Born at Ticonderoga; Died at Waterloo


February 20, 2018
by Ennis Duling Also by this Author


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On July 4, 1777, as Lt. Gen. John Burgoyne’s expedition on Lake Champlain prepared for a siege of Ticonderoga and Mount Independence, camp follower Anna Anderson gave birth to a boy, James or affectionately Jamie. He grew up to have two fathers, enlisted man William Anderson and Gen. James Inglis Hamilton, who adopted him in 1793. For nearly six years, Jamie and his family were prisoners in America. He was to die leading the charge of the Scots Greys at the Battle of Waterloo.

Details of the Jamie’s life were gathered by Glasgow lawyer and journalist Peter Mackenzie (1799-1875) in the mid-1830s when he befriended Jamie’s two unmarried sisters, Ann and Jean, who were living in poverty. He published what he termed a “stranger than fiction” story in 1865 in a book entitled Old Reminiscences of Glasgow and the West of Scotland. Sometimes he wrote as a careful historian, taking dates and locations from marriage, birth, and baptismal documents and transcribing family letters. He knew little about the American Revolution, but his family story agrees with historical sources. He recorded that Jamie was born at “Tayantroga,” a misunderstanding of Ticonderoga, but the date is correct for the attack on the forts on Lake Champlain. At other times he lapsed into maudlin storytelling; perhaps he hid or embellished facts to improve his tale.[1]

Mackenzie’s details about Jamie’s father are the most suspicious. According to Mackenzie, William Anderson was born in in Glasgow in 1750 and married Anna Hanna in 1774. He rose from private to sergeant major in the 21st Regiment of Foot or the Royal North British Fusiliers. Anderson “received a superior education for one of his rank.” Letters seen by Mackenzie were “extremely well written indeed.” The Anderson’s first child, William, was born in England in January 1775.[2]

There was a Pvt. William Anderson in the 21st Regiment, but his life was different from what Mackenzie described. This Anderson was never a sergeant. He escaped from Burgoyne’s defeated army, the Convention Army, joined the 42nd Regiment of Foot in New York, and died in 1783. He could not be the family man described by Peter Mackenzie who survived the war and lived in a small house in Glasgow in the Gallowgate near Saracen’s Head Tavern.[3]

But there was a Sgt. Maj. William Anderson with Burgoyne. Born in 1752 in Scotland, he appears on the regiment’s muster rolls from 1776, on various returns during the wanderings of the Convention Army, and after the war when he was appointed regimental quartermaster. Although he is the far likelier candidate for the father of Jamie Anderson, he was in the 20th Regiment of Foot. Mackenzie may have been misinformed by the two sisters, who believed (according to a petition addressed to the King and published by Mackenzie) their father was in the 21st. Or perhaps he changed the sisters’ letter because the 21st made for a better story. The regiment tied together the main characters, appealed to Scottish readers, and was stationed in Glasgow in 1865 when the account was published.[4]

And to add to the confusion, there is a question of whether William Anderson was Jamie’s biological father. In an inheritance case argued in 1838 before the Court of Session, Scotland’s Supreme Civil Court, Jamie was referred to as Gen. James Hamilton’s natural son.[5] Mackenzie’s proper Victorian account of the boy’s birth and adoption did not raise this possibility, but Mackenzie promised to tell the story “without bringing one single blush to the cheek of any lady or gentleman,” a comment which may be a wink and a nod to more worldly readers.[6] Perhaps in the fall of 1776 Anna Anderson caught Hamilton’s eye and arrangements were made that were far from unique. However, speculation about Jamie’s parentage may be wronging a faithful wife, a loving father and husband, and a generous commander.

