Guides and Pioneers

views updated

Guides and Pioneers

GUIDES AND PIONEERS. A corps of guides and pioneers was normally to be found in all armies of the eighteenth century, and it usually was recruited from local citizens who knew the country in which the army was operating. Sir William Howe authorized the Guides and Pioneers in December 1776 to support the outpost line around New York City. Men from other colonies also joined the Guides. According to Sir Henry Clinton, "I was reduced to the necessity of reforming some of these nominal [Provincial] battalions [in the summer of 1778] and placing their officers either upon half pay or in a corps of guides and pioneers, which I had instituted principally with a view of affording a maintenance to the most needy." Other men who functioned as intelligence gatherers and spies were given commissions in the Guides to protect them with a cloak of legality in case they were captured in enemy territory. Still others performed the engineering tasks usually associated with the term "pioneers" at this period. Detachments were sent on Tryon's raid on Danbury in late April 1777, on Howe's campaign to Philadelphia later that year, on Clinton's expedition to Charleston in May 1780, and on the three raids into Virginia in 1780–1781 (including thirty men with Benedict Arnold in December 1780). In the New York lines, they operated frequently with Colonel Beverley Robinson's Loyal Americans. The unit was evacuated to New Brunswick on 12 September 1783 and disbanded there on 10 October.

SEE ALSO Loyal Americans; Robinson, Beverley.


Clinton, Henry. The American Rebellion: Sir Henry Clinton's Narrative of His Campaigns, 1775–1782. Edited by William B. Willcox. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1954.

Cole, Nan, and Todd Braisted. "The On-Line Institute for Advanced Loyalist Studies." Available online at

Katcher, Philip R. N. Encyclopedia of British, Provincial, and German Army Units, 1775–1783. Harrisburg, Pa.: Stackpole Books, 1973.

Smith, Paul H. "The American Loyalists: Notes on Their Organization and Numerical Strength." William and Mary Quarterly, third series, 25 (1968): 259-277.

                                 revised by Harold E. Selesky

About this article

Guides and Pioneers

Updated About content Print Article