Monday, October 27, 2014

James Lodge, 52nd and 26th Regiments, finally goes home

Perhaps James Lodge wanted to get away from his home town. The shoemaker from Almondsbury, Yorkshire enlisted in the 52nd Regiment of Foot in 1762, when he was 22 years old - a fairly typical enlistment age for a man who had completed a trade apprenticeship and perhaps worked long enough to decide he needed a career change. After a few years in Great Britain, the 52nd Regiment was sent to North American in 1765, arriving in Quebec in August.

We don't know whether Lodge had any remarkable experiences in Quebec, although the foreign land with a cold climate must have been novel enough for at least the first year or so. After almost ten years in Canada the 52nd was due to be sent home in 1774, and perhaps Lodge was looking forward to returning to his native country. But it was not to be - trouble brewing in Boston caused a change of plans. The regiment sailed to the city on the Massachusetts coast, arriving late in the year. Things got tense quickly. During the early months of 1775, the 52nd and other regiments made occasional marches in to the country, training exercises designed to maintain the fitness of the soldiers which nonetheless aroused great suspicion among local inhabitants.

As a member of a battalion company, Lodge did not participate in the expedition to Concord on 19 April that resulted in open hostilities between colonists and the British military. In June, however, he marched into battle with his regiment at Bunker Hill. The 52nd sustained many casualties that day, including James Lodge who received a wound in his left knee. It was not, however, disabling; instead of being discharged and returned to England as an invalid, he recovered and was campaigning again when his regiment was part of the fast-paced campaigns in New York and New Jersey.

We don't know when it occurred, but misfortune again befell Lodge. He was taken prisoner by the enemy. By April 1777 he was interned in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, a location far from the front lines. Later that year British forces took Philadelphia, and British prisoners were moved to Virginia to discourage escape and decrease the likelihood of a British attempt to liberate them.

Toward the end of 1778, he was able to return to New York and rejoin his army; probably he was exchanged, but he may have made his way by escaping. Regardless, he arrived too late to join his regiment - the 52nd had been sent back to Great Britain in September. The regiment's able-bodied men had been transferred into regiments bound for the West Indies, and the remainder went home be discharged or recruit new soldiers. Rather than being sent home to join his regiment, Lodge joined another corps, the 26th Regiment of Foot. He may have known men in this regiment from the years before the war when they served Canada.

He spent a year in the 26th before they, too, were sent back to Great Britain. He did not go with them, though; he took his discharge in America and then chose to remain in the army. He joined the Royal Garrison Battalion, a regiment composed of soldiers who were no longer fit for campaigning but who were capable of manning fortifications and other posts. This corps was formed in New York but soon went to another place that needed garrison troops: Bermuda.

Lodge spent the remainder of the war in Bermuda with the Royal Garrison Battalion. At the close of hostilities the battalion was disbanded, and James Lodge finally took the opportunity to go home. For reasons unknown, he did not appear before the Pension Board in Chelsea until 1789. Here he was granted a pension on account of his long service, the wounds he'd received, and because he was "worn out" - not surprising, given the many years of hardship he'd endured as a soldier.

A new book, coming in March 2015!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

John Kerr, 82nd Regiment, speaks out

The 82nd Regiment of Foot was one of several authorized soon after France declared war on Great Britain in 1778. The British army needed to expand rapidly; it accomplished this by raising new regiments, but those regiments were not composed entirely of new men. Their officers included experienced men brought onto active service from half-pay (a sort of retirement that allowed officers to return to service if needed), officers in existing regiments aspiring to higher ranks, and newly-commissioned young officers. Similarly, the soldiery consisted of a mix of men with prior experience who reenlisted, and new recruits.

We don't know which of these categories included John Kerr. We do know that when the regiment was ready for service it sailed for Halifax, Nova Scotia early in 1779 with Kerr in its ranks. From Halifax, part of the regiment went to the British post at Penobscott, Maine, and the remainder sailed for New York in April. Kerr did not make it to either place. The transport he was on board, the Mermaid, ran aground and sank off of Egg Harbor, New Jersey. Many perished. Those who made it to shore were taken prisoner, John Kerr among them. They were sent to Philadelphia jail.

Whether he was a new soldier or not, Kerr had spirit. He escaped, as many British soldiers did, and made his way to his regiment in New York. By September 1780 he was in the ranks again with his comrades.

