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Saturday, May 26, 2018
Francis Padlow was a miller from the town of Kettlethorp in Lincolnshire. At the age of twenty-five, in 1762, he chose a new career by enlisting in the army. By the early 1770s he was in the 37th Regiment of Foot, and at the beginning of 1776 he went with that corps to join the war in America.
He left a wife behind, in the town of East Retford in Nottinghamshire. Where they met and when they married is not known; in fact, we don't even know her name. But in March of 1778 she sent a letter to the War Office asking whether her husband was still alive; she had "not heard from him since the year 1773." The office reviewed the regiment's muster rolls and was able to confirm that he was still serving in the 37th as recently as May of 1777 in Bonham Town, New Jersey, although he was "absent by leave" at that time. That was all they could offer, not bad, really, considering the challenges of communication.
The muster rolls used by the War Office in 1778 to confirm Padlow's service survive to this day in the British National Archives, and there are further volumes after those recorded in May 1777. From them we see that Francis Padlow continued for most of the remainder of the war, albeit listed as "sick" most of the time. He was discharged in early 1782 because he was "rheumatic"; he was recommended for a pension.
With other "invalided" soldiers, he sailed from New York to Great Britain, then went to Chelsea Hospital outside of London where he appeared before the pension examining board on 8 March 1783. Having served twenty-one years as a soldier, he was granted the pension. But there is no record of whether he returned to the wife he'd left behind ten years before.
Learn more about British soldiers in America!
Thursday, May 17, 2018
A shot was fired in Boston at the British soldiers garrisoned there. It was not the celebrated "shot heard 'round the world" fired in Concord, Massachusetts on 19 April 1775, but a pointed show of disdain towards the military force that had been sent to enforce the Coercive Acts, the punitive measures imposed upon the Massachusetts colony after the Boston Tea Party.
Several British regiments arrived in Boston in the early summer of 1774 and encamped on the common, the largest military force that had been assembled in America since the French and Indian War. Citizens of Boston and neighboring towns took umbrage at this martial imposition, as military posts were established and guards marched regularly through the town. They found ways to harass the soldiers, inveigled them to desert, sometimes plying them with cheap liquor and spiriting them out of town. On 18 July, a shot was fired.
The incident was recorded by a young officer of the 43rd Regiment, Lieutenant Alexander Robertson. He was in command of the guard on Boston Neck that night, the narrow stretch of land that connected peninsular Boston to the mainland. He wrote a report about what happened:
On the 18th July 1774, having the Command of the Guard posted at the Neck, and at sun sett after examining the arms &c of the Guard as usual, the Men were standing in a group upon the Neck about Ten or Twelve paces from the Guard room, when they heard the Report of a Gun, and imediatly called out that it was a Ball that was fired, for they distinctly heard it whiz, and observed it fired from a Boat loitring off the Neck with three People in it, and the Centinel ( - Young of the 5th Regt and in Earl Percy's Company) who was posted upon the Wall call'd out, that he saw the Ball strike the Water about Twenty yards from where the Group of Soldiers were standing and in a direct line with them, and about Ten yards from the Wall where he was posted.
I was at the time looking at the Boat, saw the smoke & heard the Report and firmly believe it was in a direct line with the Soldiers who were talking together, and after the gun was fired I observ'd the Boat row off, with the utmost expidition towards the Town, and imediatly sent a soldier to watch its motions, who return'd & told me he saw it row towards the centre of the Town. A. Robertson Lieut. 43d. Regt. Boston Camp 19th July 1774
Nothing came of the incident. No investigation, no arrests; most importantly, no further gunshots. If Lt. Robertson had not put it in writing, there would probably be no record of the event at all.
As for the soldier who saw the bullet splash, John Young would see more gunfire in the coming years. He served with his regiment throughout the occupation of Boston including the outbreak of war on 19 April 1775 and the battle of Bunker Hill the following June. He took part in the rapid campaign that drove American forces out of the New York City area and across New Jersey in 1776, and that tried unsuccessfully to bring about a pivotal battle in New Jersey in 1777. Later that year he sailed up Chesapeake Bay, then marched and fought through Delaware and Pennsylvania to Philadelphia.
Not long after that city was seized by the British army, John Young saw his last shots fired. He was killed in the battle of Germantown on 4 October 1777.