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 2 of 7
Baptism at Danbury
While several hundred recruits had been gathered for Governor BROWNE, all was not harmonious. For one, Timothy HIERLIHY, expecting a lieutenant colonel's commission for his services, was only offered one as major. Rather than serve at this rank, HIERLIHY left the men he had recruited ("one hundred & Twelve fine Recruits" he claimed) and set off with a warrant as lieutenant colonel to raise a 2nd battalion.
His association with BROWNE, along with that of his son and Richard VANDERBURGH amongst others, would cease at this point as they recruited what would become known as the Independent Companies. They would continue to consider themselves as part of "General BROWNE's Brigade" but for all practical purposes they were an independent corps.
This was cemented when HIERLIHY's battalion (of only four companies) was shipped off from New York in the Spring of 1778 to Halifax, Nova Scotia and shortly thereafter to the Island of Saint John, which two places they would remain until incorporated into the Nova Scotia Volunteers in 1782.25
The reason for HIERLIHY's departure and lack of success was an apparent surprise appointment by Sir William HOWE into the regiment, now known officially as the "Prince of Wales Royal American Volunteers."
HOWE announced in general orders of 2 February 1777 that he had commissioned Cornet Thomas PATTINSON of the 17th Light Dragoons as the new lieutenant colonel of the regiment.26 This effectively meant the regiment was commanded by officers whose previous highest rank was that of lieutenant and 2nd lieutenant respectively.
HOWE continued to tinker with the unit, first by joining an independent company raised by Captain John COLLETT, who had served under Lord DUNMORE in Virginia.27 Another officer, elevated to senior captain in the regiment by HOWE, was John BOWEN of Princeton, Massachusetts.
This gentleman had served the previous war in America as an ensign and lieutenant in the 45th Regiment of Foot and was held in high regard by HOWE's predecessor, Thomas GAGE, while at Boston. Why he received such preferential treatment is unclear, but the decision could not have been well received by the other captains in the unit, all of whom had risked their lives in raising their men.28
Indeed, it does not appear BROWNE was in the least consulted in any of these moves. In a letter to Edward WINSLOW he wrote: "Lieutenant Colonel PATTINSON is arrived here last night, and has brought me copy of the General orders of Monday in which the General has appointed him to my Corps…"
BROWNE at the time had been soliciting Captain John HOWARD of the 1st Dutchess County Independent Company to join the PWAR. HOWARD's Company was eventually joined to the New York Volunteers.29
In the end, however, a complete regiment of ten companies was formed, properly officered and organized. The regiment was patterned after the standard British infantry regiment of the day, complete with a company of light infantry commanded by Captain Daniel LYMAN and one of grenadiers led by Captain Andrew MAXWELL.30
Even though BROWNE would never lead his envisioned brigade, he could be proud of his new regiment. On 21 April 1777 it mustered 34 officers of different rank, 30 sergeants, 11 drummers, and 520 rank & file, with eight recruits waiting to join on Long Island.31 They undoubtedly appeared in their new uniforms that day: green regimental coats faced with white, the uniform being issued to all Provincial troops at New York at that time.
The time had come to put his new regiment to good use. Hearing of between 80 and 90 new recruits of his being imprisoned in Fairfield Jail, he embarked a detachment of the PWAR on board Capt. HOYT's vessel and a schooner they had liberated from New Jersey the month before.
Escorted by the warships Niger and Merlin, BROWNE desperately tried to land his men at Fairfield, but was prevented by extremely poor weather and rough surf. Hearing that there was a Rebel guard and a high ranking committee member at Norwalk though, the little fleet steered that way.
On 16 March 1777 Captain Stephen HOYT led 19 men onto the shore and marched undiscovered to the house quartering the guard. They attacked with such spirit as to capture two captains, two lieutenants, an ensign, ten privates and the committeeman, a Mr. Richards. Their loss was but one man who had gotten separated. He later rejoined the regiment and brought in two new recruits at the same time.32
The capture of Richards probably pleased the Loyalists the most, as they viewed the various committees as the source of all their misfortunes. This is born out in a letter from a Loyalist in New York a few days after the raid was reported in the papers.
