Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Deserter: Samuel James, 52nd Regiment of Foot

Most of the entries in this series tell the story of a soldier, pieced together from primary sources. This entry illustrates something different: that many stories, in fact the majority of them, go untold for want of sufficient information. We have enough to know that something interesting happened, but not enough to know what it was. This serves as a reminder that every single soldier had a career that included interesting moments and events, but details of only a scant few survive.

Samuel James joined the army at the age of 22 in 1757. After 18 years in that regiment, he was drafted into the 52nd Regiment at the end of 1775. The 59th had been on service in North America for several years when war broke out. Being under strength and due to return to Great Britain, the regiment's able-bodied men were drafted - transferred into other regiments serving in America - while unfit men were discharged and and the officers, non-commissioned officers and a cadre of long-serving soldiers returned to the British Isles to recruit anew.

That Samuel James was drafted at the age of 40 after 18 years of service is proof that career soldiers remained fit for service well into middle age. James began service in the 52nd Regiment of Foot, moving with it from Boston to Halifax and then to the New York area. During the successful British campaign to take New York City in late 1776, Samuel James was reported as a deserter in a memorandum circulated in general orders:

9th Octr 76 Suposed to have Deserted from his Majesties 52d Regt on the 7th Inst (Samuel James) About 5 feet 9 I High brown Complection markd with the small pox 41 years of Age born at Fenningham Glocestershire by trade a Labourer have been 18 years in the 59th Rgt had on when he whent away the Regtl Cloathing of the 52 Regt.

This memorandum, recorded in a regimental orderly book kept in the 37th Regiment of Foot, provides all of the information that we have on James besides his service record, and saves us the trouble of tracing his service in the muster rolls of the 59th Regiment.

The rolls of the 52nd Regiment duly record the date that he joined that regiment, 25 December 1775, but also introduce an element of mystery to his story. There is no record of Samuel James' desertion. He is carried on the rolls of the 52nd steadily until the 52nd was drafted in late 1778. By this time, with 20 years of service, James was discharged. There is no evidence that he received a pension or continued to serve in a garrison battalion.

The only thing that is clear is that he returned from desertion, or was caught, within the muster period extending from June through December 1776; because he was present at the beginning and end of this period, there is no indication of his absence on the muster roll. There is also no evidence that he was tried by a general court martial for desertion. Either his absence did not result in desertion charges, or he was tried by a regimental court for a lesser crime; records of regimental courts have not survived. The semi-annual roll prepared in June 1778 indicates that he was on furlough at that time, a vague suggestion that regardless of whatever happened in October 1776 he was trusted enough to spend time away from the regiment. He had returned by the time the next rolls were prepared in September, shortly before he was discharged.

But that is all we know. Somehow, he got separated from the regiment in October 1776 for a long enough time to warrant a search. Clearly he returned somehow, for some reason, but we have no details. And this unrecorded vignette is but one incident in a 20 year career in two regiments that saw extensive foreign service and several major engagements in America. It is unfortunately that we know so little about him.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

John Gilbert, Musician, 22nd Regiment of Foot

Did soldiers own things? That's a simple question that is very difficult to answer. We have few documents that give us any answers, largely because there are no categories of 'official' documents to record such information. Army documents record what belonged to the army and, in the case of uniform clothing, what the soldier purchased from the army, but there was no reason to record those things that were the soldier's personal property - if, in fact, he had any. Journals, letters or other writings by the soldiers themselves are extremely rare, too few to answer the question (but, in the future, we will revisit those sources).

Conventional wisdom would suggest that the soldier's meager pay would afford him little opportunity to purchase much, and his itinerant life would make it difficult to retain any but small possessions. we would expect that something like a watch, even portable, would be too expensive for the common soldier to own. Conventional wisdom, though, is often wrong; we know of two soldiers in the 22nd Regiment of Foot who owned watches. This is not many of the 1005 men who served in the regiment during the war, but they happen to be the only two personal possessions that we know about in this regiment. Given the difficult of finding any information, the fact that these two watches are known is either remarkable, or an indication that watches were more accessible than we would have guessed. Perhaps watches then were like automobiles today - even though new ones were expensive, there were enough used ones on the market to make them accessible even to people of modest means.

A previous installment concerned Richard Hallum; we know he owned a watch because a fellow soldier tried to steal it from him. We also know that Hallum was a wagon driver, which perhaps allowed him to earn more money than other soldiers; that's only a guess, though. Another watch-owning soldier in the 22nd Regiment was John Gilbert, one of two men in the regiment with this name.

John Gilbert joined the regiment in May 1766, and is carried on the rolls as a private soldier for much of his career. For reasons that we do not know, he transferred to the 64th Regiment of Foot in November 1776 where he was also carried as a private, then returned to the 22nd Regiment in December 1779. It is possible, but not certain, that he was the servant to an officer who transferred to the 64th, Charles Laton. It was common for private soldiers to transfer to other regiments, but quite rare for a man to transfer back again. It is particularly interesting that Gilbert left the 22nd at the time the regiment was embarking in New York for Rhode Island, and returned immediately after the regiment returned to the New York garrison.

Shortly after returning to the 22nd Regiment he was appointed as a drummer. In 1784 he was reduced again to private soldier. This is consistent with several men known to have served in the regiment's band of music - they were usually carried on the rolls as privates, but for the last few years of the war were carried as drummers instead (but this is not true for all bandsmen, only some of them).

John Gilbert prepared a will on 4 April 1786 when the regiment was in Plymouth, England. He was probably quite ill at the time; he died 17 days later. The will refers to him as a 'Musician in the 22nd Regt.', confirming his role at least at that time; perhaps his musical talent was the reason for his temporary service in the 64th Regiment.

The will refers to his father in Surrey, also named John. Gilbert directed that all of his 'goods, money owed, prize money, etc.' go to Thomas Gilbert, apparently his brother, who would share it equally with another brother, William, and a married sister in Surrey, Elizabeth Alstous. The money was substantial; Gilbert's father had lodged 100 pounds sterling in his name, and Gilbert surely had accumulated some savings in his 20 years of service that probably included extra income from work as a musician.

John Gilbert also owned a 'Silver Watch & furniture' which he left to his sister. While we could assume that this was a sign of some wealth, the will reveals another possible explanation for this private soldier owning a watch: his brother William was a watchmaker.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Mary and Cornelius Driscoll (Driskill), 10th Regiment of Foot

Last week I gave a presentation at a workshop for history teachers, hosted by the David Library of the American Revolution concerning women during the war. My specific subject was wives of British soldiers, the largely overlooked thousands of women who worked within the army infrastructure to help provide for their families. We know from many examples that this was a difficult life, particularly when the army went on campaign (although the difficulties must be taken in context of what else was available to working-class people of the era).

The challenges and hazards that could face army women are exemplified in a petition written by Mary Driskill (or Driscoll), wife of a grenadier in the 10th Regiment of Foot. It is not known where she was from, when she married a soldier or how long she was in America. It is clear that she was with the British army in Philadelphia in December 1777 when an expedition made its way towards the American army that was establishing an encampment at Valley Forge. Mary Driskill accompanied her husband on this foray when they skirmished with an American force under the command of General Lafayette. Nearly two years later, back in New York, she wrote a petition to the commander in chief recounting her subsequent experiences:

To his Excellency, Sir Henry Clinton, Knight of the Bath, General and Commander in Chief, of all his Majesty’s Forces Within the Colonies Lying on the Atlantic Ocean from nova Scotia to West Florida Inclusive &c. &c. &c. –

The Humble Petition of Mary Driskill, a Poor Distressed Widow Belonging to the Tenth Regiment, Capt. Fitzgeralds Company of Grenadiers

Mosty Humbly Sheweth

That your Poor Petitioners Husband was killed at Chestnut Hill [skirmish near Philadelphia, December 1777], after which your Petitioner was taken prisoner, and put into Trentown Jail, out of which your Petitioner made her Escape, and was again taken and put into Lancaster Prison, from which, along with Three of General Burgoins men your petitioner Escaped Again, and was again taken and cast into Carlisle Prison, from which also your Petitioner (along with Two Women more, and With Two Twins, of which your Petitioner was delivered in Prison,) made her Escape and in a Canno came Over the Susquehana River, and thence, by many hardships, came to this City.

Your poor Petitioner is in a Very Disconsolate Condition, having by means of Lying in the Woods with her Two Twins, lost her hearing, and has nothing to Support herself and Children, nor a house to shelter her and little Ones, from the Inclemency of the Weather, your Poor Petitioner looks up to your Excellency for Redress; and may the almighty God, Who is a Father to the Fatherless and a Comforter to the Widow, Bless your Excellency with every Blessing from the upper and Nether Spring, So prays your poor and Distressed Petitioner.
Brooklyn Long-Island Novr: 27th: 1779

Her petition was endorsed by Major General Francis Smith of the 10th Regiment, the same officer who had led the British expedition to Concord on 19 April 1775; Smith confirmed that Driskill was the wife of a soldier in the 10th Regiment and "bore a good Character."

Lists of prisoners of war are fragmentary, and we have found no corroboration that Mary Diskill was in any of the prisons that she mentions. Here story is plausible, though, particularly in light of the large numbers of incarcerated prisoners from Burgoyne's army that made escapes similar to the ones that she describes.

