Officers of the 17th Part Four- Choosing Sides in the American Revolution

This entry will be a bit different, as it will tell the story of three retired officers of the 17th who had sought new lives in America in the 1760s and 70s, only to find themselves caught up in the turmoil of the American Revolution. Faced, like all residents of the American colonies, with difficult questions of loyalty and identity, these three reacted as variously as the broader population. Richard Montgomery, the best known of the three, enthusiastically embraced the Patriot cause and died a hero of the Revolution. James Howetson stayed loyal to his king and died trying to recruit men for a Loyalist unit. The sickly William Howard was a supporter of the Patriot cause married to a Loyalist wife, and sought to achieve domestic harmony by avoiding the subject.

Clermont, in the Hudson Valley of New York, ancestral home of the Livingston Family. Burned in October 1777 by British troops and rebuilt over the following years.

First, some background. With a major commitment of British regulars to North America during the Seven Years War came increased contact between its officers and the colonial world. The elites of the British army tended to mix with colonial counterparts wherever they were stationed, seeking the “society” of polite company among merchants, planters, and professionals. At the most obvious level, dance partners often turned into wives. The correspondence of British officers of the period mentions what General James Murray, writing in 1764 from Montreal, called the “Matrimonial Distemper”, and it is easy to find dozens of examples of officers marrying into the higher reaches of colonial society. Just a few- At the very top is the marriage of General Thomas Gage to Margaret Kemble of New York, while his military secretary, Captain Gabriel Maturin, married into the Livingston family, also of New York. Other examples include Major Pierce Butler of the 29th marrying a daughter of Thomas Middleton, a prominent South Carolinian and Arthur St Clair of the 60th, who married into the Bowdoin family of Boston when stationed there in 1760. (see John Shy, Toward Lexington, pp. 354-358).

A second, and often related, attraction of the colonies was the ready availability of land. Younger sons of the British gentry often sought to improve their economic positions by settling on American estates. Occasionally they were granted land by the government, but more often they were able to purchase estates by selling their commissions and using the proceeds, or by marrying into the prosperous colonial classes. Our first example, Richard Montgomery, did a bit of both.


Richard Montgomery was born in 1738 into an Anglo-Irish landed family with a strong military tradition. His grandfather, father and older brother all served as officers in the army. Richard’s father, Thomas Montgomery, was disinherited from the family estate of Ballyleck when he married without permission, but nevertheless served as an MP for Lifford. Richard had a more extended education that most officers of the day, attending Trinity College, Dublin for two years before leaving university to join the 17th regiment. His father purchased his ensigncy for him on April 21, 1756 and Richard sailed to New York with the regiment the following year. He served through the siege of Louisbourg and, when a captain of the regiment was killed by a French sortie, was promoted to lieutenant without purchase on July 10, 1758. The 17th served in the successful siege of Ticonderoga the following year, though it appears to have been a troubled regiment. Personality conflicts among senior officers, abuse of enlisted men by officers and non-coms, desertion and indiscipline adversely affected the 17th’s performance during the early years of its service in America. The regiment began to improve in the later part of 1759 as several officers resigned and more competent ones advanced in rank. It is perhaps a sign of the professional stature of the young Richard Montgomery that he was appointed adjutant on May 15, 1760 on the court martial and dismissal of the previous adjutant. (see BLG of Ireland, 1904, p. 412, Montgomery of Beaulieu; George Montgomery, A History of Montgomery of Ballyleck; and Michael Gabriel, Major General Richard Montgomery, pp. 17-27.)

Following the conquest of French Canada the 17th participated in several grueling campaigns in the West Indies, with severe losses in the unhealthy islands. Montgomery was at the capture of Martinique and Havana, purchasing his company on May 4, 1762. The sickly remnant of the regiment returned to New York in August of that year, and spent nine months recruiting and recovering. Montgomery was among the sick, later recording that the climate of Cuba “made him lose a fine head of hair.” The regiment then served in Pontiac’s Rebellion in 1763-4. Montgomery finally returned to Europe on leave after six years of service in America, having campaigned and travelled over much of the middle colonies and Canada and with a wide circle of acquaintances among New York’s elites. (Gabriel, pp. 28-36).

Peacetime soldiering did not agree with Captain Montgomery. Frustrated with repeated unsuccessful attempts to purchase his majority and with few opportunities to excel at his profession, he eventually decided to leave the army. In 1772 he wrote to his cousin “You no doubt will be surprised when I tell you I have taken the resolution of quitting the service and dedicating the rest of my life to husbandry….And as a man with little money cuts but a bad figure in this country among Peers, Nabobs, etc, etc, I have cast my eyes on America, where my pride and poverty will be more at their ease.” Magill Wallace, a fellow officer in the 17th, Montgomery’s close friend, and related to a family of New York merchants, purchased his captaincy for over 1500 pounds. The sale of his commission and his properties in Ireland gave Montgomery the money to get started on his new career in America, and he purchased a farm in Westchester  County, New York by the spring of 1773. He married Janet Livingston, a member of one of the most powerful landowning families of New York, in July of that year, thus entering the highest circles of New York provincial society. (Gabriel, pp. 40-59)

Janet Livingston Richard Montgomery House
The Janet Livingston-Richard Montgomery House, Rhinebeck, NY. The couple’s home immediately after their marriage and before Montgomery’s departure to Canada.

As the series of crises leading to the American Revolution forced New Yorkers to take sides, the Livingstons emerged as leaders of the Patriot faction. Richard Montgomery was probably predisposed to sympathize with the Patriot cause, as he was familiar with similar struggles playing out amongst Ireland’s Protestant elites during the same period. Still, it was a gradual process for him. Though his sympathies lay with the Patriots, he also remained attached to his old comrades of the 17th. He continued to correspond with Perkins Magra, writing him in 1774 that he “entertain[ed] a more cordial regard [for the officers of the regiment] than I shall probably ever again feel for any of my fellow creatures.” Initially reluctant to engage in politics, he was selected as a delegate to the provincial congress in May of 1775. When the Continental Congress appointed George Washington as commander of the American army in June and sought out other experienced military men to act as his subordinates, Richard Montgomery was appointed a brigadier general in the new Continental army. (Gabriel, pp. 70-82).

