Thursday, December 31, 2009

Flank companies, 38th Regiment, 19 April 1775

Most British regiments serving in America were composed of 10 companies. At the beginning of the war, the established strength of each company consisted of 38 private soldiers, two serjeants (using the period spelling), three corporals, one drummer and three commissioned officers. During the course of the war this establishment was increased twice, then reduced again in the closing years, but when hostilities broke out in earnest on 19 April 1775, this was the established or 'paper' strength of a British company.

Two companies of each regiment were composed of men selected for their experience and fitness. The grenadier company was supposed to contain men suited for vigorous assaults, retaining the traditional name from a bygone era when they hurled grenades over the walls of enemy fortifications; although grenades has long since been set aside, their uniforms retained some vestiges of this honorable service and tall men were preferred for this company. The light infantry company was new to the regimental establishment, having been warranted in 1771 to provide each regiment with a corps of skirmishers; as such, men selected for it tended to be fit and agile, and their uniforms were adapted to their specialized roll. When a regiment formed on parade these companies formed on the right and left flanks, for which reason they were collectively called flank companies.

Men were put into flank companies only after they had mastered the basic duties of a soldier, generally after at least a year of service with their regiment. The requirement for both fitness and experience meant that they consisted mostly of men in their late twenties to early forties. It also meant that men were frequently transferred out of these companies due to illness, wounds, or other conditions that limited their activity; replacements were selected from the regiment's eight battalion companies.

Operationally, the flank companies of British regiments were generally detached and put together into composite grenadier and light infantry battalions. These flank battalions, which varied in size and composition throughout the war depending upon which regiments were in which locations, formed the tactical spearhead on most British campaigns in America. Their first use was on 19 April 1775, when the grenadier and light infantry companies of regiments in Boston were sent to destroy military stores in Concord.

In this installment, we look at two of these companies, the grenadier company and the light infantry company of the 38th Regiment of Foot. The muster rolls of the 38th show us exactly which men were in these companies on 19 April, but it is not possible to determine whether every single man was on the expedition that day. It is also possible, using the muster rolls, to trace their subsequent service. The tables below list the men in the flank companies of the 38th, most of whom were witness to the opening shots of the war, and trace them to the ends of their careers. This information was compiled quickly and is not as complete as it could be - a few men seem to disappear from the rolls, and some transferred to other regiments after which we lose track of them. We were able to make only a limited search of pension records; probably a few more men eventually received pensions than are listed here. Regardless of these shortcomings, it is interesting to get a sense of what became of these selected soldiers who experienced the first battle of a long war.

Grenadier Company, 38th Regiment, 19 April 1775

Last Name
First Name
Rank (if not pvt)
Other information
Adcock
John
Corporal
From battalion and appointed corporal 15 Apr 1775; deserted 8 Jun 1779; joined from desertion 23 Apr 1783; discharged 27 May 1783
Barratt
John

Killed 17 June 1775
Broom
John

To battalion 24 Jan 1779; died 25 Feb 1779
Brunton
Richard

Bruphy
Thomas

Discharged 5 Oct 1778; pension 27 Apr 1780 at age 32, 10 years service - wounded in the hand; born at Blessington co Wicklow, butcher
Bulkley
James

To Grenadiers 15 Apr 1775; died 16 Feb 1783
Burke
John

Died 27 Jul 1775
Cairns
Neil

To corporal, no date (first indicated on 6 Feb 1776 roll); to serjeant 17 Nov 1775; died 16 Jan 1780
Clarke
Robert

Pension from Guernsey Invalids 1791
Cole
Joseph

To corporal 24 Jun 1777; to battalion as corporal 16 Dec 1778; discharged 24 Jun 1782
Collier
Robert

From battalion 15 Apr 1775; discharged 10 Jun 1785
Cook
John

Died of wounds 9 Jul 1775
Craddock
Corneleas

Discharged 9 Feb 1784
Cross
Charles
Corporal
Appointed 11 Aug 1774; killed 17 Jun 1775
Dowling
Owen

Died 10 May 1775
Drake
Hugh

Joined from desertion 21 May 1775 (no indication of when he had deserted); killed 17 Jun 1775
Finney
William

Discharged 24 Jan 1785
Gardiner
Charles
Fifer
To battalion and to drummer 17 Nov 1775; discharged 1787 age 38 after 28 years service; pension - born Limerick city, also served in 59th, 60th and 93rd regiments;
Gladhill
William

