British Soldiers Wounded at Eutaw Springs

Primary Sources

July 6, 2023
by Don N. Hagist Also by this Author


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After the Battle of Eutaw Springs in South Carolina on September 8, 1781, the commander of the British forces reported, among other casualties 313 rank and file (that is, corporals and private soldiers) wounded and another 224 missing.[1] While surviving muster rolls can be used to determine which men were killed in a battle, it is rare to be able to identify individual British soldiers who were wounded—which in turn makes it impossible to know how many of those wounded men returned to fight another day.

A seldom-used source for this type of information is the discharge documents for British soldiers who received army pensions. When a soldier was discharged from the army, he obtained a document—usually a printed form with details written in—to prove that he was legally released from his service obligation. Included on the discharge was the man’s name, age, place of birth, trade, length of service, sometimes some descriptive information such as height and hair color, and the reason that he was no longer fit to serve in the army. When a man received an army pension, the pension office retained a copy of the discharge; today, many of these documents survive for men discharged after 1785.

Among the thousands of surviving discharges for British soldiers who served in America are a few that tell the place and date where the man was wounded. And among these, ten have been found that record wounds received at the Battle of Eutaw Springs.

The youngest among the ten known wounded soldiers was William Long of the 3rd Regiment of Foot. At the age of seventeen, he enlisted on April 28, 1778, and three years later found himself disembarking with his regiment in Charlestown, South Carolina, in March 1781. Although he was “wounded in the left leg at the Battle of the Eutaws 8th Septr 1781,” he continued in the regiment until 1792, when he was discharged and obtained a pension. His discharge records his birthplace as Castle Durrow in Kilkenny, Ireland, but Castle Durrow is just over the border to the north in County Laois. Long signed his own name on his discharge; having no trade, he was listed with the catchall term “labourer.”[2]

Most of the soldiers known to have been wounded in this battle were from the 3rd Regiment of Foot. Michael McCann enlisted on April 18, 1780, making him the least experienced of the known wounded. The native of “Drumaree” in County Armagh, Ireland had been a weaver before enlisting in 1780 at the age of twenty. He received a wound in the thigh at “the Eutaws,” but remained in the army for another ten years. When he was discharged in 1792, an officer wrote that, besides his wound, he was “lame from rheumatism contracted in 1790 on board ship while serving as a Marine.” Unable to sign his own name, McCann marked his discharge with an X.[3]

Another new enlistee was John Brown, a laborer from “Drumrow” in County Tyrone, Ireland. He served from May 1778 through 1791, when he was awarded a pension because of “Lameness occasioned from Wounds received in America at the Battle of Eutaw Springs on the 8 Septr 1781 in the left Groin & Right leg. He, too, put his mark on his discharge rather than signing his name.[4]

William McCreally—whose name appears on the 3rd Regiment’s muster rolls as McCawley—was another Irishman. From Desertmartin in Londonderry, he worked as a blacksmith before joining the regiment on 26 July 1778 at the age of eighteen. At Eutaw Springs he received “a ball in his leg.” When the war ended in 1783, the 3rd Regiment went south to Jamaica where they remained for several years. During that time, perhaps in September 1786, a hurricane struck the island and McCreally, in unknown circumstances, had both of his arms broken. He nonetheless served for two more years, signing his name on his discharge in September 1788.[5]

James Keating enlisted in the 3rd Regiment on October 10, 1777 at the age of twenty-three after working as a weaver in his native Dublin, Ireland. In spite of being wounded in the head at Eutaw Springs, he remained in the 3rd Regiment until about 1789, then spent another six years in two other regiments before putting his name on his discharge in January 1796.[6]

That all of these new recruits were Irish is a reflection of the 3rd Regiment having been posted in Ireland for several years before serving in America. Like most regiments during this era, the 3rd included men from all over Great Britain and Ireland. Edward Allen, for example, was from Chislet in County Kent, England. When he enlisted in the 3rd Regiment on June 4, 1775, he was nineteen years old. By the time he wrote his name on his discharge on February 23, 1792, he had been wounded in the right ancle at the Eutaws 8th Septr 1781; also considerably weakened from severe service on the Mosquito shore.”[7]

It bears noting that all of these wartime enlistees were volunteers. When the war ended in 1783, the 3rd Regiment of Foot went to Jamaica. There, encamped at a place called Up Park, they received orders for a reduction in size to a new peace-time establishment; men who had enlisted after 16 December 1775 were entitled to be discharged, after which they could return to their homeland rather than remaining in the hostile tropical climate. All of them, in spite of having been wounded in battle, chose to re-enlisted, as did dozens of their comrades, continuing in the regiment until they were deemed no longer fit for service.

