Fighting For the King in America's First Civil War
by Thomas B. Allen
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Who Were the Tories?
Supporting royal rule, they called themselves Loyalists.
The First Exiles
Hundred of Boston Tories flee to Canada in 1776.
Punishing the Tories
From tar-and-feathers to land grabs
Timeline of a Civil War
Chronicling a Fight Between Americans
Fighters for the King
Loyalists fought in more than 150 military units that were raised during the Revolutionary War. In the South alone, British military archives list 26 units that fought during southern campaigns.
Most British Army regiments had long, well-documented, and respected histories. Loyalist units, however, came and went, dissolving or merging over the course of the war—and leaving scant records behind. When the war ended, the British Army would live on, while the Loyalist Provincial Corps, as the British called the Tory units, would fade away.
The following introduction to these nearly forgotten Loyalist military units was contributed by Todd W. Braisted, director of the On-Line Institute for Advanced Loyalist Studies (see http://www.royalprovincial.com/index.htm ) and a longtime authority on the Provincial Corps. The On-Line Institute was a major source for the unit descriptions, which were written by Roger MacBride Allen and his father, Thomas B. Allen, the author of Tories.*
King George III
The Loyalist equivalent of the Continental Army was referred to as the Provincial Corps. Raised under the auspices of the commander in chief of the British Army, in all theaters of the conflict, these troops were enlisted for the duration of the war and liable for service anywhere in North America. They received the same pay, provisions, quality of clothing, arms, equipage, and accoutrements as British soldiers, while serving under the same discipline. Some units were short-lived and some served for the whole war.
Numerous British officers and sergeants were sprinkled throughout these units to help bring them up to a state of tactical proficiency and professionalism. Provincial units were primarily used in limited roles early in the war, but as the number of British units dwindled in America, the value of the Provincial units increased, taking a leading part, particularly in the South. When units became significantly under-strength, with little prospect of recruiting anew, members of those units were generally drafted into other regiments.
Five Provincial regiments received the special status of being placed on what the British Army called the “American Establishment.”This was considered an honor, given to units that had achieved their recruiting goals or performed particularly well in battle. Not coincidentally, current or former British officers commanded four of these five units. Seven Provincial units, including three on the American Establishment, achieved the highest recognition by being placed upon the Regular Establishment.
Some Loyalist units were raised by order of the governor of a province, if the British government functioned there. These were standing corps, paid for and supplied through the governor’s budget. These units were not a part of the army per se, and did not enjoy the same benefits of Provincial troops. Most served only a limited time and all were disbanded before the end of the war. Such units included the West Florida Provincials, the East Florida Rangers, and the Ethiopian Regiment. These were the equivalent of the so-called State Troops raised from time to time by the states.
Militia laws were either in place or passed wherever the Crown held sway. Under these laws, the militia generally consisted of all able-bodied males between the ages of sixteen and sixty, usually with exemptions for Quakers, firemen, and the civil authorities. These units were typically raised along county lines and only served when needed. Some of these militia corps were volunteers, while others were compulsory. The volunteer units were often uniformed, while the other corps mostly provided their own arms, ammunition, equipage, and clothing.
Militia men on active service generally drew British provisions—and sometimes British Army pay. This confirmed the rank of officers in the army as well as guaranteed them half-pay upon retirement, known in the British Army as “reduction.”
The militias primarily acted on the orders of a province’s governor, as in Georgia, Nova Scotia, and New York. British military commanders took a much more active role in directing the activities of militias in the Carolinas.
The least structured units tended to be those under the appellation of “Associators” or “Refugees.” These tended to be separate and distinct from the army, tailoring their operations to achieve self-interests or financial gains. One of them, the Associated Loyalists, operated under a charter from the king himself. The Loyal Associated Refugees not only lived by “interrupting commerce” as privateers but also by contracting to perform such work as collecting wood from inhabitants of Martha’s Vineyard. These units received minimal support from the British, and their near-autonomy was a source of some friction with different British commanders.
The following military units described here were more or less raised through official means and were regularly supplied with men. Temporary formations were often created as the exigency of the situation required, such as temporary militia companies formed at Savannah and Yorktown during their respective sieges. Militia units were likewise occasionally formed by local army commanders in Georgia and the Carolinas, and these units sometimes quickly passed into history. The militias throughout the Province of Quebec were more regularly organized, but they had scant active military roles.
A large number of Loyalists served in both the Civil Branches of the Army and Artillery. These organizations were the support services of the military, employing wagoners, laborers, and skilled mechanics. Thousands served in their ranks, in all theaters of the war.
A few Loyalists, such as Oliver DeLancey, Jr., and Arent Schuyler DePeyster, were officers or enlisted soldiers in Regular British regiments. More served in the Royal Navy, some by voluntary enlistment, others the results of impressment. Thousands additionally took to the seas in privately owned and armed warships, known as letters of marque or privateers. These ships, usually built for speed over heavy firepower, were engaged in attacks on enemy commerce, with the prize vessels and cargoes sold for the benefit of both the owners and crew.
Loyalists willing to risk their lives served as spies, army guides, or ship pilots. The Indian Department employed many Loyalists and occasionally had in it such units as Brant’s Volunteers or the Loyal Foresters.
One of the most distinguished and prominent Loyalist units, made up mostly of New Yorkers, was the King’s American Regiment, led by Colonel Edmund Fanning. The regiment served in six major campaigns across the length of the eastern seaboard. The officers and men fought in some of the bloodiest battles of the war, ending their service by being placed on the regular British Establishment, an honor bestowed on but a handful of Loyalist units.
Private (left) and officer in the King’s American Regiment
Loyalist Collection, University of New Brunswick, Canada
The Armed Loyalists
These descriptions of Loyalist military units in many ways reflect the complicated history of the units themselves. Records are spotty, primarily because the British Army, a great keeper of records, did not regard their Loyalist comrades as equals. The Crown did not award battle honors to British regiments that fought in America because the British saw the Revolution as a civil war. (Battle honors were, however, awarded for actions against America’s French and Spanish allies in the West Indies and other theatres.)
More than 1,500 Americans became Loyalist officers. Their success at recruiting produced unexpected results. Regular British Army officers, whose commissions almost inevitably stemmed from wealth and family connections, resented the Loyalist officers’ easily acquired commissions and promotions.
The better the Loyalist officers were at talking and promising, the quicker they formed regiments and the faster came their captaincies and colonelcies. Regiments were formed not on the basis of military wisdom or experience but also on the ability of recruiters to get men to sign up for specific periods of time. Regulars, as professional officers, kept track of their careers, not their calendars.
A number of units came and went. They usually consisted of twenty or even fewer men who were assigned to garrison duty, police patrols, digging fortifications, cutting wood, guarding woodcutting parties, and other routine duties. They left behind little record of what they had done. Many of these smaller units were eventually merged into larger units, often were called “Independent Corps” or “Independent Companies.” But many smaller units did see significant combat and fought valiantly.
Adding to the confusion, many units were known by more than one name–or even two or three similar names. A unit’s name was not always a reliable guide to where the unit was raised. For example, the Jamaica Corps was raised in New York and Charleston. Many units were raised in one locale and transported to another. The Maryland Loyalists, for example, fought in Florida, were all taken prisoner and shipped to Cuba (a possession of Spain, which had joined France as an American ally). From Cuba, the Marylanders went to New York. At the end of war, while sailing for Canada, most of them died in a shipwreck.
Several units recruited free blacks and escaped slaves who were offered their freedom in exchange for serving the Loyalist cause. Officers of such units were white, but the ranks of some included whites. These units did some fighting, but more typically served as “Pioneers,” a term that in this context means doing the digging, cleaning, and other less glamorous military tasks.
Many reports describe the drafting of one unit into another. In effect, this meant that the unit was disbanded, with its soldiers and officers being placed in the receiving unit. A unit might even be drafted into two or more receiving units. This might happen if morale had collapsed in a unit, if the unit had simply lost too many men to disease, war wounds, and desertion, or if, from an administrative point of view, the unit was simply too small to bother with.
Little can be found about some units, but sometimes information about someone connected to the unit can illustrate some aspect of American-versus-American warfare. Units for which little is known except the unit names and commanders, and those not known to be involved in military actions connected to the American Revolution have been included in the list for the sake of completeness, and for the convenient reference of future researchers. They are listed separately.
–Roger MacBride Allen and Thomas B. Allen
Adams Company of Rangers
An independent company raised for the British Army, this unit was founded by Samuel Adams, who lived in what is now Arlington, Vermont. Rebels once hoisted Adams, in an armchair, twenty-five feet to place him next to a stuffed catamount on a tavern sign pole in Bennington. Most of the unit’s 70 men came from the New Hampshire Grants, the long-disputed territory that became Vermont. The men worked as guides, carried messages between commanders, and stole cattle from Rebel farms during General Burgoyne’s invasion of New York. After the defeat of Burgoyne at Saratoga, Adams fled to Canada, a flight probably also taken by his men, who faced Rebel retaliation if they returned home.
Raised by Benedict Arnold, the Legion included many deserters from the Continental Army. In December 1780, the Legion, along with Hessians and British regular troops, invaded Virginia by sea, raiding, burning, and looting Richmond and wrecking a cannon foundry. The Legion raided the area again in spring 1781 and in September 1781 attacked New London, Connecticut, and nearby Fort Griswold. One of 212 men in the unit was a Patriot mole whose never-accomplished goal was to kidnap Arnold and bring him through the lines to be hanged as a traitor.
Benedict Arnold in the uniform of a Continental Army major general.
Drawn by Pierre Du Simitiere, New-York Historical Society.
175 New York Tories who served as riflemen and rangers under Lieutenant Colonel Patrick Ferguson of the British Army. Active in the siege of Charleston, they also fought at Monck’s Corner, South Carolina. While serving in the South, the Provincials helped to train other Loyalist regiments. The Volunteers formed the core of the 1,000-man force that was nearly wiped out in the battle of King’s Mountain on October 7, 1780.
Anonymous miniature, c. 1774-77, from a private collection
Armed Boat Company
Authorized by General Sir Henry Clinton in July 1781, this seagoing unit manned armed whaleboats (narrow vessels about thirty-six feet long, with pointed bows and sterns, sometimes armed with small cannon). Several members of the unit were former slaves. Among the unit’s combat operations were attacks on Rebel whaleboats in New Brunswick, New Jersey, in January 1782 and an attack on a Rebel blockhouse at Tom’s River, New Jersey, in March 1782. The company’s first commander, William Luce, was almost immediately captured by the Rebels. His successor, Edward Vaughn Dongen, enlisted more than 125 men, mostly from Essex County.
Artificer and Labourer Volunteers
One of three units raised by Captain Robert Pringle, an officer in the Royal Corps of Engineers. He was in charge of constructing new defenses in the harbor of St. John’s, Newfoundland, when the war began. This unit was about 120 strong. See Newfoundland Regiment.