I will give only a brief summary of his career in the American army, as his story is well known and extensively covered elsewhere. Montgomery’s served on the Canadian front, revisiting much of the ground he had campaigned over during his years in the 17th. Serving under Philip Schuyler, he helped organize the northern Continental army and was second in command as it commenced the invasion of Canada. He then commanded the army during the two month siege of St Johns, capturing it on November 3, 1775, then marched into Montreal ten days later. He led his undisciplined, sickly and poorly supplied army on to Quebec City, and died leading it in a desperate assault on the town on December 31st.  Richard Montgomery became one of the earliest heroes and martyrs of the American Revolution, and was celebrated in paintings, poetry and plays. (Gabriel, chapters five through eight).

The Death of Richard Montgomery at Quebec, by John Trumbull
Beverley Robinson
Beverley Robinson, a Hudson Valley Loyalist who would go on to command his own regiment.

My second subject was far more obscure. James Howetson (also Hewetson, Huston) was born in Scotland circa 1736 and joined the 17th as an ensign without purchase on April 29, 1762. He served in the final campaigns of the war and in Pontiac’s Rebellion and was with the regiment until he retired in 1769. A number of sources describe him as a half pay lieutenant, but I have found no evidence that he was on the half pay list or reached the rank of lieutenant. He settled in New York after leaving the regiment and married Engeltje Wendell in 1772. His wife belonged to a family of German descent long settled around Albany and Schenectady. At the outbreak of the Revolution he was living in Lunenburgh (present day Athens, Greene County, New York). Other sources list him as a resident of nearby Coxsachie. As a former British officer he was suspected of Loyalist sympathies and the Albany committee of safety forced him to sign a parole on April 30, 1775. Howeston promised to stay near his home, talk with no other Loyalists and take no action against the Revolution. He first violated his parole by helping to set up a Loyalist communication network, and received a warning from the committee. He seems to have received several other warnings, including an order to desist in recruiting for Loyalist units.


In late 1776 or early 1777, Howetson was appointed to a secret commission as captain to a loyalist battalion being raised on Livingston Manor by New York Loyalist Sir John Johnson. The large manorial estates of the Livingston family had long been a site of tension between the great proprietors and their tenants. The Livingstons, as mentioned above in Richard Montgomery’s sketch, sided with the Patriot cause, and their dissatisfied tenants tended to side with the British, hoping a Loyalist victory would lead to land reform and better economic conditions. Howetson and other Loyalists and former British officers attempted to raise a Loyalist unit among the tenants of Livingston Manor. In May of 1777 some five hundred of them gathered, hoping to join the British forces advancing from Canada. Patriot militia reacted promptly and crushed them at a skirmish known as the “Battle of Jurry Wheelers” on May 2. Many were jailed for a time, and two, including Howetson, were sentenced to death. Howetson was charged with treason for recruiting for the enemy while a citizen of New York. He seems to have been regarded as a man who was particularly culpable as he had violated his parole several times, and had been warned to cease recruiting. His court-martial, held on June 14, 1777, sentenced him to be hanged. He was executed at Albany either on July 4 or sometime in August. (see Harry Ward, The War for Independence and the Transformation of American Society (1999), p. 43; Philip Ranlet, The New York Loyalists (1986) pp. 130-2; Loyalist Trails UELAC Newsletter, 2005, biographical sketch by Gavin Watt; New York Marriages; Schenectady Digital History Archive, Hudson-Mohawk Genealogical and Family Memoirs: Wendell).

Our third officer sided with the Revolution but seems to have been too decrepit to do much about it. William Howard was born in England circa 1720. Some family historians have attempted to link him with the great northern landowners of Yorkshire and Cumbria, the Howards, Earls of Carlisle, but there is no real evidence about his family background. He was commissioned as an ensign in the 17th on July 5, 1735, became a lieutenant on April 25, 1741, became adjutant to the regiment in 1746, became a captain lieutenant on April 17, 1756 and purchased his captaincy on Nov. 22 of that year. Howard travelled to America with his regiment and served throughout the Seven Years War. One of the few glimpses of him on campaign that I have found occurred while he was part of the force besieging Fort Ticonderoga in July of 1759. On the night of July 26 the French garrison withdrew from the fort and attempted to destroy it by blowing up the powder magazine. The explosion resulted in a shower of rocks on parts of the British line and several companies of the 17th panicked and abandoned their posts. Several officers were court-martialed over the incident, including Captain William Howard. He was able to establish that he did his utmost to rally his men and bring them back to the line in good order, and was exonerated by the court. (WO71: 67, Court Martial of Captain William Howard, 30 July 1759).

Fort Ticonderoga; Ticonderoga, NY as it appears today

The first hint of his interest in settling in America comes when the regiment was stationed in New York in September of 1763, when Howard requested leave “to go down to the Jersies on leave, his concerns…require his presence.” (WO34:53, f. 128 Campbell to Amherst Sept. 30, 1763). In June of 1767, on the eve of the regiment’s return to England, he applied to General Gage for permission to sell out, as his state of health no longer permitted him to go on active service. (Gage Papers, Clements Library, Gage to Howard June 27, 1767).  He settled near Princeton in a house known as Castle Howard (thus abetting the confusion about his unlikely origins as a member of the British aristocracy), with 200 acres of land and some woodland. According to a post-Revolutionary War affidavit prepared by President Witherspoon of Princeton College, Captain Howard “lived in a genteel manner” and “was generally believed to be wealthy.” He married Sarah Hazard, most likely related to a merchant family with interests in New York and Philadelphia. (Collections of the New Jersey Historical Society, Vol. 9, p. 85 biography of Ibbetson Hamer; Recollections of Olden Times: Genealogies of the Robinson, Hazard and Sweet Families of Rhode Island, p.260)

Howard played a very small role in the Revolutionary crisis, though his views were well known to locals. According to tradition, he was a victim to gout and was confined to his room by 1776. While he was an ardent Patriot, his wife was an enthusiastic Loyalist, and insisted on entertaining British officers who passed through the community. The old veteran, forced to listen to their unwelcome political views, had painted over his mantel “No Tory Talk Here”. He died some time in 1776, and his wife promptly married another British officer, Ibbetson Hamer of the 7th Foot. Her property was confiscated in 1777 and she removed to England with her husband after the war. (above, and PCC Will of Sarah Hamer, November, 1821)

Castle Howard, Princeton, NJ, as it appears today.

