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Two washerwomen, one of the sketches made in Edinburgh and the neighbourhood after the rebellion of 1745 Pen and black ink and grey wash, over graphite. Paul Sandby, British Museum Nn,6.10.+

Regimental Orders, July 23rd 1782
At a Regimental Court Martial whereof Capt Francis is president, Briget Conner a Woman Belonging to the 10th Massachusetts Regiment was tried for purchesing a publick Shurt from a Soldier in Sd. Regiment found Guilty and Sentanced to Return the Shurt to the person from whom she purshest it and loos what She gav for the Shurt.
The Colo approves the opinion of the Court and orders it to take place Immediately

Regimental orders July 25th 1782
Bridget Conner a woman Belonging to the 10th Massachusetts Regiment is Directed to Leave Camp Between this and to Morrow Morning at Roal Call for her Insolence to the officers of sd Regiment on pane of Being Treated with Severity

The entries above are from the orderly book kept by Captain Stephen Abbot who served under Colonel Benjamin Tupper of the 10th Massachusetts Regiment. (This is a Continental Regiment, so the entry for the book in the holding library’s catalog is, um, confusing.)

The entries were sent to me by Mr Cooke as a place to start working on Bridget Connor (name confusion, it is Connor). I checked the Massachusetts Soldiers and Sailors of the Revolutionary War, and what did I find? Francis Connor.

Francis Connor. Where did he come from?

Francis Connor, in the middle. Where did he come from?

Francis Connor was in Benjamin Tupper’s (10th) Regiment. He enlisted on December 25, 1781, and was reported deserted on July 25, 1782, the same day Bridget is directed to leave camp. Do you think Bridget might be Francis’s wife? I think she might be, and I am inordinately pleased about it.

It is a sad but true thing that it is easier to find a man in the 18th century records than it is to find a woman. (See Jill Lepore’s new book about Jane Franklin Mecom.) But with a husband to look for, maybe I can find more about Bridget. And if I can find more about Bridget (and even if I don’t) I can start asking the questions that create a more engaging impression or interpretation.

  • Where did Bridget live before they joined the 10th?
  • Where was she born?
  • How old was she?
  • What did Francis (if he was her husband) do for a living?
  • Did Bridget work? (Probably- but at what?)
  • Why did she join Francis in the Army?
  • Did she have previous run-ins with authority?

I have guesses about Bridget and Francis, and even if I can find no more than what I’ve found, I can create plausible stories about their lives to make the past more real. For history, though, I prefer telling truths to making up stories.