Francis Nash

This information is contributed by Ron Tarburton

Author's note: The research that unearthed this data is ongoing and not considered by the author to be complete
 The  men  of  Francis  Nash's  brigade,  like  neighboring  Virginians,  were  often  armed  as  
frontier  farmers  and  Indian  fighters  often  were---either  with  long  rifles allowing  them  to  be  
crack  shots  or  else  they  toted muskets loaded  with a mix  of  buckshot  and  solid  one  once 
lead  ball.   This  is  how  they  were equipped  when  they  marched  up  to  join  Washington's  
central  Army  in  the  summer  of  1777.    Our  Commander  in  Chief had  just  sadly  said  
farewell  to  his  prized  Rifle  Corps  of 600  crack  shots  regimented  under  Daniel  Morgan.   
Congress had  ordered  them  to  New  York  to  help  Gates  defeat  Burgoyne.   Now he was 
without  all  those  great  marksmen.

    When  Nash  arrived  with  his  undisciplined  men,  there  were complaints  from  other  units  
right  away.  Washington  befriended  Nash  who  defended  the  country  bumpkin ways  of  his 
men.   Company  commanders  still wore  hunting  shirts  and  could  hardly  be  told  apart  from 
their  men.   Companies  that  should  have  had two hundred  or  more men in  them might  have  
only  50  or  so.   There  was a rugged  individualism  there that  did  not  surrender to  strict  

    Washington  chose to  cherish  Nash  and his  men  as  a partial  replacement  for  the  absent  
Dan  Morgan  and  to  encourage  him  regarding  the  buckshot  idea.  Soon  Washington  would  
face the  threat  of  British  invasion in  Chesapeake  Bay by  forming  a "Light  Corps"  under  
General  Maxwell.  These  would  be  men  carrying  rifles almost  exclusively,  from  those  
companies of  regiments  still  carrying such weapons.

     Maxwell  was  assigned the  task of  being  a  "reconnaissance  in force"  brigade  supported  
by a few troops of   cavalry as  eyes  for  his  vanguard.    The  Rear  Guard  and  his  "secret  
weapon"  of Nash's  mixed  bag  light   brigade  of  Francis  Nash  ,  with  their  mix  of  rifles  with  
buckshot---would  be held in  reserve    for the  task  of covering  the  retreat  if  that  became  
necessary.  Nash was  given  the  dirty  job  and  he  and  his  men  were good  at  dirty  dealing  
with  an  enemy---they  were up  to  the task.

     Both  at  Brandywine  and  again  at  Germantown---Nash  and  his men  cut  the  enemy  to  
ribbons whenever  they  unleashed  a volley.   At  Brandywine---after  ripping  up  an  already  
whittled  down  brigade of  Guard  and  Grenadiers---they used  an old  Indian  trick  of  baiting  the  
British to  reinforce  a hill  on  their  flanks--a  hill  behind  which  hundreds of  men lay  in  ambush 
in  the growing darkness.   Two  regiments  walked  right into  the  trap  and  were  cut to  pieces in  
just  a minutes time---hundreds  fell  in  moments  and  at least  a hundred  or  more  would  die  
from the multiple  wounds.

     The death toll of the British in their  effort to capture  Philadelphia gave Washington the body 
count of  Brits  he  needed to get the French to recognize the newborn United  States and support
them fully on land and sea. That  gave  us  the inevitable victory against a foe who was losing men  
faster than  they  could  ever  replace  them.  

     In the end---Nash paid for this with his life as it was his  fashion to truly lead from the front and in 
that same  battle another general---a  Brit named Agnew, fell prey to another one of those Indian bait 
ambushes and was hit by two balls  simultaneously---later dying of his wounds.

    Nash was a truly great man and only now is his true role  in the war for our independence 
unfolding and becoming  known.

Presently, what I believe I am looking at is a man in one hell  of a jam---not  enough money---always  
begging  and  sometimes  stealing  or  borrowing  what  he  needs  just  to  keep his  Army  going  
from  day  to  day----corrupt businessmen   supplying  the  troops  with  the  blessing  of  
Congress---and  Congress  itself never  appreciating  and  often  not  fully  supporting  Washington.   
Then  there  is  all  the  disloyalty  around  him,  that  extends  even to  the  officers  of  real  rank 
as  well  as  the  rank  and  file.  Almost  impossible  to  keep a  secret .   

     Bottom  line is  that Washington  was  truly  a  desperate  man  who  developed  a genius within 
himself  for  juggling  the  politics  and business  of  feeding  and  supplying  his  army  with the  
task  of  fighting  an  Army  of  well  trained  professional  soldiers  regularly  dogging  his  trail.

    Washington  was a man  with  few  true  friends  that  he  could  trust  and  rely  upon  and  he  
knew  those  men  and  held  close  those men  who  proved  their  worth  and loyalty.   Francis 
Nash  and  his frontier brigade  came  along  at  just  the  right  time  to  somewhat  replace  Dan  
Morgan's  riflemen  and he  made the  best  possible  use  of  them.