The exercise for the teacher's workshop was to be a demonstration of the use of multiple primary sources to corroborate each other. I assumed that it would be an easy task to find Mary Driskill's husband on the muster rolls of the 10th Regiment, get an idea of how long he had been in the army, and verify his death in December 1777. It was, in fact, easy to find Cornelius Driscoll (using the spelling on the muster rolls). His story made hers that much more interesting (assuming that they had been married for a few years) because he was drafted into the 10th Regiment of Foot from the 50th Regiment in August 1776. The 50th had been in the West Indies for a few years before being sent to join the army in New York; tropical service took its toll on the men, leaving the regiment so depleted that it was not fit for campaigning in America. Upon arrival in New York, the able-bodied men were drafted - transferred - into other regiments and the officers, non-commissioned officers and drummers sent home to recruit. Men unfit for service were also sent home to be discharged or stay on the recruiting service. We have not had the opportunity to trace Cornelius Driscoll's service in the 50th Regiment.

More intriguing is that Cornelius Driscoll did not die in 1777. He is carried on the rolls of the 10th Regiment until late 1778, when that regiment was drafted. Driscoll was certainly able-bodied at that time, because he went into the 5th Regiment of Foot and on to service in the West Indies once again. He continued in the army, serving in two more regiments (for a total of 5) before being discharged in 1791 after twenty years of service at the age of 44. He received a pension from the government, from which we learn that he was a labourer from Shannon, County Cork; his military service left him "worn out and asthmatik." We have no way of knowing whether he was eventually reunited with his wife.

This information makes Mary Driskill's plight all the more interesting. Somehow she became separated from her husband in December 1777. Perhaps he had gone missing during the action at Chestnut Hill and she had gone looking for him, leading to her capture. Perhaps she had seen him wounded and assumed he was dead before her own capture. There is also the chance that she had no information at all, but wrote that he was dead as a way of invoking sympathy in her petition. Since the regiment had left New York a year before she presented her case, there was no way (that we know of) for the headquarters staff in that city to verify her claim with muster rolls or testimony from fellow soldiers.

For whatever reason, Cornelius and Mary Driscoll were separated for at least two years, and maybe forever. Her petition is a small but powerful testimony to the women who accompanied their husbands on service in America, facing unimaginable hardships for the simple sake of matrimonial loyalty.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Prisoner of War: John Buchanan, 9th Regiment of Foot

The story of General John Burgoyne's ill-fated 1777 campaign is well known, for it resulted in the capitulation of a substantial British army. The prisoners of war were marched to hastily-built barracks outside of Boston, expecting to be sent back to Great Britain. Among them was a corporal in the 9th Regiment of Foot named John Buchanan. Among his comrades in the 9th were corporal Roger Lamb who chronicled the regiment's two years of campaigning in America, and corporal Samuel Reeves.

Tensions ran high between the British prisoners, the American soldiers who guarded them, and the local populace. It didn't help that the British prisoners were crowded into decrepit barracks in cold weather, had nothing to occupy their time, and were guarded by local militia who did not have the professional acumen that they were accustomed to as soldiers. Among many incidents, in December 1777 John Buchanan was confined to the guard house for insulting a local inhabitant and Samuel Reeves was confined for insulting an American officer.

On 19 December the commander of the American troops guarding the prisoners, Colonel David Henley ordered those prisoners who were confined for various infractions paraded so that he could review their cases. Buchanan, Reeves and a few other confined prisoners were brought out of the guard house. Other British soldiers gathered to see what was going on. Henley, on horseback, asked the paraded prisoners one at a time why they had been confined. Henley was already unpopular with the British prisoners because of his volatile temper, and his discourse with Reeves quickly got out of hand. Reeves said that he did not recognize the man he'd insulted as an officer, or he would not have done so. Henley called him a rascal, and Reeves retorted that he was not a rascal but a good soldier, and hoped soon to be able to prove it when free to fight again for his king and country. This so enraged Henley that he ordered a sentry to run Reeves through with his bayonet. When the sentry hesitated, Henley dismounted his horse, seized the sentry's firelock and thrust the bayonet at Reeves' breast. Buchanan grabbed the firelock, but not in time to prevent Reeves receiving a slight puncture wound. Reeves continued to argue in spite of his wound, but Buchanan and the other soldiers managed to separate him from Colonel Henley. Reeves and Buchanan were ordered back to the guard house and the other prisoners were dismissed. Buchanan was told that he would be released after writing an apology to the inhabitant that he had insulted.

Apparently Buchanan wrote the apology and was released but just a couple of weeks later, on 8 January 1778, he was attempting to cross a bridge near the prisoners' barracks when he encountered Colonel Henley and another officer. Buchanan presented a pass, but Henley examined it and determined that it was

not written for Buchanan but for another man. Henley ordered a corporal and two soldiers to take charge of Buchanan and take him to the guard house in the prison compound, setting in motion a series of events that very nearly turned riotous.

A large party of American militia was marching past the British barracks. About sixty of the British prisoners gathered to watch them march by; they crowded close to the road so that it was difficult for the American soldiers to pass. In the crowd, one British soldier inadvertently stepped on the foot of Thomas Tragget (or Tredgett) of the 24th Regiment. Tragget cried out with an epithet. One of the American soldiers, thinking that Tragget was taunting them, lunged at Tragget and stabbed him with a bayonet. As Tragget and other soldiers protested, the militia man stabbed Tragget a second time, then hit him once with the butt of his firelock. The wounds were not dangerous, and within a few days Tragget was on the mend.

Soon after, the three American guards escorting John Buchanan approached the guard house. This caught the attention a British soldier who ran over and started talking to Buchanan. Unaccountably, the guards allowed the British prisoner to walk alongside Buchanan conversing with him. Moments later, they came upon the growing crowd of prisoners that was already agitated from the stabbing of Tragget.

The British prisoners crowded around Buchanan and the three guards. As the guard party attempted to push through, a British soldier slipped beside Buchanan, and suddenly took his place as Buchanan slipped into the crown. Other prisoners held onto the coat tails of the guards, preventing them from immediate pursuit.

Attempting to follow Buchanan, the guards pushed into the crowd with charged bayonets as the British soldiers cheered. Thomas Willson of the 9th Regiment, confronted with a guard's bayonet, parried when suddenly the other guard stabbed Willson in the left side. Buchanan, though, had made good his escape.

Colonel Henley, on foot this time, led a dozen or so soldiers in to disperse the British prisoners and restore order. The soldiers loaded their firelocks and Henley ordered the British prisoners to disperse. The crowd was thick by now, and the men did not move off quickly enough to satisfy Henley; he

cursed the scattering prisoners, and in his agitation stabbed Corporal Hadley of 9th Regiment in the side with such force as to bend his sword. Henley continued to shout at the dispersing prisoners, attempting to straighten his sword while threatening to run stragglers through. Several British and American soldiers received blows and minor injuries in the confused scuffling.

The British prisoners finally cleared the area and ordered was restored. Buchanan was at large among the scattered prisoners; when an American serjeant saw him and attempted to seize him, Buchanan's comrades blocked the serjeant's way, hustled Buchanan into a barracks and blocked the door. Colonel Henley, at the advice of one of his subordinates, chose not to further pursue Buchanan but instead to ask the senior British officer present to turn Buchanan in.

British officers paraded the prisoners, an American officer identified Buchanan, and he was taken away under guard. The next day he was tried by a British regimental court martial which heard testimony from American as well as British witnesses, and the British court sentenced Buchanan to fifty lashes. The next day, however, when the punishment was to be carried out, Buchanan was pardoned and set at liberty.

With three British prisoners stabbed in a single day, along with a number of minor injuries and the incidents of the preceding weeks, Colonel Henley's treatment of the prisoners was called into question by Major General John Burgoyne. Burgoyne demanded that Henley be brought before a court martial. The court sat from 20 January to 25 February, with Burgoyne himself in the roll of prosecutor. The full proceedings of the court were published and are available here. Burgoyne delivered summaries that made full use of his literary and dramatic talents, and many incidents of the preceding months were described in detail by British and American soldiers and officers.

Unfortunately, we know no more of John Buchanan. Muster rolls were not kept for the British regiments during the time that they were in captivity. He has yet to be discovered as having escaped and joined the ranks of another British regiment, or on the lists of men receiving pensions. He may have died in captivity, escaped and settled in America, or rejoined the British army in circumstances that have yet to be determined.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Phineas Baker and Henry Drennan, 38th Regiment

You can't believe everything you read in the newspapers. This guidance, familiar today, was also true in the 18th century; in fact, it may have been more true then than now. Period newspapers are outstanding sources of information filled with advertisements and notices that provide rich insight on the culture of a region, but the actual news that they contain is profoundly unreliable. Publishers relied heavily on accounts and hearsay brought to them by travelers and correspondents, and had no ability to verify (in a timely manner) much of what they published. During times of political unrest and war, exaggerated and fabricated information could be used to inflame the readership.

Captain Hugh Maginis of the 38th Regiment of Foot complained of this type of exaggerated reporting by American newspapers early in the war. In a letter to his brother in Ireland in December 1774, he wrote:

The people here and we are on bad terms, ready to cut on another’s throats. We often see here in the English papers accounts from America, not one of which contain a word of truth; they mention a great deal about the desertion from our troops, some are gone off, but not the tenth part of what they say, for our whole army, consisting of 105 companies, have not lost 120 men, although the people make use of every stratagem to make them desert, and supply them with horses and carriages to go off.

