McDonell’s Grenadier Company

The regimental papers are unclear about the exact date of the Grenadier Company’s formation. When John McDonell Scotus joined the regiment at Oswego in 1777, he brought enough recruits to form his own company, but the first rolls taken after the close of that campaign list McDonell’s company as line infantry.

Reading between the lines, it seems that McDonell was given command of a new company designated as Grenadiers sometime in 1778 or 79. Whether heightrestrictions were considered important at the time of formation is unknown, but the ‘size roll’ of 1783 indicates that height was rigorously applied by that year. Heights ranged from 5′ 9 1/2″ to 6′ 1 1/2″. Two men were less than 5′ 6″. These would have been drummers.

Although individual Grenadiers may have been sent on scouting parties or small raids, the first record of the company taking an active role in campaigning occurred in May 1780, when twenty-nine Grenadiers participated in the Johnstown expedition in company with the Light Infantry, Duncan’s and the Colonel’s Companies. In addition, the 29th, 34th and 53rd sent a company each; the Hanau Jaegers, a 20-man platoon and the Fort Hunter and Kahnesatake Mohawks, 210 warriors. While very little fighting occurred, on this occasion 150 recruits were brought back to Canada, which completed the 1st battalion and gave a start to the 2nd.

In the fall of 1780, a 36-man detachment of Grenadiers participated in the Schoharie/Mohawk Valley expedition with the Light Infantry, Major’s and Duncan’s Companies and a 26-man detachment of Angus McDonell’s Company. There was much skirmishing in the Schoharie Valley. Two days later, there was a serious action at Stone Arabia, but, other than Sir John himself, there were no Royal Yorkers involved. However, later in the day, Sir John’s column was overtaken by a large force of rebel Levies and militia and he turned to give fight at Klock’s Field, where all elements of the battalion saw action.

At the same time as the Schoharie/Mohawk Valley raid occurred, John Munro led his and Joseph Anderson’s companies on a raid against Ballstown, making this overall commitment by the regiment the greatest ever made in its campaigning history.

After the end of the 1780 campaign, the 1st battalion was rotated out of a combat role and assigned to garrison and quartermaster roles and active campaigning was assumed by the 2nd battalion. Of course, individual Grenadiers continued to be involved in scouting and small raids. Of interest, no proof has been found that the 2nd battalion fielded a Grenadier company, although it is likely that it did.

As to tactical employment, there is no hard evidence to suggest that the Grenadiers were used as anything other than light infantry-type troops.

GK Watt


For the May 1780 Raid to Johnstown, the companies assigned were:
John McDonell’s Grenadiers -29
Samuel Anderson’s Lights -48
Richard Duncan’s -45
Colonel’s -39 Capt-Lt Thos Gummersall commanding

This highly successful expedition yielded 150 recruits, which brought the 1st Battalion to full strength. The excess gave Sir John an excellent start on building his 2nd Battalion.

For the fall 1780 Schoharie & Mohawk Valleys Raid
Jno McDonell’s Grenadiera -36
Samuel Anderson’s Lights -49
Major Gray’s -39
Angus McDonell’s -26
Richard Duncan’s -42