Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Employed soldiers: John Watkins and Patrick Lenahan, 22nd Regiment

John Watkins enlisted in the 22nd Regiment of Foot on 13 November 1766 at the age of 26. He may have served previously in the army for four or five years, but that is not clear. He first appears on the muster rolls of the 22nd on 8 December 1766. In 1767 or early 1768 he deserted, and was taken up in Devonshire and returned to the regiment. The native of Scotland was a tailor and by 1775, if not sooner, was working at his trade for the regiment.

Patrick Lenahan joined the 22nd Regiment of Foot on 15 March 1775, when the regiment was recruiting to full strength in preparation for embarkation for America. The Irishman was also a tailor, and it wasn't long before he was working with Watkins.

Normally, regiments in America received new regimental clothing (coats, and cloth for waistcoats and breeches, as well as buttons, buttonhole lace and other finishing materials) in October or November. The tailors then had the winter to make waistcoats and breeches, and fit the coats to the soldiers. The effort required to tailor fit each garment was well spent, because the clothing was expected to last for a full year and then still be usable for off-duty and fatigue use. Clothing that fit properly would wear properly, provide the best comfort when on duty, and the best defense against inclement weather. Well-fitted clothing was not a matter of form but of function.

The tailors of the 22nd Regiment may not have been so busy in the winter of 1775 because the regiment's new clothing, along with that of the 40th Regiment, had been captured when the ship carrying it sailed in to Philadelphia in August 1775. This was due to a poor understanding of the political and military situation early in the war; the 22nd and 40th had originally been ordered to New York and were diverted to Boston when they arrived off of the American coast in June. The ship with the new clothing left Great Britain several weeks after the regiments and literally passed in the night a British warship stationed to divert shipping from ports that were not under British control.

Work was nonetheless available for the tailors. At the court martial of another soldier in Boston, John Watkins testified that he cut out suit of brown clothing for an officer of the 22nd as well as making a greatcoat for the officer. He also cut out a surtout (a type of overcoat) for the officer's servant. Patrick Lenahan testified that he assembled the surtout in early December. Presumably they were paid for this extra work which was outside of work on regimental clothing. The fact that Watkins cut out the garments indicates that he was the more experienced tailor, able to measure and pattern the garments, while Lenahan's being tasked only with assembly suggests that he was newer to the trade.

Two years later, Lenahan was sent from Rhode Island to Philadelphia to join the 22nd Regiment's light infantry company which had sustained a number of losses in the 1777 campaign. That he was chosen for this active, campaigning company shows that his work as a tailor did not detract from his fitness as a soldier. Unfortunately he would not remain long in this new role. He died on 18 September 1778, of unknown causes.

John Watkins enjoyed a much longer career. He served for the remainder of the war in America and returned to Great Britain with the 22nd Regiment, finally taking his discharge on 6 June 1785 after over 19 years in the 22nd Regiment. He received an out pension because he was 'worn out & rheumatic' and signed his own name on his discharge. Like many campaigners, though, Watkins was not done with the army. On 4 January 1788, at the age of 48, he joined an invalid corps on the island of Jersey, a unit that garrisoned and maintained military installations. He continued in this corps through 22 August 1800 when he was once again discharged and pensioned, this time at the age of 60.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Deserter: Daniel Broderick, 52nd Regiment of Foot

Researcher Stephen Gilbert has provided information from two sources that allows us to present the story of a deserter from the 52nd Regiment of Foot. We do not know when Daniel Broderick joined the 52nd, but we do know when he left it. It really was a dark and stormy night, in late November 1776. Over the previous two months, a powerful army under General Sir William how had methodically dispossessed the Continental Army of New York city and its environs, and now surrounded the last American garrison on Manhattan, Fort Washington. Broderick was part of an advanced piquet of twenty men seven miles north of the city on the road to King’s Bridge, the northern terminus of the island. Across a small valley from them was an outpost manned by Pennsylvania soldiers under the command of a young officer named Alexander Graydon. Graydon described the events of that November night in his memoir. Although published 35 years after the fact, Graydon’s description is vivid and remarkably detailed:

It was now November, and the nights becoming cold. It was the season too for north easterly storms, one of which is rendered memorable to me, from a circumstance of some interest which accompanied it. I was upon guard with lieutenant Davidson, of our battalion, at a place distinguished by the appellation of The point of rocks, which skirted the road leading to King’s-bridge. This was our most advanced piquet towards New-York, and only separated from that of the enemy by a valley a few hundred yards over. The night, as already mentioned, was extremely raw, rainy and tempestuous; and the only shelter the spot afforded was an old caboose, which had been placed there by way of guard house. A kind of chimney had been built at the mouth of it, and a fire here in calm weather, rendered it tolerably comfortable; but at this time, the smoke produced and driven in to the cabin by the storm, could not be endured; neither was the shelter from the driving rain by any means sufficient: we were dripping wet. In this miserable situation, Davidson proposed our going to a deserted house on the low ground directly across the road, where we could have a fire, and be dry and comfortable. But this I refused to do, since, though not more than thirty or forty yards from our post, and though rather an extension than a dereliction of it, yet it varied the station as to ourselves. The non-commissioned officers and the rest of the guard were, indeed, to remain there, but in case of disaster there would be blame, and the responsibility was upon us, and particularly upon myself. In this resolution, I for a long time persisted against the repeated importunities of my companion, who ingeniously obviated my objections, until at length, the storm rather encreasing than abating, I consented about midnight to go to the house, first taking the precaution to continue the line of sentinels from the point of rocks across the road and round the building at some distance from it, so that it was impossible it should be approached by the enemy unperceived, should he endeavor to grope his way into unknown hostile ground, in one of the darkest and most dismal nights that can be conceived. We had located ourselves in an outer room, where we had a good fire, and had already pretty well dried ourselves. Davidson was stretched along a bench fixed to the wall, half asleep, if not wholly so, and I was sitting before the fire, when a sudden noise of feet and voices reached the door. The latch was lifted, and as I rose up, not without considerable alarm, the first object that presented itself was a British soldier, with his musket and fixed bayonet in his hand. Who are you? said I, a deserter! “No deserter,” was the answer. My emotion did not prevent my preserving a pretty good countenance, though my first impression was, that we were surprised, and should be bayonetted out of hand. But this idea was scarcely formed, when the appearance of one of my own men behind the British soldier, changed it to a more pleasing one, and justified, if it did not induce, the addition of the term deserter, to the question of who are you? In fact, he was a deserter; but though in the very act of committing the crime he revolted against its opprobrium. I understood him, and softened down the ungraciousness of my salutation, by asking him if he had come over to us. He answered, yes. Our centinel had done his duty, but awkwardly, in not having disarmed the soldier, and introduced him in a less questionable shape.

The bustle of the incident having completely roused Davidson, and set him upon his legs, we sett to questioning our refugee. He called himself Broderick, was an intelligent fellow, and brought with him the last newspaper from New-York. He had for some time, he said, projected coming over to us, and had availed himself of this stormy night to put his design in execution. By means of the darkness, he had been enabled to separate himself from his comrades without their perceiving it, and had probably got to our sentries before they discovered him to be gone. He informed us that we might expect to be attacked in six or eight days at furthest, as some time had been employed in transporting heavy artillery to the other side of the Haerlem, and as the preparations for the assault were nearly completed. Among other things, he told us, that our situation at this house was a very unsafe one, as their patroles, still speaking as a Briton, passed very near it, and might easily sweep us off; and indeed he appeared uneasy at the idea while he staid with us. This was not long. I put him under the care of a trusty serjeant, with orders to guard him vigilantly, and to take him the head quarters, as soon as it should be light enough to find the way there. The hint we had received in regard to the enemy’s proximity, and still more our own knowledge of the comparative insecurity of our present station with the one we had left, induced us to return to the latter, maugre the comforts of a snug room and good fire. We accordingly drew in our sentinels, and repaired to the caboose, where we weathered out the remainder of the night, by this time pretty far advanced.

Daniel Broderick, apparently a literate man inasmuch as he carried a newspaper with him, made a clean break from British service, but 18 months later the fortunes of war caught up with him. He had joined the Continental army, and was serving with a detachment that was surprised and captured by British light infantry near Philadelphia on 24 April 1778. He was identified as a deserter and put on trial five days later. The proceedings of the trial tell the story:

Daniel Broderick, private Soldier, in the 52d Regt. of Foot, was brought Prisoner before the Court and accused of Deserting from the said Regt. when posted as a sentry, and bearing Arms in the Rebel Army, and the following Witnesses were examined, in support of the accusation vizt.:

Lieut. Francis Grose of the 52d Regt. of Foot being duly sworn, deposed that he knew the Prisoner to be a Soldier in the said 52d. Regt. and that he Deserted a day or two before Fort Washington was taken.

