Tory vs Patriots During the Revolutionary War
By Awet Amedechiel
The Americans of 1776 were not all patriots. In fact, according to John Adams' estimates, about one third were patriots, one third loyalists, and one third were either neutral or indifferent. In New York and Georgia, more people joined the King's army than the Continental Army, while New Englanders generally supported Washington's efforts. In almost every ethnic, national, and religious group, there were Americans on both sides. By the time the Revolutionary War began, there were about 200,000 American Indians east of the Mississippi, members of 85 different nations. A large number of them, resentful of the antagonism of the colonists and attracted by the comparatively friendly diplomacy of the British, sided with the crown. Tribes such as the Mohawks, under Chief Joseph Brant, and the Cherokees, under Dragging Canoe, joined the British to prevent the westward expansion of European settlement. Other tribes remained neutral in the struggle. Still others, such as Oneidas, Mashpees, and the Catawbas, fought on the patriot side, although their numbers could not compare to the 13,000 American Indians fighting for the British. In 1778, the Delawares signed a treaty with the United States, pledging, among other things, mutual friendship and support for the patriot war. This was the first treaty between the United States and an American Indian tribe.
The English were split as to whether they would support George the King or George Washington. The major division did not occur until after the post-Boston Tea Party of 1773. A number of individuals, such as John Joachim Zubly and Daniel Leonard, began as staunch loyalists, but later joined the patriot cause. Some members of the First Continental Congress, such as Joseph Galloway, later became loyalists. In fact, most members of the First Continental Congress, except the delegates from New England, favored reconciliation with Britain. As the majority national group in the colonies, the English-Americans comprised most of the leadership among loyalists and patriots, including most of the founding fathers of the United States. English-Americans fought with conviction on both sides of the war, some with courage and honor, others with barbarity and cruelty. By the time independence was declared, patriots of English ancestry had made a break with England that cut more deeply than the political secession that had been asserted. They viewed themselves as Americans fighting against British tyrants, rather than rebellious Englishmen fighting their fellow countrymen. This distinction became crucial in establishing the justification upon which the new nation would be built.
Although most of the Americans involved in the Revolutionary War were English immigrants or descended from English immigrants, many non-English people took part. Many people from the next largest ethnic/national group, African-Americans, became involved in the war. From the British side, Lord Dunmore (John Murray) made a proclamation declaring that any slaves who joined the loyalist cause could be emancipated. Of the eight hundred slaves who took him up on the offer, few were better off since many died while being transported. Dunmore's offer was withdrawn under pressure from officials in London, who were unwilling to antagonize southern colonists who could be swayed to the loyalist cause. On the patriot side, at least 25 African-Americans fought in Massachusetts, and at least five were killed at the Battles of Lexington and Concord. Among those fighting in Massachusetts was African-American Salem Poor, whose courage and dedication to military service attracted so much attention that fourteen officers petitioned the Massachusetts legislature to present to him a monetary award. Another Massachusetts patriot soldier of African descent was Barzillai Lew, who was believed to have organized a group of African-American guerilla fighters. African-Americans such as Crispus Attucks, first person killed in the Boston Massacre, and Peter Salem, who killed the first British officer in the Battle of Bunker Hill, were hailed as national heroes by some who might not ordinarily praise a black man.
In November of 1775, after numerous black minutemen and other African-Americans had already given their lives and service to the United States, General Washington forbade blacks to enlist in the military. After Lord Dunmore's declaration, however, Washington rethought his policy and amended it, allowing free blacks to enlist in the Continental Army. Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Connecticut proceeded to organize regiments and other military groups with African-American troops. Maryland and Virginia also sent African-Americans to fight for the patriots. People like James Armistead, Pompey Lamb, Saul Matthews, and Antigua of South Carolina served as spies for the Continental Army. There was even a black brigade from Haiti, fighting as part of a French unit, which was credited with saving Franco-American forces from destruction in Savannah, Georgia in 1779.
Although the many loyalists and much of the patriot leadership were dominated by people of English ancestry, many non-English Europeans were involved in the war, on both sides. Highland Scots in America were perhaps alone in supported the crown as a national group, and the British took advantage of this loyalty by organizing bands of Scottish-Americans to fight in New York and North Carolina. Nevertheless, Scottish immigrant John Paul Jones became one of the most famous naval commanders to fight for the Continental Fleet. Most Irish-Americans supported the patriot cause. The Scotch-Irish were reputed to have been all patriots; in reality, the myth about their unanimous patriotism may have been perpetrated by supporters of such later Scotch-Irish-American presidents as Andrew Jackson. In fact, the Scotch Irish of the backcountry were generally opposed to the revolution because of hatred of the elite leadership and fear of losing British land grants. German-Americans in the Mohawk Valley on New York's frontier strongly supported the Revolution, whereas those in British-occupied Philadelphia were generally loyalists. John Morton of Pennsylvania, a Swedish-American patriot, was one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. John Hanson, another Swedish-American, was a presiding officer over the Continental Congress. A number of firmly religious individuals were involved in the war effort. In each major religious group, there were supporters of the cause on both sides of the front. Lutheran Henry Muhlenberg was part of a patriot "clerical regiment." Among Methodists there were many loyalists, following their church's founder, John Wesley, in his condemnation of the revolution. John Caroll of Baltimore, the first American Roman Catholic bishop, was involved in a diplomatic mission to seek help from Canada for the patriot cause. Another Catholic American, Irish-American Charles Carroll of Carollton, Maryland, was one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. Reverend Isaac Touro, leader of the Newport Jewish congregation, was an avowed loyalist.
Members of the same religious group often had different opinion on the revolution depending on the region in which they lived and their particular interests. Anglicans in the South had developed a very Americanized church, so that many of them supported the revolution and felt no qualms about fighting England. Anglicans in New England and the Middle Colonies, however, concerned about their minority status, maintained closer ties to England, and were generally loyalists. In addition to the loyalist Anglicans in Pennsylvania, there were pockets of loyalist Quakers, many of whom were thankful to King George for having been their protector and benefactor. An even greater problem for the patriots was the pacifism embraced by Quakers, Moravians, Mennonites, and many others. Benjamin Franklin was able to convince many to serve the patriot cause in civilian capacities.
