The information presented in this post is taken from the following sources:
Frey, Silvia R. The British Soldier in America: A Social History of Military Life in the Revolutionary Period, (The University of Texas Press, 1981.)
Katcher, Philip R. N. Encyclopedia of British, Provincial, and German Army Units, 1775-1783, (The Stackpole Company, 1973.)
Lewis, James A. Neptune's Militia: The Frigate South Carolina during the American Revolution, (The Kent State University Press, 1999.)
n.a. PRO 30/55/10354, "Headquarters Papers of the British Army in America", (The National Archives, United Kingdom.)
n.a. "The Royal Gazette" (New York), issue of December 25, 1782.
(Note: The writer of this blog has written a previous post concerning former British soldiers who served on board the frigate South Carolina. This post was entitled "'Former' British Soldiers on board the Frigate South Carolina" and was dated "01/08/2015". The writer also drafted a post entitled "'Miscellaneous' Individuals on board the Frigate South Carolina" and dated "03/18/2015". This second cited post addressed men who served on board the frigate but, nothing more is known concerning them except their name appearing on the ship's roster. Hopefully, both of these previous posts will be addressed in this specific post with additional information being introduced concerning some of these men. Both of the previous posts will be identified by their publication dates on this blog instead of citing their full titles each time these previous posts are referred to. Once again, it is the sincere hope of the writer of this blog to restore the truth of these men and their services to a modern age that has consigned them and the memories of them to oblivion.)
All through out the life of the patriot-controlled frigate South Carolina, Commodore Alexander Gillon, as commanding officer on board the frigate, was primarily concerned with recruiting crew members or marines for the manning and servicing of the ship-of-war. The selection of personnel available to him changed with each port city the frigate entered, whether on the European side of the Atlantic Ocean or the American side. Somewhere along the way, Commodore Gillon picked up several former British soldiers and added them to the crew members or marine contingents on board the frigate. According to Lewis's work, Neptune's Militia, pages 197-198, these former British soldiers numbered "...from eight to fifteen.". In the two posts referenced in the note directly above, the writer of this blog had identified eight of these men, along with three former Loyalist soldiers, as well. Additional information has now been shared with the writer of this blog that increases both of those numbers. The purpose of this post is to name these new additions to the former British soldiers who are known to have served on board the frigate South Carolina and, possibly, make some speculations on how they found themselves on board the frigate on that fateful day of her capture off the Capes of the Delaware on December 21, 1782.
The total of the former enemy soldiers who served on board the frigate South Carolina is currently at sixteen - twelve British soldiers and four Loyalist soldiers. The former British soldiers will be presented first. Their names will be cited according to their regimental affiliations, numerically ranked from bottom to top, and within those affiliations, they will be ranked alphabetically. The first column contains the men's names. The second column contains their stated "position" on board the frigate South Carolina according to Lewis's work, Neptune's Militia, section entitled "Appendix: Crew and Marines of the South Carolina", pages 135-170. The third and final column contains their proper regimental affiliations as shared by Mr. Todd Braisted through his work in the National Archives of the United Kingdom. The document that this information is drawn from is the Public Records Office document numbered "30/55/10354" hereafter referred to as "PRO 30/55/10354". The former British soldiers are as follows:
John Smith British soldier, 15th Regiment of Foot 15th Regiment of Foot
Edward Armstrong British 17th Regiment of Foot
William Armstrong British 17th Regiment of Foot
William Bellcher British drummer, 17th Regiment of Foot 17th Regiment of Foot
Michael Knowles British soldier, 17th Regiment of Foot 17th Regiment of Foot
Thomas Hall British soldier, 20th Regiment of Foot 20th Regiment of Foot
James Wilson "John Wilson", British soldier 24th Regiment of Foot
Luke Grier British soldier, 27th Regiment of Foot 27th Regiment of Foot
Wolrick Moore "Mr. ------- Moore", no "position" given 60th Regiment of Foot
Oulie Rukina "Oulie Reckiner", British, 60th Regiment of Foot 60th Regiment of Foot
Daniel Davison "Daniel Davidson", British soldier, 71st Regiment of Foot 71st Regiment of Foot
John Robinson British soldier, 71st Regiment of Foot 71st Regiment of Foot
The writer of this blog wants to avoid any unnecessary repetition of information on these former British soldiers who were re-captured on board the frigate South Carolina on December 21, 1782. The previous posts, respectively, are dated "01/08/2015", "03/18/2015" and "04/20/2015". These posts all contain information concerning their regimental histories, dispositions and engagements during the American Revolution, possible engagements in which they were captured, and the manner in which they may have been recruited on board the frigate South Carolina. The writer of this blog will attempt to avoid repeating this same information for the sake of brevity of this post and will attempt only to generally summarize the collected information.
