The first grenades were invented sometime in the 15th century and were simple hollowed iron balls packed full of black powder, occasionally nails or other fragments, and lit with a slow match fuse. These grenades were pretty heavy and were assigned to the biggest and strongest soldiers to throw. These soldiers were called Grenadiers. The specialized equipment and dangerous nature of their work gradually transformed the grenadier into an elite member of Europe’s armies.
By the time of the French and Indian war grenades had gone out of style, but Grenadiers had not. They were still chosen for their height and brawn. In British Regiment the first company or ‘A’ Company was the Grenadier Company. Since the Massachusetts regiments were built on the British model their first company was often made up of grenadiers as well.
As a dedicated group of battle reenacting living historians we pride ourselves in our research and documentation. We have worked extensively for decades to find primary as well as secondary sources of information on the different companies of Colony Bagley’s Regiment that we portray. We had speculated that Massachusetts like most of the colonies had grenadier companies in their regiments. Several years ago we began to find documentation that proved their existence. We have used this documentation along with warrants and existing artifacts and artist’s renditions of British and Colonial Grenadiers to come up with what we feel is a good representation of grenadiers in the Bay Colony during the French and Indian War.
From our research we have take the company name of Captain Edward Blake’s Grenadiers. Edward Blake commanded a company of men under Colonel Bagley acting as his grenadier company and, following British labeling systems of the period, this would have been Company A of the regiment.
Below is our list of sources that support our portrayal of Captain Edward Blake’s Company of Grenadiers
SPECIFIC TO MASSACHUSETTS GRENADIERS
Major John Hawks Orderly Book, 1759-1760, p. 12. Thursday: June 14, 1759:
“Simon Firch & Rhode Island Regt. First and 2nd Battalions of the Massachusetts Grenadiers & Light Infantry is supposed one Corps.”
New York Mercury/Gazette
September 1759 microfiche. Letter from Larry Aeillo from James Downey July 17, 2000. Taken from James Downey notes.
“Having just returned to Albany a Grenadier sergeant of Col. Bagley’s Regiment of Massachusetts Bay named Jonathan Wittcomb, who was taken by savages at H??? Mile Creak. Sergeant Wittcomb was taken by the savages to Quebec him being thought an officer due to his silver lace and fine sword. His misfortune to be found to be a soldier and not an officer was short lived, as him being exchanged at Fort Edward.” Farther down in same article another Massachusetts Bay soldier was listed as a deserter and a reference to his uniform stated that his uniform was, “Blue faced red – coat with blue breeches and red waistcoat.” Then there is a sentence that said that, “the uniform was not unlike that of the brave grenadier Sgt. who was sailing back to his command in Boston.”
Bunker powder horn in exhibit, Concord Museum: from Larry Aeillo drawing to B. Kemmer 4/8/06. Lt. Philip Bunker carried this horn during the F&I war, Bunker Hill in the 1st Charlestown co. of Col Gardner’s 1st Middlesex Regt. of Militia who the last to leave the field.
“Philip Bunker his Horn Cptn. Blake’s company of Coln. Bagleys Regiment”
[Draw under this inscription is an officer and a column of 6 grenadiers]
James Downy phone call 4/22/06. NY Officer diary or journal.
NY officer talks about movement of supplies from Half Way Brook to Ft. Gage, 1759. Makes reference to Mass Grens or Bay Colony Grens or Bay Grens about how they are miffed at marching behind the ox carts.
Bagley Letter Oct. 27, 1759, Newspaper Abstracts, vol. 4, Heritage Books, Inc.
“Capt. Blake, who left Quebec 10 days after the above vessels …”
Gibson Clough Diary, of Bagley’s Regt., Sept. 24, 1759, p. 104.
“A prize schooner was sent here (Louisbourg) taken by Capt. Blake of Boston who was commander of a company here, he was on board a privateer sloop belonging to this place, he commanded a party on board said sloop of 30 men.”
Oct. 22, 1759, p. 104. “150 of Bagley’s left for Boston.”
The Journal of Captain John Knox, Vol. 1, p. 459, May 5, 1759.
“The grenadiers and light infantry of all the battalions will be formed in corps apart during the campaign. The grenadiers to take their swords and caps into the field.”
The Journal of Captain John Knox, Vol. 1, p. 466, May 31, 1759.
“The grenadiers and light infantry were formed into two battalions a-part, and encamped separately.”
The Journal of Captain John Knox, Vol. 1, p. 432, July 19, 1759.
“Command at Orleans have been reinforces by some of the Provincials, who lately arrived from New England.”
The Boston and Country Gazette Journal, Monday April 17, 1758, p. 3, American Antiquarian Society, 1768, #74, Microprint, “ Just published and sold by Green and Russell” THE EXERCISE” For the militia of the Province of the Massachusetts-Bay, “Every Colonel or Commander of a Company in the Foot are to use and train their men in said Exercise.”
Article 1 states, “Of Forming the Battalion, The Companies must take their Post from Right to Left according to their Seniority, except the Grenadier Company which is always upon the Right.” Showing Grenadiers in the forming of Battalions of Massachusetts Foot Regiments.