The Malicious, Morose Malady and the Vindictive, Vagrant Vixen: A 17th Regiment Story, Part 2

In this week’s blog entry, we return to finish the tale of Private Thomas Mallady’s post-war adventures, initially chronicled this past May by guest author Don Hagist. While the documentary trail might not give us all the information we could hope for, there are some clear messages about the nature of marital disharmony in post-war New England that should give any would-be deserter food for thought. For more soldiers’ stories, check out Don’s blog: British Soldiers, American Revolution.

Click here for Part I

— Will Tatum

Part II

The next week’s issue of the Western Star, on 18 September, carried Thomas Mellalew’s response, this time datelined from Pittsfield:

“To the Publick.
Whenever the character of an individual is notoriously attacked, it is incumbent on him, if he has any regard for his reputation, or respect for the opinion of the world, to come forward in his own defence. The writer is sensible that a private controversy between a man and woman, is not a very pleasing subject for the attention of the community: His only excuse is, that he write in his own defence.

“In the Star of last week, was published a piece under the signature of Hannah Mellalew – a performance in which my character is represented as black as the pen wielded by the hand of falhood [sic] could possibly describe. A publication, signed by a woman, the blackness of whose character my modesty will not permit me to lay naked to the view of the world – a woman with whom had it have been possible for any man to have lived, would not have been under the necessity of strolling about after a second gulled companion, while the first was still living. Let any ingenuous mind read the performance to which I allude, and then say, if any but an abandoned prostitute could ever have come forward with such a publication in the face of the world. No, not a woman on earth, who is not totally devoid of every species of virtue, could have assumed the impudence to publish such brothel ideas of a man, whom she claims as her companion.

“The charges alledged against me in that piece, it is in my power, at any time to confute. But I do not conceive that a Newspaper is a proper place to produce affidavits to establish the character of any man.”

“Neither do I believe that the publick are so strongly inclined to believe any man a villain, as, without proof, without witnesses, or even the appearance of truth, to give credit to the aspersions of a malicious, vindictive, vagrant vixen. Thomas Mallady.
Pittsfield, Sept. 1792.”


It didn’t end there. The next week’s issue of the Wester Star, dated 25 September, contained Hannah’s next volley, this one a barrage including statements from other individuals:

“To the Publick.
Thomas Mallady (or Mellalew) having asserted in the paper of last week, that the charges I have exhibited against him are not true, the following are submitted to the inspection of the publick. Hannah Mellalew.

“Middletown, February 18, 1778.
“These may certify that Thomas Mellalew and Hannah Andrews were married on the day of the date above, according to the form in the office for the solemnization of marriage, in the book of common prayer, by me, Abraham Jarvis, Minister of the Church of England.

Form of the Solemnization of Marriage
Excerpt from the Book of Common Prayer, 1662 edition

“These may certify whom it may concern, that Thomas Mellalew (or Mallady, as many persons called him) some years since lived in this town with his wife; and, while he lived in this town, he advertised his wife in the Springfield Newspaper, lest she should run him in debt when he was absent; and afterwards put in another advertisement, wherein he manifested his sorrow for the first, and said he had no foundation or just cause for publishing the first.


Furthermore, while he lived in this town, he made an appointment to meet a Negro’s wife, at a certain place in the night time, in a certain barn; and the Negro’s wife informed Mrs. Mellalew of the appointment, who procured sundry persons, one of whom was dressed in a woman’s clothes, to meet at the time and place appointed, when and where Mellalew attended in the dark, and his conduct was such, as caused them to lead him home to his wife; and he did not deny his intent in going to the barn, and in the barn called the Negro’s wife by name several times, before the persons lying in wait discovered themselves. The substance of the above was sworn to before me, as nearly as I can recollect, by two of the persons who were in the barn, and one of them who was dressed in women’s apparel.

P. S. Mrs. Mellalew’s character in this town is good, for any thing that I know.

Samuel Mather, Justice of the Peace.
Westfield, August 17, 1792.”

The story certainly didn’t end there, but unfortunately our documentary trail does. Further research might reveal what became of this former soldier of the 17th and his estranged wife, and help us decide whether he was “malicious and morose,” or she was a “vindictive, vagrant vixen.”

biopic-donhDON HAGIST
is a life-long British Army researcher and founding member of the 22nd Regiment of Foot (recreated). His scholarly career includes preparing and publishing numerous editions of period primary sources and analytical articles for the living history community. Most recently, Hagist has written two major books.

The first, British Soldiers, American War examines the Revolutionary conflict through the eyes of British soldiers’ narratives. The second and more recent is The Revolution’s Last Men, an exploration of the last veterans of the War for Independence who were captured through early photography. Hagist runs his own blog and is a regular contributor at the Journal of the American Revolution

British Army Muster Rolls: A Readers Guide

In our last installment of the ‘Research Story’ series, we opened the door to the great cavalcade of eighteenth-century British Army demographic information known as the muster roll (found in the WO12 series in the British National Archives). Of course, even more demographic information is contained in the general review returns (WO27), but that is a story for a different time. For now, I’ll focus on how one “reads” a British muster roll, because they aren’t necessarily straightforward to people who haven’t internalized British military procedure as I have. Or so my friends keep telling me.

Here is a photograph (taken in 2011, pardon the quality) of the muster roll for Captain Robert Clayton’s Company of the 17th Regiment of Infantry, covering the period from December 1775-June 1776. As you can see, it is a multi-part document, following a standard format that you will find with any other regiment’s muster roll (with a tiny few exceptions). So even if you aren’t in love with the 17th, the following instruction is transferrable to other corps.


IMG_2350 Clayton Dec 1775-June 1776
Muster roll for Captain Robert Clayton’s Company, HM’s 17th Regiment of Foot, The National Archives of Great Britain (TNA) WO12/3406/2

Most folks raised in the western tradition will want to read these from the top-down rather than the bottom-up, despite the fact that your most important information for understanding when and where is down near the bottom. So we’re going to look at the bottom first, for the most important material. Then we’ll move back to the top. And then deal with the center portion, where everyone inevitably ends up.