But there came a day when he had too much to drink, and then his company was ordered to form for a march from one garrison location to another. Kerr formed up with the rest of his fellows, and listened as a young officer gave them orders. They were told not to break ranks during the march without permission - nothing unusual about that. But a soldier protested that he must go out of ranks for water on the march. The officer told the soldier that he would be punished for speaking out, but the soldier insisted that he could not live without water. The exasperated officer used a switch to strike the soldier a few times.

The company was then ordered to "pile" their arms, that is, to interlock the ramrods of their muskets so that the weapons stood in teepee-like fashion. Having done so, the soldier approached the officer again and informed him that being beaten with a switch was not the way that a soldier should be punished - which was correct, according to the articles of war. Nonetheless, the young officer struck the soldier several times more, this time breaking the switch.

After this, John Kerr and three other soldiers approached the officer; Kerr asserted that soldiers should not be beaten in such a manner, and that the officer might as well confine them all. The officer went to a superior, who ordered that the soldiers immediately be tried by a court martial.

We have no details on that regimental trial, but after it was over John Kerr was led away under guard. As he passed by the young officer, he said that if he was punished on the officer's account, he would shoot him before long. He also mentioned that the officer ought to be run through with a bayonet as a bougre. The young officer reported this remark to his superior, who ordered Kerr pinioned.

John Kerr was charged with mutiny and tried by a general court martial. The officer stated his case for the prosecution, relating the events and the remarks Kerr had made. Two serjeants corroborated the information, down to the expressions Kerr had used.

But they also pointed out that Kerr was "worse for liquor" when he was acting out, and that he had always behaved as a good and obedient soldier before this. The officer also mentioned that Kerr had escaped from imprisonment, apparently so that the court would be sympathetic.

The court was not sympathetic. They found John Kerr guilty and sentenced him to receive 800 lashes. Considering the gravity of the charges, this was not a particularly harsh punishment; mutiny could result in a death sentence.

We don't know the extent to which the punishment was carried out. It was not unusual for part or all of a sentence like this to be commuted, and given the generally favorable impression of Kerr he may well have been pardoned.

As a soldier who'd enlisted after the war began, John Kerr would be allowed to take his discharge after hostilities ended. He'd have the choice of remaining in America, taking a land grant in Nova Scotia, or returning to Great Britain. But it didn't matter. Shortly before he could make that choice, he died, on 18 November 1783, just days before the last British troops left the newly-established United States.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Nathaniel Lock, 64th Regiment, runs off with a hautboy

The 64th Regiment arrived in Boston in January of 1769 when open warfare with the colonists was still years away. In addition to the usual complement of officers and soldiers, the regiment had a band of music. Not to be confused with the regiment's drummers and fifers, the band consisted of several (probably about ten) instruments of various types and provided entertainment at concerts and social functions. Members of the band were often carried on the muster rolls as soldiers, but not all of them did duty in the ranks. Almost immediately after disembarking in Boston, a member of the regiment's band went missing. A newspaper ad was placed for the errant performer:

Whereas Nathaniel Lock, musician in the 64th regiment has absconded from the regiment, and taken with him a hautboy, watch, and other articles which do not belong to him. This is to caution all people from concealing him, as they will be prosecuted for harboring a thief.
Any person who will bring said Lock to the regiment, now quartered in Boston, shall have five guineas reward. He is a middle sized person, about five feet seven inches high, swarthy complexion, dark hair, round shouldered, plays on the bassoon, hautboy and flute. He had better surrender himself. He has with him a woman low in stature, marked with the small-pox, and has the Irish brogue.
[Boston Chronicle, 9 February 1769]

Lock’s instrument, the hautboy, was popular in military bands. This instrument is unfamiliar to most modern readers, but it’s basic form can be discerned by using the French spelling of the name, hautbois, and the French pronuciation, ho-BWA. This is the derivation of the English word oboe.