Maginis's complaint is proven legitimate by muster rolls. The ten companies in the 38th regiment had 20 desertions from the time of their arrival in Boston in June 1774 until the end of that year; they did not occur at a steady rate, but included 5 in July, 8 in September, and only one or two in each of the other months. Extrapolating to 105 companies yields a figure similar to Maginis's. Whether this was a high or low rate of desertion is a matter of perspective. It is notable that some men listed as having deserted before 19 April 1775 managed to rejoin the army later in the war and brought tales of having been coerced away or even kidnapped. It is difficult to determine whether these were factual reports or alibis designed to avoid punishment for desertion. After hostilities broke out in earnest on 19 April, desertion decreased significantly; the 38th regiment lost only 3 men to desertion from 19 April to the evacuation of Boston in March 1776. Whether the decrease was due to martial spirit or to the city being closed off from the countryside is debatable.

Continuing his thought about the local inhabitants' schemes to inveigle men away, Maginis described the exploits of two of his soldiers:

But I believe that will be a good deal stopped by the good behaviour of a young lad, a corporal in my company; he with another of the company went to a public-house, where they met some countrymen, who advised them to desert, and that they would supply them with disguises, that they might escape the easier, whereupon the corporal put on a disguise, stuffed his regimentals into one of the men’s saddle bags, and after settling their expedition, the countryman offered to take the corporal behind him, but he told him he could not ride without stirrups, so he got on the saddle, and took the countryman behind him, and set a galloping towards the nearest barrack, which, when the other observed, he leaped from behind him, and made his escape, swearing he would not wait to be shot, the corporal drove on to his own barrack with the whole prize, and no one dare to own the horse or cloaths; the corporal is thanked by the whole army, and the horse given up to him; there was no horse for the other, or he would have done the same. The corporal is one Baker, a Yorkshire-man; and the soldier’s name is Drenning a Heart of Steel from the county of Antrim.

There is one aspect of this account that casts doubt on it: the letter itself was published in a Dublin newspaper, the Hibernian Chronicle of 23 January 1775. Is this letter a piece of propaganda fabricated by the publisher or a legitimate record of an event in Boston?

It is plausible for a letter dated 14 December 1774 to have arrived in Dublin in time to have been fresh news for the 23 January 1775 newspaper, given that the journey from America to Britain was must faster than travel in the other direction. The veracity of the letter is further supported by the names that it provides, Corporal Baker and Private Drenning. The muster rolls of the 38th Regiment confirm that Phineas Baker was appointed corporal in Maginis's company on 20 August 1774, and that Henry Drennan was a private soldier in Maginis's company (variations of spelling are quite common among the names recorded on muster rolls and other documents).

The young and clever Corporal Phineas Baker whose exploit earned the praise of the army died on 17 July 1775 of wounds he received at the battle of Bunker Hill a month before. The steel-hearted Henry Drennan fared much better. The same battle that resulted in the death of his comrade created a vacancy that allowed Drennan to be appointed corporal (but not the same vacancy created by the death of Baker; Drennan was appointed only three days after the 17 June battle). Five months later he became a serjeant. When a cadre of officers and men was sent to Great Britain in December 1775 for recruiting, Serjeant Drennan was among them. He remained on this service for the entirety of the war, and took his discharge in August 1784.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Henry Pickles, 43rd Regiment of Foot

Sometimes we have just enough information about a soldier to leave us wondering why there isn't more. Such is the case with Henry Pickles, private soldier in the 43rd Regiment of Foot. He was already in the regiment at the beginning of 1773, the earliest date for which we have copies of muster rolls on hand. With his regiment he came to Boston in 1774, continued on to the New York campaign in the Autumn of 1776 and then to Rhode Island at the end of that year. It was in Rhode Island that he did something so distinguished that the commander of the garrison mentioned him by name in general orders, a very rare distinction for a private soldier.

The three-year occupation of Rhode Island by British forces is largely overlooked in histories of the war because it did not have any obvious effect on the overall course of the conflict. An abortive Anglo-French attempt to retake the island sometimes gets attention because it culminated in the 29 August 1778 battle that was among the largest of the war in terms of numbers of troops involved. Otherwise one could easily get the impression that Rhode Island was a sleepy backwater bypassed by the war raging in other regions.

For the soldiers serving in the Rhode Island garrison, this was hardly the case. The British, German and Loyalist soldiers on the island were separated from their adversaries by waterways that were quite narrow in some places, and the sea-savvy New England soldiers manning the mainland posts were able to make frequent night time raids on the island. The active petit guerre caused frequent alarms and small engagements that forced the garrison to be in a constant state of vigilance.

On 21 February 1777, an American galley called the Spitfire supported a party of American troops that landed on the island, the second landing that week. The Spitfire exchanged fire with British artillery for some six hours before drawing away heavily damaged. The raiders secured a quantity of oats and hay, forage that sounds insignificant but which was important for the British garrison that was unable to receive provisions from mainland farms.

Three weeks later on the night of 13-14 March, the Spitfire was passing through the narrows at Bristol Ferry, today the site of the Mount Hope Bridge. Movements like these were usually done at nice to minimize the danger of detection by British sentries, but nighttime navigation was itself hazardous. The Spitfire ran aground. British artillery crews, supported by soldiers on temporary service with the gunners, were highly adept at rapid deployment of their field artillery pieces and had strategically positioned them where they could be moved to repel landings. The immobilized American galley presented an excellent opportunity to use this capability, and field pieces were moved to the shore to engage the Spitfire.

Realizing the hopelessness of their situation, the crew of the galley abandoned it and made for the safety of the Bristol shore. Although the vessel was now defenseless against the British artillery, the solid iron ball and shot fired by these guns could damage the ship but not destroy it completely. Being aground already, it could not be sunk. It was essential to deprive the Americans of a valuable hull that could be refitted, so complete destruction was essential. The galley had to be burned.

Rather than wait for boats to be brought to the scene (boats were scare along the shoreline, because they could too easily be used for clandestine activities), a British private soldier took action. Henry Pickles went into the water and swam to the galley. The exact location of the grounded vessel is not known, but this swim could have been as much as a half-mile in an area with significant currents. We also do not know whether Pickles set fire to the galley himself, or brought a line that was used to haul it closer to the British shore. Either way, the Spitfire was consumed by fire and completely destroyed.

The next day, general orders given to the garrison read as follows:

Lord Percy thanks Captain Brady and the British Artillery that destroyed the Rebel Galley yesterday. He also desires that Henry Pickles, Private soldier in his Majestys 43d Regiment may be informed that he is extreamly pleased with his spirited conduct, in Swiming on Board the Galley

For a soldier to be named in orders promulgated to the entire garrison was extremely unusual. It did not, however, mean that Henry Pickles' was destined for a remarkable future in the army; in fact, we know very little more about him except what the muster rolls tell us.

He was transferred to the light infantry company of the 43rd Regiment at the end of 1777, which shows that he was a spirited and active soldier. For reasons unknown, he was soon transferred back to the battalion, so soon that he never actually appears on the rolls of the light company. This could have been for health reasons, or because the battalion wished to retain him for some reason (at this time, the light infantry company was in Philadelphia while the battalion was in Rhode Island). At the end of 1779, after Rhode Island was evacuated and the entirety of the 43rd Regiment was in the New York area, Pickles was again transferred to the light infantry. This assignment took him on several expeditions to the southward including the siege of Charleston, South Carolina and the campaign led by Benedict Arnold around Petersburg, Virginia. It also took him to Yorktown, Virginia in 1781 where he became a prisoner of war along with the rest of the British forces under General Cornwallis.

The final annotation concerning Henry Pickles is deceptive; he is listed as having deserted on 1 July 1783. A peace treaty had been signed, and prisoners of war were repatriated. British prisoners were given the opportunity to join the British garrison in New York, but many failed to arrive. As an administrative expedient, all of the prisoners whose fate was unknown were written off on the muster rolls as deserters. Henry Pickles may have settled in America, he may died in captivity or as a escapee, or he could have made his way to a British garrison in Canada or the West Indies and joined another regiment without this information having made its way back to New York. The actual fate of this soldier who had one day of distinction remains unknown.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Employed soldier: Joseph Harrison, 22nd Regiment

A reader asked, if the army was able to employ soldiers such as John Hopwood the butcher, tailors John Watkins and Patrick Lenahan, and bakers William Bayliss and John Lewis, then why were there soldiers competing with civilians for jobs in Boston in 1769 and 1770, contributing to the unrest that culminated in the Boston Massacre? This is a good question. We don't have a definitive answer, but the best guess is that the army did not have enough jobs available to accommodate all of the soldiers who were willing and able to work.

Military books of the era made recommendations to officers about conditions under which soldiers should be allowed to work outside of the army. The popular work "A System for the Compleat Interior Management and Economy of a Battalion of Infantry" by Bennett Cuthbertson includes a chapter on the subject offering the guidance that non-military jobs must not interfere with a soldier's duties and that the soldier was not to work in his uniform. Especially clear from the recommendations is that it was normal and expected for soldiers to have second jobs when circumstances allowed it - not unlike today's military.

This adds an interesting and overlooked dimension to the subject of a soldier's pay. Much is made in literature of the meager pay of 8 pence per day, from which stoppages were made to pay for food, clothing, medical care and other amenities. This pay, however, should be viewed not as the soldier's sole earning potential, but as his base pay. We have seen examples of soldiers with trades being able to work for the army and will see more in future installments. Soldiers without trades also were given opportunities to work at military projects such as building roads, preparing and maintaining fortifications, cutting work, and numerous other activities.

How much could a soldier earn at a military job? An excellent and striking example is Joseph Harrison, a soldier in the 22nd Regiment of Foot. Born in 1736, he had acquired no skilled trade by the time he joined the army in 1755. By 1782 he was a corporal.