The highest rank attained by a Jew in the Rev War was lieutenant-colonel, Solomon Bush. Many Jewish Americans contributed to the Revolutionary War effort in civilian capacities. One of the most important heroes, however, was Haym Salomon who, along with Robert Morris, helped finance the American Revolution. A number of merchants assisted American consumers in maintaining their pre-Revolutionary boycott of British goods, as well as selling supplies for military and civilian use. After the war, however, many Jewish Americans, including Salomon, Aaron Hart, and Barnard Judah, were unable to collect payment for the goods, services, and loans extended to the government. Some, such as Salomon, were not even officially recognized for their contribution to the war until the twentieth century. The presence of a vast variety of ethnic, national, and religious backgrounds among the Americans of 1776 is certainly reflected in the individuals who participated in the Revolutionary War. Some of these Americans fought for reconciliation with Britain, while others fought for independence from Britain. Some fought in the military, while others served on the civilian front. Their efforts created a war of historic proportions, and the victorious patriots established the first nation of its kind. Later years would see a country of immigrants from even more diverse backgrounds. Because of the participation of such a broad range of people, the new nation of the United States of America was built upon the labor and from the blood of a near microcosm of the world.
Gov. William Franklin, address to the
New Jersey Assembly, 1775
In the 1770s the term civil war, not revolution, was used to describe the spectre of outright war with Britain. After all, it was a conflict within the British empire, between the mother country and its colonies over internal issues of rights and power. Often lost in a study of the Revolution are the "horrors of civil war" among Americans themselves&mdashamong supporters of independence (Patriots/Whigs), opponents (Loyalists/Tories), and the ambivalent Americans who were angry with Britain but opposed to declaring independence. In this theme, REBELLION, we explore several aspects of these "civil wars" as resistance evolved into full rebellion by the self-declared "free and independent States . . . absolved of all allegiance to the British Crown."
- &ndash Sections 1-4 consider the civil war between Patriots and Loyalists, focusing on the Loyalist experience at the outbreak of war. For most Loyalists, writes historian Catherine Crary, "Loyalism was an evolutionary and painful process, even as the transfer of allegiance to a new government was not easy for many rebels." 1
We begin with an overview of the Loyalist experience in 1775-76 as the political divide hardened, mutual recriminations escalated, and no moderate voices were tolerated. Note: Loyalist political writings are included in Theme I: CRISIS Theme II: REBELLION, #7, 8 Theme III: WAR, #2, 7, 8 and Theme IV: INDEPENDENCE, #2, 4. See the chronological all-texts list.
Loyalists at the outbreak of war: selections from letters and commentary, 1775-1776. After the Battle of Lexington and Concord in April 1775, any toleration for Loyalists vanished. Patriot Committees of Safety required citizens to pledge support for the cause of American independence or be deemed "inimical to the liberties of America." Violence toward Loyalists increased, leading many to leave the country for Canada, Britain, or the West Indies. "For these British subjects living on the American side of the Atlantic," writes historian Crary, "the struggle was a bitter civil war with the issue cutting across lines of family, of friendships, of neighbors, and even of husbands and wives. Some saw the issue from Parliament's point of view, some from the radical point of view, and a large segment from a neutral position deriving from judiciousness, inertia, or a delusive hope that the storm would pass them by." 2 Presented here are selections by and about Loyalists that illustrate this political maelstrom and the wrenching personal decisions required of Americans loyal to Britain and/or unwilling to abandon reconciliation and adopt separation. What range of opinion and emotion is displayed? What range of certainty and ambivalence? To what extent was this political divide a "civil war"? (6 pp.)
A Loyalist's poem: Rev. Myles Cooper, "The Patriots of North America," 1775, selections. If you were a Loyalist in America in the 1770s, you tried to explain to yourself and others why your Patriot neighbors were turning the paradise of America into "an endless Hell" by objecting to what was, in your view, the benign, enlightened, and gentle rule of Great Britain. Such sentiments motivated Loyalist Myles Cooper to publish anonymously a 34-page poem in 1775 titled The Patriots of North America, in which he accuses them of committing "treason in mask of liberty." To Cooper, an English-born Anglican clergyman and president of Kings College (Columbia University) in New York City, the colonists were led astray by proud ignorant fanatics or, as he calls them in his poem, "this vagrant Crew / Whose wretched Jargon, crude and new / Whose Impudence and Lies delude / The harmless, ign'rant Multitude." Cooper's rhetoric grows more frenzied as he delivers verse after verse condemning Patriot leaders for their frenzied rhetoric. As such, the poem is a stark example of the hardened political divide in 1775. Cooper's satire drips with condescension and disdain, but even so he summons enough sympathy to lament the tragedy of a civil war:
In summer 1775 Cooper fled an angry mob to seek refuge on a British ship in New York harbor and soon sailed for England, permanently. What does Cooper's poem reveal about the political atmosphere in 1775? Why is he so angry? How would other Loyalists, including other Anglican clergymen like Rev. Caressing, respond to his satire? How would Patriot leaders respond? For whom is the poem intended? (5 pp.)
Loyalist During American Revolution War
American history has traditionally considered loyalists as traitors and American patriots as heroes during American Revolutionary War. As the history had written, loyalists or “Tories” as their opponents called them, were traitors during American Revolutionary War. However, is it moral when American patriots called those people are traitors while they betrayed the people who first discovered America, which is the British? This essay will focus on connection between loyalist and traitor the essay will first define the meaning of loyalist and traitor during American Revolutionary War and thereafter will compare a contrast with Joseph Brant and Benedict Arnold. The conclusion will focus on the argument between loyalist and traitor, and whether Joseph Brant or Benedict Arnold was a traitor. In June 1775, the First Continental Congress declared that anyone who does such as provisioning the British army, saying anything that undermined patriot morale, and discouraging men from enlisting in the Continental army is a traitor (Roark, 2009, p168). Base on this definition, traitors are people who remained loyal to the Great Britain. Not everyone agrees, however some people stayed loyal to the British crown, because they were conservative, most commonly, loyalists were wealthy, well educated conservative people who supported continued British authority in order to maintain domestic stability and their current standard of living. Moreover, loyalists always consider themselves morally and better than the colonists. Others stayed loyal to the British crown because they were slave, the reason they joined the British side because the King of British promised to give them freedom and enslaved them, “southern slaves had their own resentments against the white slave-owning class and looked to Britain in hope of freedom” (Roark, 2009, p165). Others still stayed loyal to the Britain because they are native Indian, they wanted to get protection from the British. It is estimated that approximately 19% remained loyal to Britain, while 40 to 45 percent supported the American Revolution. Taking into account this diversity of opinion, it is clear that the definition of traitor is that most of these people didn’t betray their country for benefit, they just tried to protect themselves between the war of American and the Great Britain. As the Revolution began, many Indian tribes tried to stay neutral. However, as the war grew, they eventually chose sides, the Americans considered most of the native Indian sided with England are traitor. A good example of that is the case of Joseph Brant. According to Roark, Joseph Brant was willing to assisted the British, in exchange they have to protect his tribe, Roark wrote “Brant pledged Indian support for the king in exchange for protection from encroaching settlers” (Roark, 2009, p165). Additionally, Joseph is considered a monster by America patriots, due to the Wyoming Valley massacre of 1778 and Cherry Valley massacre however, he did not participate in the battles. Unlike Joseph Brant, Benedict