None of these three former officers survived the war. Montgomery sided with the Patriots, died in battle and is remembered as a hero of the Revolution. Howetson continued to serve his king, ignored repeated warnings to cease recruiting, and was hanged, a near forgotten victim of what was, in many respects, a civil war. Howard paid, perhaps, the smallest price, with the peace of his final years disturbed by trouble in his household.

Mark 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.

Did you miss the beginning of this discussion? Find parts 1, 2, & 3! Linked there.

The 241st Anniversary of the Battle of Princeton: Surgeon Wardrop’s Account

January 3, 2018, marks the 241st Anniversary of the Battle of Princeton, arguably the most pivotal battle in the 17th Regiment of Infantry’s history. It gave them the nickname “The Heroes of Princetown,” which lasted well into the 1790s if not beyond. And the engagement also sealed the legendary status of Captain William “Willie” Leslie, son of the Earl of Leven (Dr. Benjamin Rush’s one-time patron). Killed in the opening exchange of fire between General Hugh Mercer’s Brigade and the 17th, Leslie would be interred in Pluckemin with full military honors on January 5, 1777. His passing spurred a tremendous amount of correspondence and interest in the battle.

We see some of that interest reflected in the account of the battle below, which I transcribed at the National Archives of Scotland in the autumn of 2006. On May 21, 1777, John Belsches, a friend of the Leslie family, wrote to the Earl of Leven from Edinburgh to convey information gleaned from a visit by Surgeon Andrew Wardrop of the 17th (Edinburgh was a regular stop for returning Scottish military men). Belsches rendered the medical man’s name as “Wardrobe:” a little food for thought for those of you who enjoy the idea of phonetic/accented spelling. Though Belshes had not spoken directly with Wardrop at this juncture, the information below matches what we know of the battle from other sources. Beginning with commentary of Captain Leslie’s death, the dispatch provides a lengthy, albeit quick-paced, insight into the battle from a direct participant, a fitting memorial for this anniversary. It may not be a coincidence that Wardrop resigned his post in the 17th on January 31, 1777: the experience simply have have been too much for him. Wardrop had served with the regiment since July 15, 1772, and was succeeded by Surgeon’s Mate John Horne (WO65/27 Army List for 1777, The National Archives of Great Britain).

Ravages of Princeton January 5, 2017  | Photo Courtesy Drifting Focus Photography

National Archives of Scotland, General Deposit 26/9/513/8 John Belsches to Earl of Leven, Edinburgh 21 May 1777

“Mr. Wardrobe [Wardrop] who was Surgeon to the 17th is come here, tho’ I have not conversed with himself yet I have had every information that he can give relative to the fall of our lamented & dear friend his account exactly corresponds with what we heard before, Wardrobe was not with him but at about a hundred yards distance in the rear & could be of no service, as he no sooner received the shot than he instantly expired without a groan, the only motion he made was to give his watch to his servant, who put the body on a baggage cart & conducted it for a considerable time in spite of a very heavy fire from the Enemy but at last he was obliged to abandon it & follow the regt or must have given himself up prisoner to the provincials which wd. have served no good purpose__ Wardrobes account of the affair is that the 17 & 56 [55th Regt] were on their march from Princetown to join a detachment of the army at Trentown when they were about a mile & a half from the former the advanced guard discovered a body of Americans which tho’ superior in number Coll Mawhood had no doubt of defeating, however he went himself to reconoitre them & discovered their vast superiority in numbers wh…”

Battle of Princeton Jan 31, 2017 | Photo courtesy Brook Lyles  

“…made him wish to retreat to the Town from whence he had come but this he found impossible as the Enemy were so near, Their was a rising ground which commanded the country about half a mile back & about a quarter of a mile off the road this he wished to gain & dress up the two regts. with 50 light horse on one flank & /50,/who were dismounted/, on the other; The Americans endeavoured [sic] also to gain the rising ground & their first Column reached one side of it rather before the two regts. got to the other, so that just when the 17th reached the top they received the fire of this column composed of about 2000 men by which all the mischief was done The 56 [55th] /who wd. not advance in a line with the 17th inspite of Coll Mawhood frequently calling out to Capt. who commanded them to mind his orders & come up/ as soon as they saw such a slaughter among the first rank of the 17th, immediately run off on their commanding officer saying it was all over with the others; The 17th returned a very well levelled fire at the provincial Colm. & instantly leaped over some rails which were [before] them & Charged them wt their bayonets [word missing from tear in letter] tho’ ten times their number almost, they ran off & retreated to the other Colms. of the rebels four in number, & consisting of 2000 men each when the provincials first fired they were about 25 paces he thinks from the 17th. & is certain they were not above 30_ Upon the whole rebel army advancing, the 17th Regt. & the 50 light horse who were mounted /&who behaved very well/ retreated as fast as possible leaving their killed & wounded, when Washington came up he assured Capt. McPherson & the other wounded that their [sic] was not a private man in that regt. but should be used like an officer on account of their gallant behavior__ The 56th [55th] run off in the greatest confusion to Princetown_ The 40th who were left to guard Prtn. never came up with the 17, Altho’ Col. Mawhood sent for them as soon as he suspected the strength of the enemy__ So far as to what relates to the 17 my paper will admit of no more———-“

Gravestone of Captain William Leslie at the Pluckemin Presbyterian Church, January 1, 2018 (William P. Tatum III)

For disambiguation purposes: the Captain McPherson mentioned above was Captain-Lieutenant John McPherson, who commanded the Colonel’s Company. McPherson, one of three captains present with the regiment on January 3rd, was shot through the lungs and spent several months recovering behind rebel lines before being exchanged and sailing home to Edinburgh. On January 4th, he was promoted to full captain and would retire from the regiment in 1778, dying a few years thereafter. The account above greatly exaggerates the number of rebel troops involved in the battle and leaves out some significant British forces, including a battery of the Royal Regiment of Artillery and various smaller elements of units involved in the fight. Nevertheless, it provides a stunning testimony to the ferocious engagement that took place 241 years ago.

biopic-willDR. WILL TATUM PhD.
Will 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.

