The British Army in the Revolutionary War

The British army fought for Great Britain in the Revolutionary War and was considered the most well-trained and disciplined army in the world.

The army served for the entire eight years of the Revolutionary War, from 1775-1783, in various campaigns fought around the world.

A few regiments also served in the early days of the American Revolution, from 1768 until 1775 when the war officially broke out.

The British army used a number of different military strategies in the Revolutionary War but ultimately failed to suppress the rebellion and surrendered in 1783.

The following are some facts about the British army in the Revolutionary War:

How Was the British Army Structured?

The British army was intentionally small during peace time. The structure of the army was designed to have a small, high quality army that the government could supplement and expand in times of war.

The British army was composed primarily of three arms of service: infantry, cavalry and artillery. Within each of these arms, the soldiers were organized into regiments.

Each infantry regiment was divided into 10 companies of equal size with three commissioned officers, five or six non-commissioned officers, one or two drummers, and 38-70 private soldiers.

"Surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown" oil painting by John Trumball, circa 1819-20, depicting the British surrendering to French and American troops in Yorktown.

“Surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown” oil painting by John Trumball, circa 1819-20, depicting the British surrendering to French and American troops in Yorktown.

What Was the Size of the British Army in the Revolutionary War?

At the outbreak of the Revolutionary War in 1775, the total size of the British army, excluding militia, consisted of 48,647 soldiers (Fey 9). Of these soldiers about 39,294 were infantry, 6,869 were cavalry and 2,484 were artillery.

After King George III declared that the colonies were in a rebellion, in 1775, and vowed to suppress it with force, the British government began to increase the size of the British army by creating larger infantry regiments and companies. The number of soldiers per regiment was increased to 200 and the number of soldiers per company was increased to 18.

As the war continued, the size of companies was increased again to 70 soldiers before being reduced to 58 soldiers by the end of the war.

In total, it is estimated that a total of 50,000 British soldiers fought in the Revolutionary War.

What Were the Advantages of the British Army in the Revolutionary War?

One of the major advantages of the British army was that it was one of the most powerful and experienced armies in the world. During the previous 100 years, the British army had defeated many powerful countries in war, such as France and Spain, and seemed almost unbeatable.

The British army was also funded by the British government and the Crown, which was very wealthy.

In addition, the British Army was supplemented by about 30,000 German soldiers provided by various German states.

What Disadvantages Did the British Army Face in the Revolutionary War?

One major disadvantage or weakness of the British army was that it was fighting in a distant land. Great Britain had to ship soldiers and supplies across the Atlantic, which was very costly, in order to fight the Revolutionary War.

The British army didn’t know the local terrain as well as the Continental Army did and weren’t trained to fight guerrilla-style warfare in the wilderness. Up until the Revolutionary War, the British army had only fought European-style warfare on an open battlefield.

In addition, the British army was fighting to protect a vast empire that was spread out across the world. As a result, the army was spread very thin, which reduced its effectiveness.

Weapons Used by the British Army:

The British army used a variety of weapons which includes:

Pattern 1776 Infantry Rifles
Ferguson Rifles
British Short Land Service Muskets (aka Brown Bess musket)
Flintlock muskets

British Commanders in the Revolutionary War:

Commander in Chief, North America: Thomas Gage (1763 – October 1775)
Commander in Chief, America: William Howe (October 1775 – 1778)
Commander in Chief, America: Henry Clinton (February 1778 – 1782)
Commander in Chief, America: Guy Carleton (1782 – 1783)
Commander in Chief, America: John Campbell (1783 – 1787)

British Generals in the Revolutionary War:

Lieutenant General Sir Robert Boyd
General John Burgoyne
Major-General Archibald Campbell
General John Campbell
General Charles Cornwallis
General Sir John Dalling
Lieutenant General Sir William Erskine, 1st Baronet
General Sir William Fawcett
General Sir William Green
Lieutenant General Charles Grey, 1st Earl Grey
Lieutenant General Frederick Haldimand
Major General Alexander Leslie
General Sir William Meadows
General Hector Munro
Major General William Phillips