IMG_2350 Clayton Dec 1775-June 1776 Detail 3


In this view of the document’s bottom half, we see several important pieces of information. First, there’s the location and date when the muster was taken—in this case, on Staten Island, July 13, 1776. Beneath that, you have a written synopsis of the information rendered above, which I’ll transcribe since the photo is blurry:

“Mustered present in His Majesty’s 17th Regiment of Foot Commanded by the Honble Colonel Robert Monckton Lieutenant General and in Captain Robert Claytons Company the Captain, Lieutenant with two Serjeants and Drummer and twenty five Effective private men.

Allowing the Ensign, with two Corporals Sick One Corporal recruiting, two men on Guard and five men Sick that are Absent to pass unrespited being Certified Effective on the back of this roll

Also allowing the Commission, non Commissiond Officers private Men & Casuals to be Effective for the intermediate times as set down against their Respective names above Mentioned being Certified on the back of this roll

This Muster is taken for 183 days from 25th December to 24th June 1776 both days inclusive”

This eighteenth-century military legalese is concerned with the prickly question of paying the army. Parliament passed an annual bill to fund the army, which was always subject to intense debate and scrutiny. From that point on, essentially every penny expending for military support had to be accounted for, since a scandal on misappropriation of funds or embezzlement could have dramatic negative effects on the army’s funding for the subsequent year. While plenty of period sources suggest that mustering was often accompany by significant bouts of corruption, with officer’s servants mustered to bring up the numbers of soldiers in a company to establishment strength, in general this process seems to have been taken fairly seriously by the Revolutionary War era. It is always important to note the date and location where the muster was taken and the dates the muster covers: in many regiments, several muster periods would be accounted for at one time, covering lengthy periods (sometimes extending to years) wherein the regiment could not be gathered and formally counted. A British regiment was expected to be mustered at six month intervals, so twice every year. Even if those musters couldn’t be made at the established intervals, the paperwork needed to be filled out at some juncture to satisfy officials in the Treasury Office.

Heading back to the top, we see the first of the detailed name information contained in this return:


IMG_2350 Clayton Dec 1775-June 1776 detail1


Beneath the unit identification and the colonel’s name, you see a list of the company’s officers: Captain Robert Clayton, Lieutenant Richard Norris, and Ensign Mervin Murray. Murray is listed on the recruiting service, meaning he is back in the British Isles with a serjeant and detachment of men attempting to drum up new recruit. Clayton and Norris were present with the company on the day of the muster— when you see notes on the return that explain a man’s absence, that is only the excuse given for him being absent that day. So Clayton could have been on command at headquarters, far away from his company, the preceding day. That was one way officers could, theoretically, cheat the system: by being absent every day save for the muster and hiring local men to stand in for soldiers for the muster. Not as easy to pull off in America, however.

Below the officers, you have the list of non-commissioned officers. These are the serjeants, corporals, and drummers. In most returns, they will be labeled as such, though not here. Looking at the information from the bottom of the return, we would expect to see two serjeants, three corporals, and one drummer listed, and so they are. As in that synopsis, Serjeants John Neaile and James Richardson are present, along with Drummer John Harrison. Corporal Daniel Webb and Corporal James Wilson were ill on the day of the muster, while Corporal Morris Rew was off on the recruiting service, probably with Ensign Murray.

Now moving to the center portion of the return, we see two primary sections. The two columns to the left list all of the men who were expected to be with the company on muster day, including the excuses for those men who were not physically present. The right-hand section lists all of the causalities for the period of the muster: that includes men who left for any significant reason.


IMG_2350 Clayton Dec 1775-June 1776 detail2


Focusing in on the casualty list, we see that it covers the same period as the rest of the muster and provides some interesting casualties beyond the men who died.


IMG_2350 Clayton Dec 1775-June 1776 detail4


Here’s another transcript for you:


“Sick                                                       William Walker

Guard                                                      John Wright

Died 29th Feby 76                                  Benjamin Haken

Died 22d May 76                                    Simon Rampley

Transfered 35th May 76                       Michal Kelley

Dischd 7th May 76                                  Stephen Bratt”


Walker and Wright both stand out as outliers—plenty of the soldiers listed to the left were either sick or on guard. Perhaps the muster master forgot to list them and thus stuck them under the Casualties? Maybe Walker was seriously ill and Wright had been sent to a long-term guard detachment? The return doesn’t indicate answers, hence we call these leads for further research.

Beneath Walker and Wright, one sees the standard list of men who died. It was highly unusual for a six month period to pass without deaths in the regiment. You’ll see both the soldiers killed in battle as well as those who succumbed to disease, wounds, or accidents listed in this area, usually without any further explanation other than their official date of death. We also have Private Kelley, who transferred out of this company, probably into another company of the 17th. Often, when a regiment is drafted, you’ll see notations made adjacent to soldiers’ names about when they left and which corps they joined. Similarly, when men are drafted into a regiment, you’ll see that noted, usually with the comment “Enter’d” followed by the date. The same style is used for new recruits, so sometimes things can be a bit confusing when you know that men are being drafted and recruited in, but the muster master didn’t make a note. That’s why we use a range of sources together to correct for the weaknesses in individual sources. This particular sheet is fairly routine, only have a mix of sick and guard duty listed.

So there you have your basic guide to reading a British regimental muster roll sheet: while they can be tiresome one at a time, taken collectively they open up grand new vistas on the busy internal life of the British Army. We are reliably informed that Don Hagist is working on a massive muster roll project, recording all of the surviving data on British regiments that served in America into an interactive digital spreadsheet. Can’t wait to see those results! For more 17th Regiment-specific data, keep your eyes out for future posts here.

received his BA in History from the College of William & Mary in Virginia in 2003, and his MA and PhD from Brown University in Rhode Island in 2004 and 2016. His exploits in Revolutionary War Living History began with a chance encounter at Colonial Williamsburg’s Under the Redcoat event in 2000.

Over the subsequent years, he has traveled throughout the United States and Great Britain researching the eighteenth-century British Army and used the results of those labor to improve living history interpretations. The beginning of this journey in 2001 marked the start of the current recreated 17th Infantry.

The Things We Carry

First of all happy Wednesday! Before we get into today’s blog post I wanted to mention that we have a news letter that will be starting to send out every Monday in June! So if you haven’t yet signed up for the newsletter please feel free to do so. No spam, just 17th updates and a few short history lessons.

