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.

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