The history of the Prince Of Wales' American Regiment is presented in 7 parts. Click below to skip to:
Part 1 - Introduction & From Confinement to Commandant
A History of the Prince Of Wales' American Regiment - Part 3 of 7
Garrison Duty Kingsbridge — Lloyd's Neck
After the excitement of the Danbury raid, the PWAR settled into a routine of mundane garrison duty that was to mark their existence for the next three years.
The relative boredom (which, combined with drunkenness, was the leading cause of desertion) and the fatal introduction of small pox seriously weakened the regiment for the rest of 1777. Between 26 May and 1 July 1777, the regiment lost over 35 men, am alarming 75 in total since their large April 21st muster. Almost one quarter of the regiment was returned sick in May, and new recruits came in only at a trickle.44
Not all men deserting from the regiment made it away safely. One example is that of a group at the end of June who strayed from Kingsbridge as far north as Valentine's House and were there apprehended by some men of the Westchester County Militia (Loyalist).
They pled that they had been drinking to such a degree that they did not know where they were, nor how one man's coat was turned inside out while on him, but were sure he had only gone out to take a walk!
The court martial trying him did not believe the excuse and sentenced Private Charles STEWART to receive 1,000 lashes on the bare back with the cat o' nine tails. Privates Jeremiah McCARTY and Patrick MOORE were found guilty and sentenced to corporal punishment as well.45
Occasional brushes with danger undoubtedly had a sobering effect. A young warrant lieutenant named Edmund PALMER found this out in the most dire way. Edmund was the son of Lewis PALMER of New York and was recruiting for his company in Westchester when taken up by the Rebels.
Word of this reached Sir Henry CLINTON, commanding the New York garrison, who immediately dispatched Captain MONTAGU in HMS Mercury to Verplank's Point as a flag of truce. MONTAGU was to deliver "to the Person hyhest in Rank, who shall receive Him" a certificate from BROWNE signifying that PALMER was indeed a lieutenant in the British service to prevent him from "being maltreated." Sir Henry was greatly concerned "as the Prisoners Life from this Mistake is said to be in danger."46
The Mercury arrived and Captain MONTAGU delivered the certificate, but it was in vain. For answer, he received an immediate and bitter reply from General Israel Putnam, commanding the Rebel troops in that quarter:
"Edmond PALMER an Officer in the Enemy's Service Was taken as a Spy lurking within our lines, has been Tried as a Spy, Condemned as a Spy and Shall be Executed as a Spy—and the Flag is ordered to depart immediately. [signed] I Putnam. N.B. he has been accordingly Executed."47
Such was often the fate of Loyalists caught behind the lines recruiting. It was generally hoped by the Rebels that such immediate examples would greatly deter others from trying to recruit as well, thereby depriving the British of any further augmentation to the Provincial forces. In this they were probably successful.
The remainder of 1777 passed by uneventfully for the PWAR. Twenty Nine of their men would be transferred to Captain Andreas EMMERICK's new company of Chasseurs, where they would serve as riflemen on the outposts of Kinsbridge.
This company would serve in Sir Henry CLINTON's foraging expedition to Bergen County, New Jersey in September of 1777 and in the storming of Forts Clinton and Montgomery the following month. In the latter, the PWAR themselves would remain behind at Kingsbridge while hundreds of other Provincials took a part in the fighting.
A small detachment of the regiment under Ensign John MANNING made up a force of 200 Provincials landed at Tappan for the Bergen County expedition.48 Of those serving under EMMERICK, three deserted, one was killed and a dozen were taken prisoner, all by 3 January 1778. Seven would eventually return to the PWAR by April of 1778.49
The dullness of the duty led to exposing some deep rifts amongst the officers of the regiment. Ensigns Joseph GARRISON and Ebenezer LEECH took to fighting each other by means of slaps, punches, cane beatings and even kicks in the encampment. LEECH, considered the aggressor by the court, was cashiered, while GARRISON was ruled to have acted in self defense.50
An instance of pure petty was shown when several officers accused Captain John COLLETT of refusing to do duty and selling his men's blankets. The truth of the matter was COLLETT was sick, as proved by the regiment's own doctor, and unable to do duty, and the two blankets he sold were his own private property, not that of his company, which was complete with them. He was acquitted, the court adding the charges were groundless and malicious.