A ferocious Tory guerrilla organization, it was overseen by a Board of Directors that included its founder and real commander, William Franklin, last Royal Governor of New Jersey and son of Benjamin Franklin. The Associates staged raids across Long Island Sound to Connecticut and were involved in the notorious hanging of a New Jersey Rebel, Captain Joshua Huddy. Franklin also raised the King’s Militia Volunteers, whose chores included cutting wood for the British Army.
Detail of 1790 portrait by Mather Brown
Before the Revolution began, Thomas Goldthwait, a Boston merchant, served as Secretary of War for Massachusetts Bay. He was also commander of Fort Pownall, built in 1760 at the mouth of the Penobscot River (now in Maine, then part of Massachusetts). When British forces seized the fort’s cannons and powder in 1775, Goldthwait was branded a traitor. As an admitted Tory, he formed and commanded the Bagadue Regiment, named after a town later named Castine. He later fled to British-occupied New York City on a Royal Navy warship and eventually sailed to England, where he died in 1799. The so-called regiment apparently was one of two battalions (the other being from Boston) that combined to form the Massachusetts Militia.
Raised in Barbados from
July 1781 and intended for service in the Leeward Islands, the
Rangers were commanded by Captain
Timothy Thornhill, a member of what was called the
Barbados aristocracy of sugar and slaves. After fewer than 60
volunteers had been enlisted, a futile attempt was made to transfer
the unit to St. Lucia in hopes of finding more recruits there.
Bay Fusiliers (also known as Mosquito Shore Volunteers and Black River Volunteers)
Both free men and
slaves belonged to this unit, raised and based on the Mosquito Coast
of what is now Nicaragua and commanded by a British officer, Major
James Lawrie. The Fusiliers were used in operations
against forces of Spain, which had become an ally of the United
States after France’s entry into the war.
Black Dragoons (also known as Black Pioneer Troop)
This unit, the only troop of ex-slaves formed in South Carolina, initially had 71 men. They would be among the very last Loyalists to be evacuated from New York City in 1783.
Black Hussars (also known as Deimar’s Hussars)
This unit of black-coated troops were formed mainly of escaped German prisoners of war who had been captured in the battle at Saratoga. Because they were technically not prisoners but unarmed under a “convention” of the British surrender, their status was hazy. Treated as non-British but loyal, the hussars were commanded by Captain Frederick von Deimar. They were attached at times to Tarleton’s Legion and the Queen’s Rangers. They served in the New York area, joined Loyalist raiders in New Jersey, and patrolled the Long Island coast against raids from New England whaleboats.
General Henry Clinton formed this unit during his expedition to North Carolina. The initial unit consisted of 71 escaped slaves, who were given their freedom. They dug latrines, cleared ground to build camps, and did other such menial army chores. Although no Black Pioneer was killed in battle, many died of disease and overwork. New enlistments usually kept the size of the unit to no more than 50 to 60 men. The Black Pioneers were the only Loyalist unit to accompany Clinton in his attack on Newport, Rhode Island in December 1776. After returning to New York, the Black Pioneers in 1778 were sent to Philadelphia, where they were ordered to “Attend the Scavangers, Assist in Cleaning the Streets & Removing all Newsiances being threwn into the Streets.” A second unit, which never got larger than 20 men, was disbanded in 1778. Another unit of Black Pioneers was raised during the siege of Savannah in September-October 1779. Black Pioneers would be among the last Loyalists to be evacuated from New York City in 1783. The men received free land grants in Canada, but their land was inferior to what was given to white Loyalists. One of the Pioneers’ commanders was Captain Allan Stewart of North Carolina, who would later command the North Carolina Highlanders.
A powerful raiding force of Indians and Tories, formed and led by Joseph Brant (Thayendanegea), a Mohawk who was a close ally of Sir William Johnson, the British superintendent of the northern Indians of America. Brant’s Volunteers raided Rebel communities and isolated Rebel farms in the Mohawk Valley and along the New York frontier. They were unusual Tory guerrillas, for they were not recognized officially and they were sustained by Brant’s funds and their own looting. Eventually, however, Sir Frederick Haldimand, governor of the Province of Quebec and supervisor of frontier military operations, gave them support. Because of the unit’s lack of recognition (and British Army pay), many members transferred to Butler’s Rangers or other organizations.
Joseph Brant was painted by Gilbert Stuart in 1786 when he was in London
of the Duke of Northumberland.
British Legion (also known as 5th American Regiment and Tarleton’s Legion) was formed in 1778 by merging Philadelphia Light Dragoons, Caledonian Volunteers, and Kinloch’s Light Dragoons, a small unit raised near Jamaica, Long Island, under the command of Captain David Kinloch. In 1780 the unit absorbed the Bucks County Light Dragoons. Most of the units’ troops came from Pennsylvania and New Jersey. They fought in battles in the Southern campaign at Monck’s Corner, Waxhaws, Fishing Creek, Cowpens, Guilford Courthouse, Warwick Courthouse, and Charlottesville. Survivors later merged into the King’s Americans Dragoons. One of the Legion’s commanders was Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton, a brilliant British Army career officer who, early in the war, captured Continental Army General Charles Lee.
Colonel Banastre Tarleton, in a portrait by Sir Joshua Reynolds, stands on Rebel battle flags heaped at this feet. On Flag Day 2006 an anonymous bidder paid nearly $17.4 million on for four rare flags from the American Revolution. A flag he captured at Pound Ridge, New York, is one of the first to display the 13 red and white stripes and a flag he captured in South Carolina is one of the first to display 13 five-pointed stars on a field of blue.
National Gallery, London
Bucks County Light Dragoons, also known as Bucks County Dragoons
Raised in Philadelphia in February 1778, the unit was sent to New York in 1778 and attached to the Queen’s Rangers for the 1779 campaign, to the British Legion for the 1780 campaign, and was permanently merged into the British Legion in 1782. Lieutenant Colonel John Watson Tadswell Watson, a British Army officer from the elite Brigade of Guards, led the dragoons after the regular commander, Captain Thomas Sandford, was taken prisoner.
Bucks County Volunteers
Raised in the spring of 1778 under Captain William Thomas, the unit may have had as few as 15 to 20 men at times and was often attached to the Queen’s Rangers.
Raiders with a
reputation for cruelty, the Rangers were raised by Lieutenant Colonel
John Butler of the British Indian Department in September 1777. In
one of its most notorious raids, about 200 Rangers and 300 Indians
raided Wyoming Valley, Pennsylvania, in June 1778. They continued to
raid the New York frontier throughout the war. During a raid into
Cherry Valley, New York, Butler’s Indian allies killed unarmed
men, women and children. John Butler and his
son Walter kept the New York-Pennsylvania border dwellers living in
One company was sent to Detroit and raided Rebel
settlements along the western frontier. In the final Ranger action of
the war, one company raided and torched Wheeling in today’s
West Virginia. During their peak years the Rangers mustered more than
500 men. By the end of the war, more than 900 men had served in the
Raised in Philadelphia 1777-78, the unit was merged with the British Legion in 1778. The commander was Lieutenant Colonel William Sutherland, who was with the British soldiers at the North Bridge in Concord when “the shot heard round the world” began the Revolutionary War.
referred to French-speaking Canadians, who were reluctant to get
involved in the fight between the British and the Americans. British
officers raising the units announced that two married men would be
pressed into service for every unmarried deserter. The 1st company
was raised from the Trois-Rivières district, the 2nd company
from around Montreal, the 3rd from Quebec. The 1st company served at
the failed siege of Fort Stanwix, New York, during the Burgoyne
invasion. The 2nd and 3rd marched with Burgoyne and were part of the
“Convention Army” that surrendered at Saratoga. Company
officers were Captain Samuel
Mackay, Captain Jean-Baptiste-Melchior Hertel De Rouville, Captain
David Monin, Lieutenant Jean-Baptiste Beaubien, and Captain
René-Amable Boucher de Boucherville.
Carolina Black Corps, also known as Carolina Corps, Black Carolina Corps, Black Corps of Dragoons Pioneers and Artifcers
This black unit was raised as the British Army was leaving Charleston in December 1782. After the Revolution, the corps of former slaves, amalgamated into a single unit called the Black Carolina Corps, served in British Caribbean possessions, which were slave states until slavery was officially abolished in most of the British Empire.
Charlestown Volunteer Battalion
Created when the British took Charleston, this battalion of volunteers from Charleston assisted the city’s garrison. It was disbanded around the time that the British evacuated Charleston in December 1782.
Raised at Detroit In 1777, the 47-man company in late 1778 garrisoned Fort Sackville at Vincennes (in what would become Indiana). The Volunteers’ history ended with the fall of the fort to Colonel George Rogers Clark’s force in February 1779, essentially ending British power in the region.
George Rogers Clark
Clark Chapter, Ohio Society,
A regiment former Rebel prisoners who, after Spain’s entry into the war, agreed to fight for the British—but only against the Spanish. Most of the prisoners had been captured after the Continental Army’s defeats at Charleston and Camden, South Carolina. In February 1781, Charles Greville Lord Montagu, last royal governor of South Carolina, went on board prison ships in Charleston and recruited hundreds of captives after promising they would not have to fight fellow Americans. He commanded the regiment, which initially had 500 men. A second battalion of about 100 men was raised in New York. In August 1781 the regiment sailed to Jamaica, where it remained for the rest of the war. After the war, many of Montagu’s men went with him to Canada, where they were given grants of land.
This mounted infantry and cavalry unit was based at Ninety Six, South Carolina, in December 1780. Major James Dunlop of the Queen’s Rangers, a veteran of the battle of Brandywine and Ranger raids in New York and New Jersey, was given temporary command of what then became known as Dunlop’s Corps. Twice wounded in South Carolina battles, in March 1781 Dunlop was wounded again and captured when his 180-man corps was defeated in a skirmish at Beattie’s Mill. Fellow Loyalists claimed that he was shot to death while being held prisoner. His unit was disbanded in July 1781.
Captain Andreas Emmerick, a German officer serving with British forces, organized the Chasseurs in August 1777. He selected 100 active “marksmen” to be drawn from Loyalist units at Kingsbridge, New York, along with 50 men probably used for bayonet support. The corps fought in New York battles and in 1778 was expanded and organized as two troops of light dragoons, one light infantry company, one rifle company, and three chasseur companies. The Chasseurs fought in many skirmishes in the so-called “Neutral Ground” of New Jersey. Mutinous officers lost confidence in Emmerick, creating discipline problems that led to the disbanding of the unit; its men were drafted into other regiments. In 1809, back in Germany, Emmerick joined an insurrection against Napoleon’s occupation of Hesse-Kassel. At the age of 72 he was executed by a firing squad.
