Author Topic: 96th Regiment of Foot in the West Indies  (Read 5343 times)

Abergwilly

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96th Regiment of Foot in the West Indies
« on: November 01, 2014, 02:04:52 PM »
I am researching an ancestor who was in the Regiment around 1812. He was in the 1st Battalion who were stationed in the West Indies (Santa Cruz & Martinique). The Museum of the Manchester Regiment website refers to this time and mentions the General Order Book found in the Jamaica Garrison Library.  I would be interested in finding more details about the Regiment's time while in the islands but I haven't been able to find anything more about the Order Book. Does anyone know more about it? Where is it currently deposited, and is there a digital or other copy of it available?

Many thanks,

David

Offline Bob.NB

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Re: 96th Regiment of Foot in the West Indies
« Reply #1 on: November 01, 2014, 06:58:38 PM »
In brief:

In 1803 the 52nd Foot were chosen to form the first corps of Light Infantry and the 2nd battalion was re-numbered the 96th Regiment of Foot. All the necessary arrangements were completed by 23rd February 1803. On 25th December 1802 and the 96th Foot marched to Gillingham and embarked from there for Ireland before marching to Fermoy. The 96th remained in Ireland until January 1805.
In February 1805 the 96th embarked for the West Indies in order to protect British colonies following the outbreak of the Napoleonic War. After landing in and spending three months in Barbados the 96th moved to Antigua in June 1805 and then on HMS Fawn to St Croix in September 1807. Whilst stationed on St Croix the 96th Foot took part in the capture of Guadaloupe in1810.
   During the Napoleonic Wars, the French colonies had provided protected harbours for French privateers and warships, which could prey on the numerous British trade routes in the Caribbean and then return to the colonies before British warships could react. In response the Royal Navy instigated a blockade of the islands, stationing ships off many ports and seizing any vessel that tried to enter or leave. With trade and communication made very difficult by the British blockade the economies and the morale of the French colonies began to collapse and in the summer of 1808 desperate messages were sent to France requesting aid.
   Despite repeated efforts, the French navy failed to reinforce and resupply the garrison, as their ships were intercepted and defeated either in European waters or in the Caribbean itself. The British had intercepted a number of these messages, and launched a series of successful invasions during 1809, until Guadeloupe was the only French colony remaining in the Americas. A British expeditionary force, including the 96th Foot landed on Guadaloupe on 28th January 1810 and found that much of the island's militia garrison had deserted. Advancing from two landing beaches on opposite sides of the island, the British were able to rapidly push inland. It was not until they were outside the capital, Basse-Terre, that the expeditionary force faced strong opposition but in a battle lasting for most of 3rd February, the French were defeated and driven back. The island's commander surrendered the following day.
   The 96th Foot soon returned to St Croix where they remained until the Spring of 1815 when it moved to Martinique which, having been captured by the British earlier during the war, had been handed back to the French under the Treaty of Paris in April 1814. However, following Napoleon’s escape from Elba, there was considerable unrest in the West Indies and the 96th was part of the force sent to re-occupy the island as the majority of French officers there had shown themselves in favour of Napoleon.
With the reduction in the size of the army following the end of the Napoleonic War the 96th Foot were renumbered the 95th Foot in early 1816.
The 95th Foot returned to Portsmouth from Martinique towards the end of July of 1816. From there they moved to Chatham and then Nottingham.

Bob B

Abergwilly

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Re: 96th Regiment of Foot in the West Indies
« Reply #2 on: November 02, 2014, 03:56:29 PM »
Bob,

Many thanks. Very interesting additional details.

As you say the Battalion left for the West Indies from Midleton in Feb 1805. Do you know which ship they sailed on? The muster records suggest they were on Antigua until Feb 1808, or was that just the headquarters? Thanks for the note about HMS Fawn, that's very useful.

I did wonder about Guadaloupe as the Battalion was relatively near (although Antigua is nearer). However it doesn't seem to be mentioned in the muster records (although they are only quarterly) and the Regiment doesn't have a battle honour for Guadaloupe - The Manchester Regiment does through the 63rd Foot. So it's very interesting that they were involved in taking the island. Do you have any more details about the engagement?

