Bowles DNA Project
Michael Bowles of Ballickmoyler
My article The Strange
Military Career of Michael Bowles was published in the 2019 Edition
of Carloviana: The Journal of the Carlow Historical and Archaeological
While there are not too many more records for this family from the 1700's, the name Michael is not mentioned again in any civic or parish records, not even in the record of the family's losses in the 1798 rebellion in which his brothers, Joseph and William Bowles', houses were burned down. A Michael Bowles does appear in the Vestry minutes of the Castletown Church in 1807 but that would likely have been Michael Jr.
His Early Years in Manchester
Michael Bowles left Ballickmoyler as a young man and went to Manchester, England to find employment as so many young men did at that time. With the Industrial Revolution underway in Manchester there was a great need for labourers and skilled tradesmen and there was a huge flow of people from Ireland partly for the employment and partly to escape the difficult times that represented every day life in Ireland. Ballickmoyler was no exception to the rule as the White Boys, an agrarian resistance movement, were active in that area by the 1760's. Their target would have been the Protestant minority of British origin in the area, people like the Bowles of Ballickmoyler.
In Manchester, at age 23 in 1768 and by occupation a cabinet maker, Michael married Alice Fletcher. A first child was born in 1769 but did not survive. When their second child was expected, probably finding it difficult to support his family, he enlisted in the British Army.
It's not certain which regiment he first joined. His discharge paper from the 29th Foot Regiment dated Feb. 21, 1792 states that Sergeant Michael Bowles "born in the Parish of Killaben in or near the market town of Carlow in the county of Queens, aged forty seven years and by Trade a cabinet maker" was discharged as "being worn out in His Majesty's Service" after serving for 21 years and 6 months in the 65th Foot Regiment and in Colonel Lord Cathcart's Company of Colonel Harrington's 29th Foot regiment. That helps us establish his birth year as in 1744 or 45 which fits with our Michael having been born shortly before his younger brother Joseph in 1747. It also gives us the date of his first enlistment as about August 1770. As shown below though he probably didn't enlist immediately into the 65th as his discharge document indicated. See his service with the Earl of Harrington below.
He clearly remained in the Manchester area during the first years of his enlistment as his wife delivered children there in April 1772, July 1773 and Feb. 1776; his first wife died in Feb. 1776; he married his second wife in June 1776 and had children baptized there in Jan. 1777 and in Sept. 1778. Both the 65th and the 29th were overseas at that time fighting against the rebellious Americans.
Their religious events were held in the Manchester Cathedral but the family may actually have lived just outside Manchester in the township of Oldham in the parish of Prestwich-cum-Oldham which at the time was part of the Diocese of Chester. On Oct. 5, 1773 Michael witnessed the marriage of a John Macdonald of Oldham at St Mary the Virgin, Prestwich. ref. At that time Michael was married to his first wife, Alice Fletcher. On his second marriage June 12, 1776 at St. Mary, Prestwich both Michael and his wife, Jane Dyson, were 'of Oldham'.
A possibly relevant note, although I'm not sure how yet, is that when Michael was serving as a Corporal in the 65th Foot in Ireland in 1784, the two sergeants in his regiment were a John Macdonald and a Paul Fletcher. A William Dyson, born Manchester, also served in the 65th and retired at age 41 as a Kilmainham pensioner (therefore while his Regiment was on the Irish Establishment) sometime between 1795 and 1821. ref. Paul Fletcher's 1791 discharge document states that he was born in the parish of St Thorpman (Thorpe), Derby, he was 44 (so born 1747 about the same age as Michael), he was by trade a weaver, had served from 1768 to 1791 (23 years, 20 as a Sergeant) in the 65th and that he had previously served in the 27th Regiment for 3 years (so from 1765). Perhaps further research into Macdonald and Fletcher may help us identify Michael's earlier regiment.