Unlike many wayward soldiers, Lock soon returned to the regiment albeit in unknown circumstances. A month after the ad for him was placed, another notice appeared in the same paper:

The Reward of Five Guineas for apprehending Nathaniel Lock, a Deserter from the 64th Regiment is hereby withdrawn.
[Boston Chronicle, 13 March 1769]

Whatever the reason for his absence, Lock stayed put after this. He appears on the regiment's muster rolls consistently from 1773 onward. He probably played in the concert that was advertised a year before war broke out:

Messi'rs. Morgan and Stieglitz, Request Permission to inform the Ladies and Gentlemen of Boston, that, having received assurance of the Patronage and Assistance of the Musical Gentlemen, they purpose having at Concert Hall, on Wednesday the 20th of April, a GRAND CONCERT of Vocal and Instrumental MUSIC assisted by the Band of the 64th Regiment.

ACT 1st.

Overture   Stamitz 1st.
Concert   German Flute,
Song    'My Dear Mistress,' &c
Harpsic. Concerto by Mr. Selby
Simphony   Artaxerexes,

ACT 2d.

Overture   Stamitz 4th.
Hunting Song.
Solo, German Flute.
Song, Oh! My Delia, &c.
Solo Violin.

   To conclude with a grand Military Simphony accompanied by Kettle Drums, &c. compos'd by Mr. Morgan.
   TICKETS at Half a Dollar each, to be had at the British Coffee House, at Miss Cumming's in Cornhill, at Messi'rs Cox and Berry in King Street, and of Messi'rs Stieglitz and Morgan.
   N.B.   Copies of the Songs to be delivered out (gratis) with the Tickets. 
  To begin at 7 o' Clock precisely.
[Boston Gazette, 11 April 1774]

The 64th Regiment remained in America for the entirety of the American Revolution, one of only a few that were in the colonies before the war and did not depart until after hostilities ended. Nathaniel Lock was carried on the rolls the whole time, initially as a drummer or a private soldier, and from 1778 as a serjeant. Why he was put in a post of such responsibility is debatable: probably he was the leader of the band by this time and was maintained as a serjeant in order to pay him at an appropriate rate; but it is possible that he did the normal duties of a non-commissioned officer.
At the end of the war Lock returned to Great Britain and was discharged. On a list prepared in August 1783 of men, women and children of the regiment who would sail home, Lock is listed as having one child but no woman with him. Whether the woman mentioned in the 1769 ad was his wife or not, she clearly didn't stay with the army as long as he did.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Richard Gootch, 9th Regiment, enlists three times

Richard Gootch does not appear on the muster rolls of the regiment into which he enlisted, the 9th Regiment of Foot. This would make the English teenager difficult to find were it not for some good fortune and for his bold (but not at all unusual) career path.

The 9th Regiment arrived in North America in May 1776, spearheading the force that relieved Quebec city of an American siege. They then participated in the campaign that rapidly pushed American forces all the way back to Lake Champlain, retaking every post that had been lost the previous year. The onset of winter, however, forced the 9th and other regiments into quarters before the vital Fort Ticonderoga could be seized. It was around the same time that the campaign was winding down that a large number of fresh troops arrived at Quebec to augment the British regiments, increasing their overall size as well as making up for losses. Richard Gootch (or Gooch, Goatch, Gutch) was probably among these troops, a mix of recruits and drafts (transfers from other regiments).

Winter prevented the new soldiers from moving south to join their regiments. They had the relative luxury of wintering in Quebec while their comrades on campaign were spread out among various posts along the Richelieu River. In February the 9th Regiments ten companies prepared the last set of muster rolls that they would create in America, which do not include the reinforcements waiting at Quebec.

The summer of 1777 meant a new campaign, and the 9th Regiment moved with a strong army under General John Burgoyne on the push to Albany that, it was hoped, would end the war. Gootch joined the regiment on this campaign, and instead of reaching Albany became a prisoner of war at Saratoga. The captives were marched to barracks outside of Boston where they spent the next year, then to Rutland farther inland, and finally to camps in Virginia and Pennsylvania. Many hundreds of the prisoners absconded during this long captivity, among them Richard Gootch. It is not known when and where he eluded his captors, but evidence suggests that it was in New England, for it is there that he shows up again.

