Monday, November 18, 2013

William Goldthorp, 22nd Regiment, keeps his job

We've seen examples of soldiers who found jobs while they were prisoners of war. Some soldiers retained their jobs in spite of their captivity. British regimental officers were allowed to employ a soldier as a servant (officers above the rank of captain could have two), and men employed in this capacity earned a good wage over and above their usual soldier's pay. Servants who proved trustworthy and reliable could spend much of their military careers in the service of a single officer, and their job took them where ever their master went.

And excellent example is William Goldthorp, born in the Lambeth district of London in 1731. He learned the taylor's trade before joining the army; it appears that he served for a few years during the Seven Years' War and was discharged before reenlisting into the 22nd Regiment of Foot in 1766. By 1775 he had been taken as a servant by Captain Christopher French of the regiment's light infantry company. When the 22nd embarked for America in May 1775, Captain French and his servant Goldthorp stayed behind in Ireland (French's native land) for another month while the regiment's new clothing for the year was prepared. They sailed for America in the summer on the ship Hope.

When the Hope left Great Britain, the situation in America was changing rapidly and was not at all clear across the ocean. The 22nd and three other regiments had been directed to New York, but upon arrival off the American coast were redirected to Boston. When the Hope reached the coast two months later she made for Philadelphia, unware that the British army was by this time concentrated in Boston and the other cities were in rebel hands. The Hope, her cargo of uniforms for two regiments, Major French and his servant, and a few others were captured as soon as they set foot in America.

French was sent into captivity in Connecticut, and Goldthorp was allowed to accompany him. As the senior ranking prisoner of war (he had been promoted to major while still at sea), Christopher French was responsible for the well-being of all British prisoners in Connecticut; having served in America in the 1750s and 1760s, French also knew many American officers personally. From captivity he wrote countless letters to American officials from the local committee responsible for Connecticut prisoners to General Washington himself.

While a prisoner of war, William Goldthorp continued to do the same work for Major French that he had done while on regular service. One of these tasks was delivering letters written by his master, and he was allowed to call on various people in the Hartford area to deliver messages and receive responses. He also delivered tracts to the printer of the Connecticut newspaper, who did not print most (if any) of them.

Christopher French escaped from jail in late 1776 and made his way into New York. William Goldthorp was exchanged and returned to the service of Major French. At the end of 1777 French was promoted to the lieutenant-colonelcy of the 52nd Regiment. Entitled to two servants, he brought with him Goldthorp and another soldier of the 22nd who had been a prisoner in Connecticut with him into his new regiment; the 52nd sent two men into the 22nd Regiment in exchange.

French, having had a long career, retired from the army in late 1778. It was no coincidence that William Goldthorp once again followed his master, taking his discharge from the 52nd Regiment at the age of 47. He returned to Great Britain and went before the examining board of Chelsea Hospital to request a pension because he suffered from "fitts." He received an out pension; although nothing is known of his subsequent life, he may well have remained a servant to Christopher French, now a private citizen at his family estate in Ireland.

Learn more about British soldiers in America!

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