In an article published earlier we reported that a soldier named William Wilmot Hawkins from Derby, Connecticut, served for a short time in the Connecticut 6th Regiment of the American Army during the American Revolutionary War and then deserted on 26 August 1777, later claiming to have joined the service of the British against the Americans. 1 Subsequent research has uncovered the Muster Roll of a unit of 43 Loyalists who served the British under the command of Capt. Phillip Bailey and were known as the Royal Fencible Americans (RFA). 2 This Muster Roll, taken in New York on 23 December 1777, lists Wm. Wilmot Hawkins and indicates he enlisted in the RFA on 27 August 1777. This is one day after American records indicate he deserted the Connecticut 6th Regiment.3
The complete list of soldiers appearing on the Muster Roll of the RFA at New York and their dates of commission or enlistment are as follows:
|Name of Soldier||Commission/Enlistment Date|
|Capt Lieut Phillip Bailey||25 June 1777|
|1st Lieut John Walker||12 November 1775|
|2nd Lieut Alexander Sutherland||25 June 1777|
|John Travers||12 June 1775|
|Martin Creary||13 December 1775|
|James Thompson||10 October 1777|
|James Benvie||14 December 1775|
|Samuel Browne||29 August 1777|
|James Liddle||14 September 1775|
|Phillip Coomb||25 June 1777|
|John Sidnell||1 August 1777|
|Edward Cane||2 August 1777|
|William Peters||2 August 1777|
|John Ross||24 August 1777|
|Elisha Lewis||27 August 1777|
|Samuel Durand||27 August 1777|
|Wm. Wilmot Hawkins||27 August 1777|
|Peter Yorkshell||1 September 1777|
|James Bryant||17 September 1777|
|James Hassle||19 September 1777|
|Hardin Ward||20 September 1777|
|Patrick McGowan||20 September 1777|
|Malcolm Blair/Blare||20 September 1777|
|John Nichols Senr.||21 September 1777|
|James Gardner||27 September 1777|
|James Hooper||27 September 1777|
|James Smith||4 October 1777|
|Geo. Fletcher Boot||4 October 1777|
|Gilbert Wilson||4 October 1777|
|Patrick Fitzgibbons||5 October 1777|
|John Waldren||6 October 1777|
|Joseph Cutler/Cutter||16 October 1777|
|George Harding||17 October 1777|
|Edmond Burns||1 November 1777|
|John Worthington||6 November 1777|
|Alexander Long||7 November 1777|
|John Nichols Junr.||16 November 1777|
|Hugh Boyle||25 November 1777|
|Thomas Sewil/Sewel||26 November 1777|
|Michael McInally||7 December 1777|
At the end of the RFA list is a notation that: "Srgt. Newman taken prisr. by the Rebels 17th Nov, Corpl. Johnson taken prisr. 19th Novr. & George Minn [or Winn] deserted 23 Novr."
The enlistment of William Wilmot Hawkins in the RFA one day after deserting the Connecticut 6th and the name of the Loyalist unit he joined, the Royal Fencible Americans, suggest the possibility that other men in the RFA may have also deserted American regiments. A cross check of the names and obvious variations of names of other soldiers on the RFA Muster Roll against the names of soldiers in the Connecticut 6th reveals six additional Loyalists who deserted the Connecticut 6th besides William Wilmot Hawkins. These are:
A cross check of the remaining names on the RFA Muster Roll against names of soldiers in other Connecticut regiments (1st through 5th and 7th through 9th Regiments) reveals only one other soldier who deserted one of these regiments to join the RFA. Gilbert Wilson deserted the Connecticut 3rd in 1777 and is likely the soldier by that name who joined the RFA on 4 October 1777.10 His actual date of desertion is not given in the records of the Connecticut 3rd Regiment. He was from Stamford, Fairfield Co., Connecticut.
The Service Records do not indicate where Samuel Brown, John Nichols, Sr. or William Peters lived prior to joining the 6th Connecticut Regiment that they later deserted.
It is interesting that three of the soldiers, William Wilmot Hawkins, Samuel Durand, and Elisha Lewis, were from Derby, Connecticut, when they joined the 6th Connecticut Regiment. All three deserted that Regiment the same day and all three enlisted in the RFA the next day. The short interval between the desertion of some of the men and their enlistment in the RFA suggests the possibility of recruiting efforts to entice soldiers to change loyalties. Perhaps the soldiers jointly became dissatisfied with something about the American Army and jointly reached the conclusion to switch loyalties. Since soldiers sometimes left their units for a period of time to tend to their farms and families, the unannounced absence of soldiers was common and the date and reason for their departure was not always known. However, since the units from which these soldiers deserted knew the exact date of their desertion, this suggests there probably was fairly good communication between opposing sides.
After the Revolutionary War, William Wilmot Hawkins moved to Pennfield, Charlotte Co. New Brunswick, as we reported in the first reference. Additional information about William Wilmot Hawkins' military service and his family has been reported in earlier issues of Generations . 11 , 12
It is not known where many of the other men on the RFA Muster Roll went after the war. However, a listing of men and women titled the List of Men, Women and Children of the late Royal Fencible American Regiment in the District of Passamaquoddy shows that several of the other soldiers also moved to New Brunswick.13 This list was compiled on 2 July 1784 at LeTang [sic, actually L'Tang, which is now the L'Tang Peninsula about five miles south of present-day St. George, New Brunswick].
Names of soldiers appearing on both the 23 December 1777 RFA Muster Roll and the 2 July 1784 Passamaquoddy list are: Capt. Phillip Bailey, Malcolm Blair/Blare (as Malcolm Blayer), Samuel Browne (Brown), Wm. Wilmot Hawkins (as William Hawkins), James Hooper, Alexander Long, William Peters, John Ross, James Thompson, and John Travers (Traverse). In addition, a Phillip Corn on the Passamaquoddy Roll may have been Phillip Coomb who appeared on the December 1777 New York Muster Roll of the RFA.
We have shown that a number of soldiers in the American Revolutionary War served for a time in Connecticut Regiments of the American Army before deserting and fighting against the American Army in a unit of Loyalists known as the Royal Fencible Americans. We have also shown that a number of them went to Charlotte Co., New Brunswick, at the end of the war. Finally, in some cases we have been able to identify the communities in Connecticut where the soldiers lived before settling in New Brunswick.
Although only eight of the forty-three soldiers on the RFA Muster Roll have been connected with soldiers on Connecticut regimental lists, the name of the unit they served in, Royal Fencible Americans, suggests that other RFA soldiers were probably from the American Colonies and may have served in American Army regiments before joining the RFA. We strongly suspect that further review of the American Army Revolutionary War Service Records of soldiers from other states would substantiate this hypothesis.
I would like to thank Mr. Robert Dunfield of Nova Scotia for alerting me to the existence of the Muster Roll of the Royal Fencible Americans in New York and the List of Men, Women and Children of the Late Royal Fencible American Regiment in the District of Passamaquoddy .
The author may be contacted at:
| Mr. Lynn E. Garn
12210 Redwood Ct.
Woodbridge, VA 22192
Web Site: http://www.garnweb.com/hawkins/