Follow-Up: “Like a Pedlar’s Pack.”: Blanket Rolls and Slings

Part 3 to A Hypothesis Regarding British Knapsack Evolution Read Parts 1 & 2.

“Square knapsacks are most convenient …”

While British troops used blanket slings instead of knapsacks during several campaigns, one reason being the “ill Conveniency” of their packs (whatever that might mean), slung blankets had their own inconveniences, one of those being having to undo them every night and re-roll them before marching. Here we have American surgeon Dr. Benjamin Rush’s observations while tending  to American wounded after the Battle of Brandywine:

One of the [British] officers, a subaltern, observed to me that his soldiers were infants that required constant attendance, and said as a proof of it that although they had blankets tied to their backs, yet such was their laziness that they would sleep in the dew and cold without them rather than have the trouble of untying and opening them. He said his business every night before he slept was to see that no soldier in his company laid down without a blanket.”1

 1508640_10154320776657306_8487599008556681262_n.jpg12208614_895820370506034_7437744418245333566_n     Welbourne Immersion Event 2015

   That said, British troops certainly used slings, and likely used rolled blankets slung over the shoulder, as well (see image of 25th Regiment soldier at Minorca, below). Here are a series of British narratives or general orders mentioning blanket slings, or occasions when blankets were to be carried without knapsacks.

84th Regiment, “point au Trimble,” Quebec, 18 August 1776, “Every Man to be pervided With a Topline [tumpline] if Wanted and to prade Opisite the Church, on Thursday Morning With thire Arms Accutements and packs, properly Made up as for a March.”2

Brigade of Guards, orders, 19 August 1776, “When the Brigade disembarks two Gills of Rum at most must be put into each Man’s Canteen which must be fill’d up with Water. Every Man is to disembark with a Blanket, in which he is to carry three days provisions, one Shirt, one pair of Socks, & one pair of Shoes. A careful Man to be left on Board each Ship to take care of the Mens Knapsacks, if there are any Convalescents they may be order’d for this.”3

Photo courtesy: Damian Niescior The Things We Carry

Capt. William Leslie, 17th Regiment of Foot, 2 September 1776, “”Bedford Long Island Sept. 2nd 1776… The Day after their Retreat we had orders to march to the ground we are now encamped upon, near the Village of Bedford: It is now a fortnight we have lain upon the ground wrapt in our Blankets, and thank God who supports us when we stand most in need, I have never enjoyed better health in my Life. My whole stock consists of two shirts 2 pr of shoes, 2 Handkerchiefs half of which I use, the other half I carry in my Blanket, like a Pedlar’s Pack.”4

Brigade of Guards, orders, 11 March 1777, “The Waistbelts to Carry the Bayonet & to be wore across the Shoulder.  The Captains are desired to provide Webbing for Carrying the Mens Blankets according to a pattern to be Seen at the Cantonment of Lt. Colo. Sr. J. Wrottesleys Company.  The Serjeants to Observe how they are Sewed.  The Officers to Mount Guard with their Fuzees.”5

40th Regiment orders regarding blanket slings, wallets, and contents, spring and summer 1777:6

   After Regl Orders  7 at Night [10 May 1777]

   A Return to be given immediatly from each Company to the Qr. Mr. of the Number of Shoe soles and heels wanting to Compleat each man with a pair to take with him the Ensuing Campaign

    The Regt. to parade to morrow Morning at 11 oClock with Arms, Accoutrements & Necessarys in order to be inspected by their Officers — The Necessarys to be carried in their Wallet and slung over the Right Shoulder —

R[egimental]:O[rders]  14th May 1777

    Each Compy. will immediately receive from the Qr. Mr. Serjt. 26 Slings & Wallets to put the quantity of Necesareys Intendd. to be Carrid. to the field Viz  2 shirts  1 pr. of shoes & soles  1 pr. of stockings  1 pr. of socks shoe Brushes, black ball &c Exclusive of the Necessareys they may have on (the[y] must be packd. in the snugest manner & the Blankts. done neatly round very little longer than the Wallets) to be Tyed. very close with the slings and near the end — the men that are not provided. with A blankett of their own may make use of one [of] the Cleanest Barrick Blanketts for to morrow –

After Regl. Orders 7 at Night [18 May 1777] …

The Regt: to parade to morrow Morning at 11 oClock with Arms, Accoutrements & Necessarys in order to be inspected by their Officers – The Necessarys to be carried in their Wallet and slung over the Right Shoulder … The pipe Clay brought this day from Staten Island to be divided in eight equal parts and each Company to get a dividend it is hoped the Compys: will make better use of this then thay did of the last

[Regimental Orders, 23 May 1777] …

The Non Commissd: Offrs: and Men to have their Necessareys Constantly packd: in their Wallets ready to sling in their Blanketts which they are to parade with Every morning at troop beating to Acustom them to do it with Readiness and Dispatch    The men of the Qr:Gd: to parade when the taps beat to be properly inspectd: and ready to march of[f] Immediately fter the troop has beat –

Morn.g Regl. Orders 2d June 77 …

Black tape to be provided immediately to tie the Mens Hair —    NB  It is to be had in Amboy. — The Mens Hair that is not properly Cut to be done this Day — Each Company to give in a Return to the Quarr. Masr. of the Number of Wallets & Slings wanting to Compleat each Man as the whole must have them to appear uniform in the slinging on & Carrying their Blankets & Necessarys — Any of the Wallets or Slings not properly made to be returned to the Masr. Taylor –

R[egimental]:O[rders] [9 June 1777] …

    The Commanding Offrs: of Comp[anie]s. are Immediately to settle their Accompts With the Qr: Mr: for the under Mentiond Articles According to the following rates at 4 [shillings]:8d pr Doller

Trowzrs: making &c            …………………..  £ 4:2 1/2
Wallets & Slings.                 ……………………. 2:2 1/2
Coats Cuting & Mending when at Hallafax…..       4 1/2
Do:     Do: at Amboy            ……………………..  10
Diffeichinceis on Breeches cloth
when at Staten Island.       …………….      4 1/2     Do: on Leggons               ………………………..    3

49th Foot, “Regimental Order on Board the Rochford 21 August 1777  When the Regt. Lands

Every Non Commissd Officer and soldier of the Regiment is to have with him 2 very good Shirts, Stokings, 2 pair Shoes, their Linin drawers, Linnin Leggins, half Gaiters and their Blankets very well Rold. Every thing to be perfectly Clean. Officers Commanding Companies will be answerable to the Commanding Officer that these orders are Strictly Complyed with-“7

Guards, “Brigade Morning Orders  30 August 1779   The Qr. Masters are desir’d to be as expeditious as possible in processing proper Bedding &ca from the Bk. Mr. Genl.– & Field Blankets from the Qr. Mr. Genl. for the Draughts received from England.– & to deliver to them from the Regl. Store a proper proportion of Camp Kettles, Canteens & Haversacks.

