Dutch and then the Hessian’s, to provide troops to put down the Jacobite rising. The influence of the Hessian’s during the ‘Forty-Five’ is debatable; for example they refused to march through the Pass of Killiecranckie to relieve the besieged Blair Castle and did not take part in the Battle of Culloden.
The Hessian uniform of this period was dark blue with the headgear dependent on the type of soldier they were i.e. regular infantry, grenadiers or cavalry. Because our artillery were already in dark blue there are some similarities between the design of the two. Context offers a means of separation as the Hessian’s did not operate artillery, so our Hessians have muskets and the occasional sword. We have decided to only create Hessian infantry, since our army already has enough cavalry to fill its ranks.
With the army assembled, all that remains is to place them in the field; you can see how this was done on our blog on the Battle of Killiecranckie. Better yet, you could see our LEGO Hanoverians as well as our LEGO Jacobites for real, when they go on display as part of The Jacobite Risings: The Fight for Britain’s Throne at Stirling Castle until February 2nd. Find out more:
Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to keep up-to-date with all of our events and to see our work first.
BLOG TO THE PAST
On LEGO, History and other things by Brick to the Past