Some time in 1780 or early 1781, Gootch enlisted in the Rhode Island regiment of the Continental Line. We've found no information about how he spent his time between Saratoga and his enlistment. He decided to become a soldier again, probably for the same reason that many British escapees enlisted into American service. In early 1781 he and other recruits were sent to join their regiment at posts along the Hudson River above New York City. On 4 April he deserted and made his way into British lines. There he gave a brief deposition to British intelligence officers:

Richard Goatch, an Englishman of the 9th British Regiment late of one of the Rhode Island rebel Regiments deserted from Bedford the night before last. There is a detachment there of a Captain & thirty four privates. The Regiment he belonged to, is now near West point & consists of about four hundred men. He has been in prison upwards of a year & oblig’d to inlist to get out. There are not above five hundred men at West point the greatest part of the troops lately stationed there were sent to Virginia. About 150 continentals on the lines in the neighbourhood of Byram &c.

In the mean time, officers of the Rhode Island regiment were looking for him. Assuming he would return to the area where he enlisted, they took out an advertisement in the Providence Gazette that first ran on 18 May 1781; it included Gootch among a large number of Rhode Island deserters and described him thus:

Richard Gooch, (inlisted for South Kingstown) born in England, 19 Years of Age, 5 Feet 8 1/2 Inches high, of a fresh Complexion, has dark Hair, and light Eyes.

Although he had deserted from captivity (and perhaps ended up in jail somehow, but returning escapees sometimes concocted stories that put them in a better light when they returned to British service), and deserted from American service, Gootch was not done being a soldier. He enlisted in a new Loyalist regiment called the American Legion commanded by the infamous Benedict Arnold, who had himself deserted from American service and was now a Brigadier General for the British.

Gootch probably joined the Legion too late to be involved in its activities in Virginia in 1781, but most likely was on the expedition to Groton and New London that September. This action saw the dramatic storming of Fort Griswold, but the American Legion was not involved in that fighting. Gootch spent the rest of the war with his regiment at posts around New York City, but it is not known what became of him when his regiment was disbanded in late 1783.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

John Budge, 7th Regiment of Foot, regrets his decision

Few British soldiers left any record of why they chose to join the army. Almost all were volunteers, for it was not legal to force men into the army except for a brief period during the American War and even then only under certain conditions. In addition, the law required that every enlistee testify before a magistrate that he'd joined the army volutarily, within four days of enlisting. While there were certainly instances of this system being circumvented, they were few; just how few is evidenced by the fact that almost no men on trial for desertion brought their legal enlistment into question. If corrupt recruiting practices were widespread, we'd expect to see men charged with desertion using this as a defense in their trials - if their enlistment contract wasn't legal, then they couldn't be charged with desertion - but such a defense was extremely rare.

This doesn't mean that recruits were always happy about their decision to enlist. A man named John Budge joined the 7th Regiment of Foot in late 1777 or early January 1778, and soon found himself bound to join his regiment in America. Shortly before embarking with other recruits, the Nottingham native and batchelor prepared a will directing that a yearly income he'd been left by an uncle be managed by his brother until his return, or divided among various extended family members if didn't return. His state of mind is reflected in the open phrase of his will, which reads, "As it is my misfortune to enlist in the army and going abroad directly..." He doesn't say why he enlisted, but clearly he regretted it.

John Budge joined the 7th Regiment, known as the Royal Fusiliers, in New York. The regiment had been captured piecemeal early in the war as it manned posts between Lake Chaplain and Quebec that quickly fell to an American onslaught. The captives were released in late 1776, though, and the regiment had been returned to fighting trim by the addition of drafts and recruits. Budge probably became acclimated to warfare during the regiment's service in the New York City area during the second half of 1778 and throughout 1779 which included raids on the Connecticut coast.

The beginning of 1780 saw a shift in British strategy, and the 7th Regiment participated in the successful siege of Charleston, South Carolina. The 7th Regiment went on to fight at the disastrous battle of Cowpens in 1781, and also had elements at Cornwallis's surrender at Yorktown later that year. The regiment had a tough war.

But for John Budge the fights at Cowpens and Yorktown didn't matter. He'd been wise to make out a will, for he died in Charleston on 24 July 1780; whether from wounds or illness is not known.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Robert Murphy, 3rd Regiment, finds Grassy Valley

The Arrival of Robert Murphy (1757-1850) in America
Guest Post by Charles Martin Ward, Jr.

There are two accounts relating how Robert Murphy (1757-1850) arrived in America:  

Version #1:  
“…Robert Murphy…came over with the British Army and served in the War of the Revolution under Gen. Tarleton in S.C.  He was captured in the Battle of the Cowpens by Gen. Daniel Morgan, 1781, and afterwards served in the Patriot Army.” 
(A Genealogy and Biography of the Family of Luttrell 1066-1893, by Elston Luttrell, 1893).

