Sunday, August 16, 2009

Prisoner of War: Richard Hallum, 22nd Regiment

Richard Hallum first appears on the muster rolls of the 22nd Regiment of Foot on 19 January 1774. The regiment was in Ireland at the time, so we assume that Hallum, and Englishman, enlisted with a recruiting party some time the previous year. His army career included two remarkable events.

In the summer of 1779 the 22nd Regiment had been in garrison in Rhode Island for two and half years. There had been a lot of action for these soldiers in 1777 and 1778, but by June 1779 things had calmed down considerably. On 28 June Richard Hallum was drinking in the canteen of the Regiment von Ditfurth with two fellow soldiers of the 22nd Regiment. Later on, around noon, Hallum was on his way to the Bristol Ferry area at the north end of the island to go fishing. Another fellow soldier, Bartholomew Gilmore, came up and asked to accompany him. Gilmore was intoxicated, and Hallum refused his company by explaining that he had no extra line or hook. Gilmore then asked if Hallum wanted to drink, which Hallum also refused. At some point, they stopped and were sitting on the ground about a hundred yards from a windmill near the ferry, when Gilmore took one of Hallum’s shoe buckles. He admired it, noting that it was a handsome pattern. Gilmore then asked what Hallum’s intentions were, a question typically asked of soldiers who were suspected of deserting (whether to collaborate or apprehend them). Hallum replied that his intentions were honest, that he was going fishing. In a surprise outburst, Gilmore suddenly hit Hallum in the face three times, then used a stone to hit him in the the chest. He took Hallum’s watch from his pocket, and started to run off towards the encampment to the southeast. Hallum gave chase for a hundred yards or so and caught up with Gilmore when Gilmore stumbled and fell. Gilmore tried to get up and pick up another stone, but Hallum knocked him down, put the stone on his chest, took the watch back and returned it to his pocket.

Just then two German soldiers came by who saw Hallum take the watch from Gilmore. In spite of their different languages, Gilmore managed to convey to the Germans that Hallum was stealing the watch from him. The Germans detained Hallum but did not take possession of the watch. Gilmore told the Germans that he would complain to their commanding officer for not getting the watch back for him, then ran eastward towards Common Fence neck. Hallum managed to make the German soldiers understand the true situation; they released him and he gave chase, calling for assistance.

Gilmore ran on a road that ran along low ground near the northern shore of the island. He was observed from a small advanced redoubt on higher ground that covered this area. From here an officer and three soldiers of the 22nd came to apprehend him since his behavior was obviously suspicious. Gilmore left the road and ran into a pond, endeavoring to get across. The officer's party split up and surrounded the pond. Hallum in the mean time, came up carrying a stone and told the soldiers that Gilmore had stolen his watch, and that he was going to knock Gilmore’s brains out. Gilmore ranted at the soldiers to go ahead and kill him, but then waded out of the pond to Hallum and another soldier. He attempted to strike Hallum, but they were able to secure him and end the bizarre chain of events. All of this information comes from the court martial of Bartholomew Gilmore which took place on 22 July.

This amusing vignette brings out a few interesting details about garrison life and about Hallum. In spite of chronic issues with alcohol abuse in the British army, soldiers of the 22nd Regiment were allowed to drink in the morning at a canteen operated by a German regiment. Hallum was able to spend some leisure time fishing, and had tackle to do so. He owned shoe buckles that caught the attention of a fellow soldier, indicating that they were not of a standard regimental pattern. And he owned a watch. Conventional wisdom would suggest that watches were too expensive to be among the scant possessions of a common soldier, but court martial proceedings and other documents suggest otherwise. Watches are the most frequently mentioned non-issue possession of soldiers, although the overall number of references to them is nonetheless quite small.

It is possible that Richard Hallum could afford noticeable shoe buckles and a watch because he was employed by the army. In addition to his regular duties as a soldier, he was one of five drivers for the five wagons and ten horses attached to the 22nd Regiment. These wagons were used to move the regiment's tents and other camp equipage during routine shifts in encampment locations. We have no information about whether this work did in fact earn extra pay or if it was considered even considered a specialized skill; we know only that Hallum was one of five men who had this job.

We also know that being a wagon driver did not excuse Hallum from marching into battle. A year after the comical affair with Gilmore, Hallum was involved in much more serious business. The British had evacuated Rhode Island and consolidated the troops there into the garrison in the New York area. On 6 June 1780 an expedition from that garrison crossed from Staten Island to Elizabeth, New Jersey on a bridge of boats. Their goals was to move inland and surprise the American post at Morristown. Rapidly mobilized American militia thwarted the advance in Connecticut Farms (present-day Union) on 7 June, and the British force withdrew to their position at Elizabeth. The 22nd Regiment was posted in advance of the main position. On t8 June the American forces attacked this advanced post, but the 22nd was able to hold their ground with the assistance of two German regiments were sent forward to join the fight. It is not clear whether it occurred during the retreat on the dark, stormy night of 7-8 June or during the fighting on the 8th, but one half-company of Captain Edward Handfield's company of the 22nd Regiment, including two serjeants and 17 private soldiers, were captured. Among them was Richard Hallum.

The prisoners were sent to Philadelphia where they were incarcerated. At least one had been wounded in the battle. Early in 1783 when British prisoners were repatriated, 12 of these prisoners returned to the regiment. One failed to return from captivity for unknown reasons; presumably upon his release he chose to remain in America and was officially recorded as a deserter. Five men died in captivity, including Richard Hallum. A return of prisoners gives the date of his death as 25 April 1781, but the accuracy of this date is questionable because several prisoners are listed as having died on the same day.

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