Michael may have served in some other regiment in his early career as his term in the 65th foot regiment was only from 1783 to 1788 and he served in the 29th from 1788 to 1792. Before that he served in the 85th foot from 1780 to 1782 so the discharge document does not list all of his service. So far there is no indication where he served from 1770 to 1780 although he does appear to have been mostly in England. The register of Manchester Cathedral shows he had children baptized there in 1772, 1773 and 1776 and he was in Manchester when his wife died following the birth of their son, John, in 1776 as just a few months later he remarried and two more sons, Joseph and Michael, were baptized in the Cathedral in 1777 and 1778. So he does seem to have been able to get home to Oldham frequently during this period. See 1.1 Michael Bowles in The Bowles of Ballickmoyler's Family Tree
The muster rolls of the 29th Regiment have been examined from 1770 to 1783 (per Don Hagist) and the 65th Regiment from 1777-78 without finding any trace of Michael and the 85th had not yet been formed so it seems his initial service may have been in some other regiment.
As incredible as this sounds, somehow in that earlier career Michael, an Irish carpenter, became associated with Charles Stanhope, the 3rd Earl of Harrington. From 1780 his service career was tied to Harrington's.
Michael Bowles Service With The Earl of Harringtonnote: images of all the rosters showing Michael Bowles in the three regiments which the Earl of Harrington commanded are available here
The 85th Foot Regiment
Harrington had served in Canada against the Americans in 1776 when they gained their independence from England and in the defense of Quebec afterwards. In 1778 he returned to England and purchased a commission to form a new regiment for the defense of his country's interests in the East Indies. During the summer of 1779 he formed a 'volunteer' regiment made up of experienced officers and men from other regiments. A notice in the London Gazette listed the officers and staff but unfortunately not the NCO's. However the General Muster Book taken in Jamaica covering the period Feb. 29 to Dec. 24, 1780 includes Corporal Michael Bowles in Captain Munro's Company in the 85th Foot Regiment under Colonel Harrington's command. His rank of Corporal would indicate that he did have previous military experience although we don't know which regiment yet. When the 85th sailed to Kingston, Jamaica early in 1780, arriving there on Aug. 1, the newspapers reported the departure of "one of the finest corps that ever left the shores of England for the Antilles". They also reported the brave but unwise decision made by Harrington's wife to accompany the regiment, just days after having had a baby. (note: the baby did survive to become the 4th Earl)
The story of the 85th is one of the worst in the British Army's history. Quartermaster records show that the force included 10 companies with each company consisting of a captain, a lieutenant, an ensign, 4 sergeants, 4 corporals, two drummers and 70 private men plus the regiment's colonel, 2 majors, 1 adjutant, 1 chaplain, one quartermaster, one surgeon, 1 assistant-surgeon and 2 fifers for the grenadier company for a total of 830 men. The Annual Register for the regiment is slightly different, giving its total as 29 officers and 733 non-commissioned officers and rank and file. The conditions in the camp were so severe that the Dec. 24, 1780 muster at Up Park Camp in Kingston (above) shows that by that date, of those 750 to 800 men, in that 300 day period there were four officers and 165 non-commissioned officers and men sick in hospital and quarters and 2 officers and 130 men had died. Michael's particular company had shrunk to the captain, the lieutenant, no ensign, 2 of the 4 sergeants (one of the two being the former Corporal Michael Bowles), 1 of the 4 corporals, 1 of the 2 drummers and only 25 of the original 70 men.
When Mrs. Harrington became ill the Colonel took her back to England, arriving there in June, 1781, along with some unspecified men from the regiment as a recruiting party. The rest of the regiment was ordered home the next year sailing in various ships accompanied by an English fleet. Most of the 85th were on three captured French ships which were being transported back to England. Harrington's NCO's (sergeants and corporals) were mentioned as being on the Ville de Paris in a letter the captain sent to the Admiralty. The fleet sailed from Bluefields, Jamaica, heading for New York but encountered heavy weather and steered northwards to try to make Halifax but was struck by a hurricane resulting in the loss of most of the fleet. Hope was held out for months as occasional ships from the fleet managed to straggle back to England.