British Regiments in the Revolutionary War:



Royal Regiment of Artillery (1716–present)
Royal Irish Regiment of Artillery (1755-1801)


16th The Queen’s Lancers (1759–1922)
17th Regiment of (Light) Dragoons (1759-1922)


Foot Guards:
Brigade of Guards:
1st Battalion (1656–present)
2nd Battalion (1656-1994)


1st (Royal) Regiment of Foot (1633–2006)
3rd Regiment of Foot or “Buffs” and “Royal East Kent Regiment” (1572-1961)
4th (The King’s Own) (Lancaster) Regiment of Foot (1680–1959)
5th Regiment of Foot (Royal Northumberland Fusiliers) (1674–1968)
6th Regiment of Foot (Royal Warwickshire Regiment) (1685–1968)
7th Regiment of Foot (Royal Fusiliers) (1685–1968)
8th (The King’s) Regiment of Foot (1685–1881)
9th Regiment of Foot (East Norfolk Regiment) (1881-1959)
10th Regiment of Foot (Royal Lincolnshire Regiment) (1685-1960)
13th Regiment of Foot (Prince Albert’s) (Somerset Light Infantry) (1685–1959)
14th Regiment of Foot (Prince of Wales’s Own) (West Yorkshire Regiment) (1685–1958)
15th Regiment of Foot (Sir William Clifton’s Regiment of Foot) (East Yorkshire Regiment) (1685–1958)
16th Regiment of Foot
17th Regiment of Foot
18th (or Royal Irish) Regiment of Foot
19th Regiment of Foot
20th Regiment of Foot
21st Regiment of Foot (Royal North British Fusiliers)
22nd Regiment of Foot (Cheshire Regiment)
23rd Regiment of Foot (Royal Welch Fusiliers)
24th Regiment of Foot
26th Regiment of Foot
27th Regiment of Foot
28th Regiment of Foot
29th Regiment of Foot
30th Regiment of Foot
31st Regiment of Foot
33rd Regiment of Foot
34th Regiment of Foot
35th Regiment of Foot
37th Regiment of Foot
38th Regiment of Foot
40th Regiment of Foot
42nd Royal Highland Regiment of Foot
43rd Regiment of Foot
44th Regiment of Foot
45th Regiment of Foot
46th Regiment of Foot
47th Regiment of Foot
48th Regiment of Foot
49th Regiment of Foot
50th Regiment of Foot
52nd Regiment of Foot
53rd Regiment of Foot
54th Regiment of Foot
55th Regiment of Foot
57th Regiment of Foot
59th Regiment of Foot
60th (Royal American) Regiment of Foot
62nd Regiment of Foot
63rd Regiment of Foot
64th Regiment of Foot
65th Regiment of Foot
69th Regiment of Foot
70th Regiment of Foot (Glasgow Lowland)
71st Regiment of Foot (Frasers Highlanders)
74th Regiment of (Highland) Foot
76th Regiment of Foot (Macdonald’s Highlanders)
79th Regiment of Foot (Royal Liverpool Volunteers)
80th Regiment of Foot (Royal Edinburgh Volunteers)
82nd Regiment of Foot (1777)
83rd Regiment of Foot (Royal Glasgow Volunteers)
84th Regiment of Foot (Royal Highland Emigrants) (Loyalist)
105th Regiment of Foot (Loyalist, ex Volunteers of Ireland)
110th Regiment of Foot (ex King’s American Regiment)


85th Regiment of Foot (Westminster Volunteers)
86th Regiment of Foot (Rutland Regiment)
87th Regiment of Foot (1779)
88th Regiment of Foot (1779)
89th Regiment of Foot (1779)
90th Regiment of Foot (Yorkshire Volunteers)
91st Regiment of Foot (Shropshire Volunteers)
92nd Regiment of Foot (1779)
93rd Regiment of Foot (1780)
94th Regiment of Foot (1780)
99th Regiment of Foot (Jamaica Regiment)


