Monday, May 2, 2016

John Smith, tailor, in the 36th, 53rd and 22nd Regiments

John Smith enlisted in the 36th Regiment of Foot on 25 December 1770. For a 21 year old tailor, joining the British army offered prospects of travel and adventure unlike anything he might experience in his home town of Monkwearmouth in County Durham on the northeast coast of England. The 36th Regiment was in Jamaica when Smith enlisted, and he may have been enticed by the prospect of voyaging to that exotic location, or by the extra bounty and income sometimes offered to soldiers who served on that wealthy but disease-ridden island. It is not known whether Smith made the journey to join his regiment, or waited with other recruits in Great Britain until 1773 when the regiment returned from its nine-year tropic deployment.

Regardless of when Smith joined his regiment, he joined it in peaceful times. He probably followed his profession, learning the details of fitting and finishing the regimental uniforms that were issued annually, cutting and assembling supplemental military garments like overalls, watchcoats and winter leggings, and producing clothing bespoken by officers including garments for their soldier servants. The 36th Regiment served in Ireland from 1773 into the 1780s, where soldiers were occasionally called out to fight smugglers and quell civil disturbances, but army life consisted for the most part of military routine.

The 36th Regiment was not sent to America when war broke out there. Many of its soldiers, however, were. Regiments sent overseas needed to be brought up to strength, and this was accomplished by both recruiting and by transferring seasoned soldiers, a combination that insured war-bound regiments were not burdened with too many new recruits. In 1775 and 1776, the 36th provided over 100 men to regiments preparing for service in America. John Smith and many of his comrades went to the 53rd Regiment of Foot, one of six British regiments that sailed to Quebec in the first half of 1776. Whatever comfort and ease Smith had experienced so far in the army came to an abrupt end.

An Atlantic crossing in a transport ship, which usually took two or three months, was rigorous enough. Immediately after disembarking in Quebec, the troops went into action, chasing a collapsing American force up the Richelieu River towards Lake Champlain, retaking posts along the way that had fallen the previous autumn.

The 53rd and other British Regiments spent the winter of 1776-1777 distributed in posts along the Richelieu, isolated from each other by ice and snow, quartered in buildings but nonetheless fighting the harsh weather. As a tailor, it's possible that Smith stayed in Quebec or Montreal, but more likely he was with his regiment. Normally the regimental tailors spent the early months of the year fitting and altering the annual clothing, received late the previous year, for the upcoming campaign season. The regiments in Canada received the disappointing news, however, that their annual clothing had been captured at sea, and they would have to go on the 1777 campaign wearing the same uniforms they'd worn throughout 1776. Instead of preparing new clothing, the tailors got busy altering and repairing the uniforms that the men already had, making them as serviceable as possible for what they knew, from the previous year's experience, would be an arduous campaign.

Whatever tailoring work John Smith did during the winter months while the roads were impassable came to an end when the army received orders to march south in June 1777. Setting their sights first on the fabled fortress of Fort Ticonderoga, where British forces had suffered massive casualties two decades before, British and German troops under General John Burgoyne moved up Lake Champlain by water, then plunged in to the wilderness to invest the area surrounding the fort and its companion position on the opposite shore, Mount Independence.

Finding that Fort Ticonderoga was untenable, the American garrison retreated to the east side of Lake Chaplain during the night, and then abandoned Mount Independence as well. British light infantry and grenadiers made a rapid pursuit and caught up with their quarry at Hubbardton, Vermont, where a fierce clash occurred on 7 July 1777. Although the regiment's muster rolls don't make this clear, it appears that John Smith was in the 53rd Regiment's light infantry company at this time, for he was wounded in the neck during the fighting.

Perhaps due to this wound, Smith did not continue south with the light infantry. The 53rd Regiment remained in the area to garrison Fort Ticonderoga and the posts between there and nearby Lake George. For a while this was a safe, rear-area duty, but as Burgoyne's advance bogged down near Saratoga, American forces grew in strength and began threatening Burgoyne's supply lines.

On the night of September 13 and 14, a raid led by Col. John Brown captured over fifty men of the 53rd Regiment, including Smith. This made him a prisoner of war, but not one of those subject to the Convention of Saratoga that would be signed in October. Smith and the other prisoners from the 53rd nonetheless followed a similar path as those captured at Saratoga.

