2nd Edition of "The Hamiltons 1762-1862" NOW AVAILABLE

The content of these web pages is based on the 1st edition of my book "The Hamiltons 1762-1862" originally published in 1997

The 2nd Edition was published in 2009 . A 2012 Revised 2nd Edition is now available to coincide with the 175th anniversary of the arrival of the Hamiltons in South Australia in 1837.

Preview and order the book by opening the viewer at the right.

3rd Edition

A 3rd completely revised edition is in preparation and contains corrections and additions to the section on William Holmes Hamilton and the Duke of York, as well as further discussion about the speculated origins of the Hamilton family. Details on the Historia Incognita web page.

1. James Hamilton

IN MARCH 1745 the twenty five year old William, Duke of Cumberland, second son of King George the Second, became commander of the British Army. Two months later he led an allied army of 50,000 British, Austrian and Dutch troops against the French near the village of Fontenoy[11]. The French were in a superior position on rising ground, flanked by two strong forts. Cumberland’s plan was for the Dutch and Austrians to attack the left flank and centre. The Dutch would go on to occupy Fontenoy. The British were to attack both the centre and fortress on the right flank.

Cumberland’s plans came unstuck when the Dutch force, mainly poorly trained German mercenaries, halted and retreated, and, at the same time, the British force attacking the right fortification made no headway. This left Cumberland exposed in the centre with the French able to attack him from both sides.

The East Surrey Regiment
Cumberland had placed the 31st Regiment of Foot, also known as the East Surrey Regiment, and six other foot regiments, in the front line of his advancing troops. One of the officers with the 31st was Captain-Lieutenant James Hamilton[12].

James Hamilton had joined the regiment on 21 February 1736[13]. By 1740, when the 31st Regiment of Foot was under the command of Colonel William Hendiadys and was based in Surrey, he had achieved the rank of Ensign[14]. An Ensign was the lowest combatant rank of the commissioned officers in the army - its name deriving from the original duty of carrying the regimental colours into battle and protecting them at all costs. Most gentlemen who purchased commissions in the army began at the rank of Ensign and subsequently left after a socially suitable period of service, or purchased higher ranks, as they became available.

By the time of the campaign in Flanders he had achieved the rank of Captain-Lieutenant[15]. But more of James Hamilton later. For the moment, back to the assault on Fontenoy.

Forward tramped the ranks of scarlet, silent and stately as if on parade. Full half a mile of ground was to be traversed before they could close with the invisible enemy that awaited them in the entrenchments over the crest of the slope, and the way was marked clearly by the red flashes and white smoke that leaped from Fontenoy, and the Redoubt d’Eu on either flank. The shot plunged fiercely and more fiercely into the serried lines as they advanced into the murderous cross-fire, but the gaping ranks were quietly closed, the perfect order was never lost, and the stately step never hurried...

Silent and inexorable the scarlet lines strode on. They came abreast of the village and redoubt, and the shot which had hitherto swept away files now swept away ranks. Then the first line passed beyond the redoubt and village, and the French cannon took it in reverse. The gaps grew wider and more frequent, the front grew narrower as men closed up, but still the proud battalions advanced, strewing the sward behind them with scarlet...

At last the crest of the ridge was gained and the ranks of the French battalions came suddenly into view little more than a hundred yards distant...Closer and closer came the British, still with arms shouldered, always silent, always with the same slow, measured tread, till they had advanced to within fifty yards of the French...

“For what we are about to receive may the Lord make us truly thankful,” murmured an English Guardsman as he looked down the barrels of the French muskets, but before his comrades around him had done laughing the French Guards had fired...and now the British muskets, so long shouldered, were levelled, and with crash upon crash the volleys rang out from end to end of the line...a ceaseless, rolling, infernal fire...[16].

Such was eighteenth century warfare.

The British managed to breach the French lines, inflicting considerable casualties. French action on the flanks forced the British into something of a square. Cumberland sent for reinforcements. But the reinforcements never came. In fact it was the French who received help from exiled supporters of the House of Stuart from England and Scotland. After four hours the British had no alternative but to retreat. Of 15,000 English and Hanoverian troops 4,000 English and 6,000 Hanoverian were killed that day. The French suffered similar losses[17]. The 31st Regiment had received some of the heaviest casualties with over 130 killed and 144 wounded[18].

Cumberland was determined not to be beaten. He fell back to defend Brussels against the French and at the same time sent some 4,000 troops, including the remains of the 31st Regiment, under Brigadier-General Bligh, to retrieve his equipment and stores from the town of Ghent. The French blocked their route with 15,000 men. Bligh’s task was impossible and, after attempting to reach his goal and losing 294 men near the town of Melle, 165 of whom were from the 31st, he was forced to give up[19].

After suffering such humiliating defeats against the French in Flanders, by October most of Cumberland’s army had returned to England where there was alarm at Prince Charles Edward Stuart’s return to Scotland from Paris and his march southwards towards London.

Cumberland headed north with an army to halt the advance of the Stuarts. The 31st Regiment of Foot was initially part of that army but, because of its massive casualties at Fontenoy and Melle, it was soon sent back home to Surrey where it became part of the garrison defending London[20]. The 31st Regiment was thus relieved from taking any part in the battle at Culloden and the brutal excesses that followed.

In 1749 the 31st was sent to the island of Minorca, where it remained until 1752. In 1754 the regiment was sent to Scotland, mainly being stationed at Glasgow, and remained there until 1762[21].

In the meantime the French in Canada had established a strong line of forts facing British territory - an act which the British saw as being an extreme provocation. A threatened attack on the island of Minorca in 1756 was the last straw and the British declared war against France on 18 May 1756. Thus began the Seven Years War. Following the fall of Minorca in June 1756 it was clear that the army must be increased in size. An order authorising fifteen regiments to raise second battalions was signed on 25 August 1756[22].

The 31st Regiment of Foot became well known in Scotland, especially in the west around Glasgow, and service in the British Army was popular, at least among those who didn’t hold the events of Culloden to heart. By early 1757 the 31st Regiment of Foot, stationed in Glasgow, had doubled its establishment of officers and easily enlisted a large number of local recruits to form the second battalion[23].

The Second Battalion took its officers entirely from the First Battalion, the subaltern ranks were made up of gentlemen, and nearly all of the officers and men were Scots by birth.

What happened to James Hamilton? He is not listed among the officers of the 31st Regiment for 1757[24]. Perhaps he did not go to Glasgow. Perhaps he transferred to the 70th for there was later a James Hamilton with the 70th[25]. There was a Daniel Hamilton who was a Captain with the 31st in 1757 who subsequently became a Captain with the newly formed 70th Regiment in 1758[26].

The Glasgow Lowland Regiment
In June 1758 the new battalions were given their own regimental identity[27]. The 70th Regiment of Foot was created from the Second Battalion of the 31st Regiment. The 70th Regiment of Foot was also later known as the Glasgow Lowland Regiment or the Glasgow Greys because of the grey facings on the uniforms[28].

The first Colonel of the 70th Regiment of Foot was Lieutenant-Colonel John Parslow, a long serving officer. He was succeeded after a brief period by Major Charles Vignoles of the 31st. Among the other original officers of the 70th was a Captain Daniel Hamilton[29].

In 1759 the 70th Regiment of Foot was transferred to Canterbury, Kent, and then, in 1760, to Dover, where it remained for the duration of the Seven Years War[30], that is, until 1763. While in Dover the regiment consisted of a Grenadier company and eight other companies, making a total of 802 men, not including the officers.

In April 1760 four companies of the 70th were ordered to proceed to Bombay in India on board two of the East India Company’s ships. They were joined by the Grenadier company - thus reducing the total strength of the regiment left at Dover to less than 400[31]. These companies were transferred to become part of the 96th Regiment in early 1761 and were based at Madras in India[32].

