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gpeace68

British Regiments on New York Island in 1783

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gpeace68   

I am researching my family history and I have reached a dead end for an ancestor who was a private in the 57th Regiment of Foot from 1783 to 1786.  I found the muster rolls that show he enlisted in the 57th on Aug. 25, 1783.  That was about a week before the formal end of the American Revolutionary War with the signing of the Treaty of Paris on Sept. 3, 1783.  He enlisted while the regiment was on New York Island (modern day Manhattan Island) and he went with the regiment to Nova Scotia in October 1783.

Many regiments reduced their ranks at that time (the 57th eliminated 2 of 10 companies).  I doubt that my ancestor would have been recruited as a raw recruit.  I believe that he transferred from another British regiment, but the previous regiment was not recorded in the muster roll.

To avoid searching the muster rolls for every other regiment existing at the time, I want to search only the rolls for the regiments that were also deployed on New York Island in the summer of 1783.  Is there a source that shows the deployments of all British regiments during this period?  I have tried to search on the internet, but the results are spotty and unreliable.

Thanks

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QSAMIKE   

It might help if you give us your ancestors full name.......

Mike

 

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jf42   

What is  your theory based on,  regarding your man's transfer from another regiment? In my experience, muster rolls usually enter the regiment from which a soldier has transferred or been drafted if he was already a serving soldier. The army like to keep track of soldiers.  Although in 1783  the regiments were being reduced to a peacetime establishment, most in America had been reduced to a fraction of their official strength and would have needed recruits to make up numbers. Back in Britain and Ireland recruiting parties were busy in the spring and summer of 1783, (whether or not they were active in the newly assigned recruiting areas.) The 57th Light Coy had been captured at Yorktown, and may still have been interned.

 

Do the Muster Rolls indicate he was actually in America when he enlisted in the 57th, or is it possible he enlisted back in Britain on the date recorded and was sent out to Nova Scotia to join the Regiment?

 

Edited by jf42

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jf42   

However, as a rough guide, the latest Order of Battle provided in the Nafziger collection :

usacac.army.mil/CAC2/CGSC/CARL/nafziger/781KAD.pdf


- shows that the garrison of New York in November 1781  included these regiments of the line, or elements thereof,  cantoned either in or around the city.
40th
22nd
37th
38th
54th
42nd
57th

The regiments that surrendered with Cornwallis at Yorktown  the previous month included:

17th
23rd
33rd
43rd
2/71st
76th

80th
82nd L Coy

+ 2 LIght Infantry Battalions

  Nafziger cites this reference book

'Encyclopedia of British Provincial and German Army units 1775-1783'  (Katcher)

If you can lay your hands on it, you may find more details, but it may also only cite information up to November 1781.



 

Edited by jf42

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gpeace68   

Thank you, jf42.  The information that you provided is very helpful.  One of the universities local to me has a copy of the Katcher book, so I will examine it soon.

i know that the 57th Regiment of Foot was on New York Island on 31 July 1783 because a muster roll was signed at that location on that date.  Most muster rolls that I have searched for that regiment cover six-month periods from 25 Dec to 24 Jun and 25 Jun to 24 Dec.  But the period around the evacuation of New York was probably not business as usual.  The next muster roll after the 31 July 1783 one was signed at Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia, on 11 Oct 1784.  This is the muster where my ancestor is shown as enlisting on 25 Aug 1783, so this muster covers more than one year.

I agree that muster rolls usually show where a soldier was transferred from or to.  I looked at the muster rolls for the 57th up to 1786 and most do show that information.  But in the muster roll covering August 1783 to October 1784 (over 14 months), no information is given for any officer or soldier about transfer to or from another unit.  The only designations next to some names (along with the date) are "enlisted", "discharged", "died", and "deserted".  My hypothesis is that, for this one muster roll, they lost track of some of the information about other units so they did not record it.

As to whether my ancestor enlisted on New York Island on 25 Aug 1783 or if he enlisted in Britain: (1) the regiment was still on New York Island on that date because the book History of the Fifty-Seventh (West Midlands) Regiment of Foot (1755-1881) by H.H. Woollright (1893) says that the regiment only transferred to Nova Scotia in Oct 1783, and (2) my ancestor wrote on a land grant application that he served during the American Revolutionary War (a claim that would not be true if he enlisted in Britain and joined the regiment in Nova Scotia).