It didn't take long for the prisoners to find ways to abscond. Smith and three of his comrades, John Wishart, John Duncan and John Drury, managed to join up with a group of British sailors who were prisoners of war and were due to be exchanged. The exchange was effected, and the supposed sailors were sent to the British garrison at Halifax, Nova Scotia, where they arrived on 12 January 1778 after less than four months as prisoners of war. There they revealed their true identities, and arrangements were made to return them to the British army. The detachment of British Marines in Halifax took care of them, providing clothing and provisions which they charged to the account of the 53rd Regiment. For some reason they were sent towards New York rather than to their regiment in Canada; perhaps it was convenience due to the season, or because the exact status of the 53rd Regiment was not known (portions of the regiment had been captured, but the bulk of it returned to Quebec and served in Canada for the remainder of the war).

Smith, Wishart, Duncan, Drury and fifteen or twenty other soldiers who had effected their exchange left Halifax on a British frigate, HMS Orpheus. While at sea they were transferred to a transport ship bound for Rhode Island. They landed in Newport, Rhode Island on 30 March 1778. Able-bodied soldiers were always useful to a British garrison, so these men from Burgoyne's army began doing duty with the regiments in the Rhode Island garrison; John Smith and a dozen of his fellows from the 53rd Regiment served with the 22nd Regiment of Foot, a corps that had been in Rhode Island since December 1776. In its ranks was another tailor named John Smith, this one a year younger and hailing from Yorkshire.

The 22nd Regiment conducted a successful raid on the mainland towns of Bristol and Warren in May 1778, destroying boats and military stores that were intended for an assault on the British garrison. The Americans, with the support of the French navy, were nonetheless able to attack in August, and the garrison endured a three-week siege that culminated in a fierce battle. The 22nd Regiment suffered twelve men killed and over fifty wounded, something over 20% of its strength. It is not known whether any of the men from the northern army serving with the 22nd were part of the battle or among the casualties.

In December 1778, John Smith and his comrades in Rhode Island from the 53rd Regiment were formally drafted into the 22nd Regiment of Foot, with which they'd been serving for months already. Among them was one of the men with whom he had served in the 36th Regiment, Christian Fisher. Transferring them was much more expedient than sending them to Quebec, and they'd probably received clothing from the 22nd Regiment by this time to replace what was lost when taken prisoner and discarded to facilitate their escape.

The 22nd left Rhode Island in October 1779 and spent the rest of the war in New York City. Christian Fisher died in May 1780; John Smith served in one more major engagement, the fighting at Connecticut Farms, New Jersey that occurred in June of that year.

By 1782 the war was winding down, and it was time to catch up on paperwork. A court of inquiry heard the claims of prisoners of war who had escaped and rejoined the army, and who were due arrears of pay and clothing. Smith, Wishart, Drury and Duncan made claims for three years' worth of clothing from the 53rd Regiment. They also claimed leggings and blanket coats that they'd left behind when captured, having learned that those items, which they'd paid for themselves, had been sent back to Montreal and resold. John Smith also was due £1.13 Sterling for unspecified reasons, perhaps back pay or perhaps fees due for tailoring.

The 22nd Regiment was among the last of the British troops to leave the United States, embarking from New York in November 1783. They returned to England, where many war-weary soldiers were discharged. John Smith continued to serve until 8 June 1789, when he was discharged from the regiment at Dover Castle. Unable to sign his own name, he marked an X on his discharge form. In the usual fashion, he received extra pay to allow him to return to the place of his choice. Before returning home he went to Chelsea, near London, where he appeared before the out-pension board to make a claim for benefits. He was awarded a pension due to "having served during the whole of the American War, being wounded in the Neck at Hubbertown, and Worn out in the Service." After nineteen years of service, three regiments and one wound, the tailor from Monkwearmouth had the comfort of knowing he would receive a modest income from the government for the rest of his life.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Serjeant James Hughes, 24th Regiment: His Gun

A number of British muskets (called firelocks in their day) with regimental markings survive that were carried in America during the Revolutionary War. These weapons were owned by the regiment, not the individual soldier. They were marked in such a way as to uniquely identify the weapon, but it is rare that we can make a good assumption about which soldier carried a given weapon.

