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Francis Wheatley, 1747-1801, British, Soldiers and Country Women, undated, Pen and black ink with watercolor on medium, smooth, cream wove paper, Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

Francis Wheatley, 1747-1801, British, Soldiers and Country Women, undated, Pen and black ink with watercolor on medium, smooth, cream wove paper, Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

Among the things I wondered about Bridget Connor and her court martial was from whom she’d bought that “publick shurt.” Why would a soldier have an extra shirt, or be willing to sell an extra shirt?

There are some circumstances in which it is plausible.

ClothingRegs1776_77

While shirts could have been sent from home,  regulations established in 1777 called for soldiers be issued two shirts, or an equivalent bounty. A soldier who wanted cash for alcohol or other non-regulation and non-issued goods or services might sell his second shirt, or steal a shirt to sell.

With the context of what soldiers should have been issued, we can  begin to tease the story out of the orderly books.

Regimental Orders July 15th 1782

At a Court Martial whereof Capt Dean was pre
sident, was tried Paul Pendexter & Titus Tuttel
soldiers in the 6th Company 10th Massachusetts Regt
For Stealing a Shurt and Disposing of the Same
ware Both found Guilty and Sentancd to Sixty Lashes
on there Naked Backs—the Colo approves
the opinion of the Court and orders it to
take this Evening and the prisoners to Return
to Duty——-The Court Martial of
which Capt Dean is president is Desolvd

The quote above is a full seven days before Bridget appears at her own Regimental Court Martial “for purchasing a publick Shurt from a Soldier.”

Paul Pendexter and Titus Tuttel were just the guys to get caught, until Bridget was discovered. It does make me wonder if there was an extensive ring for black market shirts (and where did they go once Bridget had them? Did she try to sell them back into the public stores, i.e. the quartermaster)?

Criminal masterminds these people weren’t, but it does seem possible that the Shirt Ring was fairly busy before it was collared.