A question for military historians

I'm sure there are loads hanging about here...

18 messages
25/11/2010 at 13:35

Can anyone confirm if the term 'troops' in Napoleonic era was only applied to cavalry or if it could be used for any type of army force?

I've found this in an etymology dictionary, which doesn't really answer my question:

trooper (n.)

1630s, “soldier in a cavalry troop,” agent noun from troop. Extended to "mounted policeman" (1858, in Australian) then to "state policeman" (U.S.) by 1911.

troop (n.) <a href="http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=troop" title="Look up troop at Dictionary.com"><img title="Look up troop at Dictionary.com" src="http://www.runnersworld.co.uk/forum/graphics/dictionary.gif" width="16" height="16" /></a>1540s, "body of soldiers," from M.Fr. troupe, from O.Fr. trope "band of people, company, troop" (13c.), probably from Frank. *throp "assembly, gathering of people" (cf. O.E. ðorp, O.N. thorp "village," see thorp). OED derives the French word from L. troppus "flock," which is of unknown origin but may be from the Germanic source. The verb is attested from 1560s, "to assemble;" meaning "to march" is recorded from 1590s; that of "to go in great numbers, to flock" is from c.1600.

In my 400-odd-page 'Waterloo Companion' the word 'troops' seems to be used referring to any type of force, but a colleague insists that this is modern usage and it would be incorrect in a historical context. I don't suppose anyone can point me in the direction an answer.....?

I do, of course and as usual, apologise for this.

Nicko. Hdau    pirate
25/11/2010 at 14:29

 Household cavalry was formed by Charles the 2nd I think as a bodyguard. Cavalry soldiers, are given the term Trooper on entry to the regiment as a lower ranked soldier.The Household cavalry are the only regiment that have never used the term Sergeant, a sergeant is classed as a Corporal of the horse The majority of british regiments use the term Private but some regiments are different. Royal Engineers are Sappers for instance.

Hows Spain ? 

Edited: 25/11/2010 at 14:35
25/11/2010 at 15:31

Fascinating!

25/11/2010 at 17:30

Aza, I learnt all I know about the Napoleonic Wars by watching Sharpe. As a special service, I shall force myself to sit through each and every episode in order to find out for you.

It could take some time.

25/11/2010 at 17:37

Any room there on the sofa, Kwilter?

Joking aside, I am constantly amazed by the depth of knowledge on this forum!

25/11/2010 at 17:40

<scoots along the sofa and passes choccie fingers>

Slugsta, were you around when I posted a thread asking for any suggestions about transcribing a medieval document? Someone popped up who used to teach medieval Latin, and gave me a translation of it.

I think we tend to see ourselves as runners/former runners and not realise the bredth of expertise there is around.

25/11/2010 at 18:01

I have the Sharpe box set  it is a serious history programme isn't it? <drool>

Day off tomorrow ... I may have to do some <ahem> research after the drudgery of Christmas shopping.

25/11/2010 at 18:02
Yes, Kwilter, I remember that!
25/11/2010 at 19:44
A troop usually refers to a unit of cavalry or horse artillery and the word has its origins at least back to the units of the English Civil Wars EG ‘Morgan’s Troop of Dragoons (Original dragoons were mounted infantry who rode into battle on horses but usually fought on foot). These would normally (but not always) comprise of men from the same geographical area and 10 or more troops would form a regiment. (EG Col Hopton’s Regiment of Horse). Some argue that the word ‘troop’ originally referred to a band of players or ‘Troupe’ of actors and has its origins in Norman French and the word was bastardized by the military.

A troop in the unit formation sense of the meaning is normally a cavalry equivalent to a platoon of infantry and in the days of the horse was comprised of 60 to 100 men. The modern mechanized cavalry regiment has four to six squadrons each squadron having four troops of four to six armored fighting vehicles, tanks or armored cars.

In Napoleonic times a troop would refer to a unit of cavalry who would belong to a squadron, which would in turn belong to a regiment. EG Royal Scots Greys. (2 or more Regiments would form a Brigade - at Waterloo the Union Brigade was formed by the Scots Greys and two other cavalry regiments).

Now - here’s the confusing bit.

