22nd Regiment of Foot - 18th Century Reenacting
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The French and Indian War

The French and Indian War


The 22nd (Cheshire) Regiment was raised by the Duke of Norfolk in 1689 and has been in continuous, unamalgamated service to the Crown ever since.
The 22nd first saw action in America during The French and Indian War. Briefly garrisoned in and around New York City in January 1757. The Regiment moved north to Halifax in July. Almost a year later the 22nd took part in the siege of Fortress Louisbourg. The French garrison fell on June 26th and Louisbourg stands as the 22nd's first battle honor.
Then it was "on to Quebec" with General Wolf for The Grenadier Company. Ensign Brown of the 22nd is reported to have been with Wolf when he died and although it is not documented, I like to think it was a 22nd Grenadier who fired the fatal shot into Montcalm.
In 1760 the Regiment was in Albany, New York, preparing for a little fun in the sun in the Caribbean. Ah shipwrecks, ah yellow fever. But before they went on that little expedition, two companies were detached and sent to South Carolina to help put down the Cherokee uprising. The Cherokees pacified, the two detached companies joined the rest of the Regiment in Barbados for the British campaigns against the Spanish in the Caribbean. In 1762, with the fall of Havana, the French and Spanish sued for peace and The Seven Years War was over.
1762 also marked an important event for The Regiment as Thomas Gage became it's Colonel after the drowning of General Whitmore during the Siege of Havana.
September of 1763 found the 22nd, and five other regiments, on garrison duty in Mobile, West Florida, (Alabama). Here they skirmished with Indians and took part in a brief and aborted foray up the Mississippi River. Their mission was to relieve the forts along the river as far north as Illinois but they were ambushed at the Louisiana state line and turned back. Finally, in August 1765, orders were received that the 22nd was to return to the British Isles once again. However, before leaving, the Regimental Commanding Officer discharged all the colonists that had transferred from their North American units, and also all those men who had reached the end of their terms with the Regiment and who wished to stay in America. There are quite probably descendants of those soldiers of the 22nd now living in and around Mobile, Alabama.