Serjeants of grenadiers carried specialized weapons, a few of which still exist. Read about the one that probably belonged to Serjeant James Hughes of the 24th Regiment of Foot.

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Monday, March 21, 2016

Upcoming Lectures, first half of 2016!

If you'd like to hear me give a talk, or get an autographed book, there are a number of opportunities to do so from March thru June 2016. I'll be giving talks at the following locations, in most cases about one or another of my books, but sometimes about other topics. Some of these events require registration, so contact the host organization for details. I hope to see you there!

Thursday 24 March, 5:30 PM: Newport Historical Society, Newport, RI

Saturday 9 April, 7:30 PM: Hale-Byrnes House, Newark, DE

Sunday 10 April, Noon-5 PM: Bergen County Historical Society, New Bridge Landing, River Edge, NJ

Monday 11 April, 6 PM: Paoli Battlefield Preservation Fund, General Warren Inne, Malvern, PA

Tuesday 12 April, 6:30 PM: Old Barracks Museum, Trenton, NJ

Friday 15 April, 7 PM: National Society, Sons of the American Revolution, Louisville, KY

Monday 23 May, 7 PM: American Revolution Round Table of Philadelphia, MaGerk's Pub and Grill, 582 South Bethlehem Pike, Ft. Washington, PA

Saturday 4 June, 1:30 PM: Stony Point Battlefield, Stony Point, NY

Saturday 11 June: Fort Plain Museum Conference on the American Revolution in the Mohawk Valley

Monday 27 June, 6 PM: Smith's Castle, North Kingstown, RI

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

John Hall, 35th Regiment, on a three-day stupor

The 65th Regiment of Foot had been in North America for seven years when fighting broke out Massachusetts in 1775. Having been overseas for so long, they were due to return to Great Britain. The outbreak of war delayed this, and soldiers of the 65th participated in the opening engagements of the American Revolution. In June of 1776, however, when the British army was reorganizing in Halifax, Nova Scotia for an upcoming campaign, the decision was made to send the regiment home. As was customary, those men who were fit for service were drafted into other regiments remaining in America; by this means, many of the regiment's soldiers went on to fight in most of the major campaigns during the next eight years of war.
Some of the drafts were already veterans of extensive service. John Hall had joined the army in 1755, at the beginning of the Seven Years' War and before the 65th Regiment was created. When the 65th was drafted, he was sent to the 35th Regiment of Foot, a corps that had arrived in Boston just in time to participate in the battle of Bunker Hill. A twenty-year veteran was a valuable asset, and in July Hall was appointed corporal.
A year later, the 35th was among the regiments garrisoning New York City while much of the British army campaigned to seize Philadelphia. Although the regiment was posted in the area of Morrisania, New York, on the fringes of the contested no-mans land in Westchester County, there were still routine and mundane duties to be done. Corporal Hall was assigned to be the orderly for the regiment's tailors, who at that time were busy making woolen leggings in anticipation of colder weather in the coming months.
Regimental tailors could be an unruly bunch, and had a reputation for requiring supervision. Corporal Hall may have resented the regiment's quartermaster for assigning him to the task of overseeing them. On September 9, 1777, Hall went on an errand to procure rum for the tailors, and didn't come back.
Three days later, a Loyalist dragoon was patrolling in the neutral ground, the swath of Westchester County that was not held by either side. He came upon Corporal John Hall, "who told him that he was glad to meet with a friend, as he wanted to go back to the Regiment." Hall then "began to damn the Rebels." The dragoon, who most likely was in either civilian clothing or the green cavalry jacket that was used by both armies, was suspicious. He apparently knew that men attempting to desert were likely to make excuses when caught, and seem abnormally anxious to befriend anyone who caught them in the act. He tried a trick to test the wandering British soldier, telling Hall that he was already among the rebels. Hall replied, "Is it true?" The dragoon responded, "Yes, you may depend it is."
Hall took the bait. When the dragoon said that he was a serjeant, Hall went on a rant: "Give me a musket, and by Jesus I will go with you, damn the Bougers I’ll fight them, the Quarter Master has used me very ill." He did indicate to the dragoon that his anger towards the quartermaster was the sole reason for his desertion, and that he wouldn't have done so otherwise. The dragoon continued the charade in an effort to get more information: If Hall enlisted with the rebels, would he not desert? No, if he did he'd be shot, and would deserve it. Hall said that many others in the 35th Regiment wanted to desert, but stopped short of offering names.
The dragoon brought Hall back to British lines, and he was then taken to the encampment of the 35th Regiment where he was confined. Put on trial for desertion a few weeks later, Corporal Hall offered a defense that was popular and all too plausible: "he went to get some Rum for the Taylors, about an hour before Sun-Sett, and being in liquor, and stupefied with having been drunk for three or four days before, he missed his road on his Return." He plead that he had no intention of deserting, and pointed out that he'd been a soldier for twenty-two years during which service he'd been twice wounded.
Two non-commissioned officers of the 35th Regiment testified to Hall's good character during the time they'd known him. The court may have been predisposed towards lenience, for they did not ask typical questions about whether the defendant had taken clothing with him, attempted to escape, or exhibited any other behavior that suggested he'd planned to abscond. Hall was found guilty, but rather than being shot (as he feared he deserved), he was sentenced to receive eight hundred lashes and to be reduced to the ranks. This was a fairly lenient punishment for the crime, suggesting that the court believed his absence was, in fact, unintended.
Hall served as a private soldier in the 35th Regiment for the next year. In the autumn of 1778 the regiment was sent to the West Indies. A two-year gap in the regiment's muster rolls makes it impossible to determine Hall's fate, as he is not on the rolls prepared in August 1780. With such a long career, he may well have been discharged, but it is also possible that the fortunes of war caught up with him and he succumbed to hostility or disease.

