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Robert Willison, The Soldier.
 
Born in 1776, Robert likely died from Yellow Fever in the West Indies in 1796, where he was serving as an infantryman in the 67th Regiment of Foot (the South Hampshires) .
 
The Willison papers include a letter written by Robert to his father, John Willison (1718 - 1800) written in San Domingo a few weeks before his death.
He describes his army postings and movements during his service and regrets not having written more often to his father 'on account of the continual tosication from one place to the next.' Robert refers to military disaffection when in Ireland, but is happy in the 67th, has 'good officers' and 'plenty to eat'. He was not to know that his death was to follow 11 weeks later.
 
The public records office in Kew records his death as having occurred on 7th August 1796 and army history speaks of the high mortality rate from yellow fever amongst the troops in the West Indies at that time.
 
Mr John Willison Andershaw in the Parish of Douglas in the Shire of Landrick
- to the care of Alexander Gillespie Douglas Mill Scotland

Saint Nicklas Mole Island 0f St Domingo
22nd May 1796

Honoured Father,
This comes with my love and duty to you hoping these lines will find you in good health as I am at present.
Thanks be to God I received your kind letter in Ayre which gave me pleasure to know that you retained your health at that present time but at the same time had not the least opportunity of returning you anitswear on account of the continual tosification from one place to another.
Hon Father since my departure from home I went through my hardships and fatigues in the first place being drafted from Fullertons Light Horse into the l05th Regiment 0f Foot where I remained for the space of a year and half where I joined the 105 was in Ayre and went from that to Leeds in Yorkshire and remained there for four months when we received orders to March to Liverpool which place we embark for Dublin in Ireland and from thence to Kelkenny where we remained in barracks for twelve months when an order came for us to march to the city of Cork at which place the Regiment was broke and a draft took place for to fill the 93rd Regiment which occasioned a great rift in consequence of the same between the Louth Militia Artillery and us on account that we where not willing to be drafted but at Louth was obliged to submit and from thence in camp at Spike Island near the cove Cork but the 93rd being to strong.
There was three regiments detached to the 67th Regiment in which it was my fortune to land. It's being an extreme good regiment with the happiness of good officers.
We are well used to having more provisions than we can destroy having double the allowance that soldiers formerly had at Tea.
Remember my love to my brother John and to my aunts likewise. Especially to Jenny Bradford. Give my compliments to William Smart and all his concerns and all Inquiring friends.
I conclude dear father in remaining your ever dutiful and obedient son
ROBERT WILLISON
Direct to me
67th Regiment Capt Kenlocks Compy
Saint Nicklas Mcle St
Domingo
West Indies Or Elsewhere
Robert's father lived from 1718 to 1800 and was married to Ann Broadfoot.
The aunts referred to were; Mary (born 1722) and Sarah (born 1734).
Brother John was four years older than Robert.
Jenny Bradford may have been a relative on his mother's side, Bradford perhaps being a variation of Broadfoot.
It seems from the letter that Robert had not written to his family for a year or two, since he tells of his movements over a considerable period of time. The original spelling, capital letters and lack of punctuation have been quoted exactly as written. The word tosication is intended to be tostication, and is now obsolete or only in dialectical use. Santo Domingo island is now known as Hispaniola and is shared by the Dominican Republic and Haiti. The details of the regiments in which Robert served made possible the tracing of documents that related to Robert's movements in the Public Record Office, Kew.
The muster roll of the lst Battalion of the 67th Regiment of Foot showed the names of hundreds of men who had died before the normal period of discharge. Included in the list was Robert Willison, died, 7th August 1796. The army records of the period state that by May 1796 reinforcements had arrived in Santo Domingo from Britain, consisting of 7500 men, of whom only 5000 were fit for duty. There was yellow fever in Port au Prince at the time, and in May and June 1300 men had died in total.