James Hamilton and Elizabeth Taylor
Elizabeth Taylor was baptised at St Paul’s in Canterbury on 16 November 1837. Her parents were Thomas and Elizabeth Taylor[33].

On 12 January 1762 James Hamilton, a soldier with the 70th Regiment of Foot married Elizabeth Taylor at the church of St Paul, Canterbury, Kent[34]. Four weeks later, on 7 February 1762, a girl named Susannah Hamilton was baptised at the same church. Her parents were listed as being James and Elizabeth Hamilton[35]. We might speculate about the sequence of events that led to the marriage and the baptism only weeks apart. Did James Hamilton meet Elizabeth Taylor when the regiment was in Canterbury during 1759? Did he keep in touch with Elizabeth after the regiment moved on to Dover? Was marriage the only acceptable option after the child was born, or about to be born? Susannah died as an infant and was buried at St Paul’s on 24 February 1763[36].

Another child of James and Elizabeth, named Thomas Hamilton, probably after Elizabeth’s father, was baptised at the church of St Paul in Canterbury on 24 January 1768[37].

What were James and Elizabeth doing between 1763 and 1768? What was the 70th Regiment of Foot doing during those years?

We will recall that, after being sent to Dover in 1760, parts of the 70th Regiment of Foot were sent to India and attached to the 96th Regiment. When peace with France was declared in 1763 the 96th Regiment was disbanded, its officers placed on half pay and its foot soldiers either discharged or transferred to other units[38].

Did James Hamilton go to India in 1760? Probably not as he was in Canterbury to marry Elizabeth Taylor on 12 January 1762.

While several of its companies were in India the remainder of the 70th Regiment, back at Dover, managed to build its numbers back to just over 630 but was placed on a reduced establishment at the end of the war in 1763. During the same year it was transferred to Ireland then, in 1764, was ordered to the Carribean island of Grenada where it remained for a further ten years[39].

Service in the West Indies was regarded as being the equivalent of a death sentence - sanitation and the prevalence of yellow fever virtually ensured the decimation of any regiment that was sent there. In peacetime most officers with any influence were very quick to arrange transfers to more desirable postings. Those who were brave enough to go were generally guaranteed rapid promotion as a reward[40].

After being on Grenada for eight years a detachment of the 70th Regiment was ordered to the nearby island of St Vincent where a rebellious group of indigenous people known as the Black Caribs, who were described as being “warlike and ferocious”, were causing problems[41]. The Caribs were supported by escaped Negro slaves and were being encouraged to subversion by Spanish Jesuit missionaries. In 1771 they had captured a British survey party and its forty-man escort. In April 1772 the British decided that the rebels had to be brought into line. By late 1772 two thousand five hundred soldiers had been sent to the island - including six whole battalions and detachments from several others, including the 70th Regiment of Foot under the command of Major-General Dalrymple[42] .

By 27 February 1773 the rebels had been suppressed - but not until 150 soldiers had been killed and wounded, another 100 dead from sickness, and 400 in hospital “from which doubtless the majority were carried to their graves”[43].

Was James Hamilton involved with any of these adventures? It would be tempting to say that he was - the transfer to Ireland in 1763 corresponds to an apparent break in the children being baptised. But what of Thomas, baptised in 1768? Baptism dates do not necessarily relate to birth dates and Thomas may well have been born many years earlier, perhaps just before or after the 70th Regiment went to Ireland in 1763, or perhaps just before or after the regiment departed for the West Indies in 1764.

On the other hand, James Hamilton may have been discharged from the army after the 1763 peace and remained in Dover.

James Hamilton and Jane
A James Hamilton reappears at Dover by 1765 as the father of John Hamilton, baptised on 17 March 1765 at the church of St Mary the Virgin[44]. This James Hamilton was the father of at least four more children baptised at that church over the next eight years[45]. In each case the mother’s name is given as Jane.