The one who served longest was Thomas Crooks, from North Waltham in Norfolk, England. He had enlisted on March 20, 1769, and remained in the regiment until 1789 when he was discharged, having attained the rank of corporal during his twenty years of service. He was recommended for a pension due to “a Wound he recd in his breast, at the battle of Eutaw Springs South Carolina & an uncerated leg, which was contracted at Black River Musquito Shore.” In spite of these infirmities, he returned to the army in 1797, spending five years in a corps called the Plymouth Invalids before returning to the pension rolls in 1802.[8]

Men from other regiments who could have gone home in 1783 also chose to enlist in the 3rd Regiment instead. James Flint and Michael Kelly were both discharged from the 64th Regiment of Foot, both had the option of leaving the army forever, and both chose instead to re-enlist. And both had been wounded at Eutaw Springs. Flint was a weaver from the city of Manchester in Lancashire and enlisted in early 1776 at the age of twenty-one and soon joined his regiment in America. With the 64th Regiment he was “wounded through the right thigh at the Battle of Brandywine [in 1777], & right breast at the Eutaw Springs in 1781.” When the 64th Regiment went to Jamaica and gave him the opportunity to go home, he opted instead to join the 3rd and stayed with them until 1791.[9]

Michael Kelly was a “nailor” (nail maker) from the town of Shinrone in County Offaly. He, too, enlisted in in the 64th Regiment in 1776, joining them in America in December of that year. At the Battle of Germantown in 1777 he was wounded in the left leg. At Eutaw Springs he was wounded again, this time in the left arm, and taken prisoner. In spite of having endured these hardships, he, too, chose to re-enlist in 1783, serving in the 3rd Regiment until 1792.[10]

The only British soldier known to have been wounded at Eutaw Springs who had no connection to the 3rd Regiment of Foot is Samuel Wright, five-foot six-inch tall Englishman with brown hair and grey eyes. A gardener from Austrey in Warwickshire, England, he enlisted at the age of twenty-one into the 19th Regiment of Foot in 1770. His regiment, like the 3rd, landed in Charlestown, South Carolina in early 1781 and was soon deep in the war. Although he was wounded in the left thigh, he remained with his regiment until 1792 when he was discharged because of “Length of service and being wounded during the war in America at the Eutaw Springs.” He quickly re-enlisted, this time in a regiment called the West Lowland Fencibles, where he served another four years. In 1803 he went into the army one last time, spending four years and two months 6th Royal Veteran Battalion, taking his leave for the last time in 1807 at the age of fifty-eight. By then he was, quite aptly, “wounded through the left thigh and worn out.”[11]


[1]Alexander Stewart to Charles Cornwallis, September 9, 1781, in Documentary History of the American Revolution … Chiefly in South Carolina, ed. R.W. Gibbes (Columbia, SC: Banner Steam-Power Press, 1853), 1:139.

[2]The National Archives of Great Britain (TNA): Discharge of William Long, WO 121/13/127; muster rolls, 3rd Regiment of Foot, WO 12/6699.

[3]TNA: Discharge of Michael McCann, WO 121/13/129; muster rolls, 3rd Regiment of Foot, WO 12/6699.

[4]TNA: Discharge of John Brown, WO 121/10/7; muster rolls, 3rd Regiment of Foot, WO 12/6699.

[5]TNA: Discharge of William McCreally, WO 121/5/117; muster rolls, 3rd Regiment of Foot, WO 12/6699.

[6]TNA: Discharge of James Keating, WO 121/25/94; muster rolls, 3rd Regiment of Foot, WO 12/6699.

[7]TNA: Discharge of Edward Allen, WO 121/13/112; muster rolls, 3rd Regiment of Foot, WO 12/6699.

[8]TNA: Discharges of Thomas Crooks, WO 121/6/33 and WO 121/153/146; muster rolls, 3rd Regiment of Foot, WO 12/6699.

[9]TNA: Discharge of James Flint, WO 121/11/282; muster rolls, 64th Regiment of Foot, WO 12/7313; muster rolls, 3rd Regiment of Foot, WO 12/6699.

[10]TNA: Discharge of Michael Kelly, WO 121/13/126; muster rolls, 64th Regiment of Foot, WO 12/7313; muster rolls, 3rd Regiment of Foot, WO 12/6699.

[11]TNA: Discharges of Samuel Wright, WO 121/15/23, WO 121/145/163; WO 121/65/120.


  • Very interesting that there is a very high proportion of leg wounds. Yes, it’s a small sample but I wonder if there is something to be said for American marksmanship in the battle or that wounds to the body would have proved more fatal.

  • The data sample is not only too small to draw conclusions, it’s also heavily biased – all the men here received wounds that they could recover from sufficiently well to served for several more years. We don’t know how many Eutaw Springs casualties were wounded in ways that were immediately and permanently disabling, nor the nature of wounds that were fatal. This pension data, interesting thought it is, cannot be used to draw conclusions about opponents marksmanship, or even the fatality of different types of wounds.

  • If I may comment about the number of leg wounds, the American army since the encounter at Boston, loaded their muskets with “swan shot” and multiple projectiles. I assume they loaded their muskets with
    insufficient powder to drive the projectiles properly to the intended targets, hence the lower leg wounds.
    Powder and shot then, were not the science it is today.

    1. A reminder that this article does not give enough information to suggest that leg wounds were common. The British side suffered 313 wounded at the Battle of Eutaw Springs; this article presents 10 of them, 6 of whom received leg (thigh, leg and ankle – the period term “leg” refers to the part between the knee and ankle) wounds in the battle. That’s not enough data to draw conclusions.
      That said, please provide some primary sources to support the claim that American soldiers “loaded their muskets with ‘swan shot’ and multiple projectiles.”

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