Belcher, William drummer 17th Regiment of Foot
Finley, John soldier Queen's Rangers
Grier, Luke soldier 27th Regiment of Foot
Hall, Thomas soldier 20th Regiment of Foot
Jones, George soldier King's American Dragoons
Knowles, Michael soldier 17th Regiment of Foot
McGowan, John soldier Royal North Carolina Regiment
Reckiner, Oulie --------- 60th Regiment of Foot
Robinson, John soldier 71st Regiment of Foot
Smith, John soldier 15th Regiment of Foot
Wilson, John soldier 24th Regiment of Foot
Dr. Lewis's reference to these eleven former British soldiers makes it sound as though that they were also recruited for the last cruise of the frigate South Carolina and along with the Hessians who formed the body of marines on board the frigate. Otherwise, there is no indication as to what capacity that these men served in on board the frigate South Carolina. There are two documentary references to these eleven men having been on board the frigate when it was captured. The first reference is from "The Royal Gazette, No. 652, Wednesday, December 25, 1782" which obviously thought enough of the capture of the frigate South Carolina to report it in it's Christmas edition. The second reference is contained in an article entitled "Prisoners of the Provost Marshal, 1783" by Kenneth Scott and contained in The New York Genealogical and Biographical Record 104 (January 1973) 1-15.
(Note: The writer of this blog does not have access to these two resources, a copy of Christmas edition of The Royal Gazette, No. 652 or a copy of the article "Prisoners of the Provost Marshal, 1783" by Kenneth Scott and contained in the January 1973 issue of The New York Genealogical and Biographical Record 104. The complete story of these British prisoners is probably contained within the pages of these two articles. But, the existence of these two resources and the context in which these two were mentioned indicates that these few, in comparison to the Hessian prisoners, British prisoners were indeed recaptured on board the frigate South Carolina on December 20, 1782 at the Capes of the Delaware and that they enlisted for the last cruise of the frigate.)
Dr. Lewis states in his work, Neptune's Militia, that the total number of former British soldiers ranged between eight and fifteen. There are eleven men listed above which certainly falls within number range given by Dr. Lewis. So, there is the distinct possibility that these eleven named men were the only British former prisoners that served on board the frigate South Carolina and there were no others who have remained "unnamed".
There are certain issues with these men that stand out. First, not all of them were members of the regular British Army establishment. Three of them appear to be loyalist Americans and to have belonged to loyalist units. These men are John Finley of the Queen's Rangers, George Jones of the King's American Dragoons, and John McGowan of the Royal North Carolina Regiment. Second, only William Belcher, a drummer, and Michael Knowles, a soldier, were from the same regiment - the 17th Regiment of Foot. The rest of these British prisoners were all from different regiments of foot - the 15th, 20th, 24th, 27th, 60th, and 71st Regiments of Foot. Almost all of the Hessian prisoners of war on board the frigate South Carolina had been captured at the surrender of Gen. John Burgoyne at Saratoga, NY. Few, if any of the British prisoners of war were at the surrender at Saratoga. Several of the regiments represented by these individual soldiers were not even at Saratoga at all.
(Note: The 60th Regiment of Foot was known as the "Royal American Regiment" and was initially raised during the French & Indian War. The regiment contained numerous American colonists and thus was labelled as the "Royal American Regiment". The recruiting practices had changed by the time of the American Revolution, with more and more of the recruits being from England or the British Isles. But, the regiment retained the moniker of "Royal American Regiment" due to its earlier service in the British Army. One of the men listed above, Oulie Reckiner, is cited as having been a member of the 60th Regiment of Foot. He, too, could possibly have been an American, as the loyalists were also Americans. The interesting point concerning Reckiner is that he is the only British soldier listed who does not have his role within the 60th Regiment defined. He is simply listed as "British, -------" instead of "British, soldier".)
