Thursday, February 25, 2016

The Ancient Irish Regiment of Fencible Infantry

Hello everyone!

It's been awhile since I've last posted, but real life has been hitting me hard here the past couple of weeks. I haven't painted in ages, and frankly my mojo has flown far, far away. However, life marches steadily on.

I thought I'd share an article here I wrote after a conversation I had with some of my online-gaming friends (video games, not table-top games). I play a game called Mount & Blade: Napoleonic Wars, which is a first-person shooter set in the Napoleonic Wars. It is fantastic. Many gamers who play M&B form their own "regiments," and it was in a conversation (and the subsequent Wikipediaing that followed) with my regiment about an impending name change that I came across the name of an obscure, Irish Fencible regiment from the French Revolutionary Wars: The Ancient Irish Regiment of Fencible Infantry. My Google-fu proved weak in finding much about the unit, and this piqued my interest. Here I've been with a university degree in history with little chance to use it, and along comes a research challenge! So I set out to gather up the many fragments of information strewn about the web and put them in a single, convenient place. So here, in all its glory, is my article detailing the Ancient Irish Fencibles:

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The Ancient Irish Regiment of Fencible Infantry
By Charlton "Chuck" Claywell
 
Background
 
 
The term "Fencible" is a word of uncertain origin, with the implication that suggests it is derived from the term “defensive” itself. Fencibles were typically regiments raised for local defense at, and only for, a special crisis. The engagement on the part of the men in the Regiment was completely voluntary. These corps were a type of Militia, and under the conditions of their establishment, at the time of their initial formation during the Seven Years War, such units could not be detached to serve in any district other than their own. The year 1799 saw the most Fencible Regiments ever concurrently in existence, with thirty-one regiments of cavalry and forty-five regiments of infantry. The Ancient Irish Regiment of Fencible Infantry is unique in being the only Fencible unit to have served in a battle overseas.
 
 
Service Details
 
 
Ireland: 4-5 June 1799-January 1800
Minorca: January 1800-July 1801
Egypt: July-November 1801
Malta: November 1801-18 March 1802
England: March/April-10 August 1802
 
 
Regimental History
 
 
The Ancient Irish Regiment of Fencible Infantry was raised on either 4 or 5 June 1799 (not all sources agree as to which) in Dublin, Ireland. The Regiment’s first (and apparently only) colonel was Thomas Judkin Fitzgerald, a magistrate from County Tipperary. The Baronetcy of Lisheen was later created for him on 5 August 1801 as a reward for suppressing the United Irish Rebellion of 1798 in County Tipperary as High Sheriff of Tipperary. Colonel Fitzgerald was known for his excessive use of the cat o' nine tails during his suppression of the revolt, and it was said in his obituary that "The history of his life and loyalty is written in legible characters on the backs of his fellow countrymen.” Despite his controversial rebellion-suppression tactics, Colonel Fitzgerald was nonetheless permitted to raise The Ancient Irish Regiment as a reward for his services.
 
 
As the Ancient Irish was forming in 1799, the British government decided to disband all of the Fencible regiments whose service was restricted solely to Great Britain and Ireland, only excepting those regiments which had volunteered for service in Europe. The Ancient Irish was one of the few Fencible regiments that volunteered for European service. The Ancient Irish, after volunteering, were put on the same footing as any other regiment raised for service abroad i.e., one of the field officers was to have permanent and progressive rank, and the soldiers' services were to count as army service towards a pension should they afterwards transfer to the army.
 
 
Leaving Ireland, the Ancient Irish was first sent to Minorca in January 1800. Upon their arrival the men of the Regiment were found to be undisciplined, and the British government had only provided half of them with arms. After a few months training on Minorca the Regiment was sufficiently ready to free better-trained regiments on the island for duties elsewhere, and for a time were considered for an attack on Cadiz, but were diverted to Egypt as Cadiz had succumbed to plague.
 