Version #2:  
“Robert Murphy was born in Londonderry County, Ireland in 1757.  The story is told that he and his sister just younger than he (when ten to twenty years old) were shanghaied by sailors and brought to America in the stow of a ship.  Nothing was ever heard of the sister, but Robert Murphy’s name next appears in the records of the war of the Revolution along with more than two hundred Murphys with the rank of private in a book by Lt. Charles Stockley listing accounts of cash paid to non-commissioned officers and privates of the Virginia Continental line of defenses for February, March and April 1783.  Robert Murphy was then twenty-six years old.” 
(The Robert Murphy Family, a typescript distributed among descendants, by Robert Marshall Murphy, Sr., b. 1886; d. 1969, a great-grandson of Robert Murphy).    

The Luttrell account is the earliest published account of Robert Murphy’s arrival in America.  The information contained in the Luttrell account was contributed by James Madison Murphy (b. 16 Oct 1814 in Knox Co., TN; d. 7 Jul 1902 in Knox Co., TN), son of John Murphy (b. 6 Jul 1786; d. 3 Aug 1855) and Martha Gilliam and grandson of Robert Murphy (b. 1757; d. 13 May 1850).  He knew his grandfather and was 35 years old at the time of his grandfather’s death.  James Madison Murphy married Mary K. Luttrell and was a leading figure in a joint Murphy and Luttrell family organization in which his sons were also involved.  As the earliest account of the arrival of Robert Murphy in America, originating with a grandson of Robert Murphy, it must be assessed as the most likely to be accurate.  

The Robert Marshall Murphy account is problematic.  It is unlikely sailors would have “shanghaied” a female between ten and twenty years old and brought her aboard a ship to America.  It doesn’t provide any information relating how Robert Murphy would have ended up serving in the American Army once the ship on which he sailed arrived in American waters, although his son, Robert M. Murphy, Jr., President of the Tennessee Society Sons of the Revolution (1978 term), indicated Robert Murphy “jumped ship.” It also has not been verified that Robert Murphy is included in the Stockley account of payments. The Robert Marshall Murphy account, recorded over fifty years after the Luttrell account by someone born 36 years after the death of Robert Murphy, doesn’t ring true.  One may surmise the omission of Robert Murphy’s service in the British Army and subsequent capture possibly may stem from misguided patriotic reasons.  

Assessing the Luttrell account, it is necessary to examine surviving British service records, records of captured British soldiers, etc., in order to verify Robert Murphy’s service in the British Army.  This was accomplished through the research of Don N. Hagist, editor of Journal of the American Revolution and the author of several books on the American Revolution.  He found Robert Murphy on the muster rolls of the 3rd Regiment of Foot (Muster rolls, 3rd Regiment of Foot, WO 12/2105 and WO 12/2106, British National Archives).  He enlisted on 9 Aug 1777 in Ireland while the regiment was stationed there, and an annotation on the roll indicates that he was indeed Irish.  The 3rd Regiment of Foot was sent to America near the close of the Revolutionary War, arriving in Charleston, South Carolina in March, 1781.  Robert Murphy was appointed a corporal before January, 1783 and became a prisoner of war before January, 1783, never returning to the British Army.

When, and under what circumstances, Murphy became a prisoner of war is not known; a gap in the muster rolls from the time the regiment embarked for America until 1783 make it impossible to know (from this source) when he was promoted and when he was captured. In 1781 the 3rd Regiment participated in the relief of Ninety-Six and later at the battle of Eutaw Springs; odds are that Murphy was captured at one of those two places. Murphy is listed as a prisoner of war on rolls prepared during the first half of 1783; he is not on the rolls covering August thru December 1783, indicating that he never returned from captivity. Many regiments explicitly wrote these men off as deserters on their muster rolls, but the rolls of the 3rd Regiment simply no long include several of the men who'd been prisoners of war.

With the exception of the specific battle at which he was captured, the muster roll information correlates with the Luttrell account of Murphy's arrival in America as a British soldier and his subsequent capture. It is known that he was born in Londonderry, Ireland in 1757 and had learned the trade of a weaver; both of these facts dovetail nicely with an army enlistment in 1777. 

