The Virginia Regiment and Hampshire Enlistees

by Terry Gruber

In most popular histories and genealogical accounts about the French and Indian War, there is a common misconception. It is stated in these narratives that the force charged with defending the frontier of Virginia was the militia. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The militia was composed of ordinary citizens who were occasionally called upon to quell disturbances. The militiamen received virtually no training. It was a temporary amateur army. However, the force that was used to defend the frontier was a professional force called the Virginia Regiment.

The regiment was imitative of British military practice and regulation. Uniforms, equipment, and weapons were provided; there were enlistment and bounty terms; discipline and punishment according to martial regulation; it was organized into companies commanded by captains; the various drills were the most current used in the British army; to name just a few of the many aspects of the regiment that mirrored King George the Second's royal troops.

The regiment underwent numerous changes during the course of its existence from 1754 to 1762. It was formed in 1754 as a result of the colony's plan to force the French from the Forks-of-the -Ohio. At the approach of the Braddock campaign, it was reorganized into ten independent companies to avoid command conflicts with British officers (Washington refused command of a company because he would be demoted from lieutenant-colonel to captain. He accompanied the expedition as a volunteer). After the disastrous defeat of Braddock, the regiment was, again, reorganized into the form it would take until its final disbandment at the end of 1762. For a brief period, a second regiment was raised to assist in the Fort Duquesne campaign of 1758. After the successful conclusion of the campaign, the second regiment was disbanded.

Records of the regiment are quite extensive from the time of its inception to the end of 1758. These are the years of George Washington's involvement with the regiment (he saved nearly every piece of correspondence that he received and sent during his service). However, after Washington's resignation, the new commander of the provincial force, William Byrd III, was not as diligent as his predecessor in saving correspondence. Consequently, what we know of the regiment after 1758 is spotty.

For this reason, there are many company rolls in existence up to 1758 and virtually no rolls after that time. For an individual searching for ancestors who served in the French and Indian War, success can be had only if the ancestor started his military service before 1759.

Lieutenant-Governor Dinwiddie specifically discouraged the enlistment of soldiers from Hampshire County into the regiment (he felt they were needed more in the service of the local militia), nevertheless Hampshire Countians do appear in the size rolls. The following list is taken from, Clark, Murtie June. Colonial Soldiers of the South, 1732-1774. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1983.

Capt. Robert Spotswood's Company 13 July 1756 [p.394]
NameAgeHgtBorn OccupationDescription
Andrew Lockhart195'10"Va.CarpenterLight Haire, well made and freckles
Jeremiah Poor 195'8"Va.Weaverwell made with Black Grown[?] Compl  
Capt. Joshua Lewis Company July 1756 [p.394]
Christopher Frye265'6"HollandFarmerS. Branch
Capt. Thomas Waggener Fort Holland August 1757 [p.394]
Edward Purcell265'5"IrelandPlanter 
Capt. Henry Woodward 24 September 1757 [p. 394]
Edward Brown235'6"Va.Planter 
Joel Hornback265'8"NYPlanter 
George Hilton305'5"EnglandPlanter 
Jacob Huts315'7"GermanPlanter 
Adam McCormack235'3"EnglandPlanter  
Humphrey Qusionburey245'7"Va.Planter 
Capt. Robert McKenzie Company 1757-1758 [p.394]
Matthew Lynch225'5"Irelandno trade 
Roger Burkham585'7" trade 
George Golding185'4"Va.Butcher 
John Simmonds455'3"England ---- 
Lawrence Higgins565'3"IrelandPiper 
Phillip Burrill485'4"England----  
Thomas Carr565'5"ScotBarber  

For further information about the Virginia Regiment read:
Titus, James. The Old Dominion At War: Society, Politics, and Warfare in Late Colonial Virginia. Columbia: University of South Carolina, 1991.

The author welcomes your e-mail comments and questions: Terry Gruber

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