Cavalry, Artillery and Infantry would often be referred to collectively as ‘troops’. As in ‘look after the welfare of the troops’

EG ‘The first and most foremost concern of a commanding officer in manufacturing good morale is to ensure that his troops are well fed and supplied with a liberal amount of strong liquor’ (The Iron Duke - Wellington)

This generic usage of ‘the troops’ meaning all soldiers under arms is still in use... eg Troopship, Troop transporter etc

Hope this helps

BTW 'Sharpe' is largely accurate - as you were ladies...
25/11/2010 at 19:48
Damnation... I've gone written all that in 'American'.
Nicko. Hdau    pirate
25/11/2010 at 19:50
Sharpes men are a company of rifles and foot soldiers or infantry. They were originally in the Essex regiment which is now part of the Royal Anglian Regiment.
25/11/2010 at 20:09
The only regiment in the British army now who are ordered to 'fix swords' and not 'fix bayonets' is 'The Rifles' going back to the days when the units who comprised the modern day Rifles were armed with the Baker rifle and not the 'Brown Bess' musket.

The Baker rifle was considerably shorter and it was thought that the sword bayonet would be more appropriate for light troops.

Not a lot of people know that...
25/11/2010 at 21:15

My step Grandad was in the Rifles in the Somme. Luckily for him , he came home with a gunshot wound to his elbow and survived until 1978. I've got his blood spattered map framed and hanging in my hallway.

Now...back to Sean Bean.

25/11/2010 at 21:33

A zillion thanks folks, I thought the question might be pushing it a bit but I remember that thread you posted Kwilter, and thought it might be worth a shot. 
Between the lot of us, there's not a lot we don't know.


I've been working for a couple of months on this Napoleonic text and the bloke who knows most about it tells me that troops were only cavalry. However, English is not his first language, so he might be mistaking it with 'troop'. In the first edition of the Webster dictionary I found this:

TROOP, n.

1. A collection of people; a company; a number; a multitude. Gen.49. 2 Sam.23. Hos.7. 2. A body of soldiers. But applied to infantry, it is now used in the plural, troops, and this word signifies soldiers in general, whether more or less numerous, including infantry, cavalry and artillery. We apply the word to a company, a regiment or an army. The captain ordered his troops to halt; the colonel commanded his troops to wheel and take a position on the flank; the general ordered his troops to attack; the troops of France amounted to 400,000 men. 3. Troop, in the singular, a small body or company of cavalry, light horse or dragoons, commanded by a captain. 4. A company of stage-players.

 It's from 1828 so the dates are right, but it's an American dictionary and I was worried that the usage might have come across the Atlantic with the GI's. However, Corinthian's Duke of Wellington quote would seem to back up usage in Europe too. I hadn't thought of looking up quotes from the main players of the time....

Again -  a zillion thanks to everyone.

Nick - Spain is great thanks - I'm not short of work and eternally grateful for it.
Kwilter - I haven't heard of Sharpe but from the comments on this thread maybe I should put it on my Christmas list?
Corinth - do you think you'll unlearn that nasty American when you come back across the pond?

25/11/2010 at 21:41
I sure hope so! When are you coming home, Corrie?
25/11/2010 at 23:00
Back to see folks 19th December Slug - after a holiday... back to the USA 4th Jan until April 14th and then back to the dole queue here

Some more examples Az

"The General Order is always:
......To manoeuver in a body and on the attack.
......To maintain strict but not pettifogging discipline.
......To keep the TROOPS constantly at the ready.
......To employ the utmost vigilance on sentry go.
......To use the bayonet on every possible occasion.
And to follow up the enemy remorselessly until he is utterly destroyed."

Lazare Carnot French revolutionary general 1794 - translated into English 1796

'I tell you Wellington is a bad general, the English are bad TROOPS...' Spoken by Napoleon to Soult on the eve of the battle of Waterloo*

*Andrew Roberts - Napoleon and Wellington

26/11/2010 at 07:23

What a coincidence, Corrie, I just happen to have a vacancy for sex slave/housekeeper, just send me your CV .

26/11/2010 at 10:17

Ah, cheers Corinth. I'll ask him where he got his information from and them zap 'im with the quotes.

Ahem 'manoeuvre', shurely?

On a slightly different subject, do ebooks have search functions? I've just thought that if I can get all my 'Vanity Fairs' and 'Daniel Derondas' electronically, it would be seriously handy for checking vocab use for these damn historical texts.

I'll be dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century yet...

<hangs Luddite head in shame>


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