John Murray, Earl of Dunmore, last royal governor of Virginia, created this unit of ex-slaves. In November 1775 Dunmore issued a proclamation promising freedom to slaves who took up arms for the British. Several hundred slaves fled their masters and accepted his offer. From them he formed a regiment and issued uniforms embroidered with the words “Liberty to Slaves.” After Dunmore’s defeat at Great Bridge, Virginia, in December 1775, the regiment was involved in the evacuation of Norfolk and served British forces in the Chesapeake area. Diminished by smallpox and other diseases, the Regiment sailed to British-occupied New York and was officially disbanded. But many survivors remained in British service. They were among the more than 3,000 former slaves who migrated to Canada after the war. The commander of the regiment, Major Thomas Taylor Byrd, was the brother of a Rebel, Francis Byrd.
Florida Loyalist Military Units
Florida has been called the “14th colony” and the only one that did not declare independence from Britain. In the 1763 treaty ending the French and Indian War, Britain received the Spanish colony of Florida and part of the French colony of Louisiana. The British made the new acquisition into two colonies: East Florida capital, with St. Augustine its capital and consisting of most of present-day Florida; and West Florida on the north shore of the Gulf of Mexico with its capital Pensacola. West Florida was bounded by the Mississippi River and Lake Pontchartrain in the west by the 31st parallel on the north and the Apalachicola River on the east. Loyalists fought Spanish rule in both colonies.
East Florida Militia. 1st Regiment formed into eight companies but never properly mustered. Attempts were also made to recruit four companies of former slaves. A 2nd Regiment was later formed. Records are scanty.
East Florida Rangers (see also King's Carolina Rangers). Raised along the Georgia-Florida border and consisting primarily of East Florida Tories, the Rangers served in their colony, joined in the defense of Savannah in 1778, and, with Indian allies, staged harassment raids along the Georgia frontiers, fighting in the battles of Kettle Creek and Briar Creek. As the King’s Rangers, the unit garrisoned Augusta. The Rangers, using a dismantled church for raw materials, built Fort Cornwallis to defend Augusta. They merged with Georgia Loyalists in June 1782. Under their commander, Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Brown, they fought savagely. (Brown was nicknamed Burnfoot by Rebels whose fiery torture cost him two toes.) After the fall of Georgia, Brown and many Rangers joined thousands of refugees in flight to East Florida, still in British hands. When that province was returned to Spain in the 1783 peace treaty that ended the Revolutionary War, Brown and his Ranger refugees settled on Abaco Island in the Bahamas.
East Florida Volunteers may be another name for the East Florida Rangers or a name that singled out volunteers who were drafted into the Rangers.
Retired British officers, seeking to aid Major General John Campbell, commander of British forces in West Florida colony, raised this unit, which included a motley crew of Tories who called themselves the West Florida Independent Rangers. Learning of Spanish plans to attack Campbell at Pensacola, the capital of West Florida, they gathered volunteers, including Indians, to create a diversion at Natchez (in present-day Mississippi), site of a former British outpost, Fort Panmure. On April 22, 1781, the Spanish garrison fled the fort, believing that the Natchez Volunteers, under Captain John Blommart, had undermined it with explosives. In June 1781, after the Spanish defeated the British at Pensacola, they retook the fort, and captured Loyalists who were there, ending the service of the Natchez Volunteers. (See also West Florida Independent Rangers)
West Florida Independent Rangers, led by Captain Thaddeus Lyman of Bayou Pierre, Louisiana, became involved with the Natchez Volunteers (see). The short-lived ranger unit joined in an attempt to take Fort Panmure, a former British outpost, seized by Spanish troops during their invasion of the British colony of West Florida. In the aftermath of the failed operation, a party of about 100 refugees fled, traveling, on foot and on horse, from Natchez to Savannah Georgia in 149 days.
West Florida Loyal Refugees (displaced Tories called themselves Refugees) were raised at Pensacola in 1777 as a cavalry corps of two companies. The unit was initially used to suppress Rebels’ illicit rum trade in the Mobile Bay area. The unit surrendered to Spanish invaders in June 1780.
Florida Provincials (another name for
Loyalists) went into service with about 67
enlisted men and 17 officers. Between March and November 1778
Colonel John McGillivray led
an expedition against Rebels,
journeying from Mobile to Natchez to Manchac and back return.
West Florida Royal Foresters, raised in mid-1780, fought the Spanish force that invaded the colony and took what are today’s Mobile and Daphne, Alabama. In January 1781 they joined British troops in a failed attempt to retake the towns. They also helped defend Pensacola in July 1781and were taken to Havana as Spanish prisoners. By the time they were repatriated to New York, there were only two officers, one sergeant, and ten enlisted men. The unit was disbanded in August 1782.
Forshner’s Independent Company
A small unit operating in the “Neutral Ground” of New Jersey. Little is known about its missions. One of few reports tells how Andrew Forshner and two recruits crossed from Staten Island to New Jersey. After repeated narrow escapes from American patrols, one recruit was captured. Forshner and the other recruit managed to contact local Loyalists and gather detailed intelligence before stealing a canoe and paddling it back to Staten Island.
Garrison Battalion (also known as Royal Garrison Battalion or Royal Garrison Battalion of Veterans)
The unit was formed in New York City in October 1778 under the command of Lieutenant Colonel William Sutherland of the British Army and sent to Bermuda to defend against a French or American attack that never happened. The British feared that pro-American Bermudians would aid invaders. (Sutherland earlier had been commander of the Caledonian Volunteers.) Reinforcements arrived with Lieutenant Colonel Robert Donkin in 1779. Most of the men in the battalion were British Army veterans and recovering invalids.
Georgia Loyalist Military Units
Georgia, the only colony to be fall to the British during the Revolution, fostered several Loyalist military units with many British and American commanders.
Georgia Artillery was raised in Savannah by Alexander McGoun. He had been named by the Rebels’ Council of Safety in Georgia as a person “whose going at large is dangerous to the liberties of America.” The Rebels later confiscated his property, along with the property of 224 others named by the Council.
Georgia Light Dragoons consisted of Scot soldiers of the British Army’s 71st Highlanders and Loyalists. Another unit, known as the militia element of the Georgia Light Dragoons, fought in several battles in Georgia. Reports of a unit known as East Florida Volunteers may refer to the Georgia Dragoons. Actions involving the two units overlapped and both appear to have been present at some of the same events.
Georgia Militia, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel James Grierson of Augusta, gained a reputation as ruthless foes. Grierson was singled out particularly for following British orders to execute Rebels who broke their oath of loyalty to the king. Rebels took Grierson prisoner in Augusta on June 5, 1781. He died two days later, reportedly murdered in vengeance for his deeds.
Volunteers of Augusta was a cavalry unit formed of Loyalists who called themselves Augusta Refugees. A song composed for the Volunteers included the words The Rebels they murder, Revenge is the word/Let each lad return with blood on his sword. Under the command of Captain James Ingram, they fought in a small, inconclusive battle along Ogeechee River in May 1782.
Governor Wentworth’s Volunteers
John Wentworth, governor of the New Hampshire Grants (later Vermont) raised this unit in 1776 to defend himself and his realm. He gathered about 20 men, all certified as respectable and well-educated Loyalists, around him and then he and the Volunteers fled to British-held Long Island, where its first muster was taken. By the summer of 1778, the Volunteers numbered 26. They are next heard from in March 1779 when they joined other Loyalist forces in British-occupied Newport, Rhode Island. They were later incorporated into the King’s American Dragoons.
Guides & Pioneers
Raised in New York in 1776 and attached to the Loyal American Regiment, the unit served in 1781 in the siege of Charleston and in a raid into Virginia. Beverley Robinson of New York, a wealthy Loyalist, raised this unit and the Loyal American Regiment. He also played a role in the treason of Benedict Arnold. Other commanders included Captain Andreas Emmerick (see Emmerick’s Chasseurs); Major Samuel Holland, former royal surveyor-general of northern colonies; and Major John Aldington, who enabled British invaders to make a surprise invasion of New Jersey in November 1776 by leading them up a steep, narrow path of the Palisades,
Guides & Pioneers (Southern)
About a company or more
of these men, under Major Daniel
Manson, were regularly with Cornwallis’
army in the South. Small units probably assisted in the construction
or strengthening of fortifications and in the building and repairing
of bridges and boats.
Harkimer’s Batteaux Company
Batteaux were mid-sized boats used for various tasks. Captain Jost Harkimer’s batteaux were used as transport during Colonel Barry St. Leger's unsuccessful Mohawk Valley campaign, which was part of Burgoyne’s 1777 invasion of New York from Canada.
Colonel James Hewetson, a retired British Army officer, formed the
unit, which initially had 171 men. The corps fought in a
skirmish near Livingston Manor in May 1777. Afterward, Rebels hanged
Hewetson (also spelled Howetson and Huston) for
Jamaica Independent Companies
Formed at Bluefields in what is now Belize from survivors of various Jamaica and Mosquito Coast units, it may have been merged into Odell’s Loyal American Rangers.
Jamaica Corps (also known as Amherst’s Corps)
Despite its name, the unit was raised in 1780 in New York and in Charleston. In April 1783 it was amalgamated into the Duke of Cumberland’s Regiment and Odell’s Loyal American Rangers. The unit’s secondary name honored Jeffrey Amherst, a hero of the French and Indian War. Amherst declined command of British forces in North America and took no part in the Revolutionary War.
Joshua Reynolds, 1765
In 1655, the British captured Jamaica and used the plantation slavery of Jamaica to launch the triangular trade: England’s manufactured goods, Africa’s slaves, and the Caribbean’s sugar. When Spain entered the Revolutionary War as an American ally, Britain needed to protect Jamaica. And Loyalist troops, expecting to serve in America, found themselves in a hot, fever-stalked outpost of the British Empire.
Jamaica Legion was raised in Jamaica in late 1779. “Mostly composed of sailors,” the Legion numbered about 210 men. It was sent to Nicaragua in February 1780. Ravaged by fever, the Legion in October 1780 was incorporated into the Jamaica Volunteers.
Jamaica Light Dragoons was raised in July 1780 in Jamaica and was also known as Lewis’ Corps of Light Dragoons or Light Horse. The unit had about 98 men, nearly half of whom were sent to various places in Central America.
Jamaica Volunteers, also known as Royal Jamaica Volunteers, was raised in Jamaica in October 1779. The unit, of about 240 men, took part in a campaign aimed at weakening Spanish power in South America. In 1780 a British amphibious force—whose ships were commanded by Captain Horatio Nelson, the future hero of Trafalgar —landed on the coast of today’s Nicaragua and ascended the San Juan River. During one of the battles of this disastrous campaign, a Spanish musketball burrowed into Nelson’s right arm, which had to be amputated. More than a quarter of the British landing force was killed, wounded, or infected by yellow fever.
Royal Batteaux Volunteers, likely the same unit as the Royal Batteaux Corps, was
raised in Jamaica sometime in 1779. In February 1780 the unit was sent to present-day Belize and Nicaragua. Devastated by tropical diseases, in October 1780 the unit was incorporated into the Jamaica Volunteers.
