“I never forgot that I was an American”: the story of the Maryland Loyalist Regiment

One of the books that talks about Marylanders who sympathized with the British Crown (people like Robert Alexander), which the governments of MD and DE tried to suppress.

In March 1783, Major Walter Dulany, in the Maryland Loyalist Regiment, wrote to Sir Guy Charlton, saying that while he still saw “miseries” of American independence, and “acted with the great zeal, against my rebellious countrymen,” he never “forgot that I was an American.” A such, he said that if the war still continued after independence was granted he would resign, as he could not ” act either directly or indirectly against America.” Some have called this “an excellent declaration of principles and demonstrates just exactly what Loyalists had to put themselves through to serve the British. Not only a material risk, but one which troubled many a conscience.” [1] It is this spirit which informs a discussion about the sympathizers of the British Crown (often given the moniker of “loyalist” which obscures their role in this historical context) that joined the “Maryland Loyalist Regiment,” people who groups, like the Daughters of the American Revolution (and undoubtedly the Sons of the American Revolution), automatically dismiss as being “patriots,” treating them as noting better than “traitors.” As such, it is worth telling their story.

In come the Marylanders

While the Maryland Loyalist Regiment (also called the Col. Chalmer’s Corps, the First Battalion of Maryland Loyalists or the Maryland Loyalist Corps) is one of the 38 “loyalist” regiments which lasted from 1777 to 1783, very little information is available on those that served in their ranks. [2] However, we do know that the regiment was headed by a man named James Chalmers, who became the lieutenant colonel and had drafted a pamphlet called Plain Truth which was opposed to Thomas Paine’s Common Sense, the previous year.

Chalmers advocated for the creation of the regiment, which was granted in October 1777, arguing that control of the Delmarva Peninsula was important for success in the war, which turned to be correct in historical terms. [3] One of the other major generals in the regiment was man by the name of Philip Barton Key, who was Francis Scott Key’s uncle. According to his account, in December 1777 he met Chalmers in British-occupied Philadelphia where he commissioned him a Lieutenant while William Howe “permitted the enthusiastic Key to raise his own company, which proceeded to make dangerous forays into the countryside to recruit more loyalists.” [4] Due to his success as a “natural leader, [who was] brilliant and brave,” on March 1, 1778, he was promoted to the rank of captain.

The story of Barnet Turner, who I wrote about while working at the Maryland State Archives, gives a good general context of the regiment:

…The unit was created by British general William Howe after the British capture of Philadelphia in the autumn of 1777. Recruiting started around the captured American capital and later expanded to the Eastern Shore of Maryland. The unit was commanded by Lieutenant Colonel James Chalmers, a Kent County planter. After training from November 1777 until spring 1778, the soldiers marched up to Long Island. The unit stayed there until the end of 1778. It later saw action in West Florida until its surrender after the Spanish siege of Pensacola in 1781. They were later sent back to New York.

Other officers would be Philadelphia native Walter Dulany, the commissary general for Maryland, whose son Grafton served with the regiment in Florida, “where he died in 1778” and William Augustus Bowles (1763-1805), a Frederick County, MD “adventurer who had first lived among the Creeks after he was cashiered from the Maryland Loyalist Corps that had been sent to Pensacola in December 1778.” Bowles, also known as Estajoca, organized “Native American attempts to create their own state outside of Euro-American control” and convinced the Creeks to “support the British garrison of Pensacola against the Spaniards, but the garrison fell when its ship was hit by artillery fire from the Spanish ships” while Bowles, after the battle in Pensacola “was reinstated in the British Army, and went to the Bahamas.” Beyond that, he would establish “a trading post along the Chattahoochee River,” have two wives which he used “as the basis for his claim to exert political influence among the Creeks,” and later received and seen as a powerful leader “for Creek and Cherokee Nations.” I’ve written before about him, and his connections with the British.