The Companies are desir’d to Compt. their Draughts with proper Straps to Carry their Blankets, & to be as expeditious as possible in Compleating them with Trowsers.”8

Brigade of Guards, “1st Battn Orders  9 September 1779   The Men lately Joind having received their Field Blankets, the Serjts. are Ordered, to see that they are Mark’d with the Initial Letters of each Mans Name. The Men are to be provided with proper Straps for Carrying them & Shewn how to Roll them up.9

Endview Plantation, 2016

Lt. Gen. Charles Earl Cornwallis’s army, South Carolina, 1780 and 1781:10

On board ship off of Charlestown, South Carolina, 15 December 1780.

General orders:

“The Corps to Compt. their Men with Camp Hatchets  Canteens, & Kettles … It is recommended to the Comdg Offrs. of Regts. to provide the Men with Night Caps before they take the Field.”

Brigade orders:

“The Necessaries of the Brigde. are to be Imdy. Comptd. to 2 Good pr. Shoes, 2 Shts. & 2 pr. Worsted Stockgs. per Man … Each Mess to be furnish’d with a Good Camp Kettle, & every Man provided with a Canteen, & Tomahawk – & the Pioneers wth. all kind of Tools. The drumrs. are to carry a good Ax Each & provide themselves with Slings for the Same.”

General orders, Ramsour’s Mills, 24 January 1781:

“When upon any Occasion the Troops may be Order’d to March without their Packs; it is not intended they Should leave their Camp Kettles and Tomahawks behind them.”

Brigade orders, 24 January 1781:

“There being a Sufficient Quantity of Leather to Compleat the Brigade in Shoes … It is recommended to … the Commandg. Officers of Companies, see their Mens Shoes immediately Soled & Repaired, & if possible that every Man when they move from this Ground take in his Blankett one pair of Spare Soles …”

43rd Regiment, Virginia,

“Apollo Transport  Of[f] Brandon James River 23rd May 1781 …

The Quarter Master will issue Canteens  Haversacks and Camp Kettles to the Battalion immediately. The Companies to send Returns for their Effectives as this is the only supply the Regiment can possible Receive during the Campaign the Soldiers cannot be to careful to preserve them.

Five Regimental Waggons will land with the Regiment. One to each Grand Division the fifth for Major Fergusons Baggage.

The Quarter Master will issue an equal proportion of the Trowzers, made since the Embarkation- to each Company to compleat them as near as possible to Two pair per Man.

It is positively Ordered that no Soldier lands with more necessaries than his Blanket, Canteen,

Haversack, Two pair of Trowzers, Two pair of Stockings, and Two Shirts, and Two pair of good  Shoes. The Remaining Necessaries of each Company to be carefully packed up and Orders will be given as soon as possible for its been taken proper care of.”11


  1. H. Butterfield, ed., Letters of Benjamin Rush, vol. I (Princeton, N.J., 1951), 154-155.
  2. 84th Regiment order book, Malcolm Fraser Papers, MG 23, K1,Vol 21, Library and Archives Canada.
  3. “Orderly Book: British Regiment Footguards, New York and New Jersey,” a 1st Battalion

Order Book covering August 1776 to January 1777, Early American Orderly Books, 1748-1817, Collections of the New-York Historical Society (Microfilm Edition – Woodbridge, N.J.: Research Publications, Inc.: 1977), reel 3, document 37.

  1. Sheldon S. Cohen, “Captain William Leslie’s ‘Paths of Glory,’” New Jersey History, 108 (1990), 63.
  2. “Howe Orderly Book 1776-1778” (actually a Brigade of Guards Orderly Book from 1st

Battalion beginning 12 March 1776, the day the Brigade for American Service was formed), Manuscript Department, William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

(Courtesy of Linnea Bass.)

  1. British Orderly Book [40th Regiment of Foot] April 20, 1777 to August 28, 1777, George Washington Papers, Presidential Papers Microfilm (Washington: Library of Congress, 1961), series 6 (Military Papers, 1755-1798), vol. 1, reel 117. See also, John U. Rees, ed., “`Necessarys

… to be Properley Packd: & Slung in their Blanketts’: Selected Transcriptions 40th Regiment of

Foot Order Book,”

  1. “Captured British Orderly Book [49th Regiment], 25 June 1777 to 10 September 1777, . George Washington Papers (microfilm), series 6, vol. 1, reel 117.
  2. “Orderly Book: First Battalion of Guards, British Army, New York” (covers all but a few days of 1779), Early American Orderly Books, N-YHS (microfilm), reel 6, document 77.
  3. Ibid.
  4. R. Newsome, ed., “A British Orderly Book, 1780-1781”, North Carolina Historical Review, vol. IX (January-October 1932), no. 2, 178-179; no. 3, 286, 287.
  5. Order book, 43rd Regiment of Foot (British), 23 May 1781 to 25 August 1781, British Museum, London, Mss. 42,449 (transcription by Gilbert V. Riddle).

biopic-johnJOHN REES
John has been involved in American War for Independence living history for 33 years, and began writing on various aspects of the armies in that conflict in 1986. In addition to publishing articles in journals such as Military Collector & Historian and Brigade Dispatch, he was a regular columnist for the quarterly newsletter Food History News for 15 years writing on soldiers’ food, wrote four entries for the Oxford Encyclopedia of American Food and Drink, and thirteen entries for the revised Thomson Gale edition of Boatner’s Encyclopedia of the American Revolution.

Many of his works may be accessed online at .


