Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Richard Gootch, 9th Regiment, enlists three times

Richard Gootch does not appear on the muster rolls of the regiment into which he enlisted, the 9th Regiment of Foot. This would make the English teenager difficult to find were it not for some good fortune and for his bold (but not at all unusual) career path.

The 9th Regiment arrived in North America in May 1776, spearheading the force that relieved Quebec city of an American siege. They then participated in the campaign that rapidly pushed American forces all the way back to Lake Champlain, retaking every post that had been lost the previous year. The onset of winter, however, forced the 9th and other regiments into quarters before the vital Fort Ticonderoga could be seized. It was around the same time that the campaign was winding down that a large number of fresh troops arrived at Quebec to augment the British regiments, increasing their overall size as well as making up for losses. Richard Gootch (or Gooch, Goatch, Gutch) was probably among these troops, a mix of recruits and drafts (transfers from other regiments).

Winter prevented the new soldiers from moving south to join their regiments. They had the relative luxury of wintering in Quebec while their comrades on campaign were spread out among various posts along the Richelieu River. In February the 9th Regiments ten companies prepared the last set of muster rolls that they would create in America, which do not include the reinforcements waiting at Quebec.

The summer of 1777 meant a new campaign, and the 9th Regiment moved with a strong army under General John Burgoyne on the push to Albany that, it was hoped, would end the war. Gootch joined the regiment on this campaign, and instead of reaching Albany became a prisoner of war at Saratoga. The captives were marched to barracks outside of Boston where they spent the next year, then to Rutland farther inland, and finally to camps in Virginia and Pennsylvania. Many hundreds of the prisoners absconded during this long captivity, among them Richard Gootch. It is not known when and where he eluded his captors, but evidence suggests that it was in New England, for it is there that he shows up again.

Some time in 1780 or early 1781, Gootch enlisted in the Rhode Island regiment of the Continental Line. We've found no information about how he spent his time between Saratoga and his enlistment. He decided to become a soldier again, probably for the same reason that many British escapees enlisted into American service. In early 1781 he and other recruits were sent to join their regiment at posts along the Hudson River above New York City. On 4 April he deserted and made his way into British lines. There he gave a brief deposition to British intelligence officers:

Richard Goatch, an Englishman of the 9th British Regiment late of one of the Rhode Island rebel Regiments deserted from Bedford the night before last. There is a detachment there of a Captain & thirty four privates. The Regiment he belonged to, is now near West point & consists of about four hundred men. He has been in prison upwards of a year & oblig’d to inlist to get out. There are not above five hundred men at West point the greatest part of the troops lately stationed there were sent to Virginia. About 150 continentals on the lines in the neighbourhood of Byram &c.

In the mean time, officers of the Rhode Island regiment were looking for him. Assuming he would return to the area where he enlisted, they took out an advertisement in the Providence Gazette that first ran on 18 May 1781; it included Gootch among a large number of Rhode Island deserters and described him thus:

Richard Gooch, (inlisted for South Kingstown) born in England, 19 Years of Age, 5 Feet 8 1/2 Inches high, of a fresh Complexion, has dark Hair, and light Eyes.

Although he had deserted from captivity (and perhaps ended up in jail somehow, but returning escapees sometimes concocted stories that put them in a better light when they returned to British service), and deserted from American service, Gootch was not done being a soldier. He enlisted in a new Loyalist regiment called the American Legion commanded by the infamous Benedict Arnold, who had himself deserted from American service and was now a Brigadier General for the British.

Gootch probably joined the Legion too late to be involved in its activities in Virginia in 1781, but most likely was on the expedition to Groton and New London that September. This action saw the dramatic storming of Fort Griswold, but the American Legion was not involved in that fighting. Gootch spent the rest of the war with his regiment at posts around New York City, but it is not known what became of him when his regiment was disbanded in late 1783.

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