Another officer was a man named Daniel Dulany Addison, a captain for the regiment in 1782, and a major in the corps in 1783. Beyond that, John Stewart and William Stirling were ensigns, John Stirling and Levin Townsend were lieutenants. [5] Also among them was a paymaster named Anthony Stewart who held that position in January and March 1783 at least. Other commissioned officers included Captains Patrick Kennedy, Grafton Dulany, Alexander Middleton (for a short time), Walter Dulany, Caleb Jones (former sheriff of Somerset County), Isaac Costin, James Frisby, and Major John McDonald. Eventually, captains of the regiment were eventually divided between the Eastern and Western shores of the Chesapeake Bay (I’m taking some of this text from my biography on Barnet Turner which I’ll talk about later).

In following years, the regiment would fight in Pensacola for the British (in 1778 and 1779), joined by other British “loyalist” regiments, all part of the British army as a whole. [6] The regiment was, when it marched “out of Philadelphia along with the rest of the British Army in June 1778,” consisted of “370 officers and men,” making it second in size “only to the Queen’s Rangers amongst the Loyalist units leaving the city.” In December 1778, in Pensacola, the Marylanders were joined by their “brothers” to the north: “183 Pennsylvania Loyalists commanded by Lt. Colonel William Allen.” [7] Unfortunately for the Marylanders, the British never fully trusted them, with Chalmers’ soldiers shipped to the war’s periphery, fighting “gallantly” in Pensacola, with captured survivors paroled, waiting out the rest of their lives in New York City. This included men such as John Noble, a corporal, who “was held as a prisoner of war in Havana and eventually repatriated to New York City.” By the end of 1779, the Maryland and Pennsylvania “loyalist” groups merged temporarily, later breaking apart due to the battle at Pensacola. [8] Their “motley” group, fought for years to come in this part of West Florida for the British Crown. By February 1781 the united MD and PA soldiers “contained only 300 rank-and-file members” likely because Marylanders were some of those who took the offensive against the Spanish in previous months but were repulsed. [9] By May the number had shrunk even more: the “combined strength of both the Maryland and Pennsylvania Loyalists” was only 160 men.

By 1782, Chalmers, the gentleman in “his neighborhood,”did not have a full roster of recruits since the regiment was “very deficient in numbers.” [10] While officers paid for rations, by April there were only 137 in the Maryland unit, and 68 in the corresponding one from Pennsylvania. Even so, abstracts of pay show that depending on the number of officers 591-623 pounds were paid out, the equivalent to approximately $86,800 to $91,400 today. [11] That is a sizable amount to say the least. This proves what one historian writes about the regiment: that it was one of the only pro-Crown regiments that was “regularly organized, officered, and paid.” [12] Even so, over the years, the soldiers in the regiment, dressed in “tatters and rags instead of uniforms” (in the summer of 1779), with many killed by smallpox in Pensacola, and the unit suffered a huge problem with desertion.

What the Library and Archives Canada can tell us

While there are varying resources, such as this page by the Loyalist Institute or the Orderly Book of the regiment from June to October 1778, the original records, specifically muster rolls, tell more of the story. [13] Unfortunately they basically begin in mid-1782 as attested on a spreadsheet I put together using microfilm from here and here, within this collection, on enlisted men and their officers in the Maryland “Loyalist” regiment. I can’t thank enough the Josée Belisle of the Registration and Reprography Unit at the Library and Archive Canada, telling me, after I requested copies that

The material you have requested above is already digitized and available online. There is no charge for material available on our website. Please note that you have to do your own research within the microfilm link to find the appropriate document. To make sure your reference matches the document, you have to rely on the page number on the document itself, not on the pagination provided from the microfilm link. Please note that any material provided online by LAC is restricted to research purposes or private study only. Users wishing to use the copies for any other purpose should inform themselves of Copyright regulations.

I would say this article falls under the “research purposes” and “private study” restrictions without a doubt.

