Monday, April 22, 2013

William Disney, 34th Regiment of Foot

When hostilities broke out in America, it was critical to increase the strength of the British military presence there; this meant increasing the strength of the army overall. Recruiting efforts were intensified. Because the army was an all-volunteer force, greater incentives had to be offered than the usual enlistment bounty and the possibility of a pension after a long career. On 16 December 1775, a proclamation was issued that men who enlisted after that date would be entitled to a land grant in America if they chose it, as long as they had served at least three years when the war ended. For agricultural workers, some itinerant, this was a very tempting offer; even though the lands were in a far-away wilderness, it was the only likely way for a British laborer to own his own property.

One of the many who enlisted under these terms was William Disney. The 5' 10 1/2" tall Irishman enlisted in the 34th Regiment of Foot 1776 and proceeded with his regiment to Canada where he spent the entire war, mostly in the environs of Quebec. In 1783, when the war ended and the army was reduced in size again, he took his discharge at the age of 28. The land being offered, due to the outcome of the war, was in Canada rather than more southern colonies as had been anticipated years before; Disney opted to return to Great Britain instead of taking the land bounty (his reason for doing so, however, is not known).

Disney traveled from Quebec to Halifax with the intention of continuing on to England, but for some unknown reason was unable to continue the journey. Instead, he went to work for a landowner named George Deschamps in Windsor, some miles northwest of Halifax.

He worked hard and well. By 1786 he had saved some money and earned the respect of his employer. He decided it was time to try his had at developing his own land. In a good clear hand he wrote a petition to the local government expressing his desire to settle in the area if he could receive a land grant. His employer endorsed him, saying that he was a "well able to improve a location."

We have no information on how William Disney fared, but his story of voluntary enlistment, faithful service, diligent work and initiative is typical of the majority of British soldiers, largely overlooked because their careers were uneventful but nonetheless important.

Learn more about British soldiers in America!

1 comment:

  1. Nice story, focused on "the little guy," the simple soldier who served...