Now this week on the blog we have a Damian Niescior, most of you may know Damian from his work experience at Fort Ticonderoga in upstate New York, but now he serves as a Gallery Educator at the new Museum of the American Revolution in Old City, Philadelphia, PA, continuing to chat history to visitors. This blog post has been requested by some readers and is very informative in everything that Damian carries on his person to events has a purpose, can be easily stowed away in pockets, haversacks, and knapsacks, and nothing is there “just for looks”.  Enjoy the read!

Mary Sherlock – A follower attached to the 17th Regiment of Infantry

“They carried the sky. The whole atmosphere, they carried it, the humidity, the monsoons, the stink of fungus and decay, all of it, they carried gravity.”

― Tim O’BrienThe Things They Carried


            Throughout my time as a historical interpreter, both amateur and professional, I have been asked a fair amount on what I carry and why I carry it. I find it’s important to represent the soldiers as best we can as individuals, which includes minute details that may not even have a chance to see. These items also allow me to be self-sufficient while at events, keeping myself from needing to return to a vehicle. These items are both small and large, but all carry some significance to the interpretation of soldier life on campaign.

Each number on the image correlates to a number listed below.
  1. The very first thing put on is the bayonet belt. It carries the sidearm, the bayonet, a triangular shaped blade of about 18 inches long. It is supported by the scabbard which sits in the belt itself. The buff leather belt is based off of several surviving originals, and although it is a waist belt, it is worn across the shoulder as a field modification to improve comfort.
  2. The next item we put on is the cartridge pouch. This pouch is a soft leather bag sewn with a hard leather flap to protect the cartridges inside. The cartridges sit in a wooden block, nailed into place by a series of small iron tacks, and can hold 21 cartridges. The white shoulder strap is, like the bayonet belt, made from buff leather. This pouch is of an older style, originally designed and used during the 7 years’ war, but then with a wider strap and extra square buckle. The pouch was modified to conform to the Royal Clothing Warrant of 1768. The 17th, months before the start of the war in 1775, ordered new cartridge pouches in an effort to replace the older outdated ones they were still carrying. Through the orderly books, although they had ordered the new pouches, they did not arrive in time for the 17th’s voyage to America in mid-1775.

    17th Regiment issued Recreated Cartridge Pouch
  3. Over the buff accoutrements, camp equipment is then placed, starting with the haversack. The haversack is a coarse linen bag, closed with two buttons on the side and suspended by a strap made from the same cloth. Its job is to hold the rations of each individual soldier. These rations were issued out once per every three days, which could include daily rations of one pound of flour or bread, one pound of beef or one half pound of pork, one quarter pint of peas, and one ounce of rice.
  4. Next is the canteen. The canteen is made from tinned iron, and suspended with a thin hemp rope. To help prevent rusting, beeswax is melted inside the canteen and shaken around to coat the interior. The canteen itself is made after an original, which had a tin cap for the spout as well. I, however, lost that cap a long time ago, and have since been replaced with a cork.
  5. The musket is the Short Land pattern, or second model, and also known as the Brown Bess. This musket is made from walnut, iron, steel, and brass. It features a 42 inch long barrel and its total weight is eight pounds. Completed with a buff leather sling to finish the look and assist with the carrying of the gun itself.

We have now reached the knapsack itself, which has many items inside it, each one I have carefully chosen to represent what a British soldier might carry in their pack.

  1. The knapsack itself is of a simple construction. It is primarily a hemp linen pack with two large pockets on each half. Each pocket is closed with two buttons made of pewter. The exterior of the knapsack is painted to repel rain and other weather. The knapsack is closed by three leather straps with conjoining buckles, and the pack itself is worn on the back with two shoulder straps made of leather as well. In the bottom half of the pack I keep tools and utensils, and clothing in the top half of the pack.
  2. An extra pair of shoes. At the height of the war, Britain was shipping nearly 40,000 pairs of shoes to supply its army with 2 pairs of shoes per man, per year. As I wear one pair of shoes on my feet, the others sit in my knapsack. There does seem to be some great relief when putting on dry shoes after walking in wet shoes all day.