A Few Notes on Military Works in North America, 1690-1779

All images are of books in the collection of the Fort Ticonderoga Museum. The numbers in parentheses are the volume’s catalog number in the museum’s library. Photo credit: Robert S. Bartgis.

As early as An Abridgement of the English Military Discipline (Boston, 1690), American colonists were printing their own military titles. A number of these titles were reprints of London properties, but the colonial editions were often “enlarged” or “improved” for the needs of the local market.”[1]

Early titles were short: printed in smaller formats and often sold as pamphlets instead of bound books. They included manuals for militia drill, military dictionaries, and abstracts of longer works.

001 Bland002 Bland

An Abstract of Military Discipline. Boston, 1755. (586)

003 Dictionary.jpg004 Dictionary

The Gentleman’s Compleat Military Dictionary. Boston, 1759 (831).

This reflected the general state of the printing market in America before the 1770s, where most printers focused on shorter works. The market books was uncertain, and many American printers lacked the capital or desire to risk publishing longer books that might languish unsold. Some exceptions were books printed by subscription, books with guaranteed buyers such as government publications of laws and edicts, and regular sellers like psalters, books of sermons, and school books.[2]

As a result, in 18th century America most longer specialty works were imported, either at the request of a buyer or by a bookseller who bought from a publisher in England and advertised the titles available.[3] Thus when the officers of the continental army and militias such as George Washington and Henry Knox educated themselves in military theory, they were usually reading London imprints of standard works by Bland, Simes, Saxe, and so on.

005 Bland
A Treatise of Military Discipline (Bland). London, 1727. (510)
006 Saxe.jpg
Reveries, or Memoirs upon the Art of War (Saxe). London, 1757 (uncataloged)

“As to the manual exercise, the evolutions and manoeuvres of a regiment, with other knowledge necessary to the solider, you will acquire them from those authors who have treated upon these subjects, among whom Bland (the newest edition) stands foremost; also an Essay on the Art of War; Instructions for Officers, lately published in Philadelphia; the Partisan; Young; and others.”

– George Washington to William Woodford, November 10, 1775

The status quo began to change in 1775, as the heightening of hostilities between the colonies and Great Britain created a flood of demand for military books that could not keep up with imports.

“Much of this activity was centered in Philadelphia, where more than thirty works on military subjects were published in the years 1775 and 1776 alone. Initially these books were reprints or new editions of British or European standards, but publishers quickly turned to a new generation of American military authors whose works reflected the immediacy of the war.”[4]

“In a country where every gentleman is a soldier, and every soldier a student in the art of war, it necessarily follows that military treatises will be considerably sought after, and attended to”, wrote Hugh Henry Ferguson in 1775, after editing the American edition of  “Military Instructions for Officers Detached in the Field”, a Philadelphia publication. This book was a best-seller for the printer Robert Aitken, who collaborated with two other Philadelphia printers, James Humphreys, Jr. and Robert Bell, to spread out the cost, particularly of paper (roughly 75% of the cost), as well as the book’s copperplate illustrations.

007 Instructions
Military Instructions for Officers (Stevenson). Philadelphia, 1775. (527)

On May 16, 1776 Henry Knox wrote to John Adams about the need for more books:

“The officers of the army are very difficient [sic] in Books upon the military art which does not arise from their disinclination to read but the impossibility of procuring the Books in America; something has been done to remedy this at Philadelphia and I hope they will not stop short.”


008 Military Guide
The Military Guide for Young Officers. Philadelphia, 1776. (532)
009 Valiere.jpg
The Art of War, De La Valiere. Philadelphia, 1776. (494)

The British occupation of Philadelphia between September 1777 and June 1778 disrupted the city’s production of military works, but by 1779 another volume had appeared on the market: General Von Steuben’s “Regulations for the Order and Discipline of the Troops of the United States”. Paper was so short for the first edition that the printer used waste from the Pennsylvania Magazine for endpapers and spine linings. [5]

010 Steuben 1779

011 Steuben 1779
Regulations for the Order and Discipline of the Troops (Von Steuben). Philadelphia, 1779 (513)

Surviving copies attest to the poor quality of the paper available to the printers in 1779: brown from being made from lower quality rags and brittle from ineffective attempts to whiten the paper pulp paper with lime, with a heavy impression of the laid wire screen used to form each sheet. These wartime books stand in stark contrast to the supple white text block papers and marbled paper covers of some of the elegant treatises published contemporaneously in London.

012 Pocket Atlas.jpg013 Pocket Atlas

014 Pocket Atlas
The American Military Pocket Atlas. London, 1776. (852)


015 Fortification
Elements of Fortification, bound with Castrametation and Education. London, 1780. (1023)

Von Steuben’s manual was reproduced throughout the course of  the war, not just in Philadelphia but in other cities such as Boston, Massachusetts and Hartford, Connecticut. 

016 Steuben 1782
Regulations for the Order and Discipline of the Troops (Von Steuben). Hartford, 1782. (514)

Other wartime American publications included A Treatise of Artillery, and the Rules for an Army, the latter printed in Norwich, CT. Norwich had a population of about two thousand people at the time, and the printing of a manual in even so small a town demonstrates the huge demand for military literature during the war. [6]

017 Rules Army
Rules for an Army. Norwich, 1777. (518)

018 Artillery

019 Artillery
A Treatise of Artillery. Philadelphia, 1779. (556)

Between imports and domestic publication at least some American officers were able to fulfill their desire for military works, since Hessian commander Johann von Ewald wrote that,

“I was sometimes astonished when American baggage fell into our hands during that war to see how every wretched knapsack in which were only a few shirts and a pair of torn breeches would be filled up with military books.”

After the end of the war Von Steuben’s Regulations would be reprinted regularly throughout the new American states, along with many other new titles for the fledgling country.

020 Steuben 1794
Von Steuben, Boston, 1794 (517)


[1] A History of the Book in America, Volume 1: The Colonial Book in the Atlantic World, p. 85
[2] Ibid, p. 156.
[3] Ibid, p. 185.
[4] Books in the Field: Studying the Art of War in Revolutionary America. Exhibit catalog, Society of the Cincinnati, 2017. P. 10.
[5] Ibid, p. 12.
[6] Phone interview with M. Keagle, 16 October 2017



Ben Bartgis is a book conservator technician at a very large institution. This talk is excerpted from a presentation he gave at Ft. Ticonderoga in November 2017: “Bound for War: The Military Manual as Object in the Handpress Era”.

