Conolly Coane Lt. 62d Grenrs, his signature from a regimental paylist dated Verchères, Québec, 25 February 1777
Regimental commission dates:
Ensign, 17 September 1772
Lieutenant, 21 December 1775
Captured: Saratoga, New York, 17 October 1777 (Convention Army)
Retired: 5 October 1784
Lieutenant Conolly Coane served as the 62nd Regiment's junior lieutenant of the grenadier company commanded by Captain John Shrimpton during the entire Revolutionary War. In addition, Coane was selected to serve as the junior lieutenant of an elite provisional company of marksmen. According to the 22 August 1777 journal entry of Lieutenant Francis, Lord Napier (31st Regiment):
A Company of Marksmen (under the command of Captn. Petrie 21st. B.L.I. Lt. French 47th. B.L.I & Lt. Coane 62nd. B. Gren) was formed out of the Advanced Corps. N.B. They never were made use of upon any occasion.
Lord Napier's claim that Captain Petrie's company was not “made use of upon any occasion” appears true, as there is no further accounting of that particular provisional unit. Coane therefore fought with his grenadier company during the Battle of Hubbardton (7 July 1777) and both Battles of Saratoga (19 September and 7 October 1777), surviving unscathed, but was forced to surrender with the rest of the army at Saratoga on 17 October 1777. After his capture, Coane's first attempt to exchange out of the prisoner Convention Army is recorded in a letter from George Washington to fellow rebel Major General William Heath dated Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, 5 March 1778 (George Washington Papers):
Dear Sir: I am favoured with yours of the 20th. Feby. inclosing a letter from Lieutt. Coune of the 62nd Regiment to Genl. Howe. I shall send in the letter and shall have no objection to his Exchange, if Genl. Howe consents.
Apparently, Coane's application to the British command was unsuccessful. But thankfully, Coane had an unexpected and important friend who could write and be heard. In a letter to the rebel Congressional Board of War dated Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 19 June 1780 (National Archives and Records Administration, M247), his friend Doctor Francis Shield wrote:
I have lately recd a letter from a Friend Lt Connolly Coan of the 62d British Regt captured at Saratoga representing his Health to be in a very alarming state and his Physicians consider his return to Ireland (his native Country) the only chance that remains for his recovery. He has entrusted that I should apply for your permission to return home and engages to pay the most prompt obedience to your orders at any time you shall think proper to recall him. I have had an opportunity of conversing with the Surgeon of his Regt [Alexander Moodie] & several Gentn who have lately seen him & from their accts I am convinced He has not exaggerated a description of the Declining state of his health. I am persuaded that if it is not attended with with [sic] any material inconvenience, your humanity will induce you to comply with his & my requests.
The Board of War wasted no time in forwarding Shield's plea to Washington, along with the following letter, dated the War Office 20 June 1780 (George Washington Papers):
The Board do themselves the honor to inclose you a letter from Dr Shields, respecting an application of Lt Connonly Coan, to go to Ireland for the recovery of his health;
They would not have troubled your Excy at this time on such an occasion, if they had not been well informd, that this gentleman's health is in such a situation as to admit of but little delay.
I have the honor to be
By order of the Board
yr Excys most obed. servt
Washington's response to the Congressional Board of War dated Whippeny, New Jersey, 25 June 1780 (George Washington Papers), included the following:
With respect to the application in favor of Lt. Conolly Coan, I do not conceive myself authorized to grant it. I have never in a single instance undertaken to give permission to an Officer to go beyond Sea and whenever requests for the purpose have been made immediately to me, they have been referred to Congress or the parties applying informed that it was necessary. I return the Board Doctor Shield's letter on the subject which they will, if they think proper be pleased to lay before Congress. I should have been happy, if it had been in my power to have obliged the Doctor, whose zeal and attachment to our cause seem to give him a claim to every consistent notice in his applications.
Upon receiving Washington's response, the rebel Congressional Board of War moved to act in Coane's favor. According to their announcement to the president of Congress dated the War Officer, 29 June 1780:
The board beg leave to lay before Congress, a letter from Doctr Shields which was sent to Genl Washington for his decision and the extract of a letter [Washington's 25 June letter] from Genl Washington on the subject.
Should Congress approve of the application of Doctr Shields, the board beg leave to submit the following report.
That Lieutenant Conolly Coan of the 62nd British Regt captured at Saratoga, be permitted to return to Ireland (his native country) upon parole, for the benefit of his Health.
I have the honor to be
with the highest respect
yr Excellency's most obed Sert
Congress resolved the matter the next day. According to the record of minutes of the Continental Congress, dated Friday, 30 June 1780:
A report from the Board of War was read; Whereupon,
War Office, June 29, 1780
The Board beg leave to lay before Congress a letter from Doctr Shields which was sent to Genl. Washington for his decision, and the extract of a letter from Genl. Washington on the subject
Should Congress approve of the application of Doctr Shields the Board beg leave to submit the following report
Resolved, That Lieutenant Conolly Coan, of the 62d British Regiment, captured at Saratoga, be permitted to return to Ireland, his native country, upon parole, for the benefit of his health.
Despite Congress's early summer approval which allowed Coane to remove to Ireland upon his parole, it was not until late summer when he was finally able to sign his signature to pass allowing him to leave America (Bradford Papers; our thanks to Cole Jones for a transcript of this document):
Philly Sept 9, 1780
The Congress of the United States of America having granted me permission to return to Ireland my native Country, for the benefit of my health: I do promise on my word of honor, and faith, as a gentleman, that I will pass from hence on the direct road to New York, to take shipping from thence for Ireland, as soon as circumstances will permit & that I will return to captivity, whenever the Congress, the Board of War of the United States, or His Excellency the Commander in Chief of the American Army, shall hereafter direct.
I do in like manner pledge my word of honor, that I will not directly, nor indirectly, say, or do, any thing injurious to the interests of the United States of America, or the Armies thereof, but that I will in all things conduct myself as a prisoner of war ought and should do, under the indulgence granted me.
Lt 62nd Regiment British
And so Coane returned to Ireland, where he eventually mustered again with the regiment's stalwart grenadier company, until his retirement in 1784.