Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Deserter: Thomas Haywood, 18th Regiment of Foot

Historian Steven M. Baule kindly submitted the story of a deserter from the 18th, or Royal Irish, regiment of foot, which appears below. His book on British officers who served in America is a highly recommended reference.

Thomas Haywood, Deserter from the 18th Foot; Draught to the 52nd and 49th Regiments

We know very little about Thomas Haywood, private in the Royal Irish Regiment, except that his officers felt he was a good soldier who made a mistake. Haywood enlisted at some point prior to embarking with the 18th Foot in May 1767 for America. He arrived at Philadelphia in July 1767 and after being detained on board ship with his fellows so the local magistrates could ensure there was no sickness on Board, the regiment disembarked and he stepped onto colonial soil. He was assigned to Major Folliott’s Company, but transferred to Captain Stainforth’s Company in April 1768. It was a lucky transfer for him, for his old company was ordered to the western outposts. Haywood was able to retain a comfortable position in the North Barracks at Philadelphia.

Haywood, however, didn’t appreciate his luck. On 13 September 1768 he left military service without permission. What he did during the next three years has been lost to history, but at some point, Haywood determined to return to the service. The returns of the 18th Foot show his return from desertion on 28 November 1771. There was no general pardon in place at the time, so his return (or capture) put him at risk of punishment. The question for the regiment was what to do with him. Desertion was a capital crime for which other men in the regiment had been shot in 1768. Without a field officer of the 18th present at Philadelphia, newly promoted Captain Benjamin Chapman had to make a decision. So, he wrote to General Thomas Gage, commander in chief of the British army in America, for advice. In a letter dated 4 December 1771 Gage outlined three courses of action available to Chapman based upon the character of the deserter:

Haywood’s Character must determine whether it will be necessary to Assemble a Gen. Court Martial to try him, or whether a Regimental One won’t answer the same purpose, if he is a very notorious Offender & a proper object for an Example, he should be brought before the former, if not, you’ll try him by a Regimental Court Martial, or if you think he will desert again, promise him a Pardon in Case he Lists into any of the West Indian Regiments.

In the end, Haywood remained with the regiment, so he must have been considered both salvageable and no longer a desertion risk. No record of his regimental court martial has been found or of his punishment. A regimental court could have pronounced a sentence of up to 1000 lashes; if such was the sentence, it may have been reduced, as was often the case in the 18th Foot.

Haywood remained at Philadelphia with Major Hamilton’s Company until late 1774. At that point, he marched with the regiment to Amboy. In the late fall, Haywood was in the barracks at New York City, where rebels were making strong enticements to get soldiers to desert. Haywood had apparently learned his lesson and remained steadfast. On 6 June 1775, Haywood embarked upon the HMS Asia in New York Harbor with the other 100 or some men remaining at New York. The log of the Asia shows him discharged that ship to the transport Pallas on 24 June 1775 for the trip to Boston. That he spent time on the Asia indicates that he most likely had no wife or children with him since those soldiers with families were put onto Governor’s Island to be with their families as they awaited transport.

Haywood arrived in Boston in June 1775 and continued to serve with the Major’s company through December. The soldiers of the 18th Regiment of Foot were drafted into other corps on 5 December 1775; Haywoord went into Captain Dayrell’s Company of the 52nd Regiment of Foot, ending his career in the Royal Irish. With the 52nd, he was listed as sick on 12 July 1776 at Staten Island. Haywood fought through the Long Island Campaign with the 52nd, and was present at Piscataway in May 1777, on Staten Island again on 8 August 1777, and at New York on 26 December 1777. Haywood was posted at King’s Bridge on 27 June 1778. Like the 18th before it, the 52nd was drafted in September 1778, and Haywood went into the 49th Regiment of Foot bound for service in the West Indies. In February 1779, he was present with the 49th at Wakefield in the West Indies. His further service record is currently unknown, but most likely he perished in the West Indies.

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