The regiments roster on Dec. 24, 1782 shows the 85th at Dover Castle. This would be largely the portion of the regiment which had accompanied Harrington the previous summer as a recruiting party and the few survivors which had managed to get home at that point. The document shows one sergeant, Michael Bowles, at Dover while the other two sergeants were listed as "on board the Ville de Paris". But confirmation was then received of the sinking of the Ville de Paris and of other ships that the 85th was on with only one seaman surviving to tell the story. The 85th remained at Dover, there is one note of an attempt to rejuvenate the regiment with recruiting parties being sent to Nottingham and Northampton. As the sole remaining Sergeant, Michael would likely have accompanied those recruiting parties particularly the one to Nottingham where we will find him later. Finally the regiment was disbanded in May 1783 with the remaining able bodied men being 'drafted' (transferred) to the 45th regiment. Except for Michael.
The 65th Foot Regiment
Harrington was transferred to command the 65th regiment in Ireland on Mar. 12, 1783. The next roster of the 65th Foot that has survived was taken at Mullingar, Ireland and covered the period from Jan. 1 to Mar. 31, 1784. It shows Harrington as the Colonel of the regiment and surprisingly also Corporal Michael Bowles. Comparing the names in the 65th's roster with the 85th's roster, Michael was the only one from the 85th regiment to accompany Harrington to the 65th. Not even any of his officers transferred with him. Only Michael who was again a Corporal probably due to his promotion to sergeant in Jamaica having been only a field promotion necessitated by the death of most of the company's sergeants.
It should be noted that while Harrington was Colonel of the entire regiment he also had one company under his own command. Michael was not in Harrington's own company, which was based in Granard ititially, he was assigned to Captain John Mackay's company which was based in Mullingar. Both companies did come together a few months later in the Dublin Barracks.
Michael remained with the 65th until March 23, 1787, the full term of Harrington's command of it. In 1784 the 65th had the unique role of being the regiment used to evaluate a new system of tactics brought forward by General Sir David Dundas, Adjutant-General of the Army in Ireland. His 'Principles of Military Manoeuvers' was published in 1788. His thrust was to avoid the light infantry tactics pioneered by Cornwallis and William Howe in North America, instead favouring drilled battalions of line infantry marching in disciplined formation, as exemplified by Frederick the Great's Prussians. Captain Mackay's company of the 65th had only one sergeant and two corporals to drill their 50 men in these new tactics so Corporal Michael Bowles would have had an active involvement with the field work. The test met with such success that “the progress that was made in it, and the evident utility to be derived from it in execution, steadiness, celerity and order, were fully exemplified at the time, which induced other regiments to follow the example; so that shortly after, it became general in both kingdoms.” These new tactics were "by the King's orders directed to be implicitly followed by every regiment in the service" and were used with great success by Wellington against Napoleon. They were described as 'The New Manual and Platoon Exercises, as practiced by His Majesty's Army' when they were illustrated by the London printer John Bowles in 1795.
In 1785 the 65th was ordered to America to support the troops in Canada as the newly independent US increasingly turned its attention to the remaining British colony on its border which would end with the War of 1812. The muster taken at the Cove of Cork (today's Cobh) on May 18 as the regiment prepared to sail shows that a few of them would not make that trip but would return to England. Colonel Harrington had received approval to return to his home in Dorsetshire and he had selected only three others who would not have to face the Americans. Captain John Mackay, Sergeant William Johnson and Corporal Michael Bowles were sent to England on a recruiting assignment. That number seems to have grown before the ships actually sailed though. The muster rolls for the 65th covering the period from May 7 to Dec. 24, 1785, show the regiment at Quebec, but its Colonel, the Earl of Harrington, is listed as 'Absent on King's leave' as are 8 of the officers that had served for him in Ireland. Twelve others (Captain John Gordon, Ensign William Harness, Sergeant William Johnston, Corporals Michael Bowles, Robert Lee and Henry Morris, Drummers John Cotton, James McDermott and James Murray and Privates David Clarke, Thomas Eades and Thomas Whitton) are listed in the roster but their names were then crossed out and listed again on the back of the document as recruiting in England. In February 1786 Michael was promoted to Sergeant but remained on his recruiting assignment in England until 1788.
