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There were three men by the name of Hovenden among the officers of the British Legion. I've always been curious if they were brothers, a father and two sons, or something else. A collateral descendent, Peter Hovenden-Jones, is researching a family history and was kind enough to send along the snippets he has been able to glean about their lives, including an answer to my question.
Richard was the eldest of the three Hovenden brothers who served in the British Legion. Their parents were John Hovenden of Towlerton, Queen's County, Ireland and Anne Cody. Prior to the war, Richard was a trader in Newton, Bucks County, Pennsylvania.1
In 1777, he raised a cavalry troop called the Philadelphia Light Dragoons at his own expense. Sir William Howe approved his appointment to the troop on November 7th, and the unit was active in the field by January, 1778. According to a 19th century source, Joseph Galloway had proposed (to William Howe) to raise a regiment, but "only got warrant for one troop of light-horse of eighty men, in a battalion of three troops, who, all told, under Lieutenant Hovenden's command did not outnumber one hundred and thirty two men." Throughout the remainder of the British occupation of Philadelphia, Hovenden's light horse served actively around the city, including during the skirmish at Crooked Billet.2
On May 8th 1778, he was proscribed as a traitor by the Supreme Executive Council of Pennsylvania. [see document.]3
Hovenden's Philadelphia Light Dragoons were placed under General Leslie's command for the march to New York, and continued to serve as an independent company around that city until August 1, 1778, when (along with James's and Kinlock's independent troops) they were amalgamated to form the core of the British Legion.4
Hovenden saw active duty with the Legion through 1779 in the north, and through the whole of the Southern Campaign. Tarleton made particular mention of his role in the Allamance Skirmish (Mar. 2, 1781), when he was commanding the covering party of a foraging expedition, and was the first to detect the approach of the rebels.5
His troop was present at Cowpens (Jan. 17, 1781) and Yorktown. Having either been paroled or exchanged, he had returned to Ireland by December, 1781.6
When the Legion was taken onto the British Establishment (December, 1782) he was listed as its senior captain, and when the unit was disbanded the following year, he went on half-pay. At the beginning of the war with France, he "offered his services to raise men and to serve with them, which his late Excellency, Earl Westmorland, declined with thanks for his zeal." He then tried to negotiate an exchange of commissions with a captain in an infantry regiment slated to serve abroad, but the exchange fell through, as did his petition for promotion to major, to which he felt his service entitled him.7
Frustrated in his hopes of serving his country, Hovenden remained on half-pay until Aug. 28, 1797, when he was finally granted an appointment as captain in the 21st Light Dragoons. On Jan. 1, 1798, he was promoted to lieutenant-colonel of the army, and became the Recruiting Officer for the 21st. He served in this post for about three years before retiring from the army and returning to Ireland. (He must have left the 21st just about the time Tarleton was appointed its colonel.) He subsequently became a justice of the peace for Queen's County, Ireland, and died c.1810.
Richard married Elizabeth Hovenden, his cousin. One of their sons, Tarleton Hovenden, fell at the storming of Badajoz (April 6, 1812), while serving as a lieutenant with the 3rd Battalion of the 95th Rifles. Two other sons also served in the British Army: John became a major in the 4th Foot, and Nicholas, a major in the 59th Foot.
(See also Biographical Sketches of the Cavalry Officers of the British Legion.)
Moore, the middle brother, served in the British Legion from October, 1779 until August, 1782, first as a cornet then (from June, 1780) as a lieutenant. He also served as the regiment's paymaster.8
While leading a Legion troop detached to serve with Major Wemyss in his pursuit of Thomas Sumter, he was wounded at Fishdam Ford (Nov. 9, 1780). He was present at Yorktown, and may also have returned to Europe after the surrender, since the December muster roll lists him as "absent."9
After the war, he remained with the Legion when it was established, and went on half-pay on its disbanding. His original intention may have been to settle in (future) Canada, for he was apparently granted a chunk of land in Upper Canada, on what is now the site of the town of Picton, Ontario, in Prince Edward County. (There is some question about this information.) Something must have gone wrong or his plans changed, though, for the land was sold at a Sheriff's sale in 1790.
Moore joined the 2nd Foot as a lieutenant on Jan. 16, 1793, but disappeared from the Army List the following year. In 1794 or thereabouts, he married a woman named Alicia Miller in Ireland.
In 1797, based on a recommendation from Edmund Burke, John Graves Simcoe appointed him Postmaster General of San Domingo. Moore arrived on the island on August 5, by which time Simcoe had already quitted Port au Prince bound for England.10
Moore died in Jamaica on Dec. 29, 1800. No further information has been found on him.