     Facing  likely  defeat  from  the  British  in  the  upcoming  Philadelphia  campaign ,  Washington 
had to  look  about for  an  equalizer---something  that  would  help  even  the  odds.  He  was facing  
a losing  hand  with the  enemy.  In a  case like  that  you  can only  win  if  you  do  some  
Underhanded thing---some  dirty  dealing.   Washington  was a  gentleman  but  he knew  that  in 
war  there  are  no  rules---that  the  first  rule  was  that  there  are no  real  rules---that  it  was  a 
cat  and  dog  fight and nothing  else.

     He  bitterly  and  with  difficulty  faced  the  facts  and  played  his  cards  close  to  his  vest.

      Anything that  Nash  and  his men did  at  Brandywine  and  again  at  Germantown  could  not 
have  ben  done  without  his nodding  approval.  No  commander  would  do  such a  thing  over  the 
head  of  their  commander in  chief.   That  is  another  truism  that  helps  to  determine  what  
happeneds  between  Wasington  and  Nash  preceding  the  fight  at  Brandywine.

     They  evidently  decided on a  strategy,  a  method  of  battle  that  was  different  than  ever  

Buckshot  would  be  used  as  well  as  selected  targets  for  the  riflemen.  This  made  for a  
deadly  combination  that  not  even  the  deadly  accurate  Rifle  Corps  under  Morgan  had  ever  

      From  the  available  facts I  can  determine much,  as  much  from  my  knowledge  of  Rev  
War  warfare  and  tactics  on  both  sides  and  also from  the  standpoint of a  re-enactor.   
Combined  I  can often interpret  things  that  some   historians  simply  overlook  from lack  of  
knowledge  or  hands  on  experience  in  the  field.

    It  is  slowly  but  surely  coming together,  even  the  details of the circumstances  of  Nash's  
death  are  helpful  in deterimingi  things  not  given  in  the  details  but  "easily  discerned"  or  
interpreted  from  the  available information.

    For instance,  it  is  noted  that  Nash  was  hit  by  a "spent  ball"  from  an  enemy  cannon.   
This would  suggest  being  hit by  the  solid  shot of  a  light  3  pounder,  a  6  pounder  at the 
largest.   This  says  that  he  was outside  the  musket  range  of  the  enemy  but  on  or  near  the  
front line,  that  being  "fluid"  according  to  the  way  he  directed  the  fight---supporting  his  fast 
moving  infantry  with light  guns  that  covered  the  road of  retreat,  just  as  at  Brandywine.  
Being  the  rear  guard  he  would  have  at  least  2  two  gun  sections  or  a light  batery  available 
for  artillery  support  and  the  enemy  opposing him would be  using  their  handy  light  guns  as 

    However,  the  solid  shot  he  was  hit  with  carries  with  it  a  tell  tale  indicator of  the  
situation.  Both  we  and  the  enemy  used  cannister  or  grape  shot  for  anti-personnel  use  in  
the  field  in  close support  of  their front line  troops.  Great  buckshot  paterns  of  limited  range,  
each  ball  in  the  package  fired  being  about  the  size  of a musket  ball  or  larger.  In  the  casde 
of  Nash it  sounds like  he  and  his  horse  were laid  low  by  a "solid  shot"  and  that  tells  a tale.

   Solid  shot was longer  ranging  and  could  be  fired  with  greater  accuracy  if being  fired  by a  
skilled  and  crafty  artillerist.  Solid  shot  was usually  employed  for  "counter  battery  fire"  and  
was  directed  against  the  enemy  guns  for  the purpose  of  silencing them  as  your  own  troops  
advanced.   Therefore,  it  is  very  likely  that  Nash  was  somewhere  near or  alongside  American  
guns  set  slightly  to  the  rear of  the maneuvering  front  line  troops,  where  he w as  
comparatively  safe  from  musket  fire  and  could  give  directions.  Such  guns  would  also  bew 
placed  along the  retreating  road  and  more  or  less  centrally  placed.  

     Bottom  line is,  Nash  was a  little  to  the  rear--near  his  supporting light  gun  battery  and  
was  hit  by  an enemy  solid  shot that  had  already  ricocheted  or  bounded off  the  ground  
nearby  before  striking  his  horse  and  mauling  his  leg---just  a lucky  shot  for  the enemy who  
were  trying  to  shatter  gun carriages  and  not  dismount  commanders.

 I have learned that even company commanders used rifles--possibly even buckskins or hunting 
shirts and that is confirmed  with artifacts.

     The entire Nash Brigade was haphazardly dressed---mostly hunting shirts and only a few uniforms 
with a mix of  brown and green---few shoes---most likely  "Carolina  hats"  which  is  a plain black  
felt  flat  brimmed  store  stock  hat  turned  up  on  left side  for  shouldering  weapon  and  then  
decorated  with  a  turkey  feather, sprig  of  green  (a  Scottish  thing  from  NC) or raccoon  or  
buck's  tail.

      Rifles  were  often  Southern  version  of  the  Pa  Long  Rifle  made by  regional  craftsmen  or  
else  Pa  made  rifles  passed  down  in  family  by  immigrants  and  prized  as  heirlooms.

     Muskets would  be  the  Brown  Bess  British  musket  captured  from  their  soldiers  and  
arsenals  etc  or  else  American  copies.   French  muskets  recently  smuggled  in  through  the  
blockade  would  also  be  finding  their  way  into  the  hands  of  Nash's  men.

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