The 29th Foot Regiment
On January 26, 1788 the colonel of the 29th Regiment died and the King immediately assigned that command to Colonel Harrington. Again he brought just a few men with him. The muster roll for the 65th regiment shows that Lieutenant William Harness and Ensign the Honourable Augustus Barry were exchanged to the 29th on March 18, 1788. Michael would follow them just 6 days later. The muster roll of the 29th Foot shows that Harrington assumed command on Jan. 27, Lieutenant William Harness had exchanged from the 65th regiment on March 19 but was now absent on the Colonel's leave and that Corporals Michael Bowles, Thomas Whitton and Thomas Grainger had joined from the 65th regiment on March 24 and were on a recruiting assignment since then (as of Dec. 24, 1788). Sergeant Michael Bowles' transfer was not done through regular channels though as while he was at the 29th by March 24 he was only discharged from the 65th on June 23, 1788. This was now Michael's third regiment under Harrington's command. The muster roll for the 29th for the next reporting period shows that Michael Bowles was promoted back to Sergeant on June 5, 1788. Possibly when Harrington had brought him into the regiment in March there hadn't been a Sergeant's position available in the regiment but he was promoted again when one was. The roll shows that a Sergeant Hugh Martin in the recruiting party had been discharged on June 4. For a lowly NCO Michael Bowles really seems to have been looked after well. I don't know why yet.
Note: James Murray and Augustus Barry Young men from wealthy families would generally start their military career by buying a commission in a regiment. Harrington started his career in 1770 as an Ensign in the Foot Guards, was promoted to Captain in 1774 and to Lieutenant-Colonel in 1776. The muster roll for the 65th Foot shows a James Murray, drummer, recently joined and on recruiting assignment with Michael Bowles, just after the 65th was sent to defend Canada from the Americans in 1785. That might indicate a new recruit of some social standing not yet ready to serve in the front lines. He served as a drummer on a recruiting assignment until his discharge from the regiment on June 3, 1788. That was the same date that Michael was discharged following Colonel Harrington's transfer to the 29th Foot. While Michael joined his Colonel in the 29th I don't know where James Murray went from there. The name does come up again later although it may be unrelated. See 'After Michael's Discharge From the British Army' below.
There was also The Honourable Augustus Barry who had obtained his commission as an Ensign in his uncle's 65th Foot on Oct. 31, 1787. He was Harrington's nephew, b. 1773 so he was only 14 years old. When the 65th was sent to America he was also assigned to the recruiting team in England with Michael and James Murray. He was transferred to the 29th on Feb. 19, 1788 just a month after Harrington's re-assignment to the 29th where he is listed in the rosters as absent on Colonel's leave until December 1788, after which he appears as 'absent without leave' and then as 'retired' on Mar. 31, 1790. Apparently the army life didn't suit him but this does show that Harrington used the recruiting team as a way to protect select members of his regiment.
Michael Bowles remained on his recruiting assignment from March 24,
1787, the day of his arrival in the 29th, until Harrington signed
Michael's discharge papers on Feb. 17, 1792 at Windsor. Michael
didn't sign his acceptance of the terms of his discharge at Windsor
though. He received the document and signed his acceptance of it
in Nottingham. In December 1792 Harrington was transferred to
command the First Regiment of Life Guards.
There is one little unexplained wrinkle. Having established through parish records that Michael was based close to Manchester from 1768 to 1778 and we have his assignments documented from the summer of 1780 until his discharge in 1792 which show that he served only in Jamaica, Ireland and England, there is only one little gap from 1778 to 1780 where we don't know anything about him. Yet after his discharge from the 29th Foot in Feb. 1792 and he was recommended for a pension from the Chelsea Hospital, the admission register for the Chelsea Hospital in March 1792 lists him in the register as a Sergeant discharged from the 29th Foot who had served in Canada. That could be an error based on the 29th having served in Canada but while Michael was with the 29th we know he did remain in England as a recruiter. The only other possibility is that he actually did serve in Canada in that undocumented time from 1778 to 1780. If anyone is in a position to help with solving this question there are files in the National Archives at Kew Gardens and in the Derbyshire Record Office that need to be checked. Please see Further Research Needed for the details.
