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Provincial Archives of New Brunswick

Fort Havoc (Wallace Hale)

Info The language of the text is the original used by Wallace Hale. Records acquired by the Provincial Archives are not translated from the language in which they originate.

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Old Muster Rolls of DeLancey's Army

 

How They Were Preserved and What They Tell Us

 

On the 15th July 1776, Colonel Edward Winslow, father of the late Sheriff Winslow, of Carleton County, was appointed by Sir William Howe to the position of "Muster-Master General of all his Majesty's Provincial Forces, raised and to be raised within the district of North America from Nova Scotia to West Florida inclusive." Only one of the Provincial corps had at that time been organized, namely the New York Volunteers, but before the close of the year warrants were issued for raising several brigades and regiments including the Queens Rangers, the New Jersey Volunteers and the three De Lancey's battalions. The recruits enrolled for these corps were distributed amongst the posts garrisoned by the British regulars for the purpose of drill and instruction.

After the organization of the loyalist regiments it was judged necessary to muster them all once in two months in oder ro properly check the subsistence accounts and pay rolls. The muster-master general was therefore obliged to visit the headquarters of the several corps six times in the year and this involved travelling to Rhode Island and Philadelphia, where provincial corps were being formed as well as at New York and vicinity. Sir Wm. Howe soon after appointed deputies for Col. Winslow at the more distant centres such as Rhode Island, Halifax and Charlestown. Ward Chipman was appointed Col. Winslow's deputy muster-master at New York about the close of the year 1777. A letter written shortly after by Winslow proves that his office was no sinecure. "I am under a necessity," he says, "not only of mustering the Provincial Forces six times a year, exclusive of the partial musters, but also of adjusting and certifying every abstract for pay of officers, noncommissioned officers and private men. At a moderate computation I do not ride less that 260 or 270 miles every muster and I am obliged to keep one person constantly employed in my office."

Ward Chipman was an invaluable assistant to the muster master general; he brought his executive ability and business like habits to bear upon the work of his office, in the execution of which every return was carefully examined and systematically filed.

On the removal of Col. Winslow and his friend Chipman to this province at the close of the war they brought with them many valuable papers and documents including the Muster Roll of the old loyalist regiments. The latter were in the course of time deposited in the museum of the Mechanics Institute at St. John. Some years ago when the public interest in the Mechanics Institute began to flag it was deemed advisable to close the reading room and dispose of the museum and library. In the scattering that then took place the old muster rolls narrowly escaped being consigned to the junk shop. They were however fortunately rescued by Mr. Jonas Howe, a member of the New Brunswick Historical Society. The muster rolls are not complete but the collection is nevertheless a very interesting and valuable one. It is doubtful if anybody, unless it be Mr. Howe, has ever thoroughly examined it. This need not be wondered at since thorough examination even supposing a man were to give all his time to the task, would be a matter not of days but of weeks. The mass of manuscript fills three boxes each as large as a good sized trunk.

For certain periods of the war, notably the year 1780, the collection of muster rolls is imperfect. It will frequently be found on taking up a bundle that the roll of one or more companies is missing and sometimes an entire battalion is wanting. However the collection is so voluminous, the musters being made so frequently, that it is easy in the case of any regiment to follow it through all its campaigns, noting the changes made in its personnel from time to time, and even in measure to determine its fortunes as the war progressed.

The writer must rest satisfied with making a very few observations regarding the De Lancey's battalions. There were numerous changes during the continuance of the war both amongst the officers and men. Of the sixteen captains by whose efforts the battalions were originally raised, but four remained at the head of their companies at the close of the war; these were Captains Jacob Smith, George Dunbar, James Galbreath and Barent Roorback. Among the subalterns the changes were equally great; lieutenants in the course of promotion became captains and ensigns became lieutenants, and as the system appears to have been that of regimental promotion, officers were frequently transferred from one company to another. A number of these transfers were necessary at the time the first and second battalions were amalgamated in South Carolina about the latter part of the yar 1781.

Ensign Richard Boyle of Capt. Jacob Smith's company was perhaps the only subaltern who served in the same company and under the same captain throughout the war. (In the Woodstock grant Ensign Boyle drew the lot above the Hodgdon road where the old Rectory stands.) Lieut. B. P. Griffith was first commissioned in Lt. Col. Stephen DeLancey's company but his palce having been filled while he was a prisoner in the enemy's hands, he was on securing his liberty transferred to Capt. George Dunbar's company; on the union of the two battalions a couple of years later he became lieutenant of Capt. Jacob Smith's company.