By April 1782, Patrick Kennedy’s company, of which James Chalmers and Walter Dulany were part of, consisted of a small number of individuals, seemingly only numbering 29 individuals, three of which were prisoners of the Spanish. These three people were: Frederick Beehan, James Cummins, and John Ratcliff, while other documents listed William Wells, Thomas Clay, and Patrick Hervey as prisoners (who were in different companies). Otherwise, the rest of the company was intact.

Fast forward to June 1782. The names of 19 or 20 officers within the regiment was recorded as was the subsistence (money) due to the officers (non-commissioned and commissioned) and the regular soldiers. Also there was, likely that month, a listing of the men with the companies of Kennedy, Jones, Key, Frisby, and Addison, along with the Abstract of Subsistence due one Corporal and Six Private Men to the 24th of June 1782 Inclusive. These documents showed that there were six companies within the regiment, composed of the following officers:

Captain Patrick Kennedy — 2 sergeants, 2 corporals, 1 drummer, 17 soldiers (privates)

Caleb Jones — 2 sergeants, 2 corporals, 1 drummer, 18 soldiers (privates)

Philip Barton (B.) Key — 2 sergeants, 2 corporals, 1 drummer, 16 soldiers (privates)

James Frisby — 2 sergeants, 2 corporals, 1 drummer, 24 soldiers (privates)

Daniel D. Addison — 1 sergeant, 2 corporals, 1 drummer, 6 soldiers (privates)

The Vacant Company — 1 sergeant, 2 corporals, 1 drummer, 14 soldiers (privates)

Additionally, apart from Chalmers as the Lieutenant Colonel, Walter Dulany was the major, Levin Townsend and John Sterling as Lieutenants, William Sterling, John Henley, William Bowles, and John Stewart as Ensigns while John Patomon was chaplain, James Henby was adjutant, Thomas Welch was quartermaster, and William Stafford was Surgeons Mate.

October 1782

By October 1782 the muster rolls for all the companies, all of which were clearly not at full capacity, likely from fighting the Spanish and because they were at the “edge” of the British empire meaning that it was hard to get new recruits. They could keep getting pay for the Officers and Private Men but that wouldn’t change much about the loss within their ranks.

Starting with Patrick Kennedy’s company, none deserted that month, but those who had been prisoners with the Spanish rejoined the company. One man, John Patterson (same as John Patomon listed earlier), the Chaplain, was in Newton, while soldier James Orchard was in the hospital and soldier John Urguhart was sent to serve in James Frisby’s company. A reprint of that muster roll showed no differences among the enlisted men from the original.

Then we move onto Caleb Jones’s company. The original muster roll, and the reprint later on, showed just about everyone staying in the regiment, with one individual considered to be promoted (corporal Robert Harris) but it never happened. More significant were the five individuals who deserted in October: James Start, Darby Riggan, Thomas Pittut, Nathaniel Luign, and Joshua Townsend. Interestingly, two of them deserted on October 9 (Start and Riggan) and three on October 15 (Pittut, Luign, and Townsend), making it seem that there was a plan to desert, not just a singular instance. Perhaps they were deserting and giving information to the enemy (the Spanish) or were tired of fighting on the “edge” of the British empire. We will never know their true reasons. It is clear however that this desertion likely would not qualify them to be “patriots” under the existing DAR standards since they would have to either assist the cause of independence in some other way possibly by enlisting in the Continental line.

From there, we move onto Dulany Addison’s company. Again, the original muster roll and the reprint, don’t show much out of the ordinary. In the month of October one man, Ephraim Tilghman, likely a member of the Tilghman family of the Eastern Shore of Maryland, deserted, while James Coland died on August 11, 1782, ensign John Stewart was on leave in New York, and Lieutenant John Sterling moved to Frisby’s company.