After Michael's Discharge from the British Army
While Michael had moved from the family home to Manchester in about 1745, married there and may have lived in Oldham just outside Manchester until about 1778 he seems to have settled at Nottingham by the time of his discharge in 1792.
The first mention of Nottingham in Michael's service history is a reference in 1782 when Colonel Harrington and a small recruiting party from the 85th Foot Regiment, including Michael, had returned from Jamaica and were based at Dover Castle. The remainder of the 85th had been recalled but had not yet arrived in England. While they waited at Dover, there is one note of an attempt to rejuvenate the regiment with recruiting parties being sent to Nottingham and Northampton. As the sole remaining Sergeant, Michael would likely have accompanied those recruiting parties particularly the one to Nottingham where we will find him later. ref.
Then Michael served with Harrington in the 65th Foot in Ireland and when the regiment was sent to America he was assigned recruiting duties and was sent back to England. After that he again went with Harrington to the 29th Foot where he also served as a recruiter until his discharge in 1792.
The Loyal Nottingham Foresters
In 1792, at age 48, he signed his acceptance of the terms of his discharge at Nottingham so he had possibly settled there during his service. He was still there in 1797 when he served an additional 6 months as a recruiter for the Loyal Nottingham Foresters from November 1796 to April 1797. Page 214 of The Nottingham Date Book records that, as part of a nation wide effort to raise 60,000 troops to defend England from an impending French invasion, in November 1796 the government gave permission to James Murray, Esq. to raise a corps of 1000 men "all brave and spirited volunteers" of which he was to be the Major and Commander. Michael was appointed to be one of his recruiters that same month.
A year later a rumor swept around that those recruited for the Loyal Nottingham Foresters (LNF) were secretly going to be drafted into other regiments which were serving in the West Indies. Major Murray put an end to that rumor and in that newspaper announcement we learn that the LNF was attached to the 29th Foot currently serving in Devon.
Michael's discharge papers after his 5 month stint recruiting for the LNF were signed by James Murray, Major and Commander of the LNF, in Manchester on April 11, 1797 while Michael signed his acceptance of this second discharge at Nottingham 4 days later. His discharge states that Michael served as a Sergeant for 6 months and was discharged at his own request being only engaged to recruit for said term, he was 48 years old, 5 ft 7 in high, dark complexion, grey eyes, brown hair, born in Ireland and by trade a Joiner (a carpenter).
There is a record of a Michael Bowles burial at St Mary, Nottingham on Aug. 20, 1799 ref. and I can find no further references for him. This may explain why he only served for 5 of his contracted 6 months as a recruiter for the LNF having left a month early at his own request.
Possibility of A Third MarriageMichael married twice in Manchester but there are baptismal records for parents Michael and Hannah Bowles at St Nicholas, Nottingham during the period that our Michael was connected to Nottingham: Mary on June 17, 1786; Charlotte on Mar. 20, 1789 and David on June 3, 1792. I haven't found another references for a Michael Bowles in this area. There is also only one Michael Bowles marriage in this area in this period in the online records and that was a widower, aged 35, to a Hannah Gosling, widow, aged 23 on Sept. 23, 1782 at Witton-cum-Twambrooke Chapelry, Cheshire. Witton is about 20 miles SW of Manchester where people from many miles around went to find work in the many factories. If this was our Michael and he then died at Nottingham in 1799, Hannah would have been left with three children and without support and would likely have soon remarried or possibly would have to go into a workhouse. So far I can't find any further trace of Hannah or the three children online.
