J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Saturday, July 16, 2011

CSI Annapolis Royal

From Nova Scotia comes news of the possible identification of a British soldier who died in the late 1700s. The Annapolis County Spectator reports on a “Cold Case at Fort Anne”:
Lillian Stewart, of Parks Canada, was there when the bones were found. . . . Of special interest to researchers was the added treasure of almost perfectly preserved artifacts ranging from shoes and regimental buttons, to an unidentified piece of leather.

The bones were sent to the Museum of Civilization in Ottawa, where scientists thought it was likely an 18th century soldier in his thirties, about 5'6" in height. . . .

At that time, they believed the man had died during a siege against the fort in 1711. However as Denise Hansen was processing the artifacts in Halifax, she noticed that the buttons were from three different regiments.

This in itself wasn't unusual because it was common for soldiers to swap buttons, but buttons weren't marked until 1768 suggesting the soldier died about 50 years later than originally thought. . . .

Finally Hansen had a breakthrough when she consulted Don Hagist, a Rhode Island scholar who specializes in researching soldiers from that period. He was able to find muster rolls for the 57th Regiment in Ireland.

The records show that of the eight men who died at Fort Anne during this time frame, only a Private James Simpson, who died on Oct. 13, 1784, had served in both the 57 and 36th Regiments. The regimental buttons found on the body were from 57th, 36th and 43rd Battalion.
While not conclusive, Don’s documentary evidence suggests that this soldier was most likely Pvt. Simpson.

The remainder of the article discusses other ways that Parks Canada has been trying to shed more light on this individual soldier.

2 comments:

Kit Rawlins said...

JL, Sorry for the late comment, but wanted to thank you for posting this article. DH and I have visited Annapolis Royal and the fort many times, and it was fascinating to read about this cold case. As you may know, the fort was built on the banks of the Annapolis River, and I can imagine this soldier caught in the thick, rich mud along the shoreline, watching in horror as the tide flowed in quickly.

J. L. Bell said...

I couldn’t make out what the article suggested about the soldier’s death. It suggests he “drowned while trying to escape,” but also says the body was in “a makeshift shroud and…the arms had been crossed over the body prior to burial.” Not having seen the ad about the deserters, I also wonder if he and the other soldiers drowned accidentally, but were first listed as deserters when they didn’t show up for roll call.