57th Regiment of Foot

57th Regiment of Foot
 Lieutenant Polycarpus William Taylor

Career of Polycarpus William Taylor (1753-1791)


The will of Policarpus Taylor, Esquire of Norton, Durham, England, (1715-1780) states that his son is a Lieutenant in the 57th Regiment of Foot in 1780. The will instructs the executors to give son Policarpus William Taylor eighty pounds in order to buy "Diet, Lodging, and Clothing."


Cape Fear, North Carolina - May 1776

Communications from the Earl of Dartmouth, dated October 21, 1775, to Major General William Howe, direct that the five regiments of foot 15th, 37th, 53rd, 54th, and 57th, "Should be ordered to hold themselves in readiness to embark at Cork, Ireland on or before the first of December for North America."  Major General Henry Clinton is appointed to command the expedition to the Southern colonies December 6, 1775, which will included the five regiments listed and two companies of artillery infantry for "reducing to obedience the southern provinces of North America now in rebellion." 

The 57th Regiment of Foot (1) landed and encamped at Bald Head, Cape, Fear, North Carolina, in the Colony of America, May 15, 1776.   Sir Henry Clinton's forces,  amounting to 2,000, attempted to siege Fort Moultrie on Sullivan's Island, Charleston, South Carolina. The British attack was repulsed by Charleston troops.. British forces then moved north July 21st, to engage in the New York campaign

Capture of Long Island - August 1776

"On the 1st of August Clinton arrived from Cape Fear. Howe proceeded to organize his forces into seven brigades and a Reserve, the Grenadier and Light Infantry  companies massed into distinct battalions." (2)   The total British and Hessian forces amounted to 25,000.

Reserve - Four battalions of Grenadiers - MG John Vaughan , 33rd, 42nd
First Brigade. - 4th, 15th, 27th, 45th - Major-General James Robertson
Second Brigade. - 5th, 28th, 35th, 49th -Major-General Robert Pigot
Third Brigade. - 10th, 37th, 38th, 52nd - Major Valentine Jones
Fourth Brigade. - 17th, 40th, 46th, 55th Major-General James Grant
Fifth Brigade. - 22nd, 43rd, 44th, 63rd Brig-General Francis Smith
Sixth Brigade. - 23rd, 44th, 57th, 64th Brig-Gen James Agnew
Seventh Brigade. - Fraser's Highlanders.  New York Companies. Hessian troops
Light Troops. - Three ** battalions of Light Infantry & the 16th and 17th
                        Light Dragoons- BG Alexander Leslie

** The Light Company of the 57th formed part of the 2nd Light Battalion.


The first division of 15,000 British troops landed at Gravesend Bay on Long Island, on the 22nd of August. Sir Henry Clinton and Lord Cornwallis, attacked American forces on the  Bedford and Jamaica roads.

The German Hessians struck General Sullivan's troops at a  third position, Prospect Park.   The Americans were defeated. General Washington abandoned his army camp, retreating his troops across the river at Brooklyn, on the 30th of August.

General Howe moved his army eastward of Brooklyn, and then captured the city of New York. 


Ensign Commission - April 8, 1777

Policarpus William Taylor paid a L500 pounds in order to obtain a  commission for the Ensign assignment in  the Army, the 57th Regiment of Foot on  April 8, 1777

Ensign commissions of James Saxony and Policarpus Wm Taylor, 8 April 1777.
Source: Carleton's Loyalists Papers, Canadian Archives.
Researcher: Sonia Hamilton, Haileybury, Ontario Canada.


Sir John Irwin

The head of the 57th Regiment of Foot was Colonel Sir John Irwin, who was Commander in Chief of Ireland from May 5, 1775 to 1782 and a Member of Parliament (MP) from 1762 to 1783. Policarpus William Taylor appears in the 57th Regiment of Foot Roster, as an Ensign for the years 1778 and 1779 in  Regiment Rosters submitted by Sir William Howe for all British Forces stationed in North America.  Regiment Rosters for the years 17801781, 1782, and 1783 list Policarpus William Taylor, as a Lieutenant.  The 1783 Roster shows Lieutenant Taylor mustered out of the 57th Regiment as a Grenadier.




Battle of Brandywine - September 11, 1777

General William Howe, disembarked at the head of Elk River, Maryland with 13,000 British and 5,000 Hessian troops on August 24, 1777.  General Howe's goal was to seize Philadelphia. The British troops were divided into two columns under the command of German General Knyphausen and General Charles Cornwallis.

Knyphausen Column Cornwallis's Column
Major-General Vaughn:
1st Brigade, 4th, 5th, 23rd, 49th
Major-General Charles Grey:
 (1,500 men)
3rd Brigade, 15th, 33rd, 44th, 55th
Major-General James Grant:
2nd Brigade, 10th, 27th, 28th, 40th
Major-General James Agnew:
4th Brigade, 17th, 37th, 46th, 64th
Four Hessian battalions 2 battalions Guards
2 battalions Light Infantry  
2 battalions Grenadiers
2 squadrons 16th Light Dragoons
Three battalions Fraser's Highlanders 3 battalions  Hessians
Queen's Rangers (Irregulars)  
1-squadron 16th Light Dragoons  

** The 2nd Light Battalion of General Grey's forces was comprised of the light company of the 57th Regiment.

Cornwallis troops encountered General Sullivan's division on the heights above Birmingham Church.  The Americans were driven back and retreated to Chester.  The British marched forward on Lancaster road. General Washington dispatched General Wayne to harass and delay Howe's forces.  General Howe sent Major-General Grey with three battalions (2nd Battalion Light Infantry-comprised of the light company of the 57th Regiment; the 42nd and 45th Regiments ) to deal with Wayne's forces.

