The History of the 43rd Regiment of Foot

The 43rd Regiment of Foot was raised in 1741. Its first visit to America was in June, 1757 when it arrived off Halifax to participate in the French and Indian War. In September, 1759 it was the center of Gen. Wolfe's line on the Plains of Abraham before Quebec and won acclaim for its bravery and discipline in that British victory. In July, 1762 it again distinguished itself at the storming of Havana, Cuba. Afterwards, it was stationed in Jamaica, where it remained until March, 1764 when it sailed back to England.

The 43rd of Foot left Portsmouth for America again in June, 1774 as the first of ten regiments sent to bring order to the chaotic situation in Boston, MA. The Light Company of the regiment was one of several engaged at Concord Bridge under the command of the 43rd's Capt. Walter Laurie. If, as it seems, no actual command to fire was given at Lexington Green earlier in the day, Laurie was the first British soldier to order his troops to fire on Americans. The first three British dead of the Revolution are from the Light Companies under his command. Altogether that day, the 43rd lost Lt. Edward Hull, taken prisoner after being mortally wounded; four enlistedmen killed, five enlistedmen wounded and two captured.

The 43rd was involved in minor actions with the patriots during their siege of Boston. The entire regiment participated in the bloody attack on Bunker Hill and lost two sergeants and 20 enlistedmen killed and three sergeants, two drummers and 77 enlistedmen wounded - very heavy casualties at a time when few regiments could muster the 450 men called for in regulations. Among the 43rd's losses was Major Roger Spendlove, who was mortally wounded. The unit’s major since February, 1773, he was a 30-year veteran of the regiment. A 57-year-old native of Clive, Shropshire, England, and had been wounded four times previously in its service.

When the British Army left Boston in March, 1776, the regiment moved with it to Halifax. In July, 1776, it landed in New York as part of the Fifth Brigade, participating in the Battles of Long Island, Kip's Bay and White Plains, as well as the assault on Ft. Washington. The 43rd also was part of an assault on Rhode Island, landing at Weaver’s Bay on December 7. The British forces met only slight opposition there and the 43rd was soon returned to New York. Here there was little major action except for scattered attacks by small groups of Americans on various sentry posts. So little activity seems to have demoralized some of the men as records show the 43rd had two suicides on consecutive days. One man took his life by drowning and the other shot himself because of a connection with a married woman of the regiment.

In August, 1778, the 43rd returned to Rhode Island, driving the militia and regulars from Quaker Hill on the 29th in a fight that cost the regiment 3 killed, 16 wounded and one missing. In his general orders following the battle, the Commander-in-Chief particularly acknowledged "with great applause the spirited exertions of the 43rd under Colonel March." The unit remained in occupation of the state until being returned to New York on October 25, 1779 and spent the winter at Huntingdon, Long Island.
In March, 1780 Capt. William Thorne led a detachment on a "rebel-catching, house-burning raid" through Hackensack, NJ. The regiment was also engaged in other raids into New Jersey and Connecticut the remainder of the year. On June 9, during a demonstration by the New York garrison into New Jersey, the 43rd’s Lt. William Sherlock was captured in a hen roost, fowl-in-hand, along with about 6 rank and file in Elizabeth Town after having been tempted too far from the picquets by the thought of a chicken dinner. On June 23 the demonstration culminated with the Battle of Springfield and the 43rd returned with the rest of the army later the same night.

On April 30, 1781, the 43rd was one of two regiments sent to Virginia to reinforce Cornwallis, landing at Brandon on the James River on May 26. Nine days after landing the 43rd was engaged at Jamestown Ford, losing two killed and one wounded. At this battle, the 43rd was part of the British force’s left wing and was opposed by troops from the Pennsylvania Line among which was the Second Pennsylvania Regiment, making this event probably the only time during the war that troops from each unit actually fought each other. Later the regiment was besieged with the rest of the British Army at Yorktown, where it sustained casualties of ten killed, 18 wounded and 12 missing. At least one officer, Capt. Duncan Cameron, distinguished himself at the American redoubt the night of October 14. The strength of the regiment at the capitulation on October 19 was 94 rank-and-file, with an additional 168 men sick and wounded. Following the surrender, the Battalion Companies were interned until May, 1783, and were part of the final embarkation for England on November 22.

The 43rd Regiment of Foot was one of the very few British military units to serve on the continent for the entire length of the American Revolution. It was to make yet one more excursion to the former colonies and was part of the British force that unsuccessfully assaulted New Orleans in the War of 1812. Today its heritage is preserved as the 1st Battalion of the British Army's famed Royal Green Jackets.

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