James Island Troop of Light Dragoons, also known as James Island Troop of Horse
This small unit, under the command of British Army Captain Alexander Stewart, fought a skirmish against Major General Nathanael Greene’s Continental Army on August 21, 1781 at Howell’s Ferry, (also known as Russell’s Ferry), South Carolina. The troops was named after an island that was a steppingstone to the British capture of Charlestown in 1780.
King’s American Dragoons
This unit was one of many Loyalist cavalry units formed to augment the relatively few British dragoons who served in the war. Raised in 1781, the unit served briefly in South Carolina and reported killing 40 Rebels in a battle at Wambaw Creek in February 1782. The commander was Lieutenant Colonel Benjamin Thompson, whose military career began in a New Hampshire militia. Prior to raising the unit, Thompson was a British spy in Boston, using invisible ink to send his messages. After the war he moved to England, where he became Lord Rumsford, a noted scientist who established that heat is molecular motion, and not a fluid.
King’s American Rangers
On May 1, 1779, Lieutenant Colonel Robert Rogers, storied commander of Rogers’ Rangers in the French and Indian War, was commissioned by General Sir Henry Clinton to raise two battalions of Rangers. The 1st battalion had 133 men. The 2nd battalion, numbering 193 men, was raised by Rogers’ brother James. Initially recruited in Nova Scotia, the battalion was garrisoned for a time at Fort St. John’s on the Richelieu River (now Saint Jean, Quebec).
Robert Rogers mezzotint by Thomas Hart, 1776
Fort Ticonderoga Museum
King’s American Regiment (also known as the 4th American Regiment)
Raised on Long Island, New York, this regiment of about 500 men served in New York, Rhode Island, South Carolina, and Georgia. Members came from the Hudson River Valley, New York City, Connecticut, and Rhode Island. The commander, Edmund Fanning, was an aide to William Tryon, royal governor successively of North Carolina and New York. When Tryon raided New Haven, Fanning, a graduate of Yale, intervened to save his alma mater from being destroyed. In gratitude, Yale in 1803 awarded him an honorary doctorate. After the war, the regiment was placed on the regular British Establishment, an honor bestowed on only a few Loyalist units.
King’s Carolina Rangers (also known as King’s Florida Rangers and King’s Rangers)
Originally raised in June 1776 as East Florida Rangers, the unit fought in many skirmishes defending East Florida. After taking part in the invasion of Georgia in 1779, the unit was reorganized and named the King’s Carolina Rangers. Georgia Loyalists later merged with the Rangers. Evacuated from Savannah in 1782, the unit was transported to Charlestown. Along with other Loyalist units, the Rangers were sent to St. Augustine to garrison East Florida. At the end of the war the unit was sent to Nova Scotia and disbanded.
King’s Loyal Americans
In 1776, Ebenezer Jessup, a wealthy Albany Tory, enlisted and outfitted 90 men of this unit. Hounded by Rebels, he soon took his family to Canada and never returned to Albany, losing his extensive properties to confiscation. Also in the corps was his brother Edward. Jessup’s Corps fought and suffered heavy casualties during Burgoyne’s invasion of New York in 1777. Survivors went into McAlpin’s Corps and the Queen’s Loyal Rangers (Peters’ Corps) at St. John’s, Quebec in 1781. When the unit was disbanded in 1784, its members settled in Grenville County, Ontario.
The unit was formed in 1776, mainly of men from New Jersey and Orange, New York. Many of them were tenants on the estates of John Bayard, the prominent landowner who raised and commanded the unit. Bayard was a Son of Liberty who turned Tory. Each volunteer was to “receive 40 shillings advance with new cloaths, arms, and accoutrements and everything necessary to compleat a gentleman volunteer.” The Rangers saw action in coastal New Jersey and New York. When Bayard killed a junior officer in an argument, all members of his sergeants’ guard deserted and his unit began to dissolve. Reduced to about 200 men and on verge of mutiny, the unit was transferred to Halifax, Nova Scotia, in October 1778. Two months later, one company was transferred to Liverpool, Nova Scotia, to fight off Rebel privateers and man Liverpool’s Fort Point. After the war, when the unit was disbanded, many settled in Canada on land granted for service.
King’s Royal Regiment of New York, also known as Johnson’s Greens, Royal Greens, Sir John’s Corps, and King’s Royal Yorkers.
The regiment was raised by Sir John Johnson, son of the foremost British Indian agent in North America. His recruiting began in June 1776 after his escape from a Rebel force sent to seize him in the Mohawk Valley. Most recruits were Loyalist refugees from the Mohawk and Schoharie valleys. The regiment served in Burgoyne’s 1777 campaign in New York, fighting with a force of Loyalists, Indians, and British soldiers ordered to subdue Rebels in the Mohawk Valley. At Oriskany, they fought in one of the bloodiest battles of the Revolution. Driven back to Canada, they later emerged as fierce raiders who terrified and torched settlements along the New York frontier, helping the British control land north of the valley. In 1783, the 1st Battalion was disbanded and its veterans settled in Canada along the St. Lawrence Valley; the following year, the 2nd Battalion was disbanded and settled in what became Canada’s Frontenac, Lennox, and Addington counties.
Lieutenant Colonel Sir John Johnson
Library and Archives Canada
Loyal American Association, also known as Loyal Associated Volunteers
Timothy Ruggles, a veteran of the French and Indian War, became a Loyalist brigadier general and raised the Association in 1775 in Marshfield, the only Massachusetts town to oppose the Patriots’ Continental Association. Membership reached about 300. The Loyal American Association, expected to be the beginning of a Massachusetts-wide Tory force, was provided British arms and given protection at first by 100 British troops. On April 20, 1775, a day after the battles of Concord and Lexington, when a large number of Patriot militia men threatened Marshfield, the British troops evacuated the town, along with as many as 200 Loyalists. The 5th Company of Associators Milita (essentially the same unit as the Associated Loyalists of Marshfield) assembled in British-occupied Boston on July 5, 1775 and began patrolling the streets to prevent all “disorders… by either Signals, Fires, Thieves, Robers, house breakers or Rioters.”
Loyal American Rangers
Raised in New York in 1780 from Continental Army prisoners and deserters, along with Tory refugees, the unit had about 300 men in six companies. They served in Kingston, Jamaica, and were en route to Pensacola in May 1781 when word was received of that city’s fall.
Loyal American Regiment
Raised in mid-March of 1777 by wealthy Beverley Robinson, the unit consisted almost entirely of New York loyalists from lower Dutchess and Westchester Counties. Robinson, a friend of George Washington when both lived in Virginia, managed 60,000 acres and 146 tenant farms in Dutchess County. His tenants and their relatives were liberally sprinkled through the regiment, which he commanded. The regiment fought in battles in New York and New Jersey through to December 1780, when it embarked for Virginia under the command of a new British brigadier general, Benedict Arnold. They later returned to their New York-New Jersey battlegrounds and joined in a raid on Pleasant Valley, New Jersey, under Brigadier General Cortland Skinner of the New Jersey Volunteers. In September 1781, again commanded by Benedict Arnold, they joined in his terror attack on New London. After garrison duty in Long Island, they embarked for Nova Scotia in September 1783.
New Brunswick (Canada) Museum
Loyal Associated Refugees
Organized by George Leonard, a Massachusetts Loyalist, the unit was a sea-going raiding force of Loyalist sailors and soldiers. In March 1779, joined by a company of the King’s American Regiment, the unit raided, but failed to occupy, Bedford (now New Bedford), Massachusetts. In June 1779 the Refugees became part of the force that General William Tryon led during his terror raids on Connecticut coastal towns.
Loyal Foresters (Forresters)
This unit, which
included Loyalist Indians, was raised to serve with Guy Johnson of
the British Indian Department. The commanding officer was Lieutenant
Colonel John Connolly, a native of Lancaster County,
Pennsylvania. He was captured by Rebels in November 1775 before he
had a chance to carry out his plan to lead a campaign against Rebels
in and around the Falls of the Ohio, where Louisville now stands.
Loyal Irish Volunteers
James Forrest, an Irish emigrant from Boston, enlisted Loyalists there in the fall of 1775 and took command. His men wore white cockades in their hats. The unit was disbanded after the British Army and hundreds of Tories evacuated the city in March 1776.
Loyal New Englanders
Raised at Newport, Rhode Island in 1777, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel George Wightman, the unit served there until the British Army evacuated the port in October 1779. Next, the New Englanders became part of the garrison at the Tory stronghold of Lloyd’s Neck, Long Island. By 1781 there were only about 30 men in the unit, and they were absorbed into the King’s American Dragoons and Volunteers of New England.
Loyal Newport Associators
In 1764 Newport’s Artillery Company’s guns fired on the Royal Navy warship, HMS St. John, in New England’s first armed resistance to the king. A decade later, in December 1776, when the British began their occupation of Newport, about half of the company, under Captain (later Brigadier General) John Malbone, joined the Rebels and the rest joined the Associators and other Tory units. In 1792, the Rhode Island State Legislature reaffirmed the unit’s charter, making it the nation’s oldest active military unit still operating under its original charter.
Formed in 1781, the unit was created from several smaller companies, including the Queen’s Loyal Rangers and the King’s Loyal Americans. Edward Jessup, born in Stamford, Connecticut, was living in New York in 1759 when he served in the French and Indian War. In 1776, with his brother Ebenezer and other Loyalists from the area, he joined Sir John Johnson’s regiment. Captured while serving with the King’s Loyal Americans, he was later released and in 1781 was named commander of the new Loyal Rangers, which was assigned to raiding parties in New York state and to garrison duty in southern Quebec.
Loyal Refugee Volunteers
Abraham Cuyler, a
wealthy landowner and Tory mayor of Albany, New York, raised and
commanded this unit of about 150 men, including runaway slaves
gaining freedom under the British. The Volunteers built a blockhouse
fort at Bull’s Ferry, New Jersey, across the Hudson River from
British-occupied New York City. From that redoubt they raided Rebel
farms in Bergen County, New Jersey, getting supplies and cutting down
trees for wood, which they sold to the British across the river. In
July 1780 the blockhouse successfully warded off a Rebel attack of
about 1,000 men under Continental Army General Anthony Wayne. The
unit later moved to Bergen Point (Bayonne), New Jersey, and to the
site of Fort Lee, where Rebels tried to dislodge them as they began
building a new blockhouse fort there. Finally, the Tories withdrew to
Bergen’s Neck and in the fall of 1782 disbanded. after many
left for Nova Scotia. Other commanders were Major
Thomas Ward and Major Philip Van Alstine.
Loyal Rhode Islanders
Raised in Newport in March 1777 under Colonel Edward Cole, a veteran of the French and Indian War, the unit was disbanded in November 1777 because of a lack of recruits.
The core members of this 300-man unit were Maryland Tories who fled to British-occupied Philadelphia. There, in October 1777, the 1st Battalion of Maryland Loyalists was raised by James Chalmers, a wealthy Eastern Shore planter. When the British Army evacuated the city in June 1778, the Marylanders also left and fought in the battle of Monmouth. First sent to Halifax, they later served in Jamaica and Pensacola, capital of the British West Florida colony. Captured when Pensacola fell to the Spanish, they were paroled to New York City. By the end of the war, small pox and desertions had shrunk the battalion to about 100 men. They, along with their wives and children, sailed to Canada, where they had been granted land. Their ship, HMS Martha, ran aground in the Bay of Fundy and sank. Most men drowned, but many wives and children survived.
Maryland Royal Retaliators
Nearly 1,300 Loyalists swore oaths to join this corps, raised by Marylanders Hugh Kelly and James Fleming, mainly in Pennsylvania. The Retaliators had ambitious plans to recruit as many as 4,000 men for a campaign to aid the British in the taking of a large swath of Pennsylvania and Maryland. But Rebels learned of the plan, arrested Kelly and some 170 men; three were convicted of treason against Maryland and hanged. Fleming and others escaped to join British forces in North Carolina. After the British surrender at Yorktown, both men made their way to British-occupied New York. Kelly was later reported living in Nova Scotia.
McAdam’s Independent Company of Volunteers
Far more is known about John Loudon McAdam than about the Loyalists he recruited in New York for his Company of Volunteers. Born in Scotland, he sailed to New York as a youth and lived with his uncle in New York City. During the Revolutionary War, he was the commissioner for prizes ships captured by the Royal Navy and British privateers. He offered more than 450 ships for auction, collecting fees for those he sold. Those fees provided some of the basis for his fortune when he moved back to Scotland, bought land, got involved in local road-building, invented a new paving process—and gave the world “macadamized” roads. As for his Volunteers, little is known; they were among the countless Loyalists who were recruited in Tory Town, as New York City was called.
John Loudon McAdam
McAlpin’s Corps of Royalists
When General John Burgoyne invaded New York from Canada, among his forces were Loyalist volunteers, including McAlpin’s Corps, commanded by Major Daniel McAlpin. After serving 40 years in the British Army, McAlpin had retired in New York. In 1774 he bought about 1,000 acres on the west side of Saratoga Lake and became a prosperous farmer. After Rebels seized his property, he became a soldier again. He received a warrant from General Sir William Howe, secretly raised a unit of about 180 men and officers, and marched off with Burgoyne. After the battle of Freeman’s Farm, some of his men were drafted into British regiments that had suffered heavy casualties. Loyalist survivors of the Burgoyne expedition were placed in the King’s Royal Regiment. In May1779, McAlpin’s own surviving men were returned to him. They were mostly assigned to garrison duty and fortification construction in Quebec Province. Although seriously ill, McAlpin continued in command until he died in July 1780.
This unit was raised in Savannah during the 1779 siege of that British-held city by a joint American-French force. The black Loyalists, unlike ex-slaves given menial Army chores elsewhere, the Negroe Volunteers were used as soldiers armed to fight the besiegers. One of the two armed companies was commanded by Captain Hartwel Pantecost (who would later become an officer in the James Island Light Dragoons); the other by Captain John McKenzie of the British Legion. The unit was probably disbanded by the end of the year. The British remained in control of Savannah until July 1782.
Newfoundland Regiment, also known as His Majesty’s Newfoundland Regiment of Foot
In September 1780 British authorities authorized the raising of a force of 300 men to defend the colony. Many were recruited from the recently disbanded Newfoundland Volunteers; others may have been drafted from the Artificiers and Labourers, since that unit and the Newfoundland Regiment were both commanded by Robert Pringle, a major by 1780. The regiment was garrisoned in and around St. John’s until the end of the war.
Newfoundland Volunteers, also known as Royal Newfoundland Volunteers
In 1778 Captain Robert Pringle, an officer in the Royal Corps of Engineers, was authorized to form the Volunteers, the first recorded military force to bear the name “Newfoundland.” Its members were mainly civilian construction workers employed by the British Army. They built a military road and worked on Fort Townsend at St. John’s. The unit was disbanded the following year in a dispute over the paying bounties.
New Hampshire Volunteers (also known as Stark’s Corps)
In spite of its name, this unit was raised in New York City and Philadelphia by William Stark of New Hampshire, who had commanded a company of Rogers’ Rangers during the French and War. William Stark was the older brother of Rebel General John Stark, the hero of the Battle of Bennington. Stark, originally a Rebel became dissatisfied with the way he was treated. So he went to British-occupied New York and offered his military services. His unit was raised in the spring of 1777 but seems to have been soon disbanded, with its men being absorbed into the Queen’s American Rangers in New Jersey. Later, would-be recruits wound up in the 2nd battalion of the New Jersey Volunteers and the King’s Orange Rangers. Several officers joined the Guides & Pioneers.
New Jersey Loyalist Military Units
Cortland Skinner, the last attorney general under the Royal government of New Jersey, was commissioned a brigadier general by British authorities in September 1776 and empowered to raise a brigade of six battalions to be known as the New Jersey Volunteers. (Royal Governor William Franklin also made Skinner a major general of militia.) Skinner did raise his battalions by December 1776, and he provided them with green uniforms, a color that came to be associated with armed Tories. But, because none of the battalions reached their authorized strength, the brigade was eventually reduced from six battalions to four. The Continental Army, during victorious battles at Trenton and Princeton, captured several of Skinner’s commissioned officers, including one who had documents showing that he was attempting to raise an Irish battalion for Skinner.
New Jersey Militia. Sketchy accounts indicate that 50 to 60 militia men from Monmouth County crossed to British-held Staten Island in June 1776, bringing their personal arms, “a stand of colours,” and not much else. With his headquarters at New Brunswick during the British occupation there, Skinner reorganized the Monmouth County Militia, under his commission as major general of militia, striving to make the militia able to prevent “small parties [of Rebels] from entering the County, and distressing the People.”
New Jersey Volunteers, also known as Skinner’s Greens. When Skinner was given his commission, the 1st battalion of this corps was already forming, with many more Loyalists only awaiting the arrival of British troops in New Jersey before joining them as Tory allies.
1st battalion of New Jersey Volunteers, established on July 1, 1776, served as garrison troops at Richmond, Staten Island, while training. They entered New Jersey in December 1776 as part of a force pursuing Washington during his retreat from Fort Lee. Several hundred more recruits were raised in Monmouth County. In January 1777 the battalion formed part of the British garrison at New Brunswick and in June 1777 returned to Staten Island, its station for the next five years.
2nd battalion of New Jersey Volunteers was established in November 1776 by Lieutenant Colonel John Morris, a retired lieutenant of the British Army’s 47th Regiment of Foot. On January 2, 1777 four soldiers of the unit were killed in battle and as many as 30 others captured during the battle at Monmouth Court House. The battalion also fought in smaller actions. In April 1777, ordered to New York, the unit was assigned to service with the Royal Artillery Regiment, recruiting Rebel deserters to fill it ranks. The unit guarded woodcutters and ships. When it was broken up, men were drafted into the 1st and 4th battalions.
3rd Battalion of New Jersey Volunteers was established in November 1776. Its first commander, Edward Vaughan Dongen, was mortally wounded in a battle with a large Rebel force retaliating against Tory raids. Members of the battalion were notorious raiders throughout 1777. In December 1778 they sailed to Georgia, where they joined British troops who took Savannah. Through 1779 and into 1780, the unit served in Georgia. When the unit’s light company was ambushed at Musgrove’s Mills, every officer was wounded and many men were killed or wounded. Other companies staged raids out of their garrison at the town of Ninety Six. Some men of the Volunteers of Ireland, a disbanded regiment, were brought into battalion. In January 1783 the unit returned to Long Island, losing many as deserters. At the end of the war, the remaining men and their families sailed to Nova Scotia, where the unit received a grant of land.
4th Battalion of New Jersey Volunteers was established in the fall of 1776 by Bergen County surgeon Abraham Van Buskirk. The unit consisted of ten companies of varying strength. Members conducted raids against Rebel homes and fighters in Bergen County and garrisoned parts of Bergen Neck and Staten Island. In the summer of 1779 the battalion moved into nearby Paulus Hook, now Jersey City. A contingent serving with the American Volunteers landed in Georgia in February 1780 and advanced northward to link up with other British troops near Charlestown. Back north, a reorganization brought companies of the 4th Battalions (also the 1st and 2nd) and several other units into the Provincial Light Infantry, which joined an expedition that sailed for Virginia in October of 1780. On February 27, 1781 a party of 20 men from the 4th held off ten times their number until arrival of the rest of the unit. On September 8, 1781 the battalion was part of the British force that defeated General Nathanael Greene at Eutaw Springs, South Carolina. In September 1783 the unit embarked for Nova Scotia.
5th Battalion of New Jersey Volunteers of about 250 officers and men from Sussex County was raised by Joseph Barton in November 1776. Early in 1777, the unit went on raids for a while before taking on garrison duty on Staten Island. The battalion saw little more battle action before it was disbanded, its men being transferred to a reorganized 1st battalion.
6th Battalion of New Jersey Volunteers was raised in December 1776 by Isaac Allen, a Trenton lawyer. The men came from the Hunterdon County area, including Trenton and Princeton. Washington’s attack on these places slowed down recruiting and cost the battalion two officers. After a battle in February 1777, in which several men were killed and about 60 taken prisoner, the battalion set up quarters on Staten Island. Undersized to start with and with ranks depleted, the battalion was merged into the 3rd Battalion.
West Jersey Volunteers were raised in Philadelphia in January 1778 and served primarily in and around Billingsport, New Jersey, until the evacuation of Philadelphia in June 1778. Because it was an under-strength regiment, its men were drafted mainly into the 1st and 3rd battalions of the New Jersey Volunteers and the British Legion.
New York Loyalist Military Units
After the British conquest of New York City and Long Island in 1776, Loyalists chose the occupied territory as their new home. Prominent Loyalists, such as leaders of the DeLancey and Robinson families, quickly raised regiments. Many Tories, who called themselvesRefugees, began arriving from the neighboring area, from Pennsylvania, and even from the South. Many royal militias became Loyalist military units. The American Volunteers, while serving as a detached corps from the British Army, trained New York militias.
DeLancey’s Brigade also known as the New York Loyalists, was probably the largest armed Tory organization in New York. The brigade—three battalions of 500 men each—was raised by Oliver DeLancey, a wealthy New York merchant who resided in the Morrisania section of the Bronx (then part of Westchester County). Some of the men in the 3rd battalion were said to be Rebels captured during the battle of Long Island and given a choice: Join the Loyalists or rot in a prison hulk in New York harbor. At first, members of DeLancey’s Brigade served as a police force in New York City. Later, they garrisoned forts at Kings Bridge and on the north shore of Long Island, where they often were accused of ill-treating Loyalist civilians. The 1st and 2nd battalions served in East Florida, then in Savannah. So many men were killed in battles there and in South Carolina—at Eutaw Springs and during the siege of Fort Ninety-Six—that the two battalions were merged in February 1782. Battalion commanders included Lieutenant Colonel John Harris Cruger, Colonel George Brewerton, Lieutenant Colonel Stephen DeLancey, Major Thomas Bowden, and Colonel Gabriel G. Ludlow. He became the first mayor of Saint John, the destination of many of the Loyalists who sailed to Canada after the war.
