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 Post subject: Royal Marines on the Gulf Coast - John Milham
PostPosted: Sat Nov 23, 2013 2:05 pm 
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A while ago, Chris started this thread, and I have made a stab at looking at some elements of his service history. It is an onerous process for Royal Marines, as it means looking at shore subsistence lists, then leapfrogging into ship musters. This is a postscript on some research that I have done. I feel I have gone as far as I can with this.

http://www.nelsonandhisworld.co.uk/forum/viewtopic.php?f=3&t=796

Chris's ancestor, John Milham, was in the Royal Marine battalion which was deployed this time 200 years ago to restore the Dutch monarchy, and was subsequently sent to North America in 1814. John Milham was in a detachment sent to the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. This group of Royal Marines set up a wooden fort, initially known as the British Post, and was a sanctuary for escaped slaves and Creek Indians. Their commander was a fiery Colonel, Edward Nicolls. The parallels between this man and his troops, with that of the Colonel Kurtz character from "Apocalypse Now" are striking!

Some background info to the fighting in the southern regions during the War of 1812 is required, before looking at the personal details pertaining to John Milham.


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 Post subject: Re: Royal Marines on the Gulf Coast - John Milham
PostPosted: Sat Nov 23, 2013 2:06 pm 
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Gulf Coast preamble

In the autumn of 1813, an appeal was made by the Indians, to the British via the Governor of the Bahamas (George Cameron), for assistance in their war with the USA. A tardy response from Lord Bathurst was sent in March 1814, resulting in HMS Orpheus and HMS Shelburne being dispatched to the bay of the Apalachicola river, to initiate first contact with the Indians in May 1814, by which time the Creek War had effectively ended. The vessels carried gifts, and a message from Vice Admiral Alexander Cochrane. John Woodbine, an auxiliary officer of Royal Marines, was appointed as the British agent to the Indians. Woodbine discovered that in addition to the Indians at the Apalachicola river, there were also refugees at Pensacola.

On 23 June 1814, Sir Alexander Cochrane transmitted to the Admiralty a letter from Indian chiefs, who had come aboard the Orpheus. They promised to join any body of 'troops that should aid them in regaining their lands, and suggesting an attack on the tower off Mobile.' Having received encouraging correspondence from the commander of the Orpheus, Cochrane sent a company of Royal Marines, commanded by Edward Nicolls, aboard the vessels HMS Hermes and HMS Carron, with further supplies for the Indians, and a proclamation from Cochrane. In addition to training the Indians, Nicolls was tasked to raise a force from escaped slaves, as part of the Corps of Colonial Marines.

The first engagement between the British and their Creek allies against the Americans was the attack on Fort Bowyer, the redoubt on Mobile Point. Capturing the fort would enable the British to move on Mobile and thereby block Louisiana's trade. From Mobile, the British could move overland to Natchez to cut off New Orleans from the north. The attack on Fort Bowyer on 15 September 1814 was a defeat for the British.

Andrew Jackson heard reports that the British were organizing ships and armies for a large-scale invasion. The British established a military presence of up to 200 Marines at Pensacola in neutral Spanish West Florida at the end of August 1814. Jackson, with a force of 4,000 men, took the town in November. This underlined the superiority of numbers of Jackson's force in the region.

Andrew Jackson's force moved to New Orleans, Louisiana, in late 1814. The Battle of New Orleans , on 8 January 1815, was an American victory as the British failed to take the fortifications on the East Bank. In early 1815 the British gave up on New Orleans but moved to attack Mobile for a second time. In one of the last military actions of the war 1,000 British troops, having previously failed in 1814, took the fort thus winning the Battle of Fort Bowyer on February 12, 1815. The next day, news arrived that the peace treaty had been ratified.

The start of 1815 was to see an offensive in the south, with Royal Marine battalions to advance westward into Georgia, and to be joined by Nicolls and his forces from the Gulf Coast. These plans were overtaken by events, as peace was declared. Consequentially, with the offensive cancelled, Nicolls and his men returned to Prospect Bluff. The British post at Prospect Bluff was handed over to the Seminoles. In April 1815 the locally recruited companies of the Corps of Colonial Marines were disbanded. The greater part of the Royal Marine garrison at Apalachicola were embarked aboard HMS Cydnus on 22 April 1815.