Bands of Music in the British Army 1762-1790. Part 3

In the previous two postings, we’ve looked at what a band was, who were in them, what types of music a band played, and what kind of ceremonies they played at. Perhaps most interesting to those lovers of material culture and military uniforms is what these bandsmen wore.

untitled 1
Figure 7: Detail, The Lynn Association as Review’d in the Year 1782, Artist Unknown

The uniform of a bandsman varied depending on the regiment. These men were not drummers and fifers so the rule of reversed facings does not apply to them. Ultimately, the uniform of the band was left up to the officers paying for them. One way to see what they wore is through deserter ads. This first one comes from our very own 17th:

Deserted from his Majesty’s 17th regiment of foot, quartered in Perth, John Humphreys musician, aged twenty years, size five feet six inches one-half, very swarthy complexion and jet black hair, black eyes, hollow cheeks, has a stoop in his shoulders, slender bandy limbed, has a very hoarse voice, talks thick, plays well on the French horn and fife; had on when he deserted the musician’s uniform of the regiment, viz. a scarlet frock, with white cap [sic – cape] and cuffs laced with silver, with white buttons having the number of the regiment, white cloth waistcoat and breeches, silver laced hat. He was apprehended (but escaped) on Wednesday the 7th in the Canongate; had on a bonnet, black coat, and wore a long staff in his hand.[13]

It’s important to note that the bandsman is not in reverse facings. These men were not drummers and fifers and were not held to the same rule that made them reverse colours. For most regiments, the bands simply kept the same colour coats as the enlisted and officers. The band of the 22nd Regiment did the same as the 17th. Their band wore red coats with the regiment’s buff facings, buff waistcoats and breeches.[14] 

Another deserter ad from the 21st Regiment or Royal North British Fusiliers describes:

JOHN GRANT, aged 23 years, 5 feet 2 3/4 inches high, born in Beverly, in Yorkshire, England, by trade a jockey, has brown hair, grey eyes, fair complexion, a little pitted with the smallpox, and very thin made; had on, when he deserted, his uniform blue jacket, turned up with a red cape, and cuffs. Whoever apprehends and secures the above deserter, shall, by giving proper notice to Captain NICHOLAS SUTHERLAND, Commanding Officer of the said regiment, at Philadelphia, receive ONE GUINEA reward, over and above what is allowed by Act of Parliament for apprehending deserters.

N.B. He is supposed to be gone to Maryland, as he has a wife and a plantation in that province.[15]

The most interesting fashion trend of the 18th century comes from the Turks. Janissary clothing and g became incredibly popular in bands of music. Cymbals and jingling johnnies, long poles with numerous bells, became common sights. In the image below attributed to Thomas Rowlandson, the drummer and the cymbal both wear turbans in the Janissary fashion.[16]

untitled 2
Figure 8: British Military Band, c 1790s, Attributed to Thomas Rowlandson

An even more striking example Janissary fashion is exhibited in the portrait of John

untitled 3
Figure 9: John Fraser of the Coldstream Guards, c.1790, Artist Unknown

Fraser, a percussionist in the Coldstream Guards. He wears a large turban with feathers sticking out of it. His red coat features silver lace and tassels. His sleeves are red in the upper arm but turns into a white fabric. His instrument, the tambourine, is a direct import from Janissary music.  Bands of music were integral to the martial music of the British Army. Stemming from the Harmoniemusik movement of the 18th century, regiments adapted the instrumentation to fit their needs. The talented soldier/musicians of these bands played everything from military marches to operatic symphonies. To set them apart from soldiers and drummers, their uniforms reflected the tastes of their officers as well popular movements in late 18th century pop culture.


When the 23rd Regiment was inspected on May 27, 1768, Major General Oughton said:

“The band of Musick very fine. The whole perfectly well cloathed and appointed.”[17]

After John Rowe attended the concert of Fife Major McLean in Boston, he wrote in his diary that;

“there was a large genteel Company & the best Musick I have heard performed there.”

These bands were designed to impress their officers and audiences from the songs and instruments they played down to the lace on their coats.[18]


[13] Edinburgh Advertiser, 9 October 1772. Courtesy of Don Hagist
[14] Don Hagist, “Notes on Bands of Music in the British Regiments,” Originally published in The Brigade Dispatch, Volume XXVII, No. 1 (Spring 1997), pp. 17-19.
[15] Pennsylvania Gazette, December 12, 1771. Courtesy of Don Hagist
[16] For further reading on Turkish influence on European society, see Edmund A. Bowles, “The Impact of Turkish Military Bands on European Court Festivals in the 17th and 18th Centuries, ” Early Music 34, no. 4 (2006): 533-59, Raoul F. Camus, Military music of the American Revolution, Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1977
[17] Sherri Rapp, British Regimental Bands of Musick: The Material Culture of Regimental Bands of Music According to Pictorial Documentation, Extant Clothing, and Written Descriptions 1750-1800, Accessed September 4, 2017,
[18] John Rowe, Anne Rowe Cunningham, and Edward Lillie Pierce, Letters and Diary of John Rowe: Boston Merchant, 1759-1762, 1764-1779, Boston, MA: W.B. Clarke Co., 1903, Page 185, Accessed September 3, 2017.


Joshua is an undergraduate student at Rhode Island College majoring in Secondary Education and History. He’s been researching fifers, drummers, and bands of music during the eighteenth century for the past 5 years.

Read Part 1 and Part 2! This is the final part in a 3 part post.

A Hypothesis Regarding British Knapsack Evolution part 2

While we may never learn the answers to the aforesaid questions, here are several things we do know or think we know. First, we look at a crucial clue in this discussion, but one that is accompanied with some uncertainty and a caveat or two. The first known image of a British double-pouch knapsack (see below) was found in a 71st Regiment manuscript book titled “Standing Regimental Orders in America”; the first half of the volume contains standing orders for 1775 (before the regiment arrived in North America), the second half entries for 1778, beginning 3 June and ending with a 24 August order. The context of the knapsack image is difficult to ascertain but, in my opinion, was likely done in 1778. A caveat – while we can assume it portrays a piece of British equipment, the possibility of the image showing a captured item remains in the realm of possibility. That possibility seems to be lessened by the absence of a descriptor noting such. Added to that, there are indications the British went into the war using single-pouch knapsacks, the 71st order book drawing, likely dating to 1778, being the earliest evidence for the double-pouch variety.

