Major Edmund Hewlett is a British Army officer who was in command of the garrison at Setauket until 1778. A man of learning, he is known behind his back as "the Oyster Major".
Edmund Hewlett was born in Scotland to a wealthy family sometime in the mid-18th century. He is an educated man, and very loyal to his king and country. The trade embargo at the beginning of the revolution nearly bankrupted his father, resulting in Edmund joining the British Army to support his family. He is shown to have a passion for the Classics, science, and art, particularly astronomy.
British Army service
With rebellion in America turning into a full-blown war, Major Edmund Hewlett is assigned to oversee the British garrison in Setauket, New York. He commandeers the town's church as a barracks and stables, both for its strategic position overlooking the town, and as a display of authority to the townspeople. The garrison's soldiers take up residence in the homes of Setauket's citizens, with Hewlett himself boarding at Whitehall, the estate of Judge Richard Woodhull, the town's magistrate. Richard and Hewlett become good friends during this time, enjoying each other's appreciation for fine wine and art.
With Hewlett's garrison away from any real fighting or action, he earned the nickname "Oyster Major," as the leader of New York's "backwater bed."
Hewlett is seen with some other officers at Judge Woodhull's Christmas Eve party, and smiles when sees Abraham Woodhull playing with his infant son.
After a long period of peace in Setauket, things start to boil over when Hewlett's horse is killed by a poisonous apple, which he believes was intended for him (though it was actually his subordinate, Captain Simcoe, trying to motivate Hewlett into thinking there were spies among the townspeople). Hewlett orders an investigation, which angers the townspeople and seemingly get Judge Woodhull shot for supporting the major (another of Simcoe's schemes). The town's reverend is arrested for both assassination attempts, assumed to have done it over anger for his church being taken over. Despite Simcoe's urge that the guilty men be hung outright, Hewlett has them stand trial.
The trial falls apart after Judge Woodhull's son, Abraham, (intentionally) blunders with witnesses, suggesting a British soldier actually shot the judge.
Soon after, a roster of rebel traitors is obtained by Simcoe. Hewlett starts proceedings for the men to be tried and hanged for treason, including the man who handed over the list, as he is on it as well. This is interrupted by a rebel attack on the town, led by Major Ben Tallmadge, whose father is on the roster. Hewlett secures the prisoners at the garrison and his men use canon fire to keep the rebels at bay. Simcoe urges Hewlett to use the cannons to destroy the town, which has been overrun by rebels. The major declines to do so, saying his orders are to protect Setauket, not destroy it. Hewlett plans to hold out until reinforcements arrive. This plan is ruined by maddened Simcoe, who executes one of the prisoners in full view of the town and rebel forces. Hewlett orders Simcoe arrested and gagged, but knows the damage is already done.
To avoid a massacre in the town as a reprisal, Hewlett releases all the prisoners with no conditions, saving both the garrison and the town from destruction. The rebels take the freed prisoners and flee as British reinforcements arrive. The soldiers chase Tallmadge and his men to the river, witnessing Anna Strong jump from the rebel boats to rejoin the Loyalist townspeople. Hewlett has his men help her out of the river.
Sometime later, Edmund Hewlett begins to grow fond of Anna Strong, inspired by her display of loyalty at the river (though she actually returned because of her love for Abraham Woodhull). He uses favors with local authorities to help her divorce her "traitorous" rebel husband, and expresses his desire to be friends with her, and possibly more in the future. He also helps her receive and send out mail to her former house-slave in Philadelphia (not knowing she is actually sending and receiving rebel intelligence reports).
When sending a gift to her former slave, Anna inquires after a large package Hewlett has just received. Hewlett tells her to come back that night, and assures her she will be amazed by what's in the crate. When she returns that night, Hewlett reveals the package was a telescope he ordered special from famed astronomer William Herschel, whom Hewlett befriended back in England. She is amazed by the view through the telescope, and a delighted Hewlett tells her about the constellations and discovery of planets in the solar system. Seeing how excited his is about astronomy, Anna asks him why he became a soldier instead of an astronomer. Hewlett admits that he was far more passionate about science than war, but he needed a well-paying career after the rebellion's trade embargo hurt his family's finances.
Hewlett tells Anna about how the world is coming into a new era, and a battle between men of reason and science and men of blood and savagery is underway, with Hewlett hoping reason and order triumph. He also insists Anna call him "Edmund."
Hewlett is just as shocked as everyone else when his former subordinate, John Simcoe, returns to the town, newly assigned by Major John Andre to command the Queen's Rangers. Hewlett scoffs at Simcoe's position, saying that the Ranger's brutal and bloody tactics no way to win a war. When Simcoe insists on staying in Anna Strong's tavern, Hewlett follows her ruse that he had offered her a room at Whitehall, escorting her away from the angered Simcoe.
Later that night, he is enjoying an evening Judge Woodhull, Mary, Abraham's wife, and Anna, who he is teaching to play the harpsichord. He leaves briefly to get a less challenging piece of music from his room, and takes the opportunity to comb his hair and straighten his coat (to try and impress Anna). He hears a noise from downstairs and goes to investigate, finding the parlor dark and deserted. He looks for the others, finding them disheveled in the dining room. Just as he realizes what has happened, rebel soldiers spring out of the shadows and seize Edmund. He demands that they release him and tell him why they've come. A rebel officer pulls out a threatening note written in blood, and to the major's disbelief, signed by Hewlett himself. The officer remarks about how the note was attached to a man whose tongue had been cut out, and perhaps they would do the same to him (though this and the note were all Captain Simcoe's doing, who wanted Hewlett to be a target of the rebel's anger as revenge for the former having him arrested). The rebels then leave, dragging Edmund with them, much to Anna's distress.
Shortly after Hewlett is taken, a letter arrives for him from York City, requesting he verify the loyalty of Abraham Woodhull, who has been arrested as a spy. With Edmund held hostage by the rebels, there is no one to verify Woodhull's claims that he was acting as an agent of the crown under the major's sanction, and he is kept in prison.
The rebel forces that kidnapped Hewlett interrogate him and demand that he confess to the crimes he (Simcoe) committed. Edmund not only refuses, but is repulsed by the nature of the murder, and says that no gentleman or God-fearing man could do something like that, and that he is both. The major says only a "demon" could enact such cruelty upon their fellow man. The rebels don't believe him, and they cut off his uniform and throw him in a makeshift cage to freeze and suffer. The rebels then send word to General George Washington, requesting his permission to execute Hewlett for the crime.
Hewlett remains in the cage for weeks, developing frostbite on his toes and fingers. Still, he won't confess to a crime he didn't commit. The major has begun talking aloud to no one. He passes the long nights by watching the stars. He imagines Anna Strong is there with him, and goes through all the interstellar constellations, recounting their namesakes and locations from memory, teaching them to "Anna."
The rebel officer in charge comes into the cage one night, and holds a knife to Hewlett's throat. He then admits that he won't kill the major until the order from Washington comes through. However, he says he won't stop Hewlett from doing it himself. The officer leaves the knife, and even suggests Edmund might try and escape, to "make things interesting." The officer leaves, and has his men cover the top of the cage with a tarp, blocking Hewlett's view of the stars.
With his last happiness gone, Edmund starts to succumb to his position. He starts to wonder if he is a "demon" after all. Suddenly, Hewlett realizes that he knows a man capable of such acts, a "demon," and that Captain Simcoe is responsible for all of it.
Hewlett's frostbite worsens, and the major is forced to cut off several of his own toes. Shortly after, the rebels receive orders from Washington to pardon Hewlett, who will be traded for captured Americans. Before he can be released, however, Simcoe and his Queen's Rangers storm the camp, killing the rebels. Simcoe finds Hewlett, and admits to framing him for the murders. Simcoe tells the former commander that he expected the rebels to kill him right away, and that seeming him in this terrible state is a welcome surprise. Simcoe moves to kill Hewlett with his bayonet, but is caught off guard by the major, who stabs Simcoe with the knife the rebels had left him. Hewlett then flees as the rebels and Rangers battle around the cage. Simcoe, wounded but alive, vows to kill the major.
Before the Rangers leave the massacred camp to hunt Hewlett, they make a false grave with Edmund's name on the marker, causing rebel reinforcements to believe Washington's pardon arrived too late, and the camp's garrison executed the major for his "crimes."
The Rangers give up the chase, with Simcoe noting that Hewlett was a nobleman, and far out of his element in the wildness. He believes that even in perfect health, the major could never have survived, and that he is sure to have already died in his weakened state.
Hewlett, however, is very much alive. Wearing a stolen rebel uniform, he begins making his way back to civilization through the forest. On the Connecticut coast, Hewlett encounters a black market smuggler he recognizes as a citizen of Setauket. The major requests the smuggler return him to the town, and in return Hewlett will overlook his illegal smuggling. They set off across the water towards New York. Hewlett makes it safely back to Whitehall, and gets some much needed rest. Judge Woodhull and Abraham's wife, Mary, inform the major of Abraham's arrest in New York. Hewlett immediately makes plans to have Woodhull released, but says he must do something else first.
Hewlett goes to the Strong Tavern, shocking both Simco and Anna, whom Simcoe had just informed of Hewlett's "death." The major brings a squad of soldiers with him, seemingly to have Simcoe arrested for his numerous crimes. However, a group of Simcoe's Queen's Rangers are also in the tavern, ready to defend their captain. With Anna (who is unaware of Simcoe's actions) in the middle, however, neither Simcoe or Hewlett want to risk a conflict breaking out, as both men care for her. Simcoe spins a tale of how he did everything he could to rescue Hewlett, and the major in turn follows suit saying he outsmarted the rebels and escape before Simcoe arrived, with both men lying for Anna's sake.
Hewlett then offers to escort Anna back to Whitehall, and they leave. The major and Simcoe silently acknowledge that they will finish this conflict in the future.
Hewlett contacts Woodhull's jailers and secures his release, and is present when Abraham returns to Whitehall and reunites with his wife and son. The same morning, one of Hewlett's men is founded hanging from the gallows outside the garrison in town. The man, who has always had a "melancholy" demeanor, seems to have committed suicide. Hewlett obviously thinks otherwise, doubting that the man could have saddled a horse, tied a rope to the gallows, and hung himself in complete silence, with the garrison sentries only yards away.
Later that night, Hewlett meets with Simcoe in the forest to parlay. The major is at first willing to leave the past alone and have the two British forces stop fighting among themselves and focus on the enemy. Simcoe refuses, admitting to Hewlett how he had orchestrated all of the events that led to the Battle of Setauket, including poisoning Hewlett's horse and having Judge Woodhull shot. He also admits that he had killed the soldier who had "hanged himself" earlier that day, and told Hewlett that he would keep picking off the garrison one by one until the major resigned his commission and left the town in disgrace.
Hewlett responds in turn, saying he doesn't need to drop to Simcoe's bloodthirsty level to beat him. He merely has to wait until Simcoe's inner ferocity breaks out again, as it did during the Battle of Setauket, and then Hewlett will have all the excuse he needs to finally put Simcoe down "like the mad dog he is." Simcoe replies that his ferocity is what gives him an edge of Hewlett; that he is willing to do the evil things Hewlett will not.
Hewlett is present in the aftermath of the fight between the redcoats and Queen's Ranger's at the Strong Tavern. The fight involved numerous men from both sides and heavily damaged the tavern. It was started by one of Simcoe's men seeing a redcoat with a flask that belonged to one of two rangers who had recently gone missing (the flask was planted on the soldier by Anna Strong after she and Abraham Woodhull killed the two missing rangers in self defense, and wanted to stir up conflict between the two British factions to aid the rebel cause). When the brawl spills out into the street, both Simcoe and Hewlett step in to calm the situation. By now, more redcoats and rangers have arrived, and both sides are now brandishing firearms. Hewlett demands that Simcoe order his men to stand down, to which Simcoe agrees, if the major does so first. Hewlett hesitates, and Simcoe recalls the major's own words about how two British parties fighting each other only hurts their cause. Hewlett tells Simcoe once again to leave Satauket. Simcoe says that he is actually leaving, for an assignment in New Jersey, but will return when the assignment is done.