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 Post subject: Re: Royal Marines on the Gulf Coast - John Milham
PostPosted: Sat Nov 23, 2013 3:12 pm 
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John Milham is understood to have joined the Royal Marines as a Private in October 1809. Unfortunately, the Description Books for marines of the Chatham Division whose surname begins with H has not survived. He was transferred to the 2nd (Portsmouth) Company, RMA (Royal Marine Artillery) on 3rd April 1813 and remained in Chatham for the rest of the year. When the battalion was hastily formed at the end of 1813, he was posted with them, and went to the Netherlands.

The battalion was duly sent to the Americas, and were in Bermuda in June 1814. On 4 July, Edward Nicolls and a detachment of 112 marines were transferred from HMS Tonnant to HMS Hermes and HMS Carron, for passage to the Gulf Coast. Among the detachment were Second Lieutenant Robert Henry and 12 other ranks of the RMA, including John Milham. Although the initial plan had been for this force to be landed at Prospect Bluff, they were invited to Pensacola, in neutral Spanish West Florida. John Milham is recorded as having transferred from the Tonnant to the Hermes.(source: ship muster for Tonnant ADM 37/5166 )

During September 1814, it was decided to attack Fort Bowyer, at Mobile, Alabama. The RMA detachment, along with a 5.5 inch howitzer, were embarked aboard HMS Childers on 10 September (source: ship muster for Childers ADM 37/5250 ), and were disembarked about 9 miles to the east of the fort on 12 September. The rationale was that the fort would be easily destroyed by naval gunfire, but this was duly proved to be wrong; the fort's weak point was the land side. When the attack failed, the howitzer was embarked aboard a ship, and the marines marched back to Pensacola, having suffered one fatality, Private Charles Butcher.

Six weeks later, the British were expelled from Pensacola by General Andrew Jackson and his force of 4,000 men. The British redeployed at Prospect Bluff, using this as a base from which to recruit escaped slaves and refugee Creek Indians.

The British continued with the building of the wooden fort, and drilling new recruits for their insurgent forces, in preparation for an offensive in Spring 1815. Their presence was not ignored by the Americans. In late November 1814, Major Uriah Blue, commanding a 1,000 man force left Fort Montgomery to seek out and to destroy the Red Stick Creeks. Present among the force was Creek War veteran Davy Crockett. Being unfamiliar with the territory, and being short of provisions, Major Blue's force did not find the fort, and returned to Fort Montgomery on 9 January 1815.

The British left the post in the Spring of 1815. The fugitive slaves, having been discharged from British service, took over and the stockade became known as the Negro Fort. It becomes tricky trying to work out where John Milham went thereafter, following the departure from the British Post at Prospect Bluff.


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 Post subject: Re: Royal Marines on the Gulf Coast - John Milham
PostPosted: Sat Nov 23, 2013 5:48 pm 
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Departures from the Gulf Coast in Spring 1815

HMS Herald
On 5 April, the Herald embarked a marine Drummer, three Marine Lieutenants, and a company of the 5th West India Regiment, who were bolstering the garrison, whom had previously been at New Orleans. They were disembarked at Fort Agusta in Jamaica on 10 May.
(Source: Ship muster for Herald ADM 37/4660)

HMS Seahorse
On 15 April, 64 men were embarked for passage to Britain, and were disembarked at Portsmouth on 31 May.
(Source: Ship muster for Seahorse ADM 37/5439)

HMS Borer
The Borer returned four privates of the garrison from New Orleans and embarked in January , whom were disembarked at St George's Sound on 14 February.
On 21 April, two marine Lieutenants, a marine Sergeant, and a marine Private were 'Sent by Order of Col Nicolls for passage to England'. That same day, in addition, the Borer 'Received a party of black people for a passage to Bermuda', similarly by order of Colonel Nicolls. When the Borer reached Bermuda, the refugees were transferred to HMS Goree, for transit to Halifax.
The Borer leaves Bermuda on 25 May, accompanied by the transport vessel Daedalus, arriving at Halifax on 3 June. The four marines are disembarked at Portsmouth on 10 July.
(Source: Ship muster for Borer ADM 37/4633)
(Source: Captain's Log for Borer ADM 51/2178 )