Arnold was a real traitor is American history. Arnold was an American patriot, in 1765 he opposed the stamp Act. In 1770 Arnold was in the West Indies when the Boston Massacre occurred. “Good God” Arnold had exclaimed at the time of the Boston Massacre, “are the Americans all asleep and tamely giving up their liberties, or are they turned philosophers, that they don’t take immediate vengeance on such miscreants.” (Randall, 1990, p68) In accordance to this, it shows that Benedict Arnold was the one who stood up and strongly supported the rebellion. During the American Revolutionary War Arnold was a general, he obtained command of the fort at West Point, New York, and eventually Arnold defected to the British Army and entered the British Army as a brigadier general. Furthermore, after joining the growing army outside Boston, he considered himself through acts of cunning and bravery. Benedict Arnold was a brilliant military talent but he was so ambitious and greedy that willing to risk his life and the lives of others to get what he wanted. According to Howe for Benedict Arnold money is important than anything else in the world that he could betray his country for it, Howe wrote, “ Money is this man’s God, and to get enough of it he would sacrifice his country”, (Howe, 1998,p4-6). Following this further, in 1779 he opened secret negotiations with the British, he trading information for money, more than that Arnold plot to sell a West Point victory to the British. However, his plot was exposed when the American captured British Major Andre was carrying papers that revealed the plot. No doubt that Benedict Arnold is a greatest traitor in American history, he might be an American hero if he hadn’t cared so much about money. In conclusion, the American patriots were regarded as great heroes during the War and loser, which is the loyalist, were called traitor. Take this into personal opinion I think determining who was a loyalist still depend on what condition. During the war, loyalist tried to avoid the war and wanted to be neutral but American patriots forced them to choose sides by threatening them. The fact that American patriots fought for their liberty and freedom can not be argue but is it moral when they tried to win the War by threatening their own people. Similarly, Joseph Brant wasn’t a traitor if we considered carefully, he had to sided with the Crown in order to protect his tribe from the patriots, so he wasn’t fight for American neither the British, but he always fight for his own tribe. Whereas, Benedict Arnold is a real traitor, Arnold betrayed his people, his brothers and sister for the money and Arnold can be considered that the man without country, he has no country to fight for, the only thing he lived for is the money. The truth that American patriots won the War cannot be changed, however, in the British point of view American might be the traitor.
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The Revolutionary War proved that English colonists in America were able to successfully secede from from the British government. With a continental army focused on defending key American ports and the northeast, militias were able to defend and hinder the British advance from the south and cripple Britian’s ability to foster support from British leaning colonists. The success of the Americans during the Revolutionary War was mutually dependent on both the continental army and the militias however, the militias served as the decisive component of the American Revolution.
Although the British deployed a small contingent of forces to America to quell the upheaval caused by American Patriots, the British forecasted that they could augment the shortages in its small force by recruiting American Loyalists in the south. The British strategy would have proved successful had British forces been able to build a guiding coalition with the loyalists. Unfortunately, British soldiers could not gain a decisive victory against the militias. Because the patriots/militias had greater mobility in the country side, they could enforce policy and secure the population. This undermined the British army’s ability to display a capability to defend the population and increase its forces. The British forces also conducted savage acts against the population. This turned the loyalists against the Tories and strengthened the loyalists allegiance with the militias. Without the existence of the militias in the American Revolution, the British Army would have been able to increase its Army and build sufficient forces to threaten the defeat of the continental army.
The continental army did not possess the army to solely defeat the British army. The continental army could protect key infrastructure but could not wage that dealt a decisive blow to the British Army. The British army, although limited in personnel, could have easily defeated George Washington’s continental army. The militias provided the continental army the additional capabilities needed to force the British army to fight a protracted war away from its support bases. In addition, the militias did not have the capability to conduct sustained, deliberate attacks against the continental army. However, the tactics of the militias against the British army proved capable of inflicting significant casualties to the British. Because the militias could not be quelled, inflicted casualties, and controlled the population, America was able to accomplish strategic success and ultimately change their government to a democracy.
Comment by MAJ Michael T. Jordan | January 24, 2013
The British a were better-trained, equipped and lead military. With the proper forces on ground and the backing by the majority of American’s the British should have easily defeated the continental army and any forms of our militia. The British assumption that they would have large numbers of people augment their forces to support the King proved costly. One reason they failed to achieve these additional forces was due to the militia controlling the territories not occupied by British forces. The militia was able to influence the people (by providing protection) to maintain their loyalty to the colonies leaving the British severely undermanned and unable to effectively fight both forces.
Comment by MAJ Pete Nienhaus | January 24, 2013
Both the militia and continentals were important and each had an important role, but the militias roles/duties of not only a fighter but an influencer of the population made them more important. Without the militia the continental army would not have been able to decisively defeat the British army. Both the British and continental army’s were small in size and they would have been able to continuously keep fighting each other, but never really defeating one another. With the added force that the militia’s provided the continentals were able to deliver the decisive defeat to the British, but the militia needed the continental army to keep the focus of British army. The continental army also needed the militia to gather the peoples support for their cause. Since the British were small in numbers and were occupied fighting the continentals this allowed the militia to influence the American people in their favor. Also, the militia was made of “regular” people which connects more to the general population, because they are part of it.
I believe that it would have been possible for the British to be successful politically, if the militia did not get involved, the people only listened to what the British told them, and the British had enough force to quell the militia. But, since the militia had more control over what information was given to the people and the economic gains they could provide (such as “join our cause and we would not ruin your crops.”) the British were defeated.
Comment by Doug Serie, 11B | January 25, 2013
The roles of both the militia and the continental army cannot be underestimated and, based on the forces available at the time, created the perfect mix for success. Even if the continental army could be increased in size to provide enough troops to police all the colonies, success would still be marginalized, because it was the familiarity of the militias that provided stability and not the occupation of an army. Therefore, the militia is what won the hearts and minds of the people (even if it was by force). If it wasn’t for the militia, the continental army could have unsuccessfully marched around the country side for years, even after the surrender of Lord Cornwallis at Yorktown, trying to quell a rebellion.
The British could have been successful politically, if Britain had approached the colonial problem much in the way they did in the late 19th century and early 20th century and create a commonwealth. Instead of focusing on military power to maintain the status quo, Great Britain could have used political power to create a British Commonwealth in the late 18th century. It would have been a very progressive idea. However, the parliamentary government of the time could have established it, even under a Hanoverian king.
