St Leger Bevill Ensn 62d Regt, his signature in a letter to Horatio Gates dated Rutland, Massachusetts, 28 July 1779
Born: Doneraile, Cork, Ireland (Baptized 25 February 1753)
Regimental commission dates:
Ensign, 30 September 1777
Captured: Saratoga, New York, 17 October 1777 (Convention Army)
Retired: 29 October 1782
St. Leger Bevill came from humble beginnings. His father, James Bevill, was butler to Hayes St. Leger, 4th Viscount Doneraile, and it is therefore after his master that James named his infant son. Little is known about St. Leger Bevill's early years. He became a volunteer with the 62nd Regiment of Foot probably due to an intercession on the part of Hayes St. Leger, which action positioned him to be granted a free ensigncy if an opening became available. The opportunity presented itself soon enough; on the day after the death of Ensign Henry Young, mortally wounded in the Battle of Freeman's Farm, Bevill received his free commission. Ensign Bevill survived the rest of the campaign only to surrender with the rest of the 62nd Regiment on 17 October 1777.
Not enough is known of Ensign St. Leger Bevill's whereabouts during the many years the regiment was in captivity in various parts of the rebel colonies; wherever he was, it is clear he was not present with his regiment. Various regimental lists of officers compiled during the period the regiment was in captivity continually list “Ensign St. Leger Bevill—Absent without leave.” This mysterious disposition is partially explained by the following advertisement in the Continental Journal, No 98, 9 April 1778:
HEAD-QUARTERS, Boston, April 6 1778.
ABSCONDED from Cambridge [Massachusetts], in Violation of his Parole of Honor sacredly pledged, ST. LEGER BEVIL, Ensign in the 62d British Regiment. He is about 30 years of Age, low in Stature, has been bred to the Sea, talks like a Seaman, and frequently wears a long Blanket-Coat.
Whoever will apprehend and convey him to this Place, shall receive TWENTY DOLLARS Reward.
By Order of the General,
J. KEITH, D. A. G.
Bevill was soon recaptured. Thankfully, fellow British officer Lieutenant Thomas Hughes of the 53rd Regiment (and also a prisoner of war) decided to visit his imprisoned comrade. According to Hughes's 12 September 1778 journal entry (A Journal by Thos: Hughes. E A Benians, ed. Cambridge University Press: 1947):
Got…to Worcester [Massachusetts]—a pretty inland town. Went to the goal to visit an officer of the 62nd Regt—a Mr B—l, put in for breaking his parole. He was confin'd to the same room with a friend of Government—told us he was perfectly happy in his situation and did not seem to desire an enlargement. I believe the man is mad.
In a letter written to rebel General Horatio Gates dated Rutland, Massachusetts, 28 July 1779, Bevill begged Gates's permission to “go to Cambridge, for a few Days as I have Some business with Majr Harnage, which Cannot be So Conveniently, done any other way….” One must wonder if Bevill ever received permission to meet with his major; as late as July 1781 he was still listed as absent from the regiment without leave. A March 1782 paylist classified Ensign Bevill, then the ensign of Captain William Hall's company, as a “Supernumerary in America.” He was officially “retired” from the service on 30 October 1782. Almost nothing is known of Bevill's later life apart from the following marriage announcement as published in the "Births and Marriages of Considerable Persons" section of 1790 issue of The Gentleman's Magazine: and Historical Chronicle: "Mr. St. Leger Bevill, of the royal navy, to Miss Sarah Shephard, of Gosport." While Bevill's 28 December 1789 marriage to Sarah Shepard at Holy Trinity Church in Gosport, Hampshire, is confirmed, the position which he then held in the Royal Navy is unclear.