Whilst the Borer was in Bermuda, one of the people that the ship's captain spoke to did not approve of freeing slaves, and a minor diplomatic incident started when a “Gentleman of respectability at Bermuda” wrote an anonymous tip-off to the American authorities
http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=BI8AAAAAYAAJ&&pg=RA2-PA363#v=onepage&q&f=false

HMS Carron
This vessel was Off St Vincent Island, near Apalachicola Bay, on 27 March, and stayed in the area for the next month or so. On 18 April, her commander, Robert Cavendish Spencer, was reappointed to command the Cydnus. On 22 April, both vessels sailed away.

Notwithstanding Spencer's duty to the Spanish, a number of refugees were embarked on 20 April, and Lt Armbrister was embarked on the 22nd April. When the Carron arrived at New Providence in the Bahamas on 6th May, he disembarked. The refugees were disembarked when the Carron arrived at Bermuda on 22 May.
(Source: Ship muster for Carron ADM 37/4404)

HMS Cydnus
This vessel, moored off Deer Island, and embarked 81 men for passage to Bermuda, where they were disembarked on 13 June. These men were to rejoin the 3rd Battalion on Bemuda as a supernumerary battalion until 1816.
(Source: Ship muster for Seahorse ADM 37/5439)

HMS Aetna
4 Jan. Mississippi river
24 Jan. Mississippi river
27 Jan. Anchored off Ship Island
9 Feb. Off Mobile -Sent Lt Knight and Marine Artillerymen to join army per order
10 Feb. Off Mobile -HM Ships Meteor & Hydra arrived
11 Feb. Off Mobile -3.30pm our troops took possession of the fort & hoist an English jack
25 Mar. Off Mobile Bay
26 Mar. Off Dauphin Island
4 Apr. Off Dauphin Island
7 Apr. Off Pensacola
There were refugees from Prospect Bluff embarked on the Aetna on 25 April 1815
(Source: Master's Log for Aetna ADM 52/4404)

HMS Forward:
This appears to have been the last Royal Navy vessel, in the environs of Prospect Bluff, accompanied by a transport ship, the Mars.

The Forward 'Dispatched the boats with the remainder of the stores to the Bluff' on 14 May 1815. The next day, she 'Made signal to sail away'. This seems to mark the final departure of the British. On 7 June, she is at St Mary's Sound, at anchor, and on 14 June she is off Fernandina. The Forward arrived at Murray's Anchorage, Bermuda, on 27 June 1815.
(Source: Master's Log for Forward ADM 52/4491)

Edward Nicolls is known to remain at the fort as late as 12 May 1815, when he writes a letter to Benjamin Hawkins on that date. Nicolls embarks the Forward on 29 June for the passage back to Britain.


Last edited by GreenwichPensioner on Sun Jan 19, 2014 5:17 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Royal Marines on the Gulf Coast - John Milham
PostPosted: Sat Nov 23, 2013 6:06 pm 
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The majority of the men who were sent with Nicolls to the Gulf Coast do show up in warship musters, but herein lies the problem ..... musters for transports were not retained.

A group of eight Royal Marine infantrymen appear to have returned on the transport vessel Mary, having arrived at Portsmouth on 7 October 1815. Some of their time had been spent in Canada, in the company of Captain Parke, as there is a dispute over pay and this correspondence has survived.

Robert Henry and his 12 Other Ranks from the Royal Marine Artillery appear in Chatham in the 4th quarter of 1815. It is not at all clear where they have been during 1815, but it is assumed they too were taken as far as Canada, and returned to Britain some time thereafter. There is a Royal Marine Second Lieutenant from the garrison, who takes up an Ensigny with the 100th Foot in Canada on 15 September 1815, which gives some credence to this theory.

