Thursday, December 10, 2020
Tuesday, December 8, 2020
It's finally here.
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 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.