Comment by Bryan J Dutcher | February 6, 2013
As the post indicates, the continental army and the militia enjoyed a mutually supporting role in that the success of one helped set the stage for the success of the other. While one cannot overstate the importance of the militia in supporting the defeat of the British by turning keeping the population from supporting the crown, the continental army served as an important part of making the United States a nation. In essense, I think that the continental army provided a necessary symbol that supported the idea of a larger nation around which the militias could rally. In the same way, the decisive defeat of the army would likely have degraded the morale of the militia and allowed the British to conquer the nation piecemeal. A third factor outside of the militia or the continental army was the sheer size and terrain of the colonies. Within that environment, the militia and the continental army could have gone to ground and prevented the British from successfully controlling the colonies, either geographically or economically. Ultimately, I believe that no one side was more important than the other. Rather, it was the operational environment and the interaction of colonial forces (militia and regular) that yielded success.
Comment by Kenneth Mortimer, 11A | February 6, 2013
I generally agree with my peers above. I will only add that both tools were important to the overall success. However because of the COIN type of environment the militia play a key role between the two.
Tactically the militias could not stand toe to toe against the British army. In most cases the British would out number he militias by the thousands. Additionally, the militias did not possess the military discipline and training seen in the Continental Army. Both these points reinforce the advantage of the Continental Army, However, the militia’s tactical advantage came in their ability to have a continuous presence, crippling the British logistically. As a result, the British were never able to control territory, making it impossible to sustain their military on the land.
Strategically militias were able to suppress loyalists and serving as a pool of potential recruits for the Continental Army. In some cases the militia would defeat or kill local s who remained loyal to Great Britain. This created many challenges for the British. An example of the militia’s strategic effectiveness can be seen in their ability to mobilize the population through mandatory loyalty oaths. This was an effective method to protect rebel political institutions while obstructing governments and auxiliaries loyal to Great Britain. Without the support of the people the British were doomed to fail.
Comment by Ryan J. Scott | March 2, 2013
I’ll avoid repeating what the others have already stated. The Continental Army won the war by not losing it plan and simple. If you look at Washington’s record he lost more that he won. However by keeping the Continental Army together and in the field it required the British to do the same. The British feed the meat grinder the was the war in the Colonies. So by keeping the Continetial Army in the field made the British do the same. Also the militia played a key role as well. Not only did they control the local population (The British didnt protect them) they provided a great source of intel and foraging. The also provided the non convential hit and run tactic that help bleed the British Army of man power and moral. So both sides needed each other reguardless of how they felt about each other.
Comment by Scott McLendon | March 16, 2013
I agree with the comments above that both the Continental Army and the militias played an integral role in the American Revolution. Neither would have been successful on their own. The focus here are on the efforts of the militias. There were two primary reasons the militias played a decisive role in the American Revolution. The first was that the British did not have a clear strategy to control the population. The forces and resources were exceedingly limited to govern the people. As a result, the militia was able to fulfill the roles of a policing force. Additionally, the militia filled the power vacuum in towns and cities, with the ability to protect, control, and influence the population. The second reason militias were effective became one of time and resources. Britain was facing an enormous debt during this time. As a result, the militias knew this was a waiting game and time was on their side. It was going to cost Britain enormous resources to equip, train, and fund troops over long periods of time. Simply put, this war was going to cost more than Britain was willing to except. The British population did not support an expensive ‘winning at any cost’ strategy. It was not a deliberate strategic goal of either the Continental Army or militias to influence the population of Britain, however the end result helped end the war.
Comment by Major Howard Davis 11B | March 24, 2013
The question above presupposes that the only militias operating during the American War of Independence were revolutionary colonial militias fighting the British. The presence of loyalist militias, fighting for the British, is well documented. This begs two questions (at least). First, were loyalist militias less capable/effective than their revolutionary counterparts? Second, did the British fail to use loyalist militias to control the population when conventional forces were not present? On the surface, I find it difficult to believe that loyalist militias were less capable, given that they were likely supplied and possibly minimally trained by the British military. It is possible the British used the militia more as a conventional force, supporting conventional maneuver on the battlefield, rather than as a means to control/shape the population. Nevertheless, I believe we have a romanticized view of the revolutionary militias and ought to study the action of the militias which supported the British Army. The relationship between the militias (both loyalist and revolutionary) and the population may give us more insight into the political purpose of the militias and how the revolutionary militias seemed to be more effective. Or were they?
Savage Civil War in New Jersey During the American Revolution
As 5,000 British Redcoats marched down Schraalenburgh’s New Bridge Road on November 21, 1776, a day behind the retreating, disheveled American Continental Army, “Tory Dutchmen came forward by the hundreds, many wearing the green uniforms of British Provincial troops, in which they had recently enlisted.” Yet historian Adrian Leiby noted that “at least half of the people of Schraalenburgh and the Hackensack Valley, though within the British lines, stood boldly for the American cause.”
Within days Tories attacked homes of prominent Schraalenburgh Patriots, followed by back and forth reprisals over several weeks. In December the British Army established winter quarters at the edge of town.
The author’s photo of Old South Church in Bergenfield, NJ.
Thus my northern New Jersey hometown of Bergenfield — then called Schraalenburgh — became a center of the Loyalist–Patriot “civil war” during the American Revolution. Its Dutch Huguenot settlers followed the Dutch Reformed religion and had memories of themselves or their elders fleeing Europe from religious oppression. As changing European alliances impacted the American colonies during the 17 th century, these passionate colonials were strongly anti-Tory. Then the 18 th century Great Awakening – “a reaction of practical faith against barren orthodoxy… furnished the zeal and fervor for progress which brought on the American Revolution.” Many members of the church in Schraalenburgh embraced the new religious views. Others felt robbed of their religion.
“The ensuing bitter and divisive conflict” led to the establishment of a traditional Dutch church in northern Schraalenburgh. And the acrimonious split spread beyond religion, becoming “the division between patriot and Tory in the far greater conflict to come.”
Schraalenburgh’s split serves as one example of why New Jerseyans were so divided as the Revolution exploded. More generally, a paradox existed: British colonials had the constitutional rights of Englishmen, but their colonies were subservient to the Mother Country. Increasingly, many colonials became restive under the chains of empire. Those wishing to break free called themselves Patriots and much is known about their motivations and how they won the War.
The reasons for Loyalist allegiance to Britain run the gamut. Some were loyal British citizens. Whatever their dissatisfactions with how the colonies were treated, rebellion was unconscionable. Some had experienced commercial, financial, and/or political success in America, and aimed to protect their wealth and positions. Interestingly, some quite agreed with the dissatisfactions of the rebels, but advocated negotiation. As revolutionary fervor increased, the position of many Loyalists became quite untenable. Labeled “Tories” by the Patriots, they became the enemy. Many prominent Loyalists fled the colonies for safety. Some returned to England. A large number fled to Canada.
