95th rifles

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Formed in 1800 as the “Experimental Corps of Riflemen”, the 95th Rifles won immortality during the Napoleonic Wars with the Duke of Wellington in Iberian Peninsular and at the Battle of Waterloo.  Unlike most of the British infantry of the period, the 95th were armed with the 1803 Pattern British Infantry Rifle, commonly known today as the Baker Rifle. Shorter than the line infantry’s Brown Bess musket, the Baker required a long flat bladed sword bayonet to have the same reach in action, thus from this time the rifle regiments have called their bayonet a sword. Using the manuals of the time, the Rifles carry out sword fencing exercises as practiced by the British riflemen before and during the Great War.

(via http://theriflesww1.org)

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A Battle of Waterloo period Model 1805 Baker Rifle being fired in slow motion
Slow motion film of a reproduction Model 1805 Baker Rifle of the Battle of Waterloo period being fired at the Royal Armouries Museum. The effects of the proj...

This is such a well-produced video demonstrating the extraordinary effects that come from firing a flintlock firearm. Good work Royal Armouries and boy I do like firing these weapons.

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Australian re-enactors test the accuracy of the Baker Rifle.

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Loading the Baker Rifle

Rob over at British Muzzleloaders returns with an interesting experiment examining the different contemporary loading methods available to troops armed with the Baker Rifle during the Napoleonic Wars. 

First, Rob demonstrates the accuracy of firing a patched ball compared to that of firing standard issue ready-made cartridges with unpatched projectiles. As might be expected the patched balls are more accurate at 100 yards. 

Riflemen of the 60th and 95th load and fire from cover (source)

Rob then goes on to demonstrate the advantage of using cartridges over loose ball, the time it takes him to fire three rounds is much faster when using cartridges. 

More on the Baker Rifle here

Video Source

The creation of rifle units in the British army during the late 18th-early 19th century had to do with the poor performance of British Light Infantry during the American War of Independence. Light Infantry differed from Line Infantry in several ways. First off, they fought in much looser formations, spread out and used cover. They generally fought in twos, each man covering the other.

They were generally sent on smaller scale operations, raiding enemy camps in the countryside and generally causing trouble. In a full scale battle, Light Infantry would advance ahead of the regular infantry to harass enemy units and weaken them before the main fighting began. They would also protect their army from the same thing. Light Infantry were taught to think for themselves rather then robotically obey superiors like Line Units.

The British, however, were behind in Light Infantry (if they could even be called that) Most British Light Units fought as companies attached to Line Infantry battalions (as opposed to independent companies or regiments) and generally carried just as much as much equipment as the Line Soldiers. They were mocked for this, with enemy (and even allied) soldiers joking that they weren’t worthy of being called Light Infantry when they fought so much like Line Units. This led to the creation of Rifle regiments (also known as Green Jackets)

The first of these regiments was the 95th Infantry Regiment. They wore green uniforms to blend into the surrounding countryside and carried Baker Rifles instead of Muskets. These were awkward to reload and could only be fired about two times a minute (compared to the 3-5 times of a musket) To make up for this, they had MUCH greater range and accuracy then Muskets of the time. Because of this, they were taught to aim for enemy officers, then work their way down to NCOs and drummers before moving on to private soldiers.

I am an amateur historian, so if I made any mistakes, please feel free to point them out. I also wrote this completely on a whim, so I likely made spelling and grammar mistakes. Feel free to correct those as well.

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Cool painting I came across of the 95th Rifles. One of the most distinguished Regiments in the British Army it fought in the Napoleonic Wars from Copenhagen to Waterloo and earned many battle honors. They wore green coats in an army of red and this lead to their nickname of “Green jackets”. The famous Baker rifle and the sword bayonet were there weapon and they were the elite soldiers of their day and were some of the best British soldiers during the Napoleonic Wars.

I never saw such skirmishers as the 95th. They could do the work much better and with infinitely less loss than any other of our best light troops. They possessed an individual boldness, a mutual understanding, and a quickness of eye in taking advantage of the ground, which taken altogether, I never saw equalled.
—  Major John Blakiston, a British officer of the Portuguese Cacadores (light infantry), describing the 95th Rifles during the Peninsular War.  
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Yes, it’s pure ‘80s cheese. But I love it. And this gave me my first introduction to the Napoleonic Wars, so I owe it a debt of gratitude, of sorts.

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I’ll make a man out of you from Mulan to Richard Sharpe and the 95th rifles