Sunday, March 2, 2014

Mary Pollard, 46th Regiment, remarries

By the beginning of 1776, war had broken out in America and the British government had put together a plan to establish a military presence in the southern colonies. A fleet of warships and transports carried several regiments that were to land and establish a foothold. Among those regiments was the 46th Regiment of Foot, previously stationed in Ireland; in the ranks of the regiment was a private soldier named Richard Pollard who brought with him his wife Mary. There is no record of whether they had children with them.

The fleet sailed from Cork, Ireland on 12 February 1776, later than indended. The voyage went poorly, particularly so for the Pollards. An officer in another regiment wrote that, on the day they set sail, "in the evening, a storm sprung up, which lasted three weeks, without intromission; and the wind being against us made our situation truly lamentable." The transport ships used to carry troops across the Atlantic were private vessels operating under contract to the government and typically ranged in size from 200 to 500 tons - tiny by today's oceangoing standards. It is difficult to image the prolonged discomfort and danger of being tossed about an open ocean in such a vessel. Whether due to illness or accident, Richard Pollard did not endure long; on 27 February 1776, he died of unknown causes.

May Pollard was now a widow on a transport full of soldiers bound for a foreign and possibly hostile land, her soldier husband having died without facing an enemy. There is a popular tale that army widows in such circumstances were required to remarry immediately or they would be cast out of their regiment where ever they happened to be. We've shown that this is not true; some widows stayed with the army for quite some time; they were allowed to return to Great Britain and provided with funds and transportation to do so. That doesn't mean it was easy, and it certainly couldn't always be effected immediately, especially in a case like Mary Pollard's. She had to continue to earn her keep with the regiment - probably as a washer woman or hospital nurse - while waiting to see where the fortunes of war brought her and the rest of the 46th Regiment.

She endured the remainder of the voyage. She may have stayed on board ship while the regiment sweated out an encampment on a barren, sandy island on the Carolina coast, ultimately looking on helplessly as a naval assault on Fort Moultrie near Charleston, South Carolina, failed. After several ineffective weeks in the steadily increasing southern heat, the soldiers re-embarked and sailed north to join the British army that had just landed on Staten Island.

Mary Pollard could've gone home. There were opportunities to sail to Halifax where many women and children of the army had stayed to await word of the success of the campaign around New York. After the city and surrounding area was in British hands, there were other opportunities to return to Great Britain with other widows and wounded soldiers. But she stayed on with the army, for reasons now lost to history. On 25 June 1777 she and William Hyde, a soldier of the 46th who had also sailed from Ireland the previous year, obtained a marriage license and presumably took vows around that time in the area of New York City.

Assuming that they stayed married, things went better this time. Hyde served with the regiment during the campaign to Philadelphia in 1777 and the return to New York in 1778. Late that year the regiment was sent to the West Indies, but it appears that Hyde, due to either injury or other infirmity, was discharged and returned to Great Britain. There, he served for several years in the 41st Regiment of Foot, a corps of soldiers fit only for service within the home islands. He was discharged from that regiment in 1788 and received a pension.

The sad part about all of this is that we have no idea what became of Mary Pollard Hyde. In fact, the only direct information we have about her is from the marriage license - a single surviving document that records here name, that she was a widow in the 46th Regiment, and applied to marry William Hyde of the same regiment. Everything else about her is determined from the muster rolls of the 46th Regiment that record the names of her husbands and the day that Richard Pollard died (he was the only man named Pollard in the regiment, and there was only one man named William Hyde), and the pension of William Hyde. Mary could've died the day after her second marriage, and we would have no way of knowing. If she did return to Great Britain with William Hyde, there may be information about her tucked in a regional archive waiting to be discovered.

Learn more about British soldiers in America!


  1. We are searching for info on a Hickey/Hickie who married a Virginia Plantation owner's daughter, last name Colette-the plantation was later taken from them and they were sent back to Britain.

    1. I may be able to help, but it requires more information. Hickey (and variations) was a common name among British soldiers. Do you know his first name? The date of the marriage, and any other details to help distinguish this man from others would help (dates, locations, etc.). Large numbers of prisoners of war and British deserters passed through parts of Virginia, so it's completely plausible that one of them is your man.