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Regiment of Riflemen
The American Soldier, 1814.jpeg
Riflemen officer in gray (foreground) and troops in green smocks (background)
Active 1808–21
Disbanded March 2, 1821
Country United States
Branch U.S. Army
Type Riflemen
Role Light infantry
Size Regiment
Posts New Orleans, Territory of Louisiana
Washington, Mississippi Territory
Fort Atkinson, Louisiana Purchase
Weapons Harpers Ferry Model 1803
U.S. Model 1814
scalping knife
Engagements Tippecanoe
Fort George
Big Sandy Creek
Campaigns Battle of Tippecanoe
War of 1812
Commanders Alexander Smyth (1808-1812)
Thomas Adams Smith (1812-1814, 1815-1818)
George Washington Sevier(1814-1815)
Talbot Chambers (1818-1821)
Ceremonial chief Benjamin Forsyth
Daniel Appling
Ludowick Morgan
Cap insignia authorized in 1817 Eagle over Horn - USRR.jpg

The Regiment of Riflemen was a unit of the U.S. Army in the early nineteenth century. It was first activated in 1808. During the War of 1812, it was temporarily designated as the 1st Regiment of Riflemen when the War Department created three additional similar regiments. The regiment never fought as a unit. Companies, detachment from companies or collections of companies were stationed at a distance from each other and were often allocated to other commands. After the War, the other three regiments were inactivated and the regiment reverted to its unnumbered designation. The regiment was inactivated in June 1821.

Where can you find troops more efficient than Morgan's riflemen of the Revolution or Forsyth's riflemen of the last war with Great Britain?

—Major Bennet Riley, U.S. Army, Letter to Lewis F. Linn


On April 12, 1808, following the ChesapeakeLeopard Affair, the U.S. Congress passed legislation authorizing an increase in the size of the U.S. Army, to include a regiment of riflemen.[1]:12[2]:141


The headquarters of the regiment was authorized one colonel, one lieutenant colonel, one major, and administrative and support officers.[1]:12 The winter uniform of the regiment was green jackets with black collars and cuffs; the summer uniform was green hunting shirts and pantaloons with buff fringe.[3] :111 In 1814, uniform regulations specified gray cloth.[4]:9

Companies were raised in various jurisdictions: three in New York and Vermont; three in the Louisiana and Mississippi Territories; and four in Ohio, Kentucky, and the Indiana Territory. Each company had an authorized strength of 84, including 68 privates; companies rarely attained their authorized strength.[4]:1 Regimental depots were placed in Shepherdstown, Virginia, and Savannah, Georgia.[1]:12

On February 10, 1814, an act of Congress raised an additional three regiments of riflemen. The Regiment of Riflemen was subsequently redesignated as the 1st Regiment of Riflemen while the additional three were designated as the 2nd, 3rd and 4th regiments.[2]:141 Nevertheless, the four regiments were consolidated again on March 3, 1815 by a further act of Congress. As a result, the 2nd, 3rd and 4th Regiments of Riflemen were disbanded and the 1st reverted to its unnumbered designation.[2]:141


General Thomas Adams Smith


By 1810, over half of the regiment’s officers and men were stationed in New Orleans or in Washington, Mississippi Territory.[4]:1

On November 7, 1811, a detachment of riflemen attached to the 4th Infantry Regiment fought at Tippecanoe. Because rifles took longer to load than muskets, the riflemen were armed with muskets. During a night action, the riflemen inflicted heavy casualties of Native American forces.[1]:24–27[3]:112

