Thursday, April 4, 2013

James Hollis, 63rd Regiment of Foot

James Hollis received a pension for his military service. This in itself is not unusual; by the 1770s the British army had a well-established pension system and soldiers with careers of 20 years or more were likely to received this reward for their faithful service. Hollis, however, took a different route.

Hollis was born in Wanworth, Surrey, a few miles up the Thames river from London, on 19 August 1757. How he spent his early life is not known, but by 1780 he had enlisted in the British army. Along with about three dozen other recruits for the 63rd Regiment of Foot, he landed in Charleston, South Carolina in January 1781. From there, he was sent inland to join his regiment in time to participate in the relief of fort Ninety Six in June, and the battle of Eutaw Springs in September.

By the end of the year he was back in Charston and stationed at an outpost on Haddrell's point, across the Cooper River from the city. From here he deserted, as did over a dozen other men of the 63rd. The muster rolls show them all as having deserted on 24 December 1781, but it's more likely that they trickled away throughout the month and were administratively written off on the same date.

A year or so of service followed by desertion in a foreign land was not the way for a British soldier to get a pension. But Hollis found another way. He received the protection of American troops under Francis Marion in a region known as the High Hills of Santee. From there he went on to Wilmington, North Carolina. He soon enlisted as a fifer in a company of North Caroina troops commanded by a Captain Rhodes, and served for about 18 months until peace was declared. Notice that he had been a private soldier in British service, and was 24 years old when he started his brief career as a fifer; it is a widely-held misconception that all drummers and fifers were boys or teenagers.

It was for his service in with the American army as a fifer that James Hollis received a pension; he applied for it in 1832 when he was 75 years old and living in Union District, South Carolina. Had he remained in the British army, he could've received a pension thirty years sooner.

Learn more about British soldiers in America!

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