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Thursday, January 21, 2016

John Alexander, 4th Regiment of Foot, heard the important Article

We know very little about John Alexander, but what we know is provides some insight about the legal aspects of enlistment into the British army. He enlisted in the 4th (King's Own) Regiment of Foot, probably on 14 November 1777, in Philadelphia. It was unusual for men in America to enlist into regular British regiments during the war. Most who wished to join the army in America enlisted into the many Loyalist corps raised to augment the British army.

It's possible that Alexander was a deserter from the Continental army; a soldier named John Alexander went missing from the 5th Pennsylvania after the battle of Brandywine, but the name was common enough that we can't assume it is the same man. Several hundred men deserted from American service in the Philadelphia region in late 1777, discouraged by the string of defeats that Washington's army suffered. A substantial portion of those men are known to have enlisted into Loyalist regiments. It is entirely plausible that a few enlisted into regular British regiments, particularly if they were men with prior British army service. John Alexander may have been an escaped prisoner of war, a returned deserter, or even a veteran who had been discharged and wished to enlist again.

Whatever his background, Alexander was a British soldier from November 1777 until 4 March 1778 when he deserted. He took his spare clothing with him, but not his musket.

On 10 June, as the British were preparing to leave Philadelphia, a patrol of dragoons from the Queen's Rangers, one of the most storied Loyalist regiments, went out of Philadelphia to investigate a report that people coming in to the market from the countryside were being robbed by rebels. The dragoons scoured some woods were the rebels were reported to be hiding. One of them came upon a man "dressed in blue Coat & red Waistcoat with a Gold button and Loop to his hat, standing with a Woman," holding a musket with the butt resting on the ground. The dragoon was able to approach fairly close and challenge the man, brandishing his sword. The man claimed to be a member of the New Jersey militia, and the dragoon took him prisoner.

The militia man was put into the new jail in Philadelphia with other rebel prisoners, but was lodged in a dungeon with suspected deserters. He tried to escape by tunneling through the floor. It was his particular misfortune, however, that the jailer happened to be the former drum major of the 4th Regiment of Foot, who recognized Alexander and questioned him. Alexander initially denied his name and having met the former drum major, but when the jailor struck him with a cane Alexander admitted to both things. He was transferred to the old jail and held there with other deserters.