A group of Georgians, calling themselves "Patriots," crossed into Spanish East Florida and, on March 17, 1812, captured Amelia Island from the Spanish garrison. The Patriots then "ceded" Amelia Island and the surrounding area to the United States. On April 12, 1812, two companies of the regiment under the command of then Lieutenant Colonel Thomas A. Smith occupied Fort Mose, Spanish East Florida as part of the Patriot War.[1]:24–27[5] The riflemen received little support from the US Government or the Patriots. Smith attempted a siege of St. Augustine, Florida, but his supply lines were not secure and the Spanish garrison of Castillo de San Marcos threatened his command. The Spanish counterattacked Fort Mose and Smith retreated to an encampment further from St. Augustine, Florida. On May 16, 1812, the Spanish set fire to Fort Mose to prevent its reoccupation. Troops retreated to Point Petre, Georgia under the leadership of Captain Abraham A. Massias.[1]:27–28 All US troops were withdrawn from East Florida by May 1813.[4]:2[5]

War of 1812[]

When war was declared on June 18, 1812, Captain Benjamin Forsyth's company of the regiment was stationed in New York, New York. In July 1812, Forsyth led his company to Sacketts Harbor, New York from which, on September 20–21, 1812, he, his company and supporting militia attacked British stores at Gananoque, Upper Canada. Forsyth surprised the Canadian militiamen and was able to capture muskets, ammunition and prisoners. Forsyth's party set fire to stores they could not carry and returned safely to Sackets Harbor from the raid. Forsyth's losses were one man killed and one wounded.[1]:29[6][7]:50

In October 1812, two companies of riflemen were assigned to participate in the Battle of Queenston Heights; however disagreement between Major General Stephen Van Rensselaer and Brigadier General Alexander Smyth resulted in those companies being withdrawn because Smyth thought it more important that they clean their camp following a storm. Ultimately, the U.S. attempt to take Queenston failed.[7]:42

Forsyth was promoted to major during the winter and on February 6–7, 1813, led a multi-company force of the regiment in a raid on Elizabethtown, Upper Canada, from Ogdensburg, New York, which resulted in the freeing of American prisoners, the capture of Canadian prisoners and the re-capture of arms that had been taken by the British at the Battle of Detroit. Forsyth was brevetted to lieutenant colonel for distinguished service with a date of rank of February 6, 1813.[2]:430[6]:92[7]:52 Forsyth proved to be an aggravation to the British commanders in Upper Canada and on February 22, 1813, he and his troops were driven out of Ogdensburg by a superior force of British soldiers led by Lieutenant Colonel George MacDonnell after causing heavy casualties to one of the two attacking British columns. Forsyth requested re-enforcements from Colonel Alexander Macomb at Sacketts Harbor to retake Ogdensburg, but Macomb provided no troops and Forsyth led his riflemen back to Sacketts Harbor.[1]:31–33[7]:53

The riflemen under Forsyth later made an amphibious landing under a heavy fire from Indians and other troops near York, Upper Canada on April 27, 1813. The battle lasted nearly 30 minutes during which the British force, including a grenadier company of the 8th (The King's) Regiment of Foot was repulsed with heavy losses. After Brigadier General Zebulon Pike landed re-enforcements, the British retreated to their fortifications. As U.S. troops approached the British, a magazine exploded, resulting in more than 100 casualties, including Pike. The American troops, including a column of the 15th Infantry Regiment, then sacked and burned York.[1]:34–35

On May 27, 1813, a battalion of the regiment commanded by Forsyth executed another amphibious assault and participated in the capture of Fort George, Upper Canada. After taking the fort, US troops attempted to pursue the retreating British forces but Major General Morgan Lewis recalled the battalion when he feared an ambush.[8]:25 Forsyth's riflemen where then employed as an advance force and on November 7–9, 1813 they engaged a large Canadian force at Hoople's Creek near Cornwall, Upper Canada, concurrent with the Battle of Crysler's Farm. Although the riflemen performed well and the Americans persevered at Hoople's Creek, the Canadians drove the Americans from the farm and Major General James Wilkinson withdrew to winter quarters.[1]:39–40 Forsyth was killed in action on June 28, 1814.[2]:430

Riflemen under the command of Major Daniel Appling participated in the Battle of Big Sandy Creek on May 30, 1814, during which they ambushed and captured a large detachment of British sailors, including two Royal Navy captains, and Royal Marines, sparing a shipment of large cannon from capture.[1]:50–51 Appling was brevetted to lieutenant colonel on May 30, 1814 for gallantry and to colonel on September 11, 1814 for distinguished service.[2]:168

