Sunday, May 11, 2014

James Annett, 7th Regiment of Foot, gets fired

Sometimes soldiers with short careers have something to teach us, like James Annett of the 7th Regiment of Foot, the Royal Fusiliers. He arrived in America in October 1781, among the last British army recruits to make the journey all the way from Great Britain to New York (recruits sent the following year were detained in Halifax, Nova Scotia, to reinforce that garrison). When Annett and other recruits arrived in New York, they found that their regiment was scattered about North America. Many were prisoners of war, having been captured in the south at Cowpens, Yorktown, or other smaller engagements. Some were in the garrison at Charleston, South Carolina; they soon would be sent on to Savannah, Georgia. But there were elements of the regiment in New York City, including Captain-Lieutenant Thomas Bibby, who took Annett as a servant.

Bibby had been an officer in the 24th Regiment of Foot on the campaign commanded by General Burgoyne in 1777. Captured and subsequently exchanged, he took a commission in the 7th Regiment in January 1781. The regiment was in South Carolina at the time, but Bibby was appointed Deputy Adjutant General in New York, a staff position that offered him safety and comfort, particularly compared to what his fellow Fusiliers were experiencing. He was promoted to Captain, and courted a local woman, Margaret McEvers; they married her in 1782.

After the close of hostilities, the 7th Regiment coalesced again in New York, composed of the men who'd evacuated Savannah, the repatriated prisoners of war, some recruits and transfers from other regiments, and whatever other individuals found themselves in the New York garrison after their diverse wartime experiences. James Annett, in the mean time, had spent two years in America serving Captain Bibby, drawing his soldier's pay plus a salary for his services.

British regiments in America were reduced in size and reorganized in preparation for departure. James Annett took his discharge in August 1783. Although he'd arrived in America in late 1781, he'd probably enlisted well before that, enough to have put in the three years of service required to be eligible for discharge at the end of hostilities (a wartime provision enacted in December 1775; British soldiers who enlisted in peace time had no fixed term of service). Although entitled to passage back to Great Britain, he chose to remain in New York. He had a job there: he was the servant to Thomas Bibby, who also chose to remain. Bibby retired from his post in the 7th Regiment but remained on half-pay, akin to being in the reserves today. He settled in New York with his wife, retaining his former soldier-servant in his employ.

The arrangement had worked for a while, but some time in 1784 things turned sour. On 9 September, this notice appeared in the New York Journal:

I have discharged James Annitts, formerly a British soldier, (an hired servant) for insolence, impertinence and dishonesty.
T. Bibby, Cap. Royal Fusileers.

We lose sight of Annett after this. Perhaps he found work as a servant in another household, but the bad endorsement from his former master may have forced him to established himself in a new career in his new county.

No comments:

Post a Comment