James Green, Off:g Dep: Judge Adv:, his siganture from courts-martial dated Rhode Island, 6-24 August 1779


Nationality: English
Born: Sweden (?), ca.1751
Regimental commission dates:
Ensign, 20 September 1777
Captured: Battle of Freeman's Farm, 19 September 1777 (prisoner of war)
Promoted into another regiment: Lieutenant, 26th Regiment, 1 September 1779
Died: "at the home of his son-in-law John Stewart," City of Québec, 1 February 1835


The steryotype of the the 18th-century British officer corps is that it was composed solely of elitist men of high standing who purchased their commissions. While it is true that a majority of commissions in the British army were purchased by gentlemen, there were a number of other avenues which one could take to become a commissioned officer. Perhaps the most common non purchase means by which gentlemen entered the British officer corps was by becoming a volunteer, serving with a particular regiment in the hopes that a free ensigncy would eventually become available. Another less common but not unknown path was that of a gentleman cadet, having been schooled in the Company of Cadets by the Master General of the Ordnance; a cadet would be in a position to receive an ensigncy after graduation. Yet another path to the commissioned officer corps was for a man in the ranks to be promoted. While this avenue was certainly not unknown in the British army, it was neither too common nor preferred by most contemporaries, and the promotion of such men was either due to the fact that a particular regiment was hard up to find gentlemen, or the man in the ranks (usually the regimental sergeant-major) came well recommended. In the case of James Green, it was both.

Normally, the career progress of a sergeant would be difficult to track. Thankfully, James Green was no ordinary sergeant. Transcripts of a series of letters written by Green to a Mr. Bainton are preserved in the National Army Museum and provide a great amount of information regarding his career, regiment, and the duties of his station. The original letters were written during the war, in December 1780 and January 1781. Green, writing from Britain in 1780, apparently began his correspondence with a desire to “catch up” and explain where he's been for the past many years:

I left Hull in February 1772, and walked to London, and went to lodge at a Mr. Warrens, an old acquaintance of my Fathers, where I staid till I could not do it any longer, not having a single Farthing left. In that situation, what was left for me to do? abominating the Sea as I did, and not chusing to return to Hull, I went to the White Swan in Rosemary Lane and offered myself for the East India Company's Service, they could not entertain me as the Ships were just sailed—but offered to get me a Place in one of the Regiments of the Guards—this I refused, not being willing to be discovered by Mr. Warren, whom I told on leaving him I should return with a Hull Trader to Hull. The next offer was the 62nd Regt. Quartered in Ireland, which I accepted of and joined. I remained with this Regiment, and was promoted gradually to Corporal, Sergeant and Sergeant Major.

Regimental records confirm that Green began pay as a private soldier in the lieutenant-colonel's company on 14 April 1772. By 1776, he was a sergeant of the colonel's company and sergeant-major of the regiment. As such, Green served as the regiment's head non-commissioned officer for nearly the entirety of the Northern Campaign of 1777. In one of his letters, he explained what it was he did as a sergeant in battle, and how it differed from the duties of a commissioned officer:

The Duty of my Station when in Engagements was to fill up the intervals occasioned by killed and wounded, and to receive and issue orders &c. The Duty of firing is left to the private Men. The business of an Officer is to see that they do their Duty properly—level and fire well—and if necessary assist them with his exhortations to inspire them with courage, and, keep them from breaking and Confusion.

His first action in the campaign, the Battle of Freeman's Farm (19 September 1777) was his last, as he was captured by the rebels during the fight. In "A Return of British Prisoners taken 19th Septr 1777," dated New City (present-day Lansingburgh, New York), 21 September 1777 (Horatio Gates Papers), “ Sergt Major Green ” was listed as a captive. This is also confirmed by the narration in his letter. A letter from Lieutenant-Colonel John Anstruther to rebel Major General Horatio Gates dated Cambridge, 8 December 1777 (Horatio Gates Papers), provides an idea of how important Green was to the regiment:


