COIN Glossary

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COIN Glossary

Insurgency in the American South during the Revolution (COIN Definitions)

British Regular and Loyalist Commanders

Major Patrick Ferguson: Patrick Ferguson was a Scottish born officer in the British army. He fought in Europe with the Scots Greys during the Seven Years War. After the war, he developed an early breach loading rifle, though it was never adopted by the British army. Ferguson participated in several major actions during campaign in the north, most notably the battle of Brandywine (11 September 1777) where he was wounded. During the southern campaign, Lord Cornwallis charged him with raising a force of Tory militia in the South Carolina backcountry.  Ferguson did just that, but met his end at the Battle of King’s Moutain (7 October 1780) when his force was surrounded and destroyed by a superior American force.

Banastare Tarleton: From the moment he arrived in America with General Sir William Howe’s army, Tarleton was an important figure in the revolution. Tarleton fought well during the 1776 campaign and even captured American General Charles Lee at Basking Ridge, New Jersey, on the eve of General Washington’s attack on Trenton. Tarleton commanded the British Legion, a collection of British and Tory regulars, during the southern campaign. His troops helped maintain the blockade of Charleston during the siege of the city and later became the bane of American partisan forces, winning several battles against the likes of Francis Marion and Thomas Sumter. Tarleton was not the brutal killer of surrendering rebels often portrayed in contemporary writings, but an able, aggressive cavalry commander. After the war he served in Parliament as a member for Liverpool.

Captain Christian Huck: Tory militia commander notorious in the south for both blasphemy and barbarism. Huck’s Tory militia was defeated and he was killed, at the Battle of Williamson Plantation (12 July1780).

Major James Wemyss: British regular and sometimes commander of Tarleton’s Legion. Wemyss fought at the battle of Brandywine (11 September, 1777) among other northern battles. Thomas Sumter’s militia group captured him at the battle of Fishdam Ford (9 November 1780).

Continental and Militia Commanders

Elijah Clark: An American militia leader who commanded troops at several battles in the Southern Campaign including Musgrove’s Mill (18 August, 1780), King’s Mountain (7 October 1780), and Blackstocks (20 November, 1780). 

General Nathanael Greene: Nicknamed the ‘Fighting Quaker’, Greene was the best general in the Continental Army after Washington. In 1780 he took command of the Southern Department (after the disastrous defeat at the Battle of Camden) and led the British on a wild goose chase through North Carolina. After resting in Virginia he led his army back into North Carolina and met the British army at Guilford Courthouse (15 March 1781). Though the British won the battle, Greene so bloodied them that General Cornwallis was forced to retreat to the coast, leaving Greene free to campaign in the interior. Greene’s greatest contribution to partisan warfare was figuring out how to use militia on an open battlefield. He hit upon the idea of deploying them forward of the main line and asking them to get off only two volleys before retreating. This tactic was first used by Daniel Morgan at the Battle of Cowpens, a major Continental victory, and was also used to devastating effect at Guilford Courthouse.

‘Light Horse’ Harry Lee: Colonel Henry Lee commanded a Legion of cavalry during the southern campaign of the American Revolution, fighting in numerous skirmishes and major battles such as Guilford Courthouse. His memoirs are still in print and provide a wonderful view of the campaign in the south.  His son was Robert E. Lee.

Andrew Pickens: Pickens commanded the militia at Cowpens and lead irregulars against British forces at the battle of Augusta and the unsuccessful siege of Ninety-Six. He commanded South Carolina militia at Eutaw Springs, where he was wounded.

Francis Marion: Rebel militia commander nicknamed ‘Swamp Fox’. Marion commanded militia in numerous successful actions against Loyalist militia and British regulars.

Daniel Morgan: Commander of Continental unit nicknamed ‘Morgan’s Rifles’ and commanded American troops at the Cowpens, where he routed a British force led by Banastare Tarleton.

Thomas Sumter: Nicknamed the ‘Game Cock’, Sumter commander rebel militia with mixed results, winning some victories but also being badly beaten, for example, by Banastare Tarleton at the battle of Fishing Creek. General Greene disliked Sumter and tried to keep him away from the main army.