 
The Ancient Irish arrived in Egypt in July 1801, serving as reinforcements to General John Hely-Hutchinson, who commanded the British forces besieging the city of Alexandria. The Ancient Irish Fencibles believed they had enlisted for European service only; when more troops were required in Egypt, however, the regiment was treated without regard to their terms of service and was ordered to embark for Africa. The men complained, stating the terms of their enlistment, but their complaints fell on deaf ears and they reluctantly embarked. However, when they found themselves ashore in Egypt and were ordered to march forward from the beach to join the army before Alexandria, the regiment decided to make a virtue out of necessity, and with good humor they pulled off their hats, and, with three cheers, cried out, "We will volunteer now!" The Ancient Irish formed part of Brigadier General Blake’s VI Brigade (along with the 1st and 2nd Battalions of the 20th Regiment of Foot and the 24th Regiment of Foot) and served in his operations against the city of Alexandria, which spanned from 9 August to 26 August 1801. On 17 August, one member of the rank and file of the Regiment was killed in action outside Alexandria.
 
 
In November 1801, three hundred thirty men of the Ancient Irish Fencibles arrived at Malta, and by 1 January 1802 the rest of the regiment had followed. On 17 March—St. Patrick's Day—the Irish Regiments garrisoned on Malta were excused from mounting guard. The men had permission to get as drunk as they pleased, and at a very early hour evident symptoms of inebriation were to be seen among both the Ancient Irish Fencibles and 27th (Inniskilling) Regiment of Foot, another Irish regiment stationed in Malta. The next day, The Ancient Irish Fencibles embarked for England.
 
 
The Ancient Irish Regiment of Fencible Infantry was disbanded 10 August 1802, possibly in England. This is supported by a notice dated 11 May 1802 which states a William Osborn Hamilton of the Ancient Irish was promoted to Major; certainly the Regiment could not have been disbanded earlier. The balance of existing records concerning men who served in the Ancient Irish have discharge dates in 1802. Nearly all the Fencible corps had disappeared by the end of the year 1802, most immediately following the cessation of hostilities in Europe as a result of the Peace of Amiens in March. Many of the men who had served in these Fencible regiments enlisted for general service in the regular Army.
 
 
Colours and Decorations
 
 
Sadly, little is known about the Colours (Regimental flags) of the Ancient Irish. Fencible regiments carried the usual stand of King's and Regimental Colours. Of the known Fencible Colours, the most common format was to have the regimental title in the center of each Colour, surrounded by the Union Wreath.
 
 
Two members of the Ancient Irish Regiment of Fencible Infantry were awarded Military General Service medals with “Egypt” clasps: one to a Walter McCreary, aged 20 of Donegal, Ireland, the other to an Ensign George T. Burke. McCreary’s medal is extant today; Burke’s has been lost to history.
 
 
Uniforms

 
Unfortunately, few specifics of the uniform worn by the Ancient Irish Fencible Infantry are known; little is known about the uniforms of most Irish Fencible regiments. Generally, Fencible regimental uniforms conformed to regulations; even so, there was a wide array of variations worn in Egypt, including both long and short coatees and tropical jackets of the type worn in the West Indies. There was also a wide array of headgear, from early stovepipe shakos to large 1796 Pattern hats to tropical round-hats, as well as Tarleton helmets and bearskins being worn by some light and grenadier companies, respectively. What is known, however, is that the buttons worn on the coats of The Ancient Irish Regiment consisted of an Irish harp in relief surrounded by the Regiment’s name.
 
 
Organization

 
Like other Fencible regiments, the Ancient Irish was organized into ten companies. The number of men in a Fencible regiment varied widely over time as men volunteered or were taken from these regiments to serve in regular Army units. However, a sample establishment for a Fencible regiment would typically include: One Colonel, One Lieutenant-Colonel, One Major, and Five Captains; each of the ten companies would contain One Lieutenant, One Ensign, Three Sergeants, Four Corporals, Two Drummers and Seventy-One Privates.
 
 
On Malta (November 1801-18 March 1802), the Ancient Irish Regiment boasted the following strength: 21 Commissioned and Warrant Officers, 54 Noncommissioned officers, 240 rank and file fit for duty, and 93 rank and file sick, accounting for 421 total officers and men out of an official establishment of 688.


 

Muster Rolls


 
Sadly, no muster rolls exist for the Ancient Irish, and details surrounding the men who served in the regiment is widely scattered. This is an incomplete list of the men who served in the Ancient Irish Regiment of Fencible Infantry from its establishment in 1799 to the Regiment’s discharge in 1802.
 



Rank*

Name

Birthplace

Discharge Date**

Age at Discharge

Notes

COL

Thomas Judkin Fitzgerald

Tipperary

--

48

Appointed 1st Baronet of Lisheen, Co Tipperary on 5 August 1801

LTC

Charles Griffiths

--

--

--

Appointed Lieutenant-Colonel of the Ancient Irish on 11 December 1800, whilst on Minorca

LTC?