 As an old West India acquaintance give me leave to solicit a faver which I believe is in your Power to grant, without any Detriment to the Continental States. The nature of War and the Events resulting from such causes have flung the private accounts of the 62d Regiment under my command into some confusion. Serjt Green of the said Regimt now a prisoner near Hartford in Connecticut had the payment of the Cols company, and by his absence the soldiers can get no account of their pay or stoppages. The affair may involve the said Serjt Green unless the accounts can be arrangd and brought to a conclusion. If you would be so kind as to exchange the said Serjt Green and permit him to join his Regt upon Prospect Hill [near Cambridge, Massachusetts] I should take it as a Favor…

A follow-up letter was written by Anstruther dated Cambridge, 24 January 1778 (Horatio Gates Papers), this time addressed to rebel Brigadier General James Wilkinson:


  …I wrote twice to Gel Gates concerning our Serjt Major, Green, now a Prisoner upon Parole near Hartford in Connecticut. Those Letters I suppose, if they reached Genl Gates, it was after he left Albany, otherwise I am certain, that his usual Politeness would have granted my Request. That Request I am now to make of you Sir, as commanding officer of the Northern Army, to whom as Conventioners we look for what we have to ask for in this Country. The interest of the Man for the Remainder of his Life, is my sole motive. For his good Services I recommended him & He is now an Ensign in the 62d. If you could exchange Him I should esteem it a Favor.

Apparently, Anstruther's letter had an effect, although the gears of the prison-system exchange—and news of promotions—came rather slowly. According to Green:

…I…remained a Prisoner at Hartford in Connecticut 10 months, at the extirpation of which I was exchanged by General Daniel Jones, then Commandant of New York, thro' the intermediation of my friend Colonel John Anstruther of the 62nd Regiment. The day after I was taken Prisoner I got an Ensigncy in this Regiment and tho my Commission was dated the 20th Sept '77, I did not know of it myself till the 10th Feby 1778. I saw it inserted in Rivington's New York Gazette amongst other Promotions, which Gazette came by a Flag of Truce to Hartford to a Colonel Delancy, who was a Prisoner, and boarded in the same House I did.

Orders traveled slower still. Apparently acting upon Anstruther's first attempt to free Serjeant-Major Green in December 1777, Elias Boudinot, rebel commissary general of prisoners, wrote to Ezekial Williams, rebel deputy commissary general of prisoners in Connecticut, from Valley Forge on 28 March 1778 concerning the matter, and asked Williams to “permit Serj. Maj Green to go in on the terms you mention, take his parole accordingly allowing him One Month” (“Their Distress is almost intolerable”: The Elias Boudinot Letterbook 1777-1778. Joseph Lee Boyle, ed. Heritage Books, Bowie, MD: 2002). Green's outright exchange occured soonafter, and on 6 May 1778, Boudinot ordered Williams to release Green and send him to New York "In Consequence of an Exchange made here [in the City of New York] this Day." Williams was also ordered to release Green's servant, William Logan, a drummer of Captain Abraham Bunbury's company who had also been captured in the Battle of Freeman's Farm, as well as another, unnamed servant.

Upon arriving in the City of New York and was appointed (through the specific recommendation of Anstruther) a deputy judge advocate, Barrack-master for the "island of New York," and commander and paymaster of the Combined Corps of the Northern Armya unit of increasing size, composed of men who escaped the Convention Army and made their way to New York. In his former role, he prosecuted multiple trials against British soldiers accused of various crimes.



Ensign James Green of His Maj:s 62nd Regiment of Foot, Deputy Judge Advocate.


Green served these capacities but resigned from all three when, with the assistance of Lieutenant-Colonel Charles Stuart, he was able to purchase a lieutenancy in the 26th Regiment on 1 September 1779 (Stuart was that regiment's lieutenant-colonel). By the end of the year, Green was also made adjutant of the regiment and he, along with the other officers of that depleted regiment, returned home for recruitment duty. It was upon his return to England that Green wrote his 1780 and 1781 letters, and in doing so, he explained how he was able to rise swiftly into the commissioned ranks given his beginnings as a non-gentleman:

…hitherto I have been exceedingly fortunate in the Army, hope I shall be able to get Captain of a Company before the War is at an end. In my office of Judge Advocate I had an opportunity of acquiring a genteel and general Acquaintance with most Officers in the Army—a thing so essentially necessary to a Young Officer, particularly to one under my circumstances, who has no one to recommend me, but such into whose good Graces I might be able to get by a constant perseverance in a Line of Good Conduct.

