New South Wales Corps

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New South Wales Corps
(102nd Regiment of Foot)
CountryFlag of the United Kingdom.svg United Kingdom
BranchFlag of the British Army.svg  British Army
Type Line infantry
SizeOne battalion
Nickname(s)Rum Corps, Botany Bay Rangers, Rum Puncheon Corps, The Condemned.
ColoursYellow Facings, White Braided Lace
Engagements Hawkesbury and Nepean Wars (1795–1800)
Battle of Vinegar Hill (1804)
Rum Rebellion (1808)

The New South Wales Corps (sometimes called The Rum Corps) was formed in England in 1789 as a permanent regiment of the British Army to relieve the New South Wales Marine Corps, who had accompanied the First Fleet to Australia, in garrisoning the Colony of New South Wales. It gained notoriety for its trade in rum and disobedient behaviour during its service and was disbanded in 1818.



Major Francis Grose, who commanded the regiment in its early years Francis Grose.jpg
Major Francis Grose, who commanded the regiment in its early years


The regiment was formed in England in June 1789 as a permanent unit to relieve the New South Wales Marine Corps, who had accompanied the First Fleet to Australia. [1] The regiment began arriving as guards on the Second Fleet in 1790. The regiment, led by Major Francis Grose, consisted of three companies numbering about 300 men. Although drafts were sent from Britain to reinforce the regiment throughout its time in Australia, full strength was never to exceed 500. [2] A fourth company was raised from those Marines wishing to remain in New South Wales under Captain George Johnston, who had been Governor Arthur Phillip's aide-de-camp. [3]

When Phillip returned to England for respite in December 1792, Grose was left in charge. [4] Grose immediately abandoned Phillip's plans for governing the colony. A staunch military man, he established military rule and set out to secure the authority of the Corps. He abolished the civilian courts and transferred the magistrates to the authority of Captain Joseph Foveaux. [5] After the poor crops of 1793 he cut the rations of the convicts but not those of the Corps, overturning Phillip's policy of equal rations for all. [4] In a connived attempt to improve agricultural production and make the colony more self-sufficient, Grose turned away from collective farming and made generous land grants to officers of the Corps. [4] They were also provided with government-fed and clothed convicts as farm labour. [4]

Rum trading

Grose also relaxed Phillip's prohibition on trading of rum (sometimes a generic term for any form of distilled beverage, usually made from wheat), commonly from Bengal. The colony, like many British territories at the time, was short of coins, and rum soon became the medium of trade. The officers of the Corps were able to use their position and wealth to buy all the imported rum and then exchange it for goods and labour at very favourable rates, thus earning the Corps the nickname "The Rum Corps". By 1793 stills were being imported and grain was being used to make rum, exacerbating the shortage of grain. [6]

Due to poor health Grose returned to England in December 1794 and Captain William Paterson assumed temporary command until a permanent replacement, Governor John Hunter, arrived in September 1795. [4] [7] Paterson had obtained his commission with the backing of Sir Joseph Banks because he was interested in natural history and would explore and collect samples for Banks and the Royal Society. [8]

Governor Hunter attempted unsuccessfully to use the troops of the Corps to guard imported rum and stop the officers from buying it up. Attempts to stop the importation were also thwarted by the failure of other governments to co-operate and by the Corps' officers chartering of a Danish ship to bring in a large shipment of rum from India. Hunter also tried to start up a public store with goods from England to provide competition and stabilise the price of goods, but Hunter was not a good businessman and supplies were too erratic. Hunter requested greater control by authorities in England and an excise duty on rum. He also issued an order restricting the amount of convict labour that officers could use, but again had no means to enforce it. Hunter was opposed strongly by officers of the Corps, and pamphlets and letters against him were circulated. John Macarthur wrote a letter accusing Hunter of ineffectiveness and trading in rum. Hunter was required by the Colonial Office to answer the charges, and soon after was recalled for being ineffective. [7]

In 1799 Paterson, now a Lieutenant Colonel, returned from England with orders to stamp out the trading in rum by officers of the Corps. In 1800 he charged Major George Johnston, who had also served as Hunter's aide-de-camp, with giving a sergeant part payment in rum at an exorbitant rate. Johnston claimed he was being unfairly persecuted and demanded that he be sent to England for trial. The English courts decided that colonial affairs were not a matter for them and, as all the evidence and witnesses were in Sydney, that any trial should be held there. They also decided that, as proper court martial could not be constituted in Sydney, no further action should be taken against Johnston. [9]

Governor Philip King, appointed in September 1800, continued Hunter's efforts to prevent the Corps trading in rum. He had the power to levy an excise duty on alcohol, and the Transit Board now required all ships to lodge a bond which was forfeit for disobeying the Governor's orders, which included the prohibition of the landing of more than 500 gallons of rum. King also encouraged private importers and traders, opened a public brewery in 1804, [10] and introduced a schedule of values for Indian copper and Spanish pieces of eight which were used as currency; there was still a serious problem keeping the coin in the colony despite it being valued higher than its face value. King's actions were not wholly effective but they still antagonised officers of the Corps, and like Hunter he was the subject of pamphlets and attacks. King tried, unsuccessfully, to court-martial the officers responsible. [10]