James Forster

--

--

--

Unsure rank 1799-1802; on half-pay with the Ancient Irish until promoted from Lieutenant-Colonel to Colonel, 4 June 1814.

MAJ

William Osborn Hamilton

--

--

--

Attained Majority on 11 May 1802

CPT

George Guy Carleton

--

--

--

--

CPT

Edward Atkin

--

16 February 1802

--

Promoted to Ensign in the 50th (Queen’s Own) Regt. Of Foot on discharge date.

CPT

Daniel Hogan

--

--

--

--

CPT

Thomas Castletown

Tipperary

--

--

Paymaster

CPT

[Given Name Unknown] Collins

--

--

--

Fought a duel near Waterford, Ireland, in mid- December 1802

CPT

Uaiacke Atkin

--

--

--

Left Ancient Irish when promoted in North Cork Militia

LT

Timothy Fitzpatrick

--

16 February 1802

--

Promoted to Ensign in the 40th (2nd Somersetshire) Regt. Of Foot on discharge date.

LT

Pierce Galway

--

--

--

Promoted from Ensign

LT

Edward Fitzgerald

--

--

--

Promoted from Ensign, replacing Lieutenant Dillon.

LT

[Given Name Unknown] Dillon

--

--

--

Resigned commission; replaced by Edward Fitzgerald

ENS

George Thew Burke (alias Bourke)

Tipperary

--

26

Awarded Military General Service Medal w/ “Egypt” Clasp for service with Ancient Irish. Formerly the Regiment’s Serjeant-Major.

ENS

Henry Malone

--

--

--

Gentleman promoted to Ensign, filling the billet opened by Lieutenant Fitzgerald’s promotion.

Rank*

Name

Birthplace

Discharge Date**

Age at Discharge

Notes

--

Henry Herrick Beecher

--

--

--

Appointed Regimental Adjutant 26 June 1799.

--

Walter McCreary

Donegal

1802

20

Discharged to Chelsea Pension; invalided home as a result of impairment to his eyesight sustained in Egypt. Awarded Military General Service Medal w/ “Egypt” Clasp for service with Ancient Irish

--

Patrick Fitzpatrick

Belfast

1802

28

Served 11 years before discharged in 1802.

--

Patrick Murphy

Cluenna

1802

23

Served 2 years, 3 months.

--

John Shorthell (alias Shorthall)

Tallow

--

--

Later served in the 12th Royal Veteran Battalion

PVT

James Furlong

--

--

--

Awarded Military General Service Medal for service with the 35th (Royal Sussex) Regt. of Foot; subsequently awarded an “Egypt” Clasp for prior service with Ancient Irish

--

Martin Fitzgerald

Middletown

--

--

Later served in the 8th Royal Veteran Battalion, the 98th (Prince of Wales’s) Regt. Of Foot, and the 4th Royal Veteran Battalion.

--

Michael Nugent

Hamford

1802

51

Served in the 50th (Queen’s Own) Regt. Of Foot and 82nd (Prince of Wales’ Volunteers) Regt. Of Foot prior to joining the Ancient Irish, having served 26 years.

--

John Ryan

Cashel

--

--

Later served in the 50th (Queen’s Own) Regt. Of Foot

--

John Kain

Killoughly

1802

25

Served 2 years, 6 months.

--

John Burke

Galbally

1802

32

Served 2 years, 6 months.

--

Andrew Whelan

Crooks Town

1802

23

Served 2 years, 6 months.

--

Patrick Fin (alias Finn)

Roscrea

1802

29

Served 3 years, 6 months.

--

Richard Finn

Roscrea

1802

22

Served 3 years, 4 months.

--

James Gray

Ardee

--

--

Later served in the 63rd (West Suffolk) Regt. of Foot and the 1st Garrison Battalion.

--

David Sykes

Belfast

--

--

Later served in the Royal Artillery Drivers.

--

Patrick Mannix

--

--

--

Later served in the 10th Royal Veteran Battalion.

--

John Walsh

Kearia

1802

28

Served 2 years, 6 months.

--

Arthur Leary

Youghall

1802

58

Served 2 years, 6 months.

--

James Hutchinson

St. Kearns

--

--

Later served in the 4th Royal Veteran Battalion.

--

Matthew Byrnes

Killavany

1802

27

Served 2 years, 6 months.