Lieutenant Colonel Hamilton, the third son of the laird of Murdostoun, an estate twenty miles east of Glasgow, arrived in Canada in May of 1776 as commander of the 21st Regiment. On September 17, he was named acting commander of the First Brigade; then on November 5, he was appointed brigadier general commanding the Second Brigade, which included both the 20th and the 21st regiments.[7]

In June 1777, Burgoyne’s army surprised the forts at Ticonderoga and Mount Independence by its size and the speed with which it advanced. By July 4, the day of Jamie’s birth, British regiments had sealed off the Ticonderoga peninsula on the west side of Lake Champlain. American cannon reached toward the British lines, but ineffectively. On July 5, the British seized Mount Defiance, a dominating peak southwest of the American fortifications, and began constructing a battery. German auxiliaries moved to block the escape from Mount Independence on the east side of the lake. Plans called for British and German cannon to open fire on July 6.

But during the night of July 5-6, the Americans evacuated the forts, and Burgoyne ordered a pursuit. He chose General Hamilton to remain at the forts with a force of about nine hundred men from the 62nd Regiment and the German Prinz Friedrich Regiment. The 9th, 20th, and 21st regiments were sent quickly to Skenesborough (present-day Whitehall, New York) by water where they attempted to cut off the retreating Americans. After a few hectic days, the advance of Burgoyne’s army slowed.

In mid-August, Hamilton rejoined Burgoyne along the Hudson River. Jamie was baptized by acting Chaplain Andrew Brown of the 21st on August 28 while the army’s headquarters was at William Duer’s house at Fort Miller on the east side of the river. Hamilton was named the baby’s godfather. The parents, the godfather, and the chaplain were all Scots; the 20th Regiment’s chaplain did not accompany the regiment to America.[8]

Sgt. Roger Lamb of the 9th Regiment told a story about another camp follower who gave birth while Burgoyne marched south to disaster. In the tale we may catch a glimpse of Anna as well. Lamb was sent from Fort Miller back to Ticonderoga to retrieve baggage. Along the way, he encountered the wife of a sergeant from his own company. “She had determined to brave the dangers of the woods to come up with her husband,” Lamb wrote. But after crossing Lake George, she went into labor and might have died if not for a family of Quakers. Lamb promised to stop for her on his return from Ticonderoga, but when he did, she had already left. Lamb commented, “She could not be persuaded to stop, but set out on foot with her new-born infant, and arrived safe with her husband, whom she followed with such fond solicitude. She thus gave an instance of the strength of female attachment and fortitude, which shews that the exertions of the sex are often calculated to call forth our cordial admiration.”[9]

On September 19, the 20th and 21st regiments, as part of a brigade commanded by Hamilton, were in the thick of the fighting at the Battle of Freeman’s Farm. Burgoyne wrote, “Brigadier General Hamilton acquitted himself very honourably at the head of his Brigade by his activity and good conduct during an Action of several hours.” According to Mackenzie, Anderson was wounded during the campaign. Freeman’s Farm is the likeliest occasion.[10]

In the fighting on October 7, the 20th and 21st regiments were part of the reserves. After the retreat to the village of Saratoga (today’s Schuylerville), the 21st was in a fortified position on the heights west of village; the 20th overlooked the main road from the Saratoga battlefield. Women and children were to the north, but only slightly safer. Frederika Charlotte Riedesel, wife of German commander Maj. Gen. Friedrich Adolph Riedesel, wrote a harrowing account of their suffering. The cellar of the Marshall House where she found refuge was crowded with wounded soldiers, women and children, and there was a “horrible stench.” Frau Generalin (Mrs. General) Riedesel oversaw the cleaning and fumigation of the cellar and organized the three rooms: one for women and children, one for wounded officers, and the room closest to the entrance for the all the rest.

The moans of the dying filled the space; eleven cannon balls crashed through the house. She was, she believed, the only woman in the cellar whose husband had not been killed or wounded, and she was in terror for his safety. Thirst was intolerable, and finally a soldier’s wife went down to the Hudson River for water. Seeing a woman, the American militiamen on the east bank withheld their fire.[11]

On October 17, Burgoyne surrendered to Maj. Gen. Horatio Gates. From two o’clock until sunset, the defeated men marched through the American lines. At the end of the procession came nearly 300 women—215 British, 82 Germans by a tally taken a month later. No one counted the children. Gates ordered that the women be given a whole ration, children a half.[12]

According to the convention agreed to by Burgoyne and Gates, the British and German regiments were to march to Boston and then sail for Europe, pledged not to fight in America again. Thomas Anburey in Travels Through the Interior Parts of North America (1789) left a vivid description of the prisoners marching through snow: “carts breaking down; others sticking fast, some oversetting, horses tumbling with their loads of baggage, men cursing, women shrieking, and children squalling!” On one cart, a woman gave birth, sheltered only by an oilcloth.[13]

In January in Cambridge, Sjt. Maj. Anderson testified at the court-martial of American colonel David Henley, accused but acquitted of stabbing an unarmed prisoner. “I saw Col. Henley move up quick towards the crowd, and make a pass at Corporal Hadley, of the 9th regiment, which wounded him thro’ the left arm into the left side and bend his sword with the force of the pass,” Anderson said.[14]

Displeased with the mild terms of the convention, the Continental Congress found reasons to repudiate it. In the late fall of 1778 and early winter of 1778-1779, the Convention Army walked from Massachusetts to Charlottesville, Virginia, about six hundred fifty miles. Anna was to give birth five times in America, so it is certain she had a babe in arms (likely Ann) or was pregnant. Jamie was toddling at a year-and-a-half. It is no wonder women claimed spots on the carts whenever they could.

They arrived at the Albemarle Barracks in the second week of January during what Thomas Jefferson called “the worst spell of weather ever known within memory of man.”[15] Snow drifted several feet deep. The enlisted men and their families were housed in three hundred unfinished log huts, each 24 by 14 feet. Lt. August Wilhelm Du Roi of the German Prinz Friedrich Regiment, which arrived eight days after the British, wrote that the huts were so miserable that “a great number of our men preferred to camp out in the woods, where they could protect themselves better against the cold than in the barracks.”[16]

By the summer when Jamie was two, the camp had been turned into a country town. The 21st constructed a large church. There were taverns and two billiard tables. Despite a late killing frost, the gardens of the Germans thrived. British soldiers built a theater and performed twice weekly comedies.[17]

Desertion had been rampant in Massachusetts—1035 British soldiers—and during the march south—another 222.[18] Some men rejoined the British army like Private Anderson of the 21st; others melted into the countryside hoping to become civilians. The exodus continued in Albemarle County; by August only 1486 British rank and file, drummers, and non-commissioned officers remained of the 3023 who surrendered in 1777.[19] Recaptured deserters were more closely imprisoned, so that the remaining Convention Army became a village of families.

Often food was scarce or spoiled. “17 Day togeather without flesh 1 Qt of I. [Indian] corn a day and that not regular, 10 Days togeather without bread,” remembered Cpl. George Fox of the 47th Regiment. During the winter of 1779-1780, the women and children “went into the Country” where compassionate people might see to their needs.[20]

In the late fall of 1780 as the war moved to Virginia, the Convention Army was uprooted once more. The British prisoners marched across the Blue Ridge Mountains to Winchester, about a hundred miles, and after two weeks continued to Frederick, Maryland, another fifty miles. Although Mackenzie did not record the dates or locations for the birth of the Anderson girls—Ann, Jean, and Grace (who died young)—he noted that John Anderson was born April 5, 1781, in Frederick, which agrees with the wanderings of the prisoners.

Next they were ordered to Fort Frederick, fifty-five miles to the northwest on the Potomac River, where they arrived on May 22. By then Jamie was nearly four and can be imagined marching like a little soldier. After a brief stay, they were off to Lancaster, Pennsylvania, another hundred miles.

