Monday, March 18, 2013

William Newton, 4th Regiment of Foot

In studying the American Revolution, a war that lasted eight years, it is easy to forget that it spanned only a portion of the career of many of the British soldiers who fought here. Men enlisted as a career, usually in their early twenties after having tried their hand at some other career first. Many were seasoned veterans when they arrived in America, and many continued in the army long after they departed America. There are many examples on this blog; indeed, it would be impossible to profile British soldiers without featuring many such men.

When William Newton came to American with the 4th (King's Own) Regiment of Foot, he was an experienced soldier. The weaver from Ashton under Line in county Lancaster, Newton had joined the army in 1768 at the age of twenty. Between 10% and 15% of British soldiers were weavers, the most common trade among soldiers, a reflection of the textile industry being the backbone of the British economy.

Newton, 5' 9" tall and illiterate, arrived in Boston with the 4th Regiment in 1774. He saw the outbreak of hostilities in 1775, the city's evacuation the following March, and the New York campaign of 1776. In April 1777 his regiment was among those that landed in Connecticut and destroyed American supplies at Danbury. During the retreat from that place, he was wounded in three places: the right arm, left leg and neck. But he recovered and soldiered on, serving on the campaign that took Philadelphia, spending the winter in that city, and then retreating across New Jersey back to New York in 1778.

Late in 1778 the 4th Regiment was among those sent to the West Indies. Here the regiment, with William Newton in its ranks, served in a number of other actions. Early in 1780, after such long and arduous service in North America, the 4th Regiment was ordered back to Great Britain; first, however, the remaining able-bodied soldiers were transferred to other regiments in the West Indies. William Newton joined the 15th Regiment of Foot. With that regiment, he was among the defenders of Brimstone Hill on St. Kitt's when it was besieged by the French in early 1782. The burst of a shell wounded him in the chest. After a month-long defense, the garrison surrendered and Newton was imprisoned.

When peace came the following year, William Newton soldiered on. He continued in the army until June 1789 when he was discharged in Limerick, Ireland, having been "rendered entirely unfit for any further service" by his wounds. His long service and sacrifice earned him a pension.

Learn more about British soldiers in America!

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