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by Edward Crawford

Copyright Edward Crawford 1999.

Eliza’s mother, Isabella, (1772-1837) must have married George Hill after the death of her previous husband, Ford, about whom nothing is known at present except that one daughter was born in 1791. Eliza’s step-father Major George Hill (1758-1809) had a quite impressive military record which is as follows. At some point in or before 1781 he joined the 5th Foot perhaps in the American War or even earlier1 but unfortunately the Muster Rolls for that regiment are missing after they were mustered in 1777/8 on Staten Island. They were then sent to the West Indies where they performed great but forgotten feats of arms on St Lucia against the French though afterwards most men of the ten regiments there died of disease. The 5th reappear at Cork in January 1781 where they disembark and it seems as if every soldier except 4 or 5 per company was discharged unless indeed all the rest were dead or invalids. One of the few listed in the muster rolls, and that for the first time, is a Private George Hill.2 His nationality is described as English and he may, judging from his will, have been from Worcester. Did he transfer from another regiment if it is true that he had been in the army since 1772 or was he a recent recruit with an unusual background which made him eligible for promotion?

In April 1781 he was promoted Corporal and continued in that rank while the Regiment was stationed successively in Kilkenny, Youghal, Limerick, Kilkenny, Carlow, Kilkenny and Dublin where he was commissioned as an Ensign from the ranks (14 April 1783) which was surely very unusual at that time. At about that time it is stated3 that "Lts Henry Darby & George Hill with a few men from Limerick, apprehended some deserters at Horsfield under very difficult & trying circumstances". For the next four years the 5th Foot remained in Ireland moving through Dublin, Dundalk and Drogheda, Carrickfergus, Belfast, Coleraine and Carrick-on-Shannon. There he became a Lieutenant, (26 Oct 1786)4 while the Regiment moved in succession to Banagher, Mullingar, Grunard, Carrick-on-Shannon, Kinsale, Bandon and Monkstown when they were mustered for the last time in Ireland in 1787 embarking from Monkstown 24th May.5 For the next ten years until 1797 they were in Canada, initially round Quebec and Montreal, then staying in Fort Detroit for two years until 1790 which was followed by a long period at Fort Niagara, with detachments at Fort Detroit and Michilmacinac. In November 1795 Hill was the Fort Adjutant at Fort Niagara6 and he is also recorded as being granted 1,200 acres of land at Newark (now Niagara-on-the-Lake) after stating it was his intention to retire and settle in Upper Canada.7 In 1796, the three forts were handed over to the United States and the regiment went back to Quebec while he became a Captain 5.9.1796. The officers and NCOs returned to England in 1797 and were mustered at Chatham though the men had all been drafted into other regiments staying in Canada. Captain George Hill was stationed at Boston in Lincolnshire and detached on recruiting in the spring of 1798.8

Eliza Archange Ford was born in 1791 - she had a sister who was probably only two or three years older at most. Was she born at Fort Niagara, then in Canada, and where, after her father died, Hill married her mother? There is a ship’s captain, Joseph Ford, in government service on the lake mentioned at that time.9 Did Hill purchase his captaincy in 1796 with his new wife’s money? Archange is a name that appears then in Upper Canada and there are at least two women named thus in marriage registers in the Windsor region.10 In letters by Henry Crawford to his aunts he talks about Hill as Caroline’s grandfather which implies that he had the status and relationship of a father and his will implies he thought himself their father. Is there any Loyalist connection here? And was the Captain Benjamin Hill in the regiment any relation?

Back in the UK George Hill became captain of the Grenadier Company (5 August 1799)11 and the regiment was then employed in the expedition to Holland in September and October which was not a great success though the 5th did not see much action there. Soon after the 5th was sent to Gibraltar where it stayed from April 1800 to June 1802.12 After a brief time in England they were sent to garrison Guernsey from where (2 July 1803)13 he transferred to the York Rangers with the rank of Major without having to purchase. "Captain George Hill, commanding at Vale Castle, was sent home to recruit; he went to Boston in Lincolnshire, and over the old recruiting ground.14 While in England he heard from Stephenson who wrote to offer him the first majority in his new regiment. Hill, a married man with a large family, standing second on the captains’ list accepted Stephenson’s offer. …. Hill eventually joined the 85th …"15 (The 5th Foot was a prestigious regiment and a member of it, Lt-Col Stephenson, was responsible for raising the York Rangers.) This was a regiment raised with a bounty of ten guineas per man "from men of colour"16 in Canada, North American and Britain17 in a uniform similar to that of the 60th Rifles.18 They were intended for garrison duty in the colonies, during the invasion scare were stationed in the Isle of Wight since they were regarded as a "foreign corps" which was forbidden the mainland of Britain. (The same thing was true of the KGL.) The York Rangers numbered 150 men when they were disbanded in 1805 and their rank and file fit for duty were transferred to the West African Regiment as were a proportionate numbers of officers and NCOs, many of whom had come from the 5th Foot while those in excess were transferred to other battalions of the line or back to the 5th19. Hill got transferred with the same rank to the 85th Foot on 7 March 1805 aged 47 years.20