In March 1781, the Continental Congress ordered officers to be separated from the enlisted men.[21] By then, General Hamilton was the commander of the Convention Army, but in July he departed for Connecticut. In leaving his men in Lancaster, Hamilton “strongly recommended the soldiers to behave in every respect the same as if their officers were present, and, though separated they should remember that subordination was due to the non-commissioned officers, who still had authority over them.”[22] With the departure of the officers, Sergeant Major Anderson became one of the final commanders of Burgoyne’s army.[23]

At the Lancaster Barracks, the unmarried men were confined in a stockade, while those with families were allowed outside the picket wall. The imprisoned men were in close contact with prisoners from Philadelphia who carried yellow, camp, or jail fever. In August prisoners who were not too sick moved to a new camp near York, Pennsylvania, in present-day Springettsbury Township.

In both Lancaster and York, people died like “rotten sheep.” Surgeon’s Mate Benjamin Shield wrote Hamilton that in five weeks “upwards of forty Men women, and children” had succumbed. At York, Shield met with the sergeants major to plan what could be done. So many suffered from the “infernal distemper” that there were not enough men to construct a hospital or to care for the sick.[24]

With the arrival in winter 1782 of men captured at Yorktown, the character of the camp changed. Sergeant Lamb wrote the most detailed description. He had been captured at Saratoga with the 9th Regiment, but made his escape in the late-fall of 1778. In New York he joined the Royal Welch Fusiliers and was captured once again when Cornwallis surrendered. The Yorktown men were closely confined at “Little York,” Lamb observed, but the remaining Convention Army had built a village outside the stockade and “were allowed very great privileges with respect to their liberty in the country.” This camp was sometimes called Camp Indulgence by the Yorktown prisoners within the stockade.[25]

“I was astonished at the spirit of industry which prevailed among them,” wrote Lamb. “Men, women, and even the children were employed making lace, buckles, spoons, and exercising other mechanical trades which they had learned during their captivity. They had very great liberty from the Americans, and were allowed to go around the country and sell their goods.” Men and whole families were hired to work on local farms.

In an August 1782 muster, the 21st Regiment had shrunk to 77 men, 39 of whom were away from the village. There were 13 women and 20 children. The 20th Regiment was the largest in the Convention Army: 99 men, 22 women, and 22 children. In all, the British army that had conquered Ticonderoga and surrendered at Saratoga stood at 474 men, 146 women, and 189 children.[26]

The remnant of the Convention Army left camp on May 10, 1783 and marched to New York, where they sailed to a home that few of the children had ever seen. Jamie was almost six.

Journalist Mackenzie picked up the story after the war as General Hamilton saw the Andersons outside their house in Glasgow. Hamilton lifted Jamie in the air, and the boy, sounding like a character from a Victorian novel, called out, “Do it again, General; please give me another toss over your head.” Mackenzie commented, “And the General tossed the bold, innocent little brat, and hugged him over and over again. That scene positively altered the destination of a great estate.”[27]

Unmarried and childless, Hamilton began to think of the boy as “his dear wee Jamie.” He saw to his education, secured a commission for him as a cornet in the Royal North British Dragoons, the Scot Greys, and then adopted him, insisting that he take the name James Inglis Hamilton. The general supported the Anderson family financially and secured a commission in 38th Regiment of Foot for Jamie’s brother John.

A note survives written by William Anderson as Jamie left for the army. “Parted with son James, half-past seven o’clock, at Larkhall. He was then aged sixteen years and seven days. I walked to Hamilton that night with a heart full of grief.” Whatever biology might say on the matter, William was Jamie’s father.

At Hamilton’s death in 1803, Jamie inherited the estate. Now James Inglis Hamilton of Murdostoun himself, he wrote to John, “We have lost our only friend; but his thoughts were occupied for the last years of his life only with my welfare, and consequently with yours and my dear sisters.” No one can doubt that the Andersons were a close family.

