Army and Empire: British Soldiers on the American Frontier, 1758-1775

By Michael N. McConnell | Go to book overview
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Few men had greater firsthand knowledge of Britain’s army in America than its mustering agents. James Pitcher, “Commissary of the Musters,” and his two assistants were responsible for verifying the number of soldiers in each regiment. Theirs was important work; the musters, held twice a year, provided an independent account of the army’s strength, serving as a check of the monthly reports submitted by the regiments. Since pay and allowances were based on these returns, no part of the army could expect its allotment until Pitcher had verified the returns based on his department’s own inspections.1

During the interlude between the Seven Years’ War and the American Revolution, Pitcher and his men once again prepared for long, dangerous journeys from army headquarters in New York City; their travels would take them to every corner of Britain’s North American possessions as well as to the island garrisons located on Bermuda and the Bahamas. Pitcher headed for the Ohio Country, following Forbes’s Road west, to sprawling Fort Pitt. One of his assistants headed up the Hudson River on the first leg of a trek that eventually took him through the Great Lakes to distant Fort Michilimackinac at the confluence of Lakes Huron and Michigan. The other man traveled south by ship and cross-country, ending his trip in the new and sultry province of West Florida, where redcoats stood guard at the former Spanish and French forts of Pensacola and Mobile.2

Altogether, 1765 these agents covered some 9,800 miles, much of it through the western periphery of British America, lands only recently attached to the empire. Indeed, their travels followed the course taken by British expansion during and immediately after the Seven Years’ War: over the Alleghenies to the upper Ohio valley, up the Mohawk valley to Lake Ontario, and around the Niagara portage to the upper Great Lakes—the pays d’en haut of New France and the heart of the French-Indian trading and alliance network. Much farther south, British troops clung to decayed outposts in West Florida, having arrived only two years earlier.

This new imperial frontier, however, was by no means fixed. In addition


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