Monday, September 16, 2013

Thomas Parks, 37th Regiment - sick!

Finding a soldier's name on a regiment's muster rolls, and tracing his career from the date that he joined until the date he was discharged, gives a perception of knowing the man's experience. The regiment went here and there; he was a soldier, so he went with it, he did the things the regiment did, fought where it fought. For most soldiers this is the best we can do, find a name and some dates and make logical assumptions. Occasionally another document comes to light that proves the assumptions completely wrong and reveals a completely different military experience.

Such is the case with Thomas Parks, a private soldier in the 37th Regiment of Foot. He enlisted some time after that regiment had sailed for America at the very beginning of 1776. Having done so, he trained in Great Britain along with recruits for his own regiment and others, probably at Chatham Barracks near London. In 1777 he and other new soldiers who were ready embarked on transports and came to America. Parks joined his regiment in New York in the late summer.

His name can be followed through the semi-annual muster rolls for the next several years, but in 1778 his name carries the annotation "sick" next to it. This cryptic term is commonly used in these documents and signified anything that incapacitated the man from normal service, from battle wounds to camp fevers. Parks remained "sick" on every muster roll until he was discharged in January 1782. Men discharged in America had the option of returning to Great Britian or remaining in the colonies, sometimes to serve the army in another capacity or sometimes to find a new way of life. For most men we can only guess; for Thomas Parks, we have a deposition written almost eight years later.

From this document we learn that Thomas Parks was from a town named Rowley in Staffordshire, and that he enlisted at the age of 19 after having worked as a nailor. His training in England may have gone well enough but his soldiering in America did not. He was first rendered "sick" less than a year after disembarking because his musket burst and destroyed the use of his right hand. The wounded limb did not heal quickly. He remained in military medical care until September 1781 when it was finally recommended that he be sent to England and recommended for a pension because of his disability. He was given military pay through 25 January 1782 (the discharge date shown on the muster roll, months after his obligation to the army ended) in order to support him on his passage home. Before he could find a ship and book a passage, however, he was stricken with a violent fever and malarial symptoms. A Staffordshire native living on Long Island took Parks into his care.

Parks' illness lingered into 1783. By the time he was well enough to leave, the British army had left the American colonies. Parks tried to book a passage from New York to England but was unable to do so. The best alternative he could find was to the nearest British garrison town, Quebec. He did so, and there found a sympathetic army officer who paid for his passage to England and arranged that he receive an allowance for provisions until he could appear before the pension board of Chelsea Hospital.

It was not until November 1789 that Thomas Parks arrived in his native country that he'd left a dozen years before. He'd served offically for six years in the army, from his enlistment some time in 1776 until his discharge dated 1782, but had spent most of his time overseas langishing in distress, disease, discomfort and displacement. He was granted a pension, guaranteeing him a modest income for the rest of his days.

Learn more about British soldiers in America!

No comments:

Post a Comment