The Brown Bess

by Daniel Russ on July 25, 2019

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From “The British Are Coming: The War for America, Lexington to Princeton, 1775-1777 (The Revolution Trilogy Book 1)” by Rick Atkinson

“Looting began even before the column cleared Lexington. In light infantry slang, “lob” meant plunder taken without opposition; “grab” was booty taken by force. “There never was a more expert set than the light infantry at either grab, lob, or gutting a house,” a British officer later acknowledged. Lieutenant Barker complained in his diary that soldiers on the return march “were so wild and irregular that there was no keeping ’em in any order.… The plundering was shameful.” Sheets snatched from beds served as peddler’s packs to carry beaver hats, spinning wheels, mirrors, goatskin breeches, an eight-day clock, delftware, earrings, a Bible with silver clasps, a dung fork. “Many houses were plundered,” Lieutenant Mackenzie wrote. “I have no doubt this enflamed the rebels.… Some soldiers who stayed too long in the houses were killed in the very act of plundering.””

“The limits of the musket even in close combat were clear enough after the daylong battle. Later scholars calculated that at least seventy-five thousand American rounds had been fired, using well over a ton of powder, but only one bullet in almost three hundred had hit home. The shot heard round the world likely missed. Fewer than one militiaman in every ten who engaged the column drew British blood, despite the broad target of massed redcoats. A combat bromide held that it took a man’s weight in bullets to kill him, and on Battle Road that equation was not far exaggerated.”

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