Thursday, January 12, 2012

Edward Hall, 43rd Regiment of Foot

At first glance, the case of Edward Hall of the 43rd Regiment of Foot seems typical enough. Hall, who had been enlisted in Yorkshire and became a grenadier in the regiment, was absent from the 8 PM roll call in Boston on 11 October 1774. Following typical procedures his serjeant went to his tent to see if his necessaries (shirts, stockings and shoes) were missing, for soldiers who intended to desert often took extra clothing with them. The guard at Boston Neck was informed to be on the lookout for the missing soldier, and his absence was reported to the officers of the 43rd.

In the mean time, Captain Robert McLeroth of the 64th Regiment was making his way towards Castle William on a road about four miles from the British encampment in Boston. At about 11 PM he came upon two grenadiers a few yards apart from each other. He asked the first one if he had a pass, upon which both soldiers turned and ran. McLeroth gave chase and caught up with the second one, Edward Hall. Hall immediately submitted to being caught, but seemed apprehensive for the whereabouts of his comrade, Timothy Bremer, also a grenadier in the 43rd. As McLeroth escorted Hall back to camp, Hall explained that they had had a liaison with a country woman from whom they had “often received pecuniary Favours.” They were intoxicated, and she convinced them to go to a house near Dorchester, but they both intended to return to camp by morning. They were on the way to the house when McLeroth came upon them.

Hall was given over to soldiers of the 64th Regiment who ferried him to Castle William and put him into custody. He was tried by court martial two days later. Witnesses from the 43rd and 64th recounted their experiences with Hall’s absence and capture, noting in particular that Hall offered no resistance

Serjeant Thomas Rookesby of the 43rd described in detail the process of determining the disposition of Hall’s necessaries. He first “went to the Prisoner's Tent to look for the Prisoner's Knapsack which he found with only one Old Shirt & some Spatterdashes in it.” This, of course, suggested that Hall had made off with his other shirt, shoes and stockings, and Hall was reported as a deserter. The next morning, however, Rookesby made a more detailed search and found “The Shoes in the Straw of the Tent one Shirt in his Comrade's knapsack & the other his Comrade had taken down to the Washerwoman” as well as two pair of old stockings in an unspecified location. Only two pair of stockings remained missing, far less of an implication against Hall.

Edward Hall’s defense was particularly lucid and he was earnest about his actions, admitting his unauthorized absence but making a convincing case that he had no intention of deserting. He called several witnesses who corroborated his assertions, and presented closing arguments in writing. In an effort to prove his character, he deposed “That his Family being in very independent Circumstances he first entered into the Service not from Want, but Inclination. That he has always met with Treatment that left him no Reason of Complaint, and that Lt Robertson by directions from his Father, has ever been ready, to give him every assistance suitable to one in his present Station which he must have forfeited by Desertion.” Here, then, is another example of the type of British soldier that is too often overlooked in the literature: educated, from a good family, in the army fully voluntarily rather than for want of any other opportunity.

Unfortunately for Hall, the court did not appreciate his sincere and well-delivered defense. He was found guilty and sentenced to “receive one thousand lashes by the Drummers of the line… at such time and place and in such proportions as the Commanding Officer of the 43rd Regiment shall see convenient and proper.” We have no evidence that the punishment was remitted. Whether it would have dissuaded any further transgressions from Hall is moot: he died in July 1775 of wounds received at the Battle of Bunker Hill.


  1. Very interesting post. I have been writing a book about the Battle of Menotomy (now Arlington) in Massachusetts on April 19, 1775. A lieutenant in the 43rd named Edward Hall was wounded first at Concord, then again on the retreat back to Boston. He was discovered in a house that was evacuated by one of the residents in Menotomy who ran from the retreating columns of regulars. Finding him upon her return, she tended his wounds. Nurse were sent out to help from Boston. But his shoulder wound was mortal, and he died two weeks after the battle, May 3, 1775. His body was returned to General Gage in Boston. FYI. Same man perhaps? There was a small account in the Salem Gazette May 5, 1775.

  2. Thank you for writing. The officer mortally wounded on 19 April was certainly not the same man as the private soldier killed at Bunker Hill. Your office is Edward Hull (not Hall), a Lieutenant in the light infantry company of the 43rd Regiment. His namesake nephew Edward Hull became a prominent officer in the 43rd Regiment a decade later; you can read more about the family here: