Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Thomas Page, 22nd Regiment of Foot

In 1773, a 29 year old soldier name Thomas Page married a woman named Elizabeth. Page's life had been typical enough of British soldiers. Born in 1744 in Silverton, Devonshire, in his early teens he went to work at an apprentice some miles to the south, for a yeoman farmer in the town of Sowton. After five or six years he chose a different path and enlisted in the 22nd Regiment of Foot, becoming a soldier in 1764 at the age of 20.

When he married, he had spent his nine years in the army in England and Scotland, but he and his new bride were soon in Ireland. This may have been a major move, but did not compare to their experience two years later. In May 1775 the couple left the British Isles and sailed with their regiment to America, arriving in Boston soon after the battle of Bunker Hill.

Thomas Page served for the duration of the war; a competent and educated soldier, he become a corporal in 1780 and a serjeant in 1781. His time in America also saw the birth of two sons, Thomas in Rhode Island in 1777, and James in New York in 1780. A third son, Samuel, was probably also born in New York in 1783. Service took a toll on him, though. For reasons unknown, he lost one eye and by war's end had diminished sight in the other.

The family boarded a transport ship in New York in November 1783 with the last of the British troops to vacate America. After arriving in Great Britain in early 1784, Page took the discharge that his twenty years of service entitled him to (there was no fixed duration of service; men were granted discharges from the army on an individual basis, but post-war military reductions combined with Page's long service and incapacity made him an obvious choice). He went before the commissioners of Chelsea Hospital and was granted an out-pension (also frequently granted to men with long service and disability resulting from it). He then took his family back to his native Devonshire and settled there.

Whether he supported his family solely on his military pension of a shilling a day (a rate higher than that of common soldiers because he had been a non-commissioned officer) or sought other employment is not known. He did live considerably longer. As an out-pensioner (a soldier receiving a pension but not resident at Chelsea Hospital), he was subject to be called for service in domestic garrisons or other light-duty posts in times of military need. And called he was, at the age of 59, to serve in the Royal Garrison Battalion at Plymouth. Probably due to his age and poor eyesight, he was discharged again after only three months of service. He returned once again to Devon, presumably for the remainder of his life.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Moses Livermore, 34th Regiment of Foot

Even when we have substantial amounts of information a man, his military career sometimes follows a path that we cannot fully explain. Moses Livermore started his service in a typical enough way - as a recruit in the 46th Regiment in Ireland.

A great challenge for recruiting parties in Great Britain, and particularly in Ireland, was desertion. Men received a bounty for enlisting, and this tempting source of money led some to practice the dangerous game of bounty jumping (enlisting strictly to receive the bounty money and then deserting immediately). Other men probably simply reconsidered their decision and absconded. Recruiting officers complained that some towns made “a trade of Desertion and too often with impunity" and that the local culture facilitated desertion of recruits “whilst surrounded by their Friends and Relations who employ every allurement to prevail upon them to desert.” Although Livermore seems to have been such a man, the 46th Regiment managed to catch up to him enough times that he was eventually drummed out of the regiment because of his repeated desertions.

Continuing his antics, he enlisted again but this time into the 34th Regiment of Foot in March 1775. The 21 year old, standing six feet tall, was probably an attractive specimen for the army, but he made his way off again just three months later. Rather than lie low, he enlisted yet again, this time into the 9th Regiment of Foot. He was not, however, able to hide his past; he was claimed by the 34th Regiment and punished (probably by lashes) for his crime. Because of his stature, and certainly in spite of his unreliability, he was put into the regiment's grenadier company late in 1775.

The 34th Regiment was among those ordered to embark for the relief of besieged Quebec, and by April they were embarking on transports in Cork. Livermore deserted once again, avoiding his regiment's departure. His inability to evade capture also persisted. Although he made his was to England he was taken up as a deserter. This time he was pardoned rather than punished, and put on board ship with other recruits bound for America. Not one to be influenced by the mercy shown him, he plotted with others to steal the ship's boat and escape. When his plan was found out, he was tried, convicted and received 500 lashes.

On 21 September 1777 he finally joined his regiment in America. The grenadier company to which he officially belonged, however, was campaigning near Saratoga and would soon be made prisoners of war. Livermore remained with the eight battalion companies of the regiment in Canada, and was formally transferred into one of them at the end of the year.

Moses Livermore continued to make a poor impression on his officers. Although it is not clear when and where he saw combat, the commanding officer of the regiment indicated that "he only plays the Lion at the head of all kinds of Thievery and Mischief and is a timid lamb in the face of his Enemy." This suggests that he had other disciplinary infractions besides those of which we have direct records. When he deserted from a wood cutting party in June 1780, it was the last straw. He was quickly captured, and his commanding officer requested (from the commander in chief of the army in Canada) that he either be tried by a general court that could sentence capital punishment; short of that, the officer requested permission to drum him out of the regiment once and for all because "the loss of such a nuisance takes nothing from the strength of a Corps." The officer hoped that Livermore would be pressed into service on a navy ship, where presumably he would be less able to abscond.

Livermore was discharged from the 34th Regiment on 13 July 1780; it is not known whether he was lashed yet again as a prelude to being drummed out. Here we would expect to lose site of this incorrigible man. Rather than disappearing into the countryside or being pressed into the navy, however, he once again joined the army. Researcher Todd Braisted determined that Livermore this time chose not a regular British regiment but a Royalist corps called the Queen's Loyal Rangers serving in Quebec. He served in that organization and its Provincial successor, the Loyal Rangers, for over two years, through the last surviving rolls in early 1783. Whether he served with good discipline or continued to be "a nuisance" is not known. In 1808, Moses Livermore was living in Hawkesbury, Ontario (at that time called Upper Canada), and petitioned for a land grant as a reward for his service in the Loyal Rangers.