For a period of 35 days in May and June 1782, he was among 7 men of the 22nd Regiment who, along with 7 men of the New Jersey Volunteers, worked on a boat a Paulus Hook, a British outpost of the New York garrison on the shore of New Jersey. The work these men did is not specified in the document that enumerates how they were paid, but the amount of money that they earned is significant. Each man earned 4 shillings per day, six times the base pay of a common soldier. Harrison and the other men of the 22nd Regiment each worked 18 days, and each earned a total of 3 pounds 12 shillings. This was equivalent to about four month's pay, and unlike the base wage there were no stoppages from it - it was all 'take home' pay.

Joseph Harrison was discharged after the regiment returned to Great Britain in early 1784, and received a pension. The pension rolls mention that he had a "Wounded left eye" but it is not known when or under what circumstances he received the wound.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Employed soldier: John Hopwood, 54th Regiment

Before presenting the brief story of a working soldier, let's take a moment to address a question related to our previous post on army widows. We have data that proves that some widows did not remarry immediately, but remained with their regiments and remarried a year or more later. Several people asked what these women did in the mean time that allowed them to remain affiliated with the army. I don't have an answer based on knowledge of any specific woman's career, but a likely answer can be deduced from information in my article on army women. Soldiers' wives were entitled to receive rations from the army, but not all wives were dependent upon those rations. We have direct information that some nurses drew rations through army hospitals, for example. It is also clear that women 'earned their bread' by working as sutlers and laundresses for the army, or by finding work outside of the army. Presumably, then, if a woman was in an established position and earning her own subsistence when her husband died there was no reason for the army to oust her just because she was a widow.

Soldiers, as we know, were also often employed by the army for duties other than the usual routine of carrying a musket. One such man was John Hopwood of the 54th Regiment of Foot. The native of Hutton, Yorkshire was born in 1743; he was discharged from the army in 1792 after 21 years of service, but we do not know whether this service was continuous; we do know that he joined the 54th Regiment before 1775 and served in it for the remainder of his career. If his entire career was in the 54th Regiment and was continuous, then he joined the army at the age of 28 - older than usual, but by no means unprecedented.

In an era where employment often began very young but military service did not usually begin until a young man had finished growing, some time in the late teens, most men had worked at some trade or another before becoming soldiers. John Hopwood was a butcher by profession. A statement on his discharge reveals that he worked in this capacity for the army and also reveals one of the many hazards that a career soldier faced. Hopwood had

lost the use of the two first fingers of his right hand occasioned by an accident when killing cattle for the use of the army in Septr 1778

This accident most likely occurred a few years later than the date written on the discharge. The muster rolls of the 54th Regiment show that James Hopwood was in the light infantry company of the regiment in 1778. The regiment was in Rhode Island from December 1776 through the middle of 1779, and unlike most regiments the light infantry and grenadier companies of the 54th remained with their regiment and were also in Rhode Island (operationally they were detached from the 54th, but they remained part of the Rhode Island garrison). Nothing in the muster rolls suggests that Hopwood was away from his company during this time.

The regiment served in the New York area for the remainder of the war, participating in the storming of Fort Griswold in Connecticut in September 1781, before removing to Canada in late 1783. Hopwood may have lost his fingers at any time during this garrison period. He was transferred from the light infantry into a battalion company in 1782, a common practice when a man was no longer in suitable physical condition to serve in a flank company; perhaps this transfer was the result of his accident. It is also possible that the discharge has the incorrect place, rather than date, of the accident.

John Hopwood put an X mark on his discharge rather than signing his own name. About 60% of the soldiers whos discharges survive signed their names, in spite of the conjecture that most soldiers were illiterate. In Hopwood's case, we don't know if was unable to write because of a lack of education or the loss of his fingers.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Army Wives: The Remarriage Myth Dispelled

A favorite topic of mine is wives of British soldiers. Information on these women who formed an integral part of the British army in America is sparse. While the names of soldiers can be readily obtained from muster rolls and other sources provide details of their ages, backgrounds and other attributes, just learning which men were married and the names of their wives is challenging. I've been able to pull together significant information about their role in the army, but learning about the individuals remains difficult.

With this paucity of information, it is especially annoying when people propagate information that has no basis in actual research. One such 'nugget' is the notion that wives who became widows were required to remarry within days or they would be cast out of the army and left completely on their own where ever they happened to be. I've heard this repeated many times, but never seen it backed up by information from general orders, military texts, personal accounts, or any other first-hand information. Although it is true that women had to be married to soldiers in order to become part of the 'regimental community', it is contradictory to the spirit of community to suppose that widows would be cast out. Over time, direct information made the remarriage assertion less and less plausible - for example, orders directing that widows who wished to return to Great Britain would be provided passage on board transport ships - but the absence of supporting information does not directly prove that remarriage was a requirement or necessity.

It is pleasing, then, to have finally obtained specific information about several army wives whose husbands died and who then married other soldiers. Regimental muster rolls provide us with the dates that the men died. A collection of marriage licenses issued in New York City gives the date that the widows obtained license to remarry (presumably close to the date of the actual marriage). Just enough of these marriage licenses are specific about the regiments to which the men and women belonged to make it possible to associate the names of some of the women to men in the same regiments who had died. They are in Volume 46 of the New York Genealogical and Biographical Record (1915), available on Google Books.

The first example we found, about a year ago, was Hester Foster of the 22nd Regiment of Foot. Her husband William died as a serjeant on 14 October 1780 in New York after a career of at least 14 years in the army. On 18 December 1780 she obtained a license to marry a 31-year-old serjeant in the regiment, Henry Vennel. A decade later he became a rare man who obtained an officer's commission after rising through the ranks from a private soldier.

This example of a woman who remarried just two months after losing her husband was weak proof that women were not required to remarry immediately. Although two months is much longer than the 24 to 72 hours generally purported as the required time limit (depending upon who told the story) it is nonetheless a fast turnaround. More information was required to get a better sense of typical practice. That information has finally come together.

Noted author Brendan Morrissey recently worked extensively with the muster rolls of the 23rd Regiment of Foot. These rolls record the death of Thomas Pearcy on 31 May 1776 when the army was in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Over two years later a marriage license was obtained by Elenor Percy, widow in the 23rd Regiment, to marry a soldier named William Rider. Variations in spelling of surnames is quite common in muster rolls and related documents, and no other soldier in the 23rd had a name close enough to reasonably have been the husband of Elenor Percy. Sadly, her new husband died in June of 1780 and we have no additional information about her.

My own recent trip to the National Archives afforded the opportunity to piece together three more examples:

Daniel Rogers, a grenadier in the 38th Regiment, died on 19 August 1775 of wounds received at the battle of Bunker Hill. Catherine Rogers, widow of the same regiment, obtained a license to marry Thomas Mason of the 38th on 2 May 1777. Mason was still in the regiment in 1783, but a gap in the muster rolls makes his ultimate fate unknown.

Richard Twine of the 54th Regiment died on 21 August 1776. His wife Ann obtained a license exactly one year later to marry a soldier in the 45th Regiment, James Wiggins. He was drafted into the 5th Regiment of Foot in 1778 when the 45th was sent back to Great Britain and the 5th to the West Indies. A gap in the rolls of the 5th from late 1778 to the beginning of 1781 leaves his fate (and hers) unknown.

Thomas Proffit of the 7th (Royal Fusiliers) Regiment died on 17 April 1777. His wife Ann obtained a license on 6 February 1779 to marry serjeant John Lomix (or Lomax) of the same regiment. He died on 28 July 1782, leaving Ann once again a widow.

Among the marriage licenses are several others that can be traced in this way when we have an opportunity to work with the muster rolls of more regiments. For now, we have these four examples of women who were widowed and then remarried a year or more later, where the marriage license information explicitly refers to them as widows belonging to their regiments. A fifth woman married within only two months. We have yet to find an example of a woman remarrying within days of losing her husband. This doesn't mean it didn't happen, but it certainly proves that it was not a requirement.

Besides putting to rest the remarriage myth, the marriage licenses open up a new mystery. Among the women named as affiliated with British regiments are four who are not called widows but 'spinsters.' My first supposition was that these women were daughters of soldiers in the regiment, but we have not been able to correlate their names with any men on the muster rolls. It may be necessary to track down the original marriage license information to fully understand this nomenclature and determine who these women actually were.

Learn more about British soldiers in America!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

John Harvey, Musician, 22nd Regiment of Foot

About three weeks ago I gave a talk at the commemoration of the Battle of Monmouth on 28 June 1778. The talk concerned the 60 men who were in the grenadier company of the 22nd Regiment of Foot at the time of the battle. Included was an overview of known trades practiced by men before they joined the army (and in some cases, continued during their military service). Out of 1005 men known to have served in the 22nd Regiment in America for some time between 1775 and 1783, at the time of the talk I was able to learn the trades of 311. Another post later on will present this information; for now, suffice it to say that the trades consist of a variety of occupations including weavers, tailors, shoemakers, laborers, carpenters and a wide assortment of others.

A person in the audience asked an interesting question: why were there no artists (including musicians, actors and such) on the list. While I don't have a certain answer and don't pretend to have background in the sociology of the era, I can make several guesses:

  • Professional artists are only a small portion of any population. Our data sample of only 311 out of 1005 is too small to draw any conclusions either about the 22nd Regiment (there could have been some artists who aren't among the 311 whose trades we know) or the army as a whole (an estimated 50,000 British regular soldiers served in America; there could've been a few artists in some regiments but not in others).

  • The army was a volunteer force, and many of the men who joined it were men who could not find work in their trades or were not interested in their trades. While not composed primarily of the 'dregs of society', the army was composed largely of working class people. It may be that artists who could not find work simply were not inclined to join the army as an alternative.

  • Most of our information on trades comes from army discharge documents and deserter descriptions. Possibly the army did not recognize artistic disciplines as trades, and used the more common catchall of 'labourer' for people who had not been apprenticed in a recognized trade.
These are just guesses, of course. If we look outside the scope of the 22nd Regiment, we do fine some interesting characters. A deserter from the South Fencible Regiment, a corps raised during the American war for service only in Scotland, was advertised in Edinburgh in 1780:

Deserted from his Majesty's South Fencible Regiment, quartered at Dumfries, on Friday Feb. 25, 1780, Hector M'Lean, private soldier, born in Glasgow, 25 years of age, 5 feet 4 inches high, fair complexion, fair hair, grey eyes, and a little long chin'd, stout made, and walks very upright, by trade a comb maker; had on when he deserted the regimentals of the light company of the above regiment. He was formerly employed as a tumbler to a company of Stirling players, and is well known about Edinburgh and Kendal in Westmoreland: and it is supposed when he left the regiment he took the English road.
Whoever can secure the said deserter in any jail shall be entitled to Two Guineas reward, over and above what is allowed by act of parliament for apprehending deserters, and that immediately on giving notice to the commanding officer at Dumfries.
[Edinburgh Advertiser, 7 March 1780]

This man was known to have worked as a performer, but also had a more common trade. Similar were performers in the regimental bands of the 1st and 2nd Regiments of Foot, each of whom had trades in addition to their musical abilities:

Deserted from the Second Battalion of His Majesty’s First (or Royal) Regiment of Foot, commanded by his Grace the Duke of Argyle, Lieutenant-general, quartered at Fort George in the County of Inverness, William Sutherland, Five feet 10 inches high, aged 25 years, fresh complexion, dark brown hair, black eyes, had on a scarlet frock, white waistcoat and breeches, by trade a Shoemaker, was one of the Band of Music, born in the town and county of Wicklow, inlisted at Fort Augustus, in the county of Inverness, the 16th of July, 1767. Deserted from Fort George, in said county, the 18th of March, 1777.
Whoever secures the said Deserter, so that he may be brought to justice, as a perjured Defrauder of the Public, of his Colonel, any of his Officers, and given notice to the Commanding Officer of th esaid Regiment at Fort George, or to Messrs. Ross and Gray, Agents to the said Regiment, in London, shall receive Five Guineas over and above the Twenty Shillings allowed by Act of Parliament.
N. B. It is supposed the above Deserter is lurking about London or St. Albans.
[London Chronicle, April 14, 1777]

Deserted from the Queen’s Royal Regiment of Foot, at Coxheath Camp, Samuel Pollard, Musician, aged 22, five feet six inches high, of a fresh Complexion, full faced, red Hair, Haxle Eyes, well made, born in Birstal, in the County of York, by Occupation a Labourer, and had on when he deserted, a white Coat, looped with Blue and Silver, white Waistcoat and Breeches, and a Silver laced Hat. Whoever secures the above Deserter, so as he may be brought to Justice, shall have two Guineas over and above the Reward allowed by Act of Parliament.
[The Daily Advertiser (London), 26 October 1778]

Other musicians were described as such:

Deserted from his Majesty’s 17th regiment of foot, quartered in Perth, John Humphreys musician, aged twenty years, size five feet six inches one-half, very swarthy complexion and jet black hair, black eyes, hollow cheeks, has a stoop in his shoulders, slender bandy limbed, has a very hoarse voice, talks thick, plays well on the French horn and fife; had on when he deserted the musician’s uniform of the regiment, viz. a scarlet frock, with white cap [sic - cape] and cuffs laced with silver, with white buttons having the number of the regiment, white cloth waistcoat and breeches, silver laced hat. He was apprehended (but escaped) on Wednesday the 7th in the Canongate; had on a bonnet, black coat, and wore a long staff in his hand.
Whoever apprehends the said deserter, sends him to the regiment, or secures him in any of his Majesty’s gaols, shall, upon giving information thereof to the commanding officer of the regiment at Perth, receive One Guinea reward over and above twenty shillings allowed by act of parliament; to be paid by Col. Darby commanding at Perth, Capt. Lyons at Aberdeen, Capt. Wallace at Montrose, Ensign Sir Alexander Murray at Banf, Ensign Browne at Dundee, or Capt. Aylmer at Edinburgh.
[Edinburgh Advertiser, 9 October 1772]

Yet another musician with the interesting trade of Horse Jockey can be seen in one of our earlier posts.

The week after the talk I was in the London at the National Archives, hoping to find more demographic data about soldiers in the 22nd Regiment. A recently-indexed collection of discharge documents promised to provide information on several soldiers who had previously been identifiable only by their names on muster rolls. Among them was James Harvey, a man born in 1753 in the parish of Crediton near the middle of Devonshire. He enlisted in the 22nd Regiment at the slightly young age of 16 and served for 25 years in the regiment, followed by additional time in the Tipperary Militia in Ireland. While the regiment was serving in the New York area in 1782 Harvey was Master of Masonic Lodge No. 133, a lodge formed in 1767 consisting of members of the regiment. He spent most of his time as a private soldier but also spent a few years as a corporal (the muster rolls show him in this post for three years, but his discharge records only two) and three years as a drummer. He signed his own name on his discharge, suggesting that he was literate, and a note on the document refers to his "good character." Most significant to our understanding of trades in the 22nd Regiment, however, was the trade listed on James Harvey's discharge: Musician.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

James Cuffe, 62nd and 22nd Regiments

Our previous installment mentioned that Augustus Barrett deserted from the American army near New Bridge in New Jersey. This location today is a historic site well worth visiting, showcasing several beautifully restored buildings and pleasing waterfront in a location that was on the front lines during much of the American Revolution.

The installment also mentioned James Cuffe who deserted with Barrett. Cuffe's career in the British army was similar in many ways to Barrett's in that Cuffe was also a soldier from Burgoyne's army who escaped captivity, joined the Continental army, then deserted and made his way into New York. It is not surprising, though, that Cuffe's story was also distinctive in many ways.

James Cuffe was an Irishman and a barber by trade. He joined the 62nd Regiment of Foot at Cork, Ireland in May 1774. Although we can hardly deduce a man's personality based on scant military records, the evidence suggests that Cuffe was more flamboyant that we might expect for a barber. When he joined the 62nd Regiment he was put directly into the grenadier company, a highly unusual posting for a new soldier. It was rare for a man with less than a year in a regiment to serve in the grenadier company (or in the light infantry company). Cuffe may have had prior military experience, he may have had remarkably fine stature and taken quickly to the profession of arms, or it may be that the grenadier company needed a barber.

Cuffe deserted from the regiment on 3 November 1775. We have no information on the circumstances of his desertion and no advertisement for him has been found. He did, however, return to the regiment some time between February and April of the following year, and went back onto the rolls of the grenadier company. Just as we don't know why he deserted, we do not know if he returned voluntarily or was apprehended. He embarked with his regiment for Canada, arriving at Quebec in May 1776.

The next mention we have of Cuffe is from an orderly book pertaining to the grenadier battalion in Burgoyne's army in early 1777. Orders dated Boucherville, 4 March 1777, begin with this interesting entry:

James Cuff of the 62d Compy confined and [blank] for being Drunk and Striking Copl. Maher of the said Compy is Acquitted by the Court-Martial, the Major willing to do equal Justice to every rank finds

Unfortunately this is at the end of the last surviving page of the orderly book. Neither the rest of the order nor the circumstances surrounding Cuffe's crime, trial and acquittal are known.

Cuffe was among the soldiers imprisoned when Burgoyne's army capitulated at Saratoga in October 1777. His subsequent actions are chronicled in two places: his own deposition given to British officers in 1782, and in American army service records. In some ways the two sources are in agreement, while in other ways they differ.

Cuffe left the British prisoner of war barracks on Prospect Hill outside of Boston on 8 February 1778. He claims to have worked as a barber for the next year or so, but pay accounts and muster rolls for Colonel Henry Jackson's Massachusetts Regiment show him to have been a soldier in that regiment from 11 February 1778 through 31 December 1779. He served primarily on mainland Rhode Island keeping watch over the British garrison on the island portion of that colony, a garrison which included the 22nd Regiment of Foot.

He claimed that, after working as a barber, he enlisted in the "Boston Rebel Regt." with the intention of getting close to British lines in order to desert, but that he and 20 other British soldiers were instead put in jail in Easton, Pennsylvania. After three months he and another soldier broke out of jail but were apprehended and confined again, this time in Philadelphia. He was sent to Providence, Rhode Island and tried as a deserter, for which he received 100 lashes.

America service records do indicate that Cuffe deserted on 29 May 1779 and was retaken on 17 October. Whether that period of desertion corresponds to his claim of confinement is difficult to say. It is clear that he was in the 16th Massachusetts Regiment from 1 January into September of 1780. On 11 September he and Augustus Barrett received passes to "go into the Country for Provisions." They took the opportunity to desert between Paramus and New Bridge, made their way to a British ship in the Hudson River, and from there to British headquarters in New York. Cuffe gave a brief deposition at headquarters recounting their escape and describing what he knew of American positions. He and Barrett then joined the 22nd Regiment of Foot in New York, serving with some of the very soldiers they had been posted against while in Rhode Island.

