"In all the various engagements which the safety, the honour, the interests of the empire have demanded, the Irish soldier has seldom, if ever, lagged behind in the career of glory."On May 19th, 1767, British transport ships left Cork Harbor bound for North America. Within the dank, damp reaches of those ships were the officers, men, women and children of the 18th (Royal Irish) Regiment of Foot. The Royal Irish had been stationed in Dublin Castle prior to their leaving Ireland. Within the ranks were a wide variety of men. The regiment's new surgeon's mate was a young Dublin native named Edward Hand. He was remarkable in that he had graduated from Trinity College with a degree in medicine and was truly qualified as a surgeon. Captain Charles Edmonstone had been promoted to captain in 1758 and would leave America much wealthier than when he landed due to land speculation around Fort Pitt. John Kelly was new to the regiment, being a draft from the 50th Foot which was remaining in Ireland. Kelly was tried for desertion in 1770 and would receive 1,000 lashes for his crime. Patrick Brannon, also on board, would not be so lucky. He was executed for desertion only a year after reaching American soil.
Sgt. Lamb of the 23rd Foot
The regiment arrived in Philadelphia in July, 1767, and must have been pleased to be on solid ground. Soon the regiment was in quarters at the Second Street Barracks in Philadelphia. On August 26th, the first of the regiment, a cadre of officers and non-commissioned officers under Capt. Edmonstone, were sent into the backwoods -- their destination being Fort Pitt. In their care were new recruits for the 34th Foot which was still garrisoning Fort Pitt. According to George Buttricke, the quartermaster, the evenings of the officers were spent in the company of Madeira and women while the regiment was stationed in Philadelphia. The regimental band even played at the commencement ceremonies of Philadelphia College in 1767. They would do so again in 1773.
The splendid days at Philadelphia were at an end however, in May, 1768. The regiment was ordered west to replace the 34th Foot in garrisoning Fort Pitt and the Illinois Country. The journey through Pennsylvania was difficult as there was never enough carriage available for the seven companies making the trip. When the regiment reached Fort Pitt, they busily prepared for the trip down the Ohio to Illinois. However, they stopped long enough to hold several court martials for desertion and theft. Several soldiers of the 34th were found guilty as was Patrick Brannon of Gen. Sebright's Company. Due to the serious nature of the Brannon's crime, he was sentenced to death. General Gage endorsed the sentence and ordered a platoon of the Royal Irish to carry out the sentence.
Two companies under Capt. Edmonstone remained at Fort Pitt. The other five companies descended the Ohio under Lt. Colonel John Wilkins. They arrived at Fort de Chartres on September 5, 1768. The 34th was officially relieved on September 7, 1768, and the 18th (Royal Irish) took over control of the Illinois Country for their distant king. The first autumn was particularly hazardous as nearly the entire garrison came down with fevers. By the end of October, 1768, three officers, twenty-five men, twelve women and fifteen children had died. At one point, only a corporal and six men were fit for duty. By February 1769, nearly all of the women and thirty-seven children had died along with forty soldiers.
Just when the garrison was getting settled in Illinois, Pontiac was killed by a band of Potawatomi at nearby Cahokia. The troops braced for trouble with the "children of the woods" but no major incidents were recorded. Minor troubles with the red men continued throughout the Royal Irish's tenure in the Illinois Country. In August, 1770, an additional company came out to Fort Chartres making the garrison total six companies including Capt. Shee's grenadiers. Four of these companies were at Fort Chartres. One was detached at Cahokia to the north and another garrisoned Kaskaskia to the south. In 1771, Gage ordered Wilkins to exercise his troops for service in the woods in preparation for a war with Spain.
In April 1772, the newly formed light company arrived at Fort Chartres along with Major Isaac Hamilton who was to replace Lt. Colonel Wilkins who had asked for a leave to settle some disputes with the local traders. The traders had sent their petitions to General Gage, and Wilkins now had to go answer those charges. He and Quartermaster Buttricke set out for New Orleans under the protection of half of the lieutenant colonel's company. Meanwhile, Hamilton had been ordered to vacate Fort Chartres leaving only a small garrison at Kaskaskia to control the Illinois Country for HM George III.
Hamilton and five companies of the Royal Irish left the Illinois Country forever in May, 1772. They would reach Fort Pitt and return to Philadelphia that fall. Left behind was a small temporary garrison under the command of Capt. Hugh Lord. Lord was left with his own light company and half of the lieutenant colonel's company. Due to the sickness in the region the surgeon, Thomas Thomasson remained behind as well.
Lord's Indian problems continued at Kaskaskia. A group of Chickasaw raided the store of Wm Murray, a Kaskaskia trader in May, 1772. Murray called to the garrison for help, and in the end several braves were killed and one taken prisoner. Lord was chastised by Gage for his use of force in quelling the disturbance, but Gage was careful to remind Lord of the faith and trust he had in Lord's abilities. Because of the Indian problems and a generally inadequate defense, a platoon of Wilkins' company that had gone to New Orleans returned to Kaskaskia and remained with that garrison.
One of Lord's immediate problems was a lack of adequate defense. Before Hamilton had started back to Fort Pitt, Lord had utilized soldier labor to start to repair the defenses at Kaskaskia. Though Kaskaskia had been garrisoned by the British since the 34th Regiment had been in Illinois in 1768, the garrison was in a state of disrepair. The fort Lord inherited had defenses that were in his words "no better than those of every other house in the Village." When he had reported this to Major Hamilton, he was ordered to build a picketed fort which he began immediately. As late as 1774, Lord still had a sizable portion of his men involved in the "King's Work at Fort Gage" as the Kaskaskia garrison was sometimes known.
The troops remained at Fort Gage through 1775. Gage's return of forces in North America on 19 July 1775 listed two companies at "Kaskaskias Illinois' Country" with 76 men. Meanwhile, the other companies were embroiled in fighting at Lexington, Concord, Bunker Hill, and New York. In April 1776, the troops were ordered to Detroit to enlarge the garrison at that post prior to a rebel attack. The troops left Kaskaskia in May 1776. The two companies, one of which had been in Illinois for eight years, arrived in Detroit in late June or early July, 1776. Capt. Lord, being senior to any of the King's 8th officers at Detroit took temporary command. On July 8, 1776 the two companies were drafted into the 8th Regiment with Capt. Lord and his officers returning to Great Britain. Some of the soldiers from the 18th were sent to Michilimackinac. Others possibly were sent to Niagara or Oswego. Others most likely journeyed to Vincennes to fight against Clark. The regiment was reformed at Dover Castle in 1776 and 1777.
In order to keep alive the heritage and traditions of the Royal Irish, we are planning to recreate Captain Lord's detachment of the Royal Irish. We plan to do this as an alternate impression with the specific intent of doing events at local historic sites and Eastern events where the Royal Irish actually served. This unit is unique in the fact its soldiers ventured throughout North America. They served at Philadelphia, New York, Boston, Detroit, Kaskaskia, Fort Pitt, Michilimackinac, and New Orleans.
If you are interested in doing a unique and locally important impression, contact Steve Baule in the 55th foot camp or by phone at (847) 509-9455, or e-mail at: