Shot, stabbed with a bayonet - maybe both - he was buried after the battle, his comrades moving on to march and fight elsewhere. A year later, "greatly reduced in numbers," his regiment would go home.
But he remained behind: His bones moldering in the hard clay of a foreign battlefield, anonymous and forgotten - until a cold, rainy day 208 years later.
No one knew what to think last Nov. 22 when the muddy and broken skull and bones were unearthed by a construction worker helping to renovate an abandoned post office in Philadelphia's Mount Airy section.
The discovery of the skeleton in the building's basement at Germantown Avenue and Westview Street brought droves of police who feared some kind of modern foul play.
When none was found, the bones, and some artifacts found with them, were wrapped in sheets, put in paper bags, tagged with the medical examiner's case number, 5449, and taken to the University of Pennsylvania's University Museum for analysis.
There in the ensuing months, through hard work and a little luck, a University of Pennsylvania student achieved what some historians say is a rare coup by piecing together the probable story of the man who was 5449.
The bones had revealed that 5449 was a muscular man with strong legs, powerful shoulders and a touch of arthritis. And then the student, Brian Crane, 22, found through subsequent research that the bones were most likely those of an 18th-century British soldier serving during the Revolutionary War.
He was likely a natty soldier who wore a light infantryman's short red coat, white breeches and black hat with broad brim pinned up on one side with a black feather.
And chances are also that he was present at such now sacred American events as the Battle of Bunker Hill, and such gruesome incidents as the British bayonet "massacre" of American troops at Paoli.
His bones, in short, took on flesh and blood, sweat and color, and, in a way, they came alive.
The critical clue with the skeleton was a small pewter button, one of four that were found by Janet Monge, of the University Museum, and Dr. Paul Hoyer, of the Philadelphia medical examiner's office, who had carefully dug out the bones with trowel and toothbrush.
The buttons were among the nails, pieces of pottery, other metal and animal bones found with the skeleton. Two of the buttons had been found along the spine of the skeleton - as if they were shirt or coat buttons - and two were found at the wrists where cuff buttons might be.
The bones consisted of much of a human skeleton, minus the feet. The feet may have been unknowingly removed when the post office was built in 1909.
Monge believes the bones were almost certainly of a person buried in a grave, someone who had been laid on his back with his hands at his side and buried about three feet down from what was once ground level.
Monge, an anthropologist and keeper of skeletal collections at the University Museum, determined after cleaning and examining the bones that they belonged to a very strong man. Marks made on the bones where muscles and ligaments are attached were extremely pronounced, indicating intense muscle activity.
The six teeth found were well worn, suggesting a life of eating rough fare. And there was a fusion of two bones in the pelvic area that suggested arthritic pain.
Monge had speculated in the beginning that these were the bones of a farmer, a hard-living man much behind a plow.
Last February, the bones, the artifacts and the task of researching them were turned over to Crane, a senior historical archaeology student from Glenshaw, Pa., near Pittsburgh.
Crane, working among shelves of skulls in a museum dissecting room, began by further cleaning, arranging and measuring the bones.
"You just couldn't tell anything in the beginning," Crane said in a recent interview. "I really started from scratch."
But the student soon determined that the individual was an adult male between the ages of 30 and 40, and between 5 feet, 5 inches and 5 feet, 8 inches tall.
Crane also began visiting local historical societies, poring over old deed books to trace the lineage of the ground where the skeleton was found. And he asked the museum's senior conservator, Virginia Greene, to see if she could find anything written on the buttons. After years buried under ground, it was certainly "a long shot," Crane said.
Greene placed the buttons under a binocular microscope with a zoom lens and specially angled light. Using a scalpel and a dissecting needle, she began to clean the encrusted buttons.
After about a half hour of work, a fine rope design began to emerge around the outer edge of one button and in the center, a number: "52."
By the fall of 1777, the members of the British 52d Infantry Regiment were a well-traveled group. The unit had been stationed in Quebec, Canada, for years before the unrest in the American Colonies.
