Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Deserter: John Grant, musician, 21st Regiment of Foot

Soldiers deserted the army for many reasons, not the least of which was to pursue the fairer sex. One such desertion was by a member the 21st Regiment of Foot, the Royal North British Fusiliers. This regiment had served in America for a number of years in the 1760s, returning to Great Britain in 1772 only to be ordered back in 1776 as part of the army in Canada. It was among the corps on Burgoyne’s 1777 campaign that was interned under the Convention of Saratoga. This deserter story, however, concerns the regiment’s time in America before the war.

In 1771, the Royal North British Fusiliers were quartered in Philadelphia. Like many regiments, the 21st had a band of music. A separate entity from the drummers and fifers of the regiment, the band of music was maintained at the expense of the officers and, during peace time, often performed at public functions. It was an excellent resource to engender harmony between the military and the local population in an era when the standing army was not widely accepted or trusted. Newspaper ads show us two events in which the regiment’s band participated:

College of Philadelphia, June 28, 1771.
THIS being the Day appointed for the Anniversary COMMENCEMENT in the College of this City, the Trustees, at Half an Hour past Nine o'Clock, proceeded from the Aparatus Room to the PUBLIC HALL, followed by the Provost, Vice provost and Professors, with the different Candidates in their Gowns; the Band of Music belonging to the Twenty first Regiment (or Royal North British Fuzileers) playing during the whole Procession.
[Pennsylvania Gazette, 11 July 1771]

By PERMISSION, and particular DESIRE, For the BENEFIT of Mr. JOHN McCLEAN
(Instructor of the German Flute) WILL be performed, at the Assembly Room, in Lodge Alley, A CONCERT of MUSIC, VOCAL and INSTRUMENTAL: To begin precisely at Six o'Clock in the Evening, On THURSDAY, the Fifth of DECEMBER.
THE CONCERT will consist of two Acts, commencing and ending with favourite Overtures, performed by a full Band of Music, with Trumpets, Kettle Drums, and every Instrument that can be introduced with Propriety. The Performance will be interspersed with the most pleasing and select Pieces composed by approved Authors; a Solo will be played on the German Flute, by John McLean, and the whole will conclude with an Overture, composed (for the Occasion) by Philip Roth, Master of the Band, belonging to his Majesty’s Royal Regiment of North British Fusileers. Several Gentlemen, who wish to encourage and reward Merit, have suggested this public Amusement, and have deigned to honour with their Protection the Person for whose Benefit it is intended; one Instance of their condescending Goodness, he will ever gratefully acknowledge, in consenting it should be known, they have been pleased to offer their Assistance in the Performance, which every possible Means will be used to render agreeable and entertaining to the Company, for whose further Satisfaction, it is also proposed that after the Concert there should be a Ball; on this Account the Music will begin early; and as soon as the 2d Act is finished, the usual Arrangement will be made for dancing.
N.B. The TICKETS for the Concert may be had at the different Printing Offices in this city, at the Bar of the Coffee House, and at Messieurs Duff and Jacobs Tavern, in Second and Third Streets. Price 7 s 6.
[Pennsylvania Gazette, 28 November 1771]

The day before the 5 December concert, one of the regiment’s musician’s absconded. While there is no record of whether his absence affected the concert, he was advertised in the newspaper the following week:

DESERTED, on the 4th of this instant December, belonging to the band of music, of his Majesty’s 21st regiment of foot (or Royal North British Fusiliers) JOHN GRANT, aged 23 years, 5 feet 2 3/4 inches high, born in Beverly, in Yorkshire, England, by trade a jockey, has brown hair, grey eyes, fair complexion, a little pitted with the smallpox, and very thin made; had on, when he deserted, his uniform blue jacket, turned up with a red cape, and cuffs. Whoever apprehends and secures the above deserter, shall, by giving proper notice to Captain NICHOLAS SUTHERLAND, Commanding Officer of the said regiment, at Philadelphia, receive ONE GUINEA reward, over and above what is allowed by Act of Parliament for apprehending deserters.
N.B. He is supposed to be gone to Maryland, as he has a wife and a plantation in that province.
[Pennsylvania Gazette, December 12, 1771]

