Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Pensioner: Isaac Neuman, 22nd Regiment of Foot

Isaac Neuman was 26 years old when he first appeared on the rolls of the 22nd Regiment of Foot in May 1774. The laborer from Chipenham, Wiltshire spent a year with the regiment in Ireland before embarking with it for America. We know of nothing remarkable about him during his service with the 22nd in Boston, the New York area, and Rhode Island through 1779. On 7 February 1780, however, when the regiment was again serving in the environs of New York City, Neuman was confined to the provost for desertion.

Neuman's crime warranted a general court martial, but the judicial system of the British army had a backlog of cases to try; he was still in confinement awaiting trial in June. To help relieve the backlog Adjutant General John Andre sent a letter to commanding officers of several regiments offering them the option of trying some prisoners by regimental courts as long as the commanders thought the circumstances warranted such action:

If his Crime & Character are attended with no Circumstances required Peculiar Rigor and if he can be tried by a Regimental Court Martial for any transgression cognizable to such a Court, He shall be delivered up that such an example may be made within the Regiment as is necessary without the Operation of a Genl. Court Martial.

In September the Major commanding the 22nd Regiment acknowledged Andre's letter and sent Neuman to be tried by officers of the 22nd Regiment. This was fortunate for Neuman because a regimental court could not sentence a man to death even though that was the maximum penalty for desertion; it is unfortunate for history because records of regimental courts martial have not survived, so we have no details on the circumstances of Neuman's desertion, capture or punishment.

Whatever the punishment, it did not deter Neuman from future deviance. On the morning of 18 July 1782 he was absent from the a detachment of the 22nd Regiment posted at Richmond on Staten Island. The commander of the detachment, Captain John Dumaresque, ordered a party of dragoons to search for him and several other deserters. They discovered Neuman in a neighborhood called Princess Bay hiding in some bushes with five other soldiers. Neuman, who was dressed in a round hat, brown jacket or waistcoat and white breeches, managed to escape when the other five men, all dressed as soldiers, were taken by the dragoons.

About two days later Neuman called at the house of an inhabitant about a mile from Amboy Ferry on Staten Island at about 8 o'clock in the morning. Neuman asked for water, but the inhabitant, a private in the Staten Island Militia, was suspicious. He questioned Neuman, and not being satisfied with his answers took him prisoner. He put Neuman on board a galley in Princess Bay for the night and brought him the next day to Richmond.

Neuman was put on trial by a general court martial on 17 August 1782 in New York on charges of "Inveigling and persuading Soldiers of the same Regiment to Desert, and also of Desertion." In support of the first charge, one of the five soldiers captured when Neuman escaped gave the following testimony:

The day the Prisoner went away he cannot recollect the day, he went with him; that in the morning of that day, the Prisoner asked him if he would do a good turn, he replied he would be agreeable to any good turn; the Prisoner then proposed to him to desert; he objected saying "twas not a proper time," the Prisoner said 'twas a good time as he could be at the Waterside before any discovery could be made, and also said, that if he did not go 'twould be worse for him; that he agreed to go, and went with the Prisoner and four other Men; that they went backward and forward in the Woods from five o'Clock in the Morning 'till near twelve at Noon, when they were surprised by a party of Dragoons as they were laying in the bushes.

Additional testimony was given by Captain Dumaresque, the serjeant who commanded the party of dragoons, and the inhabitant who had captured Neuman. In his defense, Newman said that he had quit his post because he had been ill treated and had not been paid for five months. He said that complained to his company captain of the ill treatment but the officer would not listen to him, and that when he asked for his pay the captain "told him to go about his business or he would break his head."

To determine the truth of Neuman's complaints, the court asked Captain Dumaresque to explain how men of the 22nd Regiment were paid. Dumaresque testified in some detail:

The Method is, that every Commanding Officer regularly Accounts with the Soldiers of his Company every two Months, and in general if they are Men that do not make away with their Necessaries, they pay them the Balance coming to them; if they are accustomed to Sell or loose their Necessaries, they then keep the Balance of such Men to indemnify themselves for any fresh Supply of Necessaries there may be occasion for- He further deposes, that suspecting he might be asked the question, he asked Captain Lindsay respecting the Prisoner's Accounts, who informed him that he had settled the Accounts of his Company and that every man had Signed his Accounts to the twenty second of June last past, as also the Prisoner.

The court found Neuman guilty of both charges and sentence him to death. A week later, however, he and several other convicted deserters were pardoned from execution on the condition that they would serve in the Loyal American Rangers, a Loyalist corps stationed in Jamaica. He was duly discharged from the 22nd and turned over to his new regiment. He served with the Loyal American Rangers until that corps was disbanded in late 1783.

Neuman's career in the army was not over. While we know nothing of his whereabouts for ten years, in about 1794 he joined the 91st Regiment of Foot and continued in that regiment for over eight years. He was finally discharged at Portsea Barracks in England at the age of 57 in May 1803. He signed his discharge by making his mark, indicating that he was illiterate; he received a pension.

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