I'm particularly interested in reading more about the time stationed in Martinique. This looks like the period covered by the General Order Book found in Jamaica. Do you know how it's possible to see a copy of it?

David

Offline Bob.NB

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Re: 96th Regiment of Foot in the West Indies
« Reply #3 on: November 04, 2014, 11:58:58 AM »
David,
Most of the above information is in the Regimental History - History of The Manchester Regiment (Late 63rd and 96th Foot) Volume I  by Col H C Wylly CB.
I'm afraid I don't know which ship they sailed on and, as you probably already know, this is not mentioned in the Muster Rolls.
I have a feeling that the whole regiment was stationed at Antigua, you would need to look at the muster rolls to see if any men were stationed elsewhere - even if they were it is not always mentioned but it often is.
Battle honours are often a "hit and miss" affair - it may be that the 96th didn't get the battle honour "Guadeloupe" because the regiment was disbanded in 1818 and the order giving out this battle honour was not published until 1819. However, the regiment does have the battle honour "Peninsula" even though this was actually given to the 97th Foot which was renumbered the 96th after the "original" 96th was disbanded.
I'm afraid I know nothing about the General Order Book in Jamaica.
As for further information suggest you surf the net and find a suitable book or enquire at Kew for suitable records.
Good luck.
Bob B

Abergwilly

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Re: 96th Regiment of Foot in the West Indies
« Reply #4 on: November 19, 2014, 07:07:38 PM »
Bob,

Many thanks for the pointer to Col Wylly's book. It's a fascinating read, and I would encourage anyone who wants to know the background to the Regiment to look at it. I was astonished to read about the mortality amongst troops serving in the West Indies. In fact death from fighting was relatively uncommon, but there was a huge toll from infection - mostly from Yellow Fever, which was endemic on the islands (& led to outbreaks in the US around that time). In 1809 there were over 230 deaths amongst the men, less than 10 due to military action as far as I can tell.

As you say a predecessor regiment to The Manchester had considerable involvement in the war against Napoleon in the West Indies. In 1809 they were involved in taking Martinique, and the following year they were engaged in Guadaloupe, then returning to Martinique where they were head-quartered until April 1814. The regiment then re-located to Grenada and St Vincent. In June 1815 most of the regiment had to return to Guadaloupe to deal with insurrection following Napoleon's escape from Elba, remaining on the island until 1817 when they moved to Barbados, and finally returning to the UK in early 1819. This is all covered in chapter 9 of Wylly's book, however this is all related to the 63th Foot.

The 96th did go to the West Indies but the extent of their activities is covered in about a page of chapter 10. From the muster records first Barbados, then Antigua and on to St Croix, where they were located for most of the time. These islands were occupied from Denmark-Norway during the Napoleonic war, being returned to Denmark after the war (Norway having been ceded to Sweden in 1814) as the Danish West Indies. The 96th was involved on Martinique in 1815, again following Napoleon's escape from Elba, however unlike on Guadaloupe the insurrection seems only 'minor' and there was little fighting involved, just occupation. This isn't mentioned by Wylly, but is covered by the regimental muster records at Kew, which also indicate that the 1st battalion returned to the UK directly from Martinique. Wylly also suggests that the regiment went to Ireland in 1817 or 1818, but this isn't the case. The muster records show they were stationed in several locations in England during these 2 years including Nottingham, Chester and Liverpool, before going to Sunderland where they disbanded. I wonder if it was the 96th ex-97th that served in Ireland in 1818.

As no one seems to know more about the General Order Book in Jamaica I presume it is only accessible in Jamaica. Sounds like a good excuse for a trip  ;)  Does anyone know its location? I can't find any hints on-line, but I may be using the wrong search terms.

Many thanks,

David

Offline Robert Bonner

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Re: 96th Regiment of Foot in the West Indies
« Reply #5 on: November 21, 2014, 02:39:33 PM »
David.
The late Major Michael Evans of the Manchester Regiment served in Jamaica in the 1950s as a staff officer to the Governor-General.  From time to time he sent back snippets of materal he had discovered relating to the Regiment's time in the West Indies.  To the best of my memory much of this he had unearthed in the official government library - or similar.  Certainly there appeared to be a great deal of information to be discovered there. It is more than likely that the General Order Book is still lying on the shelves in Jamaica.
Robert