William Cobbett - Early Life and Military Career: 1763–1791

Early Life and Military Career: 1763–1791

William Cobbett was born in Farnham, Surrey, on 9 March 1763, the third son of George Cobbett (a farmer and publican) and Anne Vincent. He was taught to read and write by his father, and first worked as a farm labourer at Farnham Castle. He also worked briefly as a gardener at Kew in the King’s garden.

On 6 May 1783, on an impulse he took the stagecoach to London and spent eight or nine months as a clerk in the employ of a Mr Holland at Gray's Inn. He joined the 54th (West Norfolk) Regiment of Foot in 1783 and made good use of the soldier's copious spare time to educate himself, particularly in English grammar. Between 1785 and 1791 Cobbett was stationed with his regiment in New Brunswick and he sailed from Gravesend to Halifax, Nova Scotia. Cobbett was in Saint John, Fredericton and elsewhere in the province until September 1791, rising through the ranks to become Sergeant Major, the most senior rank of NCO.

He returned to England with his regiment, landing at Portsmouth 3 November 1791, and obtained discharge from the army on 19 December 1791. In Woolwich in February 1792, he married Anne Reid, whom he had met while stationed at Fort Howe in Saint John. He had courted her by Jenny's Spring near Fort Howe.

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