Jamie advanced rapidly through the ranks: lieutenant by the end of 1793, captain in 1794, major in 1803, lieutenant colonel in 1807, and brevet-colonel in 1814.[28]

In 1814 he married—“a lovely English lady, of the name Clerke,” whose given name was Mary.[29] By the time of Waterloo, June 18, 1815, the couple had not conceived a child, and so Jamie’s story of rags to riches ended in rags for the Anderson family. Since he had no male heir, the entailed property went to a distant relative of his adoptive father. With that man’s death a few years later, Murdostoun was thrown into enough legal confusion for many seasons of a Scottish Downton Abbey.

By 1817 Mary Inglis Hamilton married Edward Payne, a captain in the Scots Greys who survived the charge but soon resigned his commission. After Payne’s death in 1841, she married a member of the Swedish House of Lords, Frederic William von Stierneman. For forty-five years she received a £230 pension from the government “in recognition of Colonel Hamilton’s meritorious services.” She died in 1860 at age sixty-nine.[30]

The Anderson sisters were hard hit by Jamie’s death. Their brother John had been wounded at the Battle of Salamanca in 1812, but lingered for a few years before dying, leaving them, as they wrote, “without one friend on earth.” They inherited money from Jamie, but were defrauded at every turn. They wrote the King and the Duke of Wellington of their plight, pointing out “that they were born in the army during the time their father belonged to the 21st Regiment of Foot.”[31] Mackenzie and a Glasgow magistrate came to their aid, and their finances improved enough to have a servant.[32]

The charge of the Scots Greys at Waterloo was celebrated in verse, art, and memory. The most dramatic representation is Scotland Forever! painted in 1881 by Elizabeth Thompson, Lady Butler, which depicts a charge at full gallop. The most stirring details come from Sgt. John Dickson, who lived to be the last surviving participant. In 1855 he recalled, “Colonel Hamilton rode up to us crying, ‘Charge! Charge the guns!’ and went off like the wind up the hill toward the terrible battery that had made such deadly work among the Highlanders. It was the last we saw of our colonel, poor fellow. His body was found with both arms cut off. His pockets had been rifled.”

Dickson continued, “I once heard Major [Isaac Blake] Clarke tell how he saw him [Hamilton] wounded among the guns of the great battery, going at full speed, with the bridle-reins between his teeth, after he had lost his hands.”[33]


[1] Peter Mackenzie, Old Reminiscences of Glasgow and the West of Scotland (Glasgow: James P. Forrester, 1890), 1:.553-610; “Tayantroga,” 564.

[2] Ibid., 566.

[3] Thanks to Don Hagist, editor of the Journal of the American Revolution and author of British Soldiers, American War: Voices of the American Revolution and other works, and to Eric Schnitzer, park ranger and historian at the Saratoga National Historical Park, for providing research, sources, and opinions on the mystery of William Anderson. The conclusions are my own. Anyone wishing to locate the “real” Anderson should see British National Archives WO 12/3778/2 (21st Regiment) and 12/3676 (20th Regiment), WO 12/5479 (42nd Regiment), and WO 65/34 through /44 (annual army lists).

[4] Mackenzie, Old Reminiscences, 564, 589.

[5] W.H. Dunbar, George Dingwall Fordyce, and John De Maria, Reports of the Cases Decided in the Supreme Courts of Scotland and in the House of Lords on Appeal from Scotland &c. &c. 11 (Edinburgh: M. Anderson, 1839), 3.

[6] Mackenzie, Old Reminiscences, 554.

[7] Horatio Rogers, ed., Hadden’s Journal and Orderly Books : A Journal Kept in Canada and Upon Burgoyne’s Campaign in 1776 and 1777 (Albany: Joel Munsell’s Sons, 1884), 468-471.

[8] Mackenzie, Old Reminiscences, 564.

[9] Roger Lamb, Memoir of His Own Life (Dublin: J. Jones, 1811), 181-183, 189.