Following his capture, Robert Murphy enlisted in the American Army.  He is listed as a private in the Virginia Militia. When hostilities ended, he married Martha McNeill, 10 Oct 1783, in Botetourt County, Virginia (Botetourt County Marriages 1770-1853 by Vogt & Kethley, Volume 1, p. 218). She was born in 1768 the daughter of Hugh and Martha McNeill and died 15 Jun 1847 in Knox Co., TN. She is identified as Martha Murphy in the will of her father, Hugh McNeill, a Scots-Irishman who had served as a constable in Botetourt County. 

Robert Murphy, his wife, and children, settled in Knox Co., TN in the mid-1790s.  Robert Murphy bought his first land in Knox County, TN on 24 May 1797, 115 acres on White’s Creek (Knox Co., TN Deed Bk B, pp. 191-2).  The following July he bought 50 more acres (Knox Co., TN Deed Bk B, pp. 204-5) and acquired 100 acres on Beaverdam Creek in 1810. He served during the War of 1812 as a sergeant under Col. Edwin Booth and Capt. Porter in the Drafted Militia (Tennesseans in the War of 1812, Sistler, p. 375).

Robert Murphy died 13 May 1850 "of old age." He is buried at the Murphy Family Cemetery in Knox Co., TN, off of Washington Pike, about seven miles from Knoxville, TN. The family farm has remained in the family and is now owned by a descendant. He left a will in which he identified his many children. 

The information that follows consists of individual sentences and paragraphs pertaining directly to Robert Murphy (1757-1850) that have been extracted from the aforementioned typescript by Robert Marshall Murphy (1886-1969), The Robert Murphy Family (pp. 1, 4-5, 8-10, 14, 26-27), in order to compose a coherent, abbreviated narrative.

“Robert Murphy and his family drove into Grassy Valley, in Knox County, Tennessee in a covered wagon.  The family had come all the way from Virginia…. Robert Murphy… was apprenticed to a weaver and learned the weaving trade [before joining the British Army, and]… brought with them into the valley their loom, spinning wheel, cords, and hackle.  [He] proceeded to search out and agree upon a tract extending across Grassy Valley…… with a number of free flowing springs, a matter of prime importance in that early day in choosing a home site.  Once located in Grassy Valley, the first big job facing Robert Murphy and his four young Virginia-born sons was making a clearing in the densely wooded area immediately surrounding the spring and the spot which had been decided upon for the location of their log cabin.  On a level prominence near and above one of the springs, they built the first log residence using logs hewn out of the surrounding forest.  This was the first home of the Robert Murphy family in East Tennessee.  The house served for about one hundred years with an occasional addition required to add to the comfort of the family which had increased to a total of eleven children.” 

“A few pages of [Robert Murphy’s] farm account book, with records beginning in 1801, reveal that corn was the product marketable in the largest volume.  It was surprising to find such a variety of produce sold:  corn, potatoes, hay, flax seed, flour, butter, honey, and chickens, in addition to yards and yards of cloth (woolen, cotton and linen) from their looms.  It is interesting to note that they used the English monetary unit of pounds, shillings, and pence in the account book.”

“Three of the five older children born in Virginia probably had started school before they moved to Tennessee, where they found that schools were practically non-existent.  Fortunately, their nearest neighbor, Samuel Crawford, had built a log school-house on his farm, having in mind primarily the importance of schooling for his own children; but evidently he permitted other children to attend according to entries in the Murphy account book kept by Robert Murphy.  One entry dated 1806 was for thirty-five dollars.  Another in 1816 listed 9 pounds for two years tuition for the Murphy children.”
  
“Family records do not reveal the interest and affiliation of the Robert Murphy family with a specific church group in the early years following his arrival in Grassy Valley, but future happenings make it a fair assumption that they attended camp meetings held in the region.  Robert and Martha Murphy may have been Methodists in Virginia.  In 1847 when Robert Murphy, along with his family, came home from Camp meeting, he must have been aroused to the need for a church nearer home.  It was at that time that he got together with his neighbors and offered to give a square plot off the north corner of his farm for a building site, where it joined the Crawford and Luttrell farms.  The site was a level elevation admirably suited for a church, and they set right to work building a small Methodist Church which they named Murphy’s Chapel, in Robert Murphy’s honor.  The gift was conditioned only by the clause, “so long as it shall be used for this purpose,” and the application was signed by the following trustees:  John Murphy, Barnes Crawford, Reuben White, Pleasant M. Monday, James M. Murphy, William Murphy, Samuel Briggs, William Brown, and Major W. Wilkerson.”  [Note that John and William Murphy were Robert Murphy’s sons and James M. Murphy was his grandson.]

