Tuesday, May 21, 2013

John Tyrrel, Drunkard but excellent Soldier?

Tyrrel arrived in America with the Grenadier Coy in July 1767. He was one of the two “supernumerary” privates beyond the establishment of 45 privates. He wasn’t listed as a supernumerary on the April 1768 return, but was listed as the last soldier on the roster. This was due to the transfer of James Knight to a battalion company in November 1767. He remained with the Grenadier Coy during the entire time of its American Service. He must have had some redeeming military qualities to consistently remain a grenadier however, since his behavior was less then outstanding during his tenure in America. The complete regimental court martial rolls are only available for the three companies in Boston from October 1774 through June 1775. During that time, Tyrell was brought before a court martial four separate times.
On 7 October 1774, Tyrell was charged For constant Drunkenness & unsoldierlike Behavior. He was to receive 300 lashes. However, all were remitted Clearly his near miss with the drummers and the cat didn’t impact his behavior as Cpt. Shee had hoped. For a month later, Tyrell reappeared before a regimental court on 8 November 1774, this time for being drunk on Guard. He was found guilty and ordered to receive 300 lashes.  He received 260 on 15 November 1774. Only 40 lashes were remitted. Two months later on 27 January 1775, Tyrell added some larceny to his bag of tricks about appeared before a regimental court charged with “being beastly drunk on the time of Devine Service, and defrauding of his Comrade of his Bread.” He earned 50 more lashes, but once again his officers remitted the sentence and we escaped without any additional punishment. However, he did remain out of trouble for three months.
Potentially, it was the stress of the march to Concord that sent Tyrell back over the edge. On 25 April 1775, he was charged For being drunk at Roll callg & threatening the life of Serjt Bell of sd Compy. This was not the behavior of a model soldier. He was found guilty and sentenced to 300 lashes. Justice was swift and Tryell received 160 lashes later that same day. One hundred and forty were remitted. Tryell was listed as present for duty on 7 October 1775 on Charleston Heights.
One might think that the officers of the Royal Irish would be thrilled to get rid of a drunkard like Tyrell when the regiment was drafted in December 1775, but amazingly, he was one of the few privates not drafted. He returned to England in early 1776 and finally left the Grendaider, being posted to the General’s Coy. He actually listed as on furlough in March 1777. One might think a soldier who received so many punishments would desert, but Tyrell returned. He received additional furloughs in March 1780 and February 1781. He was still listed as one furlough in October 1781. He isn’t listed in the February 1782 returns. It is unclear if he deserted, died or was discharged.[1]

[1] Punishment Book; WO 12/3501 & 3502.