As time passed, Hewlett later came face to face with his adversary, Colonel John Graves Simcoe, whom of which was gravely injured aboard a vessel transporting damaged soldiers. Simcoe begs Hewlett to take his vengeance, though Hewlett himself has a change of heart and opts to let his nemesis live, after previously seeing him grant mercy to his unit.
Eventually, Hewlett marries a woman whom he could truly love and goes back to gazing at the stars and learning various subjects in the fields of Science, just as he always dreamed of doing.
Behind the Scenes
- "Commander of the garrison in Setauket, Hewlett is a proud man who believes in the superiority his social position affords him. While stationed in Long Island, he’s become friends with Judge Richard Woodhull and acts as a constant figure of law, order and authority in town. Stoked by pride and tweaked by paranoia, Hewlett is a man of flawed vision: often unable to see things happening right under his nose."
- ―Official description
- "Commander of the garrison in Setauket, Hewlett is a proud man who believes in the superiority afforded to him by his social position. Stoked by pride and tweaked by paranoia, Hewlett is a man of flawed vision -- often unable to see things happening right under his nose. One of those things was Captain Simcoe, a violent and unpredictable subordinate, who poisoned Hewlett’s horse to lure him into his plot to frame patriot conspirators. Eventually, Hewlett saw Simcoe for the monster he was, arresting him and sending him for court martial. It is only through Hewlett’s honorable action that a massacre was avoided in town."
- ―Official description
- "The Redcoat in charge of Setauket's garrison, Major Edmund Hewlett is not a typical military man. A man of the Enlightenment, more captivated by science and the arts than warfare, Hewlett is not a man built for battle. But the war has come to him. Having rid himself of Captain Simcoe at the end of the first season, Hewlett finds himself menaced by his old enemy in Season Two. When a Simcoe provocation tricks rebels from across Long Island Sound into kidnapping Hewlett, the Major shows great perseverance in surviving his captivity and eluding Simcoe to make it back to Setauket."
- ―Official description
- "The Redcoat formerly in charge of Setauket's garrison, Major Edmund Hewlett is not a typical soldier. A man of the Enlightenment, more captivated by science and the arts than warfare, Hewlett is not built for battle. But the war has come to him. Hewlett rid himself of Captain Simcoe at the end of the first season, but found himself menaced by his old enemy in Season 2. When Simcoe provoked Rebels from across Long Island Sound into kidnapping Hewlett, the Major survived his captivity and eluded Simcoe to make it back to Setauket. Season 3 saw Hewlett teaming up with Abe to get rid of Simcoe, while competing for the heart of Anna Strong. Humiliated at the altar, Hewlett chose to return to England, but not before giving up Abe's identity as Culper to Major John André in one final act of revenge against his rival in love and war. Although Major Hewlett is an ocean away in Season 4, his presence looms large. Having tried to kill Simcoe, having exposed Abe as a spy, they continue to look over their shoulders in case he's lurking..."
- ―Official description
- Hewlett mentions being friends with famous British astronomer William Herschel, who recently confided in Edmund that he believed there to be a 7th planet in the Solar System. Hewlett had suggested he call the planet "Georgium" after King George III. Herschel indeed became famous by discovering Uranus, what he published to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1781.
- Hewlett appears to be a well-educated individual, evidenced in his interest in the sciences and knowledge of the Classics. Indeed, throughout the series, he appears to seek solutions to problems by recalling events and personalities found in his readings of the works of Homer and other Classical authors. The name of his horse is Bucephalus, the famous horse belonging to Alexander of Macedon.
- There was an actual Richard Hewlett serving in the British military as a loyalist and commanding in Setauket.