Friday, October 12, 2012

Moses Bright, 62nd and 7th Regiments of Foot

On 31 January 1770, a man named Moses Bright from Newbury, county Berkshire, enlisted in the 62nd Regiment of Foot. At 34 he was older than most recruits but not of an unusual age for a soldier in general; most enlistees in this era were in their early twenties. This late start did not distinguish Bright from having a long and interesting military career.

Bright joined his regiment in Ireland in March. He spent the next five years in that country, marching from place to place and learning the ways of army life. By the time the regiment embarked for Canada in early 1776 he was fairly experienced, albeit strictly at peace time soldiering.

His service in America tested his mettle and proved his endurance and loyalty as a soldier. He was wounded on the famous campaign under General Burgoyne in 1777, and taken prisoner under the treaty of Saratoga. Like many of those prisoners, he managed to escape and join the British army in New York City. When he was trasferred into the 7th (Royal Fusiliers) Regiment of Foot in December 1778, he was one of 33 men from Burgoyne's army to do so including 15 from the 62nd Regiment.

With the 7th Regiment Bright and his comrades from the northern army went campaigning again. In July 1779 they participated in raids on the Connecticut seaport towns of New Haven, Fairfield and Norwalk. Moses Bright was again wounded, but again recovered and returned to active service. When the 7th Regiment was sent to serve in the southern colonies in 1780, he was in its ranks. An experienced veteran now, he was appointed corporal on 24 July 1780.

The southern campaign went poorly for the Royal Fusiliers. They were part of the force under Banastre Tarleton that was soundly defeated at the Battle of Cowpens on 17 January 1781. Many men of the regiment were captured including Moses Bright. The seasoned soldier escaped a second time, making his way to Savannah, Georgia where he rejoined elements of his regiment there and was appointed serjeant. 

When the war was winding down and the southern colonies were evacuated and prisoners of war repatriated, men of the 7th Regiment of Foot coalesced again in New York. The end of the war brought a reduction in forces, and although the 7th Regiment was sent back to Great Britain many of its men were discharged in America, some to settle there and others to take land grants in Canada. Moses Bright became a supernumerary serjeant when the establishment of his regiment was reduced to include fewer non-commissioned officers. He had the option of remaining in the ranks as a serjeant en seconde, that is, serving as a private soldier while waiting for another serjeant's post to become available. He chose instead to obtain his discharge by finding another man to serve in his place, probably one of the many other discharged British soldiers looking for opportunities in the manpower-reduced British army.

Details on his subsequent life have not been found. He was discharged on a date typical of men who took land grants in Canada. In 1797, however, he petitioned the commissioners of Chelsea Hospitial for an out-pension and provided a testimonial from the current commanding officer of his former regiment. He appears to have served in one of the many invalid companies raised to garrison British coastal installations, receiving a discharge from one in 1802 and from another in 1804 at 68 years of age.

A veteran of campaigns in three theaters of war, twice wounded in battle, twice taken prisoner and twice escaped, everything that we know about Moses Bright's 8 years of service in the American War comes from a few sentences written in his pension petition. It is a shame that we don't have more details about the many experiences that he had. 

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