Sunday, May 1, 2011

Louisa Martin, 17th Regiment of Foot (?)

Most of the entries in this blog are composed in a formulaic way. I find an item concerning an individual soldier or soldier's wife - a newspaper account, record of a court martial, entry in an orderly book, or what have you. Then, I find the soldier on the regiment's muster rolls and trace his career to the greatest extent possible. This provides a reasonable view of the events that the man or woman experienced based on the movements and activities of the regiment.

A search on the Access2Archives web site, which catalogs documents in many regional record offices in Great Britain, turned up an interesting item about the wife of a serjeant in the 17th Regiment of Foot. Even though the web catalog offers only an abstract, the item from the Quarter Sessions of Worcestershire for midsummer, 1782, gives a look at the plight of an army widow who returned to England:

Examination of Louisa Martin, widow of Charles Martin, Sergeant in 17th. Regt. of Foot, who died in America. They were married 19 years ago at St. James, Westminster: he was born in Croydon where he was apprenticed to Thomas Green, cabinet maker, & was settled there: he died 6 months ago in New York: 7 years ago she went to America & landed at Liverpool on her return a fortnight ago.

A constable was ordered to convey here to Croydon, the town where she would be legally eligible for the support due to a widow. The information correlates with what we know about army widows - that they were given the option of returning to Great Britain at government expense.

This brief record of Louisa Martin's examination provides very valuable information about a serjeant in the 17th Regiment, including when and where he was married and the career that he pursued before joining the army. The 17th Regiment, which saw extensive and diverse service in America from its arrival in 1775 through the final evacuation in 1783. The regiment had significant numbers of men captured at the 1777 battle of Princeton, the 1779 fall of Stony Point, and the 1781 Yorktown campaign. The career of Charles Martin would surely be an interesting one.

There is, however, a problem tracing that career: Thanks to Will Tatum, historian at the David Library of the American Revolution, we have access to the muster rolls of the 17th Regiment of Foot. No man by the name of Charles Martin served in the regiment - not among the serjeants or the rank and file soldiers; not even a man with a similar name. I also checked the rolls of the 17th Light Dragoons, but found no such man in that regiment either. Thinking of logical typographical errors in the web catalog, I checked other regiments that ended in 7 and had served in America - the 27th, 37th, 47th and 57th. No Charles Martin. Maybe other regiments starting with 1 that were in New York in 1776 and still in the area in 1782? There were none; the 10th, 14th, 15th, 18th and 19th Regiments did not have service that correlates to the story related by Louisa Martin.

For the moment, all we can do is keep this interesting account on file and hope that clarifying information turns up.

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