The American Revolution

In 1775, the Commanding Officer of the 22nd, Lt. Colonel James Abercromby, was in Boston. He had been appointed to the post of Adjutant-General of the Boston Garrison by his close friend Thomas Gage, the Commander-in -Chief of Crown Forces in America and Colonel of the 22nd Regiment. Unfortunately, on June 17th, 1775, while leading the combined Grenadier Companies of the Boston Garrison on the attack on Breeds Hill, (Bunker Hill), James Abercromby was killed. Several weeks later the 22nd landed in Boston from Ireland only to find their Commanding Officer killed, the Rebel forces preparing to put the city under siege, and their Regimental Colonel, Thomas Gage, faced with immediate recall to England.
In October, 1775, Gage was recalled and Howe took his place. In March of 1776, Howe decided to evacuate Boston and on March 15th, 1776, the 22nd left for Halifax, Nova Scotia. On June 11th, Howe's army, including the 22nd left Halifax for New York. On July 8, 1776, the 9,000 strong army landed on Staten Island, near the mouth of the Hudson River.
In August, reinforcements arrived swelling the British ranks to around 30,000 men. Howe, convinced that he now had enough men to support a major land action, decided to make his move against Putnam's American force encamped in Brooklyn. Three days of skirmishing ensued until, on the 27th, the British forces were able to drive the Americans back to their original lines and encampments. Several hundred Americans were killed and more than a thousand were taken prisoner including generals Sterling and Sullivan. British casualties stood at 94 killed and 285 wounded.
On the 29th and 30th, after an abortive peace negotiation, the American Army crossed the East River, under cover of darkness, and took up positions on Manhattan Island and New York City. Howe decided to cross his troops north of the city in a flanking move rather than risk a costly street by street battle in the city. Accordingly, the 22nd crossed over to Manhattan Island at Kips Bay unopposed, and marched to New York City which, upon word of the British advance, had been hastily abandoned by the American Army. The 22nd settled down to garrison New York City, while Howe continued on to push General Washington finally all the way out of New York and into New Jersey.
On September, 20th, around midnight, a large part of New York City was set on fire and the Regiment was hastily called from their camp outside the city and sent in to help battle the blaze. Unfortunately, the fire was out of control by that time so the 22nd, along with a Naval demolition crew set about tearing down wooden structures to try and contain the fire. The 22nd also assisted in saving the residents of the burning area and as many of their possessions as possible. After the fire the Regiment helped care for the refugees.
On December 6, 1776, a force of 6000 men, including the 22nd Regiment, Left Long Island under the command of General Clinton and began to make it's way by sea transport to the Island of Newport in Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island. Much to the Regiment's surprise and delight they landed in the city of Newport with no opposition. The Rebel forces, on hearing that the British were coming, abandoned the city and all of it's batteries.
On Rhode Island, the 22nd was used as sort of "working Garrison". The city of Newport itself was small, so little vigilance was required to quell a potentially hostile population. However, the surrounding islands in Narragansett Bay and the shoreline of the mainland were quite frequently the subject of Rebel raids and incursions. To combat this, The Regiments in Newport were rotated from the city to surrounding camps and outposts on a regular basis.
After the defeat of Burgoyne's Army at Saratoga, The French became fully involved in the war. On July 11, 1778, Admiral Comte d'Estaing arrived off Sandy Hook, New Jersey and blockaded New York City for awhile. He then sailed to Narragansett Bay where he made contact with General Sullivan to discuss operations against the British on Newport Island. A combined land and sea attack was planned with the hope of a complete victory and capture of the British Army like that at Saratoga. Toward the middle of August, General Sullivan, according to plan, landed a force of around 4000 men on the island and marched them on the British Garrison, which now concentrated all it's resources at the city of Newport. Meanwhile, d'Estaing sailed back out to sea and poised for battle with Admiral Howe's fleet. However, before the fleets could inflict any damage on each other, a hurricane severely damaged d'Estaing's fleet and he abandoned Sullivan's force in order to make repairs in the West Indies. Suddenly having the rug pulled out from under him by the French, and finding Newport defended with determination, Sullivan raised his siege of the city on the 28th and retreated up the Island, hoping to save his army (and his neck) from the now rapidly pursuing and somewhat angry British force.
While pursuing the retreating Americans north towards Windmill Hill, The 22nd, unfortunately under the ever inept command of Brigadier General Smith, (not of the 22nd), was sent, without a vanguard or flankers, right into an American ambush. The Regiment, while leading the Corps, was marched up to a "T" intersection which was bordered by a high stone wall. Upon reaching the intersection, a regiment of Americans sprang up and delivered a devastating volley into the foreword companies of the 22nd which resulted in the almost instantaneous death of 13 officers and men, and the wounding of 52 more. Despite these losses and continuing to take the brunt of the land offensive as it progressed, reports of the 22nd showed that they were still mainly responsible for driving the Rebels off the island.
In October of 1779, the British Command decided to concentrate their forces in and around New York to guard against possible French attack. As a result, the 22nd found itself part of the British force in New York again. It spent it's time rotating from camp to camp throughout Long Island, Staten Island and New Jersey; taking part in periodic forays and excursions against Rebel forces in the surrounding countryside.
In late June,1780, the British, in a final attempt to route Washington's Army at Morristown,New Jersey, sent an expedition of 5000 troops from Staten Island. The 22nd formed the vanguard of this expedition. The British got as far as Springfield, only 10 miles from Morristown. However, at Springfield, New Jersey, they were met by thousands of local Militia, called to arms by Washington's excellent signal beacon system and were forced to retire back to Staten Island.
On October 12, 1781, the 22nd Embarked from Staten Island for Virginia to act as relief for the besieged force at Yorktown. However, on the 26th, while still at sea, word arrived that Cornwallis had surrendered, and the relief force returned to it's New York garrison duties. In 1782 Gage relinquished his Colonelcy of the 22nd, and Major General Charles O'Hara ( previously of the Foot Guards who passed the sword of surrender at Yorktown) took up the post. This same year the 22nd took on the name of the Cheshire Regiment.
The next year the Regiment spent in anticipation of a major attack on the Continental forces in Philadelphia. However, in the middle of 1783, it was learned that peace negotiations had finally been concluded, giving America it's independence. Thus, on November 25, 1783, the 22nd Regiment of Foot left New York with the rest of the British Army, officially ending the American Revolutionary War.

History of the Recreated 22nd Regiment of Foot

The Early Years - Our New England Beginnings

During the mid 1970's in the height of "Bicentennial Fever" a group of High School and College students from around Kingston Rhode Island, and all loosely associated either through schooling or family employment at the University of Rhode Island, became interested in participating in the numerous historical events that were beginning to take place in New England and the Eastern Seaboard.

Being that Rhode Island had "officially" rebelled against British authority with the burning of the British Revenue Schooner Gaspee in 1772, there was early interest in the modern maritime state to portray this aspect of their history. The Sloop Providence, a small armed Rebel merchantman, was recreated, and numerous seamen recruited from the towns surrounding Narragansett Bay. Among those young sailors were Don Hagist, a future Commander of the recreated 22nd Regiment of Foot and Jim Cosgrove, who was to become the Commander of the Regiment's predecessor unit.

A Red-Coated Militia Company

One of the things many American history books overlook is the fact that the Colonial Militia was not always made up of a bunch of back-country farmers who constantly grumbled against British authority and dressed in rags. Many towns and provinces were content under British rule and did all they could to emulate their brothers across the seas. The town of Kingston initially fit that mold. Not really being a hotbed of revolution and in fact being a colony of religious tolerance with direct deep water access to the Atlantic Ocean, Rhode Island was host to vessels and people from around the world, who were only too willing to take advantage of the protections of the British Crown and the religious and cultural tolerances of the people of the colony. It is interesting to note that Newport is home to the first Jewish congregation in North America, and the original temple stands today almost 250 years since it was erected.