This ad contains information of immediate interest to students of uniforms. This musician wore a blue coat with red facings, cuffs and collar, the reverse of the red coats with blue facings worn by the generality of the regiment. While this would be typical for drummers of most marching regiments, the royal regiments with blue facings were warranted not to reverse the drummers’ colors but to clothe them in red faced with blue. John Grant, however, was not a drummer, but a musician in the band of music. There was no warranted uniform for regimental bands, resulting in a variety of styles. Bandsman of the 17th Regiment of Foot wore red coats with white facings, while those the 22nd Regiment wore red coats with buff facings, two examples of regiments that did not reverse their bands’ colors. The 21st gives us an interesting example of a regiment that did not reverse drummers’ colors, but did reverse those of the band.

We have not been able to examine the rolls of the 21st Regiment to determine whether Grant was on the rolls as a private soldier, nor whether he ever returned to the regiment. The advertisement shows that he was born in England, but he had a wife in Maryland. It appears that he married in America, apparently into some wealth; perhaps this was his reason for abandoning the service.

The 21st Regiment soldiered on, moving to New York City by the following summer where they performed a favorable field review:

NEW YORK, June 8.
On Tuesday last the 21st Regiment, or Royal North British Fuzileers, under the Command of Major Sutherland, was reviewed near this City, by his Excellency General Gage, his Excellency William Tryon Esq; our Governor, being present, and a great Number of the principal Gentlemen of this Place. The Exercise was continued for several Hours, and exhibited a great Variety of Manoeuvres and Modes of Attack, Defence, Advance and Retreat, &c. with Firings and Movements suitable to every Occasion in actual Service; all which were performed with surprising Dexterity and exactness, to the great Delight of every Spectator, but cannot be described with Justness and Propriety, by a Person not Master of the Subject. The Notice of every one was particularly attracted by Corporal George Boss (called the Fugalman) who stood at a Distance, a little to the Right, and gave the Motions, which he made with inconceivable Vivacity and Gracefulness.
[Pennsylvania Gazette, 11 June 1772]

A flugalman was a well-trained soldier who demonstrated the manual of arms to the rest of the regiment, providing a model for them to watch and imitate during their exercise.

Because this installment concerns the 21st Regiment and married soldiers, we conclude it with another interesting newspaper ad. Apparently another soldier of the regiment married a Philadelphia woman during the regiment’s stay in that city, and she followed the army with him. Years later, when her father died, she was entitled to an inheritance, and executors suspected that she might be found in nearby Virginia where the remnants of the regiment was interned:

WHEREAS BELTHASER STAUS, late of the Northern Liberties of the city of Philadelphia, yeoman, deceased, by his last Will and Testament, ordered his estate to be sold, and the money arising from the sale thereof to be equally divided between his eight children, whereof four are living in and near the city of Philadelphia, and four absent, namely two sons FRANCIS JOSEPH and DANIEL, and two daughters SARAH and SUSANNA. The shares of which said four absent children he ordered to be put out, and continued at interest for the space of seven years, to be claimed by the said children or their legal representatives in person, &c. And of his said last Will and Testament he appointed Zacharias Endres, of the said Northern Liberties, brewer, sole Executor.
Now the said Executor, in compliance with the special directions of the said Testator, given him a few days before his deceased, has thought proper to give this PUBLIC NOTICE, hereby requiring the said four absent children of the Testator, or in case of the death of any of them, the children or guardians of the children of the deceased, to make their claims to their respective shares. The said Executor is informed that the said Francis Joseph Staus is by trade a skinner, and was some time Paymaster of the British troops in East Florida; that the said Daniel Staus was a Captain of a vessel, and an inhabitant of the Island of Providence; that the said Sarah had been married to one Andrew Lytel, and is now a widow, living somewhere in North Carolina; and that the said Susanna was married to one Andrew Kehr, of the 21st regiment of Scotch Fuziliers, who, it is said, is among the prisoners of General Burgoyne’s army, now in Virginia.
All friends and acquaintances of the persons concerned, seeing this advertisement, are desired to inform them thereof. The said Executor will take particular care that the money happening to each child’s share may be recovered upon short notice.
[Pennsylvania Gazette, 18 September 1782]

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