“When Martha Murphy died in 1847…… it became necessary to pick out the site for the Murphy family graveyard and she became the first occupant.  Three years later, in 1850, Robert Murphy died at the age of 93 and was buried alongside her.  The location is on a level elevation across White’s Creek from the Hugh Murphy homestead.”

John Luttrell Murphy, in a letter to his father, James M. Murphy, dated 16 Oct 1895, wrote the following about Robert Murphy (1757-1850), his great-grandfather (The letter is transcribed in The Robert Murphy Family, pp. 16-21.): 

“…bluff, brave old Robert Murphy……. laid the foundation of the Tennessee branch of the strong and powerful Murphy clan from good ole Londonderry in the north of Ireland.”  

“Not being able to make his own conditions nor to surround himself with circumstances to his liking, he was wise and bold enough to appropriate and assimilate those he found round and about him, and to forcibly wring by rude efforts from rough elements, a support and competency for his worthy self and faithful wife, and a large and hearty family of some dozen children besides.” 

“The Daddy of all the Tennessee Murphys was a run of strong will and stern judgment, and commanded the confidence and enforced the respect of all he met.  Why, with his “blackthorn” or black Jacks, two foot club, he could knock out a whole “muster,” and with a single broad oath of the “Green Isle” put an entire Company of rangers to flight.  Everybody had a piece of land that he wanted at once to measure and hole to quickly find when Robert Murphy got his “Irish up.”  Honest to a fault, and generous to a defect, yet no man could rob him nor abuse him, and while his physical manhood held out, no man dare even undertake it.  And of the same solid sterling stuff were made his hale and hearty sons and daughters; who were veritable chips off the old block, tempered with the same hardness, rang with the same stroke, broken with the same blow and softened with the same influence.” 

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Richard Cotton, 38th Regiment, is drafted twice

Some books and articles suggest that British soldiers were fiercely loyal to their regiments. If this was true during the 1770s and 1780s, there's no direct evidence of it. None of the handful of narratives by British soldiers make any particular mention of pride in their regiment, and many soldiers changed regiments for one reason or another at least once during their careers. Even officers changed regiments for the sake of career advancement, giving promotion or security priority over loyality to a specific corps.

One way that soldiers changed regiments was by being drafted. Unlike the modern parlance that uses the word to refer to civilians obliged to join the military, during the era of the American Revolution the British army used the term to refer to men drawn from one regiment to serve in another. There are a few highly-publicised cases where soldiers objected to this and even mutinied because of it, but the objection was generally to serving in a different location than promised, rather than in a different regiment. writers who focus on these incidents fail to consider the thousands of soldiers who were drafted, some more than once, during their careers. Drafting orders often directed that volunteers be taken first before ordering men into other regiments. The usual cause for a draft was to keep regiments on overseas deployments up to strength. In some cases men were drafted from regiments in Great Britain to serve in regiments bound for, or already on, overseas service; in other cases, regiments being sent home to Great Britain drafted their able-bodied men into other regiments remaining overseas.

Among the former was Richard Cotton. As war loomed in America, he was serving in the 3rd Regiment of Foot in Ireland. On 23 February 1775 a regimental court martial found him guilty of “stealing a silver table spoon from an inhabitant," for which he receive 250 lashes. Just two weeks later he was drafted to serve in the 59th Regiment of Foot, a regiment already in Boston. We could assume that the 3rd Regiment was trying to get rid of him, but it's more likely that he jumped at the opportunity to leave the officers who had just punished him. Drafting orders required that only men in good physical condition be sent to as drafts, with the receiving regiment allowed to reject any that did not measure up. How a man who'd just been subjected to 250 lashes could be considered fit for overseas service is a mystery.