September 20, 1777

General Grey planned a night attack upon Wayne's camp, with orders to use bayonet only.  In order to prevent any of his troops from firing their too early in the attack, he ordered the removal of their flints from their muskets. Upon entering Wayne's camp General Grey shouted "Dash on, light infantry."  In the successful attack three hundred of Wayne's men were killed and wounded while the British had only eight killed and wounded. Seventy soldiers were taken as prisoners of war, along with the whole of the camp equipage, and eight wagon loads of stores and ammunitions.

The Americans placed a quarter bounty on the heads of all of the Light Infantry battalion.   The 2nd Light Battalion, in order to save from murder other Light Battalions who had taken no part in the attack, dyed their plumes red.

The British effectively marched into and occupied Philadelphia on the 25th of September 1777

Capture of Fort Montgomery - October 6, 1777

Troops at Fort Montgomery: 52nd Regiment, 57th Regiment, Emmerick Chasseur Unit,
Loyalist Americans, and New York Volunteers.

The navigation of the Hudson river, three miles above Peekskill, was blockaded by the Americans who had strung, across the river, an iron chain and boom.  The boom was protected by four war-ships and two fortifications  named Fort Montgomery and Fort Clinton on the western bank of the river.

The 52nd and 57th Regiment of Foot, under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Campbell disembarked at Stoney Point early on the day of October 6th.

The British troops attacked both forts simultaneously on the afternoon of October 6th, successfully defeating the Americans by nightfall.  Major-General Henry Clinton with Hessian troops commanded by Emmerich Chasseur; the American Loyalist troops commanded by Captain George Turnbull, and Lieutenant-Colonel Mungo Campbell with the 57th and 52nd, were engaged at the Fort Montgomery attack.   The attack of Fort Clinton included the 26th, Fraser's Highlanders, one company of German Chasseurs, and the 63rd.

Promotion to Lieutenant October 1779

 As of  May 23, 1778, the 57th Regiment of Foot consisted of 353 men. The Commissary General's Department Return for March 18th to 24th, 1779, of Men, Women, Children & Waggoners of the British Regiments, Hessian, New Levies & Civil Department Victualled at New York and its Dependencies lists the 57th Regiment.  There were 450 men, 65 women, 35 children and 5 waggoneers. (3)

Taylor reported to James Dalrymple's company, Greenwich, New York August 25, 1779 and was promoted to Lieutenant on 11th of October 1779. (4)  A commission of L1,500 pounds was paid by Polycarpus Wm. Taylor for this promotion. Lt. Taylor was in Captain Waugh's company, as of November 16, 1779.

Lieutenant Policarpus Taylor transferred to the Grenadiers unit on the 24th of April 1781 and was stationed on Long Island for the next two years.  Lt. Taylor retired from military service on  June 20, 1783. (5)

British forces occupied the City of New York, including units of the 57th Regiment of Foot, for seven years (1776-1783). The Definitive Treaty of Peace between Great Britain and the United States was ratified in 1782. The removal of British Troops and Loyalists was completed by November 1783.

Taylor Prisoners - 1783 - Provost Marshal William Cunningham

The Provost Marshal prisoner list includes three Taylor men in 1783. William Taylor, seaman, of the ship "South Carolina;" Edward Taylor, farmer, of Philips Manor; and Henry Taylor, farmer, of Cortland's Manor.

The estate of Colonel Frederick Philip called Philipse Manor, was confiscated by the State of New York after the War of the Revolution. The Rent Roll of Col. Frederick Philip's Estate 1776-1784 includes only tenants Benjamin Taylor and Elnathan Taylor. When Philip's confiscated property was sold, some of it was bought by former tenants or members of their families.

57th Regiment - Nova Scotia - 1783-1791

 At the conclusion of the war the 57th Regiment, reduced to eight companies, was assigned to Nova Scotia where British Loyalists from New York were deported in 1783. Some Loyalists returned to the New York from Canada area in later years.

The 1783,  57th Regiment of Foot roster, shows that Policarpus William Taylor had mustered out, and therefore did not participate in the assignment of the 57th to Nova Scotia.

The 57th was stationed in Nova Scotia for eight years until 1791.  The 57th was reduced by October 1791 to eighteen officers and one hundred sixty men, due to drafts to other regiments.  The regiment arrived in Portsmouth, England, November 14, 1791 from Halifax.
The composition of the 57th upon return to Portsmouth included over fifty percent Irishmen.


Death in New York 1791

Polycarpus Taylor did not return to England after his retirement from military service, choosing to remain in New York. The will of his mother, the widow, Alice (Gregory) Taylor, of Norton, Durham, England written in 1786 mentions her son and “to hold his inheritance in trust.”

The Gentleman’s Magazine of London makes notes of his death in the June 1791 publication: “ At New York, Polycarpus William Taylor, Esquire, formerly an officer in the 57th Regiment.”

Was Lt. Polycarpus William Taylor buried in New York or was his body returned to England for burial?  Mr. Taylor’s father Rear Admiral Polycarpus Taylor died in early 1781 while his mother Alice Taylor (nee Gregory) died in 1789.  Mary Taylor, a sister, born about 1740, and widow of Naval captain Robert Gregory was living as of 1789. Rear Admiral Taylor’s will specifically instructed that his son Lt. Polycarpus William Taylor would forfeit his inheritance if he attempted to enter the house of his sister Mary. 


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57th Regiment of Foot Rosters of Commissioned Officers 

1778 1779 1780 1781 1782 1783



 Footnotes 1- through 4 available upon valid request.

By Barbara Lewellen
Copyright 2003 Lewellen