While a prisoner, COLLETT even had to endure the taunts of an officer not a member of his own regiment, Lieutenant Beasly JOEL of the Queen's American Rangers. JOEL was found guilty in January of 1778 of defaming COLLETT's character and suspended without pay for four months and ordered to ask COLLETT's pardon at the head of the PWAR.51
The regiment suffered a permanent loss with the death of Captain James HOLDEN on 31 January 1778. At the age of fifty seven, he had served in the army thirty six years and had been an inhabitant of New York City for ten, as well as being an active member of the Masonic order.52
HOLDEN was replaced by an appointee of Sir Henry CLINTON, Stephen HOLLAND of New Hampshire. HOLLAND had been an influential Loyalist there and a confidant of Governor WENTWORTH.
While in the country, he had provided money and necessaries to many British prisoners, including Lt. Col. Archibald CAMPBELL of the 71st Regiment. He also attempted to recruit men for the British, which landed him in Exeter Jail. Breaking out of prison, he escaped to Rhode Island, where he was given a commission in HOLDEN's room.
Stephen HOLLAND had absolutely no use for the PWAR, considering his commission in the corps "only a present subsistance." He solicited and received a staff appointment in Newport and avoided doing duty with the regiment.53
On 12 December 1778 he even received a warrant to raise men, either for a Battalion commanded by himself, or to increase such other corps. This corps never materialized, and HOLLAND fumed when the few men he did raise were ordered to join the corps to which he belonged, the PWAR.
Through his connections he was able to remain absent with leave for the remainder of the war, either in New York or London, a complete waste of an important position in the regiment.54
The time had finally come for the regiment to leave its long–time post at Kingsbridge and travel to more familiar territory—New England. On Thursday, 21 May 1778, Brigadier General BROWNE and his corps received orders that they would be embarking for somewhere "on the Shortest Notice," and that all men absent from the corps should rejoin immediately.
It came at a bad time for the unit, as they were just then in the process of making and receiving new uniforms, this time the red coat common to British infantry. Another hardship was that the corps would only be allowed to bring thirty women with them, and therefore had to leave behind a number of the soldiers' wives and children.55
Three days later, at five in the morning, the regiment left their post to march to Turtle Bay, where they embarked on board three transports, the Jenny, New Blessing and Peggy.56 They totaled 443 officers, other ranks, servants and women, showing a loss over the previous 13 months of close to 200 men dead, discharged, transferred or deserted.57 The destination of the regiment was Newport, Rhode Island.
There had been a British garrison in Newport since its capture in December of 1776. The main purpose of it as a post was its excellent harbor for the Royal Navy.
With only enough troops there for defensive operations, Newport was not a post sought by those wishing active campaigning. As the main British army, though, was being removed from Philadelphia and returned to New York, and as the French were now involved in the war, it was thought best to beef up the garrison there.
The PWAR would be the first of these reinforcements. Deputy Adjutant General Frederick MACKENZIE noted the arrival of the corps on the 11th and 12th of June.
"About 10 o'Clock last night a fleet arrived from New York, under Convoy of The Cerberus; having on board Brigadier General BROWN's 1st Battalion of the Provincial Regiment Called The Prince of Wales's American Volunteers, consisting of about 400 men...[12th June]. The Prince of Wales's Volunteers, disembarked this day, and Encamped; 6 Companies behind Green–end Redoubt; two behind Irishes; and 2 in the work on Tomini hill. They appear to be a very good body of men, and are well Clothed and Armed. They are provided with new Camp Equipage."58
No sooner had the regiment gotten its land legs back than half of it went away. One of the most difficult items to obtain for the garrison at Newport was firewood, the fuel of both the military and the civilian population.
