America beckoned. The American Revolutionary War (1775–1783), known more commonly as the American War of Independence, was the rebellion of thirteen of the North American colonies of Great Britain who declared themselves independent in 1776 as the United States of America. France signed an alliance with the new nation in 1778, which escalated the conflict into a world war between Britain and France, Spain, and the Netherlands, calling upon military leaders in Britain, to go and do their duty.
It is safe to say that General Thomas Peter did do his duty, leaving at once for America, almost as soon as he had inherited Crossbasket. It is entirely likely he was away from Crossbasket, Blantyre and Scotland until 1783 and probable also he visited his slave owner Uncle Robert at Washington.
1776 – Thomas Peter was serving with the British Army on 9 June 1776 in America, during the War of Independence, the date upon which he signed a wadsett deed which transferred control of his lands of Crossbaket, Auchentibber, and Drumlochernoch, to his uncle, David Peter, for the deed was signed at Halifax in Nova Scotia, Canada, and his signature was witnessed by two army men, Wynne Stapleton, surgeon’s mate in the 22nd Regiment of Foot, and Andrew Currie, an Ensign in the same Regiment. This gave a trusted family member the ability to run his affairs back home, whilst he was on active military duty. It may have been done after a realization that the war was not going to be won quickly.
It is possible that General Thomas Peter (then a Captain) was serving in the army led by General William Howe, who is reported to have arrived in Halifax, Nova Scotia, on 30 March 1776: “having been driven from Boston by rebel forces. He brought with him 200 officers, 3000 men, and over 4,000 loyalist refugees, and demanded housing and provisions for all.”
1777 – General Peter of Crossbasket had also inherited the lands of Auchentibber and Drumlochernoch from his grandfather. Whilst in America, it was recognised that Lord Blantyre was still the superior of these lands. So, to give General Peter full control, on 29 May 1777 Alexander, Lord Blantyre, the feudal superior, gave him a precept of clare constat, otherwise known as a charter of confirmation, which recognised that: “the now deceast Thos Peter of Corsbasket, grandfather of my lovit Thos Peter now of Corsbasket, bearer hereof, died last vest & seised in the fee of all & whole the lands of Auchintibber and Drumlochernoch wt the whole parts pendicles & pertinents thrto belonging wtin the Barrony & parish of Blantyre & Sheriffdom of Lanark…..& that the sd Thos Peter now of Corsbasket, bearer hereof, is the eldest son of the deceast Thos Peter, merchant in Glasgow, who was the eldest son of the sd deceast Thos Peter of Corsbasket”. It is thought that the rental of Auchentibber and Drumlochernoch was worth about sixty-five pounds per annum.
1781 – While an ensign with the 23rd Royal Welsh Fusiliers, Lieutenant-General Thomas Peter of Crossbasket saw considerable service in the southern campaigns of the American Revolution, and he was present when Lord Cornwallis surrendered at Yorktown on 19 October 1781. Determined not to allow one of his regiment’s colours fall into the hands of the enemy, Ensign Thomas Peter removed the King’s Colour from its staff and wrapped it around himself under his uniform. After safely smuggling the colour past the eyes of the Franco-American army, and then back to England, Ensign Thomas Peter was rewarded for his ingenuity with an audience with the king and a lieutenant’s commission in his regiment.
General Thomas Peter of Crossbasket, a half-pay lieutenant colonel of the 23rd Regiment, formed from displaced Scottish emigrants, was granted permission by the War Office to raise the Canadian Fencible Regiment. After his fledging regiment mutinied in Scotland, Peter took little part in the regiment’s rebirth in the Canadas, remaining instead as a brigadier general on staff in Ireland. Peter showed considerable reluctance in supplying the required implements for his regiment, for which he was criticized for by general officers preparing inspection reports on the regiment to the War Office in London. Surprisingly, considering his concern at Yorktown for preserving one of his regiment’s colours, Peter was censured for not providing the Canadian Fencibles with its own set of colours. This was rectified in 1811.