(See also Biographical Sketches of the Cavalry Officers of the British Legion.)
John, the youngest of the Hovendens, was a late-comer to the Legion, showing up on its muster rolls only at the very end of the war and possibly never serving with it in active combat.
After the war, he was among the large Legion contingent which settled in Nova Scotia, where he was given a land grant of 600 acres. A census taken in 1787 showed him living in Queen's County -- the same name, ironically, as his father's home county in Ireland. He was still officially with the Legion when it was established, and shows up in the Army Lists on half pay until 1798, after which his name disappears. He seems to have remained unmarried. No further information on him has been found.11
There were actually four Hovenden brothers. Walter, the eldest, was the only one who did not serve with the British Legion. According to his memorial, Walter possessed a "genteel fortune" prior to the rebellion, which he lost "by opposing the madness of the times." He escaped to British lines, served for a time as a volunteer, then joined The Prince of Wales's American Regiment (August 1777). He resigned from it on March 8, 1778, having failed during the winter to get Howe's permission to raise his own cavalry unit. Hearing "there were new Levies at Home" he returned to Britain. On Dec. 28, 1778, he joined the 2nd Foot as an Ensign. He was promoted to lieutenant on July 19, 1780, was put on half-pay, December 1791, but later became a major in the 87th Foot (March 30, 1794). He retired from the army August 1, 1795.12
They also had a cousin, Edward, who at one time lived in Newton, Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Edward sided with the rebels, and served as an ensign in the 5th Pennsylvania Regiment. He was captured at the action at Fort Washington.13
[Thanks to Peter Hovenden-Jones for supplying personal information on the brothers, and to Don Gara for muster-roll information from their years in the Legion.]
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1 List of "Proclaimed Traitors To The United States By The Supreme Executive Council Of Pennsylvania On May 8,1778" published in The Pennsylvania Packet on May 13, 1778. The Irish Branch History of the Hovendens of Queen's County, c1860. [ back ]
2 Robert MacKenzie to Richard Hovenden, 07 Nov 1777, in Historical Manuscripts Commission, Report on American Manuscripts in the Royal Institute of Great Britain, 4 vols. (London: Printed for His Majesty's Stationery Office, 1901-9), 1:150. Memorial of Captain Richard Hovenden, prepared for Earl Camden, Lord Lieutenant General and General Governor of Ireland, April 21st, 1796, in the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland, Belfast, D950/1/27. Analysis of Muster Rolls. Thomas Scharf and Thompson Westcott, History of Philadelphia 3? vols. (1894), 1:351. [ back ]
3 The Pennsylvania Packet (13 May 1778). [ back ]
4 Sir Henry Clinton's general orders for Aug. 1, 1778. Stephen Kemble, "The Journals of Lieut.-Col. Stephen Kemble (with General Orders of Generals Howe and Clinton)," Collections of the New-York Historical Society for the Year 1883, 2 vols. (New York: Printed for the Society, 1884), p597. [ back ]
5 Banastre Tarleton, A History of the Campaigns of 1780 and 1781 in the Southern Provinces of North America (London: Printed for T. Cadell, in the Strand, 1787), p234. [ back ]
6 Memorial of Richard Hovenden. Muster Roll dated December 24, 1781. [ back ]
7 Memorial of Richard Hovenden. A List of All the Officers of the Army: Viz. the General and Field Officers; the Officers of the Several Troops, Regiments, Independent Companies and Garrisons ... in Great Britain (War Office, published annually), 1783-1798. [ back ]
8 Analysis of Muster rolls. [ back ]
9 Tarleton, p200. [ back ]
10 The date of his arrival in St. Domingo is from William Renwick Riddell, The Life of John Graves Simcoe (Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, Ltd., 1926), p305-6. Simcoe described his reasons for appointing Moore to the post, and Burke's recommendation in a letter to William Huskisson, dated 25 Oct 1797. See Ontario Historical Society, Papers And Records (38 vols. Toronto, Ont.: Ontario Historical Society, 1899-1946) 25:144. [ back ]
11 Thomas H. Raddall, "Tarleton's Legion," Collections of the Nova Scotia Historical Society 28 (1949): Appendix E. A List of All the Officers, halfpay lists for 1783-1798. [ back ]
12 Memorial of Walter Hovenden, 23 July 1778. The Amherst Papers, WO 34/145. [ back ]
13 Francis B. Heitman, Historical Register of Officers of the Continental Army During the War of the Revolution, ed. Robert H. Kelby (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1967), p303. [ back ]
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