Kingston, being a larger farming community a short distance from the sea side, had a well organized company of Militia. So well organized, in fact, that they were clothed and accoutered in a near approximation of a British Regular (Red Coat) Black Facings, white belts, cocked hats, etc.

The young men of the 20th Century town, tired of the limitations of naval life, gravitated toward land action and the Kingston Reds. Jim Cosgrove and Don Hagist, among others joined forces with an older gentleman who possessed what he purported to be a Kingston Red uniform coat of the period. Upon actual examination however, it was discovered that this family heirloom, while being a Kingston Red Coat, was instead one of an early 19th Century vintage, and so the new Commanders of the Kingston Reds followed the more common and historically correct British Military pattern of the period of the American War for Independence.

Rebel Colonial Militia Fights as British

At the various colonial affairs and other events in Rhode Island, the Kingston Reds portrayed their role as Rebel Militia and were recognized as such, however, once they began to move outside their immediate environs and take part in some of the larger Bicentennial events, they were faced with a sort of identity crisis. If they were not mistaken for Rebel Fieled Music in reversed colors, they were often times mistaken as British Red Coats.
Early in the Bicentennial there was a real shortage of British Regulars. The 23rd Foot had been recreated in the late 1960's along with the 10th Regiment of Foot, but their numbers were still small and they were often stretched too thin to make an impact an some events. Consequently on numerous occasions, the Kingston Reds were asked to fight alongside the British to "fill out their lines a bit". Over time, with the creation of the later-war Rebel 2nd Rhode Island Regiment and the continuing "red coated" identity crisis, the membership of the Kingston Reds decided that those who wished would change over to a historically locally based (Newport) British Regiment, and still continue, to a limited extent, as Kingston Reds, while others would join their rebel sister unit, the 2nd Rhode Island.

A New British Regiment

The research side of things and ultimately command of the new regiment fell to Don Hagist, an engineering student at URI. His research indicated that of all the British Regiments garrisoning Rhode Island, one stood out head and shoulders above the rest - The 22nd Regiment of Foot. Not only were they an active foraging and reconnaissance force against the Rebels, they maintained their 1768 Warrant standard British Red Coated appearance late into the War and were a Buff Regiment. Something that had not yet been recreated during the Bicentennial. As the Bicentennial years entered the early 1980's, the 22nd Foot began to become well established in the living history community.

As the members of the old Kingston Reds moved from high school to college and out into the "real world" the unit began to expand it's geographic reach beyond Rhode Island. The fledgling group also joined the Brigade of the American Revolution (BAR), and in an effort to strengthen the organization and participation of British Regiments, joined a group of other recreated British Regiments to become a founding member of the British Brigade.

Membership in the recreated 22nd Regiment of Foot grew and expanded into New Jersey, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York and Maine. At the same time the Bicentennial began to wind down and the 22nd Foot as well as the bulk of the British Brigade and other associated Crown Forces began to celebrate the Loyalist Arrival in Canada in the mid 1780's.

We begin to Mature

Age, geographic changes, marital and other adult responsibilities began to catch up with the members of the Regiment in the mid 1980's. We were no longer just a happy band of teenagers. Some left for College or joined military service, others married and began families of their own, others moved on to graduate schools which either took them across country or even overseas.

Fortunately, as members rotated out of the ranks, numerous new ones rotated in. Many of these men and women enjoyed living history but, as was the case with the 22nd Foot, started out on the Rebel side and were beginning to look for some new adventure and a Regiment that was willing to travel to some events and locations that they had yet to encounter.

The post Bicentennial Era of the late 1980's and 1990's saw a shift away from an event every weekend to a greater focus on the "living history" apects of this avocation at a select few large events per year. Having curtailed the Regiment's bicentennial Era "nomadic,every weekend" schedule, membership in the 22nd Foot began to appeal to an older generation of members with families could afford to get away a few times per year and even bring their families if they wished.

About the same time, after over a decade of high quality leadership, Don Hagist, having taken on the responsibility of restoring an 18th Century house, marriage and children, stepped down from Command to focus his attentions to his family, Regimental research, and life in-general, being subject to emergency re-call when necessary.

In 1989, Tom Vilardi, the Regimental Adjutant, having just graduated Law School and now able to devote a little more time to the Regiment, became commander. Through the dedication of a high quality, historically interested and genuinely caring membership, Tom has been able to see the Regiment through the 1990's with a steady growth and into the era of the 225th Anniversary of the War for American Independence.

225th Anniversary - Looking Ahead

The Regiment now boasts more members than ever before, being able to field over 30 Men and Field Musicians at select events - the ultimate goal being to field an historically accurate full strength Company of Men. Our numbers continue to grow, both with men and distaff, who are experienced living historians and those who are new to the avocation. As we entered the 225th Anniversary this year, we are happy to report that we have met and exceeded several field attendance high water marks and eagerly look forward to the numerous high quality events in the years to come.