William Washington: William Washington led a squadron of cavalry at all the major battles of the southern campaign. At the Battle of Cowpens, his squadron clashed with Tarleton’s Legion and drove them from the field.  He was also an important participant in the bloody partisan fighting taking place in the Carolina Back Country. He was a distant cousin of George Washington.

Battles of the Southern Campaign (chronological order)

Major Battles

Siege of Charleston, South Carolina- February-May 1780: General Sir Henry Clinton landed in the vicinity of Charleston with an army of 8,700.  The city was garrisoned by about 4,000 troops commanded by General Benjamin Lincoln. Clinton was able to bottle Lincoln’s troops up in the city and cut both land and sea communications. After a three months siege in which Clinton pushed his lines closer and closer to Charleston’s defenses, Lincoln surrendered on 12 May. The loss was a disaster for the Americans. It gave Clinton a firm base in the Carolinas and opened up the interior to British operations.  

Battle of Camden, South Carolina- 16 August, 1780: A catastrophic clash in which the Continental commander, General Horatio Gates, arrayed a mixed army of Continentals and regulars against Clinton’s elite troops. The militia, deployed in the open, were no match for British and Tory regulars and retreated as soon the enemy charged. Gates fled the field and his army disintegrated. After the battle of Camden there was no Continental force in region. Clinton now had effective control over the Carolina coastal plain and backcountry and made ready to move north to Virginia.

Battle of Cowpens, South Carolina- 17 January, 1781: An engagement between about 1,000 Continental regulars and militia commanded by General Daniel Morgan and a thousand British redcoats and Tory regulars led by Colonel Banastare Tarleton. Morgan’s small army was arrayed in three lines, one of skirmishers, one of militia and one of regulars. The skirmishers and militia each fired a few volleys before retreating behind the Continentals. Thinking he was on the verge of winning the battle, Tarleton charged ahead and tried to turn Morgan’s right. Morgan refused his flank and, as the redcoats pursued, ordered his men to wheel around and fire. Delivered at point blank range, the volley shattered the pursuing British regulars (the 42nd Highlanders) who ran. This time, the British army collapsed. Tarleton managed to escape with his Legion but suffered several hundred dead, wounded, and prisoners.

Battle of King’s Mountain, South Carolina-7 October, 1780: The battle of King’s Mountain marks the reversal of fortunes for the American cause in the South. Major Patrick Ferguson, commanding about 1,000 Tory regulars, marched into the South Carolina backcountry to show the Union Jack and raise more volunteers. When he learned a large body of rebel militia, as many as 1,800, was in the area, he retreated east and took refuge atop King’s Mountain. The rebels attacked and gradually whittled down Ferguson’s force, retreating every time the Tories charged down the slope. Ferguson was killed and his second eventually had to surrender. Several hundred Tory regulars were taken prisoner.

Partisan Battles

Monck’s Corner, South Carolina- 14 April, 1780: Successful night attack by Banastare Tarleton against American militia and Continental cavalry commanded by Colonel Isaac Huger. Tarleton caught the Americans by surprise, captured their extensive wagon train loaded with supplies for the besieged Charleston, and inflicted over 100 casualties.

Lenud’s Ferry, South Carolina-6 May 1780: More a rout then a battle, here a body of Continental infantry commanded by Colonel Abraham Buford was caught by surprise in their camp and overwhelmed by Banastare Tarleton’s Legion. The regiment was scattered and suffered the loss of five officers and 35 men.

Waxhaws, South Carolina-29 May 1780: Battle between Banastare Tarleton’s Legion and Continental cavalry commanded by Colonel Abraham Buford. Tarleton attacked Buford, who deployed his dismounted men in a line and inflicted heavy casualties. Many were killed while trying to surrender, though it should be noted Tarleton had been shot off his horse and was no longer in direct command. The Americans lost 113 dead and 203 captured. The battle became a rally cry for American partisans who used the term ‘Tarleton’s Quarter’ throughout the rest of the war. The battle made Tarleton notorious throughout the south.

Williamson’s Plantation, South Carolina- 12 July 1780: Defeat of Tory militia commanded by the infamous Captain Christian Huck by the American Captain William Bratton, whose command swept into the Tory camp, massacred Huck’s men, and pursued the survivors for miles afterword. A major defeat for Tory forces which affected their moral throughout the colony and a turning point in the southern campaign.

Rocky Mount, South Carolina- 1 August 1780: A Tory fort held by 150 regulars and militia, Rocky Mount was attacked by a body of militia commanded Thomas Sumter. Because Sumter lacked artillery, he was unable to breach the walls of the fort. The Tories held on and compelled Sumter to withdraw. 

Hanging Rock, South Carolina-6 August 1780: Tory Regular camp west of Camden attacked by militia commanded by Major Robert Davie in conjunction with Sumter’s assault on Rocky Mount. Davie first encountered a body of Tory militia at a nearby farmhouse and destroyed it. He then set upon Hanging Rock proper. Sumter rushed up from Rocky Mount but the combined attack was repulsed by the Tories. Sumter’s men, now bolstered by more reinforcements from Rocky Mount, repulsed the counterattack, scattering the remaining Tories to the woods. The Tories counterattacked again, retaking the camp and forming a square inside. Sumter was unable to crack the Tory square and withdrew, taking with him much plunder from the camp.

Fishing Creek North Carolina-18 August 1780: Battle pitting Thomas Sumter’s militia against Banastare Tarleton and his British Legion. Tarleton caught Sumter’s unit unawares and charged their camp, killing 150 and taking 300 prisoners and 44 wagons. A major defeat for Sumter.

Musgrove’s Mill, South Carolina-18 August, 1780:  Pre-cursor to the battle of King’s Mountain in which a party of American militia led by Elijah Clarke and Isaac Shelby attacked the rear of Patrick Ferguson’s column. Ferguson took heavy losses in an ensuing counterattack, 63 dead, 90 wounded, and 70 captured.

Great Savannah (Nelson’s Ferry)- South Carolina, 20 August, 1780: In the aftermath of the disastrous defeat at Camden, Francis Marion led a body of militia against British and Tory regulars at Nelson’s ferry, launching a successful surprise attack which swept the enemy from their camp and liberated about 150 Continental prisoners.

Wahab’s Plantation, North Carolina- 21 September 1780: Tarleton’s legion, commanded by Major George Hangar (Tarleton was ill), was on the march west when a detached group of 60 dragoons was surprised at camp by an American night attack, losing 15-20 men.

Cedar Springs, South Carolina-12 July 1780: Action in which patriot militia commanded by Colonel John Thomas ambushed a group of Tory militia who were making their way to the American camp expecting to catch them unawares. Instead, the approaching Tories took heavy fire from militia concealed in the woods, forcing them to withdraw.

Fishdam Ford, South Carolina -9 November, 1780: Clash between Thomas Sumter’s militia and British and Tory Regulars commanded by Major James Wemyss. The British force attacked Sumter’s camp at night, but was discovered before they could achieve complete surprise. Sumter’s men got off several volleys, inflicting many casualties and wounding Wemyss, before withdrawing.

Blackstocks, South Carolina- 20 November 1780:  After the battle of Fishdam Ford, Tarleton pursued Sumter across South Carolina. Knowing he was pursued by Tarleton, Sumter gathered his troops at Blackstocks Plantation and deployed them for a fight. As Tarleton approached, Sumter ordered his men to attack, first hitting him in the flank, then the front. The attack delayed Tarleton’s advance long enough for Sumter to slip away at night.


First Battle of Grozny

Beginning New Years Eve, 1994, the Russian 58th Army fought a battle against Chechen rebels for control of the breakaway republic’s capital. The battle is notable for the opening round, which saw two units of the Russian army, the 131st Brigade, and the 81st Motor Rifle Regiment lured into the center of the city and utterly annihilated by Chechen hunter-killer teams over the course of two days.

Chechen Hunter/Killer Team

75 man platoons divided into three squads. Each squad was armed with machineguns and RPGs. In the dense urban terrain of Grozny, one squad would pin down a Russian column, while the other two would attack the front and rear, destroying the fore and aft vehicles, pinning the column in place. Chechen hunter/killer teams did not harass, rather, they sought to destroy their targets.

Aslan Mashkadov

Commander of Chechen forces during First Battle of Grozny. He devised the highly effective hunter/killer team, and later, planned the 1996 infiltration which took the city from Russian forces. He became president of Chechnya in 1997 and was assassinated by Russian Special Forces in 2005.