This paragraph will be an attempt to discern which engagements in which the above cited men were captured. To a certain degree, this attempt will constitute almost complete conjecture. Many of these regiments participated in numerous actions, and even the actions in which the British army emerged victorious, specific units could still have lost men to capture. Also, even though a war is made up of the larger battles that define that conflict, there are smaller engagements and sharp skirmishes that still cost lives, inflicted casualties, and lost men to capture by the enemy. Also, frequently smaller detachments of a larger regiment of foot would be detached to perform an appointed duty that only required a small force of Crown troops. Occasionally, these smaller detachments were involved in heavy fighting against an enemy who would eventually overwhelm and destroy the detachment or precipitate it's surrender. Any of the above cited men could easily have been captured in a much less significant engagement or have even chosen to desert to the patriot forces. Thus, this attempt will only be a broadly defined effort to indicate which actions might have resulted in the incarcerations of these men by the patriot forces in America.
The first numbered regiment the writer of this blog will address is the 15th Regiment of Foot of which John Smith cited above was a member. According to Katcher's work, Encyclopedia, pages 34-35, the 15th Regiment of Foot was one of those British army regiments that experienced a considerable amount of combat while here in North America during the American Revolution. It arrived in North Carolina in May 1776 and participated in the first siege of Charleston, SC which ended ingloriously for the British army. Then, the regiment was moved to the New York area where it engaged the enemy heavily in virtually all of the major engagements of the New York-New Jersey-Pennsylvania region, culminating in the battle of Monmouth Court House, NJ in the summer of 1778. But, after these engagements, the 15th Regiment of Foot was sent to East Florida in November 1778. For the remainder of the war, the regiment would serve in this general region of North America or even further south into the islands of the Caribbean Sea. The 15th Regiment of Foot was captured on St. Kitts Island in January 1782.
The only member of the 15th Regiment of Foot who was captured on board the frigate South Carolina was John Smith. John Smith may have chose to desert the 15th Regiment of Foot at some earlier point in time prior to the regiment being transferred to the southern regions of America. He also may have been captured either at Monmouth Court House due to the harsh nature of the fighting there or was captured with his regiment on St. Kitts and was possibly interned in Havana, Cuba. It seems likely that he was captured in the Caribbean and listened to Commodore Gillon's overtures in the prison in Havana, Cuba where he and the rest of the regiment were being held prisoners-of-war. Thus, he may have signed on board the frigate South Carolina at virtually the same time as the various members of the Waldeck Regiment did.
(Note: This seems like a good point in this post to address the problem of individual decisions to desert from one's regiment as opposed to hostile recruitment and alluring offers made by someone like Commodore Alexander Gillon. According to Frey's work, The British Soldier in America, page 72-73:
"Almost half of all deserters in the American Revolution (as probably in most eighteenth-century wars) ran away from specific situations where conditions were unbearable or life was at stake. Nine hundred and nineteen men deserted from West Indian posts. The severity of the climate, the remoteness of the islands from the main supply routes, and a predictably high disease level produced the highest fatality rates in the hemisphere and gave the Indies the reputation as the graveyard of European soldiers. Rather than waste its best troops there, the War Office sent the worst, most of the men forced into the army by the press were dispatched to tropical duty. Destined for death in a hostile environment, they deserted at the first opportunity."
Desertion is one of those factors that was often highly subjective and personal in nature for each man involved. Just because an individual soldier chose to "switch sides" in the conflict does not indicate a true change of heart or relocation of allegiance. Many of these "turncoats" may well have been looking for an opportunity to return to their former regiment by whatever means possible or to escape an otherwise deplorable situation of imprisonment.)
The next regiment numbered in consecutive order is the regiment that had the largest number of former members found on board the frigate South Carolina when she was captured off the Capes of the Delaware on December 21, 1782. This is the 17th Regiment of Foot and had four members on board the patriot ship-of-war. According to Katcher's work, Encyclopedia, page 36, the 17th Regiment of Foot was another of those heroic British regiments which encountered quite a bit of fighting while here in the colonies during the American Revolution. It arrived at Boston in December 1775 and participated in the siege of Boston. Like the 15th Regiment of Foot before it, the 17th Regiment of Foot served in almost all of the heavy fighting in the New York-New Jersey-Pennsylvania region from 1776-1778, culminating in the battle of Monmouth Court House in the summer of 1778. After being sent to the relief of Newport, RI in September 1778, the 17th Regiment of Foot was sent to the capture and eventual loss of Stony Point, NY. According to British reports concerning the action that led to the recapture of Stony Point by the patriot forces, the total British losses at Stony Point was over 470 men. In April 1781, the 17th Regiment of Foot was sent to Virginia were it was interned at Yorktown, VA in October 1781. The 17th Regiment of Foot was eventually exchanged and sent to Nova Scotia in 1783.
The four members of the 17th Regiment of Foot who all were captured on board the frigate South Carolina on December 21, 1782 were Edward Armstrong, William Armstrong, William Bellcher, and Michael Knowles. Of all the former British military men captured on the frigate South Carolina, William Bellcher is the only one cited as other than a "British soldier". He is cited as a "British drummer". Edward Armstrong and William Armstrong are both cited in Lewis's work, Neptune's Militia, section entitled "Appendix: Crew and Marines of the South Carolina", pages 135-136, as simply "British". Michael Knowles is the only one of the four that is cited as being a "British soldier". These men may have all been captured at the same event such as the hard-fought battle of Monmouth Court House, the sudden capture of Stony Point by patriot troops under the command of General "Mad" Anthony Wayne, or the internment of the remainder of the regiment at the surrender of the Crown troops at Yorktown, VA. Again, as with John Smith of the 15th Regiment of Foot above, desertion could have figured into the actions of any or all of these men at any point after the arrival of the regiment in America in 1775.
The next two consecutively numbered regiments, the 20th and 24th Regiments of Foot, have almost the exact same history of involvement in the American Revolution. Both of these regiments were sent to the relief of Quebec, landing there in May 1776. Both of these regiments of foot were a part of the forces that moved south down the Hudson River in an attempt to cut the rebellious colonies in two and, thus piecemeal, to defeat the rebel forces. Both of these regiments were captured, along with the remainder of General John Burgoyne's Crown force troops, at Saratoga, NY on October 17, 1777, becoming part of the "Convention Army" in captivity. They would remain in patriot captivity until the end of hostilities in 1783.
The two members of these regiments of foot were Thomas Hall of the 20th Regiment of Foot and James Wilson of the 24th Regiment of Foot. According to Lewis's work, Neptune's Militia, section entitled "Appendix: Crew and Marines of the South Carolina", page 150, Thomas Hall is cited as a "British soldier", while James Wilson, same source and section of the work but, found on page 170, is not cited at all but, rather is cited as "John Wilson", a "British soldier, of the 24th Regiment of Foot. Unless there were some extenuating circumstances at work here, both of these men almost certainly were captured at Saratoga, NY and chose to desert their former allegiance at some later point in time. It appears that the "Convention Army" never was incarcerated along with the Hessian troops of the Burgoyne campaign, so they would not have joined the frigate South Carolina at the same time as the Hessian troops joined. But, it could be entirely possible that by some chance occurrence, these two former British soldiers both ended up in the same general area of Reading-Lancaster, PA when Commodore Alexander Gillon was recruiting among the Hessian prisoners-of-war and were also recruited along with these captured German troops. Only further research and the uncovering of evidence indicating this fact could verify this point.
The next consecutively numbered regiment is the 27th Regiment of Foot and has almost the same experience as the 15th Regiment of Foot. It landed in Boston, MA in October 1775 and took part in the siege of Boston. Afterwards, the regiment saw considerable action in the New York-Pennsylvania area, returning to New York in 1777. In November 1778, the regiment was sent to East Florida and served there and further south into the Caribbean Ocean until the end of the war. At the conclusion of hostilities, the 27th Regiment of Foot was stationed on the island of St. Lucia.
The sole member of the 27th Regiment of Foot captured on board the frigate South Carolina on December 21, 1782 was Luke Grier. He is cited as a "British soldier". His life may follow almost the same story line as that of John Smith of the 15th Regiment of Foot. He may have been captured earlier in the fighting around New York or in Pennsylvania. Possibly, he was eventually transferred with his regiment to the Caribbean islands and deserted to the patriot frigate under the same circumstances as John Smith may have deserted. Again, this is strictly conjecture on the part of the writer of this blog.
The next to last regiment of foot in this consecutive numbering of regiments for which there were former representatives who were captured on board the frigate South Carolina on December 21, 1782 is the 60th Regiment of Foot. This regiment was a product of the earlier French & Indian War of the 1750s, being initially raised as the 62nd Regiment of Foot but, still referred to as the Royal American Regiment. It was renumbered the 60th Regiment of Foot in 1757. According to Katcher's work, Encyclopedia, page 62, the regiment originally consisted of two battalions with the third and fourth battalions being raised in Hanover and the British Isles in 1775. Katcher's work, page 62, goes on to state that "...of the first two battalions only three weak companies of the 2nd served in North America, the rest serving in the West Indies.". The fighting that the regiment was active in took place predominantly in the southern theater of the American Revolution. It served in the Georgia-South Carolina-West Florida area until 1779 when the regiment was transferred to the islands of the Caribbean Ocean. According to Katcher's work, Encyclopedia, page 62, small detachments of the regiment were captured at the fall of Baton Rouge, LA as well as Mobile, AL with eight companies of the regiment being captured at Pensacola in May 1780. The regiment served even further south than these engagements being involved in occupying the island of Antigua in 1779 and the invasions of Honduras and Nicaragua along the Mosquito Coast area of the western Caribbean Ocean. Again, according to Katcher's work, Encyclopedia, page 62, "...survivors of all campaigns sent to St. Augustine, Fla., November 1782, and then to New York where men were transferred to other regiments while officers were sent to England.".
There were two members of the 60th Regiment of Foot that were captured on board the frigate South Carolina on December 21, 1782. Yet, even these two men present some difficulties during investigation of their individual cases. According to the PRO document 30/55/10354, the first individual was Wolrick Moore. According to Lewis's work, Neptune's Militia, section entitled "Appendix: Crew and Marines of the South Carolina", page 158, there was no Wolrick Moore who served on board the patriot frigate but, there was a "Mr. ------- Moore". This, in itself, is interesting because it may well represent a situation in which a missing first name is actually provided and finishes out a man's full name. The only other individual with the last name of "Moore" who served on board the frigate South Carolina was an Alexander Moore who was cited as being a midshipman. This individual is documented in various other sources as being a midshipman, so this point of correct identification seems to be beyond doubt. Also, in Lewis's citation of this specific individual, there is no "position" cited for this man, so we possibly now know a bit more concerning "Mr. -------Moore" and that he may well have been a former soldier of the 60th Regiment of Foot.
The second individual who was a former member of the 60th Regiment of Foot but also appeared on the roster of the frigate South Carolina was Oulie Reckiner. According to Lewis's work, Neptune's Militia, section entitled "Appendix: Crew and Marines of the South Carolina", page 162, he is cited as "British, (60th Regt.)". But, according to the PRO 30/55/10354 document, he is cited as being a former member of the 60th Regiment of Foot but, his name is recorded as "Oulie Rukina".
Both men have issues concerning their names. According to the PRO 30/55/10354 document, the first individual is cited as being "Wolrick Moore". According to Lewis's work, Neptune's Militia, page 158, the only possible individual that this member of the crew of the frigate South Carolina could be is cited as "Mr. ------- Moore". According to the PRO 30/55/10354 document, the second individual is cited as "Oulie Rukina" while according to Lewis's work, page 162, he is cited as "Oulie Reckiner". Both men have unusual first names - Wolrick and Oulie. These both could be Anglicized forms of Germanic or Scandinavian names. According to Katcher's work, Encyclopedia, page 62, the 3rd and 4th battalions of the 60th Regiment of Foot were raised in Hanover, which was an ethnic German province on the European continent. Wolrick Moore's last name could be an Anglicized form of Muir or even Meyer. Oulie Reckiner or Rukina could be also be an Anglicized form of a Germanic last name. Wolrick Moore has no "position" cited for his rating on board the frigate South Carolina while Oulie Reckiner/Rukina is only cited as "British (60th Regt.)" instead of "British soldier (60th Regt.)". Thus, their services and functions on board the frigate South Carolina were even murky and in question.
As far as their capture by enemy forces was concerned, it is almost certain that they were among the troops captured in the surrender of one of the British-held posts along the northern Gulf Coast between Baton Rouge, LA and Pensacola, FL. These were the same actions that captured a significant portion of the 3rd Waldeck Regiment. These members of the 60th Regiment of Foot would have been incarcerated along with the Waldeckers in Havana, Cuba and been subjected to the same appealing overtures from the German-speaking Commodore Alexander Gillon, once he had been cleared by the Spanish authorities to recruit among the German and British prisoners-of-war while the frigate South Carolina spent time there between January 12 and April 22, 1782. It may even be that the actual surrender event for Wolrick Moore and Oulie Reckiner/Rukina was the same event for the Waldeckers who would also serve on board the frigate South Carolina.
The final consecutively numbered regiment of foot that had former soldiers who were captured on board the frigate South Carolina on December 21, 1782 is the 71st Regiment of Foot. This regiment of foot was also known as "Fraser's Highlanders" after their first commanding officer, Lieutenant General, the Honorable Simon Fraser. Of the seven regiments of foot which were represented by former members who were captured on board the frigate South Carolina on December 21, 1782, the 71st Regiment of Foot was the one that had the most extensive combat experience during the American Revolution. According to Katcher's work, Encyclopedia, page 67, the regiment was raised in Inverness, Stirling, and Glasgow, Scotland, so the majority of its personnel were of Scottish origins. It was initially raised in two over-strength battalions with a third battalion being raised in May 1777. It landed at New York in 1776 and saw heavy fighting in the New York-New Jersey-Pennsylvania area through out 1776-1778. The Grenadier Company of the 71st Regiment of Foot was captured in the surprise attack on the British-held post at Stony Point, NY in July 1779. In December 1779, the regiment was transferred to the south where it participated in all the major battles in the southern theater of the war, except King's Mountain. It served in Georgia-South Carolina-North Carolina from late 1779 until it was interned at Yorktown in October 1781. After the cessation of hostilities, the regiment was initially sent to Halifax, Nova Scotia in November 1782 and, from there, to Scotland where the regiment was disbanded in 1783.
There were two members of the 71st Regiment of Foot that were captured on board the frigate South Carolina on December 21, 1782. There were Daniel Davidson and John Robinson. According to Lewis's work, Neptune's Militia, pages 143 and 164, respectively, both of these men are cited as being former soldiers of the 71st Regiment of Foot. According to the PRO 30/55/10354 document, Daniel Davidson's last name is spelled as "Davison" rather than "Davidson".
It is very difficult to even extrapolate which engagement lead to the capture of these two representatives of the 71st Regiment of Foot. Also, it is equally impossible to exactly note the date or year of their capture by patriot forces. The most probable capture event and times would be Stony Point, NY in July 1779 (if they were members of the Grenadier Company); somewhere in the farther southern colonies prior to 1781; or Yorktown in October 1781. Again, these are only suppositions on the part of the writer of this blog.
So, on December 23-24, 1782, the now-captured frigate South Carolina was escorted by the three British men-of-war that had run her down and forced her surrender on December 21, 1782. It crew and marines were consigned to their respective fates, either parole on Long Island, if they were officers or "gentlemen" or to one of the numerous prison "hulks" moored in Wallabout Bay, NY. The numerous former Hessian soldiers were quickly separated out from the captured crew and sent to headquarters for courts martial. But, it was a different case with the former British soldiers who had been among these captured rebels. According to Lewis's work, Neptune's Militia, page 202 note 12, "the British veterans were a curious lot, surfacing primarily after the surrender of the South Carolina. Almost no mention of them was made before this time. Some went initially to the prison ships and then, apparently, were taken out. Others went directly to British headquarters.". When one inspects the captive lists of each of the Royal Navy men-of-war that participated in the capture of the frigate South Carolina and the transportation of the captured crew and marines to New York City harbor, one finds the names of these twelve British soldiers mixed in with the other patriot prisoners-of-war through out each of these three lists. One at a time, in pairs or small groups, they would have found themselves before a courts martial under the charge of treason against their Crown Prince. If the newspapers were any indication of their arguments made before their superior officers, these verbal pleas must have followed the same slant as those of their former Hessian comrades from the frigate South Carolina who were facing their own moment before their skeptical, questioning superior officers. According to "The Royal Gazette" (New York), issue of December 25, 1782:
"....fifty German, and eight British Soldiers, of General Burgoyne's army, taken out of the Gaol of Philadelphia, and compelled on board the Carolina (rather than submit to be sold by the rebels) were on this occasion happily released from a service ever obnoxious to their principles.".
The collective argument may well have been that the prisoners-of-war were afraid of being "...sold by the rebels..." as forced hired hands to one of the numerous farmers who needed laborers for their farms in the vicinity of the patriot-controlled prisons where these men were being held. Some of these British prisoners-of-war had held that status for just over five years by that point in time, having been captured along with General "Gentleman" John Burgoyne's army at Saratoga, NY on October 17, 1777. They may have seen their chance to rejoin Crown forces located in New York City as the war was winding down. They may have also signed on to the frigate South Carolina simply to get out of a lengthy incarceration and find freedom once again in the open spaces of the New World.
The tone and temper of the newspaper article cited above seems to indicate that whatever these former British soldiers said during their trial was taken as fact and believed by the officers who sat in judgement of them. Whether they were exonerated, lightly punished, broken in rank, or simply redirected to their former regiments and comrades is beyond the knowledge of the writer of this blog to discern. These British soldiers seem to have disappeared almost as quickly as they initially appeared on the scene as crewmen or marines on board the frigate South Carolina. Yet, we do have the single fact that for a period of time, they walked the same decks and served the same Cause as their rebel counterparts, whether wholeheartedly or not, and then, as so many others did, slipped back into the mists of time.