As for his career, after the war ended in 1783, he continued within the army, advancing first to the rank of Major in 93rd Foot on 15 January 1794; Lieutenant-Colonel in 93rd Foot on 1 September 1794; Lieutenant-Colonel in 2nd Foot on 25 February 1795; Lieutenant-Colonel in 23rd Foot on 1 September 1795; exchanged to half-pay of 118th Foot in March 1798; brevet Colonel on 1 January 1800; Colonel of Canadian Fencibles in 1803 and then Brigadier General; subsequently Major-General on 25 April 1808; Lieutenant-General on 4 June 1813.
It may then come as a surprise that this infamous local figure was never a full General, stopping short of that rank at Lieutenant-General.
1783 – ‘General’ Thomas Peter returned home to Crossbasket, the American war ended and he took up duties at the Crossbasket estate, being guarded by his Uncle David.
The next 7 years, between 1783 – 1790 were to see some changes for Crossbasket Estate and the nearby roads in and out. Now home from war ravaged shores, back at his inherited family home for a deserved rest, it was time for this Thomas Peter to make his mark. In 1783, aged just 26, single and with swathes of inherited cash to spend, some extensive landscaping was planned.
1789 – Lieut- General Thomas Peter of Crossbasket was in possession of Crossbasket at this time and David Ure, early historian was speaking of him when he says in 1789: “a commodious dwelling-house, of a modern construction, is built close to the east end of the tower. The situation is pleasant and healthful. Considerable attention had once been paid to the gardens and inclosures; but they have, for some time past, been greatly neglected. Soon, however, will they put on a quite different appearance, when the Captain shall have finished the improvements he has begun to make on the estate.”
It is likely Ure’s comment above that caused future interested readers to speculate that Lieut- General Thomas Peter built the Generals bridge in this year, but that was not the case. The “improvements” being made to the estate were external improvements to the gardens as the quote suggests, i.e upgrades to the ground earthworks, leveling, outbuildings to compliment his grandfather’s mansion house addition to the Tower.
Revision: These remarks about extensive improvements also co-incide with Peter of Crossbasket borrowing the monumental sum of £1,000 in 1791. Was he living beyond his means, or having delusions of grandeur? It is unknown what the sum was for, but it would have been many millions of pounds in todays money.
David Ure’s account is important for as well as being normally reliable, it suggests that the first large extension to Crossbasket, beyond the tower, happened recent to 1789, supportive of my theory of it being built in 1764. Thomas Richardon’s map of 1795 shows the Mansion, rather than just a tower.
Ure’s written account also suggests Lieut. General Thomas Peter was improving the gardens. The existing orchards and gardens must surely have suffered whilst Thomas Peter was off fighting. We know that a series of terraces were eventually constructed containing gardens on different levels, to the south west and west of the Tower and it would appear that those gardens date also to this construction period, to beautify and compliment the General’s new mansion house extension. It cannot be said for certain the terraced gardens were created at this time, but I am certain, it was General Peter who did this, the gardens being noted later in 1840’s.
Additionally, on subsequent maps, the entrance road is formed into the estate, wheras before it would appear to run straight from Stoneymeadow directly north to the castle, rather than the sweeping curves of today. Ure’s comments suggesting Thomas Peter was working to improve the gardens, is the best possible hint that Lieut – General Thomas Peter was the constructor of the terraces to the west of the tower, with the absolute intention of making some formal gardens there. To compliment that achievement, I believe this was the time when stone walls were constructed alongside the river, to raise the gardens on both sides of the Calder River.
Also in 1789, Basket Ironstone mines are confirmed as the property of General Thomas Peter, falling just outside the lands of Craigneith, to the south of the extended Castle.
Pictured is a photo taken in 2004 by Alex Rochead of the walls and terrace alongside the river, which I believe Thomas Peter constructed around 1790.
Words from “The History of Crossbasket Castle” by Paul D Veverka (c) 2015
Sources acknowledged fully in the book.