Loyal Volunteers of the City of New York was under the command of David Mathews, royal mayor of New York City. Locke’s Independent Companies, raised in New York by Joshua Locke in 1779 was probably included among the Volunteers, as was the Mayor’s Independent Company of Volunteers. Mathews and his followers were involved in a conspiracy known as the Hickey Plot, a complex conspiracy aimed at infiltrating and subverting the defenses of New York and kidnapping or assassinating George Washington. Mathews, placed in house arrest in Litchfield, Connecticut, escaped and returned to New York, where he resumed his office under the British occupation. Shortly before British troops evacuated the city in November 1783, Mathews sailed to Nova Scotia.
Blues, raised in May
1779, was disbanded in December of the same year, when most members
then joined the New York Volunteers.
William Axtell was supposed to raise 500 men from the Nassau, New
York area, but he was said to have only raised about 30 men.
Jamaica-born William Axtell was heir to a large New Jersey estate
when he arrived in America in 1746. He married Margaret De Peyster,
daughter of Abraham de Peyster, Jr., and through her mother, a Van
Cortlandt—two of the wealthiest Loyalist families of the era. A
member of the Governor's Council in 1776, Axtell was commissioned a
colonel and given command of the Blues, known to foes as the “Nasty
Blues” because of reports of torture chambers in at Axtell’s
palatial Brooklyn mansion, Melrose Hall. Rebels confiscated Melrose
Hall, which was purchased after the war by a Continental Army officer
who had married Axtell’s adopted daughter.
New York Volunteers were sent to East Florida in October 1778 and helped to defend Savannah in September 1779. After battles in Charleston, Camden, and Hobkirk’s Hill, South Carolina, they returned to New York in August 1782. The unit was disbanded in Canada in 1783. Units in the Volunteers were also known as the New York Companies, the 3rd American Regiment, and the 1st Dutchess County Company, which became the 3rd Regiment.
King’s County Militia was commanded by Colonel William Axtell, who had had little success raising the Nassau Blues. He did better with this militia, whose muster in November 1777 showed seven companies of infantry, 25 sergeants, 26 officers, 7 drummers, 337 rank and file (the usual military term for ordinary soldiers), and a troop of light horse with 5 officers, 3 sergeants, and 32 rank and file. The unit had a religious tinge: Officers signed a “Declaration Against Popery,” denying the doctrine of transubstantiation and objecting to idolatry.
New York Rangers (also known as the First Independent Company of Rangers, was commanded by Christopher Benson whose recruits were from New York City and Long Island. The Rangers, part of the New York City garrison, dealt with parolees and prisons and performed other military police duties. In August 1777 the Rangers arrested Colonel Ethan Allen at a tavern in New Lots, Long Island, for violating his parole.
Queen's County Militia troops assisted Associated Loyalists in repelling and attempted landing at the Tory stronghold of Lloyd’s Neck, Long Island, by a force about 450 troops, most of them French.
Richmond County Militia was commanded by Colonel Christopher Billopp of Staten Island. He was twice captured by Rebels, who despised him for his militia’s raids in Staten Island and New Jersey. On his first confinement in 1779 he was chained to the floor and fed only bread and water in retaliation for the harsh treatment of two Rebel prisoners. Taken ill while a prisoner a second time, he was, with General Washington's permission, put into more comfortable quarters and then sent home. Billopp’s brother, Thomas, was in a Rebel militia.
Suffolk County Militia was commanded by Colonel Richard Floyd, owner of a 500-acre farm in Brookhaven (now Mastic), Long Island. The Floyd family had inhabited Long Island since 1654. Richard Floyd shared an ancestor with William Floyd, a major general in the Rebel militia and a signer of the Declaration of Independence.
Westchester County Militia, commanded by Colonel James DeLancey, appears to be same unit as DeLancey’s Refugees, also known as the Westchester Light Horse, the Westchester Chasseurs, and DeLancey’s Cow-boys. Westchester militia men skirmished with Rebel troops throughout the war and earned a reputation as harsh raiders. The unit reportedly grew from about 60 to upwards of 500. Members were not paid or supplied—and made it a rule never to come back from a raid empty-handed.
Early Manhattan Island
Westchester Chasseurs were feared in New York’s Westchester County as “DeLancey’s Cow-boys”—a name inspired by the Chasseurs’cattle rustling. They specialized in raiding small villages and looting unarmed Rebels. A typical raid was reported in the pro-Tory New York Gazette on October 16, 1777: “Last Sunday Colonel James DeLancey, with sixty of his Westchester Light Horse went from Kingsbridge to the White Plains, where they took from the rebels, 44 barrels of flour, and two ox teams, near 100 head of black cattle, and 300 fat sheep and hogs.” General George Washington, in a report on the Chasseurs, wrote in a report to Congress on May 17, 1781: “Surprise near Croton River by 60 Horse and 200 Foot under Colonel James DeLancey ... 44 killed, wounded and missing ... attempted to cut him off but he got away.”. DeLancey sailed for England in June 1783 and stayed there until he left for Canada, where he settled and became a member of the legislature.
North Carolina Loyalist Military Units
The initial name of the first Loyalist military unit, North Carolina Provincials, was bestowed in 1776 by the royal governor, Dublin-born Josiah Martin. The commander of the Provincials, Brigadier General Donald McDonald, was also a major in the Royal Highland Emigrants, as were some of the officers and men in the Provincials. Ever since, the two units have been entwined in accounts of Tory military activities in the state. The Provincials had 1,200 to 1,400 men, including Highlanders, riflemen, and cavalrymen. In February 1776 the Highlanders and others in the unit were defeated at Moore’s Creek Bridge. Diminished by casualties and captures, the Provincials ceased to exist as fighting force. About 100 North Carolina militia men are believed to have been part of Ferguson's doomed army at King’s Mountain.
Fanning's North Carolina Loyalist Militia was raised by David Fanning, who had lived in both North Carolina and South Carolina and had served in both Loyalist and Rebel militias. (See also King’s American Regiment.) From a fortified base at Cox’s Mill on the Deep River in Randolph County he recruited Tories, skirmished with Rebel militias, and scouted for General Cornwallis’s army. In July 1781 he received a commission as a provincial colonel in command of all Loyalist forces in Randolph, Chatham, Orange, Cumberland, and Anson Counties. He soon was recruiting men for militias in Randolph and Chatham Counties. Units raised by Fanning fought 36 skirmishes and battles. In a raid in Chatham County, his men broke up courts-martial of Tories, freeing 53 prisoners, and taking captive members of the General Assembly, militia officers, and court officials. Fanning’s men, grown to a force of more than 1,000, attacked the temporary state capital at Hillsborough and captured the governor, his council, and many government workers. After the British evacuation of Wilmington, Fanning attempted to arrange a pardon for himself. But when an Act of Pardon and Oblivion was passed in 1783, Fanning was one of three men purposely left out. In January 1782, after his futile negotiations for a pardon, he fled North Carolina and by the close of the war had settled in Canada.
North Carolina Highlanders was the name given North Carolinians who were sent to New York in 1782 and transported to St. Augustine, Florida in 1783. North Carolina Volunteers merged into the unit in 1783, which disbanded in Canada in 1783. The North Carolina Independent Company was attached to the New York Volunteers around August 1783 and later was dissolved.
North Carolina Independent Dragoons, a cavalry unit also known as Wilmington Light Dragoons, and North Carolina Light Dragoons, was raised at Wilmington, North Carolina, and given uniforms purchased by their captain, John Gordon. His successor, Robert Gillies, was killed in a skirmish near Charlestown, South Carolina, on August 29, 1782. Shortly later, the troop was dissolved and the effective men were drafted into the South Carolina Royalists.
Reid’s Independent North Carolina Company
Following the crushing defeat of a Loyalist force at Moore’s Creek Bridge in February 1776, North Carolina Governor Josiah Martin formed some of the survivors into an independent company. The commander was Thomas McDonald Reid. The unit was disbanded around the end of 1776.
Royal North Carolina Regiment was raised in New York in 1777 by John Hamilton, a Carolinian who fled the Rebels in his home state. He received the rank of captain and was sent to Augusta, Georgia, to command North Carolina Tory refugees there. Promoted to major and then lieutenant colonel, he led the unit in the sieges of Savannah and Charlestown and in the battles of Hanging Rock and Camden. The unit, down to two companies at the time of the siege of Yorktown, was disbanded in 1782. Oct
Royal Volunteers of North Carolina, formed into a company of foot and one of horse, began with the recruitment of North Carolina Loyalist refugees in Georgia. At some point between February and October 1779, the corps, by then known as the Royal North Carolina Regiment, consisted of two battalions.
Nova Scotia Militia
The militia did not play an important role in the Revolution because its members were not trusted by Canadian officials. In August 1775, Lieutenant Governor Michael Francklin wrote to Lieutenant General Thomas Gage, commander of British forces in North America, saying that expecting Nova Scotia’s militiamen to repel an invasion of the province would be like “trusting a Broken Reed.” The Rebels, he wrote, “have already given out they mean not to injure or molest those who are sons of liberty and that have had no hand in assisting the Kings troops….” So many militia men fit those categories that invaders undoubtedly would find more friends than foes in Nova Scotia. The militia remained essentially unused during the war.
Nova Scotia Volunteers, raised by Nova Scotia Governor Francis Legge, served mainly on garrison duty in the Halifax area and was disbanded 1783.
William Allen raised the unit in October 1777. Allen, from a prominent Pennsylvania family, was one of the first officers commissioned by the Continental Congress and took part in the Continental Army’s invasion of Canada in 1775. But when Congress declared independence, he resigned his commission and, as a Loyalist lieutenant colonel, raised and commanded the Pennsylvania Loyalists. In July 1778 the Pennsylvania Loyalists were transported to New York and later to Halifax, Jamaica, and Pensacola, Florida, where in December 1779 the unit was merged with Maryland Loyalists. When Pensacola fell to the Spanish, the Loyalists were sent to Havana as prisoners. They were repatriated to New York and officially exchanged in July 1782. After the war, they sailed to Halifax, where the unit was disbanded in October 1783. Allen exiled himself in England. See also United Corps of Pennsylvania and Maryland Loyalists.
