Tuesday, June 14, 2016

forlorn hope

Straying briefly from the "genealogy adventures" topic, while reading Patrick O'Donnell's Washington's Immortals, about the Maryland Line, I came across a term that I had not seen before - the forlorn hope.

In military action, the forlorn hope was an advance unit [company strength or smaller] given the job of breaking through enemy lines to allow the main force to assault the enemy position. During the Revolution, that basically meant using axes to chop through abatis [spiked logs built to rip apart the enemy] and make a pathway for the main troops.

The expectations were that the forlorn hope would suffer severe casualties, perhaps being totally wiped out - essentially a suicide squad. It was a matter of honor to be selected for the unit and many volunteered.

At Stony Point, NY in 1779, many Marylanders were part of the forlorn hope, paving the way for "Mad Anthony" Wayne to take that British outpost.

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