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Ask MHQ: British Revolutionary War Burials

By Thomas B. Allen
11/10/2014 • Ask MHQ

Gravesite of unknown British soldiers who died during the American Revolution near Concord. (IstockPhoto/Thinkstock)
Gravesite of unknown British soldiers who died during the American Revolution near Concord. (IstockPhoto/Thinkstock)

Q: After visiting some of the beautifully maintained British cemeteries in Europe and Asia, I was struck by the dedication of the British to honoring their dead left in foreign lands. What happened to the dead of their side in the American Revolutionary War? If they are here, where are they and who cares for them today?

Paul Anderson
Helena, Montana

 

A: At the time of the American Revolution, British Army regulations called for battlefield burial of their dead. So the remains of redcoats who died of wounds or disease in the war—25,000, by one reliable estimate—lie in many places. Recent research in Boston indicates that after the Battle of Bunker Hill on June 17, 1775, about 50 of the British dead were interred in an abandoned trench dug by American defenders. Presumably nearby, in scattered graves never marked, lie some 150 more redcoats.
While there is no designated cemetery for Revolutionary warriors—American or British—a few places are significant. At Mount Independence State Historic Site in Orwell, Vermont, researchers have found several burial sites that probably contain the remains of Americans, British, Germans, Canadians, and Native Americans killed in battle. According to local legend, Old Salem Burying Ground in the village of Salem, New York, may be the final resting place of about 100 American soldiers killed in the Battle of Saratoga. Another local tradition has hundreds of American soldiers buried in unmarked graves around Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, site of a Continental Army hospital. In 1892 the bodies of 10 soldiers who fell in the Revolution were removed to Arlington National Cemetery and buried in honored glory.

Thomas B. Allen, a former National Geographic writer and editor, is author of many books on American history, including Tories: Fighting for the King in America’s Civil War (2011).

Something about military history you’ve always wanted to know? Submit your question to MHQeditor@weiderhistorygroup.com, and we’ll have an expert answer it.

4 Responses to Ask MHQ: British Revolutionary War Burials

  1. Michael says:

    What happened in the american revolution cus im doing a project on it and i gots to know.

  2. Michael J. Shanahan says:

    The response by Mr. Allen was interesting. I conducted a subsequent Google and discovered some additional interesting facts.

    http://www.revolutionarywarnewjersey.com /new_jersey_revolutionary_war_sites/towns/union_nj_revolutionary_war_sites.htm

    The link above addresses the Battle of Connecticut Farms which was fought on June 7, 1780. The following information is from that web page:

    “ The cemetery at the Connecticut Farms Presbyterian Church contains the graves of seventy-two known American Revolutionary War soldiers. The cemetery also contains a mass grave of British and Hessian soldiers who died at the Battle of Connecticut Farms. A gravestone was erected in 2001 to pay tribute to these unknown British and Hessian soldiers: “Buried in this mass grave are British and Hessian Troops killed at the Battle of Connecticut Farms June 7, 1780. These soldiers lost their lives in defense of the British Crown and in support of the Loyalist cause during the Revolutionary War. Their heirs took to Canada and other parts of the world their loyalty respect for the rule of law and determination to make new lives in a new country.”

  3. Tom Grady says:

    My GGGGrandfather was a Tory and is buried in a very small family cemetery on private land that is unmaintained and overgrown. Is there a organization that would like to know of this gravesite, and hep maintain it? The local DAR gets excited at first but quickly looses interest when I mention he was a Tory.

    • answer to Tom Grady says:

      does it really matter who he was?
      he is still human.
      you could just ask gardeners in every so often to keep it in good condition.
      sorry i don’t know of any organization but you could start your own.

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