Volunteers of Ireland

views updated

Volunteers of Ireland

VOLUNTEERS OF IRELAND. This Provincial regiment was created by Sir Henry Clinton in the summer of 1778 at the behest of Lord George Germain. In a letter to Germain on 23 October, Clinton stated that he wanted "to try all means … to draw off from the American army the number of Europeans which constituted its principal force" ("On-Line Institute"). Although based on a smug misreading of the composition of the American army, the effort produced an effective regiment. In his memoirs, Clinton recalled the difficulties he had in implementing Germain's suggestion. Regretting that "no very large portion of the friendly colonists who had taken refuge within our posts seemed much inclined to add to their other sufferings those of a military life," he nevertheless

had recourse to those sources from whence the rebels themselves drew most of their best soldiers—I mean the Irish and other Europeans who had [recently] settled in America. As it was difficult, however, to hold forth terms of sufficient advantage to these emigrants to incite them to quit their present service [i.e., desert] without running a risk of giving umbrage to the natives of America who had, with voluntary zeal, entered into the first provincial corps that had been raised, I made use of another lure, which I thought might prove equally effectual. This was to endeavor to work upon the national attachment of the Irish by inviting them into a regiment whose officers should all be from that country, and placing at its head a nobleman of popular character and ability. Accordingly, before I left Philadelphia [16 June 1778], I began to form such a corps, under the title of the Volunteers of Ireland and the command of Lord Rawdon, whose zeal I knew would lead him to spare neither [personal] expense nor pains to complete its numbers and render it useful and respectable.

The Volunteers "afterward filled fast and, being employed on active service the rest of the war, had frequent opportunities of signalizing themselves."

In May 1779 the Volunteers were placed on the American Establishment as the Second American Regiment (Volunteers of Ireland) and joined the expedition sent to Virginia for the Mathew-Collier Raid. The next year they arrived with the reinforcements from New York to take part in the final operations of the Charleston campaign of 1780. At Hobkirk's Hill, South Carolina, on 25 April 1781, they particularly distinguished themselves under the overall command of their founder. In his report of the action to Earl Cornwallis, Rawdon, in command of the British occupation of South Carolina, wrote on 26 April 1781:

We were so fortunate in our march [against Nathanael Greene's position outside Camden] that we were not discovered till the flank companies of the Volunteers of Ireland, which led our column, fell in with Greene's pickets. The pickets, though supported, were instantly driven in and followed to their camp…. I had ordered Lieutenant Colonel Campbell to lead the attack with the Sixty-third and King's American Regiments, which he performed with great spirit. The extent of the enemy's line soon obliged me to throw forward the Volunteers of Ireland also. Those three corps quickly gained the summit of the hill; and, giving room for the rest of our force to act, the rout of the enemy was immediately decided.

The Volunteers were placed on the British Establishment on Christmas Day 1782, as the 105th Regiment of Foot. In April 1783 the officers and non-commissioned officers were sent to Ireland to raise a new regiment, and the men were transferred to other Provincial regiments then serving at Charleston, effectively disbanding the Volunteers. The 105th Regiment was disbanded in Britain in January 1784.

SEE ALSO Charleston Expedition of Clinton in 1780; Clinton, Henry; Hobkirk's Hill (Camden), South Carolina; Rawdon-Hastings, Francis; Virginia, Military Operations in.


Clinton, Henry. The American Rebellion: Sir Henry Clinton's Narrative of His Campaigns, 1775–1782. Edited by William B. Willcox. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1954.

Cole, Nan, and Todd Braisted. "The On-Line Institute for Advanced Loyalist Studies." Available online at http://www.royalprovincial.com.

Mills, T. F. "Land Forces of Britain, the Empire, and Commonwealth: The Volunteers of Ireland (2nd American Regiment) [105th Regiment of Foot]." Available online at http://regiments.org.

Smith, Paul H. "The American Loyalists: Notes on Their Organization and Numerical Strength." William and Mary Quarterly, third series, 25 (1968): 259-277.

                            revised by Harold E. Selesky