Cotton, along with other drafts and recruits, arrived in Boston in May to learn that war had broken out. He joined his regiment and served until the end of the year. Then he was drafted again. The 59th Regiment had already been overseas for several years and was due to go home, but their able-bodied men were drafted; Richard Cotton joined the 38th Regiment of Foot. In March 1776 he was put into the regiment's light infantry company, meaning that he was a particularly active and capable soldier; his discipline must have been reasonably good. There's no evidence that these two changes of regiment in rapid succession were in any way objectionable to him, or to the hundreds of others who went through similar transfers.

The light infantry company of the 38th Regiment saw many years of hard service on the front lines of the war's famous campaigns. The battle of Long Island in August 1776, the rapid movements around New York and into New Jersey later that year and into 1777, the campaign that took Philadelphia in late 1777 and the abandonment of that city that culminated in the battle of Monmouth in 1778 - during all of these campaigns the 38th's light company was part of the 1st Battalion of Light Infantry, always on the forefront of the action. Immediately after returning to New York from Philadelphia, the company rejoined the 38th Regiment and sailed to Rhode Island where they reinforced the garrison and spent three weeks under siege, then fought in the battle of Rhode Island on 29 August. They remained in Rhode Island through August 1779 when that place was evactuated by British forces.

The 38th's light company rejoined the 1st Battalion of Light Infantry. They spent the beginning of 1780 on the expedition that laid siege to Charleston, South Carolina. After that city capitulated, they returned to the New York garrison. The summer of 1780 found them on the front lines again, this time in coastal Westchester County, New York on the border of Connecticut. This was a region characterized by raids, skirmishes and incursions as scouting parties clashed between fluid front lines. For reasons that aren't clear, discipline suffered in the British battalions, and there was a spate of desertions from these normally-reliable ranks. 

Early on Monday morning, 17 July 1780, two Loyalist refugees - soldiers who may not have been uniformed - were following a road from the area of Horse Neck, Connecticut towards the British encampment at Rye, New York. They saw someone coming towards them and climbed over a wall to let the man pass. As he went by, the refugees discerned him to be an unarmed British soldier, so they decided to question him. They called out to the man, who stopped, and asked him where he'd come from. The man, Richard Cotton, responded that he'd just left a British command of some 4000 soldiers. The two refugees suspected that he was a deserter and offered to take him to an American post; Cotton went with them. By odd mischance, they soon encountered an American flag of truce - an officer or a small party of American soldiers with official permission to visit British lines on some sort of official business, usually to discuss matters relating to prisoners of war. Richard Cotton begged the refugees to let him go with the flag, but they refused. Cotton tried to make a run for it, but they grabbed him and conveyed him back to the British camp. There, his welcome was not a warm one.

Having been caught on a Monday morning, Richard Cotton was put on trial for desertion on Thursday (for some reason the trial transcript calls him Benjamin rather than Richard, but muster rolls leave no doubt that it's him). The men who captured him testified, as well as a man from the 38th Regiment who gave some simple facts of Cotton's term of service in the regiment. Put on his defense, Cotton claimed he'd gotten drunk and "perplex’d in his mind" on Sunday afternoon, having not enough shirts, shoes and stockings and also believing he was going to be sent from the Light Infantry, where he'd served for so long, back to the regiment. He wandered away from camp, and claimed not to have known where he was until he met the two refugees. He asserted that when the refugees had asked where he belonged, he told them the British company he was from; he also denied mentioning the strength of the British force or having attempted to go with the flag of truce. But when he asked one of the refugees, "Did not you ask me that if I had my Choice whether I would go to the Continental Army or back to the British Troops and what Answer did I make?", he said Cotton's reply was "the Prisoner answer’d him, it does not signify your giving me the choice now as I know very well what you are going to do with me."

Cotton probably did know full well what would be done with him. There had been several desertions from the light infantry battalion already, so a clear message needed to be sent. Cotton was found guilty and sentenced to the maximum penalty for desertion. Regardless of whether he intended to desert, his dissatisfaction was not related to having been drafted twice some years before, but with the prospect of being transferred out of his regiment's light infantry company. Had he not strayed from camp, whatever his motive, this veteran of three regiments would've had the opportunity to see out the war with the 38th Regiment and return to Great Britain. Because of his transgression, on Sunday 23 July 1780, "that man of the 38th Light Infantry who was tried at East Chester for desertion was executed today after the troops came to their ground, hung on a tree at the road side."

Learn more about British soldiers in America