1st Battalion
2nd Battalion


1st American Regiment (1756–1783)
2nd American Regiment (1778-1784)
3rd American Regiment (1776-1783)
4th American Regiment (1776-1783)
5th American Regiment (1777-1782)


American Legion (1780-1783)
American Volunteers (1779-1780)
Armed Boat Company (1781-1783)
Black Company of Pioneers (1777-1778)
British Legion (1777-1778)
Bucks County Dragoons (1778-1780)
Butler’s Rangers (1777-1784)
Caledonian Volunteers (1777-1778)
Campbell’s Dragoons (South Carolina Dragoons) (1781)
Canadian Companies (1777-1783)
Claus’ Rangers (1775-1783)
Collett’s Independent Company (1777)
De Lancey’s Brigade (1776-1783)
Detroit Volunteers (1778-1783)
Diemar’s Troop of Black Hussars (1779-1781)
Duke of Cumberland’s Regiment (1781-1783)
Duchess County Company (1776-1777)
Emmerich’s Chasseurs (1777-1779)
Fenwick’s Dragoons (South Carolina Dragoons) (1781)
Forshner’s Independent Company (1780-1781)
Georgia Light Dragoons (1779-1781)
Georgia Loyalists (1779-1782)
Governor Wentworth’s Volunteers (1777-1781)
Guides and Pioneers (1778-1783)
Harkimer’s Batteau Company (1780-1783)
Hierlihy’s Corps
James Island Light Dragoons
King’s American Dragoons
King’s American Regiment (1776-1783)
King’s Rangers
King’s (Carolina) Rangers
King’s Orange Rangers
King’s Royal Regiment of New York
Kinloch’s Light Dragoons
Locke’s Independent Company
Loyal American Rangers (1780-1783)
Loyal American Regiment
Loyal Foresters
Loyal New Englanders
Loyal Rangers
Loyal Rhode Islanders
Maryland Loyalists Battalion
McAlpin’s Corps
Nassau Blues
Newfoundland Regiment
New Hampshire Volunteers
New Jersey Volunteers (Skinner’s Greens)
Newport Artillery Company (Rhode Island) 1741
New York Volunteers
North Carolina Highlanders
North Carolina Independent Company
North Carolina Independent Dragoons
Pennsylvania Loyalists
Philadelphia Light Dragoons
Prince of Wales’s American Volunteers
Provincial Light Infantry
Queen’s Rangers
Roman Catholic Volunteers (1777-1778)
Royal American Reformers
Royal Fencible Americans
Royal Garrison Battalion
Royal Georgia Volunteers
Royal Highland Emigrants
Royal Nova Scotia Volunteer Regiment
Saint John’s Volunteers
Starkloff’s Dragoons (South Carolina Dragoons) (1781)
South Carolina Rangers
South Carolina Royalists
Stewart’s Troop of Light Dragoons
Van Alstine’s Batteau Company
Volunteers of Ireland (1778-1782)
Volunteers of New England
West Florida Royal Foresters
West Jersey Volunteers


Charleston Militia (1780-1782)
Charleston Volunteer Battalion (1780-1782)
Detroit Militia (1775-1784)
East Florida Militia (1776-1783)
Georgia Artillery (1781-1782)
Georgia Militia (1779-1782)
German Independent Company
Independent Troop of Black Dragoons (1782)
Loyal Commissariat Volunteers (1779-1782)
Loyal Ordnance Volunteers (1780)
Loyal Volunteers of the City of New York (1776-1783)
Massachusetts Militia (1775-1783)
Massachusetts Volunteers (1777-1783)
McDonald’s Company of Volunteers (1778)
Minorca Volunteer Company
New Jersey Militia (1776-1777)
New York City Militia (1776-1783)
New York Independent Highland Volunteers (1776-1783)
New York Marine Artillery Company (1780-1783)
New York Militia (1776-1783)
New York Rangers (1776-1783)
North Carolina Militia (1781-1782)
Nova Scotia Militia (1775-1784)
Nova Scotia Volunteer Militia Regiment (1776-1781)
Quebec City Militia (1775-1783)
Quebec Militia (1775-1783)
Saint Johns County Volunteers (1781)
South Carolina Militia (1775-1782)
South Carolina Volunteers (1781-1782)
Westchester Chasseurs (1777)
West Florida Militia (1778-1781)


