Thursday, December 10, 2020

Reviews of Noble Volunteers: the British Soldiers Who Fought the American Revolution

The new book Noble Volunteers: the British Soldiers Who Fought the American Revolution was reviewed in the Wall Street Journal.

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Noble Volunteers: the British Soldiers Who Fought the American Revolution

 It's finally here.

It took two years to compile and organize information collected over several decades, followed by two years of writing, revising and editing. Now the most authoritative book on British soldiers in the American Revolution is available in stores and from online retailers.

Noble Volunteers: the British Soldiers Who Fought the American Revolution tells about how soldiers were recruited and trained in times of peace and war, how they prepared for hostilities and adapted to warfare, where they lived, what they ate, what they earned, the illness, hardships and punishments that they suffered, how their careers evolved, and what became of them when the war was over. Rather than characterize the army as a mass of homogeneous men, this book emphasizes the individuals and their broad range of experiences. Read the review in the Wall Street Journal!

The book is available from major retailers, but please obtain it from your local independent bookseller, or from a historic site book shop - these organizations need your support.

For a good price, we recommend the Fort Plain Museum.

Signed, personalized copies can be ordered from Books on the Square in Providence, Rhode Island.


Sunday, September 13, 2020

Mary Kiddy, 43rd Regiment, knows what is owed to her

Mary Kiddy was on her own in New York in January of 1783. Some money was owed to her, and it is because of this that we know of her existence. But the brief summary that was recorded leaves mostly questions about her life and experiences.

Mary Kiddy was married to William Kiddy, a soldier initially in the 34th Regiment of Foot and later in the 43rd Regiment of Foot. Thanks to muster rolls for these regiments, we do know a lot about him. He joined the 34th Regiment some time between 1761 and 1768 (a gap in the regiment's rolls prevent knowing when or where). In 1768 he was a private soldier in the 34th Regiment in Philadelphia. The following year, the 34th returned to Great Britain, spending the next several years at various posts in Ireland. By April of 1776 he was a corporal in the regiment's light infantry company, preparing to return once again to North America, this time part of the force bound for Quebec to dislodge American force besieging the city.

After a highly successful 1776 campaign and a winter in Canada, in the summer of 1777 the the 34th's light infantry was part of the expedition under General John Burgoyne that set out from Canada towards Albany. By the time this campaign ended in October, Kiddy was a prisoner of war, and spent the winter of 1777-1778 in a crude barracks outside Boston. From there the prisoners were moved inland to Rutland, Massachusetts. It was here that he fell ill, so much so that he was sent to New York in a cartel rather than going with other prisoners to Virginia.

In the summer of 1780 he was sufficiently recovered to return to active service. With most of the 34th Regiment still in Canada and his own company still prisoners of war, Kiddy was drafted into the 43rd Regiment of Foot. Muster rolls for the 34th Regiment's light infantry company end in early 1777, and the rolls for the 43rd record Kiddy as having "enlisted"in June 1780, with no indication that he had been in the 34th Regiment; if it were not for his wife, nothing about his time as a prisoner of war, or that the man in the 34th was the same man who joined the 43rd, would be known.

In April 1781 the 43rd Regiment sailed to Virginia, part of a reinforcement of British forces operating in the Tidewater area. Also that month William Kiddy was appointed corporal again, returning to the rank he had held for years in his previous regiment. During the summer they joined up with General Charles, Lord Cornwallis's army in Yorktown. It was there that William Kiddy died. The 43rd's muster rolls record his death as occurring on 24 October, but the 24th of the month is often used on muster rolls when an exact date is not known, so we cannot be sure exactly when he died. The cause of death is also unknown; he may have fallen ill in the deprived conditions when Cornwallis's army was besieged, been wounded during the intense artillery bombardment they endured, or fallen to some other cause.

Mary Kiddy was left a widow, which meant that she was entitled to her late husband's estate. In January 1783 a board of officers in the city of New York was hearing claims from soldiers who had been prisoners of war, escaped or been exchanged, and then joined different regiments, leaving their accounts with their previous regiments unsettled. Mary Kiddy went before the board and petitioned for her late husband's back pay and clothing due from the 34th Regiment, and she knew exactly what was owed: "three suits of Cloathing for 1776, 1777 & 1778 & a balance of 1.9.4 ½ due from the 34th Regt on the 17th Novr 1778, she also claims her husbands intermediate pay from the 17 of Novr 1778 to the 24th of June 1780, amounting at 8 per day to L19.10". Soldiers received a new suit of regimental clothing each year, and William Kiddy had not received his for the last three years that he was in the 34th; on the last day that his company's accounts were settled in 1778, he was owned one pound, nine shillings, four and a half pence; and he was also owed pay from the day of that last settlement and until the day he joined the 43rd Regiment. She computed the pay at the rate owed to a private soldier, which may be a simple error on her part, or may mean that her husband was reduced to private soldier after the last available muster roll in February 1777 and before accounts were settled in November 1778.