James and Jane’s children at Dover, apart from John in 1765, included Richard, baptised on 7 June 1767, William, born on 11 July 1770, but not baptised until 4 November 1776, and finally, Ann, who was baptised on 20 January 1773[46]. All of these children were baptised at St Mary the Virgin. It is possible that another son, Adam, was born around 1769[47].

Elizabeth and Jane
Was the James Hamilton of the 70th Regiment of Foot the same James Hamilton who fathered the five children baptised at St Mary the Virgin in Dover? Was Elizabeth Taylor also known as Jane? And did James and Elizabeth, or Jane, move from Canterbury to Dover after their marriage in 1762? It is possible that, with mother and daughter having the same name, Elizabeth was called by a second name to avoid confusion - was it Jane?

To confuse things, there was also a burial registered for an Elizabeth Hamilton at St Paul’s on 18 May 1789[48]. Was this James Hamilton’s wife? Was it Jane Hamilton who remarried in 1775 to Robert Lowther[49]? Robert Lowther, died an invalid in 1784 at Dover[50]. Did Jane then revert back to the surname of her first husband?

What of Thomas, the son of James and Elizabeth baptised in Canterbury in January 1768? Was he another member of this family? There is certainly a gap between the baptism of Richard in mid 1767 and the birth of William in 1770. Perhaps they went back to Canterbury during that year.

Many years later, on 10 September 1799, another child, Jane, was taken to be baptised at the same church. The parents were listed as being James and Jane Hamilton. At first glance the twenty three year gap from the previous child suggests that the 1799 couple may have been a different James and Jane. However there was a six year gap between the birth of William in 1770 and his baptism in 1776 and it is possible that the 1799 Jane may have been born many years earlier. Nevertheless, shortly after her baptism was registered an infant named Jane Hamilton died and was buried in St Mary’s burial ground on 26 September 1799[51].

James Hamilton was buried at St Mary the Virgin, Dover, on 20 July 1773[52]. At the time of his death he was a stay maker - but was he making stays for the rigging of ships, or corsets? There appear to be no marriage records for James Hamilton and Jane at St Mary the Virgin between 1730 and 1770, but then Jane may have been the Elizabeth who married James Hamilton at Canterbury in 1762.

James Hamilton - Scotland or Surrey?
Some family legend states that the Hamiltons came from Scotland. If James Hamilton of the 70th Regiment of Foot was recruited at the time the regiment was formed in Glasgow in 1756 and 1757 then it is almost certain that he did come from Scotland, and in particular from the area near to Glasgow.

But he may not have been a new recruit. He may already have been serving with the 31st Regiment of Foot which, we should recall, was also known as the East Surrey Regiment.

James Hamilton and Sarah Buckwell
It may be beyond coincidence that a James Hamilton married Sarah Buckwell at the village of Ewell in Surrey on 22 November 1757. They had a son, James, baptised at Ewell on 27 August 1758[53]. However, there are no further references to this James and Sarah Hamilton.

One might speculate as to whether this James Hamilton is the same person who married Elizabeth Taylor just over four years later at Canterbury. Did Sarah Buckwell die, perhaps giving birth to James, and did James, the father, move to Canterbury with the regiment and remarry? The 31st Regiment of Foot was in Glasgow in 1757, but did James Hamilton return to Surrey at that time and marry Sarah Buckwell?

If James Hamilton did spend time in Ewell, Surrey, is this the origin of the name of the Ewell Vineyards established in South Australia by his great grandson Henry Hamilton[54]?

But that is not all! There is yet another possibility.

Ensign Hamilton
Remember Ensign James Hamilton with the 31st Regiment of Foot in 1740? At first it may appear that this person would be far too old to be the James who had five or six children at Dover during the late 1760s, but it was possible for a boy as young as twelve to join the army.

He could have progressed to the rank of Ensign by 1740 and to the rank of Captain-Lieutenant by the time of the campaigns in Flanders[55].