Screen Shot 2017-11-08 at 9.14.48 AM.png

 Next, a known item with a supposition attached to it. In February 1776 a contractor sent a proposal to convince the state of Maryland to procure for their troops his “new Invented Napsack and haversack.” In the end numbers of his knapsack were made and issued to several Maryland units, and probably some Pennsylvania and New Jersey troops. Though impossible to prove, an intriguing possibility is that the new British knapsacks were inspired by the American “Napsack and haversack,” a not unreasonable contention given the similarity in design and that the 71st knapsack drawing also shows one pouch designated to carry food.

Screen Shot 2017-11-08 at 9.16.31 AM
“Rough draft of the new Invented Napsack and haversack in one,” included with J. Young’s February 9 1776 letter to Maryland Congressman Samuel Chase. (For more see “The ‘new Invented Napsack and haversack,’ 1776.” %E2%80%9D-1776 )

From 1776, we move four years ahead, to Benjamin Warner’s service with Col. John Lamb’s 2d Continental Artillery Regiment. Given that his other tours, from 1775 to 1777, were with state or militia units, and given what we know of America knapsacks during those years, it is most likely his extant knapsack dates from his 1780 stint. Warner’s pack may have been copied from captured British equipment. The practice did occur, perhaps the best known instance being the Continental Army twenty-nine round “New Model” cartridge pouch, copied from British pouches taken with Burgoyne’s troops and first made in Massachusetts in the winter of 1777-78.



(See following page for images of the Warner knapsack.)

Screen Shot 2017-11-08 at 9.19.33 AM.png

(Above) Benjamin Warner’s Revolutionary War knapsack. This artifact has evidence a second pocket on the inside of the outer flap. (Courtesy of Fort Ticonderoga Museum) (Below) Reproduction of Warner knapsack.

Screen Shot 2017-11-08 at 9.21.58 AM.png

While Benjamin Warner’s existing knapsack is evidence that the Continental Army used doublepouch knapsacks with two shoulder straps by at least 1780, the first documentary mentions date to 1782.

Quartermaster General Timothy Pickering to Ralph Pomeroy, D.Q.M., 23 April 1782:

“I observe in your return the mention of upwards of three thousand yards of oznaburghs Tho’ this kind of linen is not the best for knapsacks yet they have very commonly been made of it. Of that in your possession I wish you to select immediately the best, & to have one thousand knapsacks made up. They should be made double, & one side painted with the cheapest paints. I will furnish you with Mr. Morris’s notes to enable you to pay for this work which cannot cost much. Be pleased to have the knapsacks made with dispatch & forwarded without delay to Colo. Hughes.”

Numbered Record Books, National Archives, 1780-July 9, 1787, vol. 26.

Timothy Pickering to Peter Anspach, 23 April 1782:

“Desire Mr. [Mery?] to examine the bolts of oznaburghs which came from Virginia, and pick out those fittest for knapsacks, & get as many made as he can: If he would cut out one of a proper shape, he could get some careful woman to cut out the residue, & employ other women to make them up. Let them be made double, & one side painted. Perhaps all the oznaburghs will answer as well as those knapsacks usually made. There are some here which were left or rather contracted for by Col. Mitchel, that are wretched indeed: I think any of our oznaburghs better by far.”

Miscellaneous Numbered Records (The Manuscript File) in the War Department Collection of Revolutionary War Records 1775–1790’s, National Archives Microfilm Publication M859, (Washington, D.C., 1971), reel 87, item no. 25353.

Also in 1782, Pierre L’Enfant, captain Corps of Engineers, painted a panorama of West Point. To one side are two groups of Continental troops, including several soldiers wearing rolled blankets atop their knapsacks, the first images showing that being done.

Screen Shot 2017-11-08 at 9.25.49 AM

Screen Shot 2017-11-08 at 9.28.06 AM
Detail of part of a group of Continental soldiers from Pierre Charles L’Enfant (1754-1825) painting of West Point and dependencies. View is from the east side of the Hudson River, at the top is the lower part of Constitution Island. This was done after August 1782, as service chevrons, worn on the saluting soldier’s left sleeve, were first authorized on the 7th of that month. Several soldiers in group are wearing knapsacks, and what appears to be a rolled blanket can be seen on top of three of the packs. (Second half of the soldier group is included in Appendix A of this monograph. Library of Congress,

Another painting shows British troops, after their surrender at Saratoga in October 1777, with rolled blankets attached to their knapsacks. Unfortunately, the painter, James Peale, was not an eyewitness, and executed the image in 1799 or 1800.

Screen Shot 2017-11-08 at 9.30.41 AM
British troops of Lt. Gen. John Burgoyne’s army as it moved off to captivity in October 1777. Painted over twenty years after the event, there are inaccuracies in some details, but the image of British soldiers on the march, fully loaded (minus firelocks) is one of the few we have. Detail from James Peale’s, “General Gates at Saratoga” (circa 1799-1800)
Featuring the 17th at the Real Time Battlefield Tour of the Princeton Battlefield, 2017.
Image provided by Wilson Freeman at Drifting Focus Photography.

Rounding out this discussion, we close with images of the earliest known surviving British double-pouch knapsack, dated to 1794 and attributed to the 97th Inverness Regiment.

Screen Shot 2017-11-08 at 9.37.52 AM.png

Screen Shot 2017-11-08 at 9.39.04 AM.png

biopic-johnJOHN REES
John has been involved in American War for Independence living history for 33 years, and began writing on various aspects of the armies in that conflict in 1986. In addition to publishing articles in journals such as Military Collector & Historian and Brigade Dispatch, he was a regular columnist for the quarterly newsletter Food History News for 15 years writing on soldiers’ food, wrote four entries for the Oxford Encyclopedia of American Food and Drink, and thirteen entries for the revised Thomson Gale edition of Boatner’s Encyclopedia of the American Revolution.

Many of his works may be accessed online at .

Read Part 1 of A Hypothesis Regarding British Knapsack Evolution Here !