Woollright also says that orders were issued in June 1783 to reduce the regiment from ten to eight companies.  As a result 10 drummers and 67 privates were discharged in August 1783 and provided passage with their wives and children.  That is why I don't think that new men were being recruited on New York Island on 25 Aug 1783.  My theory is that there may have been some shuffling between regiments to accommodate those who wanted to stay with a regiment in Nova Scotia and those who wanted to be discharged to Britain.  In addition to many men shown as discharged on 25 Aug, there were also very many shown as enlisted on that same day.

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jf42   

That would seem to be a valid working hypothesis; perhaps the most convincing element being the claim made in  the land grant application- (athough technically, simply  by enlisting in August 1783, one might argue  he served two months before the war was officially ended, but that is not an area I have  knowledge of). It seems to be quite  common that, for operational reasons,  Muster Rolls might be completed some time after the end date for the period they covered. It's not impossible that the relevant facts were lost, although presumably the bulk of the men (allowing for the odd death or desertion) would have been present in Nova Scotia  to provide the relevant information anew when records were being adjusted.

I take it that the Muster Roll does not state where the new men were enlisted. Clearly,  if it did then there would be no question. This detail could also have been supplied by the men.


The recording of the new enlistments on the same day as the discharge of the group being sent back to Britain is interesting; one might even think conveniently neat, except that the army were unlikely to deal in approximate dates, since it would mean paying a man more, or less, than the amount he was due.    Perhaps, these men were all enlisted 'in country' at the same place on the same day, from regiments that were shipping home. Another possibility is that these were American individuals from the Loyalist community, who were enlisting for want of other means to survive in their imminent exile. Is there a possibility that your ancestor was a colonial; perhaps even a soldier in one of the Provincial or Loyalist units?

All that said, in case I didn't express myself clearly, I think it is worth restating that, while the 57th Regiment were undoubtedly in New York in the summer of 1783, recruiting parties of the regiment, meanwhile, would have been operating back in Britain, as they would have been throughout the war. One thing we can be sure of is that the party shipped back to Britain in August 1783 were not  discharged simply because they had become surplus to requirement. Losing ten out of sixteen trained drummers at one time would have been inconvenient.  After seven years of campaigning, ill health and general exhaustion may have resulted in the older, or less robust men being weeded out. With the regiment only numbering 352 in November 1781 and 77 men being sent home in August 1783, the 57th  with a peace establishment of  about 450 enlisted men  would certainly have been in need of men, whether they found them locally or 'at home.'

Anyway, good luck. Let us know how you get on.

 

 

Edited by jf42

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" The recording of the new enlistments on the same day as the discharge of the group being sent back to Britain is interesting; one might even think conveniently neat, except that the army were unlikely to deal in approximate dates, since it would mean paying a man more, or less, than the amount he was due.    Perhaps, these men were all enlisted 'in country' at the same place on the same day, from regiments that were shipping home. Another possibility is that these were American individuals from the Loyalist community,

I assume you will have checked that the date given is his actual enlistment date and not simply the date on which the roll was compiled, which can be done by comparing the amount he was paid with the number of days between his enlistment/the start date of the roll and the date given.

 An interesting puzzle indeed, made more frustratiing in your case by the shortage of info. on the recruits.  The usual information, of course, included place or origin and trade and, as pointed out, whether he was a transfer from another regiment.  

I am currently working with rolls from 1812-14 and have come across several men listed as 'dead' who subsequently re-appear, having been captured and paroled in circumstances in which, I assume, their mates 'saw them fall'.  Frustrating when one is trying to produce a definitive list of killed.  Or survivors for that matter!

Yes, do keep us posted on how you make out, please!

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gpeace68   
1 hour ago, peter monahan said:

I assume you will have checked that the date given is his actual enlistment date and not simply the date on which the roll was compiled, which can be done by comparing the amount he was paid with the number of days between his enlistment/the start date of the roll and the date given.

The date of the muster roll is 11th October 1784 and the note next to his name says "Inlisted 25th August 1783".

I forgot to include the following excerpt from the Woollright book (page 90):

"[Major General Campbell] arrived at Annapolis on 16th of July [1784], and saw the six companies of the 57th under Captain Thompson. Only 11 officers and 200 of other ranks were present under arms, as many as thirteen officers (including the lieutenant-colonel and the major) being absent, and the men were in their old clothing. The total strength of non-commissioned officers and men (including the detachment at Fort Howe), was 357, of whom only seven were under five years' service, and 65 under 5 feet 6 inches in height."

Since only seven of 357 men had less than five years' service in July 1784 (my ancestor was still in the regiment at that time and was discharged in 1786), there is a 98% chance that he enlisted originally before July 1779.

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jf42   

Can't argue with the numbers. Looks like it's WO 12  for you, my lad.

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