Sir William Pepperell, who raised and commanded this corps, lived in Jamaica Plains, outside of Boston. After fleeing an anti-Loyalist mob, he enrolled “in an association for the defense” but did not take up arms. He departed for England in 1775 and became president of a Loyalist association there. He was so respected in exile that he appears next to William Franklin as a leading Loyalist in the Benjamin West painting, The Reception of the American Loyalists by Great Britain (which is used on the book jacket of Tories). Because he never returned to America, Pepperell did not play any direct role in the unit bearing his name. The members of his corps appeared to be irregulars known as Associators. They received no pay, and often did not wear uniforms; some earned a living by looting. Rebels confiscated Pepperell’s vast holdings, including an estate in Maine that ran from Kittery to Saco and “many miles back from the seashore.”
Pfister’s Corps of Royalists
Lieutenant [later Colonel] Francis Pfister recruited 318 men from Rensselaer, New York and Pownal, Vermont, a town profoundly split between Rebels and Tories, most of who fled to Canada during the war. Pfister’s men fought in Hoosick Falls (Walloomsac), New York alongside Hessian troops in 1777 in a fight that was an offshoot of the battle of Bennington. Pfister’s father-in-law, a survivor, reported that 106 men were killed or taken prisoner. Survivors were put under the command of Captain Samuel Mackay, who gave his name to the corps, and then to Captain Robert Leake, who did the same. In November 1781 the unit was absorbed into the King's Royal Rangers of New York.
Philadelphia Light Dragoons
When this mounted unit was raised in Philadelphia, it consisted of two troops, one commanded by Captain Richard Hovenden of Bucks County, the other by Captain Jacob James of Chester County. Apparently the dragoons were dissolved as an independent unit when the British evacuated the city. Either the entire unit—or former members of it—were first attached to the British Legion (also known as Tarleton Rangers) and the Queen’s Rangers. Then, in 1782, the dragoons were incorporated into the King's American's Dragoons.
Prince of Wales American Volunteers
The unit had an unusual origin: It was raised by Montfort Browne, the Governor
General of the Bahamas, who had been captured by Continental Navy sailors in March 1776 on the island of New Province. Browne was a prisoner in Connecticut when he began the regiment, which he would command. New recruits were continuously enlisted to replace original enlistees called “non-effectives.” At the muster of November 15, 1779, for example, the number of men in the corps was supposedly 613, but of these 74 were dead, 19 were prisoners, 25 had taken their discharge, 30 had been transferred, probably as recruits to the British Army, and 113 were deserters. The unit was sent to the Bahamas, then to Charlestown in April 1779 and fought at Hanging Rock, South Carolina. In June 1783 the unit returned to New York.
Provincial Light Infantry was a New York unit that mustered nearly 200 men. One of its commanders was Major Thomas Barclay, son of the rector of Trinity Church in New York City. His Loyalist military career began when he was a captain in the Loyal American Regiment and a leader of the force that captured two Rebel forts on the Hudson River. In 1780 he took command of the newly formed Provincial Light Infantry, which fought in battles and raids in New York, New Jersey, and the Carolinas. At the end of the war he was one the senior officers sent to Canada to find land for the settlement of Loyalist troops.
Quebec City Militia
Canadian Loyalists reflected the situation in America: some supported the Revolution (and would gladly become the 14th colony) and others, the Loyalists, wanted Canada to remain under the king. In Quebec, the issue was fought out in battles during the American invasion of 1775-1776, when American troops—aided by pro-Revolution Canadians—attacked the city. Canadian Loyalists joined the militia, the core of a diverse defense force that included a French Loyalist Regiment under Lieutenant Colonel Noel Voyer, a Royal Navy Battalion, made up of sailors from warships and merchantmen; Loyalist Captain Antony Vialars commanding an Independent Company; the Loyalist Montreal Militia Regiment deployed to Quebec under Colonel Dufils Desaunior, and a Militia Regiment under Lieutenant Colonel Henry Caldwell. He was a leading citizen who was well motivated to join the militia. Caldwell's house at Sainte-Foy had been taken over as the Rebels’ headquarters and was later burned, along with all its contents—and his mills were pillaged. After the battle, Caldwell carried the dispatches reporting the victory to London. When he returned, he was a leader in the plan to offer land grants to settle Loyalists in Canada.
Canadian militiamen and British soldiers repulse the American assault in the battle of Quebec. Painting by C. W. Jefferys.
Queen’s American Rangers (also known as the 1st American Regiment)
The unit (named in honor of Queen Charlotte, the wife of King George III) was raised in August 1776 by Robert Rogers, who later was to raise the King’s American Rangers. First mustered on Staten Island, the Queen’s Rangers fought in many skirmishes. One of its costliest encounters came in October 1776 when a Continental Army force made a surprise night attack at Mamaroneck, New York, killing or wounding about 20 Rangers and capturing about 30. In January 1777 Rogers was removed from command and replaced by a series of British Army officers. In October 1777, after the Rangers suffered heavy losses at the battle of Germantown, Major John Graves Simcoe of the British Army took command, sending the Rangers out on patrols and foraging expeditions around Philadelphia. When the British withdrew from Philadelphia in June 1778, the unit formed the rear guard and fought in the battle of Monmouth Court House. Simcoe sent the Rangers off on raids in New Jersey and was captured himself in October 1779. He was exchanged in January 1780 and oversaw the Rangers’ final combat in the South, ending with the Yorktown surrender in October 1781. The regiment was officially disbanded in Canada in October 1783. Simcoe became the first Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada. The modern Queen’s York Rangers of the Canadian Militia descends directly from this unit, and is still sometimes styled the 1st American Regiment. The unit had the honor of being placed on the British Establishment.
John Graves Simcoe
Queen’s Loyal Rangers
General John Burgoyne, preparing for his invasion of New York, made John Peters of Vermont a lieutenant colonel and told him to raise a regiment. It was officially known as the Queen’s Loyal Rangers and unofficially as Peters’ Corps. More than 600 men served in the regiment, which was assigned to the advance corps, leading the invasion forces. They fought in battles from Fort Ticonderoga to Saratoga. Some 90 survivors made their way to Canada, where they were amalgamated with survivors of the King’s Loyal Americans and McAlpin’s Corps. The Rangers often crossed the border into New York and Vermont, raiding Rebel settlements and gathering intelligence from frontier Tories.
Queen’s Own Loyal Virginia Regiment
Jacob Ellegood, Virginia-born owner of two plantations, raised the regiment in November 1775. Members of the regiment were among the forces defeated by the Rebels in a crucial victory at Great Bridge, near Norfolk, in August 1776. The regiment apparently disbanded around the time that the British evacuated the Norfolk area.
Queen’s Royal Rangers
Unlike the royal governors in New England, the governor of Virginia, John Murray, the Earl of Dunmore, decided to fight the Rebels in his state. In November 1775, Dunmore formed a regiment he called the Queen’s Royal Rangers, to be raised by enlisting Tories and Indians “in the back parts and Canada.” For his new regiment’s commander, he chose John Connolly and made him a lieutenant colonel. Connolly, a nephew of a British Indian agent, lived in what had been Fort Pitt (future site of Pittsburgh and, for a while, dubbed Fort Dunmore). The governor believed that an expedition by the Rangers would conquer the western territory, which Dunmore envisioned as a future addition to Virginia. But within days after creation of the regiment, Rebels arrested Connolly in Hagerstown, Maryland, on his way to Detroit. He carried incriminating documents showing what Dunmore planned. Connolly was imprisoned and released on condition that he agreed to sail to England. There, he wrote a book exaggerating his travail as a prisoner.
Roman Catholic Volunteers
At a time when Catholics could not join the British Army, this unit put them under arms on the Loyalist side. The unit consisted of Catholics from Delaware, Maryland, and Pennsylvania, many of them Irish deserters from Rebel militias and the Continental Army. The men were called “Papists” and viewed with suspicion because some British officers wondered if they would fight against French Catholics. The unit was formed in British-occupied Philadelphia in 1777 by Alfred Clifton, described as “an English gentleman of an Irish mother,” He was given the usual commander rank of lieutenant colonel. Many of the unit’s members deserted or were court-martialed for disciplinary violations. When the unit was disbanded around the end of 1778, its men were transferred to the Volunteers of Ireland and the British Legion.
Royal American Reformers
Rudolphus Ritzema, born in Holland, began his Revolutionary War as an officer in the Continental Army and fought in the battle of Quebec as a colonel. But, under the shadow of disciplinary trouble, he deserted during or after the battle of White Plains, joined the British Army, and proposed the raising the Royal American Reformers. Its officers were to be former Rebel officers who gave “some Proofs of the Sincerity of their Repentance and are otherwise of an unblemished Character.” In May 1778, as a lieutenant colonel, he raised a few companies. In December 1778, the men were either demobilized or reassigned, probably to the British Legion and DeLancey’s Brigade, and Ritzema was retired.
Royal Fencible Americans also known as the H.M. Royal Fencible American Regiment of Foot
The term fencible (“in defense of”) means that the unit can be deployed only on home territory. When the unit was raised in Nova Scotia, recruits came from there and from Newfoundland, St. John’s Island (now Prince Edward Island), and the Boston area. After initial service in Halifax, the unit was sent to Fort Cumberland on the Bay of Fundy under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Joseph Goreham, a former British Army officer. In November 1776 the fort was the target of Jonathan Eddy, a former Nova Scotia resident determined to invade his homeland and make it a Rebel state. He appeared before the fort under a flag of true, with a force of about 180 men, including Indians, Acadian exiles, and Rebels from Maine. Eddy demanded surrender as “Commanding Officer of the United Forces.” His five-week siege ended when British reinforcements arrived and, with the Fencibles, drove off the besiegers. In the winter of 1780 the Fencibles were recalled to Halifax, making the 360-mile march on snowshoes. The unit was disbanded in 1783.
Royal Highland Emigrants, (also known as the 84th Regiment of Foot and Young Royal Highlanders)
1st Battalion: Lieutenant Colonel Allan Maclean, born in Scotland, began his military career as a 17-year-old lieutenant in the Scots Brigade of the Dutch Army. He fought in the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745 in support of Charles Edward Stewart—Bonnie Prince Charlie. He later served in the British Army and was wounded in two battles of the French and Indian War. In 1775, General Thomas Gage, commander in chief of the British forces in North America, authorized Maclean to raise a regiment from Scottish communities in Canada, New York and the Carolinas. Recruits included many recently arrived emigrants and former Highland soldiers who had settled in Canada and America. Maclean’s finest hour as a commander of Loyalists came when he fought in the battle of Quebec.
2nd Battalion: Raised in June 1775, it was basically a Canadian defense force under Lieutenant Colonel John Small, a British Army officer who had been wounded at Bunker Hill. Some men were sent to Fort Cumberland, a key Nova Scotia redoubt in July 1777. Detachments were also posted at Windsor, Cornwallis, Annapolis, and along the St. John River. Five companies sent to South Carolina fought in a bloody battle at Eutaw Springs in September 1781, when British forces clashed in what would be the last major encounter in the South. Sent to New York in April 1782, the unit was ordered to disband in October 1783 but did not do so until 1784.
