William Coffee - My 5th-G-Grandfather – David Arthur
In the first battle of Saratoga, generally referred to as the Battle of Freeman's Farm, the British lost two men for every one American casualty. At the second battle of Saratoga, otherwise known as Bemis Heights, British losses were four to one, thanks to the Virginia riflemen in Dan Morgan's battalion. At the second battle of Saratoga, the rebel's victory was overwhelming. After protracted negotiations, British General Burgoyne officially surrendered on October 17, 1777 and returned to England in disgrace and was never given another command. Britain's loss at Saratoga proved disastrous, in that it signaled to the European powers that the rebels were capable of defeating the English on their own. More than any other single event, the Battle of Saratoga would prove decisive in determining the eventual outcome of the war.
William Coffee was a Virginia skirmisher or sharpshooter in Capt. Samuel Jordan Cabell's 7th Company, 6th Virginia Regiment of Foot, Col. Daniel Morgan, commanding. Probably, William took his limit at the second engagement of Saratoga at Bemis Heights. Skirmishers were the forward line of troops that withdrew as the enemy advanced, shooting from cover and using trees to steady their personal, rifled Pennsylvania muskets. The rifled muskets were extremely accurate up to at least 300 yards, compared to the smooth bore Brown Bess muskets the British used, the skirmishers had a far superior rifle.
The Virginia sharpshooters used a light weight silk patch (wadding) to gain an additional 40 yards and accuracy with their rifled muskets. There were no lugs for attachment of bayonets on the Pennsylvania rifled muskets and that also enhanced their accuracy.
Sergeant, 6th Virginia Regiment
Depiction of Uniform
Not a depiction of
One of the first regiments raised by Virginia in February and March, 1777, within a month an order had been given for the men to appear as uniform as possible in the matter of clothing. It was recommended that the 6th were to provide themselves with hunting shirts, short and fringed for officers; short and plain for men. Sergeants were to have the cuffs of their garments fashioned with white. Hats were to be a small round hat with a narrow brim turned up on the left side. The hunting shirt is believed to have been made from gray cloth trimmed with a red collar; gaiter trousers in a variety of colors, or made from buckskin were worn.