William Jewett private Soldier in the 52d. Regt. being duly sworn deposed that a few days before Fort Washington was taken a party of Twenty Men where Advanced near the 7th. Mile Stone, on the road to New York; that he and the Prisoner belonged to that Party; and he (the Witness) was posted as sentry at ten o'clock at night and relieved at 11 by the Prisoner; that upon serjeant going round to visit the sentries, he observed that one of them had quitted his Post, who upon Examination was found to be the Prisoner.

John Short, private Soldier in the 52d Regt. of Foot, being duly sworn, deposed that on the night before Fort Washington was taken, he and the prisoner was posted as senties at 11 o'clock at night, within about Twenty yards of each other, and about half an hour afterwards the serjeant upon going round to visit the sentries, found that the Prisoner had quitted his post; and that he (the Witness) was removed from the place he had before been posted, to occupy that which the Prisoner had left, and which was on the left flank.
Q. Did the Prisoner carry off his Arms and Accoutrements?
A. Yes.

Serjeant SamI Small of the Light Company of the 45th Regt. being duly sworn deposed that he was on a Party of Light Infantry that went out on the 24th instant, who took several Rebel prisoners in arms, and the prisoner was among them.
Q. (by desire of the Prisoner) Where did he see the Prisoner in Arms?
A. He can't say that he particularly saw the Prisoner with a Firelock, but he had on both Side Arms and Pouch, and all those who were taken that day had been in Arms.

William Wrangham, private Soldier in the Light Company of the 45th. Regt. being duly sworn, deposed that on the 24th inst. he went with a Party of Light Infantry and Dragoons, and fell in with some Rebels, whom the Dragoons Charged, and the Prisoner together with another were delivered up to him by a Dragoon, who had taken them, and at same time threw down two Firelocks which he said belonged to them; that the Prisoner had on his Side Arms & Pouch, which the Witness himself took off.

The prisoner being then put on his Defence said that he did not desert but that there was a field near where he was posted; which he went in order to get some turnips & fell in with five or six men, who took him Prisoner; that he told them that he had deserted in hopes of getting off again, but he was sent to Trenton and put in Goal, because he would not inlist, but afterwards inlisted in one of the Jersey Regts. in hopes of making his escape; that having heard of the proclamation, he came in upon seeing the two Dragoons, and laid down his Arms in the Church, and that he persuaded several others to do the same.

Francis Thompson, private Soldier in the 17th Regt. (Light) Dragoons, being duly sworn, was examined by desire of the Prisoner.
Q. Did not the Prisoner lay down his Arms in the Church upon his and another Dragoons coming up?
A. Upon seeing a party of Rebels go into the Church, he and the other Dragoon rode up to the Door, where one of the Party snapt his Firelock at the Witness, but the Serjeant who Commanded them said that if they (the Dragoons) would not hurt them, they would lay down their Arms, which they accordingly did, but whether the prisoner was of this party he cannot tell.
Q. by the Court. Does he recollect giving two Prisoners into the Charge of a Soldier of the Light Infantry, and throwing down their firelocks at the same time?
A. He gave the two Men into his Charge, but not the firelocks.
Q. Was the prisoner one of those?
A. He cannot say.
Q. How were those taken, or did they surrender?
A. He pursued them out of a wood and overtook them in a small Garden where upon his firing at them, they threw down their arms.
William Jewett, already sworn, was again examined, by desire of the Prisoner.
Q. Was the Prisoner posted on the left Flank when he relieved him (the Witness) at 11 oClock at night?
A. No, Short was on his Left.

The Court having Considered the Evidence for and against the prisoner, Daniel Broderick, together with what he had to offer in his Defence, is of opinion that he is Guilty of me Crimes laid to his Charge, in breach of the 1st. Article of War of the 6th. Section & of the 6th & nineteenth Articles of the 14th. Section and doth therefore Adjudge him the said Daniel Broderick to suffer Death.

The court was clearly unimpressed with Broderick’s argument that he had not intended to desert but only to forage. The simple fact was that he had left is post and therefore sealed his own fate regardless of his intentions. Graydon’s account indicates to us that Broderick crafted an excuse that he thought the court might accept; it is unlikely that he chose to dig for a few roots in the terrible weather that Graydon described.

