Sunday, August 22, 2021

Mrs. Fowles, 7th Regiment of Foot, draws provisions

 Mrs. Fowles and her daughter Ann drew rations in August of 1782 along with other soldiers and wives of the 7th Regiment of Foot. This is no surprise. Wives and children of British soldiers in America were fed by the army; most British regiments included - among those who they provisioned - wives of about one in six soldiers. Documents that include the names of these women are rare; the August 1782 provisions list for the 7th Regiment is the only one for that regiment known to survive that names each man and woman. Even so, it does not give the names of the wives, listing them only as "Mrs. Fowles," "Mrs. Bright," "Mrs. Carney," etc. We've deduced that "Ann Fowles," also on the list, is Mrs. Fowles daughter, as a number of children are listed with their first and last names.

What makes Mrs. Fowles important, in terms of our understanding of how wives were treated by the army, is that her husband, Sergeant William Fowles, died on 25 April 1781. The only man on the regiment's muster rolls with that surname, he was already in the 7th Regiment when it arrived in America in 1772, landing at Quebec. A private soldier at that time, he was appointed corporal in February 1780, and sergeant exactly a year later. No details of his specific service have been found at this time; presumably he was among the men of the 7th Regiment captured in 1775 and repatriated two years later, and he was with the regiment at the siege of Charlestown, South Carolina, in 1780. Whether he died of illness in garrison or on campaign, or of wounds in one of the 7th's several battles in the Carolinas, he left his wife a widow only two months after being appointed sergeant.

It is also not known when William Fowles married. Mrs. Fowles may have accompanied the regiment from Great Britain in 1773, or met her husband in America. And her fate after August 1782 is also unknown; the provision return is the only record we have of her.

There is folklore that widows of British soldiers were required to remarry within days of their husband's death, or they would be struck off the provision rolls and turned out of the regiment no matter where it was. This has already been shown to be untrue from records of widows remarrying months or years after their husbands died. By drawing provisions seventeen months after her husband died, Mrs. Fowles provides one more example that soldiers' widows remained part of the regimental community until they could establish themselves in new circumstances.