Monday, May 20, 2013

Samuel Stratton, 6th and 37th Regiments of Foot

Last week we looked at a veteran of the famous battle of Minden in the Seven Years War who also served throughout the American Revolution. There were other veterans of that war who served in the Revolution, but there were also younger veterans of more recent wars. With a global empire, Great Britain was in involved in many minor conflicts that are little known today; to the soldiers doing the fighting, however, combat was deadly, dangerous and personal regardless of the overall scale of the conflict. 

Among the places troops were sent was the island of St. Vincent where a conflict now called the First Carib War which included intense fighting in 1772 and 1773. The island and its native population had been ceded to Great Britain in 1763 at the close of the Seven Years War; British agricultural expansion incited hostility that turned into armed conflict. Several British regiments were sent to the island; although these professional troops outnumbered the native fighters they were hampered by the health-imparing climate and mountainous jungle terrain. The war ended in 1773 with a peace treaty dividing the island between the British and the natives, an event commemorated in a well-known painting. 

 One of the regiments that fought in this bloody conflict was the 6th Regiment of Foot; in its ranks was a soldier named Samuel Stratton. From a town called Maidly in Shropshire, Stratton had learned the metalworking trade of a whitesmith before enlisting in the army when he was twenty years old in 1768. On 25 January 1773, fighting on St. Vincent, he was wounded in the neck and head. These injuries did not end his career, though; he remained in the ranks, and was with the 6th Regiment when it sailed from the Caribbean to New York in 1776 to join the escalating war there. 

The 6th Regiment had suffered much during its service in the West Indies; by the time it joined General Howe's army, it was under strength and included many worn out men. In December 1776 the regiment was sent back to Great Britain, but following a common practice in both peace and war, its able-bodied men were transferred into other regiments on American service. This procedure, called drafting (in the sense of pulling men from one regiment to another), kept experienced soldiers in the ranks of regiments that needed them, leaving the officers and a cadre of soldiers from the homeward-bound regiment to recruit and train new men in the coming years. Having fully recovered from his wounds, Samuel Stratton was drafted into the grenadier company of the 37th Regiment of Foot. 

It wasn't long before Stratton was scarred once again in battle. On 11 September 1777 at the Battle of Brandywine the grenadier battalions - corps formed by massing the grenadier companies from many regiments - were hotly engaged. Stratton was wounded, this time taking bullets "thro' the right Arm & right leg." Once again these injuries did not end his career. He continued with his company through the major engagement at Monmouth the following June. A year later he testified at a court martial in defense of one of his fellow soldiers, corroborating some aspects of the accused's story but offering only those things of which he had direct knowledge. 

In 1780 he was appointed corporal, but in September 1781 was reduced again to private soldier. Short-term appointments like this were common and reduction to private did not necessarily reflect a disciplinary issue; sometimes men were appointed to corporal temporarily because another corporal was incapacitated, and sometimes recently-appointed corporals requested to resign the position for reasons that are not stated. 

Samuel Stratton continued to serve in the 37th Regiment of Foot until 23 December 1790. He was discharged after 22 years of service and recommended for a pension not only because of his two wounds, but also because he was "worn out in the service." He signed his own name on his discharge.

Learn more about British soldiers in America!

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