This text has been extracted, in its entirety, from Chapter 12 (pp. 129-132)

The Pennsylvania Line

Regimental Organization and Operations, 1775 - 1783

by John B. B. Trussell

Commonwealth of Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission

Harrisburg, 1993

 

 

History of the "Old" 11th Pennsylvania Regiment

 

 

ORGANIZATION

 

At different times, the Pennsylvania Line had two organizations designated as the 11th Pennsylvania Regiment. The second of these was referred to as the "New" 11th Pennsylvania from the time of its formation; from about the same time, as a means of differentiation, the regiment which during its active existence had been merely the 11th Pennsylvania, came to be referred to as the "Old" 11th. It is that organization which will be discussed in this chapter.

 

The original 11th Pennsylvania was one of the five Pennsylvania regiments authorized for the Continental Army on October 25, 1776.  Some fourteen months later, it was absorbed into the 10th Pennsylvania Regiment in connection with the general restructuring which took effect on July 1, 1778.

 

The commander of the 11th Pennsylvania throughout its service was Col. Richard Humpton, who, by virtue of his greater seniority, became commander of the 10th Pennsylvania when the two regiments were consolidated.

 

The regiment had two lieutenant colonels. The first was Lt. Col. Francis Gurney. He was wounded at Iron Hill on September 3, 1777, in an action preceding the Battle of Brandywine, and on October 22, 1777, resigned his commission. He was succeeded by Caleb North, who was promoted from major, 10th Pennsylvania. On July 1, 1778, he became lieutenant colonel of the 9th Pennsylvania Regiment.

 

During the time that the 'Old" 11th Pennsylvania existed, it had only one major. This was Francis Mentges, who had been a first lieutenant in Atlee's State Battalion of Musketry. When the 11th Pennsylvania ceased to exist, he was transferred to the 7th Pennsylvania.

 

No company muster rolls for this regiment have been preserved. The companies and their commanders, however, were as follows:

 

[Company A], commanded by Capt. Samuel Dawson, possibly the man of that name from Chester County. He was commissioned directly from civilian life on November 13, 1776, continuing with the regiment until July 1, 1778, when he was transferred to the 8th Pennsylvania.

 

[Company B], commanded by Doctor John Coates, who also appears to have been appointed a captain in this regiment without prior military service. His pre-war residence is not known. On May 8, 1777, at Piscataway, New Jersey, he was wounded in the right hand. He resigned from the army on September 7, 1777, being replaced by John Pearson, of Reading, who was promoted from first lieutenant. Pearson continued in command until July 1, 1778, when he was reassigned, in his case to the 9th Pennsylvania Regiment.

 

[Company C], commanded by Capt. Adolph William Hedrick, whose pre-war residence is unidentified. Although one source says that Hedrick remained in the army until July 1, 1778, that assertion appears to he in error; he seems to have resigned his commission on October 30, 1777. Reinforcing this probability is the fact that William Mackey was promoted from first lieutenant on that date to fill the vacancy. At the time, Mackey was actually a prisoner of war, having been wounded and captured at the Battle of Brandywine, on September 11, 1777. However, he was promptly exchanged (in November, 1777), and served with the 11th Pennsylvania from that time until his transfer to the 9th Pennsylvania on July 1, 1778.

 

[Company D], commanded by Capt. William Bradford, Jr., probably of Philadelphia. After serving as a captain in the Flying Camp, Bradford was appointed as a captain in the 11th Pennsylvania on September 30, 1776. On April 10, 1777, he was appointed a lieutenant colonel in the Deputy Commissary General of Musters Department. His place as a captain was taken by George Ross, Jr., who was promoted from first lieutenant. Ross had been adjutant of the 2d Pennsylvania Battalion prior to his appointment as first lieutenant in the 11th Pennsylvania Regiment. On April 1, 1778, he resigned his captaincy, which apparently remained unfilled during the remaining three months that the regiment continued to exist.

 

[Company E], commanded by Capt. William Scull, probably the man of that name from Berks County. Captain Scull served with the 11th Pennsylvania from the time of its organization until July 1, 1778, when he joined the Geographers' Department.

 

[Company F], commanded by Capt. William Henderson (not the Capt. William Henderson who served in the 4th Pennsylvania Regiment), who may have been from Philadelphia, or may equally have been one of the men of that name from Chester County. On February 22, 1777, he was transferred to the 4th Light Dragoons as Regimental Paymaster. His replacement in the 11th Pennsylvania was Samuel Doan, promoted from first lieutenant. The reorganization of July 1, 1778, made Doan supernumerary, and he left the army.

 

[Company G], commanded by Capt. John Douglass, possibly from Lancaster County. Like many of the other captains of this regiment, he was appointed without prior service. He resigned his commission on December 7, 1777. Apparently, no replacement was appointed.

 

[Company H], nominally commanded by Capt. William McKissack. While serving as a captain of the Flying Camp, McKissack was taken prisoner at Fort Washington, New York, on November 16, 1776. Although he was appointed a captain in the 11th Pennsylvania on January 1, 1777, he never joined the regiment. Presumably, the company was actually commanded by its first lieutenant.

 

The decision to add a ninth company to each Continental infantry regiment was not taken until May 27, 1778. By that time, the decision to consolidate the 11th Pennsylvania with the 10th Pennsylvania had also been taken, so no ninth company was added to this organization.

