John Finley British soldier Queen's Ranger page 147
George Jones British soldier King's American Dragoons page 152
John McGowan British soldier Royal North Carolina Regiment page 157
Each of these soldiers are cited as "British soldier" but, the units cited along with each of their entries are loyalist units. Each one will be examined individually to ascertain how they came to be on board the frigate South Carolina and any other information that can be gleaned concerning them or their service on board the frigate.
The following information is taken from the above cited source as well as the two following sources:
Chartrand, Rene. American Loyalist Troops, 1775-1784, Osprey Men-at-Arms Series 450, (Osprey Publishing, 2008).
Katcher, Philip R.N. Encyclopedia of British, Provincial, and German Army Units, 1775-1783, (Stackpole Books, 1973).
John Finley - the unit indicated for John Finley was the Queen's Rangers. Of the three distinct units here mentioned, the Queen's Rangers was the oldest, being formed on August 6, 1776 by Robert Rogers of French & Indian War fame (Chartrand, p. 15). The unit was raised from men recruited from New York, western Connecticut, and from personnel of the Queen's Loyal Virginia Regiment. The unit had several commanding officers during its existence, the most capable being John Graves Simcoe, who assumed command in October 1777. The unit had extensive combat experience during the American Revolution - New York, Brandywine, Germantown, Monmouth Court House, and finally, Yorktown, after which the majority of the unit was interned (Chartrand, p. 15). The majority of these men were interned at Lancaster, PA with those who escaped capture at Yorktown being merged into the King's American Dragoons that same year - 1782. This is the same unit that George Jones was a member of. The Queen's Rangers was a large enough unit that it had not only musket companies but, also riflemen, grenadiers, highlanders (with an actual piper), light infantry, and hussars. But, there is no indication as to which company John Finley served in.
John Finley was interned in the same prisoner-of-war camps that were visited by Commodore Alexander Gillon in the summer of 1782. He could have easily been recruited by Gillon of another member of his entourage, like Lieutenant Franks, who accompanied Commodore Gillon on these recruiting missions. A "John Fenley" is recorded as having been among the contingent of prisoners-of-war that were documented as having traveled on board the frigate HMS Astrea after the capture of the frigate South Carolina on December 20, 1782. There is no other Finley or Fenley documented in the section of Lewis's work, Neptune's Militia, entitled "Appendix: Crew and Marines of the South Carolina. Thus, it is again the assumption of this blog writer that this is indeed John Finley, formerly of the Queen's Rangers.
George Jones - the unit indicated for George Jones was the King's American Dragoons. This unit had a shorter period of operation than the Queen's Rangers, being formed by amalgamating several mounted companies in February 1781 under Lieutenant Colonel Benjamin Thompson (later Lord Rumford) (Katcher, p. 88). The unit was formed in New York and remained there until it was disbanded in April 1783. A detachment was sent south and took part in fighting in South Carolina at Santee and Tydiman's Plantation in February 1782 (Chartrand, p. 12). This separate detachment was back in New York by 1783.
It is unknown where George Jones was captured by the patriot forces and where he was interned. There exists the strong possibility that whether he was captured in the area of New York City or in the southern fighting in South Carolina, he may have been transported to Pennsylvania for internment in either Reading or Lancaster, PA. Again, there exists the possibility that he was there when Commodore Gillon and his entourage appeared to persuade the Hessians and anyone else who would listen to enlist with the frigate South Carolina. There are two George Jones who are documented as being among the prisoners-of-war on board the British man-of-war, HMS Astrea, when she docked in New York City harbor on December 23/24, 1782. But, according to Lewis's work, Neptune's Militia, there were three men by this name on board the frigate at some point in time. It is more than likely that the George Jones who is the subject of this post was indeed on board the frigate South Carolina on December 20, 1782 when she was captured by vessels of the Royal Navy. There were other loyalists who were documented as having been on board at the same time as George Jones. It would make sense that George Jones was among these recaptured loyalists.
John McGowan - the unit indicated for John McGowan was the Royal North Carolina Regiment. This unit also had a much shorter operational history than the Queen's Rangers. One source states that the unit was raised in February 1779 under Lieutenant Colonel John Hamilton (Chartrand, p. 14). Another source states that the unit was raised in Charleston, SC in the spring of 1780 (Katcher, p. 100). Both sources agree that the unit operated almost exclusively in South Carolina before being transferred to St. Augustine, FL in November 1782 and there disbanded in 1783.
There appears no individual by the name of John McGowan on any of the three British men-of-war transporting prisoners from the site of the capture of the frigate South Carolina to New York City in late December 1782. Yet, his name is cited in the section of Lewis's work, Neptune's Militia, entitled "Appendix: Crew and Marines of the South Carolina" along with the citation that he was a "British soldier" and that he belonged to the Royal North Carolina Regiment. He may have been one of those few Americans who were killed in the engagement of the frigate South Carolina with its three pursuers on December 20, 1782 off the Capes of the Delaware. But, it is also possible that John McGowan joined the frigate's company only to desert at the first possible convenience while the ship lay at anchor in Philadelphia or further down the Delaware River in Billingsport, NJ. It was a fairly common practice among captured soldiers to "defect" to the other side in order to escape and return to one's true allegiance at the first opportunity. This may indeed answer the question as to why John McGowan does not appear on any of the prisoner lists of the three British men-of-war.
We know from Lewis's text that the Hessians were interviewed before a courts-martial after their recapture by Crown forces on December 20, 1782. There is also some indication that this was the fate of British troops recaptured. But, we do not have any information concerning the loyalist troops who were also recaptured. They may have been disciplined and returned to their units. They may have been imprisoned as rebel prisoners-of-war. They may have suffered the indignity of a courts-martial and suffered the consequences of that form of military justice. Again, we know something of the Hessians and British troops recaptured but, we know nothing definitive concerning the loyalists who were recaptured in that December 20, 1782 engagement off the Capes of the Delaware.