Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Pensioner: Daniel Hollowell, 33rd Regiment of Foot

When General Howe’s army landed in Maryland to advance on Philadelphia on 23 August 1777, 30-year-old Daniel Hollowell was among the soldiers in the light infantry company of the 33rd Regiment serving in the 1st Battalion of Light Infantry. Hollowell (who's name is spelled various ways on the muster rolls and other documents) had been a soldier since 1766 or 1767 so it was fitting that he was among the experienced men in the elite light infantry. Although he must have been a generally well-behaved and trusted soldier to serve in this corps, on this campaign he ran into some trouble.

Four days after the initial landing while the army was still preparing to advance, Hollowell was confined by his company commander “irregular behaviour.” When he was put into confinement, his necessaries (extra shirts, stockings and shoes) were taken to him and remained with him while he was a prisoner. On campaign, “confinement” by the quarter-guard seems to have had a probationary nature, with Hollowell doing normal duty during the day but being put under the supervision of the guard at night. On 31 August, after four days of this confinement, Hollowell was turned over to the quarter-guard at dusk as usual. A few hours later he and his necessaries were missing, but no word of a deserter seems to have reached the men on piquet duty around the periphery of the encampment.

At around 9PM, an advanced piquet (one of a series of sentries placed at intervals) belonging to the light infantry battalion noticed an approaching man fall in the road. The piquet challenged, and it was a drunken Hollowell who got up and approached out of the darkness. When questioned by the piquet, Hollowell claimed to be bringing a drink to a comrade who was also a sentry. It is not clear whether this was before or after the quarter-guard determined that Hollowell was missing, but the piquet was not alarmed by the discovery and simply pointed him in the right direction.

Some minutes later the piquet heard another disturbance in bushes near his post. Receiving no response to his challenges, the piquet attempted to fire, but his musket misfired. Advancing to investigate, the piquet found Hollowell who this time claimed to be trying to find his way back to the encampment. Not having any reason to be suspicious of him, the piquet once again pointed him in the right direction and sent him on his way.

Around dawn, two non-commissioned officers who were visiting the sentries discovered one soldier carefully observing something in front. The sentry pointed out a man approaching to whom the sentry had twice called challenges but gotten no response. The non-commissioned officers stepped out of view to let him get closer. When the intruder was about forty yards away, they rushed out and ordered him to stand. It was Hollowell, who this time claimed that he was going to wash a shirt (according to one of the non-commissioned officers) or to fill a canteen (according to the other). Not satisfied with Hollowell’s explanation, the non-commissioned officers confined him. He was wearing a cloak over his clothing, and when searched was found to be carrying nothing besides a canteen.

When Hollowell was tried the next day by a general court martial for desertion, he testified that he was drunk, had no intention of desertion, but had simply lost his way and was making for the camp fires of the battalion when he was taken. The court inquired whether he had taken his necessaries with him. When he was reported missing from the quarter-guard the serjeant of the guard was unable to locate Hollowell’s necessaries but testified that they were present again after Hollowell was once more confined. No explanation was given for this anomaly, but since Hollowell had not been carrying any extra clothing no further inquiry was made. He was never seen going away from the army and never behaved as though attempting to desert. The court found Hollowell innocent and released him. Oddly enough no one sought an explanation for why he was away from confinement or how he had gotten liquor.

We have no evidence that Hollowell got into any other trouble. He continued in the 33rd Regiment until 1791 when he was discharged and received an out-pension, but soon enlisted again in the 95th Regiment for another six years. He was finally discharged and pensioned in 1798 at the age of 54 after 32 years of service.

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