Preparing to march from Philadelphia to New York occupied the time of the army's administration, so Alexander was kept in confinement until the move to New York was completed; it is not known how the prisoner was conveyed. He went before a general court martial on 24 July in Brooklyn. A serjeant of the 4th Regiment testified to Alexander's enlistment, and deposed that he'd received pay and clothing from the regiment - in other words, that the army had fulfilled its obligations of the enlistment contract. An officer and a trooper of the Queen's Rangers described Alexander's capture.

Put on his defense, John Alexander gave an interesting argument. He claimed that he had not been properly enlisted and assumed himself to be only a volunteer, free to leave at any time he pleased. If he could prove this, he would have a valid case and could not be considered a deserter. He called upon a corporal in the 4th Regiment and the court questioned him:

Was Alexander ever attested as a soldier, that is, did a magistrate attest that he was legally enlisted? The corporal did not know. That worked in Alexander's favor.

Did the corporal have any doubt about the legality of Alexander's enlistment? "Not the least." Bad for Alexander.

"Did he ever hear the Prisoner say whilst he was with the 4th Regt. that he never had been attested?" "Yes he has frequently heard him say so." That was favorable for Alexander; he'd complained about not being attested, and the corporal knew it.

"Does he know of the Prisoner having ever heard the Articles of War read?" This was important, because the Articles of War spelled out the army's obligations to the soldier, and vice versa; hearing them read would mean that Alexander was aware of the laws governing enlistment and desertion. "Not the whole, but he had heard such as Circumstances would occasionally admit of." Not a clear answer. Apparently Alexander had heard only some of the Articles, those which pertained to specific events.

"Did the prisoner ever receive pay as a Soldier?" This was crucial. Alexander said that he'd never been paid, and therefore was under no obligation to the army. The corporal replied, "He received Pay from the Witness himself." Now things looked bad for Alexander.

"Does he know of the Prisoner having heard the 1st Article of War of the 6th Section read?" This Article was important for this particular case. It read,

The Penalty of Desertion: All Officers and Soldiers, who having received Pay, or having been duly inlisted in the Service, shall be convicted of having deserted the same, shall suffer death, or such other Punishment as by a Court-martial shall be inflicted. 

Notice that is says "received pay" OR "inlisted", not AND. Although he denied it, Alexander had done one of these things, received pay. As for having heard the Article, the corporal said that Alexander "has heard it frequently & the Witness himself had told him that he must look upon himself as a Soldier in His Majesty’s Service, as much as if he had been attested before a Magistrate in England."

Things looked very bad for Alexander now, but he put his own question to the corporal, perhaps in the hope of convincing the court that his enlistment was not properly handled: "Did the Prisoner ever receive any Bounty or inlisting Money?" The corporal did not know abou that, but had told him that the enlistment bounty was Guinea and a half. This was similar to peacetime enlistment bounties in Great Britain, but less than typical bounties offered there in 1778. Maybe that's what Alexander's complaint was about; perhaps he'd heard from other recruits about higher bounties. The corporal also indicated that he'd given Alexander "about three quarters of a Dollar which he had at three different times."

Alexander told the court that he'd received only a Pistereen from the corporal, "and that having lent the Corporal money, he thought that that was given him part of Payment." He said that he did not intend to desert, but had gone for wood and was captured, put into jail, and consented to join the militia to escape confinement. He explained that he'd seen the Loyalist dragoons and hidden from his comrades so that he could surrender, and that after he was in captured he sent word to the 4th Regiment so that he could return to their service.

The court was not impressed by John Alexander's testimony, particularly in light of statements by a witness that he himself had called. He was found guilty, and sentenced to death.

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Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Three Brave Army Wives

Learning about British soldiers of the American Revolution is challenging: Muster rolls give us their names, but personal information is harder to come by. It is even more difficult to learn about their wives. From documents like provision receipts and embarkation returns, we know the numbers of women who accompanied British regiments; some ten to twenty percent of British soldiers were not only married but had their wives with them in America (other wives stayed behind in Great Britain; we have no way of knowing how many). There are no lists of names of these women. From time to time we encounter stories about them, and some of those stories reveal bravery, perseverance and devotion. Here are three:

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Thursday, December 24, 2015

Garrett Barron, 29th Regiment, keeps the best Public House

At the end of a long career, a British soldier had a decision to make. When he was discharged, he could go to London and stand before the out-pension examining board at Chelsea Hospital, in the hope of being awarded a pension that would provide a small but steady income for the rest of his life. He could reenlist, either in another marching regiment if he was fit enough, or in one of the many garrison battalions that maintained installations throughout Great Britain. In some cases he could accept a grant of land in a far-away place that the British government was trying to settle; men who enlisted for service in the American Revolution, for example, were offered land grants in Nova Scotia (men were eligible for these grants if they'd enlisted after 16 December 1775 and had served for at least three years).

Or, he could leave all of these options behind and pursue a life of his own choosing. Tempting though the other offers were, a man with a homestead to return to, a trade that he was fit to practice, or connections in an place he had visited during his career might seek a future of his own choosing. That's what Garrett Barron did. He landed in Quebec in 1776 as a thirty-two year old corporal in the 29th Regiment of Foot. He was born in the parish of Davidstown in County Wicklow, Ireland, and had joined the army at the age of sixteen or seventeen. After serving three years in the 18th Regiment of Foot, he joined the 29th Regiment of Foot, the corps in which he would spend the rest of his career.

Much of that career was spent in North America. The regiment sailed from Corke, Ireland to Halifax, Nova Scotia, in 1765. Along with the 14th Regiment, the 29th famously moved to Boston in 1768. Townspeople already inflamed by unacceptable government policies aggressively showed their resentment to the troops, and tensions culminated in the Boston Massacre in March 1770. There's no evidence that Barron was directly involved in any altercations, but he surely knew the soldiers who were. The regiment was moved out of town, first to New Jersey and then to Florida where the harsh climate claimed a number of lives. Garrett Barron not only didn't succumb to disease, but advanced in rank, being appointed corporal in 1772. The following year the regiment's overseas tour ended, and the 29th returned to Great Britain for what the soldiers probably assumed would be a long period of rest and recovery.