But many Loyalists, such as those green-coated Provincials in Schraalenburgh, took to arms. The green coats joined the 3 rd or 4 th Battalions, New Jersey Volunteers, commissioned just five days before the British marched through Schraalenburgh. The 4 th Battalion “participated in numerous raids in New Jersey in 1777,” raids on Staten Island, and “Lord Cornwallis’s Bergen County Grand Forage in 1778” with more raiding in 1779 and 1780.
Reenactors of the 4th Battalion New Jersey Volunteers. (4thNJV.org)
Eventually, nine Loyalist battalions were raised in New Jersey. Some mainly engaged in militia raiding. Others were attached to British Army units and fought in pitched battles. New Jersey militia even participated in the famous Battle of King’s Mountain as part of Patrick Ferguson’s American Volunteers! “A detachment of the 4 th Battalion under Capt. Samuel Ryerson made up nearly one quarter of” Ferguson’s force. Detachments from the 1 st and 2 nd Battalions joined them.
But much of the fighting was New Jerseyan against New Jerseyan. Old religious animosities and local disputes frequently motivated colonials to the Loyalist side. The circumstances that created Loyalists often were less about ideology and more about material issues. There was payback over land disputes, and tenants settling scores with patriot landlords. For many colonials, loyalty to the Crown was secondary or irrelevant. Their strong emotions were enough for them to take up arms against Patriot enemies.
3rd New Jersey Militia, art by Don Troiani.
Much of the resulting fighting was by irregulars on both sides. For in January 1777 the British troops marched back to New York. “Schraalenburgh patriots were now in an abandoned country between two armies, a neutral ground which was too perilous for any but desperate men, bent on vengeance, gold or glory.” Tory raids were “of savage barbarity, bringing the horrors of war to defenseless inhabitants merely because they differ in sentiment.” “Hardly a patriot family in Schraalenburgh had not seen a son or father carried off to prison, many to die of starvation and exposure.” Local patriot militia leader Major John Mauritius Goetschius wrote in 1780 of his ”familie so distressed by the Burning of my house Barn and all my effects by the Enemie.” However, Goetschius, along with Captains James Christie and David Demarest, pursued the Patriot cause bravely and became distinguished militia officers.
2nd New Jersey Militia, art by Don Troiani.
One young Schraalenburgh militiaman deserves noting: Peter Van Orden. Enlisting at age 14, he saw local action in 1777 and 1778. Then “he spent 1780 in the Mohawk Valley, fighting British Regulars and Brant’s Indian raiders.” Later, in the War of 1812 Van Orden rose in the militia to the rank of Major General.
Detailed presentation of marauding and plundering throughout New Jersey by irregulars, militias, British soldiers, and even Continental Army troops exceeds this article. But one event deserves highlighting. Further south lies Long Beach Island, an 18-mile-long barrier island with Barnegat Bay between it and the mainland. On October 25, 1782, a British vessel ran aground and was captured by Patriot militiamen under Captain Andrew Steelman. That night as the Patriots slept on the beach at the northern end of the island, Tory raiders under John Bacon launched a sneak attack and killed the sleeping Patriots. The Massacre at Long Beach has come to exemplify the savagery of the Patriot- Loyalist civil war in New Jersey during the American Revolution.
Allen, Thomas Braisted, Todd, THE LOYALIST CORPS: Americans in Service of the King (2011)
Chartrand, Rene, AMERICAN LOYALIST TROOPS 1775-84 (2008)
Leiby, Adrian, THE HUGUENOT SETTLEMENT OF SCHRAALENBURGH (1964)
Moore, Christopher, THE LOYALISTS: Revolution, Exile, Settlement (1984)
Salmon, Stuart, “The Loyalist Regiments of the American Revolutionary War 1775-1783” (2009)
Restoration of Rights
About three months after the practice had been officially sanctioned, the Continental Congress passed another resolution forbidding patriots from damaging or confiscating peoples' property simply because they were loyalist. Tories were to be tried by jury. Many loyalists had already fled the Colonies, with as many as 80,000 crossing the border into Canada. As the war drew to a close, the colonial delegates who negotiated the Treaty of Paris pledged to restore any property that had been taken from Tories and prevent their further persecution in the new independent republic. The British government itself paid more than $50 million to compensate for losses loyalists suffered during the war.
Patriots defeat Loyalists at Kettle Creek
A Patriot militia force of 340 led by Colonel Andrew Pickens of South Carolina with Colonel John Dooly and Lieutenant Colonel Elijah Clarke of Georgia defeats a larger force of 700 Loyalist militia commanded by Colonel James Boyd on this day in 1779 at Kettle Creek, Georgia.
The Patriots attempted a two-pronged attack. Pickens’ line engaged the Loyalists, while Dooly and Clarke’s men attempted to cross the creek and surrounding swamp. Dooly and Clarke’s troops were soon bogged down in the difficult crossing and though Boyd had sent 150 of his men out to forage for food that morning, the Loyalists still had the upper hand.
The tide turned when the Loyalists saw their commander, Boyd, collapse from a musket wound. Panicked, they disintegrated into a disorderly retreat towards the creek as Pickens’ Patriots fired down upon their camp from above. Shortly thereafter, the two South Carolina commanders, Dooly and Clarke, emerged with their men from the swamp and surrounded the shocked Loyalists, who were attempting to retreat across the creek.
By the end of the action, the Loyalists suffered 70 killed and another 70 captured, compared to 9 killed and 23 wounded for the Patriots. Colonel Boyd, who was wounded during the engagement, died shortly afterward. The victory was the only significant Patriot victory in Georgia and delayed the consolidation of British control in the largely Loyalist colony.
In 1780, Colonel John Dooly was murdered at his log cabin home on his Georgia plantation by South Carolina Loyalists. Dooly County, Georgia, was named in his honor, and the spring near his former cabin in Lincoln County, Georgia, within the grounds of the Elijah Clarke State Park—named for his former Patriot partnerrs a historic marker in the martyred patriot’s memory.
Tory vs Patriots during the Revoutionary War - History
You will write a journal entry based on a fictional historical character that you have created. Your character will take the position of a Loyalist or a Patriot. Use the links below to research the opposing viewpoints between the Loyalists and Patriots, details of colonial life, famous people you may have met, and historical events. Use this organizer to take notes as you research.
Your journal entry will written using a authentic voice from colonial America and embellished with details from history and your imagination. You will write a total of 3 entries. In the first you will introduce yourself. The second entry will describe an event that happens that is related to the conflict and how it changes or strengthens your position. The final entry will talk about how you see your future.
General - What was the difference between the Loyalist and Patriots and what did they believe in?
Loyalists vs Patriots. Start Here. This is a great presentation that tells you who they where and what they believed in.
