Volunteers of Ireland
Camp at Silk Hope Plantation
I this morning had the Honor of receiving your letter of the 19th informing me that the Commander in Chief thought it proper for me to make option between my Brevet Rank in the Line, & my Provincial Commission.
I must acknowledge, Sir, that I feel this alternative to be peculiarly hard upon me. It was the Commander in Chief who proposed to me in 1778, the attempt of raising an Irish Regiment; as an expedient of public utility, by no means of private advantage; In that principle I adopted the plan; & on that principle, invariably, I have pursued it.
The great proportion of Irish in the Rebel Army & their constant desertion from those Provincial Corps into which upon their coming over to the British Troops they were generally enlisted, made it appear adviseable that a national Regiment should be formed; which might not only instigate them to quit the opposite party; but also, by retaining them, draw service to the King.
I happened at that period to be the highest in rank of that nation in the Army: It was thought that my name might be employed to advantage; I, flattered with the prospect of being useful, gave into the scheme with all the zeal which an idea of public spirit usually awakens in an unexperienced mind.
It has been my misfortune to observe in the course of my undertaking, an appearance of a suspicion that my efforts tended to some personal advantage; & I have, in consequence, met many obstacles which I could not have expected.
I have, notwithstanding, completed my Regiment; I may assert that it is well disciplined; & it is appointed in a stile very different from that which the scantiness of the Establishment admits in other Provincial Corps.
This, Sir, you will suppose cannot have been done without heavy expence & very constant attention: But my end is in some degree answered; for the men are satisfied with their situation, & serve with that chearfulness which may invite others.
Having succeeded thus far, I am now instructed that I must either abandon a set of Men collected chiefly upon my name & justly looking up to me for support; or I must tear myself from that service which was my earliest pursuit, to which I had devoted all my study, & on which I had bent all my future hopes.
When I first got my Provincial Rank, it was inferior to that of Lieutenant Colonel in the British Army. In the latter capacity, I commanded all Colonels of Provincials; & from the great promotions after my appointment, I was senior to many Lieutenant Colonels in this Army.
The alteration, therefore, in Provincial Rank was detrimental to me; it gave me precedence of some Officers of the Line under whom I would wish to serve, but it subjected me to every Provincial Colonel except Lord CATHCART.
I must farther remark, that possessing no Regimental Commission in the Army, it is very unfortunate that the bare Brevet Rank which I had retained as a recompence (I looked upon it as such) for an application to business very prejudicial to my health, should disqualify me for service in a station of little pre–eminence & less emolument.
None of these circumstances being considered, I am directed, indiscriminately with others (who I understand in a very different predicament) to make a resignation of one of my Commissions.
To the British Service, I am bound by every tye of inclination, & habit, of connection; by every flattering prospect, & perhaps, by something of zeal: But to the Regiment which has been raised upon my faith, I feel that Faith pledged.
Therefore, Sir, with infinite pain, I do hereby resign to the Commander in Chief my Rank as Lieutenant Colonel in the Line; tho’ I confess I feel little less than if I was divorced forever from my Country.
It is true, I surrender nothing but the hope of serving in a future day; But to that hope I was so wedded, that it is difficult to reconcile my mind to the extinction of it.
My Provincial Rank will allow me for a time to consider myself as one amongst that set of Men whom I have loved & esteemed; but I shall look forward with a sigh to that period when the reduction of my Regiment shall make me say that I am no longer a Soldier.
I have the Honor to be
University of Michigan, William L. Clements Library, Sir Henry Clinton Papers, Volume 100, item 9.
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