Broderick was ordered to be executed on the common in Philadelphia on Saturday 16 May “between the Hours of Ten and Twelve.” To the best of our knowledge the sentence was carried out as ordered.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Escapee: John Derring, 47th Regiment of Foot

There is a line of thinking that the British army was a career of last resort, and that soldiers would desert at any chance they got. It is easy to find scraps of information to support this notion, but there is also a great deal of information to refute it. Many men served as soldiers willingly and with spirit, and some even clung tenaciously to their military careers. One example of the latter is John Derring of the 47th Regiment of Foot.

We do not know when Derring joined the army, but he was a corporal in the light infantry company by the time the 47th regiment arrived in America in 1773. Early the following year he was reduced to a private soldier. A reduction in rank can be interpreted as evidence of bad discipline, but men were reduced for other reasons: illness that prevented them from performing their duties, promotion of an even more-qualified man, detachment from the regiment for any of number of reasons, just to name a few possibilities.

In 1776 Derring was transferred from the light infantry into one of the eight battalion companies, a sign that he lacked either the fitness or the discipline for the aggressive activities of the light infantry. A few months later he transferred to another battalion company, and in September 1776 was again appointed corporal. This improvement in his situation did not last long. The following August he was on Burgoyne's campaign to Albany when he most certainly ran into disciplinary troubles. He was reduced again to private, and along with another soldier of the 47th was tried by a general court martial for "robbing Mr. William Johnson at Fort Edward on 7 August." We do not have the date of his reduction, but it appears to have occurred before the crimes was committed; possibly he had been reduced earlier in the year for another infraction. The trial was held on 10 August, and a guilty verdict was announced in general orders on the 16th. Both Derring and the other man were sentenced to receive 1000 lashes each. We have no evidence of whether the punishment was administered in part or in full, or was pardoned altogether.

In October, John Derring became one of thousands of British prisoners of war incarcerated when Burgoyne's army surrendered at Saratoga. Although initially intended to be returned to Great Britain, the Convention Army (so named for the convention that describing the terms of capitulation) was instead held in barracks outside of Boston for over a year before being marched to the interior of Virginia and Pennsylvania. This long and frustrating captivity afforded ample opportunities to desert, particularly because soldiers were offered the opportunity to work in the country. Large numbers of British soldiers effected their escape, however, not to desert but to make their way to the British army in Rhode Island, New York or Canada.

Knowing John Derring's experience as a soldier, we'd expect him to be disaffected with the army and take the opportunity to desert. Instead, he managed to escape and eventually got in to New York where he joined the 57th Regiment of Foot. This could be viewed as simple opportunism, but Derring gave a deposition to a court of inquiry in which he briefly described his experiences. It is clear from his story that his escape was no simple task, and only through amazing tenacity did he effect it completely and make his way into New York. His deposition reads:

John Derring late of the 47th Regt. of Foot & now drafted into the 57th Regt. says that he made his escape from Prospect hill barracks on the 1st. of March 1778, but was apprehended & put into Goal in Easton, where he lay 9 Months, and was then moved to Philadelphia Goal, where he was confined two Years and four Months, and then with 18 other British Soldiers broke out of Goal, by digging with no other instrument than their knives, this being the seventh time he had made the attempt & after being 21 days in irons in a [illeg] for making these attempts: that on the 29th of May 1782 he arrived at New York; he therefore claims his pay (one Guinea excepted, which he received in Philadelphia Goal) and cloathing (except two [illeg] from the time he made his escape from the 47th Regt. at Prospect Hill to his being drafted into the 57th Regt. vizt from the 1st of March 1778, to the 29th of May 1782

This story sounds remarkable but it was one of dozens of depositions given by British soldiers who had gone to considerable lengths and endured immeasurable risks to get from captivity back to the British army. Many more did so but left no depositions or other details of their efforts. All this in a country where they could easily melt into local populations, find work, and settle. Clearly they were highly motivated to return to the army and eventually to Great Britain. While we do not know their actual motives, it is certain that life in the army was not unbearable - Derring and hundreds of other soldiers who had many other choices nonetheless returned to the service.

The muster rolls of the 57th Regiment would tell what became of John Derring, but we have not had the opportunity to examine them. When he joined the regiment, Derring could not have known that they would be sent to Canada at the end of the war in late 1783. Whether Derring was offered a discharge from the army, or went on to Canada with many of his fellow career soldiers, is left for future research to determine.