In September 1774, the regiment was dispatched to Boston. Seven months later - on April 19, 1775 - its light company and grenadier company were engaged in the battles of Lexington and Concord, which began the Revolutionary
War. Two months later, on June 17, the regiment fought at the bloody Battle of Bunker Hill, suffering many casualties, including several officers who were killed.
A British regiment at that time usually had 12 companies. (A regimental history of the 52d says that in 1775 there were 56 privates per company.) Two of the companies generally stayed in the British Isles; 10 were on duty at the front.
Of the 10, two were special. One was a grenadier company, made up of taller men often used as shock troops in mass formations. The other was a light company, made up of smaller, more agile men often used as skirmishers or commandos.
There was great spirit among the men of the light companies, or "light bobs," as they were called. They dressed differently - sometimes wearing a short, red coat, unusual head gear and carrying a cut-down musket and tomahawk. And, as with most British troops, their outer coats and inner waistcoats bore buttons marked with their regiment's number.
"The light infantry were always in the front of the army," wrote Gen. Sir Martin Hunter, who as a 20-year-old lieutenant was the acting commander of the 52d's light company at the Battle of Germantown.
"We were always so near to the enemy that the men never pulled off their accouterments and were always ready to turn out at a minute's warning."
Often, during a campaign, the light companies and grenadier companies from several regiments were grouped together into special light battalions or grenadier battalions.
Such was the case in 1777. While the bulk of the 52d Regiment was fighting along the Hudson River in New York, its light and grenadier companies had been detached for service in the British campaign against Philadelphia. The 52d's light company was assigned with 11 other light companies to the Second Light Infantry Battalion.
In the predawn hours of Oct. 4, most of the 350 men of the battalion were camped in huts or tents on "Mount Pleasant" along Germantown Avenue in a section of Mount Airy, then called Bebberstown.
The Second Battalion was camped about a mile ahead of the rest of the 10,000-man British army in Germantown. The battalion itself had a small picket post with two cannons stationed at a big house farther ahead on Germantown Avenue at Allens Lane, near what is now the Lutheran Theological Seminary.
Out ahead of the advanced picket, toiling through the darkness, were 8,000 Americans under George Washington coming down Germantown Avenue looking for the British. The soldiers had marched all night, and some had a score to settle with the British light infantry.
The previous month, on Sept. 20, the Second Light Infantry Battalion, including the men of the 52d, had led a night bayonet attack on an American camp at Paoli, Chester County. Fifty-three Americans were killed, and about 100 were wounded.
No shots were fired by the British. Hunter wrote: "All was done with the bayonet." Another British soldier recalled: "I stuck them . . . like so many pigs . . . until the blood ran out of the touch hole of my musket."
Two weeks later this still was fresh in the minds of the Americans marching to Germantown.
The battle began with an attack on the outlying British picket post, which fled. The Americans then collided with the rest of the light infantry battalion, which held for a time but eventually had to retreat. Here the Americans remembered Paoli.
The American Gen. Anthony Wayne, whose men had been the victims at Paoli, later wrote of their revenge at Germantown. "Our officers exerted themselves to save many of the poor (British) wretches, but . . . the rage and fury of the (American) soldiers were not to be restrained . . . at least not until great numbers of the enemy fell by their bayonets."
It was probably in this early stage of the battle that the soldier of the 52d died. The American attack continued on down Germantown Avenue but eventually was turned back, and Washington's army had to retreat. The battle was over by 10 a.m.
Two centuries later, Brian Crane had learned much that appeared likely about the man buried on the battlefield. But Crane found himself wondering more about him.
He wondered, but could not determine, how the man had died. Had he been shot? Had he been one of the "poor wretches" bayoneted by vengeful Continental soldiers?
"I wondered what his name was, where did he come from, what sort of life did he lead," Crane said. "It is quite possible he had a wife and children; I have no way of knowing that. . . . I wondered was he a sergeant or a private, had he been in the army very long.
"Sometimes I wondered what he would think if he knew what was going on with his body now, or if he knew that 200 years after his death he would be studied by archaeologists," Crane said. "I wondered a lot of things."
Crane graduated this spring from the University of Pennsylvania. But he'll be back in the fall as a graduate student. Maybe then some of those questions will be answered. Some, though, may never be answered.