The Battle of Vinegar Hill

A cartoon painting done some years later of the Battle of Vinegar Hill, artist unknown, from the Australian National Library Battle of VinegarHill.jpg
A cartoon painting done some years later of the Battle of Vinegar Hill, artist unknown, from the Australian National Library

The Corps were called into action responding to the Battle of Vinegar Hill (named after a revolt in Ireland). Late on 4 March 1804, a great number of Irish rebels rose up at the government farm at Castle Hill, armed themselves with muskets and pikes from surrounding farms, and planned to sack Parramatta and take Sydney Town. [11] Some say they then intended to take ships and sail back to Ireland, others say the intention was to declare the Republic of New Ireland two weeks later on St. Patrick's Day. An alarm at around 11pm raised Major Johnston from his sleep; he then led 29 soldiers of the New South Wales Corps on a forced march from their barracks at Annandale to Parramatta. They arrived around dawn and then later in the morning, with 50 militia of the Loyal Volunteers, they pursued the rebels who were now heading to Green Hills, today's Windsor. [12] At a feigned meeting with the rebels aided by a priest as lure, Johnston took the ringleaders hostage and when they and their men refused to surrender, to the shouts of 'death or liberty' the troops quickly put down the revolt. Over the next three days repercussions and summary justice reigned. Governor King highly commended Major Johnston for his actions, even though King had to intervene directly to stop a military kangaroo court from hanging one in ten of the rebels. At midnight on 4 March, Captain Daniel Woodriff of HMS Calcutta landed 150 of his crew to assist the New South Wales Corps and Governor King. [13]

Rum rebellion

Governor King had been requesting a replacement, for at least a year, and eventually Governor William Bligh was appointed in 1805. [14] Although the economy had developed and diversified somewhat by 1806, Bligh arrived determined to bring the Corps, and especially John Macarthur, to heel, and stop their trading in rum. This led to the Rum Rebellion, the deposing of Bligh, and the eventual recall of the New South Wales Corps. [15]

Propaganda cartoon of Bligh's arrest in Sydney in 1808, portraying him as a coward. The two soldiers in the watercolour are most likely John Sutherland and Michael Marlborough and the other figure on the far right is believed to represent Lieutenant William Minchin. State Library of New South Wales, Sydney. Arrest of Govenor Bligh.jpg
Propaganda cartoon of Bligh's arrest in Sydney in 1808, portraying him as a coward. The two soldiers in the watercolour are most likely John Sutherland and Michael Marlborough and the other figure on the far right is believed to represent Lieutenant William Minchin. State Library of New South Wales, Sydney.

In 1808, the New South Wales Corps was renamed the 102nd Regiment of Foot. [1] Having arrived in the colony in December 1809 with the 73rd Regiment of Foot, which was to take over from the 102nd Regiment of Foot, Governor Lachlan Macquarie was able to control the rum trade more effectively, introducing and enforcing a licensing system. However, due to the lack of currency he was still forced to pay for public works in rum. The construction of Sydney Hospital was entirely funded by granting a monopoly on the import of rum to the contractors, who were the merchants Alexander Riley and Garnham Blaxcell, and the colonial surgeon D'Arcy Wentworth, and troops were used to prohibit the landing of rum anywhere but at the hospital dock. [16]

A few of the officers and long-serving privates in the 102nd Regiment were transferred to Macquarie's 73rd regiment, bringing it up to near full strength. About 100 veterans and invalids were retained for garrison duty in New South Wales. [17]

War of 1812

Most of the regiment embarked for England in May 1810. [1] In England, most of the returnees went to Veteran or Garrison battalions, most officers ending up in the 8th Royal Veteran Battalion. [1] The regiment was reconstituted with new recruits after it arrived at its new base in Horsham in October 1810. [1] It was sent to Guernsey in July 1811. [1] The regiment was posted to the Bermuda Garrison (stationed at St. George's Garrison) in 1812 (this being part of the Nova Scotia Command), co-inciding with the start of the American War of 1812, and transferred to Nova Scotia in 1813. [1] In the war the regiment took part in seaborne raids along the US Atlantic coast. [1] In 1813, Lieutenant-Colonel, Sir Thomas Sydney Beckwith arrived in Bermuda to command a force tasked with raiding the Atlantic Seaboard of the United States, specifically in the region of Chesapeake Bay, with the 102nd Regiment's Commanding Officer, Lieutenant-Colonel Charles James Napier, as his Second-in-Command. Beckwith split the force into two brigades, one, composed of the 102nd Regiment, Royal Marines, and a unit recruited from French prisoners-of-war, was under Napier's command, and the other under Lieutenant-Colonel Williams of the Royal Marines. They took part in the Battle of Craney Island on 22 June 1813. [18] Detachments of the regiment remained on both sides of the border between the British colony of New Brunswick and the US State of Maine after the war's end in December 1814 (the Treaty of Ghent was signed on 24 December 1814 by the negotiators, ratified by the Prince Regent on 27 December, and by the United States President on 17 February, ending the war) at Moose Island, modern day Eastport, Maine, United States. [19]