The same month, those in James Frisby’s company were also recorded. The original muster roll and reprint tells an interesting story. Apart from the five soldiers who deserted during the month (James Lowe, Daniel Jones, James Murray, James Tindell, and Barnard Foster), and the two “on guard” (John Cauh and John Cayton), the captain, Frisby, seemed to be in some trouble. He was under arrest! It is clear that Frisby had testified to a court-martial before, but now he was taken away in hand cuffs. Already, according to M. Christopher News’s Maryland Loyalists in the American Revolution, other captains such as Sterling would be vying for his company, so he may have been under some pressure. He had been a captain of his company since 1777 and was a native to Kent County, Maryland. While varied sources mention him, most often only as one of the many “loyalists,” nothing more about his case is known.

Philip B. Key’s company had a different story even with its dwindling number of soldiers as attested by the original muster roll and reprint. During the month of October perhaps the soldiers were more disciplined as there no desertions. However, Captain Philip B. Key was sick, George Fettiplace was reduced in rank from serjeant, private Matthew Bennett was sick in camp, John Ink and John Henderson were on guard with Colonel James Chalmers, John Stephens was working with Captain Key, and Christian Smith was on guard. If you subtract the five privates who had other duties, there were only 11 privates in the company, undoubtedly short of their full capacity.

Finally there is the “vacant company” which was given that name due to the death or absence of a captain. The original muster roll and reprint, recorded in either October or November, showed the company without a captain or ensign but effectively commanded by lieutenant Levin Townsend. Like Key’s regiment, there were no desertions but two soldiers (George Wilkerson and Joseph Tallant) were on guard while James McGuire and John Synder were prisoners “with the Spaniards.” That left only 14 soldiers within the company, which again is a number lower than the full capacity of a company.

To end this section it is worth looking at the pay rolls for October 1782. These documents listed Ephraim Cunningham as injured, and listed all of the deserters:

Ephraim Tillman, Darby Riggan, James Start, James Lowe — October 9, 1782

Barnard Foster — October 10, 1782

Nathaniel Ledger, Thomas Pettit, Joshua Townsend, James Murray, James Tindell, and Daniel Jones — October 15, 1782

That’s a total of 11 deserters in October! The pay accounts also delineated the six companies and amount that was paid to those in each rank.

That brings us to the ranks from August to October 1782 document showing that the Lieutenant Colonel is paid the best and so on, with 591 pounds distributed among the men and their officers. Other documents made it clear that there was only 85 soldiers in the regiment, well short of the number to make a full and complete regiment.

December 1782

In December, the muster rolls of two companies were recorded: the “vacant company” and the other led by Caleb Jones. While the dates on both say “25 December 1783” it is clear these muster rolls really mean to say December 1782, with an error by the person writing it. For the “vacant company” little is said other than that Levin Townsend is going to England and that Daniel Fisher is in the hospital. The same goes for Caleb Jones’s company noting the enlistment of a new person as a soldier: Thomas Steeples on November 1, 1782 (further proving this muster roll is really in December 1782).

Interestingly neither muster roll shows desertion from the ranks of the respective companies. Perhaps this is due to some level of discipline within the ranks of the companies or that people had more dedication to the British crown in these companies than elsewhere.

February 1783

Lets start with Caleb Jones’s company. By February 24, 1783, nothing had changed among his ranks. But with other companies the story was different. For the “vacant company,” Daniel Fukes, a soldier, was in the general hospital while Levin Townsend, the captain, was in England.

For Dulany D. Addison, his company was very small. It only had eight individuals in all, half of which were soldiers. One man, Lewis Barrens? deserted on November 24, 1782. This likely hurt the morale in the existing company. Then there’s James Frisby’s company. Within his company, Ephraim Cunningham was promoted from serjeant to corporal, a step up in rank and pay. While no one deserted, John Coah died on February 13, 1783.

Then we get to Patrick Kennedy’s company, which had all sorts of problems. For one, Jacob Rogers and William Kelley were in the general hospital while James Orchard and James Cummins died on November 15, 1782. Additionally, Thomas Gray and Mark McNair deserted on November 24, 1782. So, his company was facing some hard times to be frank.

