A forlorn hope was a group of soldiers who comprised the first wave of attack upon a fixed position. Their primary purpose was to establish a foothold in enemy defences so that reinforcements could be sent in. Since these men were the first wave in an assault, their survivability rate was very low.
Members of the forlorn hope were chosen for their ferocity,
bravery or criminality. Sometimes officers chose the undesirable individuals in
their regiment to be part of the forlorn hope since it was unlikely that these
men would survive. However, sometimes men volunteered to be part of the forlorn
hope because those lucky enough to survive were often handsomely rewarded.
Junior officers typically led the forlorn hope, and if these officers survived they
would also be rewarded, often with a promotion.
|The forlorn hope enters the bastion at Fort Erie|
|A massive explosion ends the assault on the bastion|
On August 15th, 1814, the British launched an assault on the American held defences of Fort Erie. The British four-pronged assault culminated in massive casualties for the British. One of these assaults, led by Lieutenant Colonel William Drummond upon one of Fort Erie’s bastions, proved to be particularly devastating for the attackers. All members of the forlorn hope died during this assault. Most of the attackers never even made it into the bastion.
For more information on the Siege of Fort Erie, visit their website.