    Shoemaker at Work – Fort Ticonderoga, New York – Photo Drifting Focus Photography
  3. Shoe tools; a hammer, lasting pliers, a set of pincers, leather palm, and awls wrapped up in a leather apron. While I was an interpreter at Fort Ticonderoga, I was an apprentice shoemaker studying under Mr. Pekar. Under his tutelage I developed some skills as a shoemaker, including the ability to repair shoes that had needed new soles and heels. The British army of the 18th Century contained a great deal of tradesmen, and many of them were shoemakers. These shoemakers, although soldiers first, facilitated the repair of shoes in the army.
  4. Donation soles. These soles, bound together with a simple tie, were issued to each man for each pair of shoes. It is typical for the average soldier to wear through soles in 3 months, but with two pairs of shoes per year means that the average soldier will wear each pair for six months. In order to bridge this gap, the British Army provides enough replacement leather for new soles and new heels for each pair. This is not in the assumption that each man has the skills required to repair his own shoes, but in the assumption that, due to the prolific nature of the shoemaking trade, each man will know a shoemaker in their own mess group or company willing to do the work.
  5. In order to keep the shoes I carry both presentable and healthy, a black polishing agent known as blackball is kept with my other tools. Blackball is a combination of charcoal, tallow and beeswax. The substance itself, when properly applied, returns a black finish to shoes while also keeping the leather from becoming too dry. Each soldier was issued an amount of blackball to maintain the shoes and black leather pouch.
  6. A small folding knife. This small folding knife has assisted me in more ways than I can mention. It has been a tool in cutting leather, a cooking utensil, a screwdriver and several other useful applications throughout the years.
  7. A pocket watch. Watches are especially useful to the life of a soldier. Although 18th century watches are impossibly complicated and expensive today, in the 18th century they were commonplace.
  8. Extra cartridges carried in a small brown package. In order to keep myself self-sufficient as the British Army could be, in addition to the 21 cartridges I carry in my pouch, I also carry additional ammunition in my knapsack.
  9. Musket tool. This reproduction of a musket tool is based off an original, and is used to maintain the musket. The tool itself is the only device needed when disassembling a great majority of the gun itself.
  10. A wooden bowl and pewter spoon. For my own comfort, I carry my own eating utensils. Although individual soldiers did carry their own bowls, soldiers would also eat out of the same kettle, removing the need to carry a bowl while on campaign.
  11. A tin cup. This reproduction of a cup, found at a British army encampment in North America, is a useful item to have when in the field. It can serve as both a drinking vessel and as a small cooking utensil as well. While I’ll admit that some of the worst coffee I have ever had, has been made in that cup, it is also the best coffee I have ever had.
  12. Wallet and notebook. Two items I have found to help remove myself from the 21st century when I am in the field. The wallet holds any cash I might use to purchase goods while at events, and the notebook allows me to jot down any thoughts or any notes I can review later.
  13. A pair of dice and snuff tin. We can’t have a good soldier impression without some vices thrown in! The dice I carry allows me to partake in a very old game known as Hazard. This game was very popular with soldiers; it required only a pair of dice and an understanding of the game itself. The snuff tin carries a small measure of snuff tobacco. Snuff is powdered tobacco taken through the nasal passage in very small quantities. Due to its unique method of inhalation, often the public use of snuff can come with strange looks from visitors.
  14. Two pairs of stockings. Each British soldier, in order to keep feet dry and healthy, would carry a number of extra stockings. I carry two extra on top of the pair I would be wearing, in total three pairs. There is something to be said of the quality of dry socks.
  15. Neckstock, one linen kerchief, and one cotton kerchief. A British soldier of the period would have a few items of neckwear. The one worn while on parade or battle, would be the neckstock. This garment is made of black velvet and finished with a false white shirt collar. This garment provides the soldier with a clean, military look. When the neckstock was not worn, softer kerchiefs and rollers could be worn.
  16. Fatigue cap. In order to preserve and protect the cocked hat from unnecessary damage, a cap is worn instead. This cap is based off of description and a few pictorial representations in paintings of the period. It is kept in my knapsack when not in use.
  17. Two shirts. These two shirts, I carry based on orders issued to the 17th at various points during the war, consist of one white and one made of check cloth. Like the extra shoes and stockings, it allows me to change into dry undergarments. This is especially useful during the hot days which can leave a shirt drenched with sweat.
  18. Watchcoats are heavy wool overcoats which assist a soldier while posted on sentry or picket duty. The British army issued these to regiments as about one watchcoat per 6 men. These garments were shared, and made to fit most sizes. I can tell you from personal experience, that extra layer of wool is a boon when enduring difficult weather.
  19. Last but not least is the blanket. It is rolled up and attached with ties to the top of the pack. This allows the weight to be more manageable, and to keep the pack from becoming too bloated.


Each item is packed away carefully into the knapsack. Shirts are rolled up and pressed into the pack as efficiently as possible. The ending result is a tight, but efficient pack which weighs 20 pounds when fully loaded up. While these items all serve a purpose, each one a carefully chosen representative of items British soldiers of the period would have carried, this is as close I can come to understanding of what those soldiers would have endured. Those soldiers, serving thousands of miles away from home, would have carried a lot more than just items throughout the cities and wilderness of North America.

The Marching Out at the Endview Plantation, Newport News, Virginia 2016


Currently serves as Gallery Educator at the Museum of the American Revolution in Old City, Philadelphia, PA after serving as an interpreter at Fort Ticonderoga in Ticonderoga, New York. He has been reenacting and interpreting British soldier’s life since 2009.

The Malicious, Morose Malady and the Vindictive, Vagrant Vixen: A 17th Regiment Story, Part 1

This week we welcome British Army researcher extraordinaire Don Hagist to the blog. Don has spent many years researching the interior lives of the common British soldier, tracing his experiences, thoughts, and feelings throughout the conflict and beyond. In this installment, we receive a rare window into the post-war experiences of one man who chose to stay in America and made questionable relationship choices that places him in hot water. This is part 1 of the article, so be sure to tune in for part 2 next month.

– Will Tatum

On February 18, 1778, a wedding took place in Middletown, Connecticut. Thomas Mellalew married Hannah Andrews at an Anglican church in the little town on a big bend in the Connecticut River. We have no details on Hannah’s background, but we wonder if her choice of a husband caused a stir in her family or community, for he was a British soldier. Or, at least, he had been, until he deserted from the 17th Regiment of Foot.

The surname is rendered on the regiment’s muster rolls as “Melody,” but as will be seen below, other spellings include Mallady, Mallalue, and similar phonetic variants. Nothing that we know about Thomas Mellalew’s military career suggests that he was prone to abscond from the army, but we have little to go on besides the muster rolls, and his desertion was not an ordinary case. From England or Scotland (the muster rolls tell us that he was “British” as opposed to Irish or “Foreign”), he joined the army some time before 1772, the earliest date for which rolls exist. He had been a weaver before enlisting, the most common trade among British soldiers. No detailed records survive to tell us about his discipline or performance as a soldier, except that he was trusted enough to be granted a furlough during the regiment’s peacetime years in Great Britain.

Boston 1775 map
Boston, Massachusetts, in 1775, (Courtesy of the Museum of the American Revolution)

Mellalew came to America with the regiment in late 1775, and endured the difficult winter in Boston, the voyage to Halifax and then to Staten Island in the first half of 1776, and the fast-moving campaign through New York and New Jersey in the second half of that year. At the beginning of 1777 he had at least five years of experience as a soldier, including one major campaign.

The battle of Princeton on 3 January 1777 was perhaps the 17th Regiment’s greatest trial of the war. In the face of overwhelming odds, the seven companies of the regiment engaged (the flank companies were detached, and it appears that one battalion company was some distance away as a baggage guard) acquitted themselves well. They did suffer a significant number of killed, wounded and captured. Among the latter was Thomas Mellalew. The Princeton prisoners were sent to Connecticut, where they were dispersed among several towns. Mellalew was sent to a small town in the northwestern part of the state called New Hartford. He didn’t stay. He may have obtained permission to work locally, as many British prisoners did, or he may have simply had enough of soldiering. One way or another, he deserted from captivity, the next we know of him is his marriage in Middletown a year later and some 25 miles southeast of New Hartford.

