Volunteers of Ireland
Copy No. 23.
New York October 23d 1778
In your Lordships Instructions to me, dated the 8th of March, I find myself directed to try all Means which should appear to me likely to draw off from the American Army, the Number of Europeans which constituted its principal Force.
It was difficult to hold forth Terms of sufficient advantage to excite those People to Defection from the Rebels, without giving cause of disatisfaction to such of the Natives of the Country as had, uninvited by Reward, manifested their Attachment to their King by taking up Arms in the first Provincial Corps that were formed.
The Emigrants from Ireland were in general to be looked upon as our most serious Antagonists. They had fled from the real or fancied Oppression of their Landlords: Thro' Dread of prosecution for the Riots which their Idea of the Oppression had occasioned, they had transplanted themselves into a Country where they could live without Apprehension; and had estraged themselved from all Solicitude for the Welfare of Britain.
From their Numbers, however, national Customs were kept up amongst them; & the pride of having sprung in the Old Country, notwithstanding the Connection of Intrests, prevented them from entirely Assimilating with the Americans.
To work up on these latent Seeds of national Attachment appeared to me the only Means of inciting these Refugees to a measure, contrary perhaps to the particular Intrests of most of them. On this ground I formed the Plan of raising a Regiment whose Officers as well as Men should be entirely Irish.
Lord RAWDON being the person of that Nation in the Army whose Situation pointed him out the most strongly for the Command, I placed him at the head of the Corps: He was flattered with the preference, and, happy in contributing to the public Service, undertook it with Zeal.
Great Pains have been taken to propagate the Advertisement of this new Establishment among the Enemy, and they have not been unsuccessful. Under many disadvantages of Situation, above 380 Deserters from the Rebel Army have been collected; and are now in Arms in that Regiment, contented with their Situation, and attached to their Officers.
I may assure your Lordship that they are a fine Body of Men, zealous on Service, and notwithstanding the short time they have been embodied, perfectly obedient and well disciplined. They were with Lord CORNWALLIS in Jersey; and were honored by his Lordship with the advanced Post both in Camp and in March: His Lordship has complimented their behaviour in both Situations.
Their loss by Desertion was very trifling, and one man being taken in the Attempt, the rigorous Punishment which his Comrades inflicted upon him shewed the Abhorrence in which his Crime was held by the generality of the Battalion.
The Advantages attending this Corps led me to strengthen it with near 80 Men from the Regiment of Roman Catholic Volunteers, which from the inattention of the Officers to the Terms of their Warrant and their utter disregard of all Discipline I found it necessary to reduce.
The Regiment has been clothed, and is now completely appointed, at the sole Expence of the Officers. The Commissions have been filled in a manner very different from what had been adopted with regard to other Corps on the Provincial Establishment. This Corps has been Officered principally from the regular Regiments one Step alone of Promotion being allowed except in the case of the Lieut. Colonel who was only Capt. Lieut. in the 55th Regiment.
My motive for permitting so many regular Officers to serve in this Regiment will I trust be approved by his Majesty, as the present Discipline of this regiment will answer that those Officers could not have been more serviceably employed. Some Commission have been filled from the Provincial Line, and as those Officers were chosen for meritorious Service, their Appointment will I hope be thought no Bar to the Application I am about to make.
From the peculiar Circumstances of this Corps, I beg leave to submit to your Lordship whether the establishing it as a Regular Regiment may not be a mark of Approbation which would be attended with very beneficial Consequences.
There are many reasons to be urged in favor of the measure. The Motives on which it was levied, and the light in which it stands, speak strongly for it. The Expence of appointing the Regiment so as to have taken the Field within four Months after the date of their Warrant, has been very heavy upon the Officers: The Discipline and serviceable State of the Corps argue a strict attention to Duty: And the promotion in general has not been extravagant.
All the Officers have shewn themselves equal to the Duties of the Ranks they hold. The Colonel & Lieut. Colonel only, cannot from their former Situation have any expectation of being confirmed. The latter would be highly contented with the Rank of Major; the former will not apply for any thing for himself: He would think himself favored in being appointed Lieut. Colonel to it, but would not be disappointed were the Post otherwise disposed of.
The Regiment is regarded by the other Provincials as upon so different a footing from theirs that its Establishing could create no Murmers. I enclose to your Lordship a List of the Officers; by which your Lordship will see that some have resigned their Commissions in the Regular Service, in consequence of my ordering such Officers of the Regiments under General GRANT as held Provincial Commissions to decide by which they would abide.
It would be a powerful temptation to the Irish, were I authorised to hold forth to them His Majesty's Pardon for all Crimes heretofore committed by them in Ireland, except Murder. The prospect of returning home without Apprehension to their Families, might have very extensive Influence: And under such Restrictions as your Lordship may judge advisable, I humbly conceive could produce no Evil to the State.
There may be Objections to this measure which do not immediately occur to me. I only start it as a Hint which may suggest to your Lordship, further and more determinate Ideas on the Subject: Both this and the propriety of establishing the Volunteers of Ireland I submit with great deference to your Lordship: In the mean time I shall give all Encouragement to the Recruiting of that Corps, which I think may probably increase to a Second Battalion.
I have the honor to be
[To Lord George GERMAIN]
University of Michigan, William L. Clements Library, Sir Henry Clinton Papers, Volume 44, item 7.
Click here for ---> Regimental History Main Page
The On-Line Institute for Advanced Loyalist Studies