Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Green Redcoats

  • Military record found of “Green Redcoat” Hugh Burke shot in the Battle of New Orleans (1815)
  • Part of a collection of almost 20,000 new soldiers’ records published on family history website findmypast.com.au
  • First major coordinated release across the findmypast family of international sites

Records of an Irish soldier, Private Hugh Burke, one of the so-called “Green Redcoats”, have been published online today for the first time by leading family history site findmypast.com.au. These records are part of a major collection of newly-digitised records of those pensioned from the British army by the Royal Hospital Kilmainham.

The records, including those from the Royal Hospital Chelsea and those of Imperial Yeomanry from the War Office, represent the first major coordinated release across the findmypast family of international sites after it launched its world collection in August.

These records contain the names and discharge documents of almost 20,000 soldiers held at the Royal Hospital Kilmainham from 1783-1822. The task of cataloguing the records took a team of 14 people from the Friends of The National Archives volunteer group just over 3 years and includes the records of 19,109 soldiers. The Royal Hospital Kilmainham, the building that now houses the Irish Museum of Modern Art, was established in 1681 to house sick and veteran troops from the British Army.

The records show details of soldiers, including their height, weight, colour of hair and eyes and any distinguishing features such as a tattoo or scar, as well as where they served and their regiment.

Among them is Private Hugh Burke from Wicklow, who was pensioned from the army on the 26 June 1816 after four years’ service. He was deemed unfit for further service after receiving “a gunshot wound to the left shoulder received in action near New Orleans in America on the 8th of January 1815.”

The Battle of New Orleans is famous because it was the last major battle between the British and American forces in the War of 1812 and was fought after a peace treaty had already been signed. The Treaty of Ghent, which signalled the end of the war, came into effect at the start of February 1815 but due to slow communications the news did not reach New Orleans until two weeks later. Unfortunately for Private Hugh Burke this left him with “a mark on each side of his left shoulder” - entry and exit wounds from the bullet.

Brian Donovan, a family historian from findmypast said: “The number of Irish men who fought in the British army was extensive and these records allow us to glimpse the lives and careers of these soldiers. What makes the Kilmainham series so exciting is how far in time they stretch back. There is detailed information about rank and file soldiers born before 1750, about the regiments they served with, where they travelled, and injuries received. Scanned in colour, indexed and published online for the first time, these records are a fantastic addition to the findmypast collection.”

William Spencer, military expert at the National Archives added: “Many soldiers born in Ireland served in the British Army from the 18th-20th centuries yet the careers of these brave men have been hidden amongst some fragile and complex records. The digitisation of the Kilmainham papers in WO 119, will at last provide access to the brave men of Ireland.”

The Royal Hospital Kilmainham pension records are part of a larger collection of military discharge documents today released by findmypast including:
  • Royal Hospital, Kilmainham: pensioners’ discharge documents 1771-1821 (known as WO 119 at the National Archives)
  • Royal Hospital, Chelsea: pensioners’ discharge documents 1760-1887 (WO 121)
  • Royal Hospital, Chelsea: pensioners’ discharge documents, foreign regiments 1816-1817 (WO 122)
  • War Office: Imperial Yeomanry, soldiers’ documents, South African War 1899-1902 (WO 128)
  • Royal Hospital, Chelsea: documents of soldiers awarded deferred pensions 1838-1896 (WO 131)
About findmypast

Findmypast.com.au is a family history and genealogy website with over 1.5 billion records. Covering Australia, New Zealand, England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and the United States, the vast records cover everything from family history records to social, government and general history. This great variety of records satisfies the family history buff as well as the social and local historian alike. This collection is continually growing.

Findmypast.com.au works in partnership with leading experts in Australian and New Zealand family history. This includes Gould Genealogy & History, Unlock the Past, Queensland Family History Society, Society of Australian Genealogists, The Genealogical Society of Victoria, Australian Institute of Genealogical Studies Inc and State Records NSW.

About National Archives

For the record, for good…The National Archives is a government department and an executive agency of the Ministry of Justice (MoJ). As the official archive of the UK government and England and Wales, we look after and make available to the public a collection of historical records dating back over 1,000 years, including records as diverse as Domesday Book and MI5 files.

Our 21st century role is to collect and secure the future of the record, both digital and physical, to preserve it for generations to come, and to make it as accessible as possible. We do this by devising technological solutions to ensure the long-term survival of public records and working to widen access to our collection. The National Archives also advises on information management across government, publishes all UK legislation, manages Crown copyright and supports the wider archive sector. We work to promote and improve access to public sector information and its re-use.

Follow the press office on Twitter @TNApressofficer and for general news @UkNatArchives.

http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/

William Spencer is The National Archives' Principal Specialist on Military Records and has worked for The National Archives for the past 19 years. He is the author of a number of books including Air Force Records: A Guide for Family Historians (TNA 2008) and Army Records for Family Historians (TNA 2006).