The 85th, later part of the KSLI, was in Jamaica from 1802-1808 and was stationed at Spanish Town, Kingston and Up-Park among other places and though the casualty lists from disease of other ranks during its stay in Jamaica are moderate for the period21 there were doubtless gaps among the officers which he had helped to fill. Significantly he was in Jamaica with the 85th when his step-daughters Isabella Ford (d.7.1.1824)22 and Eliza Archange Ford (1790-1835) both married in September 1806. He left Jamaica with the regiment on 25 April 1808 and got back to England in 28 June after a voyage of 61 days where on arrival he is named in the musters23 as the commanding officer. Initially they were at Buckingham but by September 1808 they were at Shorncliffe Barracks and, having been made into Light Infantry, they were sent to be trained by Sir John Moore and Brigadier Rottenburg. After a few weeks and by December 1808 they were in the barracks at Brabourne Lees in Kent, a few miles from Shorncliffe, where Hill died in September 180924 from the hardships of the Walcheren campaign in which the 85th had played an honourable part. He must have been brought back before what was left of the regiment returned some weeks later.25 His death was noted in the Morning Post which stated that "We have to report the loss of the late Major Hill of the 85th Regiment. His zeal as a soldier and integrity as a man endeared him to all honourable men of his profession. He served his King and country for 38 years and fought in all parts of the globe".26 His widow, Isabella Hill, was paid a pension of 50 a year for her lifetime which was rather unusual as they were only given to very poor officers’ widows on compassionate grounds.27 His will leaves all his property to his widow and then in trust to her children, Eliza Wallen and Isabella Hall and at their death going to their eldest children named as Eliza Hall and James Smith Wallen. His lands and houses in Upper Canada are left to his wife, Isabella Hill, but not in trust. She either had no children by him or none that survived.28

Notes

1  WO76/254 says he was commissioned in the Army in June 1772! Other evidence contradicts this.

2 The Muster lists (WO12/2289) are taken on 24 & 27 January 1781. He is described as English

3  From papers of Sir DW Smith cited in Walker. The 5th was at Limerick in Oct 1781. If so Hill was not an officer then as Walker seems to think. Was he promoted because of this event? DW Walker is Sir David William Smith, a officer in the 5th and then a prominent early Canadian, whose father Col. John Smith died in Canada commanding the 5th Foot. DW Smith’s papers are now in Toronto Reference Library.

4  George Hill to be Lieutenant. I can find no mention of purchase.

5  All these movements can be found in the Muster Lists, WO12/2289 & 2290.

6  He is named thus as Lieut. Hill in a letter dated 7.11.1795, Simcoe Papers Vol.IV, p.132

7 Simcoe Papers Vol.V, p.191. containing "Papers of the Executive Committee of Upper Canada" by EA Cruikshank. Three military officers named, no rank given, among whom is George Hill. He was granted land 2.2.1795 according to Ontario Archives Land Record Index, Lot 147, FHC microfilm 6330524. The other two were Holmes, surgeon of the 5th, and Salmon, a gunner.

8 WO12/2291 PRO while HM Walker (History of the Northumberland Fusiliers, 1674-1902, 1919) says that they recruited heavily in Lincolnshire.

9  Simcoe Papers, Vol. II, p.31 & 32.

10 Archange St Martin m.1783 & Archange Barthes, m.1772, The Windsor Border Region, E Lajeunesse, 1960

11 WO12/2291, PRO.

12 WO12/2292, PRO Embarked for Gibraltar 12.4.1800, HM Walker, History of the Northumberland Fusiliers, 1674-1902, 1919.

13 WO12/2293, PRO

14 A letter from Henry Crawford to his aunts, dated 1841, about his future wife Caroline Wallen says of her, "Caroline has got two pictures of Barton Church in Lincolnshire which she says were presented with a third by the inhabitants of that place to her grandfather by the Mother’s side Major Hill by the inhabitants of Barton for gratitude for his exertions in saving the building which was on fire". Letter in possession of Heather Bate.

15 Walker, p.244.

16 WO26/39, f.196

17 WO/40/19, f.21

18 WO/3/336, p.147. There are 3 or 4 other Regiments with similar names raised and disbanded in the wars from 1793 to 1815 so it is very confusing.

19 WO40/22, f.3. This most interesting black British regiment is not mentioned by Fortescue or any published historian. When I discovered it in the archives I learnt that Dr Keith Bartlett of the PRO was already working on its history.

20 WO76/254

21 WO25/1323

22 In St Andrews, Jamaica, (FHRC Microfilm 1291699).

23 They numbered 9 officers, 30 NCOs & 31 privates! They recruited heavily and went to Shorncliffe 600 strong. See Barrett. It was policy to choose regiments to convert to Light Infantry training that were overwhelmingly new recruits.

24 7.9.1809, WO12/8821, Muster books of the 85th. But WO76/254 says that he died at Walcheren. However this may not be accurate as WO76/254 also says that he was first commissioned in 1772 which is clearly incorrect.

25 The 85th were on board (Resolution & Plover) from the16 July to 1 August which was the disembarkation at Walcheren. They went out nearly 700 strong & came back about 120 of all ranks.

26 HM Walker, p.244 & 474. If he served 38 years he joined the army in 1771. Could this be a error for 1781 when the first documentary evidence that we have of him in the army appears? I cannot find this obituary in the Morning Post.

27 WO24/861. 50 was paid to major’s widows, 40 to captain’s, 30 to lieutenants.

28 PROB/11/1505, quire 825, f.320

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