The history of the Provincial Corps of Pennsylvania Loyalists is presented in 7 parts. Click below to skip to:
Part 1 - Introduction & The Philadelphia Campaign, 1777
|A History of the Provincial Corps of Pennsylvania Loyalists - Part 2 of 7|
Raising the Regiment
Notwithstanding General HOWE's rank in the regiment, the corps was actually to be commanded by William ALLEN. ALLEN had military experience, albeit on the other side of the contest, and it was felt that his influence would draw many men to serve under him.
The corps, according to its warrant, was to consist of 24 sergeants, 24 corporals, 8 drummers and 400 privates, besides commissioned officers, divided into eight companies. This was somewhat unusual in that in almost all previously raised Provincial regiments, their establishment called for 500 privates and ten companies. Perhaps the experience of those regiments not being able to fill up their quotas of men influenced the British decision to reduce the number of companies raised and thereby save the expense of too many commissioned officers for too few troops.7
The troops were to be raised by the officers ALLEN recommended to command them, and who in turn were then approved by the commander in chief. A captain was to raise 30 men, a lieutenant 15 men, and an ensign 12, in order to entitle each to their commission. By these three officers raising a total of 57 men, one full company would be raised.
The officers would draw their pay directly in relation to their success in recruiting. As for the rank & file, they would receive five dollars bounty upon enlisting, "besides Arms, Cloathing and Accoutrements, and every other Requisite proper to accommodate a Gentleman Soldier." New recruits were also promised upon their discharge at the close of the war "50 Acres of Land, where every gallant Hero may retire, and enjoy his Bottle and Lass."8
ALLEN's first order of business was to submit a list of proposed officers for HOWE's approval, and then to set those people about recruiting men. His first set included John Peter DeLANCEY to be major, Francis KEARNY and Thomas STEPHENS to be captains, and John YOUNG and Benjamin BAYNTON to be lieutenants.9
DeLANCEY was the officer with the most military experience. A member of the prestigious New York Loyalist family of Huguenot descent, he entered the army as an ensign in the 18th (Royal Irish) Regiment of Foot and was on duty with them in New York City when the rebellion broke out.
He served with them at Boston and on an expedition to Penobscot in 1775. His regiment was drafted as an understrength regiment and he left for England to recruit it the following year. Seeking a more active part in the conflict, he came back to America the following Spring with a most famous officer, Captain Patrick FERGUSON.
FERGUSON, an officer in the 70th Regiment of Foot, had invented a breech-loading rifle and received permission to arm a small number of men with it in America. Taking command of a detachment of recruits heading to America, he trained them to load and accurately fire his invention, besides teaching them light infantry maneuvers.
DeLANCEY applied to Lord George GERMAIN for permission to accompany FERGUSON but was refused. Upon a second application, this time to the King, he was granted permission, and upon his arrival in America was made lieutenant and adjutant to the British Corps of Riflemen.10
The Riflemen served with great distinction up until the Battle of Brandywine, when FERGUSON's arm was shattered by a musket ball, disabling him from further combat for almost a year. The survivors of the corps were attached to the British Light Infantry, leaving DeLANCEY without a job for the moment. It is unknown how ALLEN and DeLANCEY came to meet or why he was chosen for the majority in the battalion.
Francis KEARNY was another of those who had come from England in the Spring of 1777, possibly with John DeLANCEY. This Loyalist was born at Perth Amboy, New Jersey around 1752, which place he left in 1774 due to the violence of the times. He served as a volunteer with the army during the preceding campaign, until being appointed captain in the Pennsylvania Loyalists.11
Thomas STEPHENS was a native of England who had served as a volunteer with the Brigade of Guards during the campaign. What his connection was with anybody is unknown.12
The first subaltern officer, John YOUNG, left his home in Pennsylvania in March of 1776, hoping to join the British vessels off of New York. He managed to arrive safely on board HMS Phoenix and later set sail on another vessel for Boston to join the army.
Unfortunately for him, his vessel was wrecked on the east end of Long Island and he was captured and imprisoned for eighteen months. Upon his release, probably by exchange, he was appointed to his lieutenancy in ALLEN's regiment.13
An example of truly how much a civil war the conflict was can be shown by Benjamin BAYNTON's family. From a large and influential business family from Philadelphia, Benjamin was the only one who espoused the Loyalist cause, his brothers and other family throwing in their lot with the new government. He too served as a volunteer in the campaign leading up to the capture of Philadelphia, being commissioned lieutenant in the Pennsylvania Loyalists on 14 October.14
What is interesting about these officers is that the three senior officers had no known connection with Pennsylvania, but rather had served in the campaign leading up to Philadelphia capture. While it might have proven beneficial to have given commissions to senior officers who had some (although limited) military experience, it seriously limited the number of men raised in the regiment.
Recruits were generally raised by men who had some influence in their city or town, and for whom they had some friendship or respect. The Maryland Loyalists, raised at the same time but entirely by gentlemen from that province, enlisted many more recruits and had a much higher proportion of native recruits. Indeed, those men raised by the Pennsylvania Loyalists, in one officer's opinion, "consisted principally of vagabonds of all countries and of all denominations."15
This was perhaps the principal reason why the officers of the Pennsylvania Loyalists confined their recruiting to Philadelphia, taking in whoever was available and willing. Not knowing the countryside, they were at a distinct disadvantage, while the officers of other corps raising at the time, such as the Maryland Loyalists, the three troops of light dragoons, Bucks County Volunteers, Roman Catholic Volunteers, etc. were familiar with the land and well known.