--

John French

Dromale

1802

43

Served 2 years, 6 months.

Rank*

Name

Birthplace

Discharge Date**

Age at Discharge

Notes

--

John Starr

Ardrony

1802

24

Served 3 years, 4 months.

--

Patrick Fitzpatrick

Belfast

--

--

Later served in the 4th Royal Veteran Battalion and the 12th Royal Veteran Battalion.

--

Patrick Flynn

Castle Lyon

--

--

Later served in the 20th (East Devonshire) Regt. of Foot.

--

Philip Ryan

Anno Carthy

1802

36

Served 3 years, 4 months.

--

Thomas Shea

Thurles

1802

23

Served 3 years, 4 months.

--

William Walsh

Nenagh

1802

29

Served 3 years, 4 months.

--

Thomas Cruise

Tubber

1802

30

Served 2 years, 6 months.

--

Solomon Thompson

Aurlin

--

--

Later served in the 50th (Queen’s Own) Regt. of Foot.

--

Leonard Doyle

Ballymore Eustace

1802

40

Served 2 years, 6 months.

--

John McCormack

Mullingar

1802

41

Served 2 years, 6 months.

--

Roger Toole

Dumhhenay

--

--

Later served in the 69th (South Lincolnshire) Regt. of Foot.

--

Peter Moffatt

Crosmolina

--

--

Later served in the 27th (Inniskilling) Regt. of Foot.

--

John Gateley

Curna

--

--

Later served in the 32nd Light Dragoons, the 20th (East Devonshire) Regt. of Foot, and the 6th Royal Veteran Battalion.

--

Edward Powell

Sigart

--

--

Later served in the 27th (Inniskilling) Regt. of Foot.

--

Peter Dealy

Birr

--

--

Later served in the 26th (Cameronian) Regt. of Foot.

--

John McGussin (alias McGushin)

Brissole

1802

30

Served 2 years, 6 months.

--

William Baldwin

Kilkenney

--

--

Later served in the 12th Dragoons.

--

James McDonogh (alias McDonough)

Newry

--

--

Later served in the 50th (Queen’s Own) Regt. of Foot.

--

John Coolroy

Neynoe

--

--

Later served in the 27th (Inniskilling) Regt. of Foot.

--

Alexander McCarty

Arthenray

--

--

Later served in the 17th (Leicestershire) Regt. of Foot and the Royal Navy.

--

Thomas Dorey

Dublin

--

--

Later served in the 17th Light Dragoons.

--

John Maher

Helligh

--

--

Later served in the 87th (Royal Irish Fusiliers) Regt. of Foot.

--

Michael Carew

Hacketstown

1802

26

Served 2 years, 6 months.
*Modern rank abbreviations are in use
**Only marked where records specifically mention a date; where not specified in records, discharge date can be assumed to be 10 August 1802

 
Sources
http://1914-1918.invisionzone.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=104851
https://books.google.com/books?id=HjhKAQAAMAAJ
https://books.google.com/books?id=uflAAQAAMAAJ
https://books.google.com/books?id=RWA3AAAAMAAJ
https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/15398/page/1016/data.pdf
History of the British Expedition to Egypt: To which is Subjoined, a Sketch of the Present State of that Country and Its Means of Defense, By Lt. Col. Robert T. Wilson, 1803
A Military History of Perthshire, 1660-1902, Edited by the Marchioness of Tullibardine, 1908
Shoulderbelt Plates of the Fencible, Militia, and Volunteer Regiments By Major H. G. Parhyn, The Connoisseur, an Illustrated Magazine for Collectors, March 1922
Cobbett’s Political Register, Volume 1, By William Cobbett, 1802
A History of the British Army, Volume IV, Part II, By Sir John William Fortescue, 1906
 
The British National Archives

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If you've read the whole article, thanks a lot. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. This really has been a labor of love for me here the past couple of days, and I hope that this might help someone out in the future. Thanks again!
 
-Chuck


2 comments:

  1. Just a quick note: this is a very early draft of this article. I'll upload an updated, illustrated version in an "Articles" tab at the top of this page when it's ready.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I see not all sources agree on the date of formation. I have a service record of a sergeant in the Ancient Irish who transferred from the 89th Foot on 25 May 1797 and served until the 14 May 1803. His name is Matthew Doyle of Arklow. A mystery I'd like to solve.

    ReplyDelete