It was not to be. When the British government committed to a protracted war in America, several regiments including the 29th were ordered to Canada. They arrived in Quebec at the beginning of summer in 1776, and immediately dislodged an American force that had the city under siege. They pursued down the Richelieu River to Lake Champlain, liberating posts along the way that had been captured the previous autumn. By October, the 29th Regiment was embarked on board a makeshift fleet of warships assembled on the lake to drive a similar, but weaker, American force off of those waters before the onset of winter. In the battle of Valcour Island, several soldiers of the 29th were killed. Brown, now a serjeant, received a wound in his thigh that required a lengthy recovery. He was reduced to a private soldier, probably to allow a healthy man to take his place as serjeant. The 29th spent the remainder of the war primarily in garrisons along the Richelieu, sending out detachments that were involved in many actions that are overlooked by most histories but which were very real to the soldiers participating in them. By 1781 he'd advanced to serjeant again.
In spite of the long, cold winters and rugged conditions that characterized rural Canada, Barron grew fond enough of the region to settle there when he was discharged from the army in June of 1784. He obtained land and established a farm at Caldwell Manor, Quebec, at the head of the Richelieu River just over the border from the new United States. His regiment had spent several years in the area, and he was certainly quite familiar with the place. He married a local woman (apparently his second marriage, although no details are known of the first). Being on the main route to Montreal and Quebec city, they took in north- or south-bound travelers. One of their guests in November 1787 was an officer of the 29th Regiment with whom Barron had served, who recorded in his diary:
we Rowed as far as Barrons farm where we stopped to breakfast and were entertained with very excellent Tea and sausages. The owner of the house was an old acquaintance of mine having been a Sergeant in the 29th Regt many Years. His house is extremely neat and clean and is by far the best Public house on the whole Communication between Albany and Montreal.
In spite of having established such a comfortable situation, Barron sold his property and moved into the wilderness; his father-in-law did the same, and they settled on adjacent properties in Hinchinbrook, a settlement forty miles directly west of Caldwell Manor. An 1888 history of the region offers a little bit about his life there:
Garret Barron was an Irish Protestant, from the county Wexford, and had served in the army. During the American war he rose to be quarter-master's sergeant of his regiment, and, at the close of the struggle, got his discharge and a grant of land in Caldwell's manor, where he became very comfortable. One of his neighbors was John Nichols, from the English side of the Borders, and his daughter he married as his second wife. When, father and son-in-law sold their places on the Champlain and moved into Hinchinbrook Barron (called captain from his rank in militia) when asked why he moved, gave as his reason that he wanted to be again in the woods. Barron squatted on 33 and Nichols on 34. Mrs Barron felt very lonesome in her new home, when her husband remarked that with 5 gallons of rum she had all the company needed. Like all old soldiers of that time, he was fond of his dram, but never got intoxicated. He was tall, over 6 feet, and in his prime must have been a powerful man. He was rough-spoken, and fond of contradiction, and especially prone to controversy with Presbyterians (he was an Episcopalian) and Catholics. There were two large stones, one on each side of his door, on one or other of which he was generally to be found in fine weather, ready for a talk with the first passer-by. He left work to his sons, and they lived poorly, as was indicated by his remark to a stranger whom he had invited to share their dinner, "Eat away; it will be long before you get as good a meal again," the bill of fare beginning and ending with potatoes and milk. Despite his provoking mode of speech, he was at heart a kindly man, and ready to share his last loaf with a neighbor. He was a Freemason and regularly attended the lodge at Chateaugay, N.Y., which he continued to call by its old name of Seventhtown.
When war visited the region in 1813, the almost-seventy-year-old Barron determined to be of assistance:
The loyal soul of old Barron was stirred by the tidings that the Americans had at last crossed on to British soil, and stiffened as were his arms he thought he could deal one more blow for his king and country. Keeping quiet his purpose, he one night took possession of his father-in-law's horse, the only one in the settlement, and getting on its back, clad in his old regimentals and his sergeant's sword by his side, struck through the woods to gain the British camp by the Chateaugay. When Nichols went out in the morning to his barn, he discovered his loss and guessed the perpetrator of it. Running into the shanty he cried to his wife, "Barron's gone to the camp and taken the old mare, and won't bring back even a hair of her tail." In this he erred, for both Barron and the mare came back safe and sound, the former much disappointed that he failed to reach the British lines until after the fighting was over.
This sounds like a typical fanciful tale, but it is corroborated by a report from the Lieutenant-Colonel commanding the advance guard that was pursuing a retreating American force. The officer's report indicates not only that Barron was useful as a guide, in gathering intelligence, and in procuring provisions, but that his wife (who was nineteen years younger than he) made use of her non-combatant gender and local connections to gather intelligence:
In obedience to your orders, I proceeded, in advance of your party, at 8 o'clock on the morning of the 24th, with Capt. Barron, by the road followed by Gen. Hampton's army in their retreat, and, from near the Lines, went eastward to the first house, from whence I sent a man, under pretext of business, towards Four Corners, to ascertain, as far as possible, the strength of the enemy's force, the position of the pickets, &c, and to return to me at Capt. Barron's. From thence, I proceeded to Capt. Barron's, where we got at 4 o'clock p.m. He sent his wife across the Lines 5 miles, for one Hollenback (from whom he has occasionally received intelligence), in order that he might affirm before me on oath his losses by the Indians, for which Colonel Boucherville promised remuneration. Mrs Barron returned at 8 o'clock, saying that Hollenback having killed a heifer, had baked it, and was gone to the camp to sell it in pieces, and that on his return, which was hourly expected, his father would send him forward...

Capt. Barron was to have followed me down as soon as Hollenback came to his house. I presume he will be here to-day, and I will report to you the information he has got from Hollenback.

Apprehensive that your men would be short of provisions, I caused Capt. Barron to send his son and another with 3 head of cattle.
Garrett Barron lived for another twenty-two years. After twenty-three years in the army, and another fifty-one as a farmer in Canada, two marriages and eight children, he died in 1835. The funeral provided one last anecdote related to this loyal old soldier:
Dying at a great age, he was buried on his own lot. At his funeral, old Mr. Gentle got annoyed at the long continued hammering, for there were no screws then, in putting on the coffin-lid, and exclaimed, "That will do." "Abundance of law is no breaking of it," retorted the carpenter, a bachelor named Fisher, as he drove in another nail. None of Barron's descendants remain in the county.

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