Book Review: A List of the Officers of the British Army to August 1755 edited and annotated by Nicholas Steward

A List of Officers of the British Army to August 1755
A List of Officers of the British Army to August 1755

A List of the Officers of the British Army to August 1755 (with an Appendix to October 1755). Edited and Annotated by Nicholas Steward. Published by Steward Archives, Salem, MA 2015. xxxi, 261 pp. Index. Softcover $17.95.

This is an edited and annotated version of the second edition, published in 1755, of A list of the General and Field Officers, as they Rank in the Army. A List of the Officers in the several Regiments of Horse, Dragoons, and Foot, &c. on the British and Irish Establishments: with the Dates of their Commissions, as they Rank in each Corps … , what became more familiarly known as the published Army Lists. Its publication by the War Office let it be formally known that these were the officially recorded officers of the army as of the date of publication, a problem with an army spread across the globe in an era with slow communications, and thus these were the people who would be paid by the War Office.

The first edition of the list was published in July 1754. The second edition, published in London, in early August 1755 is freely available for download from The National Archives digital microfilm as WO65/2. However, what is used here is the November 1755 Irish printing of the list. This is important because by then news of Major General Edward Braddock’s defeat by French forces in the wilderness of North America on the 9 July 1755 had been widely reported in the newspapers and those identified as dead are now in the published list.

There are problems with using the published Army Lists. The army was constantly changing: officers died, retired, were promoted within their own corps or exchanged to another one; new corps were raised; existing corps were transferred between the British and Irish establishments, with the consequential changes in number of officers and men. But a major problem arises in that there was no connection between editions, so if an officer left the army for any reason he would just be absent from the next list. What Mr. Steward has done is adapted an idea from the unofficial Hart’s Army Lists, (1840-1915) which included a listing of officer changes since the last publication indicating who had been promoted, resigned, or died. Thus in this annotated publication if the reason why an officer is absent from the 1756 is known then it is included in the footnotes on the same page as the officer.

The footnotes include numerous helpful identifiers for researchers. The official listing may identify officers only by title, e.g. Earl of Loudon, who is further identified in this volume as John (Campbell) 4th Earl of Loudon, which is obviously much more helpful. Looking further at the 44th Regiment of Foot as an example we see in the original published Army List the Colonel is listed as Sir Peter Halkett, but here he further identified as the 2nd Baronet. Later in the same regimental listing are Captain Francis Halkett and Lieutenant James Halkett, identified by Mr. Steward as the sons of Peter. It is also states here that Peter and James were both killed at the Battle of the Monongahela, America on 9 July 1755 (Braddock’s Defeat). There are many officers in this regiment identified as killed or wounded in this battle.

What the published Army Lists provide is details of:
• Field Officers and above in the army from the Captain-General to major with on one or more of the following rubrics: date of their rank in the army; date of their rank in the regiment or corps, their office in the garrison, or if they were on half-pay.
• The regiments, corps, and garrisons on the British Establishment listed by seniority.
• Half-pay officers on the British Establishment
• The regiments, corps, and garrisons on the Irish Establishment listed by seniority.
• Half-pay officers on the Irish Establishment
• Annual and daily pay rates, succession of regimental colonels, uniforms, and regimental locations.

What has been added to this annotated volume, as introduction and appendices are:
• An excellent introduction to the history of the development and content of the published Army Lists, plus an explanation of changes added here and why
• Corps of Engineers (Office of Ordnance) which are not listed in the Army Lists until 1757, identifying name, rank and location
• Annual Full-Pay, Half-Pay & Strength of the Land Forces
• Regiments reduced or disbanded with Half-Pay Officers
• An essay on the political state of Europe and Great Britain in 1748
• Chronology of events from 1748 (Peace of Aix-La-Chapelle) to 1756
• Braddock’s Defeat
• Other Offices held by Army and Garrison Officers.
The book provides a full index to all officers, a good glossary of period specific military terms and a bibliography. Researchers will want to read the introduction closely to understand what is and is not included, how to understand dates (calendar change) and abbreviations, plus the raising of numerous permanent Corps of Marines and where their officers came from.

Much has been written in North America about the French and Indian Wars. It needs to be remembered that this was one part of the much more global Seven Years’ War and the British Army was fighting around the globe. This annotated listing targeting North American researchers is of value to anyone doing British Army research in the period. The layout makes it easier to read, use and understand than the original published lists and is thus recommended as a research tool.

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