Loyalists vs Patriots. The American Revolution This is a video that compares and contrasts these two positions.
Loyalists, Fence Sitters, and Patriots - An article that describes the different points of view people had during the American Revolution.
Patriots vs Loyalist - Q & A from Yahoo
No More Kings - Schoolhouse Rock, This video gives a good overview of historic events, but makes it sound like everyone believed the same thing. We know that people had many different beliefs, from Loyalists to Partiots and inbetween.
Loyalists (British, Redcoats, or "Tories")
Patriots (Colonists, Rebels, Minute Men, or "Whigs")
- from History.org from Kidsport from PBS - many links here! : 1764 - 1789 - This kid friendly site has information about the Revolutionary War. Click on links at the bottom of the page for more. - This site organizes the major events of the war into lessons accompanied by classroom activities and online quizzes.
American Revolutionary Biography Websites
Encyclopedias and Databases - These are great places to look for biographical information
Kathleen Martell, Instructional Technology Specialists
Needham Public Schools, Needham MA
Tory vs Patriots during the Revoutionary War - History
Articles of Confederation - An agreement between the thirteen colonies to form a single government under the United States of America. It served as the country's first constitution.
Bayonet - A blade attached to the end of a musket.
Bill of Rights - The first ten amendments to the Constitution that guaranteed the rights of the individual.
Colony - An area of land that is under the control of a country, but not fully part of the country.
Confederation - The group of thirteen states that united together.
Constitution - A set of documents and laws that define the government of a country.
Continental Congress - A group of delegates from each colony or state. It became the first governing body of the United States of America.
Continental army - The official army of the United States that was established by the Continental Congress.
Declaration of Independence - A document which announced that the American colonies now considered themselves independent states and they would no longer answer to the authority of Great Britain.
Democracy - A type of government that is ruled directly by the people.
Federalist - A person who supported the adoption of the Constitution.
Garrison - A military force that is set to defend a fort or city.
Haversack - A type of bag or pack that soldiers used to carry their food.
Hessians - Soldiers from the German land of Hesse who came to fight in America.
Legislature - A branch of government that has the power to make laws.
Loyalist - A person in America who stayed loyal to Britain and the king.
Militia - Citizens who were prepared to fight. They held drills a few times a year and had their own weapons and gear.
Minutemen - Part of the Massachusetts militia that was prepared to fight at a moment's notice.
Monarchy - A government where the power and laws are made by a single person called a monarch or king.
Musket - A smooth bore gun with a long barrel that fired lead balls.
Parliament - The main governing body of the British government.
Patriot - An American that wanted independence from Britain.
Powder horn - A hollowed out horn with a cap used to carry gunpowder.
Ramrod - A long thin rod that pushed gunpowder down the barrel of a musket.
Redcoat - A nickname for the British soldiers taken from their bright red uniforms. They were also called lobster backs.
Regulars - A name that referred to British soldiers during the Revolutionary War.
Republic - A type of democratic government where people elect officials to represent them.
Revolution - The overthrow of a government to establish a new system.
Sons of Liberty - A group of patriots organized by Samuel Adams to protest the Stamp Act and other actions of the British government.
Stamp Act - A tax placed on the American colonies by the British government. It taxed all sorts of paper documents including newspapers, magazines, and legal documents.
Tory - Another name for loyalists who supported the British government.
Treaty of Paris - A treaty signed by both the United States and Britain that ended the Revolutionary War.
Volley - When a large number of muskets is fired at once.
Whigs - Another name for the patriots who fought against the British government for independence.
The invitation arrived with a question: “Since we’ll be dining in the 18th century,” it read, “would you mind wearing a British Redcoat? Also, you’ll be expected to swear loyalty to King George. I hope this won’t be a problem.”
A week later, I found myself inside a drafty Gothic church in the center of Saint John, New Brunswick, surrounded by dozens of costumed historical reenactors, each channeling the personality of a long-dead Tory or Hessian. They had come from all over Maritime Canada—the Atlantic Seaboard provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island—to celebrate the 225th anniversary of DeLancey’s Brigade, one of 53 Loyalist regiments that fought alongside the British during America’s Revolutionary War. Up from Shelburne, Nova Scotia, came the Prince of Wales American Regiment. The Royal American Fencibles crossed the Bay of Fundy from Yarmouth. So did officers from the Kings Orange Rangers in Liverpool. Amid the rustle of women’s petticoats and the flash of regimental swords, they greeted a cast of characters straight out of Colonial America: a quietly earnest parson garbed in black, wearing the swallow-tailed collar of an Anglican cleric, and a buckskinned spy with the British Indian Department, who confided he was busy organizing Iroquois raids on the Continental Army.
Seated at a table groaning under the weight of 18th-century-style comestibles—a tureen of turnip soup made from a 1740 recipe a bowl of heirloom apples not sold commercially in more than a century and a marzipan dessert shaped to resemble a hedgehog—it was easy to slip into a parallel universe. At this regimental gathering, there was no discussion of the war on terrorism. Instead, we lamented General Burgoyne’s blunder at the Battle of Saratoga in 1777 and congratulated ourselves on how well Loyalists were fighting in the Carolinas. “These clothes just feel right,” whispered military historian Terry Hawkins, a red-coated lieutenant colonel, amid a chorus of huzzahs offered to George III. “I belong in this scene.”
Unlike many Civil War aficionados, who even today bear the burden of the Confederacy’s lost cause, Canadian Tories are sanguine about the outcome of their war: the British defeat, to their way of thinking, ensured that they escaped the chaos of American democracy. “After Harold and I participated in a reenactment of the Battle of Bunker Hill, we took the kids out to Cape Cod for a swim,” remembers a smiling Wendy Steele, who wore a voluminous, hoop-skirt gown of the kind popular in the 1780s. “They paraded along the beach shouting, ‘George Washington is rebel scum.’ What a marvelous vacation it was!”
When the minstrels had finished singing “Old Soldiers of the King” and launched into “Roast Beef of Old England,” I returned the borrowed trappings of empire and strolled down Charlotte Street through the late summer twilight. Ahead lay the old Loyalist burial ground the corner where Benedict Arnold once lived and King’s Square, whose diagonal crosswalks are arrayed to resemble a Union Jack. To the right loomed TrinityChurch, spiritual successor of the Lower Manhattan structure abandoned by its Anglican congregation following Britain’s defeat in 1781.
Inside the silent church, gray stone walls covered with chiseled plaques commemorate those “who sacrificed at the call of duty their homes in the old colonies.” The plaques told a story of loss and removal. Somewhere inside the sacristy lay a silver communion chalice bestowed upon Saint John’s founders by George III. But high above the nave hung what is surely the church’s most highly valued treasure: a gilded coat of arms—the escutcheon of Britain’s Hanoverian dynasty—that once adorned the Council Chamber of the Old State House in Boston.