If this James Hamilton was twelve at the time of joining the army in 1736 he could have been an Ensign at the age of 16 in 1740. At the time of the marriage to Sarah Buckwell in 1757 he would have been thirty three, and thirty eight at the time of the marriage to Elizabeth Taylor in 1762. The last of the children, Ann, was baptised in 1773, by which time James would have been forty eight or nine.

One of the problems with this is that the 31st Regiment was stationed in Glasgow in 1757 at the time that the marriage to Sarah Buckwell took place[56]. It was sent back home in 1762 and remained there until early in 1765 when it was sent to Pensacola in Florida and remained there until 1774[57].

Many things are possible, but at this stage, most are pure speculation. It is, of course, quite possible that the James Hamiltons of Canterbury, Dover and Ewell were entirely separate people. But what if they were the same person?

Was James Hamilton part of the detachment that was sent to the St Vincent? Probably not as the Regiment went there in 1764 and James and Jane were still having children in Dover for several more years. Was he transferred to another unit? Or was he discharged from the unit while still at Dover after the 1763 peace? This seems quite possible given the number of children baptised at Dover during mid to late 1760s.

What eventually happened to James Hamilton?

Whether he was with the 70th Regiment or not, James Hamilton took up the occupation of stay maker, which may have been an occupation involved with the making of stays for the rigging of ships, rather than making corsets for wearing, although the occupations of his son and grandson, both named Richard, as Tailors suggests that James may have been on the apparel trade as well.

He died at Dover in July 1773 and was buried at St Mary the Virgin, Dover, on 20 July[58].

His daughter Ann was baptised at St Mary the Virgin on 20 January 1773 but she could have been born some years earlier. Her brother, William was born in 1770 and not baptised until 1776 - on the same day that Jane Hamilton married Robert Lowther[59]. Was the Jane Hamilton baptised in 1799 also their child, very belatedly baptised?

The mystery of the origins of the family of James and Jane Hamilton remains just that - a mystery. One can only speculate as to the origins and potential family connections.

But speculation does not become fact until proven by evidence and the research done so far has not revealed the evidence.

This story of the Hamiltons must, therefore, begin with the children of James and Jane Hamilton - the eldest of whom was John Hamilton.


Langley, Michael, The East Surrey Regiment - The 31st and 70th Regiments of Foot, Leo Cooper, London, 1972, p.13

Pearse, Colonel Hugh W., History of the 31st Foot Huntingdonshire Regiment and 70th Foot Surrey Regiment, Subsequently 1st & 2nd Battalions the East Surrey Regiment, 3 Vols, Spottiswoode, Ballantyne & Co., London 1916, Vol.1, p.22.

Pearse, Vol.1, p.20

Pearse, Vol.1, p.20

Pearse, Vol.1, p.22

[16] Fortescue, J.W., A History of the British Army, Macmillan, London, 1910, Vol.ii, pp.114-117

[17] Fortescue, p.119

[18] Langley, pp.14-15

[19] Langley, pp.15-16

[20] Langley, p.17; Pearse, Vol.1, p.40

[21] Pearse, Vol.1, pp.41-43

[22] Pearse, Vol.1, p.41, p.239; Fortescue, Vol.ii, pp.305-306

[23] Pearse, Vo.1, p.239

[24] Pearse, Vol.1, pp.42-43

[25] IGI lists James Hamilton, a soldier with the 70th Regiment of Foot, as marrying Elizabeth Taylor at the church of St Paul, Canterbury, on 12 January 1862 - IGI M0165411 942.23/C1 V26CT; also Canterbury Church Records, St Paul, Archdeacon’s Transcripts - IGI Film #1751627 provided by Joan Maguire