On August 3, 1814, another detachment of riflemen under the command of Major Ludowick Morgan ambushed and repelled a British raid at Conjockta Creek near Buffalo, New York, prior to the Siege of Fort Erie. Morgan and his troops, along with elements of the 4th Regiment of Riflemen, helped relieve the siege.[1]:56–60 Morgan was killed in action on August 12, 1814.[2]:726

The regiment's last wartime action occurred after Britain and the United States agreed to end the war in the Treaty of Ghent. On January 13, 1815, Royal Marines and troops of the 2nd West India Regiment landed near Fort Peter, Saint Marys, Georgia. Captain Abraham A. Massais, who was commanding a force consisting of a company of the Regiment of Riflemen and a company of the 42nd Infantry Regiment, decided his command was outnumbered and executed a fighting retreat. The British demolished Fort Peter and re-embarked.[1]:66–67


Plan of Cantonment Missouri

Following resumption of peace with Great Britain, the consolidated regiment was assigned to St. Louis, Missouri Territory. By 1817 the riflemen had contributed to the construction of Fort Armstrong, Rock Island, Illinois; Fort Crawford, Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin; Fort Howard, Green Bay, Wisconsin and Fort Smith, Arkansas. The last was named after Thomas Adams Smith.[1]:69

In 1819, Secretary of War John C. Calhoun ordered the Yellowstone Expedition, commanded by Colonel Henry Atkinson, to act as a warning against British incursions. Companies of the Regiment of Riflemen and elements of the 6th Infantry Regiment worked together to build Fort Atkinson, Nebraska (then an unorganized area of the Louisiana Purchase). In 1820, Congress later declined to fund further advances.[9][10]


On March 2, 1821, Congress passed an act establishing an Army with no provision for a rifle regiment. The regiment was inactivated on June 1, 1821.[2]:141

Under an act of Congress dated August 23, 1842 the 2nd Cavalry Regiment was re-designated as the Regiment of Riflemen effective March 4, 1843. This act was repealed on April 4, 1844 and the 2nd Cavalry Regiment reverted to its previous designation. There is no clear connection between the earlier and later regiments.[2]:143


  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 1.13 Fredriksen, John C. (November 2000). Green Coats and Glory: The United States Regiment of Riflemen, 1808–1821 (1st ed.). Youngstown, New York: Old Fort Niagara Association, Inc.. ISBN 0-941967-22-0. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 2.7 2.8 Heitman, Francis B. (1903). "Historical register and dictionary of the United States Army". War Department. Retrieved August 20, 2014. "This is the unofficial work of a private compiler, purchased and published by direction of Congress" 
  3. 3.0 3.1 Tunnell, IV, H.D. (1998). To Compel with Armed Force: A Staff Ride Handbook for the Battle of Tippecanoe. Fort Leavenworth, KS: Combat Studies Institute, U.S. Army Command and General Staff College. Retrieved August 27, 2014. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 Brenner, James T.. "The Green Against the British Red: U.S. Rifle Regiments in the Northwestern Army". 
  5. 5.0 5.1 Davis, T. Frederick. "United States Troops in Spanish East Florida, 1812–1813". Retrieved August 30, 2014. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 Elting, John R.. Amateurs to Arms! A Military History of the War of 1812 (1st ed.). Chapel Hill, NC: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill. ISBN 0-945575-08-4. :52
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 Rauch, Steven J.. The Campaign of 1812. Washington, DC: Center for Military History, United States Army. Retrieved September 3, 2014. 
  8. Cruikshank, Ernest (1896). "Battle of Fort George". Niagara Historical Society. Retrieved August 16, 2014. 
  9. "Fort Atkinson, Nebraska". Nebraska State Historical Society. Retrieved August 17, 2014. 
  10. Johnson, Sally A. (June 1956). "Cantonment Missouri". Retrieved August 17, 2014. 


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