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Military, briefly

Page history last edited by PBworks 12 years, 6 months ago


    Stedman's military career began at the age of 16.  His first commanded rank was that of ensign, in which he defended various Low Country outposts in the pay of the Dutch Stadthouder.  His rank was later elevated to lieutenant.(xix)  In 1771, Stedman reenlisted due to overwhelming debt after the death of his father.(xix)


    Stedman left Holland on 24 December 1772, after hearing of a call for volunteers to serve in the West Indies.  Stedman was given the rank of Captain by way of a brevet (temporary authorization for an officer to hold a higher rank).(xix)  He was part of a corps of 800 volunteers that would be sent to Surinam, aboard the frigate Zeelust, to assist local troops fighting against belligerent bands of escaped slaves in the eastern region of the colony.  The corps, who were trained for the battlefields of Europe, were unprepared for battle against the unorthodox fighting methods of their opponents. (xix) 


    After arriving in the colony, Stedman received orders from Colonel Fourgeoud, who commanded the newly arrived troops.  Col. Fourgeoud was notorious for dining on gourmet meats, wine and other delicacies while his troops survived on meager and often spoiled sustenance. (lv)  He invented tasks for Stedman to complete and took away his cartridges.  Stedman believed that Fourgeoud neglected his duties as an officer, the well-being of his troops, and only retained his title by lining the pockets of those above him. (lv)  Stedman commented, “But I solemnly declare to have still omitted many other calamities that we suffered.”(123)


    On 10 August 1775, shortly after taking ill in Surinam, Stedman wrote Col. Fourgeoud a letter asking a furlong to regain health and six months military pay that had been owed him.  Fourgeoud responded to the letter on August 12 with two outright negatives, though similar requests had been granted to other officers.  Stedman later wrote, “This so incensed me that I now only wished him in Hell, but myself also, to have the satisfaction of seeing him burn.”(155) 


    Along with the 800 troops of the corps, once in Surinam, Stedman was to fight along side the newly formed corps of Rangers.  These troops were slave volunteers who had been purchased from their masters for this purpose.  These volunteers were promised their freedom, a house and garden plot, and military pay for their involvement in action against the rebelling maroons of the colony. (xx)  The corps of Rangers originally numbered 116, but 190 more were purchased after the original group displayed remarkable courage on the battlefield, and after their numbers were significantly reduced. (xx)


    While in Surinam, Stedman journeyed on seven campaigns in the forest, each one averaging three months. (xxii)  However, Stedman only engaged in one battle.  The battle, in which took place in 1774, concluded with the capture of the village of Gado Saby.  A vivid portrayal of this battle can be seen in the frontispiece of Stedman’s “Narrative”, in which a village is seen burning in the distance. (xxiv)


    Throughout these campaigns, ambushes occurred frequently, resulting in an enormous loss of life amongst troops.  These losses were so great that 830 additional troops were sent from Holland in 1775 to supplement the original 800; roughly a couple hundred returned to Europe. (xxiv)  These campaigns were also riddled with sickness, disease, anger, fatigue, and death.  These are a few of the reasons Stedman made it a point to distance himself.  He observed the horrors of battle and the cat and mouse antics of both sides that resulted in merely pushing the battle across Surinam instead of quelling it. (xxiv)           



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