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.


  1. Thanks for posting all of this unique information. I will definitely mark this site as one of my favorites and be a regular visitor.

  2. I was interested in the reference to a Lenahan in the Revolutionary War. Am searching for information on Dr Elizabeth Lenahan who married John Johnson. She was to have visited patients on horseback and said to have treated American Indian patients. Any help with this connection would be greatly appreciated.