Geo Fitzerald Adjt, his signature from a regimental paylist dated Galway, Ireland, 20 February 1776


Nationality: Irish
Born: unknown
Regimental commission dates:
Adjutant, 26 October 1775
Mortally wounded: Saratoga, New York, 11 October 1777
Died: Saratoga, "toward morning," 12 October 1777

There were two types of adjutants in the British Army during this period: those who worked “double duty” serving as both a commissioned officer (a subaltern, usually) and adjutant, and those who served as adjutant without a commissioned officer's rank. Adjutant George Tobias Fitzerald was of the latter type. When Ensign and Adjutant Benjamin Hill transferred to the 5th Regiment of Foot in October 1775, his ensigncy and adjutancy were split between Alexander Hay (who purchased the ensigncy) and Serjeant-Major George Tobias Fitzerald, who received the regimental adjutancy. He was discharged as serjeant-major on 31 December 1775. Little is known about Adjutant Fitzerald, aside from his having been promoted from the ranks of the regiment (an uncommon but not altogether rare occurrence). Because part of the duty of adjutant was that of an executor of orders and lead exerciser of the regiment, Fitzerald's former experience as serjeant-major no doubt led to his being recommended.

Adjutant George Tobias Fitzerald was officially reported killed at Saratoga on 11 October 1777, three days after the Battle of Bemis Heights and one week before British forces surrendered to the rebels at Saratoga. As he was the only officer of the entire army killed after that battle and before the Saratoga surrender, the following account by Baroness Frederika Riedesel must refer to him (Baroness von Riedesel and the American Revolution, journal and correspondence of a tour of duty 1776-1783. Marvin Brown, trans. University of North Carolina Press: 1965):

On the 10th at seven o'clock in the morning I refreshed myself with a cup of tea, and we now hoped from one moment to the next that we would at last proceed. In order to cover the retreat General Burgoyne ordered fire set to the beautiful houses and mills in Saratoga belonging to General Schuyler. An English officer brought a very good bouillon, which on his urgent entreaties I had to share with him, and after drinking it we continued on our march; however, we got only to the next village [Saratoga], not far away….

How would a non-commissioned adjutant of a British regiment ever have contact with a German Baroness? She continues:

Next morning [11 October] the cannonade [from the rebels] went on again…. Major Harnage's wife, Mrs. Reynell (who had already lost her husband), the wife of the good lieutenant who had been so kind as to share his bouillon with me the previous day, the wife of the commissary, and myself were the only ladies with the army. We were just sitting together and bewailing our fate when someone entered [the house], whispered something to the others, and they all looked at each other sadly. I noticed this and that all eyes were upon me, although nobody said anything. This brought the horrible thought to my mind that my husband had been killed. I screamed; they assured me, however, that such was not the case but indicated with a nod that it was the poor lieutenant's [sic: adjutant's] wife to whom this misfortune had befallen. She was called outside a few moments later. Her husband was not yet dead, but a cannon ball had torn his arm away at the shoulder. We heard his moaning all through the night, doubly gruesome as the sound re-echoed through the cellar; the poor fellow died toward morning.

With Adjutant Fitzerald's death, his position was assumed by the venerable Lieutenant George Preston Vallancey. Nothing is known of what happened to Adjutant Fitzerald's wife, Mrs. Fitzerald.

George Fitzerald's surname was returned in official army records with the more common spelling, "Fitzgerald." However, his own signatures bear out his preference.