The recreated 17th at Princeton Battlefield State Park, January 2017

Their specific activities over the next dozen years haven’t been determined. We know that he worked as a barber, a trade he may have learned in the army. In the 1780s they lived for time in Westfield, Massachusetts, just west of Springfield. He drank. He sought out other women. At some point he took an ad out in a Springfield newspaper. Soon after, he took out another ad rescinding the first one. We haven’t found the text of either ad, but the first one probably looked something like this one, that he placed in the autumn of 1791: “Whereas Hannah, my Wife, has forsaken my bed and board – this is therefore to forbid all persons trusting her on my account. Thomas Mallady. Richmond, October 14, 1791.”

BerkshireCo1844-wb markup
Map of Berkshire County, MA, 1844, Richmond is marked with a red dot

The ad, dated from the Massachusetts town of Richmond on the New York border, was placed in the 25 October edition of a newspaper called the Western Star that began publication in Stockbridge, Massachusetts in 1789. Ads like this were fairly common in period newspapers, and usually we can only wonder about the stories behind them. In this case, however, apparently after considerable fallout from ad and other events, Hannah Mellalew published a notice of her own in the 11 September 1792 edition of the same paper:

“Take Notice.
It is with reluctance that I am drove to the disagreeable necessity of publishing the subsequent lines for the consideration of the candid publick. I am sensible that publications of this kind often have a tendency to bring disgrace on the author; but all who have read the publication of Thomas Mellalew (or Mallady, as he calls himself) my Companion (who advertised me in the publick prints in the months of October last) will pardon me for being desirous that the publick should have a just statement of the facts. A statement of one half of the aggravated crimes that he was guilty of while we lived together would make a larger volume than I am able to get published, or any one have patience to read, and they would bring disgrace on me and all the human race; therefore, I shall only mention a few that are the least dishonourable. I can with prudence say, that they are such as these; taking property that was not his own; being with other women, of all characters but good, and all colours but white; he has once been detected in attempting to be with a Negroe’s wife in a barn: It will be needless to mention drunkenness, it being so trifling compared with his other failings. It is not my power to describe his malicious and morose temper, but it is such that I lived in great fear of being murdered by him. If any persons should dispute the truth of these facts, I shall be very happy if they would take the trouble to call on me, to convince them of the truth of these and many others, (if they will have patience to hear,) by the best authorities where he hath lived; and likewise that I have conducted with as much prudence as any person could under my circumstances. The said Mellalew (or Mallady) is a Weaver & Barber, about middling size, has a scar on his upper lip, which has the appearance of a hair lip, sewed up; has black curled hair, is a foreigner that deserted from the British army last war. Whoever will take up said Mellalew (or Mallady) and conceal him from the sight of man and beast, shall have my thanks, and will merit the applause of the publick. All persons are forbid harbouring or trusting him on my account. Hannah Mellalew. East Hampton, Sept. 1792.”

Modern Map Richmond East Hampton
A modern view of the distance between Richmond and East Hampton, courtesy Google Maps

Easthampton is a considerable distance from Richmond, so clearly the couple had separated by this point. But they were reading the same paper. In fact, they were supporting it with ad revenue from their competing notices. The next week’s issue, on 18 September, carried Thomas Mellalew’s response, this time datelined from Pittsfield:

“To the Publick.

Whenever the character of an individual is notoriously attacked, it is incumbent on him, if he has any regard for his reputation, or respect for the opinion of the world, to come forward in his own defence. The writer is sensible that a private controversy between a man and woman, is not a very pleasing subject for the attention of the community: His only excuse is, that he write in his own defence.

“In the Star of last week, was published a piece under the signature of Hannah Mellalew -a performance in which my character is represented as black as the pen wielded by the hand of falhood [sic] could possibly describe. A publication, signed by a woman, the blackness of whose character my modesty will not permit me to lay naked to the view of the world – a woman with whom had it have been possible for any man to have lived, would not have been under the necessity of strolling about after a second gulled companion, while the first was still living. Let any ingenuous mind read the performance to which I allude, and then say, if any but an abandoned prostitute could ever have come forward with such a publication in the face of the world. No, not a woman on earth, who is not totally devoid of every species of virtue, could have assumed the impudence to publish such brothel ideas of a man, whom she claims as her companion.

“The charges alledged against me in that piece, it is in my power, at any time to confute. But I do not conceive that a Newspaper is a proper place to produce affidavits to establish the character of any man.

“Neither do I believe that the publick are so strongly inclined to believe any man a villain, as, without proof, without witnesses, or even the appearance of truth, to give credit to the aspersions of a malicious, vindictive, vagrant vixen. Thomas Mallady.
“Pittsfield, Sept. 1792.”

It didn’t end there. The next week’s issue of the Wester Star, dated 25 September, contained Hannah’s next volley…[tune in for part 2 in a future installment!]

biopic-donhDON HAGIST
is a life-long British Army researcher and founding member of the 22nd Regiment of Foot (recreated). His scholarly career includes preparing and publishing numerous editions of period primary sources and analytical articles for the living history community. Most recently, Hagist has written two major books.

The first, British Soldiers, American War examines the Revolutionary conflict through the eyes of British soldiers’ narratives. The second and more recent is The Revolution’s Last Men, an exploration of the last veterans of the War for Independence who were captured through early photography. Hagist runs his own blog and is a regular contributor at the Journal of the American Revolution

Captain William Brereton and the Grenadier Company: Officers of the 17th, Part 2

In this second installment of the series, Mark Odintz, Ph.D., returns with a look at the officers who served in the 17th’s Grenadier Company during the war. As always, we are grateful to Mark both for choosing the 17th Regiment for his studies and for sharing the fruits of his labor with our readers. If you enjoy these and Mark’s other entries, please post in the comments: we’re encouraging him to transform his dissertation into a book!

– Will Tatum

In this post I will provide sketches of the three officers who served in the grenadier company of the 17th during most of the American Revolution, with the addition of two others who joined it in 1781. For most of the period of the war the regiment contained twelve companies: eight companies of the line; two specialist companies, grenadiers and light infantry, known as the “flank” companies; and two “additional” companies that remained in the British Isles recruiting and forwarding men overseas to the regiment. Flank companies were usually detached from the regiment during the war and served in separate battalions of grenadiers and light infantry. Their officer compliment consisted of a captain and two lieutenants, in contrast to the average line company, which contained a captain (or field officer or captain lieutenant), a lieutenant and an ensign. Enlisted grenadiers were chosen in part for their height and physique, though this probably became less important on wartime service, when qualities of steadiness, toughness and endurance were paramount. For officers, service in the flank companies was prized as a vehicle for furthering one’s reputation, career and professional expertise. Eleven officers served in the light company of the 17th during the war, reflecting its almost constant active service and high level of casualties. The grenadier company, in contrast, though it saw hard service in the field, was officered almost entirely by three men, William Brereton, Gideon Shairp (or Sharp) and Lawford Miles, with two others, Alexander Saunderson and James Forrest, serving for the final two years of the war. Of the five three were Irish, one Scots, and one American, thus highlighting the national diversity of the officer corps during the American War.