Shamil Basayev

A Chechen militia leader, arguably one of the most successful terrorists in the world, who led the notorious attack on the Beslan school in September of 2004, killing more than 300. He commanded troops during the first and second battles for Grozny. In 2006 he was killed in an explosion, probably the result of Russian treachery.

Ramzan Kadyrov

Strongman currently running Chechnya for Russian government. A native Chechen, he rules via the carrot and stick approach, doling out Russian rebuilding funds to favored persons, and using a personal militia to instill fear in the populace. His methods have been highly effective, reducing the violence there to a fraction of what it once was.


Arab Revolt

The Arab Revolt in Palestine began in 1936 against Jewish settlement in Mandate. It was fomented by Haj Amin Al Hussenni, the Grand mufti of Jerusalem, who would later support Nazi Germany during the Second World War. The revolt began as a general strike against Jewish businesses, but under the direction of al Husseini’s Higher Committee, participants turned to violent insurrection. Volunteer fighters filtered in from Lebanon and Syria.

Orde Wingate

While the eclectic Wingate is generally remembered for his Long Range Penetration Teams in Burma, in fact his first important action was in Palestine during the late 1930’s where he led British counterinsurgency efforts against Arab guerillas. Wingate worked closely with the Jewish Agency and its paramilitary arm, the Haganah, eventually bringing an end to Arab raids on Jewish settlements, British installations, and the all important Haifa oil pipeline.

Special Night Squads

These were Wingate’s paramilitary strike force. Operating from three bases in northern Israel, the SNS kept an eye on the Lebanese and Syrian border, and aggressively sought out Arab raiding parties in countless night actions. In all the SNS totaled 140 officers, NCOs and enlisted men, half British, half Jewish, divided into three mixed detachments. Formed in 1936, by 1938 Arab raiders avoided Wingate’s SNS at all costs, and turned instead to bombing attacks on enemy targets.

Philippine Insurrection (1898-1902)

Emilio Aguinaldo

Self appointed president of the Philippine Republic, he led an insurgency against Spanish rule, and later, against the American occupation. After his field army was annihilated in the Battle of Manila, he retreated into the Luzon hinterland and commenced guerilla war.

General Order 100

A directive first written by the Lincoln Administration, GO 100 imposed martial law and mandated strict penalties for aiding those deemed to be in rebellion against the United States.

Philippine Federal Party

A pro-American political organization that campaigned in the countryside on behalf of the American cause, convincing many insurgents to switch sides.

Philippine Auxiliaries

A crucial element in the victory over Aguinaldo’s insurgents, auxiliary groups like the Guardia de Honor and the Macabebees ruthlessly hunted down rebel groups, in fact, the later captured Aguinaldo in a daring raid. The auxiliaries were integrated into the post insurgency police force, and eventually became the famous Philippine Scouts.

U.S. Volunteer Infantry

These were federally organized regiments recruited for the specific task of fighting the Filipino rebels. Men were carefully selected and put through a rigorous training regime meant to prepare them for the physical hardships of the war. Twenty six regiments were raised in all.

Soviet/Afghan War (1979-1989)

Ahmed Shah Massoud

The greatest mujahedeen commander of the Soviet/Afghan War. Massoud was an American favorite and received millions in weapons and other aid. He ruled the Panjshir Valley, which opened up onto the Kabul plain, as a virtual fiefdom. He fought for the northern alliance after the Taliban took control of the country in 1996, and was assassinated two days before 9/11.

Jalaludin Haqqani

A favorite mujahedeen commander of the Pakistani ISI who gave him considerable aid. He commanded mujahedeen forces at the battle of the Zahwar cave complex, holding the Afghan Army at bay for weeks. He survives today and is a top Taliban commander.

Gulbuddin Hekmatyar

A bitter rival of the pro-western Ahmed Shah Massoud. Hekmatyar led mujahedeen troops at the battle off the Zahwar caves as well as the failed 1989 assault on Jalalabad. He commands a substantial following in Afghanistan today and fights with the Taliban.