Royal North British Volunteers
An early Loyalist unit, it was raised in October 1775 in Boston by Scot merchants and led by one of them, James Anderson, as captain,. Like many Boston Tories, they were employed by the British as a police force. Their duty stations included an alarm post near Fanuel Hall. They were ordered to “Patrole the Streets within a certain District” and “take into Custody all Suspicious & Disorderly Persons found in the Streets at improper Hours.”
When American privateers raided Charlottetown, capital of St. John's Island (present-day Prince Edward Island) in 1775, the island had no garrison to defend it. The privateers kidnapped Attorney General Phillips Callbeck and another official, along with the royal seal. The officials—but not the seal—were returned a few months later. In March 1776 Callbeck raised a garrison of 110 men and became its captain. (A Volunteers commissary document, dated November 21, 1777, gives posterity an idea how much food 110 soldiers would need for a year in those days: 22,000 pounds of pork, 40,000 pounds of flour or bread, 1,800 gallons of peas, and 1,800 pounds of butter.) In September 1779, fearing an attack on Quebec, the British ordered a Hessian regiment to Canada. A storm struck the ships carrying the Hessians, some of whom found temporary refuge on the island, augmenting its garrison. The unit was disbanded in October 1783. For his service as commander, Callbeck was granted 20,000 acres on the island and his men received 100 to 500 acres each, depending upon their ranks. This was a typical reward arrangement for former Tory soldiers who chose to settle in Canada.
South Carolina Loyalist Military Units
More than 6,000 South Carolinians “performed loyal acts, either directly or by association” during the Revolution, according to an exhaustive study by Robert Stansbury Lambert, a South Carolina historian. And, he estimates, about 3,900 men—many of them newcomers from England, Scotland, and Virginia—joined Tory military units. (Other estimates put the number at 5,000.) The state was a battlefield. More than 130 battles and skirmishes were fought in South Carolina, and, in many of them, Tories fought alongside Redcoats and Hessians.
South Carolina Light Dragoons of about 60 Hessian soldiers was raised in Charleston in April 1781, under Captain Freidrich Starckloff. The British gave the Hessians provincial status. The unit was dissolved in 1782. Another unit, raised by South Carolinians, was raised late in 1781 and dissolved soon after two captains and one trooper were killed in a skirmish at Fair Lawn Plantation on August 29, 1782.
South Carolina Militia was expanded by General Henry Clinton in May 1780 when he ordered British Army Major Patrick Ferguson, Inspector of Militia, to form “Companies consisting of, from 50 to 100 Men each, and will when the local and other Circumstances will admit of it, form Battalions consisting of, from 6 to 12 Companies each, allowing such as cannot conveniently be assembled in Battalions, to remain as Independent Companies.” In 1781, when British troops evacuated the state’s interior, militia regiments took over occupation. Troops of cavalry became better regulated and disciplined, smaller regiments were merged into large units. During the war, by some estimates, about 5,000 men served the South Carolina Militia—many first as Rebels and then as Tories.
South Carolina Rangers, envisioned as a unit of 500 men, was authorized in June 1780 and raised by Major John Harrison, a Tory who earlier had spied for the British. Probably no more than 100 men were enlisted. They were originally stationed at Camden.
South Carolina Royalists. The 1st Battalion was raised in May 1778 by Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Innes and stationed at Savannah from about November 1779. Innis was badly wounded in a skirmish at Musgrove's Mill in August 1780. The unit fought often against Francis Marion, the Swamp Fox. The unit, which had black troops, was evacuated to St. Augustine, Florida, in November 1782. In October 1783, the white soldiers were transported to Nova Scotia and disbanded. Black troops were transported to West Indies and kept in service. Meanwhile, the 2nd Battalion was raised in East Florida in May 1778 under Lieutenant Colonel Evan McLaurin, who had been imprisoned as a Tory leader in South Carolina and escaped to East Florida. The battalion, consisting of two troops of rifle dragoons and four companies of infantry, was sent to Savannah in August 1779 and to Charleston in May 1780, fighting in battle at Ninety-Six, Hobkirk’s Hill, Eutaw Springs, and Waldboo Plantation. The battalion was dissolved after being transported to New York in November 1782.
Stewart’s Troop of Light Dragoons
Originally a 12-man
unit of Tory express riders and guides, the troop was formed in July
1777 on Staten Island. The unit, which skirmished in New Jersey under
Captain William Stewart, was
later increased to 25 men, then reduced to 18, and finally melded
into the King’s American Dragoons.
Turks Island Company
One of many West Indian units manned by Loyalists, this unit was put under the command of Captain Andrew Symmer, who had been the king’s agent for Turks Island since the 1760s. The island’s only industry was the gathering salt, mostly for the American market, by slaves. Despite the presence of the small Tory force, a black market in salt for America continued throughout the war. After the war, Turks Island was many of the Caribbean refuges that attracted Tories, who became cotton planters.
United Corps of Pennsylvania and Maryland Loyalists
This joint corps was raised at Pensacola, capital of British West Florida, in December 1779. Learning that Spain had entered the war, Don Galvez, the governor and military commander of Spain’s Louisiana colony (after whom Galveston, Texas, is named), began a conquest of the British West Florida colony. Defenders included Maryland and Pennsylvania Loyalists, formed into the corps, which mustered about 350 men. Spanish invaders—among them a few Rebels—took several British outposts, including Mobile, in 1780. Pensacola was next. The outnumbered British-Loyalist force fought bravely until, overwhelmed, they surrendered in May 1781. All of West Florida became Spain’s. More than 1,000 British and Loyalist troops were placed on a one-year parole on British-occupied Long Island. In 1783 the unit was disbanded and 51 officers and men, with 12 women, 11 children, and 6 servants sailed to Canada, where they were granted land for settlement.
Van Alstine’s Batteaux Company
A unit of about 250 Loyalists, the company was formed to transport the wounded from the battle of Saratoga to Canada. The unit was commanded by Captain Peter Van Alstine, a farmer of Dutch ancestry born in Kinderhook, New York. Loyalists expecting to enjoy the rewards of victory, marched off with Burgoyne when he invaded New York. After defeat, they knew could not safely return to their homes. So many headed for Canada; for the wounded, that meant Van Alstine’s batteux. Van Alstine later led Loyalists and Quakers to the first permanent white settlement at a new Ontario community called Adolphustown for a son of George III.
Major John Randolph Grymes raised this small cavalry unit in July 1776 for Royal Governor Lord Dunmore and his Virginia Loyalists, who had been driven from Norfolk to Gwynn’s Island in Chesapeake Bay. When Dunmore was forced to evacuate the island, Grymes accompanied him and in September 1776 became executive officer of the Queens American Rangers, then commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Robert Rogers. Wounded at battle of Brandywine, Grymes later went to England, where he was agent for prosecuting the claims of Virginia Tories. Finally, he returned to Virginia, settling in Orange County, where he bought land and resumed life as a plantation owner.
Volunteers of Ireland (also known as the 2nd American Regiment)
This unit was raised in Philadelphia in May 1778 from recruits and from soldiers drafted from other Loyalist regiments, principally the Roman Catholic Volunteers and the New Jersey Volunteers. In July 1778 the unit was sent to New York and named the 2nd American Regiment. But they retained their original identity, which can be seen in a New York newspaper reporting that the 400-man unit celebrated St. Patrick’s Day “with their accustomed Hilarity.” They were under the command of a brilliant British Army officer and nobleman, Colonel Francis, Lord Rawdon, as he preferred to be known. A few weeks later, the Volunteers were in South Carolina and fighting battles there through to late 1782, when they returned to New York. The unit was disbanded and its veterans were sent to Tory units in Charlestown, particularly the Prince of Wales American Regiment, New Jersey Volunteers and DeLancey’s Brigade.
Volunteers of New England
After a short existence, with a maximum strength of only 32 men, the unit was drafted into the King’s American Dragoons. The commander, Lieutenant Colonel Joshua Upham, was originally a member of the Massachusetts Tory elite. He left his native state to join the Loyalists in New York and became an officer in William Franklin’s notorious guerrilla force, Associated Loyalists, and took command of Fort Franklin at Lloyd’s Neck, Long Island. Onetime aide de camp to commander in chief Sir Guy Carleton, Upham joined Carleton in London in 1783 and became a lobbyist for the partitioning of Nova Scotia to created New Brunswick as a Loyalist province. When that happened in 1784, he was appointed a judge of the new province’s Supreme Court.
Ward’s Company of Refugees
Ebenezer Ward of Essex County, New Jersey, formed this unit, which saw action as a guerrilla force at Bergen Neck in February 1780 and at Newark in July 1780. Ward’s name appears on a list of Tories whose property was confiscated. A curious entry in The Book of Negroes lists “Eliza Ward, 7, fine girl, (Ebenezer Ward).” The book contains the names of black Loyalists and their families who sailed to Canada in 1783 to settle on land granted to them for their service in the war. Names in parentheses indicate who owned the black Loyalists when they were slaves.
Units for which little or no information is available, and units not directly involved in military actions connected to the Revolutionary War.
Anderson’s Independent Company of Volunteers
Boston Regiment, Massachusetts Militia
Brownjohn’s Independent Company of Volunteers
Charlestown Militia, 1st Battalion,
Collett’s Independent Company of Provincials
Dickson’s Independent Company of Volunteers
East Florida Militia Light Horse
Georgia Rifle Dragoons
German Independent Company of New York Militia
Golding’s Company of Volunteers
Hatfield’s Company of Partisans
Hazard’s Corps of Refugees
Jamaica Militia (Horse)
Jamaica Militia (Infantry)
Loyal Commissariat Volunteers
Loyal Ordnance Volunteers
McDonald’s Company of Volunteers
Montreal Regiment, Quebec Militia
New Jersey Volunteers Light Dragoons
New York City Militia
New York Independent Highland Volunteers
Norfolk Regiment, Virginia Militia
Robins’ Company of Partisans
Royal Georgia Volunteers
Saint John’s Parish Volunteers
Sharp’s Refugee Marines
Smyth’s Independent Company of Provincials
South Carolina Independent Volunteers
South Carolina Independent Light Dragoons
Skinner’s Independent Company of Volunteers
Stanton’s Company of Volunteers
Stewart’s Company of Refugees
Taylor’s Independent Company of Provincials
Templeton’s Independent Company of Volunteers
West Florida Independent Provincial Company
West Florida Militia
West Florida Volunteers
Williams’ Independent Company of Volunteer
* Other sources included American Loyalist Troops 1775-84 by René Chartand, Osprey Publishing , Ltd. 2008; The American Provincial Corps 1775-84 by Philip Katcher and Michael Youens, Osprey Publishing, Ltd., 1973; Stefan Bielinski’s Colonial Albany Social History Project (http://www.nysm.nysed.gov/albany/); The Loyalist Gazette (http://www.uelac.org/publications.php#gazette); and The King’s Men (http://www.nyhistory.net/)