 

Uniforms seem to have varied by company. Of two men from Company G who deserted in November, 1776, one was wearing a green coat faced with white, and sky-blue breeches; and the other was dressed in a hunting shirt and leggings. Five months later, in April, 1777, a deserter from Company B had a light infantry cap, a blue coat with scarlet cape and cuffs, white waistcoat, and buckskin breeches. Just a month afterwards, a deserter from Company A appeared in a green coat with white facings; but a deserter from Company C in July, 1777, wore a blue coat. Two men from Company D who also deserted in July, 1777, were wearing brown coats, white waistcoats, and leather breeches.

 

SUMMARY

 

To the limited extent that information concerning the geographical origins of the company commanders is available, they appear to have come chiefly from the area of Philadelphia and of Chester, Berks, and possibly Lancaster counties. The short time that this organization was in existence, however, suggests that its original regional composition would have remained essentially unchanged.

 

OPERATIONS

 

Some of the officers of the 11th Pennsylvania are listed as having been serving in New York before the end of October, 1776. One of them, 2d Lt. Robert Patton, was taken prisoner at a skirmish near White Plains, New York, on October 27, 1776, only two days after the regiment was officially authorized! Another, 2d Lt. Andrew Robinson, was captured at Fort Washington on November 16, barely three weeks later. It seems clear, however, that these men were serving with other units when they were commissioned in the 11th Pennsylvania and were taken prisoner before they could enter upon their new appointments. Patton seems to have been exchanged promptly, for he served later in the 11th Pennsylvania until July 1, 1778, when he was transferred to the 10th Pennsylvania. Robinson, by contrast, was not exchanged until January 4, 1781.

 

Elements of the 11th Pennsylvania could are also shown as parts of the force of the Battle of Princeton, on January 3, 1777, where the command was one of five regiments making up a 500-man brigade. Manifestly, only a fraction of the 11th Pennsylvania could have been involved. Later, at least some of the 11th Pennsylvania took part in the patrol actions in New Jersey, which marked the spring and summer of 1777, for Captain Coates was wounded at Piscataway on May 8, and as of June 11, the regiment had lost thirty-four men dead and eight captured. At that time, it had 263 enlisted men present for duty.

 

During the summer, the 11th Pennsylvania was assigned to the 2d Brigade of Anthony Wayne's division. Some of its troops were detached to serve with the special task force (the "light infantry corps") under Brig. Gen. William Maxwell, which was formed for the fall campaign opposing the British approach toward Philadelphia from the south. It was Maxwell's command which fought the delaying action at Iron Hill on September 3, 1777, when Lt. Col. Francis Gurney was wounded.

 

The regiment as a whole seems to have seen its first major action at the Battle of Brandywine, on September 11, 1777. As part of Wayne's division, it was deployed to cover Chadd's Ford across Brandywine Creek. When the British and Hessian element of the enemy force, under General Knyphausen, drove across the creek, the 11th Pennsylvania appears to have seen especially hard fighting. Although little information is available about enlisted casualties, the regiment's losses in officers were relatively high: three second lieutenants were killed, another was wounded, and a third was captured; a first lieutenant was wounded and another wounded and captured. The enlisted casualties were reported as four privates, wounded.

 

The regiment was in combat again on September 20 when, with the rest of Wayne's division, it was surprised at Paoli. When the British struck the American camp, Wayne ordered Colonel Humpton, who commanded the division's right wing, to move left to high ground and take up a position to cover the withdrawal of the rest of the command. Instead, Humpton moved his troops to the right - according to Wayne this was "owing to some Neglect or Misapprehension in Colonel Humpton (which is not uncommon)." Worse, Wayne charged, instead of moving his troops behind the campfires, Humpton moved them in front, silhouetting them for the attacking British. The result was that the heaviest losses in the engagement were suffered by the units under Humpton's command, which "completely dissolved" in the face of the enemy assault. (However, the regiment's only casualty identified as occurring at Paoli was one private, wounded.) Some historians have said that Wayne tried to make Humpton the scapegoat for the Paoli debacle, while others have held that it was to divert blame from himself that Humpton later preferred charges of negligence against Wayne. The court of inquiry which followed reached an ambiguous conclusion so Wayne demanded - and got - a courts martial, which exonerated him. Whatever the facts of the case, the understandable coolness which developed between Wayne and Humpton eventually gave way to an amicable professional association.

 

In the meantime, the 11th Pennsylvania fought again at Germantown on October 4, 1777. In this action, in which it helped assault the center of the British position, its only known casualties were its adjutant, 1st Lt. Thomas Lucas, who was killed, and two privates wounded. Its total losses during the campaign, however, must have been substantial, for by November 1, 1777, it had present for duty only eight officers and eighty enlisted men. Another sixty-six enlisted men were sick, and thirty-one were on detached service.

 

The 11th Pennsylvania had no opportunity to do any fighting at Whitemarsh in early December, 1777. However, it was present, holding a portion of the first line, just to the right of the center.

 

After spending the winter of 1777-1778 at Valley Forge (valleyforgemusterroll.org) with the other regiments of the Pennsylvania Line, the 11th Pennsylvania took part in the campaign across New Jersey which followed. At the Battle of Monmouth, on June 28, 1778, it was probably one of the three Pennsylvania regiments in the force which Aaron Burr led in a late-afternoon assault on the flank of a British counterattacking column. Throughout the engagement, however, its only casualty was one enlisted man wounded.

 

The amalgamation of the 11th Pennsylvania with the 10th Pennsylvania took place less than a week later, on July 1. As noted, some of the officers left the service and others were assigned to different regiments, but the remaining enlisted men would have gone with Colonel Humpton into the new organization.

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