A kind of special mobile company organized by Massoud. Members of a moutarik had superior arms and training, were better fed, and received a monetary stipend. Moutariks were Massoud’s strike force usually numbering about 75 men subdivided into groups of three.

Army of the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan

The DRA army had an impressive strength on paper numbering 13 infantry divisions and 22 independent brigades. There were also 40 separate regiments. This force was at least 70% conscripts with thousands being rounded up by government press gangs and forced to serve. What few volunteers there were usually became junior and noncommissioned officers. Despite the press gangs and incentives to volunteer, DRA army units were badly under strength, sometimes by as much as 40%. The army was decimated by desertions which amounted to thousands per year, and the ranks were riddled with mujahedeen spies. Recruits went through a month of basic training followed by three or four months of specialized training. Whatever the fighting ability of individual DRA soldiers, Afghan subunits proved themselves to be unable to maneuver, coordinate with other units, conduct ambushes, or fight at night. Supplementing the army was the KHAD or secret police, numbering 100,000 men, and the Sarandoy, or Ministry of the Interior, which had about 70,000 paramilitary troops.

Mujahedeen Parties


Hezb-e-Islam: Primarily Tajik and Pashtun organization. Headed by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar.

Hezb-e-Islamic-Khali. Splinter group from Hekmatyar’s organization, comprised of Pashtun nationalists. Lead by an imam named Yunis Khalis.

Jamiat-i-Islam: Pashtun, Tajik, Turkmen and Uzbek membership. Led by Burhanuddin Rabbani, who was later president after the communist government fell in 1992.

Etiahd-i-Islami: Formed in 1982 the fundamentalist party’s umbrella and fundraising operation.


Harakat-e-Inqilab-i-Islami: A rural Pashtun anti-communist movement founded in 1973 by an imam Mohammad Nabi.

Jebh-e-Nejat-i-Melli Afghanistan: Pan Afghan rebel organization founded in 1979 by Egyptian educated philosopher Sebqhatullah Mojadeddi.

Mahez-e-Melli Islami: A Pashtun organization founded in 1978 by Pir Sayed Ahmad Gailani, described by the Soviet general staff as a ‘religious public figure’.

North Yemeni Civil War (1962-1970)

General Abdullah Sallal

North Yemeni General who overthrew the monarchy. For seven years he led a weak government entirely dependent upon Egypt. He himself was overthrown in 1967.

Prince Mohamed Hussein

The most dynamic rebel leader of the North Yemeni Civil War, he was responsible for an area east, southeast of Sana. He won many spectacular victories against Egyptian and republican forces. He also waged large scale campaigns, with each battle bringing him closer to a specific goal, say a base or road.

Operation 9000

The brainchild of Egyptian Field Marshal Abdul Hakim Amer, Operation 9000 sought to occupy the whole of North Yemen and demonstrate Egyptian dominance over the country. It failed to cow the various tribes, and heavy fighting was seen in the north and east by November of 1962.

Sana, Taiz, and Hodeidah Triangle

An area in central and eastern North Yemen in which the Egyptians tried to create an impenetrable redoubt to train republican troops and build up the government. The result was a failure.


A mobile strike group organized by Prince Mohamed Hussein. These numbered about 75 men and received better arms, training, and provisions than normal tribal militia. In many cases they engaged Egyptian forces in standup fights and defeated them.

Rhodesian Civil War (1964-1980)

Selous Scouts

An elite unit of the Rhodesian Special Forces. The Selous Scouts were composed of combat veterans trained to live off the land and fight as independent units. The scouts numbered 1,800 men in three troops plus a support troop.

Grey Scouts

A cavalry unit similar to the Selous Scouts trained to travel over rough terrain. The Grey Scouts numbered about 500 men divided into three squadrons (each of four sections) a support squadron, a recon troop, a mortar troop and canine tracking troop.

Rhodesian Light Infantry

A highly mobile unit composed of three commando companies, a heavy weapons company and an HQ company.

Fire Force

A Rhodesian subunit of four men comprising a corporal, two infantrymen, and a machine gunner.

Security Force Auxiliaries

A special unit of Rhodesian security forces composed of former rebels.

Lt. General Peter Walls

Commander of Rhodesian armed forces during the civil war.

Ian Smith

Prime Minister of Rhodesia from 1964 to 1979.

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