The brief record of Mary Kiddy's statement to the board explains that her husband was in the 34th, was left sick at Rutland, was exchanged and went to New York, that he joined the 43rd Regiment and died in Virginia. It says nothing of her experiences. When did they marry? Was she with him in Canada? Was she on the 1777 campaign, and among the prisoners in Rutland? Or did they meet and marry in New York? Did she accompany him to Virginia? Her statement reveals much about her husband, but little about her - including what became of her after January 1783.

Learn about British soldiers, from the most comprehensive work ever published!

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Massacre Men: Soldiers of the 29th Regiment charged for the events of 5 March 1770

Eight soldiers of the 29th Regiment of Foot were directly involved in the Boston Massacre on 5 March 1770. Their names are well known, because they all stood trial: Corporal William Wemms (or Wemys), and privates John Carroll, James Hartigan, Matthew Kilroy, William McCauley, Hugh Montgomery, William Warren and Hugh White. Considering how much notoriety they got from the massacre and trial, surprisingly little is known about them as individuals. For five of these men, we have nothing more than their service records as indicated in surviving muster rolls, and even that information is incomplete.

All of them were in the regiment when it arrived in Boston in 1769; no muster rolls survive from before that time to indicate when any of them joined the army. Cpl. Wemms, in a battalion company at the time of the massacre, was appointed sergeant in May 1771, but just six weeks later he was reduced to private again. This may have been due to illness or disciplinary issues, but whichever it was, he recovered sufficiently to be appointed sergeant once again some time in 1772. He was still in that capacity at the end of July 1775 while the regiment was in England, but was no longer in the regiment when the next set of rolls was prepared in Canada; his fate is unknown.

John Carroll was in the grenadier company, was appointed corporal in December 1770, and sergeant some time between July 1775 and February 1777. His company went on the ill-fated expedition under Gen. John Burgoyne that ended at Saratoga in October 1777. Because the company was among those captured, there are no muster rolls after February 1777, and no further record of John Carroll.

James Hartigan, another grenadier, married Elizabeth Henderson in Boston in September 1769. When the regiment was in Perth Amboy, New Jersey, he died on 4 November 1771.

William McCauley, a grenadier whose wife Mary had come with him to America, was appointed corporal some time before May 1771 and was still in that capacity when the regiment was in Canada in February 1777; like Carroll, McCauley's fate is unknown.

William Warren also was a grenadier in 1770, but later went into a battalion company. He continued with the regiment during the American Revolution, serving in Canada as late as October 1783, but once again a gap in the muster rolls leaves his fate unknown after that.

Matthew Kilroy and Edward Montgomery were the only two men convicted for the events of 5 March 1770. Both men continued to serve in the regiment, right up to the time that it was ordered to America in 1776. Perhaps in light of their conviction, both men were discharged rather than send them back across the Atlantic. They both went before the army pension board in Chelsea, outside London, on 22 February 1776, where the examiners duly recorded some details about them. Kilroy, a native of Mountmellick in County Laois, Ireland, was twenty-eight years old and had served thirteen years in the army; he was granted a pension because of a lame knee. His trade is listed as "labourer," meaning that he had not learned a trade before enlisting. Montgomery, from Antrim in Ireland, was forty-one years old (meaning that he was about thirty-five in March 1770), had served twenty years in the army, and was also a labourer. He and his wife Isabella were frequently mentioned by deponents recounting violence between British soldiers and Boston inhabitants in the months leading up to the Boston Massacre, she being recalled as saying that "the town was too haughty and too proud."

The man who remained in the regiment longest, and about whom we know the most, was Hugh White. Town records indicate that he had a wife and three children in Boston in 1770. A copy of his discharge, the document that says he had legally completed his service in the army, was lodged with the pension office when he received a pension, and remains in the British National Archives to this day. From this, we learn that he was born in the town of Killyleach, County Down in Ireland, in 1740 (more specifically, he was forty-nine years old when he was discharged on 10 November 1789). Like Kilroy and Montgomery, he was a labourer. He joined the army in 1759, a likely age for an enlistee, and served his entire career in the 29th Regiment. The regiment's muster rolls show that he served in Canada during the American Revolution. And he was able to sign his own name on his discharge, suggesting that he was a literate man.
Of eight soldiers who were caught up in such an important moment in history, we have only these sparse details about them as people, shedding real light on only three of them. Research continues; perhaps some day we'll know more.