One interesting point is where the British soldiers came from before they signed on board the frigate South Carolina. Unlike the Hessians who signed on board the frigate South Carolina, the British soldiers seem to have not all been captured at a single battle - Saratoga being that battle. Only the 20th and 24th Regiments of Foot served under General John Burgoyne and were interned at Saratoga, NY. This information comes from the two sources, Katchner, Philip R.N. Encyclopedia of British, Provincial, and German Army Units 1775-1783, (Stackpole Books, 1973) and Darling, Anthony D. Redcoat and Brown Bess, Historical Arms Series No. 12 (Museum Restoration Service, 1971). But, two of these units did serve under General Charles, Lord Cornwallis and were interned at Yorktown in October 1781. The 17th Regiment of Foot and the 2nd Battalion, 71st Regiment of Foot were interned with Cornwallis at Yorktown. The 15th Regiment of Foot served only in the vicinity of New York City and went on the Danbury, CT Raid led by Governor Tryon of NY. Eventually, this regiment was transferred to the Caribbean Sea theater of operations where it was captured at the fall of St. Kitts to the French in January 1782. The 27th Regiment of Foot served initially in the north before being sent to Florida in 1778 and later further south, into the Caribbean, to St. Lucia, where it finished the war. The 60th Regiment of Foot was the only British regular establishment regiment that had four battalions raised during the American Revolution, with all four serving in this hemisphere. Only three weak companies of the 2nd battalion served in the south, with all the rest serving in the Caribbean. None of the troops of the 60th Regiment of Foot appear to have served with General Charles, Lord Cornwallis at Yorktown, VA in October 1781. The 17th Regiment of Foot, the only regiment listed above that was represented by two of the British soldiers found on board the frigate South Carolina, was also interned at Yorktown under General Charles, Lord Cornwallis.
Both the Saratoga (October 1777) prisoners as well as the Yorktown (October 1781) prisoners could have been interned in the Philadelphia area and thus may well have received visits from Commodore Alexander Gillon or one of the other officers representing the frigate South Carolina. The point of this purely academic argument is that soldiers who had been captured and interned before the frigate South Carolina set sail for its last, brief voyage could have easily served on board the frigate. The real questions is where were these men held once they had been captured and more specifically which ones, if any, were interned in the vicinity of Philadelphia. All the Hessian prisoners of war were being held in Lancaster and Reading, PA, according to Dr. Lewis's work, Neptune's Militia, except for the few that were enlisted originally in the Waldeck Regiment. These men, of course, were recruited while Commodore Gillon and the frigate South Carolina were in Havana in preparation for the Spanish invasion and seizure of the Bahamas.
A second point is the number of British soldiers who signed on board the frigate South Carolina as opposed to the number of Hessians soldiers who also signed on board the frigate. There were seventy-two Hessians who signed on board the frigate South Carolina. These men represented three or four distinct regiments of Germans troops as well as the Waldeck Regiment that was captured at the fall of Pensacola in May 1781. The Waldeck men were picked up by Commodore Gillon while he and the frigate South Carolina were in Havana, participating in the invasion and seizure of the Bahamas. Concerning the British troops, there are numerically fewer of them and they represent several different regiments of the British army. These British soldiers seem to have been much more reluctant to serve the rebel cause, even if only to get out of a squalid prison camp or jail. Their commitment to their king or cause must have been stronger than the Hessians who were being told in the prison camps, by patriot supporters who spoke their native language, that their princes in the German states had forgotten about them. After five years in a prison camp or jail, this can begin to have credence among troops who have been incarcerated for so long a time. Also, the British soldiers may have been familiar with the punishments meted out to others who had accepted service in the rebel forces, been recaptured by British forces, and were then branded as traitors and tried before a military courts martial. Also, some of these British prisoners had only been in patriot custody for a relatively short period of time compared with the Hessian soldiers who had been incarcerated for over five years. They, too, may have sensed the war drawing to a conclusion in favor of the rebels and successfully resisted throwing their lot in with the Americans.