1st DR vs 23rd RWF

A Comparison of the 1st Delaware Regiment vs the 23rd or Royal Welch Fusiliers by Chris Mlynarczyk, President – 1st Delaware Regiment

In begining to recreate the 1st Delaware Regiment here in Delaware a good amount of reading and research was done – much of it piecing together information that in the past was done via a library research or archive room.  In today’s internet world it is instead on your computer, and scouring not just documents you have on hand such as books, articles, pamphlets, etc., now with weblinks and this amazing search engine called Google.  What took weeks or months of research now takes much much less time.  It also has resulted in enhancing the research and as a result – what we now know.

According to Captain Enoch Anderson of the 1st Delaware Regiment, he recollected that Captain Thomas Holland, who was killed at the Battle of Germantown, was a very experienced military officer.  Anderson indicates that Holland was from the British army before coming to America and joining the cause for Liberty and Indepence.  Reading on one finds that Holland was not only a very experienced member of the British army, but he was also part of an elite regiment: the 23rd or, as they are well known as the Royal Welch Fusiliers.  This information alone has caused some to indicate that with Colonel John Haslet, a veteran of the French & Indian War, along with Thomas Holland, who was appointed Adjutant for the 1st Delaware Regiment when it was created, at the organizational structure of the regiment, they were the architects of an elite American army regiment.  Now, most stop here and leave it at this and do not look for any other information.  However, if one does look further, you can see some interesting comparisons of the Royal Welch Fusiliers with the 1st Delaware Regiment.

First, let’s look at the uniforms of the two regiments during the period of the American Revolution.  The Royal Welch Fusiliers had red coats with blue facings and the buttonholes were trimmed in gilt or gold.  Their enlisted ranks wore pewter or silver colored buttons and their officers wore gilt buttons.  They also wore white waistcoats and white breeches along with black half-gaiters or spatterdashes.   The Royal Welch officer’s wore black hats with gold lace.  They also had light infantry and grenadier companies with the light infantry company wearing a black leather cap along with a short coat or coattee and the grenadier company wearing the customary bearskin bonnets.  The insignia of the regiment was that of the Prince of Wales’ plumes.  These plumes are wrapped together at the bottom and sprout out with one plume staying center and the other 2 on each side arcing off to their respective side.  Their buttons also appear to have had this plumage and the number 23.  The regimental flag also includes the plumes symbol for the Prince of Wales along with the slogan “Ich Dien” (translation from Latin: I Serve) as its central marking along with the Union Jack in the upper left with a dark blue fabric (matching the regiment’s facings).  Also, the regiment wears a red rose on August 1st in honor of a charge against French cavalry at the Battle of Minden in 1759.

The 1st Delaware Regiment had short blue coats with red facings.  Their enlisted ranks wore pewter buttons and their officers wore gilt buttons.  All buttons had an elaborate enciphered capital D and R (very similar to the British’s GR (for Georgius Rex – translation from Latin: King George)) for Delaware Regiment.  The enlisted buttons seem to be slightly larger in size and the DR was raised whereas the DR for officer’s was inscribed into the button.  The Delaware’s also initially wore white breeches along with white waistcoats along with black half-gaiters.  The Delaware’s also wore black leather caps, at least initially when formed they were prevalent and into 1779 where they appear to be used sparsely.  This black leather cap had a full rigged ship at the top with a sheaf of wheat in a center scroll with “Liberty and Independence” and along the bottom a scroll with “Delaware Regiment.”  Their other headgear was a black cocked hat with gilt trim.  This black cocked hat is used in 1777 and for the duration of the war.  Important note: Colonel Haslet was killed and David Hall, one of the original Captains, replaced Haslet as Colonel in early 1777.  But it appears that Haslet had already decided to go to the black cocked hat with an order of over 688 of them in late 1776.  This may be in part due to the mitred cap having the 1st Delaware’s mistaken as the enemy on at least 3 occasions in 1776.  In 1777 and then throughout the duration of the war there are no more incidences of the 1st Delaware’s being mistaken as the enemy.  Nevertheless, the mitred cap is not used as often and the black cocked hat with yellow trim becomes the dominant headgear for the Delaware Regiment. 

One can see many similarities with the uniform and insignia of these two regiments.  In addition, the Delaware Regiment is to initially have also had fusils at the least for its company-grade officers.  This is indicated in Captain Enoch Anderson’s recollection when at the Battle of Long Island he took aim at a man much like he did a bird.  A clear indication that he was using a long firearm as one did when hunting.

Now, so far we have seen some mirror images or exact copying or at the very least inspiration from the British army, in particular the Royal Welch Fusiliers, in the formation and distinction of the 1st Delaware Regiment.  If not convinced yet, the next comparison should cement any doubts.  A very interesting fact about the Royal Welch Fusiliers of the British army is that they have a mascot – a royal goat.  The regiment is also affectionately known as “the Royal Goats.”  Supposedly, the goats for which this mascot is drawn upon came from a royal herd and within the unit they have or at times, have had, a Goat Major, whose primary duty is to take care of the goat!  This definitely is quite interesting in and of itself.  It is not every regiment that has a goat mascot or even a mascot at all.  There is also some stories that this goat was at Bunker Hill with the 23rd!

What is truly interesting is that the 1st Delaware Regiment is known to have had a mascot as well!  The famed Delaware Blue Hen!  Captain Jonathan Caldwell of the 1st Delaware Regiment was known to have been a raiser of gamecocks.  It is of legend and lore that Caldwell also brought some of these gamecocks with him when the Delaware’s went off to war (most likely in August 1776 when they went out of Delaware to join General George Washington’s Continental Army).  Between gamecock fighting with these blue hens in their spare time and the actual fighting of the regiment – it is the understanding that the Delaware Regiment fought with a fierceness similar to that of their blue hens.  Documents much after the war indicate the Delaware Blue Hen’s Chickens, Caldwell’s Gamecocks, the Delaware Blue Hen, etc.  One of the stories about Caldwell indicates that before the Battle of Long Island has Caldwell and his company up all night carousing, howling at the moon, etc.  Another and contemporary account from none other than General Nathaniel Greene after the southern campaign had ended indicated that the Delaware’s “exceeded all soldiers he had ever seen, as they could fight all day and dance all night.”  So there is not only some truth to it, but General Greene wrote about it!

Irregardless, the 1st Delaware Regiment gained a reputation of one of the most elite regiments of Washington’s Continentals.  In looking at the distinction of Adjutant Thomas Holland being from the British army, it was implied by Enoch Anderson that Holland was a seasoned soldier and slightly aged, spending almost all of his life as a career soldier.  Between Holland and Haslet, they both knew the British army very well.  One can see how Holland and Haslet went along the purpose of building an elite unit, with much being borrowed by what Holland knew intimately, the Royal Welch Fusiliers, and applied it, in part, to create the uniform, equipment, training, and esprit de corps of the 1st Delaware Regiment.

2 thoughts on “1st DR vs 23rd RWF

    • Carol – we are primarily a living history group. We recommend the Sons of the American Revolution or Daughters of the American Revolution (SAR and DAR respectively). They really are focused on this area and would be glad to help you and your sister.

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