Unlike Barrett who deserted in America, James Cuffe remained with the 22nd Regiment through the close of the war. The 22nd was among the last regiments to embark from New York in November 1783 and returned directly to Great Britain. Many soldiers were discharged in the first half of 1784 but Cuffe was not among them. Instead, he deserted on 28 June while the regiment was stationed in the London area.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Augustus Barret, 24th and 22nd Regiments

The American War saw several instances of British regiments being surrendered as entities to Continental forces. The two principal examples are the regiments of Burgoyne’s army at Saratoga in October 1777 and those of Cornwallis’s army at Yorktown in October 1781. Unlike individuals who were taken prisoner, soldiers in these regiments remained under the care of their officers and in the service of their regiments, albeit in captivity. Many of these men nonetheless escaped and attempted to make their way to British garrisons in New York, Canada or Rhode Island; considerable numbers were successful. Because these men left their regiments they technically were deserters. For the most part, however, these desertions were sanctioned and the repatriated soldiers were allowed to join other regiments. The most famous of these was Roger Lamb, originally of the 9th and later of the 23rd Regiment, well-known because he later published the details of his escapes.

Many other escaped prisoners told their stories in the form of depositions given to a board of inquiry that sat in New York in 1782. These soldiers, having rejoined the army, considered their time as fugitives to have been part of their military service; fully aware of their entitlements, each man set forth his claim for arrears of pay and clothing due not only from the time before escaping incarceration, but also for the time between that escape and being added to the rolls of another British regiment. Records of their testimonies are brief but concise, usually with exact dates of their departure from captivity and arrival in New York, dates which could be translated into days of service and therefore into wages due.

One of these petitioners was Augustus (or Augustine) Barrett, formerly a soldier in the light infantry company of the 24th Regiment of Foot. He was a bricklayer from Leeds in England, and had enlisted in the 24th Regiment in 1771 when he was 18 years old. Soon after he joined the army, light infantry companies were added to the establishment of British regiments; at 5' 6" tall, Barrett was the right stature for this company of young active men  For reasons not known he deserted with another soldier in December 1774 but returned less than a month later. In 1776 his regiment sailed to America, and the following year was actively engaged in the campaign that was intended to secure the waterways from Quebec to Albany but instead resulted in capitulation at Saratoga. Augustine Barrett became a prisoner of war.

Barrett was among the first deserters from the Burgoyne's incarcerated army when he left the barracks at Prospect Hill outside of Boston on 13 November 1777. Barrett deposed that he was captured five weeks after his escape and

...confined in the Prison Ship at Boston where he continued between 5 & six Months, & from thence enlisted in Col. Jackson’s Regt. in the Rebel service; that he remained in this Regt. about 18 Months...

In September 1780 while serving in Colonel Henry Jackson's 16th Massachusetts Regiment in northern New Jersey, Barrett and some other men were given passes to go into the country to seek provisions in the area between Paramus and New Bridge. Barrett and another Convention Army deserter, James Cuffe, took the opportunity to desert and make their way to the Hudson river. There they were able to get on board a British ship and then proceed to the British garrison in New York City. They joined the 22nd Regiment of Foot on 14 September, three days after deserting the Continental army.

Barrett petitioned for clothing (or the value thereof) that he was owed by the 24th Regiment, plus pay for the time between deserting the barracks at Prospect Hill and joining the 16th Massachusetts Regiment. He duly noted that "that he received pay & clothing from the Rebels, whilst he served them" and therefore did not make any claim for compensation during this time period. Barrett’s story was reasonably typical of those heard by the board; many petitioners freely admitted to service in the American army and astutely did not claim pay for the duration of that service. The board of inquiry approved Barrett's claim and many others like it.

The British officers on the board of inquiry, however, did not have access to Continental army documents that tell a somewhat different story of Barrett’s service. Contrary to his claim of spending five weeks as a fugitive followed by six months of incarceration on a prison ship, Barrett started drawing pay in the American army on 14 November 1777 – one day after he left the prisoner of war barracks outside Boston. Exactly one year later he was appointed corporal. In August 1779 he deserted but returned in October, when he was reduced to a private soldier.

The rolls for the 16th Massachusetts Regiment indicate Barrett's desertion on 11 September 1780 which agrees with his deposition and correlates to the muster rolls of the British regiment that he joined in New York. Barrett’s Continental service record suggests that he was encouraged to enlist while still a prisoner as a way to gain release from captivity. While the British board of inquiry may have accepted this as a motive to escape from a prison ship, they certainly would not have looked favorably on a man leaving the frail barracks in which so many other British soldiers endured the winter.

A Continental army roll from October 1779, the time of his return from a two-month desertion, exposes another facet of Barrett’s life. An note on the roll says that he had his “family in camp.” It is possible that Barrett was married while in the 24th Regiment, and that his wife either escaped with him or made her own way to Boston from Canada. It is more likely that Barrett married an American woman after his escape from the Convention Army, as some of these soldiers are known to have done. This supposition might explain the closure to his service as a British soldier: he deserted from the 22nd Regiment on 7 June 1783, a time when it was clear that the British army would soon be leaving the newly-created United States for posts in Great Britain and Canada. Although a wife and children would be allowed to travel with him as part of the British army, if they were American-born they may have compelled him to stay. Regardless of his motive for leaving Continental service and returning to the British army, a family in America may have provided Augustus Barrett's incentive to ultimately remain on the continent.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Lance Corporal John Lee, Brigade of Guards

We welcome your comments, questions and observations on these blog posts. A comment to our previous installment about Corporal John McChesnie brings up several interesting points. The observation that "Some English officers weren't always the calm, collected bunch they wished to portray..." is certainly true. Think of any professional organization where the entry-level people are in their late teens and early twenties - some are focused on learning and making the best impression possible, while others are cocky, headstrong and act with a sense of entitlement. Among British officers there were all sorts of personalities, from the reserved to the arrogant.

It is also important to note that this was the British army, not the English army. Lt. John Wallace of the 22nd Regiment was Irish; Corporal McChesnie was Scottish. The British army included many officers and soldiers from England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland, as well as a smattering from America and from various European countries. In general this multinational group functioned well, but occasionally language and national pride became issues.

The comment goes on to say "...quite a few veteran soldiers were being outranked by more colorful men half their age." True enough, but this is the reality in most professional armies even today. Regardless of the factors that allow men to choose their paths, some men begin their careers as officers while others serve their entire careers in the ranks. Even today many soldiers are commanded by officers barely half their age, with varying results depending upon the personalities involved and the quality of training.

And the comment includes a question: "Do you know what prompted the Light Dragoons into a scuffle against the lieutenants in the first place?" Sadly, the court martial proceedings that give us our information on these events give no details about the scuffle that initiated things. The dragoons escaped into the night and apparently no attempt was made to identify them. Altercations between officers and soldiers (and between officers and other officers) happened from time to time, particularly in garrison towns when there was much idle time. Darkness and alcohol were often a factor. When these misadventures led to courts martial, the testimony often illustrate the confusion and uncertainly of the events themselves. Thanks to the research of Linnea Bass we have a good example in the case of another soldier of the Brigade of Guards, John Lee.

In January 1779, Lee was a lance corporal in the brigade. This meant that he was officially a private soldier, but was doing the duty of a corporal for the time being and was to be recognized as such. On the night of 15 January he was in a house being used as a barracks on Dock Street in New York City duly washing one of his shirts. Suddenly the sentry posted outside the barracks came to the door and called for help because someone had been knocked down in the street. Lee and two other soldiers went out into the dark night, where they saw a man writhing on the ground across the street and another man standing over him. Acting quickly, Lee ran over and pushed the standing man away, asking him what he intended to do to the stricken man. The pushed man lunged back at Lee, grabbing his collar with one hand and sinking his fingernails into Lee's cheek with the other. Lee demanded that he desist or be struck, and pushed the assailant away. The man lunged back; they struggled and exchanged harsh language. Soldiers poured out of the barracks, civilians poured out of houses, and several officers walking in the area rushed to the scene. The sentry who had originally called for help managed to separate the two.

As if there were not already enough people in the street, the relief guard (that is, a party of soldiers on guard duty) came up to relieve the sentry. The first person they encountered was Lee, who was bleeding and complaining of having been assaulted. Just then his assailant came up, seized him by the collar and called him the rascal who assaulted him. The man was Lieutenant Edmund Prideaux of the 7th Regiment of Foot, known as the Royal Fusiliers.

This was profoundly unfortunate for Lance Corporal Lee, for he had unwittingly assaulted an officer. Lt. Prideaux was still highly agitated, but other officers who were now on the scene advised him to have Lee confined. Lt. Prideaux attempted to write down a charge to be delivered with Lee to the provost guard, but was unable to collect himself enough to do so. The other officers took over the formalities. They went into the barracks to collect Lee (who had gone back inside) and get names of other soldiers who may have struck or insulted Lt. Prideaux. Although the soldiers in the barracks were insolent, they begrudgingly complied with what was demanded of them. John Lee surrendered himself angrily, insisting that he had done nothing wrong, and was put into confinement. People in the street took the stricken man - who proved to be an officer of a Loyalist regiment - into a house to attend to him. The disturbance was over.

The court martial of John Lee occurred a week later. Lt. Prideaux testified that he was assisting the Loyalist officer (a colleague in a regiment that Prideaux himself had recently served in) to get home because he was very drunk. When they happened to be opposite the Dock Street barracks, by chance the drunken officer collapsed in a fit. Lt. Prideaux called to the nearby sentry for help and water, the sentry called forth men from the barracks, but Lt. Prideaux was stunned when instead of receiving help he was pushed away.

