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Charles Greville Montagu, 1741-1783


Last Colonial Governor of South Carolina. Raised a regiment of captured American prisoners to fight for the British against the Spanish, many of which settled with him after the revolutionary war in Nova Scotia.

Second son of Robert Montagu, Duke of Manchester. Oxford, 1759; House of Commons, 1766-1773; married Elizabeth Balmer, 1765.

Colonial governor of South Carolina, 1766-1773. Wildly popular upon his arrival (the Stamp Act crisis had just ended), he was recalled in disgrace by the British government. It seems he had angered everyone on all sides.

He pardoned 75 leaders of the Regulator's rebellion and worked to clearly locate the North and South Carolina border. By the end of his tenure the South Carolina Assembly had reached a state of direct confrontation with the British government. He was considered inept by many of the colonists.

Lord Charles' loyalties do not appear to have been completely clear, and he obtained a commission in Jamaica where he would not serve against the Americans. He owned (and kept) 18,000 acres in South Carolina, and remained close friends with prominent South Carolina families (the Pinckneys, Manigaults, Moultries, and Elliots are mentioned).

Spain entered the war in 1779. Montagu was put in charge of recruiting American prisoners captured by the British to form a Corps to capture Nicaragua, thus dividing Spain's American colonies in two (the British invasion of Nicaragua had begun in 1780, and 'by November they were facing extinction.' (Davis)).

American prisoners were kept on prison ships in New York and Charleston. After the American defeat at Camden, a large number of American prisoners were aboard the Charleston prison ships. These men were considered by the British the best American troops in the war. Davis writes:

`The idea of recruiting American prisoners of war for the King's service did not originate with Montagu... The provincial Volunteers of Ireland had enlisted POWs at Camden...

... Montagu boarded the prison ships ... and began enlisting men. ... he only succeeded by guaranteeing to the POWs that they would not serve against their former comrades but only against the French and Spanish. He initially enlisted, brought ashore, clothed, ... , almost 400 recruits... He also enlisted three black pioneers and a black drummer. ...

In a now famous exchange of correspondence, Lord Montagu even attempted to enlist Gen. Moultrie, offering him command of the regiment (General Moultrie was the highest ranking American prisoner.(ed.) ... The American general even suggested... that Lord Montagu should consider defecting to the rebels!...'.(Davis).

Lord Charles sailed to New York with his son and 4 British officers to recruit on the prison ships there, but became an American prisoner when the captain of the Dawes, on which he was sailing, defected to the Americans. An American investigation revealed that the POWs he had recruited had volunteered, and American General Nathanael Greene ordered Montagu and his party released. Lord Charles continued on to New York, and recruited some 500 men from the prison ships there.

Data is available for about 1/3 of the men who served in Montagu's Duke of Cumberland regiment. Davis:

`This data provides detailed information on the composition of this regiment and some of the reasons Dalling was so pleased with them. Besides being drawn from among the best trained and disciplined of the American army, almost thirty percent ... were born in England, Scotland, or Ireland... the recruits ... represented every colony from Georgia to New England, as well as France, Germany, and both the East and West Indies.' (Davis).

The Duke of Cumberland regiment was disbanded in 1783, but what happened next is interesting:

`Although the former POWs were paid, in addition to their salaries ... "a liberal substinence enabling them with comfort to return to their respective homes", the majority of them petitioned to be allowed to settle with Lord Montagu in Nova Scotia. Additionally, ... the officers (were) granted half pay traditionally given to extra officers in the regular army, "as no officers can have greater merit, on account of their zeal and attachment to Government". The British Ministry granted both requests.' (Davis).

Charles died 2 months after arriving at Halifax, Nova Scotia, with the first 200 of his men. His will gave 2 ships (the privateers Montagu and Industry) to his son and daughter, and specified the commanders of the 3 divisions of his regiment. His epitaph in St. Paul Churchyard, Halifax:

Here Lye the remains of
The Right Honourable
LORD CHARLES GREVILLE MONTAGU
Second son of Robert Duke of Manchester
His Lordship after having served His
Majesty with Honour in various Countries
And gone through great Fatigues
Fell a sacrifice to his public zeal
through the Inclemency of a severe winter in Nova Scotia
where he was employed to
settle a brave Corps of Carolinians
whom he had commanded during the late
war between Great Britain and Spain.
He died much regretted
On the Third day of February 1784, aged 45.
Vir bonus fortis et Patriae fidelis fuit.

 

(trns: `He was a good, brave man, and faithful to his country.')

Montagu Street in Charleston, South Carolina, is named for him.


Sources:
Lord Montagu's Mission to South Carolina in 1781: American POWs for the King's Service in Jamaica, Davis.
Carolina Regulator's.

Family Research and History Section Maintained by Bruce R. Montague:
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http://www.cse.ucsc.edu/~brucem
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