[10] Edward Bailey O’Callaghan, ed., Orderly Book of Lieut. Gen. John Burgoyne from his Entry into the State of New York Until His Surrender at Saratoga, 16th Oct., 1777 (Albany: J. Munsell, 1860), 116; Mackenzie, 566.

[11] Frederika Charlotte Louise Riedesel, Letters and Journals Relating to the War of the American Revolution and the Capture of the Germans Troops at Saratoga (Albany: Joel Munsell, 1867), 128-134.

[12] Hadden’s Journal and Orderly Books, lxxxi.

[13] Thomas Anburey, Travels Through the Interior Parts of North America (London: William Lane, 1789), 2:39-40.

[14] Proceedings of a General Court-Martial, Held at Cambridge on Tuesday the Twentieth of January; And continued by several Adjournments to Wednesday the 25th of February, 1778: Upon the Trial of Colonel David Henley (Boston: J. Gill in Court-Street, 1778), 24.

[15] Thomas Jefferson to Patrick Henry, March 27, 1779,

[16] “Journal of Du Roi the Elder,” German American Annals (1911), 9:206.

[17] William L. Stone (trans.), “Letter from Staunton, Virginia,” Letters of Brunswick and Hessian Officers During the American Revolution (Albany: Joel Munsell’s Sons, 1891), 178-184.

[18] J.A. Houlding and G. Kenneth Yates, “Corporal Fox’s Memoir of Service, 1766-1783: Quebec, Saratoga, and the Convention Army,” Journal of the Society for Army Historical Research, v. 68, no. 275 (1990), 164.

[19] James Phinney Baxter, The British Invasion from the North, The Campaign of Generals Carleton and Burgoyne from Canada, 1776-1777, with the Journal of Lieut. William Digby of the 53rd , or Shropshire Regiment of Foot (Albany: Joel Munsell’s Sons, 1887), 355.

[20] “Corporal Fox’s Memoir,” 164.

[21] Worthington C. Ford et al., ed., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789 (Washington, D.C., 1904-37), 19:301.

[22] Anburey, Travels, 2:502-503.

[23] William Henry Egle, Notes and Queries: Historical, Biographical and Genealogical: Relating Chiefly to Interior Pennsylvania, 4th Series (Harrisburg: Harrisburg Publishing Company, 1895), 2:304.

[24] “Letter of Surgeon’s Mate Benjamin Shield to Brigadier-General James Hamilton, 1781,” The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, vol. 19, no. 1 (1895), 116-118.

[25] Roger Lamb, An Original and Authentic Journal of Occurrences During the Late American War from Its Commencement to the Year 1783 (Dublin: Wilkinson & Courtney, 1809), 397-398; James J. Graham, Memoir of General Graham with Notices of the Campaigns in which He was Engaged from 1779 to 1801 (Edinburgh: R & R Clark, 1862), 73.

[26] “State of the Convention Troops fm. 1st to 7th August 1782,” The Bailey Collections, SUNY Plattsburgh,

[27] Mackenzie, Old Reminiscences, 567.

[28] Owen Davis, “Soldier’s Story: James Hamilton, Rags to Riches,” Waterloo 200, 1815-2015, A Defining Moment in European History,

[29] Mackenzie, Old Reminiscences, 582.

[30] Gareth Glover, ed., The Waterloo Archive, Volume 1: British Sources (Barnsley, S. Yorkshire: Frontline Books, 2010), 238; The Illustrated London News 28 (Nov. 24, 1860), 484.

[31] Mackenzie, Old Reminiscences, 589.

[32] Ibid., 605.

[33] MacKenzie MacBride, “The Greys at Waterloo: Reminiscences of the Last Survivor of the Famous Charge,” With Napoleon at Waterloo and Other Unpublished Documents of the Waterloo and Peninsular Campaigns (London: Francis Griffiths, 1911), 144-145.

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