Monday, October 22, 2012

Thomas Hanley (also Handley and Humly) 18th Regiment of Foot

This installment is graciously contributed by Dr. Steven M. Baule, who is preparing a study of the service of the 18th (Royal Irish) Regiment of Foot in America during the decade leading up to the American Revolution. First, I must take the opportunity to mention that my own book,

Thomas Hanley enlisted in the 18th (Royal Irish) Regiment of Foot in 1764, while the regiment was near Dublin, Ireland; he may, however, have been recruited in England. Hanley’s military career shows a common thread for musicians. He is promoted to drummer or fifer for a time and then returned to the ranks. It is probable that the men so promoted and reduced were members of the regimental band; officers may have rotated them through the rank of drummer or fifer in order for all of the bandsmen to have equal access to the extra pay allotted to a drummer or fifer (drummers and fifers were paid at the same rate as corporals). Only one member of the 18th Foot was identified in an official document as a “bandsman” between 1767 and 1775 and he did in fact follow this path of being rotated in and out of the rank of drummer and fifer. Not all regiments had a band of music, but the 18th Foot did. Its band is recorded as having played a couple of concerts in Philadelphia while the regiment was stationed there. 

Hanley’s first years in the military probably involved learning basic soldier tasks: standing guard, supporting the civil powers in Dublin and possibly learning to play the drum and fife. It isn’t clear when Hanley learned to play an instrument, but he did learn within his first five years in the Royal Irish. Most likely he was able to play one or more of the following: hautboy (oboe), clarinet, serpent, and/or the (French) horn if he was in the band. Military bands of the period appear often to have been made up of about eight musicians including two hautboys, two clarinets, two serpents (an early form of bass horn) and two horns. Unfortunately, the instruments used by the 18th Regiment’s band haven’t been determined.

Hanley marched from Dublin to Cork Harbour in late April 1767 and embarked for America in May. He arrived in Philadelphia with the Royal Irish as a private in Isaac Hamilton’s company on 11 July 1767. If Hanley was already a member of the band, he performed at the commencement ceremonies of Philadelphia College in the spring of 1768. He was transferred to the Lt. Colonel’s company when the regiment was ordered to Illinois in May 1768. It is possible he was transferred so he could serve with the Drum Major and be groomed to become a drummer when a vacancy opened. He didn’t have to wait long with the toll that sickness took on the regiment in Illinois; he was appointed drummer in Captain Lane’s Company on 5 February 1769. He remained with that company, which saw several captains, for the next few years; ultimately, it became Captain Payne’s Coy in 1771. He was reduced from drummer to private on 5 March 1772.

Hanley was stationed at the North Liberties Barracks in Philadephia with eight companies of the Royal Irish and a company of the Royal Artillery. He remained as a private and potentially a member of the regiment’s band of music through the fall of 1774. He was transferred to the Grenadier company as a fifer on 8 October 1774 as the regiment prepared to move from Philadelphia. The Grenadier company and two other companies were ordered to reinforce the garrison. The other five companies marched to New York City.

While in Boston, Hanley was court-martialed on 11 February 1775 for being very drunk on the street after Tattoo and abusing his regimental clothing. He was found guilty and sentenced to 100 lashes. For some reason, most likely prior good conduct, the entire sentence was remitted.

The companies of the 18th Regiment in Boston formed a composite corps with some companies of the 65th Regiment under the command of Lt. Colonel Bruce of the 65th. The 18th’s two fifers were ordered to mount guard whenever Lt. Col. Bruce was on duty. Probably, the two fifers served as additional orderlies for Bruce. As a grenadier, Hanley probably marched to Concord on 19 April and participated in the Battle of Bunker Hill on 17 June. He was on duty on 7 October 1775 on Charleston Heights when the company was mustered for pay.

The 18th Regiment was drafted in December 1775; that is, the able bodied private soldiers were sent into other regiments and those no longer fit for service were discharged. As a fifer, Hanley wasn’t drafted but instead returned to England with the officers, non-commissioned officers and drummers. Those privates who had previously been drummers or fifers were not drafted either, further supporting the supposition that they were part of the regimental band. They arrived at Portsmouth in February 1776. Hanley was appointed drummer in Captain Hamilton’s company when the regiment was reorganized in southern England in the summer of 1776. He was posted to the Light Infantry company in 1777 and then to the General’s company in 1778.

He was listed as sick on 6 March 1778. He was present at the Camp of Instruction at Coxheath in southern England from June to November 1778. The troops concentrated at Coxheath were prepared to thwart a Franco-Spanish invasion threat that materialized upon the French entry into the America Revolution. He was at Warley Camp in June 1779 and returned to the Grenadier company on 26 August. In June 1780, Hanley was present in Hyde Park, London to enforce civil order after the Gordon Riots. He remained a drummer when the Royal Irish were moved with the rest of the troops at Hyde Park to Finchley in August 1780. In 1781, he was with the regiment when it was posted to the Channel Islands and in 1783, he was sent to Gibraltar. He was listed as a private in the General’s company in July 1784, and is recorded as sick on both returns for 1784. He remained at Gibraltar through 1787. Unfortunately he is simply dropped from the rolls at that point, with no indication of why he left the regiment.

As a senior soldier and a musician, Hanley joined the 41st Regiment of Foot when it was changed from a regiment of invalids to a marching regiment. He served only fourteen months, however, before being discharged at Hilsea Barracks because he was “afflicted with the scurvy” on 24 March 1789.

Hanley appears to have not wished to be discharged, as he traveled to Sheerness and enlisted in Captain James Malcom’s Independent Company of Invalids there. He was discharged from that company after two months service. This discharge on 9 September 1789 appears to have been permanent He was paid nine extra days pay after discharge to provide for his travel home. Nothing more is known about his life after his discharge from the army following 25 years of service.

Learn more about British soldiers in America!

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