Little to none was to be had on Rhode Island itself, at least not enough to satisfy their needs. To obtain the necessary amount meant importing it, and in 1778, that meant obtaining it from the British post at Lloyd's Neck, Long Island.
Located just north of Huntington in Suffolk County, New York, this post was taking shape as the largest permanent British outpost on the east end of Long Island. On 17 June 1778, just five days after they disembarked at Rhode Island, two captains, four subalterns and two hundred men of the PWAR, all under the command of Lt. Col. PATTINSON, embarked for Lloyd's Neck.59
While the duty was tiresome, fatiguing and undoubtedly boring, it was also profitable for those involved. PATTINSON immediately took the opportunity to try and attract new recruits, promising them the possibility of earning between fifteen and twenty shillings per day for their wood cutting labors, an extraordinary amount of money for a common soldier.60
Their labors would also force them to miss all the excitement that would soon be unfolding on Rhode Island. For those remaining on the Newport garrison, there would be the unglamorous task of "making Hay, and…other public services" on the island of Connonicut, between Rhode Island and the mainland.61
This illustrates the complete misuse of a fine regiment. Using a military regiment for duties normally reserved for the Civil Branches of the Army only tended to lower their morale, keep away new recruits preferring an active corps, and devalue their use in the campaign.
This was especially true in the ensuing Siege of Rhode Island in July and August of 1778. On the first appearance of the French fleet on 29 July 1778, the PWAR and the rest of the garrison of Connonicut were withdrawn to Rhode Island, as the former was thought indefensible, given the large French naval presence.62
After rejoining the rest of the garrison, the PWAR were posted to the first line facing the massive Rebel forces on the northern part of the island.63 However, given their strength of barely 200 Rank & File fit for duty due to the wood cutting detachment, their activities during the siege itself were severely limited.64 Despite being posted on the same line with their fellow Provincials in the King's American Regiment, they took no offensive action during the entire event, while the latter was heavily involved.
When daylight broke on the morning of 29 August, it was clear that the Rebels had given up the siege. The French fleet had been heavily damaged, both by the British Royal Navy and a terrible storm, and had since sailed to Boston for repairs. Without the assistance of the French, the siege was given up.
The British troops, under the command of General Robert PIGOT, immediately left their lines in pursuit of the retiring foe. The PWAR was not immediately ordered out, but later sent, along with the 54th Regiment, to reinforce the column commanded by Brigadier General SMITH, consisting of the 22nd and 43rd Regiments, plus the Flank Companies of the 38th and 54th.
The great battle that would be known as Quaker Hill heavily engulfed General SMITH's column, so much so that they were nearly defeated. By the time the 54th and the PWAR joined him, the Rebels had been driven from the hill.65 The battle would flare in some other quarters for a few hours more, but for the troops at Quaker Hill, there was little they could do but view the massed Rebel Army to their front.
After a day of preparations, they went off, leaving the British in sole possession of the island. The PWAR, having not suffered a single casualty in the siege (owing to their inactivity), had the dubious honor of proceeding to Honeyman's Hill to level the fortifications the Rebels first made on the island, and fill up their trenches.66 The Siege of Rhode Island was over.
For the next fourteen months, the regiment would lay idle in the garrison. The troops under Lt. Col. PATTINSON at Lloyd's Neck returned to Rhode Island on 12 October 1778, when they were ordered to rejoin the regiment, then constructing fortifications on Connonicut Island.67
The duty there must have been very disagreeable, as ten men deserted from there over a one week period in the beginning of November.68 They would hut on the island for the winter. On 29 November 1778 they mustered a mere 255 Rank & File fit for duty, a far cry from eighteen months before. The PWAR had lost over 217 men dead, discharged and deserted since that time.69
One man who was not on Connonicut, or at Rhode Island at all, was Montfort BROWNE. On 18 November the commanding officer was in New York City, preparing to return to his government at New Providence.