17th Grenadier Lawson
Grenadier of the 17th Regiment by C.P. Lawson, copied from the Grenadier Book in the Prince Consort’s Library, Aldershot (Courtesy Anne S. K. Brown Collection, Providence, RI).

William Brereton, captain of the grenadier company of the 17th for much of the Revolution, is a classic example of the commitment of the Protestant Ascendancy of Ireland to military service. He came from a family of Anglo-Irish gentry that had come over to Ireland from Cheshire in the 16th century. His grandfather, William Brereton of Carrigslaney, County Carlow and Lohart Castle, county Cork, had served as High Sherriff of County Carlow in 1737. Our William’s father, Percival, was the third son, and died a captain in the 48th Foot with Braddock in 1755. Four of William’s uncles also served in the army, and his mother, Mary Lee, was the daughter of a general. A letter from William’s uncle Edward to Lord Amherst, soliciting a company for himself during the American Revolution, demonstrates the family ties to the military and how the connection had carried over into the next generation. He laid out his service and went on to state he “had 4 brothers officers, one of whom was killed with Braddock, and now 3 nephews in the Service.” (Burkes Family Records, Brereton Family; WO34:154, f. 147 Edward Brereton to Amherst).

Morier grenadiers 46 47 48
Grenadiers of the 46th, 47th, and 48th Regiments, circa 1751, by David Morier (Courtesy of the Royal Collection)

William was born in 1752 and purchased an ensigncy in the 17th on August 2, 1769. When Captain Edward Hope died in 1771, the succession went without purchase and Brereton became a lieutenant on Nov. 14, 1771. He became adjutant by purchase of the 17th in February, 1775 and continued to serve as adjutant until April of 1777. He purchased the captain lieutenantcy of the 17th on May 24, 1775 and purchased his captaincy later that year. He was commanding the grenadier company of the 17th by July of 1776 and, with the exception of a brief interval in July of 1780, continued to lead the grenadiers until he was promoted out of the regiment in April of 1781. (Record of service in WO25:751, f.217; dates of service in grenadier company from the rolls in WO12).

He was clearly an outstanding combat soldier, and distinguished himself during his six years as commander of the grenadier company. In 1779 his former commander, Earl Cornwallis, recommended him for promotion by summing up his service in the 17th– “He did his duty with the greatest spirit & zeal during the three campaigns in which I commanded the Grenadiers, but he more than once stepp’d forth when not particularly called upon, and without the too common apprehension of taking responsibility upon himself by his courage and good sense render’d essential service…” (WO1:1056, f. 317). One of his bolder exploits involved the capture of an American frigate, the Delaware, during the Philadelphia Campaign. On September 27, 1777, the thirty-four gun ship was attempting to deny the Delaware River to British shipping when it ran aground. A mixed force of British marines, sailors and Brereton’s grenadiers captured the ship, refloated it, and incorporated it into the Royal Navy. (Webb, Services of the 17th Regiment, pp. 73-73; Taafe, The Philadelphia Campaign, pp. 112-113).

Charles, Earl Cornwallis, as Colonel of the 33rd Regiment by H. D. Hamilton (Courtesy of Philip Mould Historical Portraits)

Perhaps the high point of his service as a grenadier came a few weeks later on the morning of October 11, 1777.  An outpost on an island near Philadelphia under the command of Major Vatass of the 10th was surprised by a rebel force.  Acting quickly and without orders, Brereton and Captain Wills, a grenadier officer of the 23d, put together a scratch force of grenadiers and Hessians, crossed over to the island, recaptured the post and rescued the garrison as it was being brought off by the rebels (WO71:84, Court-martial of John Vatass, 16 Oct 1777; and Court-martial of Richard Blackmore 21 October 1777). Continuing at the head of the grenadier company, Brereton was wounded at the battle of Monmouth in 1778.

After twelve years in the 17th Brereton purchased his majority in the 64th Foot in April of 1781. Late in the war Brereton commanded at one of the last successful British skirmishes of the war at the Battle of the Combahee River, outside Beaufort, South Carolina. On August 27, 1782, he was leading a foraging detachment (including a company from the 17th) from the garrison at Charleston when they were intercepted by an American force under Mordechai Gist and John Laurens (now of Hamilton the musical fame). Brereton ambushed the rebels, killing Laurens, capturing a howitzer and, after further skirmishes, returned to Charleston. He became a lieutenant colonel by purchase in the 58th Foot in 1789, and retired in 1792. Like many other retired officers he made himself useful during the lengthy crisis of the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars by holding a number of other military appointments; serving as paymaster for a recruiting district, as an officer in the Wiltshire Militia, and as inspecting field officer of yeomanry for the Western District.

64th Foot Button recovered SC
64th Regiment of Foot button recovered in South Carolina (Pinterest)

In 1784 William Brereton married Mary Lill, daughter of Godfrey Lill, Judge of Common Pleas for Ireland. Of his three sons who survived into adulthood, one entered the army and two served in the Royal Navy, continuing the tradition of military service. He lived at Chichester in England during his final years and died in November of 1830.

Gideon Shairp served as lieutenant of the company for the entire war. He came from a family of lowland Scottish landed gentry, the Shairps of Houston, co. Linlithgow (modern West Lothian). Born in 1756, he was the second son of Thomas Shairp, of Houston, whose children followed the classic pattern of gentry with strong ties to the services. Thomas, the eldest, inherited the estate, married and produced heirs; our Gideon entered the army, the third son went into the Royal Navy and the two youngest went into the army as well (family info from Burkes Landed Gentry, 1853, p. 1222 Shairp of Houston).  Gideon purchased an ensigncy in the 17th on August 31, 1774, and was assigned to the grenadier company in August or September of 1775. As part of the augmentation of the army he was promoted to lieutenant without purchase on August 23, 1775 and served as the senior lieutenant of the grenadier company from 1775 through 1783. He purchased his captain lieutenantcy on Sept 14, 1787, became captain a month later and after twenty-one years in the 17th was promoted out as major to a new corps in May of 1795. He shifted to a more stable berth as major to the 22nd Foot in September of the same year and became lieutenant colonel to the 9th Foot in August of 1799. Gideon was serving as quartermaster general of Ireland at the time of his death in 1806. As far as I can tell, he never married. In his will he leaves his estate to his brother Walter, his baggage to his servant, and a ceremonial sword presented to him by the officers of the 9th to his friend, Major General Browning. (PCC Will proved 1806).