“We grew up with the knowledge that our ancestors were refugees who had been robbed and tortured because of their loyalty,” says Elizabeth Lowe, a fifth-generation descendant of Benedict Arnold’s cousin Oliver. “We may have learned to accept the Americans, but we will never forget our history.”
Schools teach American children that our revolutionary struggle was a popular uprising against heavy-handed taxes and self-serving imperialism. But the fight for independence was also a bloody civil war in which perhaps one out of five Americans preferred to remain a British subject. Massachusetts and Virginia undoubtedly were hotbeds of revolt, but New York, Georgia and the Carolinas contained sizable populations loyal to the Crown. “Rebels gained control of New England early in the war,” says historian John Shy, professor emeritus at the University of Michigan. “Americans who mistrusted New England never embraced the Revolution, and neither did Indians on the frontier who thought independence would lead to further encroachment on their land. The bloodiest fighting occurred in the Carolinas where the populations were equally divided.”
Divisions within Colonial society extended into even the founding fathers’ families. Benjamin Franklin’s son William defied his father and remained Royal Governor of New Jersey until his arrest in 1776. (After his release in 1778, William eventually fled to England he and his father were forever estranged.) George Washington’s mother and several of his cousins, not to mention Virginia’s influential Fairfax family, were Tory. John Adams and John Hancock both had in-laws outspokenly loyal to King George. Several delegates to the Continental Congress were related by marriage to active Tories. “All families are liable to have degenerate members,” declared New Jersey delegate William Livingston upon the arrest of his nephew. “Among the twelve apostles, there was at least one traitor.”
To keep Tories (a derisive 17th-century term first applied by English Puritans to supporters of Charles II that came to define people who disagreed with the Revolution) in line once the Declaration of Independence was signed, most states enacted restrictive “Test Acts” that required their citizens to formally denounce the British Crown and swear allegiance to his or her resident state. Those who failed to take the oath were subject to imprisonment, double and triple taxation, confiscation of property and banishment. Neither could they collect debts, buy land or defend themselves in court. Connecticut made it illegal for these Loyalists to criticize Congress or the Connecticut General Assembly. South Carolina required supporters of the Crown to make reparations to victims of all robberies committed in their counties. Congress quarantined the entire population of Queens County, New York, for its reluctance to join patriot militias.
Many in the Continental Congress defended the Test Acts, arguing that money from the sale of confiscated property could be used to buy Continental loan certificates—war bonds of the day. George Washington described fleeing Tories as “unhappy wretches” who “ought to have . . . long ago committed suicide.” When one of his generals tried to put a stop to physical violence directed against Loyalists, Washington wrote that “to discourage such proceedings was to injure the cause of Liberty in which they were engaged, and that nobody would attempt it but an enemy to his country.” Anti-Tory sentiment was especially intense in Massachusetts. When 1,000 Loyalists fled Boston along with British general William Howe in March 1776, Colonists sang:
The Tories with their brats and wives
Should fly to save their wretched lives.
Though neither side was blameless when it came to gratuitous cruelty, probably no combatants suffered more than those in Loyalist regiments. British, Hessian and American officers all loosely adhered to an accepted code of conduct that held that soldiers were prisoners of war who could be exchanged or released on parole if they promised to refrain from further fighting. But Tories were viewed as traitors who, if caught, could be banished to the frontier, imprisoned indefinitely or executed. “In this war,” one Tory sympathizer would write, “only those who are loyal are treated as rebels.”
After the October 1780 battle at Kings Mountain, South Carolina, in which nearly 200 Tory militiamen died, victorious patriots lynched 18 Loyalists on the battlefield, then marched the remaining prisoners north. After a week on the road, the starving, ragtag procession had traveled only 40 miles. To speed up the pace, patriot officers summarily convicted 36 Tories of general mayhem and began stringing them up three at a time. After nine Tories were hanged from the limb of an oak tree, the killing was halted, to the distress of one colonial who remarked, “Would to God every tree in the wilderness bore such fruit as that.”
Curiously, Tories suffered even at the hands of British officers who, for the most part, dismissed them as ignorant provincials. The British especially distrusted Loyalist militia regiments, claiming that they were slow to follow orders and often went off on their own to seek revenge against those who had destroyed their property.
This contemptuous attitude may explain why Lord Cornwallis, when he surrendered at Yorktown in 1781, yielded to Washington’s demand that Tories be turned over to victorious Continental soldiers as prisoners of state, not war, thus allowing them to be executed as traitors. As the British sloop Bonetta set sail from Yorktown, hundreds of Tories frantically rowed after the departing ship. All but 14 were overtaken and brought back to shore.
Nearly two more years would pass before the Treaty of Paris was signed and the British departed from the United States. Much of the delay resulted from disagreements about what to do with the Tories. During treaty negotiations in France, British officials wanted all property and full legal rights returned to those who had been dispossessed. American negotiators adamantly refused. In the end, the treaty stipulated that Congress would “earnestly recommend” that “the legislatures of the respective states” curtail persecution and that Loyalists be given 12 months to reclaim their property. But Congress had no power to enforce the provisions, and Britain lacked the will to ensure compliance. As one cynical Loyalist wrote:
Tis an honor to serve the bravest of nations
And be left to be hanged in their capitulations.
By the spring of 1783, a massive refugee exodus was under way. At a time when the total population of America was about 2.5 million, an estimated 100,000 Tories, up to 2,000 Indians, most of them Iroquois, and perhaps 6,000 former slaves were forced to leave the country. The Iroquois crossed into Canada. Many slaves who had agreed to fight for Britain, in return for a promise of freedom, went to Nova Scotia many of them later immigrated to Sierra Leone. Several thousand Tories moved to the Bahamas. Another 10,000 settled in Jamaica and the rest of the British West Indies. Florida, then a British possession, was swamped with new arrivals, as was Ontario, then known as Upper Canada. But the largest number, perhaps as many as 40,000 in all, headed for the British colony of Nova Scotia.
Newly independent Americans scoffed at the notion that anyone would willingly live in “Nova Scarcity.” One Tory refugee described the colony as a land “covered with a cold, spongy moss, instead of grass,” adding that “the entire country is wrapt in the gloom of perpetual fog.”
But Nova Scotia was not without its virtues. Largely uninhabited, the colony, roughly comprising present-day New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, plus part of what is now Maine, was covered by virgin forest, a considerable resource given that all ships were constructed of timber. Just off the coast, the Grand Banks was the most fertile fishing ground in the world. But the most important advantage accrued from Britain’s Navigation Act, which required trade between its Atlantic dominions to be carried in British or colonial vessels. Let America look west to its new Mississippi frontier. Nova Scotia’s displaced merchants would soon monopolize commerce with the West Indies.