One other thing working against the raising of men for the regiment was that Pennsylvania had already given many of its best Loyalists to other corps in the two years prior to the British arrival. Regiments such as the New Jersey Volunteers enlisted dozens, if not hundreds, of Pennsylvanians, many in the weeks just prior to the corps being raised. The Pennsylvania Rebel authorities themselves didn't help matters by imprisoning many suspected Loyalists before they ever had the chance to join the British.
The rank & file most likely included a large number of deserters from the Continental Army at Valley Forge. James PATTISON of the Royal Artillery noted in late Winter:
"The desertion from Mr. Washington's Army is very great upwards of 1600 men have deserted hither since we came into Winter Quarters some weeks ago..."16According to Joseph GALLOWAY, a prominent Philadelphia Loyalist working closely with the British command, a further 700 deserters would register by the time the British evacuated the city in June, and possibly 700 or 800 more who did not.
When one looks at the names upon the rolls of the Pennsylvania Loyalists, what stands out is the lack of families, something prominent in other Loyalist corps. Whereas it might be typical for a father, sons, brothers and cousins to all enlist in one company of a regiment, no such clusters appear in this unit, lending credence that this unit held few real Loyalists.
One who certainly wasn't was Richard JASPER, who was enlisted by Captain Thomas STEPHENS for his company on 20 November 1777.17 JASPER was enlisted directly out of the prisoners taken at Brandywine & Germantown, ostensibly as a servant for STEPHENS.
Not feeling compelled to do military duty, he deserted from the regiment on 7 February 1778. He was apprehended the ensuing Summer in New Jersey in the employ of a Rebel officer and lodged in the provost at New York on 2 July 1778. Tried by a General Court martial at Brooklyn that August, he was sentenced to severe corporal punishment, after which he served faithfully in the regiment until he was killed in distant Pensacola, in the Province of West Florida, on 4 May 1781.18
Now that recruiting was underway in earnest, the regiment was ready to be mustered to receive pay for the first time. It was hardly an impressive showing. The corps was nominally arranged in six companies, although three of them had no men in them with the exception of their commander.
This left three companies: KEARNY's, STEPHENS', and Captain Thomas COLDEN's. In keeping with the best tradition of the regiment, COLDEN was not from Pennsylvania, but rather New York, and had served in the previous campaign as a captain in the 2nd Battalion, New Jersey Volunteers.19
For the entire regiment there appeared at muster, 1 lieutenant colonel, 1 major, 2 captains, 3 lieutenants, 1 quarter master, 4 sergeants, 5 drummers & fifers, and 59 rank & file; 21 others were listed as sick in quarters or the hospital, while an additional 50 were "on command," meaning on detached duty. Two sergeants likewise were absent, as was Captain KEARNY, possibly with the 50 men on command.20
Between 14 October 1777 and the date of muster, besides the men mustered above, the corps had lost 14 deserted and 1 dead. Three more would desert the day after they were paid.21 Clearly they needed more of a Pennsylvania flavor, and that would come with the next batch of officers. Captain Joseph SWIFT, Lieutenant Ross CURRIE and Ensign Courtland TODD, the newest officers, all were inhabitants of the province.22
Two new officers however apparently were not from Pennsylvania and had no interest in remaining in the corps. One Sunday night in early March, 1778, Major John DeLANCEY reported to Lt. Col. ALLEN that he overheard Lieutenant John McGREGOR and Quarter Master Alexander McDONALD plot to desert from the corps.
DeLANCEY sent Sergeant Thomas HART and Private Alexander LOUGHLIN to clandestinely inquire of the officers to see if this indeed was their intent. While desertion of rank and file was commonplace in the army, that of the officers was rare and certainly an extraordinary crime. The two soldiers executed their duty and made their report, going so far to say that McDONALD was to be a major in the Rebel service.
There was talk of an elaborate scheme to go out on the night that a Corporal McDONALD of the 42nd Highlanders had the guard, who was to have let them through the lines. Rumor had it that Lieutenant McGREGOR had already tried to desert, once over a bridge and another time in a boat, but had failed. Private LOUGHLIN even reported that McDONALD had tried to get him to desert as well, and to get him to make a false heel for his shoes, in which to hide money.
Hearing all these accounts, Lt. Col. ALLEN ordered both officers to his quarters and confronted them. Having stated that their intent was to leave the corps, they were placed under arrest and court martialed shortly thereafter. Both officers acknowledged having problems with William ALLEN and said that they had attempted to resign their commissions, but had been delayed and refused. They denied vehemently an intention of joining the Rebels, but said they simply wished to purchase land on the Susquehanna River.
After a trial of four days both officers were acquitted, but not before some bizarre testimony on McDONALD's behalf regarding Sergeant William KANE watering the men's rum excessively.23 Sir William HOWE, while approving the sentence, published in general orders that they "have been deemed by their Corps unworthy of serving His Majesty, the Commander in Chief has thought proper to dismiss them from the King's Service."24
7 Howe to William Allen, undated, but most likely early October 1777. PRO, Headquarters Papers of the British Army in America, PRO 30/55/827.
Click here for ---> Regimental History Main Page
PA Loyalists' History:
The On-Line Institute for Advanced Loyalist Studies