The 37th Foot in America 1775-1783

The 37th were ordered out to America in November 1775 as part of a substantial British force. The 477-strong regiment included 20 men from Brunswick and Hesse, these German states supplying some 2,000 soldiers for the expedition. After landing at Cape Fear, the 37th took part in Howe’s landing on Long Island and the attack on Brooklyn on August 22 1776, although given that the regiment suffered only one man wounded its role was clearly relatively minor. The regiment was more heavily involved in fighting on 15-16 September when the British captured New York, the Light Company in particular experiencing sharp fighting. In December, the 37th were detached from Howe’s main force to join an attack on Rhode Island, a base for privateers and a considerable thorn in the British side.

After Washington’s surprise attack on the Hessians holding Trenton, on the Delaware River, at the end of December 1776 the 37th moved from IIIrd Brigade to General Agnew’s IVth Brigade and was involved in the actions at the Brandywine (11th September 1777) and Germantown (4th October 1777). At the latter the 37th suffered three men killed and 20 wounded, the heaviest in IVth Brigade.

The British spent the years 1778-81 in abortive attempts to bring the elusive patriots to battle. For the 37th the period brought little incident or activity, with only their flanking companies seeing any real action. Monmouth Court House, the last encounter of the war between the main armies, cost the British 60 dead, including two from from the 37th. Following the detachment of ten British battalions to reinforce the West Indies, the 37th was employed in the defence of New York, a role which provided few opportunities other than raids and outpost skirmishes. In the autumn of 1779 the regiment was badly hit by an epidemic which killed an estimated 60 men. Sickness severely dented the number of available to fight: on September 15, for example, no fewer than 203 men were reported as sick and only 256 fit for duty.

In 1781 the 37th’s Light Company – part of two battalions sent to reinforce Cornwallis – was involved in the British surrender at Yorktown. It is impossible to ascertain the regiment’s loss in men there, although prisoners released in 1783 on the conclusion of the Treaty of Paris numbered nearly 30.

In June 1783 the 37th were among six regiments sent to garrison Nova Scotia where they spent the next six years.

Further information – see C.T. Atkinson, Regimental History of the Royal Hampshire Regiment, Volume 1, pp.104-32.