OT: War of 1812

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Fri May 28 22:18:12 UTC 2010

Speaking of "singular phrases," how about the War of 1812's

"Those aren't militia! Those are *regulars,* by God!"

supposedly uttered by the British commander, Major General Phineas
Riall, at the Battle of Chippawa, July 5th, 1814, as he found his
troops getting their asses shot off by mis-uniformed troops of the
U.S. 25th, IIth, 9th, and 22nd Infantry Divisions. Because he thought
that he was facing the poorly-trained troops of the New York state
militia, he was caught by surprise. He had expected his troops to go
through the Americans like a hot knife through butter. When that
didn't happen, he expostulated as noted above.

Also, supposedly, the uniforms of the cadets of the U.S. Military
Academy are based upon the uniforms worn by members of that particular
body of regulars.

Back in the day, "We're *regulars*, by God!" was used as a joking
put-down of draftees. Well, at least, it was a joke to us regulars. Or
should that be, "... to _we_ regulars."

Note that I'm using "supposedly" to mean, "I personally don't know,"
and not, "This claim is false."


On Thu, May 27, 2010 at 10:56 PM, victor steinbok <aardvark66 at gmail.com> wrote:
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> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       victor steinbok <aardvark66 at GMAIL.COM>
> Subject:      Re: OT: War of 1812
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> I am ecstatic--160 years after the fact a researcher suggests that
> Cooper, a fiction writer, "carefully researched the Battle of Bunker
> Hill". One would hope that the research took place /before/ the
> publication date. But why does this make any difference whatsoever? Is
> the rest of Cooper's work of such painstaking accuracy that we should
> assume that this work is an accurate reflection of the battle? I am
> puzzled.
> Cooper used the phrase "fire low" as an order in several books,
> including The Pioneers. Yet, the expression is usually attributed to
> Oliver Cromwell--it would be silly to assume that the expression was
> unique, however, as the sentiment makes perfect strategic sense with a
> firing force of suspect accuracy, expected close proximity and
> clustering of the enemy, and low ammunition. The same can be said
> about ordering to aim at officers, especially when opposing a
> superiorly organized force.
> By the same token, judging distance accurately is not something that a
> barely trained colonial volunteer force would be expected to do. The
> same goes for other inexperienced troops. So it makes sense to give
> them an identifiable factor for determining shooting distance. Also
> note that Swett's 1825 account gives a distance of 8 rods for the
> first attack and 6 rods for the second, while stating that the Putnam
> statement occurred some time between the two. By 1827, he combined the
> quotes into a single tirade and included a reference to 8 rods with
> it. Others followed suit and presented the lines in various
> combinations--sometimes including "whites of their eyes" with "aim at
> officers", sometimes with "eight rods", sometimes with "aim low".
> So an alternative theory would assume that expression to be common in
> military jargon, which would explain both the Prussian occurrences and
> the Bunker Hill one. In this version, the only reason the phrase is
> memorable is because of the significance of the battle, not because of
> the uniqueness of the phrase. After all, we are dealing with muskets.
> But I am not discounting the possibility of fictionalization either. I
> made a deliberate connection with Soviet hagiography. There are more
> parallels than most Americans would like to admit. Even biographies of
> Washington, Jefferson, Lafayette, and other military and civilian
> leaders were significantly enhanced and padded with fictitious details
> by 1825-6--after all, this was barely 50 years after the Revolution,
> just like the Soviets in the 1960s. And here's a battle that proved to
> be memorable, with significant carnage. The fact that the better
> equipped, better trained regulars suffered three times the casualties
> of the Colonials makes the battle appear "heroic". Why not portray the
> heroes as particularly, uniquely heroic, give them a few singular
> phrases to be remembered by?
> Whatever the case, it would be nice to have a few references--even if
> they are equally unreliable--that predate the two 1825 accounts.
> Absent that, they both appear to be works of fiction.
> VS-)
> PS: It should be obvious by now that I am generally a skeptic when it
> comes to hagiographic claims. Maybe it's the familiarity with a few
> too many totalitarian regimes. Or maybe it's the recognition that
> scientific (and mathematical and technological) achievements tend to
> be named after people other than the ones who achieved them first.
> On Thu, May 27, 2010 at 7:34 PM, Joel S. Berson <Berson at att.net> wrote:
>> At 5/27/2010 07:08 PM, victor steinbok wrote:
>>>For the Prescott reference we may have Washington Irving and Cooper to
>>>thank. [http://bit.ly/d0A9vQ] I found nothing connecting the quote to
>>>Prescott prior to the Knickerbocker mention of it by quoting Cooper's
>> According to the Introduction to the State Univ. of New York Press
>> edition (1984) of "Lionel Lincoln, or, The Leaguer of Boston", Cooper
>> carefully researched the Battle of Bunker Hill, visiting Boston and
>> consulting books and documents.  This must have been before Feb.
>> 1825, the publication date.  I do not recall if the editors report
>> whether Cooper interviewed anyone, or if so whom.
>> Joel
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