Prideaux called five witnesses including a soldier who had been helping him to escort his comrade, a local resident and another soldier who saw the initial struggle, and two officers who came up as the events unfolded (or unraveled). Lee called seven witnesses including the sentry, other soldiers and non-commissioned officers who had been in the barracks, an officer who arrived late on the scene and the regimental surgeon who had attended to his wounds. The disagreements in the testimony are striking: those who testified for Prideaux insisted that he was sober while those who spoke for Lee said that he was in a drunken rage; some said that Lee struck Prideaux, some that he did not, while others could not say one way or the other. They all agreed that the night was dark enough that it was not immediately obvious that Prideaux was an officer, but some stated that he wore a blue great coat while others said he was in his regimental coat, red with blue facings (it is possible that Prideaux had been wearing the great coat initially, and shed it when the struggle ended).

Lance Corporal Lee made a good argument that he acted as the situation seemed to warrant when he pushed Lt. Prideaux, and after that acted only in his own defense. Three officers of the Brigade of Guards gave him excellent character references, stating that this was the first complaint that they had received about Lee and calling him a "clean, regular and obedient soldier," "as good a Soldier as any in the British Army," whose "particular good behavior" had led to his recommendation for lance corporal. He was nonetheless found guilty and sentenced to receive one thousand lashes. We do not know whether the punishment was actually inflicted.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Thomas McChesnie and Joseph Mauncey, Brigade of Guards

Thomas McChesnie was out for a walk one night with his colleague Joseph Mouncey in British-garrisoned New York city. The two were volunteer soldiers in more than one sense. During the era of the American Revolution the British army was, for the most part, a volunteer force - men enlisted for a career in the army, and there was (with a few exceptions) no impressment or compulsory service. McChesnie, born in county Galloway in Scotland in 1738, had left his trade as a weaver to join the 3rd Regiment of Foot Guards at the age of 21; Mouncey, born in St. Marlybone, London, had not learned a trade when he enlisted in the 1st Regiment of Foot Guards at 17 years of age in 1773.

The outbreak of war in America brought them a second opportunity to volunteer. Besides the regiments of the regular army sent to America, a composite corps was formed of volunteer soldiers from the three regiments of Foot Guards that traditionally provided security for the monarchy and government in London. 15 volunteers were drawn from the private soldiers in each of the 64 companies that comprised the Guards regiments, in addition to officers, non-commissioned officers, drummers and fifers. This detachment operated in America as the Brigade of Guards; it included a grenadier company composed of soldiers from all three of the Foot Guards regiments. McChesnie and Mouncey were both corporals in this company. On the night of 1 August 1779 they were making their way through the dark streets of old New York after a walk on the Battery at the south end of Manhattan island.

Also out for a walk that night were two young officers, Lieutenants John Wallace of the 22nd Regiment of Foot and James Drury of the 57th Regiment of Foot. They were walking towards the Battery between 9 and 10 o'clock when they parted company with each other. Moments later, Lt. Wallace heard a commotion. He drew his sword and ran to the noise where he found Lt. Drury struggling with two soldiers of the 17th Light Dragoons. The dragoons had hold of Drury, but released him after receiving several strokes from the flat of Wallace's sword; the two officers secured the dragoons and set off towards the provost with them.

This is when the two corporals met up with the two officers. Apparently there were other soldiers hovering in the darkness, perhaps drawn by the commotion, because the officer perceived that they had encountered a party of about 10 grenadiers. Lt. Drury directed the soldiers to take custody of the two dragoons and take them to the main guard. McChesnie, a with nearly 20 years in the army, responded that he could not take them without first getting their names and the charges against them; without this information the guard would not receive them. The officers, already agitated from their scuffle with the dragoons, viewed this as a flippant response. Wallace (who, it bears noting, was 19 years old; Drury was probably only a few years older) told McChesnie that he and the Brigade of Guards were rebellious rascals and, gesturing with his sword, threatened to imprison McChesnie if he did not comply with orders. McChesnie snatched the sword from Wallace's hand and responded that he would not be taken prisoner. Drury seized McChesnie by his bayonet belt and demanded his name, which McChensie readily gave. Wallace, in the mean time, moved behind McChesnie, grabbed the sword again and wrested it free. More threatening words were exchanged. Wallace asked for help from another soldier who not only refused but drew his bayonet. McChesnie's bayonet belt gave way. A scuffle ensued in which the officers received blows, but within moments all of the soldiers cleared off into the night leaving the two officers with only McChesnie's bayonet belt, an unidentified hat, and extremely wounded pride.

The young lieutenants took the belt to the commander of the Brigade of Guards who were able to trace it to McChesnie. The long-serving corporal was brought before a general court martial the following week on charges of abusing the officers and threatening Lt. Drury's life. The officers gave their version of the story, characterizing McChesnie as drunk and insolent, while Mouncey corroborated McChensie's testimony that they were sober and compliant, but that the officers became belligerent when asked for necessary information. An officer gave a favorable character witness. In a "his word against mine" situation like this a court composed of army officers had little choice but to find in favor of one of their own. Corporal McChensie was sentence to be reduced to the ranks and receive 1000 lashes.

Thomas McChesney continued his career as a soldier. After being discharged from the Foot Guards he served in several garrison corps in Great Britain, taking his final discharge in 1796 at the age of 58. Joseph Mauncey also stayed in the army, remaining the 1st Regiment of Foot Guards until 1787. Both received pensions.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Trial of William Johnstone, 43rd Regiment of Foot

Having explained some details about the source material used for these posts, it is fitting to present the proceedings of a general court martial. The text below is transcribed from a copy of the original manuscript. This is typical of the 'raw' data used to tell the many of the stories related in these pages. Some of the formatting of the original is difficult to render on a web page, particular indentations and the layout of the list of court members, but all of the information in the manuscript is shown.

Perhaps the only surprise in this case is that the soldier on trial was found completely innocent; presumably this was because there was no direct evidence that he had committed a crime, even though the circumstantial evidence weighed strongly against him. Clearly the commander in chief was of the same opinion, because he did not approve of the sentence even though he opted to confirm it.

At a General Court Martial held at the Head of Elk, in the Province of Maryland, on Friday the 29th of August 1777, by Virtue of a Warrant, bearing date the same day, from His Excellency Sir William Howe, Knight of the most Honourable order of the Bath, General and Commander in Chief of all His Majesty’s Forces within the Colonies, laying on the Atlantic Ocean, from Nova Scotia to West Florida inclusive &c, &c, &c.

Lieutenant Colonel Henry Trelawney, Coldstream Regiment of Foot Guards, President.

Lieut. Col. William Walcot, 5th Foot
Lieut. Col. Jas. Ogilvie, 4th Foot
Capt. John Swint. Dyer Coldstream Guards
Capt. Thos. Thomlinson, 5th Foot
Capt. John Barker, 10th Foot
Capt. John Westropp, 5th Foot
Capt. Thos. Gibbings, 23d Foot
Lieut. Myrick Shaw, 4th Foot
Lieut. William Cox, 5th Foot
Lieut. John Browne, 23d Foot
Ensign Florintius Boscawen 3d F. Guards
Ensign Robert Haddin 5th Foot
Stephen Payne Adye Esqr Deputy Judge Advocate

The President, Members and Judge Advocate being duly sworn.

William Johnstone private soldier in His Majesty’s 43d Regiment of Foot was brought prisoner before the Court and accused of plundering, & the following Witnesses were examined in support of the Charge viz:

Lieutenant Colonel Robert Abercrombie of His Majesty’s 37th Regt of Foot, being duly sworn, deposed that on the Morning of the 27th Instant he met the prisoner going towards his out post, having in his hand a pretty large bundle, wrapped up in a blue and white calico Curtain, that he made him open it, and found it to contain some things of the same nature as the calico, he thinks that there was a Woman’s Gown amongst them, but with regard to this circumstance he cannot be positive; that he asked him whither he was going and he replied that he was going to this Battalion, meaning the 2d Battalion of Light Infantry, but he had then passed the Battalion several Miles, and was going the contrary way, that he afterwards asked him where he had got that Bundle of Goods and he answered from a Grenadier, upon which he ordered him to be confined; that about two hours afterwards he received a Letter from Major Cuyler, informing him that it was the General’s Order that he should endeavour to find out a soldier of the Light Infantry, who had robbed a Countryman of the name of Taylor (and by whom the Note was sent) that upon showing him the bundle, the Prisoner had been found in possession of, he claimed part of the things it contained, particularly the blue and white Calico curtain, and the Deponent then sent him to Head Quarters with the Countryman.
Q. Did the Countryman say that the Prisoner was the man, who had taken the things from him?
A. He did not.

Thomas Mudd Corporal in the 17th Regt of Foot, being duly sworn deposed that he commanded the Guard when the prisoner was put in Confinement, & he then had a bundle, in which were a blue and white Calico Curtain, a Woman’s gown, a small piece of Cloth, of the same colour as the Curtain, and a small white earthen pot, containing butter; and he heard a Countryman, upon being shewn these different Articles, claim all of them as his property, except the Woman’s gown, which he said he could not with certainty say, belonged to him.
Q. Did he hear the Countryman say that the Prisoner had taken those things from him?
A. No, he said that he did not know the Prisoner, nor did he know the man that took them from him.
Q. Did the Countryman say whether he was in his own house at the time the things were taken away?
A. He did not.

