Charles Anstey (b 1811)

by Gary. M. Ansteychief researcher of the Anstey story project.

Charles Anstey was born in April 1811 in Exminster, Devon to parents Benjamin Anstiss and Mary Smale, hence he is a member of the Exminster Ansteys, an ‘Anstey evolved from Anstis‘ sub-branch. Charles grew up in Exminster, then on 17 January 1837 he joined the Army, assigned to the 32nd (Cornwall) Regiment of Foot as a Private (Service Number: 1414). At the time of joining, Charles was a labourer, incorrectly giving his age as twenty three instead of twenty five. He enlisted for the “bounty of three pounds” (a ‘signing-on fee’); he was unmarried and illiterate, signing his name with a cross rather than a signature.

Charles proceeded immediately with his regiment to Canada, fighting in the Battle of Saint Denis in November 1837 and the Battle of Saint Eustache in December 1837 during the Lower Canada Rebellion.

The following year, on 3 March 1838, Charles was involved in the Battle of Pelee Island during the Upper Canada Rebellion where according to Wikipedia “On February 26, 1838 the frozen ice of Lake Erie allowed 300 Canadian and American Patriots under the command of Major Lester Hoadley to take Pelee Island at the western end of the lake. This prompted British Colonel John Maitland to send a force to recapture the island and secure it from further attack. Maitland sent Major George Browne with 126 men, comprising two companies of the British 32nd Regiment, a detachment of the Canadian St. Thomas Volunteer Cavalry, and a small band of First Nations warriors to cut off the invaders. On March 3, 1838, Browne’s force intercepted the Hunter Patriots on the ice off the south western shore of the island and defeated them in a sharp fight. The British and Canadian casualties were 5 killed (4 from the 32nd Regiment and 1 Canadian cavalryman) and 25 wounded.

Charles was one of the wounded; according to his Discharge Report he “received a severe gunshot wound on right leg with injury in action against the rebels at Pelee Island on the 3rd March 1838“. The report on 20 July 1838 by the Surgeon further stated that “the ball [from the gun] passed through the upper expanded head of the tibia and lodged in a cleft of the pas tenor table. From the pain of the knee it is believed that the fissure extended to the articular surface of the head of the bone“.

The Surgeon continued “He [Charles] is not likely to become efficient for a long time and is therefore recommended for change of climate [ie discharge]. His disability has not been produced or contributed to by misconduct.”

According to his Discharge Report, Charles had in total spent “one year in Canada, the remainder at home” during his Army Service and on 31 July 1838 he was discharged from the Army, “according to the surgeon, this is a case of disability proceeding from severe gunshot wound received in action“. According to the Regimental Board “the conduct and character of Private Charles Anstey Nbr 1414 of the 32nd Regiment has been that of a good and efficient soldier

After returning to England, Charles married Mary Ann Stokes (b c1812 in Powderham, Devon) in South Molten in 1840 and they settled in Exminster. By the time of the 1851 Census, Charles was a “Chelsea Pensioner and Agricultural Labourer” living with his wife Mary Ann and various of his children, all born and baptised in Exminster, namely:

  • Mary A. Anstey (b 1840);
  • James Stokes Anstey (b 1842);
  • William Bustard Stokes Anstey (b 1844);
  • Lucy Anstey (b 1847);
  • Charles John Anstey (b 1849);
  • Philip Stokes Anstey (b 1852);
  • Henry Charles Anstey (b 1855);

Charles was still living with his family in Exminster in the 1861 Census, by now a “road labourer“. He died in 1863 in Exminster.

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