Adams Company of Rangers (1777-1780)
Bay Fusiliers (1779-?)
Bucks County Volunteers (1778-1783)
Detroit Volunteers (1778-1783)
Dunlop’s Corps (1780-1781)
East Florida Rangers (1776-1779)
East Florida Volunteers (1777-1780)
Ethiopian Regiment (1775-1776)
Georgia Light Dragoons (1781-1782)
Georgia Rangers (1773-1776)
Georgia Rifle Dragoons (1779)
King’s Dock Yard Volunteers (1780)
King’s Loyal Americans (1776-1781)
Mackay’s Corps (1777-1781)
McAlpin’s Corps of Royalists (1777-1781)
Mosquito Shore Volunteers (1779-?)
Natchez Volunteers (1781)
Negro Volunteers (1779)
Newfoundland Volunteers (1779-1980)
North Carolina Volunteers (1776)
Queen’s Loyal Rangers (1777-1781)
Queen’s Loyal Virginia Regiment (1776-1783)
Queen’s Royal Rangers (1775-1776)
Rattan and Black River Volunteers (1780-1781)
Royal Bateaux Volunteers (1779-1781)
Royal Ethiopian Regiment (1775-1776)
Virginia Light Horse (1776)
Virginia Volunteers (1781)
Volunteers of Augusta (1781-1782)
West Florida Provincials (1778-1781)
West Florida Refugees (1777-1781)


Associated Loyalists (1780-1782)
Black Brigade(Black Loyalists) (1779-1783)
Brant’s Volunteers (1777-1779)
De Lancey’s Refugees (1776-1783)
Hatfield’s Company of Partisans (1779-1782)
Hazard’s Corps of Refugees (1780-1782)
James Stewart’s Company of Refugees (1780-1781)
King’s Militia Volunteers (1779-1780)
Loyal American Association (1775-1776)
Loyal Associated Refugees (1779)
Loyal Irish Volunteers (1775-1776)
Loyal Newport Associators (1777-1779)
Loyal Refugee Volunteers (1779-1782)
Maryland Royal Retaliators (1780-1781)
Pepperell’s Corps (1779)
Robins Company of Partisans (1780-1782?)
Royal North British Volunteers (1775-1776)
Sharp’s Refugee Marines (1779)
Uzal Ward’s Company of Refugees (1780-1783)


Barbados Militia
Barbadian Rangers (1781-1783)
Black Carolina Corps
Grenada Militia (1775-1779)
Jamaica Corps of Foot (1781-1783)
Independent Companies (Jamaica)
Jamaica Legion (1780)
Jamaica Light Dragoons (1780-1781)
Jamaica Militia (1780-1781)
Jamaica Rangers (1779-1783)
Jamaica Volunteers (1779-1781)
Turks Island Company (1781-1783)

Fey, Sylvia R. The British Soldier in America: A Social History of Military Life in the Revolutionary Period. University of Texas Press, 1981
“Loyalist Regiments.” Royal Provincial, The On-line Institute for Advanced Loyalist Studies, n.d.,
Hagist, Don. N. British Soldiers, American War: Voices of the American Revolution. Westholme Publishing, 2012.

About Rebecca Beatrice Brooks

Rebecca Beatrice Brooks is the author and publisher of the History of Massachusetts Blog. Rebecca is a freelance journalist and history lover who got her start in journalism working for small-town newspapers in Massachusetts and New Hampshire after she graduated from the University of New Hampshire with a B.A. in journalism. Visit this site's About page to find out more about Rebecca.

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