Despite his return there, he had no intentions of giving up the command of his regiment. In fact, he planned on turning this to advantage, by proposing to Sir Henry CLINTON that he be allowed to raise two additional companies of the PWAR in the islands:
"The Bahamians are in general fine men and I will be answerable when incorporated with my Corps will do everything that may be required of them."70
It is not known what CLINTON's answer to this proposal was, but it is unlikely it was favorable. BROWNE would have been extremely hard pressed to have found a hundred men in the Bahamas willing to serve in America, and in the end, no additional companies were raised.
BROWNE would return to his government at the head of two companies of the Garrison Battalion and begin an absence from his corps of almost five years. During that time, the British demanded he resign either one or the other of his appointments. Twice, in the summer of 1779, Adjutant General Lord RAWDON pressed him for an answer, but somehow BROWNE managed to continue in both, at least for the time being.71
He left behind his regiment which would sit idle in Rhode Island for almost the entire year of 1779. They recruited but little and continued to lose men by disease and desertion. They would see no action.
To their undoubted satisfaction, Rhode Island was evacuated on 11 October 1779. They numbered a scant 309 Rank & File but had increased their number of women and children considerably since their arrival in Newport.72 The destination of the regiment, and their new home for the next five months or so, was Lloyd's Neck, home of their wood cutting activities.
The British army in New York City was getting ready now for a major shift in the theater of the war. Sir Henry CLINTON embarked himself at the head of eight thousand or so men, the cream of the army, to undertake the reduction of the largest Southern city— Charlestown, South Carolina.
While the PWAR was not initially intended for this campaign, a special temporary corps composed of detachments of Provincials from the New York garrison was created to take part in it. Under the command of Captain Patrick FERGUSON of the 70th Regiment of Foot, this corps, called the American Volunteers, was made up of about 180 volunteers, half armed with rifles and half with muskets.
The PWAR made a hefty contribution to this unit. From their ranks they provided two sergeants, one corporal, one drummer and twenty eight privates (almost 10% of their effective strength), under the command of Captain Charles McNEILL and Ensign Patrick GARRETT.73 Only ten of the thirty four officers and men of this detachment would still be alive or serving on active duty within fifteen months of their sailing to the South.
To make up for the constant losses to the regiment, either by detachments or by attrition, new recruits were desperately sought. The happy days of sending recruiting officers into the countryside were long since over.
The new recruits would consist primarily of deserters from the Continental Army. Men such as William BUNDY, formerly of the 8th Connecticut Regiment, Matthew SAMPSON of the 1st Pennsylvania and James McGRAUGH of the 10th Pennsylvania would make the PWAR their new home in fighting on the side of the Crown Forces.74
This was one of the sad realities of the war, that its later stages would be fought as much by the deserters of the two sides as by the true patriots or professional soldiers. During the winter of 1779/1780, the regiment would enlist twenty one such men, their last augmentation in the North before they too changed theaters.
Early in March of 1780 the corps left Lloyd's Neck for Flushing Fly, in Queens County, Long Island. From here they received their orders to embark with four other regiments to join the Siege of Charlestown. The embarkation return of 25 March 1780 shows 25 officers, 28 sergeants, 9 drummers and 292 rank & file making the voyage, with no dependents, probably in part due to space limitations on the transports.75
A later return, 1 April 1780, shows even less made the trip, only 25 officers, 26 sergeants, 9 drummers and 274 rank & file, a total of twenty men less than a week before. Ten were known to have deserted since 15 March 1780.76
Whichever figure is correct, the fleet weighed anchor and sailed uneventfully for South Carolina on 7 April 1780, reaching it in less than two weeks.77 Their part in the siege was uneventful, and for the second straight major engagement, they suffered not a single casualty in battle.
With the fall of Charlestown, South Carolina was now free to be secured for the Crown.
44 "Weekly State of the following Provincial Corps Under the Command of Major General Jones, Kings Bridge 26th May 1777." Clements Library, Frederick Mackenzie Papers. "Return of the Provincial Forces, Encamped at Kingsbridge and Morrisania, 1st July 1777." Clinton Papers, 21:24.
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