Sunday, November 26, 2017

Benjamin Noble, 14th Regiment, three times wounded

Benjamin Noble had not learned a trade in his teen years, putting him into the broad category of "laborers" who worked England’s farms and fields, or at whatever other work they could find. He'd had enough of that by the time he was twenty years old, and joined the army. He enlisted in 1765 in the 14th Regiment of Foot, on service at Windsor, west of London and about 45 miles south of his native Bedford; whether he enlisted with a recruiting officer in his home town or elsewhere is not known.

If he enlisted out of a thirst for change, he didn't have to wait long. In 1766 the 14th Regiment left England for Halifax Nova Scotia. By 1769 they had moved to Boston, where soldiers of the regiment, as well as men of the 29th Regiment, were involved in some of the unrest that led to the Boston Massacre the following year. Following that incident, the 14th stayed at Castle William in Boston harbor until 1772, when a new crisis required them.

On the island of St. Vincent in the Caribbean, Carib tribesmen inhabiting the island had been fighting British attempts to survey and acquire land since 1769. The British government decided to try a big military push, and sent the 14th and several other regiments to the island in late 1772. The ensuing fighting led only to a stalemate, and a peace treaty was signed in 1773. Benjamin Noble was wounded in the campaign.

The ten companies were sent to other places, some to St. Augustine in Florida and others to the Bahamas. As tensions rose in the colonies, in 1775 part of the 14th Regiment was sent to Virginia to serve under Lord Dunmore. Benjamin Noble was now thirty years old, a combat veteran in the regiment's grenadier company. He saw combat again on 9 December when the grenadiers attempted to drive rebellious colonists from a strategic position overlooking a critical bridge in Virginia's tidewater region. The battle of Great Bridge was short, and disastrous for the 14th's grenadiers. All of their officers were dead or wounded. Fourteen other ranks were also killed, and most of the rest wounded, including Noble; unlike fifteen of his wounded comrades, he avoided capture and was able to rejoin Dunmore's little army.

British military efforts in Virginia soon collapsed, and the 14th Regiment, severely under strength after ten years and two wars in North America, sailed to New York to join the British army there. At the end of 1776, they were drafted - that is, the private soldiers who were fit for service were put into other regiments, the unfit soldiers were discharged, and the officers, non-commissioned officers and drummers returned to Great Britain. Benjamin Noble, despite having received two wounds, was still deemed fit for service and drafted into the grenadier company of the 44th Regiment of Foot.

The 44th's grenadier company was detached from the regiment, serving as part of the 2nd Battalion of Grenadiers in New Jersey. This battalion was among the troops involved in the battle of Princeton on 3 January 1777. Benjamin Noble had wasted no time getting to his new company, for he was in this battle - and for the third time, he was wounded. And for the third time, his wound did not prevent him from continuing in the ranks. He remained in the 44th Regiment during its service in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, and then sailed with it to Quebec in 1779.

The 44th Regiment stayed in Canada for over five years, finally returning to Great Britain in 1786. Benjamin Noble and many others in its ranks had been in North America for twenty years. Noble nonetheless continued to serve until 1790, finally taking his discharge on 25 November after 25 years as a private soldier. He went before the examining board at Chelsea and was awarded a well-deserved pension in recognition of his wounds and being "worn out with long service."

Learn more about British soldiers in America!