9th regiment beltplate
Beltplate of the 9th Regiment, circa 1800 (Pinterest)

The third grenadier officer is another Irishman, Lawford Miles. His family was minor gentry in County Tipperary. His father, Edward Miles, gent, of Ballyloughan, died in 1778, leaving six daughters and five sons. At some point our Lawford inherited the estate of his uncle in Rochestown, and the family also owned land at Clonmel and Clogheen, all in Tipperary (Irish Wills, p.349; online list of Tipperary freeholders 1775-6) He entered the 17th as an ensign without purchase on May 1, 1775, and became a lieutenant, also without purchase, on September 8, 1775. He was serving as the junior lieutenant of the grenadier company by July of 1776 and served in the company at least until February of 1781. Miles purchased his company in the 17th on April 29, 1781 and was serving with the main body of the regiment at the surrender of Yorktown. He was the only captain chosen to accompany the regiment into captivity, and found his time as a prisoner had its dangers as well.  He “was also one of the capts for whom the Americans drew lotts when Capt Asgill of the Guards was the unfortunate person” (WO1:1024 f. 775, Lawford Miles to Young, 7 Aug. 1784). This refers to the Asgill affair of 1782. In retaliation for the hanging of a rebel captain by American loyalists, George Washington responded by having British POWs of the same rank draw lots for hanging. Charles Asgill was chosen, but in the end the American Congress set him free. (see Digital Encyclopedia of George Washington, Asgill Affair). Miles retired from the 17th and the army in November of 1789. He died without heirs in 1809. Family sources style him as Colonel Miles at the time of his death, but I have found no evidence of further service in the regular forces. (BLG 1862, Barton of Rochestown).

Charles Asgill

Two other officers, Alexander Saunderson and James Forrest, joined Gideon Shairp in 1781 and served until the end in 1783. Saunderson was yet another member of the Irish gentry. The Saundersons of Castle Saunderson, County Cavan, came over from Scotland in the early 17th century. Alexander’s father, Alexander senior, was head of the estate and served as High Sherriff of  Cavan in 1758. Our Alexander was the second son (see BLG of Ireland 1904, Saunderson of Castle Saunderson). Unfortunately for him, his father, at least according to family lore, fit the stereotype of the wastrel Irish gentleman. He was a spendthrift and a gambler and spent much of his time racing horses at Curragh and elsewhere. Rumored to have been a member of the Hell Fire Club in the Wicklow Hills, he became a wanderer after Castle Saunderson was damaged by fire. (Henry Saunderson, “Saundersons of Castle Saunderson”, 1936). Our Alexander was born circa 1756. He entered the army as an ensign in the 37th Foot on September 30, 1775 and became a lieutenant in the same regiment on May 20, 1778. He came to the 17th as a captain on April 29, 1781, and was Captain of the grenadier company by July of 1781. In 1783 the regiment was reduced from twelve companies to ten as the British army returned to the peacetime establishment, and Saunderson, as one of the two junior captains, was put onto the half pay. With the coming of a new crisis in 1792 he found his way onto active service by trading his half pay for a captaincy in the 69th Foot on June 30th. Saunderson remained in the 69th for the remainder of his career, becoming a brevet major on March 1, 1794, a major on July 1, 1796, and a lieutenant colonel on March 30, 1797. He left the service in 1800, and died childless in 1803, leaving his estate to his wife Aurelia. (PCC Will proved 1803)

Finally, we have an American, James Forrest, one of possibly eight or more in the 17th during the period of the revolution. He was born in 1761, the year that James senior, his father, moved the family from Ireland to Boston, so our James may have been born in Ireland. His father was a prosperous merchant before the war and lost his fortune as a result of his loyalist support of the British cause (E. Alfred Jones, “The Loyalists of Massachusetts”, 1930). James senior raised the Loyal Irish Volunteers in Boston in 1775, and contributed two sons to the British forces. Our James joined the 38th Foot as a volunteer in 1777. Gentlemen without the money to purchase or the influence to find their way into the service often joined serving regiments as “volunteers”, hoping to be appointed to vacant commissions after proving themselves in the field. James was wounded while serving with the 38th at the battle of Germantown and was appointed ensign in the regiment in October of 1777. A letter James wrote in March of 1780 seeking a company in a loyalist corps expresses the frustration of those trying to get ahead without financial means: “I have not the most distant prospect of promotion in the 38th, the repeated misfortunes my Father has met with since the commencement of the Rebellion put it out of his power to purchase for me.” (Clinton Papers, Forrest to William Crosbie, March 3, 1780). Instead of transferring to the loyalist units he was appointed lieutenant without purchase to the 17th Foot on February 19, 1781 and seems to have joined the grenadier company about the same time as Saunderson. James Forrest retired as a lieutenant in September of 1788.


   Dr. Mark Odintz

conducted his graduate work in history at the University of Michigan back in the 1980s and wrote his dissertation on “The British Officer Corps 1754-1783”. He became a public historian with the Texas State Historical Association in 1988, spending over twenty years as a writer, editor and finally managing editor of the New Handbook of Texas, an online encyclopedia of Texas history. Since retiring from the association he has been working on turning his dissertation into a book. He lives in Austin.

Music Made Easy: A Guide to Period Playing

As a folk music lover myself, I grew up around listening to jigs and contra style songs as my parents met and continued to go clogging when I was a kid. I’m very excited to introduce Tim MacDonald a professional performer and researcher of 18th-century Scottish fiddle music and a good friend of mine. This post is filled with fun facts, images and tunes. Enjoy!