Disappears from rolls after transfer to battalion, 1780
Hammell
James

Died 14 Sep 1777
Hammond
John

Discharged 1 Mar 1778; pension 13 May 1778 at age 29, 14 years service - a white swelling in his knee; born at Worcester, labourer,
Hills
Thomas

From battalion 15 Apr 1775; pension 1789 age 43 after 25 years service - born Durham
Hopkinson
John

To corporal 17 Nov 1775; discharged 29 Apr 1786
Irwin
James

Deserted 28 Dec 1777
Johnston
John
Drummer
From battalion 15 Apr 1775; reduced to private 12 Apr 1777; died 28 Jan 1779
Leighton
John
Corporal
Killed 17 Jun 1775
Love
John

Discharged 9 Apr 1787; pension 1796 age 54 after 30 years service including 2 other regiments
Marsden
George

Died 3 Aug 1775
Mathews
Thomas

From battalion 5 Jun 1775; taken prisoner by the rebels 26 Oct 1776; deserted 3 Jun 1779
McDonald
William

Prisoner with the enemy (apparently taken on 19 April); to battalion 16 May 1776, no longer indicated as prisoner 12 Jul 1776 rolls; discharged 23 Feb 1777; pension 3 Oct 1777 at age 32, 12 years service - shot through the foot; born near Inverness, labourer
McGilvray
Andrew
Corporal
To Serjeant 4 Jul 1775; deserted 18 Nov 1783
McLean
Alexander
Fifer
To battalion 17 Nov 1775 as a drummer; discharged 8 Jul 1783; pension 1796 age 54 after 31 years service - born St. Mary's, Kilkenny; pensioned again 1804 after service in the Louth militia
McLeod
Angus

To corporal, no date (first indicated on 6 Feb 1776 roll); disappears after reduction from serjeant and transfer to battalion, 1780
Nealiss
George

Pension 1787 age 36 after 13 years service - born Arragale, county Tyrone, pensioned again 1791 after service in an invalid corps
Neill
John

Discharged 5 Dec 1775; Pension 6 Jun 1776 at age 44, 20 years service - wounded in the left arm; born at Durrow; laborer
Peell
William

Discharged 23 Feb 1783
Rogers
Daniel

Died of wounds 19 Aug 1775
Ross
Francis

From battalion 15 Apr 1775; died of wounds 10 Jul 1775
Sutherland
Kenneth
Serjeant
Died 30 Jul 1775
Sutherland
William

Discharged 24 Oct 1783 to take land grant in Canada
Sutherwood
David

Discharged 24 Aug 1783
Talliss
William

Killed 19 Apr 1775
Vass
Jonathan

To battalion 9 Feb 1779; discharged 16 Mar 1782
Watkins
George

Discharged 3 Mar 1784
Whitehead
Thomas

To battalion 9 Jan 1779; discharged 24 Jun 1785
Whitehead
William

To corporal 17 Nov 1775; to serjeant 24 Jun 1777; to 7th Regiment 2 Aug 1779
Wilson
Patrick
Serjeant
Discharged 24 Jun 1777; pension 17 Jul 1777 at age 49, 27 years service - Worn out; born near Newry, labourer

Light Infantry Company, 38th Regiment, 19 April 1775


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Last Name
First Name
Rank (if not pvt)
Other information
Alsop
Thomas

Killed 19 Apr 1775
Armson
William

Still in regiment through 1788
Asher
John

From battalion 16 Jul 1774; killed 17 Jun 1775
Bates
Edward

To corporal 11 Sep 1775; reduced 30 Oct 1776; discharged 24 Jun 1785
Beatson
Isaac

To corporal 12 Oct 1775; to serjeant 17 Nov 1775; discharged 12 Feb 1784
Bell
Ralph

From battalion 31 Jul 1774; deserted 24 May 1780
Brookings
John

Killed 17 Jun 1775
Brown
Joseph

From battalion 8 Apr 1775; killed 7 Dec 1777
Cameron
Angus
Corporal
To serjeant 21 Jan 1775; reduced and to battalion 14 Jun 1775; to serjeant 17 Nov 1775; reduced 8 Jul 1776; to Light Infantry 24 Jul 1778; discharged 24 Oct 1783 to take land grant in Canada
Carter
Walter

Discharged 24 Apr 1777; pension 3 Oct 1777 at age 26, 8 years service - shot through the heel; born at ?cester, labourer; served in Plymouth Invalids for 8 years until 1791
Cox
Samuel

Died 31 Aug 1776
Dixon
Thomas

Discharged 24 Apr 1779
Edwards
John

Fogg
Thomas

From battalion 15 Apr 1775; died of wounds 22 Aug 1775
Frazier
Alexander

From battalion 15 Apr 1775; died 14 Oct 1776
Gallagher
Patrick

To battalion 19 Jul 1778; to grenadiers 9 Dec 1779; died 16 Dec 1779
Golden
James

To battalion date unknown (before12 Jul 1776); to Light Infantry 24 Nov 1776; died 7 Jan 1779
Gunn
Aeneas
Serjeant
Killed 17 Jun 1775
Hendon
George

To battalion 12 Jun 1775; to Light Infantry 13 May 1776; to battalion 23 Dec 1778; deserted 25 Nov 1781
Jones
Thomas

From battalion 27 Jan 1775; killed 17 Jun 1775
Jurd
Lincy

From battalion 15 Apr 1775; to battalion 24 May 1776; to Light Infantry 28 Jul 1778; discharged 27 Jan 1786; served in 55th Foot, Middlesex Militia and Portsmouth Invalids; pension 1799
Long
William

From battalion 27 Jan 1775; discharged 24 Dec 1783
Love
John

To battalion 26 Jul 1778;discharged 24 Aug 1783
Marshall
William

Died 3 May 1776
Mason
John

To battalion 24 May 1776; discharged 24 Oct 1783 to take land grant in Canada
McDonald
John

To battalion 26 May 1775; discharged 30 Jan 1782
McInalty
James
Drummer
Deserted 15 May 1783
McKay
Hugh

From battalion 15 Apr 1775; pension 5 Dec 1780 at age 28, 8 years service - lost the use of both hands; born at Dornock Co. Sutherland, labourer
Pickup
Samuel
Corporal
Private on 12 Jul 1776 roll; discharged 24 Apr 1783
Powell
Thomas

From battalion 15 Apr 1775; discharged 23 Feb 1783; pension - 1789 age 59 after 23 years service including 35th Regiment
Powis
Thomas

Killed 17 Jun 1775
Pritchard
Paul

To battalion 14 Jun 1775; killed 17 Jun 1775
Roberts
William

Discharged 24 Aug 1782
Roe
William

Killed 17 Jun 1775
Skinner
Henry

To battalion 8 Jun 1775; to corporal 17 Nov 1775; to serjeant 27 Feb 1779; discharged 12 Jun 1786
Smith
William

Killed 17 Jun 1775
Sutherland
O'Sulivan
Corporal
To serjeant 8 Apr 1775; discharged 11 Nov 1780
Sutherland
Donald

To corporal 21 Jan 1775; died of wounds 5 Sep 1775
Terry
Joseph

To battalion 14 Jun 1775 sick; Died 20 Jan 1776
Tisdale
John

To battalion 31 May 1775; discharged and recommended for pension 18 Aug 1775
Tone
John

To battalion 31 May 1775; discharged 17 Mar 1784
Tyrell
Charles

Killed 19 Apr 1775
Yeacott
William

Pension 1785 age 45 after 16 years service



3 comments:

  1. I was wondering how one finds out if the company his ancestor served in was a light or grenadier company? If he was not in sick bay that day, my ancestor Sergeant William Fleet served under Major William Montgomery, who was killed in the assault of Ft. Griswold Sept. 1781. Given that that was probably the spearhead of the assault, I assume that it was probably the light company. Descendant William Fleet 40th regiment

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  2. At Fort Griswold, the 40th and 54th Regiments both assaulted the fort.

    The light infantry and grenadiers were detached from both regiments and formed into a "seperate battalion" led by Lt. Colonel Edmund Eyre who led the attack on the northern end of the fort.

    The battalion companies were also detached and formed into "one unit" that assaulted the southern end of the fort led by Major William Montgomery. Montgomery was killed coming over the south wall.

    It's impossible to tell where your relative was unless you have the muster rolls.

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  3. If you can find your ancestor on the muster rolls, it is easy to determine if the company he was in was the grenadier or light infantry company. Each company had three commissioned officers; in the grenadier and light companies, this included two lieutenants, while the other companies had one lieutenant and one ensign (there is one company that was an exception, but that doesn't matter for this discussion).
    The grenadier company was the only company with fifers on its establishment; this means that, in the section of the muster roll for drummers, there will be three or four men instead just one or two. In other words, the grenadier company is the company with 2 lieutenants and three or four drummers and fifers. The light company has two lieutenants, and only one or two drummers.

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