The rest of John Milham's service history is straightforward, and is a case of using shore subsistence sheets. His career in the Royal Marine Artillery came to an end on 4th Jan 1832

So, it appears that John Milham came back on a transport, but which one?

Very difficult.


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 Post subject: Re: Royal Marines on the Gulf Coast - John Milham
PostPosted: Thu May 08, 2014 9:06 am 
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I did try to do a little more research, which has certainly explored some avenues, but nothing of great significance in relation to Milham had come up.

HMS Forward
The ship muster was consulted (ADM 37/4909). There were no artillerymen, but eight former Colonial Marines and a navy Storekeeper embarked as supernumeraries on 16 May, and were disembarked at Bermuda on 28 June. The next day Edward Nicolls embarked, and the vessel sailed to Portsmouth

HMS Volcano
On a whim, I took a look at the log (ADM 51/2954). This vessel, and HMS Aetna, were present at the bombardment of Fort St Philip in January 1815, and was accompanied by HMS Herald (18), HMS Thistle (12) and HMS Pygmy (10). On 9th February 1815, the Volcano arrived off Mobile Sound. The following is recorded on 11 February, and is the second primary source to indicate that the fort capitulated on 11th, as opposed to 12th February:

'PM Ditto weather, employed as necessary
At 4 observed the Enemy haul down the American flag
& hoist English Colours'

Shore subsistence sheets
John Milham had been in the 109th Company, prior to transferring to the RMA. He appears briefly in the sheet (ADM 96/359), showing as having arrived on 22 November 1815, but this seems to be an administrative error, but one which indicates when his transport vessel returned to Chatham. I did check to see whether Lt Robert Henry is recorded as having taken any shore leave, but his name was not in the leave book (ADM 6/203).


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 Post subject: Re: Royal Marines on the Gulf Coast - John Milham
PostPosted: Tue Jun 10, 2014 9:41 pm 
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Whilst the artillerymen seem to have gone through this period unscathed, it was different for the marine infantrymen. There are nine Marines who appear to have died, as nothing further is documented (Richard Beckett, Michael Brioffez, William Brown, William Harding, James Hunt, Jeremiah Malone, John Reed, Johan Sabo, John Wainwright).

Privates Joseph Bell and Thomas Cannon, two former labourers from Cambridgeshire who had enlisted in the Chatham Division of Royal Marines, are recorded as having died. Private William De'Ath, a former tailor from Louth in Lincolnshire, a marine of the Woolwich Division, had been aboard HMS Warrior, but had volunteered to join Nicolls's detachment, is recorded as deceased. Joseph Payne and William Rocket, both the Woolwich Division, died whilst on campaign. Sergeant Abraham Green, a marine of the Portsmouth Division, from Hurley in Warwickshire is the most senior of the other ranks to have died.

Private James Rose of the Woolwich Division deserted on 18 September 1814 from Pensacola, just after the first attack on Fort Bowyer. Private Charles Butcher, a labourer from Switzerland, was the sole fatality from Nicolls's detachment at the attack on Fort Bowyer on 18 September 1814. Ship-borne casualties were:
HMS Hermes 17 killed in action, 5 died of wounds, 19 wounded
HMS Sophie 6 killed in action, 4 died of wounds, 12 wounded
HMS Carron nil killed in action, 1 died of wounds, 4 wounded
All of these 69 casualties from the battle are named in Admiral Cochrane's letter to the Admiralty dated 7 December 1814 which is in the correspondence file, UK National Archives reference ADM/1/505.


There were two Royal Marines who have been identified as dying at New Orleans, from the ship-borne complements. The first is Titus Evans, a Welsh shoemaker who had joined the Portsmouth Division of Royal Marines on 23 June 1801, and who had been on HMS Royal Oak. The second is Private William Owens, a mason from Bath who had joined the Plymouth Division of Royal Marines on 20 July 1805. He had been on board HMS Vengeur, and his commanding officer, Brevet Major Thomas Adair, lead the attack by the Royal Marines on New Orleans. (Source: musters for HMS Royal Oak and HMS Vengeur - references ADM 37/5136 & ADM 37/5182 and description books, references ADM 158/253 & ADM 158/116).


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