“It is, I think, the roughest land I ever saw,” wrote Stamford, Connecticut’s Sarah Frost upon arriving at the mouth of the St. John River early in the summer of 1783. “We are all ordered to land tomorrow, and not a shelter to go under.” Others viewed their exile in even bleaker terms. Noted one Loyalist: “I watched the sails disappearing in the distance, and such a feeling of loneliness came over me that although I had not shed a tear through all the war, I sat down on the damp moss with my baby on my lap, and cried bitterly.”
Despite the dislocation angst, Nova Scotia grew rapidly over a 12-month span. Within a few months, the port of Shelburne on Nova Scotia’s south coast had 8,000 residents, three newspapers and was well on its way to becoming the fourth-largest city in North America. After observing the diversity of talent in the region’s growing population, Edward Winslow, a Tory colonel from Massachusetts who later became a judge in New Brunswick, predicted, “By Heaven, we will be the envy of the American states.”
Some Loyalist leaders wanted to replicate 18th-century England, in which the rich lived off large estates with tenant farmers. “But most of the new arrivals were infected with America’s democratic ideals,” says Ronald Rees, author of Land of the Loyalists. “Nobody wanted to be a tenant farmer anymore. More than a few Tories condemned ‘this cursed republican town meeting spirit.’ ”
By the mid-19th century, Britain had begun eliminating trade protections for Maritime Canada, thereby putting these colonies at a disadvantage relative to its much more developed American states. “Britain’s embrace of free trade was the killer blow,” says Rees. “By 1870, steam had replaced sail, and all the best lumber had been cut. Once all the timber was gone, the Loyalists had nothing the British wanted.”
Inside new Brunswick’s provincial legislature, enormous portraits of George III, whose erratic behavior eventually gave way to insanity, and his wife, the self-effacing Queen Charlotte, dominate a chamber that replicates Britain’s House of Commons. And the image of a British galleon, similar to those that carried Loyalists from America, adorns the provincial flag. Beneath the ship floats New Brunswick’s resolute motto: Spem Reduxit (Hope Restored).
“There is no place on earth more loyal than here,” says historian Robert Dallison, as he ambles through Fredericton’s Old Public Burial Ground, past tombs whose weathered epitaphs relate a story of unvarying defiance and privation. Leaving the cemetery, Dallison drives down to the St. John River and turns onto Waterloo Row. On the left, a number of stately properties stand on land first developed by Benedict Arnold. On the right, down a gravel road past an overgrown softball field, several stones in a pool of mud mark the anonymous graves of starved Loyalists hastily buried during the harsh winter of 1783-84, a period Maritime history books call “the hungry year.”
Maritime Canada’s living monument to its Loyalist past lies just north of Fredericton at Kings Landing, a 300-acre historical settlement that comes alive each summer when 175 costumed employees work in and about 100 relocated homes, barns, shops and mills that once belonged to Loyalists and their descendants. At Kings Landing, it’s possible to sample a hearth-baked rhubarb tart, observe the making of lye soap and learn how to cure a variety of maladies from Valerie Marr, who in her role as a colonial healer, tends what appears to be a sprawling patch of weeds. “A Loyalist woman needed all these plants if she expected her family to survive,” Marr says. “Butterfly weed cures pleurisy. Tansy reduces arthritic pain if it’s mixed with a bit of vinegar.” Marr, who is 47, has worked at Kings Landing for 26 years. “I tell my friends that I’ve spent half my life in the 19th century,” she says with a laugh.
Kings Landing gardeners grow heirloom fruits, flowers and vegetables in demonstration plots and work with CornellUniversity to preserve a variety of apples no longer sold commercially. Various traditional species of livestock, including Cotswold sheep, are bred here as well. “Kings Landing is a living portrait of a society striving to regain what it lost in the American Revolution,” says chief curator Darrell Butler. “We’re re-creating history.”
No less a luminary than England’s Prince Charles attended the 1983 bicentennial celebration of the Penobscot Loyalists’ mass migration to Canada. “I was wearing my United Empire Loyalist pin when I met Charles,” sighs retired teacher Jeannie Stinson. “I told him that everybody in my family is a Loyalist. He smiled and told me that I didn’t look 200 years old.”
America’s Tories were among the British subjects who transformed Canada, which was largely French territory until 1763, into an English-speaking country. Today some 3.5 million Canadians—more than 10 percent of the country’s population—are direct descendants of Americans on the losing side of the Revolutionary War. But the world moves on. Memories fade, values morph, new people arrive. For more than two centuries, Saint John, New Brunswick, proclaimed itself the LoyalistCity, and schools were dismissed and merchants donned colonial garb when Saint John annually memorialized the arrival of Sarah Frost and her fellow Tories. Today, however, Saint John styles itself as “The Fundy City” and celebrates the ebb and flow of the Bay of Fundy’s tides, to the dismay of some.
“What exactly is a ‘FundyCity?’ ” grumps Eric Teed, an Anglophile barrister who is the former president of the New Brunswick chapter of United Empire Loyalists (UEL). “Saint John is the LoyalistCity, but now there’s all this cultural competition for heritage marketing.”
To keep their ancestors’ accomplishments from being forgotten, in 2001 the UEL published a curriculum aid for history teachers entitled The Loyalists: Pioneers and Settlers of the Maritimes. “We distributed it free of charge to all of the schools, but I don’t think it is being used,” says Frances Morrisey, a UEL descendant of one of New Brunswick’s founding fathers. “Loyalists gave Canada peace, order and good government, but now they’re being forgotten.”
Saint John’s mayor, Shirley McAlary, sees no cause for concern. “There are a lot of new people living here who have no connection to the UEL,” she says. “The Loyalist people are growing older and their children are leaving. Now it’s the Irish who are stronger and more united. It’s hard to keep history alive if it doesn’t change.”
In the nearby town of Liverpool, on Nova Scotia’s rocky Atlantic shore, history needs no re-creation. On the anniversary of George III’s birthday, John Leefe, whose Huguenot ancestors were forced to flee Mount Bethel, Pennsylvania, 220 years ago, bivouacs with the Kings Orange Rangers, a re-created regiment of 50 historical reenactors formally recognized by the British government. And each summer Leefe, who is mayor of the surrounding municipal region, presides over Privateer Days, a community gala celebrating Loyalist pirates who raided U.S. shipping following the Revolutionary War.
“My own family was living in America 100 years before the Revolution even began. Perhaps that is why I use every occasion to toast King George,” Leefe says with a smile. “Canada is a mosaic, not a melting pot, and that allows people to remember their family history,” he adds. “Loyalists still view the United States as a dysfunctional family we just had to leave.”