"…an Expedition which pleased me most is that of a small party of Govr. BROWN's new Corps commanded by Capt. Stephen HOYT… Such excursions as these will keep the Rebels in constant trepidation & give life & Spirit to our new made Soldiers & Officers."33
It indeed did give life and spirit to a party of thirty new recruits under "a recruiting Captain" who less than two weeks later marched fifty miles through Connecticut before safely embarking for Long Island.34 It is not known what corps they enlisted in, but they may indeed have been on their way to join BROWNE. Next time, BROWNE would come to them.
The day after the regiment was mustered at Flushing, they embarked on 22 April 1777 as part of a large expedition to Connecticut under Major General William TRYON, the senior Provincial officer in America.35 The object of the expedition was the huge cache of military stores located at Danbury, 26 miles north of the coast.
The troops, six British regiments and the PWAR, plus artillery, landed near Norwalk on 25 April. They immediately pushed for Danbury, where they found by all accounts an immense quantity of stores, including over 1,700 tents, 4,000 barrels of beef and pork, 1,000 barrels of flour, rice, hospital stores, engineering tools, 5,000 pairs of shoes and stockings, a printing press, rum, molasses, sugar, wheat, Indian corn, etc., all of which was destroyed, except for four days bread issued out to the troops.36 The easiest method of destroying the stores was to burn them, whereby the town itself was burned down.
While the destruction of the stores had been relatively easy, TRYON and his men had spent a couple days in land and now needed to get back to their shipping, 26 miles away. The Rebels had not been idle during that time, positioning troops in their front and rear. Those who attacked from the rear were led by General David Wooster, who was killed in the battle, and those in front were commanded by General Benedict ARNOLD.
ARNOLD constructed a breastwork along the route of the British retreat, prompting a large scale battle. This was the first time under fire for BROWNE and his men, and they did not disappoint him. The troops fixed bayonets and charged, breaking through ARNOLD's force and continuing their march to Long Island Sound and safety.37
Each side had suffered heavy losses. Hugh QUIGG, a New Jersey Loyalist serving in Captain BRIDGEWATER's Company of the PWAR, served on the expedition with his son. Only the elder QUIGG returned alive.38
The regiment's losses totaled 1 drummer and 6 rank & file killed, 3 officers, 3 sergeants and 11 rank & file wounded, plus 3 rank & file missing. Amongst the wounded was BROWNE himself (slightly) and Captain Daniel LYMAN of the Light Infantry Company.39
LYMAN's injury, a musket shot through the body, would eventually force him to England by 1779 to try and recover, which he never fully would. He returned to New York later in the war but never took an active part with the regiment again.40
One rather bizarre footnote to the battle involved one of the three missing soldiers of the regiment, Michael BURN. BURN had been taken prisoner at Danbury and sent to the prison at Hartford, from which place he escaped on 8 May 1777. He was described as
"a native of Ireland, about 35 years of age, 5 feet 8 inches high, sandy short hair, thin GR on the fore part of his head, grey eyes, a little glaring red complexion, thin visage, large nose, a weaver by trade, speaks very harsh, pretends to a smattering of Latin and Greek, had a considerable number of books with him, among which are Homer's Illiad, Ovid's Metamorphosis, Lillie's Grammar, &c."41
It is not known whatever became of the very unusual Michael BURN. He does not appear on any later muster rolls for the regiment.
The raid, despite the losses, was a resounding success. The destruction of the stores had been the principal object of the expedition and in that they were certainly fortunate. They also brought back 53 prisoners, including several committeemen, much to the Loyalists' delight.
The troops were praised by both Generals TRYON and HOWE for their spirit during the raid, and the regiment in particular caught the notice of the local press.42 "Governor BROWN's regiment behaved in such a manner, in said expedition, as does them honour."43 The regiment had their initial taste of both battle and victory. It would be a long time before they saw either again.
25 Hierlihy Memorial, 27 August 1779. Colonial Office 226/7/42–44. Muster Rolls of the Independent Companies, 1777. National Archives of Canada, Chipman Papers, MG 23, D 1, Series I, Volume 27, Pages 341–350, "A Return of the Independent Company's of General Browne's Brigade Station'd at McGowen's, Commanded by Lieut. Col. Hierlihy July 1st 1777." University of Michigan, William L. Clements Library, Sir Henry Clinton Papers, Volume 21, item 25.
Click here for ---> Regimental History Main Page
PWAR Regimental History:
The On-Line Institute for Advanced Loyalist Studies