The Prisoner being then put upon his defence, said that on the morning Lieutenant Colonel Abercrombie met him, he had been to the rear of the Battalion he belonged to, in order to see an acquaintance, and on returning back among a Party of Grenadiers whom he met, on their return from a foraging party, there was one, who had a bundle, and calling to him (the Prisoner) he said, Light Infantry man will you take this. That upon asking him what it was, he answered that it was something which would be of service to him when he went to Camp, that soon after getting the bundle, he met Lieut. Col. Abercrombie, who examined him, and asked him where he was going, and he answered to his Battalion; that he was then rather in the rear of his Battalion, being between the first and second Battalion of Light Infantry, and had he not been stopped by Lieut. Colonel Abercrombie, he should have gone to this Battalion by a Lane which turned off to the left hand and led to the Battalion.

The Court having considered the evidence against the Prisoner William Johnstone together with what he had to offer in his Defence, is of Opinion that he is not guilty of the crime laid to his charge, & doth therefore acquit him.

Harry Trelawny Capt in the Coldstream Guards & Lt. Col. in the Army President

Stepn Pn AdyeDeputy Judge Advocate

Confirmed but Disapproved
W. Howe

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Comments, sources, and Edmond Mooney, 55th Regiment

Thanks to those readers who have posted (legible) comments on this blog. For some reason, many of the comments are not readable, apparently because they require character sets that are not supported on my browser. Because there are many such comments, I sometimes miss the legible ones.

One reader asked about sources. Excellent question. I haven't been included citations in these posts just to make them easier to read. But if you would like the specific sources used for any post, please contact me using the email address described in the 'About the Author' information. Most of the information comes from three sources: muster rolls, proceedings of courts martial, and soldiers' discharges. Muster rolls tell us the dates in which men served in specific companies of a regiment, and dates of events such as promotions, transfers, desertions and discharges - so when I give this sort of information, it probably came from the muster rolls in the War Office 12 collection in the National Archives of England.

In the same archive is a collection of trial proceedings from general courts martial. These fascinating documents record the testimony of witnesses and defendants at military trials for major crimes. Most of the postings that tell stories of incidents like thefts and murders are amalgams of the trial testimony; usually the trial will be mentioned in the post.

When a soldier was discharged from the army he was given a document (called a discharge) that recorded much valuable information. Most discharges include some information on the man's background (place of birth, age, trade, etc.), some description of his military service, and a statement about why he was entitled to be discharged. Because soldiering was generally a lifelong career, men were discharged from the army only when they were no longer fit for service (there were exceptions). The document was critical for the man to prove that he was lawfully discharged and not a deserter. Some soldiers were awarded pensions, and when they did the pension office retained a copy of the discharge. These discharges survive in the National Archives, and are the source of most of the information in these blog posts concerning age, trade, nativity and such.

Various other sources are also used, but these three constitute the majority. If you need a specific source, please ask for it.

Here's an example of the information that we can get just from a discharge:

Edmond Mooney was born in county Cork, Ireland in 1749 and learned the trade of a sawyer. He joined the 55th Regiment of Foot at the age of 21 in late 1770. Five years later the 5' 6 1/2" tall Mooney was with the regiment when in landed in Boston.

The first significant action seen by the 55th came in August 1776 when the regiment was part of the army that routed American forces on Long Island. The British army did suffer a number of casualties in their overwhelming victory; one of them was Edmond Mooney who was wounded in the right hip.

Mooney apparently recovered from his wound fairly quickly, for he was with his regiment on 3 January 1777 in the battle of Princeton. Here he was wounded again, this time in the left leg.

He recovered from this wound too, and continued to serve in the 55th Regiment for another 15 years. This included service in the harsh climate of the West Indies in the closing years of the American Revolution. He took his discharge from the army in Dublin in March of 1792 at the age of 43, having served in the 55th Regiment for 21 1/2 years. He received an out pension from Kilmainham Hospital in Dublin. His discharge notes that “He is discharged, being worn out & unfit for further Service, having served in North America & the West Indies, and been Twice wounded, during the late War, Once in his Right Hip in Long Island near New York, and Once in his Left Leg at Princetown, in New Jersey-”. An army surgeon verified Mooney's condition, noting on the discharge that he "has the mark of the wounds described on the other side & is worn out by the Effects of foreign climates & long service.”

It bears noting that Mooney signed his own name on the document, suggesting that he knew how to read and write. While his name is given on the discharge as "Edward", he signed himself as "Edmond."

Friday, April 9, 2010

Pensioner: Hubert Römer, 22nd Regiment of Foot

Hubert Römer was born in Trier in Germany, around 1749. At the age of 26, this illiterate Catholic laborer became one of some 2,000 European recruits enlisted to bolster the strength of British regiments serving in America. The story of these men is detailed in my article Forty German Recruits.

Thanks to a detailed return made when these recruits embarked, we know each man’s age, religion, and height (Römer was 5’ 8” tall). We also know whether they had prior military service and whether they had wives with them (Römer had neither). Having embarked in May 1776 and landed in New York in late October, we would not expect these recruits to have received regimental clothing until very late in 1776 or early 1777, since annual clothing shipments typically arrived in America late in the year. A War Office letter to regimental colonels discussing finances associated with the German recruits confirms this:

The above German Recruits having been furnished with a Slop Cloathing, I am to desire that you would inform the respective Colonels to which you are agent, that it is expected they should be at the expence of the said Slop Clothing, if no other Clothing has been furnish'd for them for the year 1775.

We often think of “slop clothing” as synonymous with sailor’s clothing, but this is not the case; “slop clothing” referred instead to cheap unfitted clothing that could be purchased in bulk. When the German recruits joined their regiments in America, this is how they were clothed until regimentals could be fitted for them.

Römer was put into Captain Edward Handfield’s company of the 22nd Regiment where he served the entire war. The only distinguishing event that we are aware of is his court martial for desertion in Rhode Island. In August of 1778 the Rhode Island garrison was under siege in Newport, resisting America’s first cooperative military operation with her new French allies. Two weeks after the siege was lifted, Römer stood trial for an infraction that occurred at the height of it. The proceedings of his trial tell the story:

Prisoner Hubertus Reimar, of the 22d Regiment and Captain Handfield's Company being brought before the Court, was charged with being guilty of Desertion.

Interpreter Serjeant Cling of the 54th Regiment was sworn to duly Interpret all Evidences delivered by Foreigners, and explain to the Prisoner, who is a German, those delivered by the British ones against him.

1st Evidence Serjeant George Reason, of the same Regiment and Company with the Prisoner, being duly sworn deposes, that early on the Morning of the 14th of August, the Prisoner was absent, that on examining his Necessaries, three Shirts and two pair of Stockings were missing, and that the same day the Prisoner was brought to his Regiment by two Soldiers of the Anspach Corps, and adds, the Regiment was at that time encamped within the lines of Newport, as also, that till then, the Prisoner had always behaved himself well.

2d Evidence John William Brown, Grenadier in the Anspach Regiment of Voit, being duly sworn deposes, (the same being interpreted to the Court) that being Sentry on the outside of the Abattees, about ten o'Clock one night, he heard a noise in front of him, on which he Challenged, but receiving no reply fired, when the prisoner called out to him, and the other Soldier who was posted with him and desired them not to fire again, as he was coming in to them, that he then came up to them and said, he had lost his way, and appeared to be in liquor, but desired them to take him to the Regiment.

3rd Evidence John Free, private soldier in the same Regiment with the former Evidence being duly sworn, deposes, (the same being interpreted to the Court) in substance as the foregoing Evidence, with whom he was posted Sentry when the prisoner was taken by them.


The Prisoner Hubertus Reimar, being called to, and put on his Defence, says he was in Liquor when he went from his Tent, and had no design to Desert the Regiment.

The Court having heard and considered the Evidence against the Prisoner Hubertus Reimar, as also his Defence is of Opinion, he is not Guilty of the Crime laid to his Charge and doth therefore Acquit him.

It is striking that the court acquitted Römer, considering that he had taken his necessaries (that is, his shirts, shoes and stockings; it is strange that the court did not ask what happened to them) and was beyond the front lines during a siege. Apparently the fact that Römer was coming in to the lines and willingly turned himself over to the sentries made a very strong impression on the court.

We have no other information on Römer until his discharge in 1783, when he took advantage of the offer of land grants in Canada. He was among a large contingent of discharged soldiers and their families that sailed from New York to Shelburne, Nova Scotia (at that time called Port Roseway) in late September. The following year he received a grant on the island of Saint John; land grant records show that he had no wife or family at this time, so he was entitled to 100 acres. This landholding venture apparently went poorly, for Römer received a new a new copy of his discharge from the 22nd Regiment in 1789 when the regiment was serving at Dover Castle in England. It appears from this that Römer had returned to England, but this is not certain. Regardless, he was recommended for a military out-pension because his eight years of service had rendered him “rheumatic”. His trade is listed as “labourer.” Rather than a signature, the discharge bears “his mark”, indicating that he was illiterate (in spite of the common assertion that most British soldiers were illiterate, about 60% of surviving discharges bear signatures of the soldiers; while a signature alone is not proof of literacy, it suggests that the ability to write was more common than generally believed).

This is a very rare case of a soldier for whom we have many surviving documents: a description on an embarkation return, a service record from muster rolls, the proceedings of a court martial, two land grant records (for the same grant), and a discharge filed among pension documents (with descriptive details that match the embarkation return). Would that we had as much for every British soldier.