Indeed, Green's rather impressive advancement was only beginning, although he had long to wait before attaining his desired rank. According to James Green's entry in Dictionary of Canadian Biography volume 6, 1821-1835. Francess G. Halpenny, ed. (University of Toronto Press: 1966), historian Glenn A. Steppler wrote that Green's post-Revolutionary War career consisted of the following:


In 1787 Green returned to the province of Quebec with the 26th [Regiment]. He had married, and a son, WILLIAM [1787-1832], was born at Quebec in early October. By 1798 Green's household in Upper Town counted eight members. The following year his friend, the painter William Berczy*, whom he perhaps supported financially, did pen-and-ink sketches of his wife Maria, William, and a daughter.

Green had been promoted captain-lieutenant on 2 March 1791, but not until May 1795 did he succeed to the full captaincy of a company. In 1795 as well he was selected by [Governor Sir Guy] Carleton, now Lord Dorchester, to be his military secretary. He continued to occupy the post under Carleton's successors as commander, and was in addition employed at York (Toronto) from 1799 as civil secretary by Lieutenant-General Peter Hunter*, who was also lieutenant governor of Upper Canada. Replaced in the latter position in 1806, Green returned to Quebec and remained military secretary under Colonel Isaac Brock*, commander of the forces. In this capacity he held a key position in the administration of the armed forces in the Canadas. His merit was acknowledged in his brevet promotions to major in January 1798 and to lieutenant-colonel in September 1803, following his confirmation as major in the 26th Foot that July. With the arrival of Lieutenant-General Sir James Henry Craig* [who was, ironically, the deputy judge advocate of General Burgoyne's army in 1777] as commander of the forces and governor in chief in October 1807, he was replaced as military secretary, though he was continued for a short while as assistant secretary. In view of Green's long service and great experience, in 1808 Craig offered him an appointment as acting deputy commissary general in place of John Craige*, then under suspicion of fraud and embezzlement. In his new position Green was acting head of the commissariat in the Canadas, but, though he was strongly recommended by Craig to the Treasury, new regulations prevented confirmation of his appointment, and he was replaced in 1810.

With the loss of this post Green found himself in "uncommon hardship" and pressed for an appointment more suitable to his "situation in society." In April 1812 he obtained partial relief when he was made paymaster to a new provincial regiment, the Voltigeurs Canadiens.... In June a lengthy period of strained relations between Britain and the United States finally resulted in war and in August Green resigned as paymaster to be named director of the newly established Army Bill Office. The chronic shortage of specie in the Canadas and the difficulty of obtaining a ready supply in time of war prompted the government to introduce a paper currency through the issue of army bills. These notes did much to alleviate the problems of war-time finance, and the good faith shown in their redemption weakened a long-standing prejudice in the population against paper money.

The Army Bill Office closed in December 1820, but Green's involvement in financial matters continued. In 1821 he was appointed a vice-president of the Quebec Savings Bank, in which he also served as treasurer; in November Green was given a vote of thanks "for his very strenuous and persevering services" in bringing the bank to "its present flourishing situation." One year later he became president, a position he still occupied in May 1824. Green also took an interest in land transactions. In 1802 he, his wife, and their three children each received 1,200 acres of land in Burford Township, which he offered for sale, along with 6,000 acres in Potton Township, in 1811. At some point he arranged the sale of Major-General Lauchlan Maclean's lands in Chatham Township on the Ottawa River.

From the humble station of a private soldier Green had risen not only to commissioned rank and some distinction in the army but also to a position of note in Lower Canadian society. A regular contributor to the Quebec Fire Society, he also subscribed to several charities assisting immigrants, most notably the Quebec Emigrants' Society. He received a commission of peace in 1821 and another in 1828. At his death in 1835 at the home of his son-in-law [the Honorable] John Stewart [husband of Eliza-Maria Green, died 1828]*, the Quebec Mercury summed up his career with the affirmation, "in all...capacities Mr. Green maintained a high character for integrity and assiduity, and for a most conscientious discharge of his official duties."