Mary – An attached follower of the 17th Regiment of Infantry

And for this reason, in every age, the musick of that time seems best, and they say, Are wee not wonderfully improved? And so comparing what they doe know, with what they doe not know, they are as clear of opinion, as they that doubdt nothing.

~Roger North, ca. 1726

Much of the look of a recreated 1770s camp can be recreated faithfully with relatively obvious documentation. The tin kettle hanging over the fire was copied from an original excavated at a military site. The crossbar that it hangs on was chosen after reading a paper that analyzed dozens of images and other accounts of period military cooking. The stew boiling in it was based off of a documented ration issue and a description in a soldier’s journal. And so on and so forth. Gathering, evaluating, and applying all of these sources requires a tremendous amount of insight and plain old hard work. But there’s usually a sense of how your interpretation measures up. Does your coat match an original? Well done!

Mount Vernon, Virginia 2016 — Wilson Freeman Drifting Focus

The sounds of that same camp, though, are much less concrete. In the 18th century as now, music was commonly-heard and well-loved. And in the pre-recording era, an even higher percentage of the population played an instrument, and musicians could be found everywhere from the drawing rooms of the upper class to the earth-floored houses of the lower class, from the taverns (many of which had loaner instruments available) to the tbmedrill of a North Carolina militia unit, which in July of 1775 featured “a very ill-beat drum and a fiddler, who was also in his shirt with a long sword and a cue in his hair, who played with all his might”. But what did it sound like? Nobody will ever know for sure— there are (obviously) no surviving musicians and no recordings, and thus no guarantee that the modern performer will get it exactly right. But all is not lost. There’s still a wealth of tremendously helpful documentation, and there’s a lot of value in trying to get as close to a period sound as possible. Here are some considerations:

  1. Get the equipment right. Many common instruments of today didn’t exist in their current form in the 18th century. Much as an M-16 rifle is no substitute for a Brown Bess, a modern
     Col. Maxwell (1785) John Smart (c. 1740-1811)

    violin, guitar, tin whistle, or similar is no substitute for a Baroque violin, cittern, or flageolet. Cataloguing period-correct instruments and describing their properties would fill up this entire blog post, but the information is easy to find (usually by Googling “baroque [name of instrument you play here]”, then confirming with period accounts and artwork. Material culture still matters, and all your material culture research skills still apply. It’s not just a simple matter of appearance or even acoustics: playing a period instrument instead of its modern counterpart dramatically changes how you go about making music on it. Returning to the firearm analogy, think of how using an M-16 instead of a Bess changes everything from the manual of arms to the tactics involved in fighting with it…that same level of difference exists between playing a tune on a modern, metal-strung violin with a concave hatchethead bow and a gut-strung violin with a convex pikehead bow. It’s hard to progress unless you’re using the right equipment.

  2. Forget about folk music. It’s very tempting to learn folk tunes, reflect on how there’s an unbroken tradition of playing them that stretches back to the 18th century, and then play them unaltered at events. Resist this temptation. First of all, tradition slowly mutates things over time, and 240 years of mutation adds up to a lot. Second of all, the term “folk music” is fairly problematic in an 18th-century context: there was no distinction between “folk” and “classical” players, everyone played everything (limited solely by their skill level and the functions they were playing for).
  3. Play the right tunes. Many pieces we consider “old” today actually originated in
    the 19th century, and many period-correct tunes have been forgotten about. Fortunately, there’s a wealth of surviving tune collections in both published and manuscript form. They can be found online at IMSLP,, the websites of good libraries (such as the National Library of Scotland), and elsewhere, or in person at major libraries (research-oriented libraries are usually better than lending libraries) or the office of a friend already involved in early music. What collections to look for first? Try searching newspaper archives for publication announcements, period accounts for tunes mentioned by name or catalogues of music collections of notable people (such as Thomas Jefferson) or sites (such as Williamsburg).
  4. Play them the “right” way. The catch-all term for playing historic music is HIP: Historically-Informed Performance. As alluded to above, it’d be unfair to call it HRP (Historically-Replicating Performance) or similar because that’s impossible. But there’s a big difference between letting the I stand for “Informed” and letting it stand for “Ignorant”. What to do? Read period treatises on music-making (I’ve listed a few popular ones here). Read modern commentary on the philosophy of 18th-century musicmaking (The End of Early Music and The Weapons of Rhetoric) are good places to start. Read about how the tunes were used. If they were played for dancing, try to recreate the dances. Play a lot, experimenting with different interpretations (and everything that entails: different affects, different tempi, different ornamentation…). Recreate period-correct ensembles (violin + cello and one-keyed flute + harpsichord are two easy and popular options). I’ve been amazed at how I used to dislike certain popular tunes but eventually found an interpretation that made it all make sense and led to really compelling music. It’s hard, but it’s well worth it.
  5. Display 18th century musical values. This is linked with #4. Throughout the 18th century (and before)—and much less so today—the following was prized in music: a) Composing one’s own music. b) Personal interpretations of the music, fuelled by a heavy dose of improvisation (quoth Mozart in a 1778 letter: “[The performer should play] so that one believes that the music was composed by the person who is playing it.”) c) So-called “rhetorical” playing: performing as if the music was a speech being presented in public, not just a string of notes. What does this mean? Phrasing appropriately (adding “punctuation” between the notes), changing dynamics (nobody speaks in a monotone), and cycling through various affects (even a eulogy isn’t sad for its entire duration—it’ll have sad parts and angry parts and even funny parts and happy parts and so much more).
High Life Below Stairs (1763) John Collett (1725-1780) Colonial Williamsburg Foundation

This is a very brief introduction to a very complex topic, but I hope it points you in the right direction! Happy musicking!!

timbioTim Macdonald
is a professional performer and researcher of 18th-century Scottish fiddle music. He’s recently returned from the Musica Scotica conference in Scotland, where he presented a paper on the life and work of composer Robert Mackintosh (1740? – 1807, and frequently performs with ‘cellist Jeremy Ward as the creatively-named fiddle duo Tim Macdonald & Jeremy Ward. When not involved with some aspect of music, he can be found running silly distances, studying silly languages (currently Braid Scots), helping out at church, or mucking about at an AWI reenactment.

Listen to Tim Macdonald recreate the sounds of the 18th Century 

Tim & Jeremy Live at the Midwest Sing & Stomp VIEW
Tim & Jeremy Live Wife Jigs VIEW