James RENNISON was born in Kendal in 1743. He was by trade a weaver but enlisted in the 59th Regiment of Foot in 1759 aged 15.
The 59th Foot were formed in 1755 and performed garrison duty in Ireland until 1763. During this period James must have been allowed regular leave to return to Kendal, as he married Jane HARGREAVES in January 1762. He must have been left in England when the Regiment sailed for Nova Scotia in 1763 as his first child, Ruth, was baptized in Kendal in November 1764 and two more on the same day in January 1766.
We know that he did eventually join the regiment in the American Colonies as his discharge papers read "was present at the engagements at Bunker Hill and Lexington in the 1775, at the latter of which he was wounded in the thigh by a musket shot; and also served at the Siege of Gibraltar".
The Battle of Lexington on 19 Apr 1775, was barely a skirmish, but was the first engagement of the American Revolutionary War (also known as the American War of Independence). It's unknown who fired the first shot that started the war - "the shot heard around the world" - but James was there...
Bunker Hill was also a British victory in that they gained territory, however they suffered severe casualties, and in 1776 the 59th Foot returned to England to reform. As Bunker Hill followed Lexington, it is more likely that he was wounded at Bunker Hill rather than at Lexington.
It's likely that James was promoted from Corporal to Serjeant in the aftermath of Bunker Hill, accounting for the 13 years of being a Serjeant before his first discharge.
His involvement in the Siege of Gibraltar came at the end of the siege by Spanish and French forces in late 1782. Indeed, the arrival the relief force, of which his regiment was a part, persuaded the Franco-Spanish allies to sign the Treaty of Paris in early 1783 thereby ending the American Revolutionary War. Gibraltar remained British.
James had been present at the very first and last fighting of the American Revolutionary War.
He served for 29 years - 13 years as a Serjeant - and was decommissioned from the 59th Regiment of Foot for health reasons in Gibraltar in 1788, and given a Chelsea Hospital pension. Aside from his thigh wound, he had suffered a "rupture".
Shortly afterwards, however, he was taken out of the pension and was re-enlisted into the 6th Regiment of Foot as part of an augmentation of the British Army. He was discharged again 3 years later on 31 Jan 1791.
Then again, in February 1798 he was again re-enlisted in the Independent Company of Invalids and spent 4 years 4 months as a Garrison Serjeant in Chester, being discharged for a third time in 1802. The Invalids were companies of veterans charged with local garrison duties in lieu of a pension. They wore the same uniform as patients of the Chelsea Hospital. The Invalids were disbanded in 1802, so James would have been one of its final members.
In August 1804, James wrote to the Chelsea commissioners with a copy of his discharge hoping to have them send his pension to Kendal.
He appears on Chelsea Pensioner records in 1804 and 1806. He had finally retired to Westmorland.
James RENNISON died aged 69 on 1 Jul 1813 at Low Mills (1.5 miles south of Kendal on the Natland Road), his death was investigated by the coroner. He was buried on 22 Jul 1813 in Kendal.