From the last muster rolls taken at Long Island in August 1783 we learn that the officers and men whose names occur in the Woodstock grant, at the time of the disbandment belonged to the ten companies of the battalions in the following proportions:—

Companies Officers Sergeants Corporals Privates Total
           
Gen. DeLancey's 4   2 10 16
Lt-Col. Cruger's   2 3 6 11
Major Greene's 2 1 1 7 11
Capt. Smith's 3   1 5 9
Capt. Dunbar's 1 1 1 5 8
Capt. Roorbach's   3   8 11
Capt. Galbreath's   3 1 8 12
Capt. Thos. French's 3 1 1 5 10
Capt. Geo. Kerr's 1 1   9 11
Capt. Jas. French's 1 2 2 6 11

Several officers of DeLancey's first and second battalions came to New Brunswick in addition to those who are named in the Woodstock grant and settled at various places where they became highly respected and useful citizens. Included in the number were Captains Samuel Hallet, James French and Hawes Hatch; Lieutenants Colin Campbell, Charles McPherson and Daniel Hallet.

Surgeon Nathan Smith, who was a grantee of Woodstock, settled at St. John where he was for years a prominent physician and at one time a member of the house of Assembly. He died in 1818 aged 82 years leaving one son Thos. M. Smith, father of the late George F. Smith. Dr. Smith's widow, who was a Mrs. Martin when he married her, some years after became the second wife of Sheriff Bates and at his death in 1842 was for the third time left a widow. She survived her last husband twenty-two years and died in December 1864 at the age of 95 years. Up to the day of her death she continued to receive a pension as a widow of Surgeon Smith of De Lancey's brigade. During the war Dr. Smith saw plenty of active service in the South and doubtless frequently was called upon to perform the duties of his profession. The intense mid-summer heat of Carolina proved more fatal than the field of battle; even so stout and vigorous an old campaigner as Capt. Jacob Smith is returned in one of the muster rolls as "sick in quarters," where doubtless he gladly received attention at the hands of the Surgeon of his corps. Dr. Smith is returned in one of the muster rolls as "prisoner with the rebels;" however he soon obtained his release and turning his back upon his rebellious countrymen sought a home in New Brunswick. But as we have already noted the doctor was not yet free from Yankee toils, he was again captured by the young widow Lucy Martin of Cushing Maine. One of the doctor's love letters is still in existence and is very entertaining reading. Surgeon Smith drew lot No. 4 in the Woodstock grant (just below the farm of A. R. Hay) and it was in his possession as late as the year 1803, and probably some years afterwards.

The only officers of De Lancey's Brigade who remained as permanent settlers at Woodstock were Capt. Smith and Lieut. Griffith. It is a remarkable fact that out of the 110 original grantees Capt. Smith and Lieut. Griffith are the only ones whose land or any part of it still remains in the hands of their descendants. It is certain that some of the grantees of Woostock — perhaps a majority of them, never set eyes upon their lands. They accepted them and then disposed of them for a trifle or suffered their lapse to the Crown. It is however evident that qite a party of the noncommissioned officers and men came up the river in the early part of the year 1784 under the leadership of Capt. Smith and Lieut. Griffith. The officers' grants were always interspersed among those of the men and it appears probable that the two officers just named were allowed the privilege of selecting their locations. It is said that when Capt. Smith arrived at the mouth of the Meduxnakic he remarked "well this is good enough for me," and the land at that place was accordingly alloted him in the grant.

During the course of the summer the pioneer settlers cleared away the trees and built their rude log houses. Not having horses, everything had to be done by strength of hand and they all worked together, for the most part, for the first season. Parties were sent now and then to St. John for supplies and implements which were transported from Fredericton to Woodstock with great labor. The old muskets which the soldiers were allowed to retain were of much service. Game abounded in the woods and when other provisions failed it was an easy matter to kill a moose and thus the larder was replenished. During the summer a deputy surveyor, commissioned by Charles Morris Esq., Surveyor General of Nova Scotia, laid out their lands and the lots upon being drawn fell to those whose names appear in the grant.

In our next article we shall trace the progress of the little settlement and have something further to say of its founders.

 

W. O. Raymond

 

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[Published 14 Aug. 1895]


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