[26] Pearse, Vol.1, p.240

[27] Lawson, Cecil, A History of the Uniforms of the British Army, VolII, p.94

[28] Pearse, Vol.1, p.240

[29] Pearse, Vol.1, pp.240-241

[30] Pearse, Vol.1, p.241

[31] Pearse, Vol.1, p.242

[32] Pearse, Vol.1, p.243

[33] IGI Source 942.23/C1 V26CT

[34] An early IGI entry - M016451/2623 listed James Hamilton marrying Jane Taylor at St Paul, Canterbury on 12 January 1862; However the 1994 IGI lists James Hamilton as marrying Elizabeth Taylor at the same church on the same date - IGI M0165411 942.23/C1 V26CT; also Canterbury Church Records, St Paul, Archdeacon’s Transcripts - IGI Film #1751627 provided by Joan Maguire

[35] IGI Source 942.23/C1 V26CT; also Canterbury Church Records, St Paul, Archdeacon’s Transcripts - IGI Film #1751627. The father, James Hamilton, is listed as a Soldier.

[36] Canterbury Church Records, St Paul, Archdeacon’s Transcripts - IGI Film #1751627. The father is listed as James Hamilton.

[37] IGI Source 942.23/C1 V26CT; also Canterbury Church Records, St Paul, Archdeacon’s Transcripts - IGI Film #1751627

[38] Pearse, Vol.1, p.243

[39] Pearse, Vol.1, p.244

[40] Pearse, Vol.1, pp.244-245

[41] Fortescue, Vol.iii, pp.41-43

[42] Pearse, Vol.1, p.246

[43] Fortescue, Vol.iii, pp.41-43

[44] Parish Register St Mary the Virgin, transcript supplied by Vera Maddison 4 October 1999; IGI Films #355633 and #355634

[45] All listed in the St Mary the Virgin Parish Register of Baptisms, IGI Films #355633, and #355634

[46] Parish Register St Mary the Virgin, transcript supplied by Vera Maddison 4 October 1999; These names and dates are also listed in Hamilton, Sydney H., Recollections of Sydney Holmes Hamilton 1898-1987, Ed.Alison Dolling, 1992, p.11, Limited Edition of 200 copies December 1992, Dianna Ramsey, 31 Brunswick Street, Walkerville, S.A.5081; IGI Film #355633 confirms the dates and parents.

[47] Adam Hamilton married Ann Reynolds on 3 October 1790 at St Mary the Virgin. They had a daughter, Ann baptised on 30 January 1791, James bp.3 February 1793, Hannah bp.15 February 1795, and Joseph bp.19 May 1797, and William bp.15 January 1800 at St Mary the Virgin, Dover (Transcript from Vera Maddison and IGI Film #355633). James later became an apprentice cordwainer and was sponsored by his uncle Richard Hamilton. The IGI Films #355633 and 355634 has no record of Adam Hamilton’s baptism at Dover.

[48] Canterbury Church Records, St Paul, Archdeacon’s Transcripts - IGI Film #1751627

[49] Parish Register of Marriages, St Mary the Virgin, Dover; IGI Film #355634

[50] Parish Register of Burials, St Mary the Virgin, Dover, IGI Film #1836142 , provided by Joan Maguire

[51] Parish Register of Burials, St Mary the Virgin, Dover, IGI Film #355634

[52] Parish Register of Burials, St Mary the Virgin, Dover, IGI Film #1836142, provided by Joan Maguire. Parish Register of Marriages, St Mary the Virgin, Dover, IGI Films #355633 and #355634

[53] Both listed in IGI 097137; The Parish Register for Ewell contains no further details about this James Hamilton

[54] Henry Hamilton and the Ewell Vineyard are discussed later at page 83.

[55] Pearse, Vol.1, p.22. Handasyd had been promoted to Brigadier-General. There was also a Lieutenant George Dalrymple with the regiment. Dalrymple died on 30 March 1742.

[56] Pearse, Vol.1, p.41

[57] Pearse, Vol.1, p.43

[58] Parish Register of Burials, St Mary the Virgin, Dover, IGI Film #1836142 , provided by Joan Maguire

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