Major Richard Bayly was an Irishman, commissioned as an ensign in the 35th Regiment of Foot in 1745, rising to Major in a newly raised Scottish regiment, the 108th Foot in 1761, with which he served until 1763 when it was disbanded at the end of the Seven Years War. He is depicted here wearing the uniform of the 44th Regiment of Foot, in which he served between 1750 and 1761. The 44th Foot, under the command of Colonel Sir Peter Halkett (1695–1755), was sent to North America at the outbreak of the French and Indian War and saw service as part of General Braddock’s army in the Ohio Valley. Bayly was named in regimental orders on 17 June 1755 and saw action at the Battle of Monongahela (also known as The Battle of the Wilderness) on 9 July, where he was one of the few officers not to be wounded from the regiment, which lost its Colonel in the fight. The regiment remained in America for the rest of the war and went on to fight at the Battle of Carillion in July 1758 and the Battle of Fort Niagara in July 1759. Bayly held the rank of Captain in the 44th Foot from 1757 and, given that he was ‘raised for rank’ in the 108th in 1761, must have left his regiment in America and returned to Britain to raise troops at around this time. He died on half pay on 8 November 1764.
The artist Joseph Wright (1734-97) was an English landscape and portrait painter. He is most acclaimed for his work recording the Industrial Revolution. His account book lists a ‘Capt. Bailey, £6. 6s’ among sitters at Derby circa 1760. Allowing for the vagaries of the spelling of surnames in the 18th century it seems highly likely that this is the portrait to which the artist refers. Benedict Nicholson, ‘Joseph Wright of Derby. Painter of Light’, New York and London 1968, vol. I, p. 178.