British Colonel Patrick Ferguson
Early Life: 1744-1777
Patrick Ferguson was born in Edinburgh, Scotland on June 4, 1744 to James Ferguson of Pitford. His father was a lawyer and had defended the followers of Bonnie Prince Charlie in 1745. In 1764, he had become Lord Pitford. Patrick's older brother was a friend of Pitt the Younger and served for thirty years in Parliament. His mother was sister to Major General James Murray, who had served under Major General James Wolfe in his Quebec campaign, even commanding the left wing at the Plains of Abraham.
On July 12, 1759, at the age of 15, Ferguson joined the Royal North British Dragoons, later known as the Scots Greys, as a cornet after having studied at a military academy in his youth. When he was 17, while serving in Germany, he contracted an illness that left him with a slightly lame leg. The illness troubled him from 1762 to 1768, keeping him out of military service. He spent most of that time at home, although in 1766, he spent some time in Paris. On September 1, 1768, he purchased a captaincy in the 70th Foot Regiment. He served with them putting down a slave rebellioin in Tobogo in the West Indies where his younger brother, George was governor. Patrick contracted fever, and also being plagued by his illness, he returned to England in 1774.
Ferguson attended Light Infantry camp in Salisbury in the summer of 1775, where he first attracted the attention of Maj. General William Howe. In the year following, he worked on developing a breech-loading rifle. The Ferguson Rifle was a modification on the Chaumette rifle, which he demonstrated to King George III and then before the top brass of the British Army at Woolwich with excellent results. He even secured a patent on December 2, 1776, which has led to some controversy over whether he actually developed the rifle, or was merely the first to patent the improvements.
Revolutionary War: 1777-1778
Following Ferguson's impressive demonstration before King George III, he was given command of a 100-man experimental rifle company and sent to America in 1777. He and his company first saw action at the Battle of Brandywine, Pennsylvania on September 11, 1777. During the battle, he chose not to shoot a Continental officer, who may have been General George Washington, because it would have meant shooting him in the back. Later on that battlefield, Ferguson's right elbow was shattered by a rifle ball.
Ferguson spent the next eight months in Philadelphia undergoing surgeries in order to avoid amputation of the arm. In the meantime, he learned to use his left hand for writing, shooting and fencing. He never regained the use of his right arm. While he had been convalescing, General Howe disbanded his experimental ranger company and the rifles were put in storage. Following his recovery, Ferguson was used to gather intelligence and lead raids on privateer bases.
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