Two King’s Orange Rangers, Part 1

The provincial loyalist regiment known as the King’s Orange Rangers travelled through the American Revolution, moving from New York to Nova Scotia, then scattering to many parts of the Atlantic World. Only a few individuals chose to go to the land that had been assigned to the regiment in New Brunswick at the end of the war.  Two of those King’s Orange Rangers were John Howard and William Carnell and they would become embroiled in a post-war dispute which can readily be traced through land petition documents.

Kings Orange Rangers
Modern Kings Orange Rangers reenactors, Citadel Hill, Halifax. 

(Image courtesy of the King’s Orange Ranger Society)

The King’s Orange Rangers regiment was formed in late 1776 by William Bayard of New York and commanded by his son, Lieutenant Colonel John Bayard.  The regiment was plagued by problems throughout its existence including an outbreak of smallpox, lack of morale and discipline, infighting between officers, and even a shipwreck. The regiment was moved from the British encampment in the Manhattan area in the fall of 1778 to Halifax, Nova Scotia; this was likely a strategic move to combat internal conflicts and desertions within the regiment. The King's Orange Rangers were to be stationed in Nova Scotia for the remainder of the war, at which time the members dispersed and were resettled.

Howard Muster
Muster roll of Captain John Howard’s Company of King's Orange Rangers soon after he obtained the commission in August 1778. Note that his first name was not included, as he was new so the recorder may not have known his given name.

(Library and Archives Canada, British Military and Naval Records)

Captain John Howard

John Howard joined the regiment in the spring of 1778 by way of the New York Volunteers after switching commissions with Captain John Coffin. Before the war, Howard had been a farmer with a large family in the Charlotte Precinct of Duchess County, New York; he listed his losses, which included a farm and variety of livestock, at £760 total in his claim to the British government after the war.  Howard had first raised a company of the Duchess County Militia which then joined the New York Volunteers. Coffin had been having issues with the commander of the regiment, Lieut. Col. John Bayard, since Bayard had killed Lieut. William Bird (also of the King’s Orange Rangers) during a dispute and was subsequently court martialed. Howard had also had some difficulties with his military superiors in the past and many of his actions indicate that he often was involved in personal conflicts. 

Howard’s Company of the King’s Orange Rangers was stationed in Liverpool, Nova Scotia in an effort to protect the local trading community against American privateers.  He and other members of the unit developed close relationships with members of the town, but also instigated problems for the community such as thefts and fighting.  Howard married several women from Liverpool after the drowning death of his first wife, Lucy Howard.  While sailing from New York to Halifax with seven of their children in 1778, the ship went down with only one son, Edward, surviving the shipwreck.  Howard’s second marriage in December 1780 was to Hannah Tinkham (widow of Dr. Perez Tinkham); third in 1782 was to Mariah West who died of smallpox subsequent to receiving an inoculation, only having been married to Howard a short while; and the fourth was to Patience Howard (her first husband being William Howard of Duchess County, New York).  Howard even purchased a house in Liverpool and invested in privateering ships, becoming good friends with leading citizen, Simeon Perkins.

Muster Carnell
Muster roll of a “Party of Recruits” for the Kings Orange Rangers at New York in July 1781.  William Carnell is at the head as a sergeant. Note that this document appears to be out of place and damaged.  (Library and Archives Canada, British Military and Naval Records)

Sergeant/ Ensign William Carnell

Little is known about William Carnell’s life before the war, but he probably came from New York State and likely had experience as a seafarer. In a stray muster of recruits taken in New York in 1781, he was listed on the top of the document as a sergeant but he was called an ensign in other documents.  It is likely he was involved in an unfortunate shipwreck suffered while on a recruiting mission with other members of the regiment toward the end of 1779.  The mission was led by Captain Robert Rotton to Newfoundland, where they successfully found around fifty new members, then sailed from St. John’s, Newfoundland on December 17th for New York, but were driven off the coast by winds.  The decision was made to try for Britain, and they were shipwrecked at Bophin Island off Galway, Ireland on January 27, 1780, with the ship being burned to the waterline. Carnell was probably among the surviving officers and privates who had to march south through Ireland and make their way to England and were still there in the fall of 1782.

Inishbofin Harbour, County Galway, Ireland.

(via Wikimedia, Drow69, CC BY-SA 3.0)

Evidence in the papers of Edward Winslow, an influential administrator of loyalist settlement in New Brunswick, included an abstract of pay from December 24, 1782 to Lieutenant-Colonel John Bayard and Ensign William Carnell of the King’s Orange Rangers, along with two private soldiers “who were in their passage to Newfoundland driven off the Coast, and Shipwrecked, and came to England, from the 25th Oct’r 1781 to the 24th December 1782.”  Carnell was paid £78 for 426 days of service.


Howard and Carnell suffered hardships, but both eventually made their way to the land assigned to the KOR which was located east of Saint John, New Brunswick, surrounding the harbour of Quaco, now the Village of St. Martins.  Carnell was one of the first settlers of Quaco, while Howard had to attend to business seeing to the estate he had left in New York and then Nova Scotia before coming to New Brunswick.  The original grant at Quaco had not been specific about locations of land grants, which would cause problems in the infant community once Howard arrived and started farming by 1787; he quickly attempted to position himself to be favoured with a grant for the most useful land in Quaco.

Next Post: Two King's Orange Rangers, Part 2


Leah Grandy holds a PhD in History and works as a Microforms Assistant at the Harriet Irving Library.


SUBJECTS: King’s Orange Rangers, loyalist, St. Martins, shipwreck, New Brunswick, land settlement, shipwreck, smallpox, John Howard, William Carnell, military


Share this Blog Post


I am wondering where you (Leah Grandy) got the info that John's 4th wife, Patience, was the widow of William Howard in Dutchess County? All evidence I have seen indicates she is the d/o Edward and Sarah Howard. I have also seen the old story about her being illegitimate daughter of Geo III as well. I am curious about that as well if any document indicates "Howard had to attend to business seeing to the estate he had left in New York". There may be documentation, be it has been many years since I worked this line.

Thank you very much for your comments and questions. I am not an expert on John Howard, but relied upon the work of John Leefe who has researched the King's Orange Rangers extensively. He makes the reference to Patience on page 69 of his article "History of the Royal Provincial Regiment: King's Orange Rangers, 1776-1789."  Ross N. Hebb's "Quaco-St. Martins A Brief History: The First Hundred Years" also has signicant content on Howard. Howard's petition to the Commission Appointmed to Enquire into the Losses of American Loyalists (The National Archives, Audit Office 12, volume 22, p. 131-134) has some good detail on his life during the Revolution and his supporting documents in his claim were collected in Duchess County in 1786 before his arrival in New Brunswick.  I hope this answers your questions and thanks again for reading.

Hello Robert joseph Rotton is my 4th G Grandfather, Capt Robert Rotton was his 4th child. yes, Robert did join His Majesty's Service, Kings Orange Rangers, and while on leave at Waterford Ireland 29th January 1784 walking with a friend by a river he slipped and fell into the water and drowned. His funeral was attended by many Captains and a General,(The Derby Mercury 1784) he is buried in Swansea Wales in the family vault. Many history seekers have these two, Father and son mixed and it is written on Ancestry and many other places by people that the Captain was Robert Joseph, by no, I have all the proof and the drowning of the young man seals it. Robert Joseph had 14 children. Just a comment of truth. Thank you

Add new comment

(If you're a human, don't change the following field)
Your first name.
(If you're a human, don't change the following field)
Your first name.
(If you're a human, don't change the following field)
Your first name.

Filtered HTML

  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.