Michael Bowles Timeline1744/45 born 1744/45 Ballickmoyler, Queens county, Ireland ca. 1765 went to Manchester (to find work?) 1768 married Alice Fletcher Dec. 21Manchester Cathedral 1769-73 Children Ann, Elizabeth and John baptized Sept. 1769- July 1773 Manchester Cathedral 1770 enlisted in British Army Sept. 1770 (per his discharge document in Feb. 1792 but cannot find any service record until 1780; parish records would indicate he was close to Manchester in this period) 1776 wife Alice died Feb. 1776 bur. Manchester Cathedral 1776 married (2) Jane Dyson of Oldham June 12, 1776 Prestwich, Lancashire 1777-78 Children Joseph and Michael baptized Jan 1777-Sept. 1778 Manchester Cathedral 1778-79 could be a gap here as Michael may have been overseas with army after wife became pregnant; may not have been home for the birth or even the baptism 1779 Joined 85th Foot Regiment commanded by 3rd Earl of Harrington in summer 1779 1780 85th regiment sailed to Jamaica 1781 Returned to England with Harrington and his wife as member of a recruiting party June 1781 1782 Based at Dover Castle, likely in the recruiting party(s) sent to Nottingham and Northampton 1783 Harrington transferred to 65th regiment in Ireland Mar. 12, 1783 1784 Michael transferred to 65th before Jan. 1, 1784 1784 65th Foot Regiment in Ireland used to evaluate new tactics which become standard for all regiments 1785 5th regiment sent to America May 1785, Harrington receives approval to remain in England, Michael assigned to recruiting party and returns to England 1785-87 Michael on recruiting party in England until March 1787 1785 possibly married for a third time to a Hannah; children born to a Michael and Hannah Bowles and bp. at St Mary, Nottingham in 1786, 1789 and 1792 1787 Harrington transferred to 29th Foot Jan. 28, 1787 1787 Michael discharged from 65th Mar. 23, 1787, joined 29th foot on Mar. 24, 1787 and assigned to recruiting party 1787-1792 On recruiting assignment with 29th until discharged Feb. 17, 1792; signed acceptance in Nottingham 1791 Possibly daughter Elizabeth m. Robert Dawson, sawyer, in Manchester Feb. 6 1797-98 Serves for 5 months recruiting for Loyal Nottingham Foresters in Nottingham; he left one month before his planned 6 month term was over; 1799 Possibly d. and bur. Aug. 20 St Mary Nottingham (he would have been ca. 55 and eldest son John would have been 26, son Joseph 22; son Michael Jr. 21; youngest children with Hannah would have been 13, 10 and 7. Likely she would re-marry.
Michael Bowles' son Michael Jr. Also in the British Army?Michael baptized a son Michael at Manchester Cathedral in 1778. Extract from The Bowles of Ballickmoyler Family Tree: Michael Bowles m.(2) Jane Dyson June 12, 1776 Prestwich, Lancs. 4. Joseph b. 1776, bp. Jan. 1, 1777 Manchester Cathedral 5. Michael bp. Sept. 27, 1778 Manchester Cathedral (emigrated to Canada; see Michael Bowles of Ontario county, Ontario)
Michael was not a common name back then. The only Michael that I can find in this area, other than the subject of this page, was discharged from the British Army in 1804. He was born in Wigan, Lancashire, by trade a weaver, had enlisted in the army in 1798 and served for 4 years before being pensioned out in 1802 at age 26 (so born about 1776) due to damage to his vision during his service in Egypt. note
They may have moved to the nearby
town of Wigan if Michael's son, Michael Jr., born in 1778 was the same
person as the Michael Bowles, Another possible explanation could just be
that Michael's wife, Jane Dyson, was from Wigan. Before they had
the health services we enjoy today it would be typical for a woman
expecting a child to go home to her mother's care.
Back in Ballickmoyler, records there do not mention the name Michael after he left around 1765 until 1806 and 1807 when a Michael Bowles baptized two children at the nearby church in Castletown and again in 1807 when one first appears in the Castletown Vestry Minutes as the 'sideman' to William Cooper's duties as a church warden of Castletown. That would fit well with the situation that Michael Jr was in. Discharged with bad vision in 1804 he could not have practiced his trade as a weaver. I believe Michael Sr had died in Nottingham in 1799 (see After Michael's Discharge from the British Army above), his step-mother was now a widow with 3 children between 12 and 18, so he would only have his siblings to rely on and he decided instead to return to the family home in Ireland. If Michael Sr was still alive in 1807 he would have been at least 63 years old while Michael Jr would only have been 29 so it would have been Michael Jr who returned to the family in Ballickmoyler and soon baptized two children, if so then it was possibly after his army discharge and with a vision disability.