After the end of the wars against Napoleonic France and the United States, the British Army disbanded many units for the sake of economy. The regiment was renumbered as the 100th Regiment of Foot in 1816. [1] The regiment was the last British unit to occupy the United States; the last detachments returned to Chatham in England, where the regiment was disbanded on 24 March 1818. [1]

Commanding officers

The regiment's commanding officers were:
New South Wales Corps

102nd Regiment of Foot

See also

Related Research Articles

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Philip Gidley King British Colonial governor (1758–1808)

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The following lists events that happened during 1792 in Australia.

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Francis Grose (British Army officer)

Lieutenant-General Francis Grose was a British soldier who commanded the New South Wales Corps. As Lieutenant Governor of New South Wales he governed the colony from 1792 until 1794, in which he established military rule, abolished civil courts, and made generous land-grants to his officers. He failed to stamp out the practice of paying wages in alcoholic spirits, with consequent public drunkenness and corruption. Although he helped to improve living conditions to some degree, he was not viewed as a successful administrator.

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The following lists events that happened during 1808 in Australia.

George Johnston (British Marines officer) British Marines officer and Lieutenant-Governor of New South Wales (1764–1823)

Lieutenant-Colonel George Johnston was briefly Lieutenant-Governor of New South Wales, Australia after leading the rebellion later known as the Rum Rebellion. After serving as a young marine officer in the American Revolutionary War, Johnston served in the East Indies, fighting against the French, before volunteering to accompany the First Fleet to New South Wales. After serving as adjutant to Governor Arthur Phillip, Johnston served in the New South Wales Corps and he was a key figure in putting down the Castle Hill convict rebellion in 1804. He led his troops in deposing Governor Bligh in the Rum Rebellion in 1808; which led to his court martial and subsequent cashiering from military service. In his later life, he returned to New South Wales as a private citizen, raising a family in the colony and establishing a successful farm around Annandale in Sydney.

Edward Abbott was a soldier, politician, judge-advocate and public servant who served at Parramatta, the Hawkesbury River and Norfolk Island in the colony of New South Wales, now part of present-day Australia. He also served at the settlements of Launceston and Hobart in Van Diemen's Land, which was part of New South Wales until 1825, when Van Diemen's Land became a self-governing colony.

Anthony Fenn Kemp was a soldier, merchant and a deputy judge advocate of the colony of New South Wales. He was one of the key participants in the "Rum Rebellion" that removed William Bligh, the appointed governor of the colony, and established an interim military government. He was later permitted to settle in Van Diemen's Land and became a successful merchant and farmer there.

Isaac Nichols was an English born Australian farmer, shipowner and public servant who was a convict transported to New South Wales on the Third Fleet, on the Admiral Barrington. He was transported for seven years in 1790 for stealing. He is most remembered as the first postmaster of the postal service now known as Australia Post.

Thomas Laycock

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Mary Putland

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New South Wales Marine Corps Military unit

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Governors Body Guard of Light Horse Military unit, New South Wales 1801–1834

The Governor's Body Guard of Light Horse was a military unit maintained in the Colony of New South Wales between 1801 and 1834, and reputedly the "first full-time military unit raised in Australia". It was established by Governor Philip Gidley King by drawing men from the New South Wales Corps, the British garrison in the colony. Normally consisting of one or two non-commissioned officers and six privates, the Guard provided an escort to the governor and carried his despatches to outposts across the colony. From 1802, the men of the Guard were drawn from convicts pardoned by King. Men from the unit were deployed during the Castle Hill convict rebellion of 1804 and a trooper of the Guard assisted in the capture of two of the rebel leaders.

British Army in Australia

From the late 1700s until the end of the 19th century, the British Empire established, expanded and maintained a number of colonies on the continent of Australia. These colonies included New South Wales, Van Diemen's Land, Western Australia, South Australia, Victoria and Queensland. Many of these were initially formed as penal settlements, and all were built on land occupied by Indigenous Australians. In order to keep the large number of transported convicts under control, enforce colonial law and to secure the expansion of the colonies from Aboriginal resistance, British armed forces, including the British Army, were deployed and garrisoned in Australia. From 1790 to 1870 over 30 different regiments of the British Army consisting of a combined total of around 20,000 soldiers were based in the Australian British colonies.


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Further reading