Finally there is Philip B. Key’s company, showing that Philip Key was still in England while George Fettiplace, then a soldier, was sick in New York. Also John Ink was apparently not working with Col. James Chalmers anymore and two individuals deserted:

James Henderson — November 3, 1782

Christian Smith — November 24, 1782

April 1783

In April there was a broad collection of muster rolls for varying companies in this regiment. Let’s start with Caleb Jones’s company. While Robert Laws and Joseph Newbourne were “on duty,” Robert Harris was promoted to serjeant, likely from his rank of private. Nothing else seems to have changed about Jones’s company by April.

As always, there is the “vacant company.” Again there were no desertions. However, Levin Townsend was in England while Ambrose Miles and Lawrence Messit were in the “general hospital.” Then there is Patrick Kennedy’s company. Apart from showing Nicholas Branch from the New Jersey volunteers (as was shown in February), Jacob Rodgers and William Kelley were in the “general hospital” while there was at least one desertion, the name(s) of which aren’t known because the paper is cut off at that point.

From here we move to muster rolls which both end in April. One covers a series of months and ends on April 24.

The first of these worth examining is for Dulany D. Addison‘s company. It again shows Lewis Barrens’s desertion and is a bit similar to the one from February, with little change. However, the second muster roll shows Jacob Ramson on duty, with no other changes.

The second of these is the muster roll of James Frisby’s company. While James Frisby was sick and Ephraim Cunningham was promoted, John Coah is noted as dying on February 13, 1783. No other changes from the previous muster roll is noted here. However, the second muster roll issued later that month notes that James Frisby resigned in March as a captain. As the previous search for Frisby turned up almost nothing, so it unlikely there are any writings, available online, about his resignation.

Finally there is Philip B. Key’s company. Again, little has changed from the previous muster roll as Philip B. Key is still in England and George Fettiplace is sick in New York. However, John Ink is again working with Col. James Chalmers but “present on parade.” The muster roll later that month is slightly different. It shows William Wells and Samuel Woodward “on guard” while John Ink is still with Col. James Chalmers, and George Fettiplace is restored to being a serjeant (by order of Col. Chalmers) even as he is still sick in New York. Nothing else seems to be changed as Philip B. Key is still in England.

June 1783

There is only one muster roll that falls into this category is for Patrick Kennedy’s company. It shows Lt. Col James Chalmers and Chaplain John Patterson in New York while William Kelley is in the “general hospital.” No other changes from the previous muster roll can be found.

Those pesky Continentals

From my research, mainly relying on articles by other scholars, there are (at least) five individuals (all soldiers) who seems to have deserted from their regiments in the Continental Army and joined the Maryland “Loyalist” Regiment.

On November 6, 1777, two men from the 8th Pennsylvania Regiment joined the MD regiment (Jacob Ringler and John Kelley), along with another man likely on that date from the same PA regiment: John Sullivan. Interestingly John Ringler deserted on February 27, 1778 from the MD Regiment and rejoined his old regiment the following month, from which he deserted in May 1778. A wild story if you tell me.

Then there’s Daniel Gill who deserted from his original regiment, and sailed with the MD regiment for Pensacola, West Florida. However, once in Jamaica, he deserted on December 16, 1778. While he did not rejoin his original regiment, he joined battalion of New Jersey Volunteers attached to provincial light infantry and proceeded to desert again on January 27, 1781.

Last but not least is Barnet Turner, whose bio I quoted earlier, talking about his possible service in the regiment:

Barnet Turner was born in 1749, in Ireland. In early 1776, at age 27, Turner enlisted as a private in Edward Veazey’s Seventh Independent Company. He was five feet, five and half inches tall…Turner served with his company at the Battle of Brooklyn in late August 1776…Turner’s fate at the Battle of Brooklyn is not known. On December 25, 1777, a man with the same name as Turner joined the Maryland Loyalists Regiment…If Turner had served in this regiment, he was there for only a short time, deserting on August 6, 1778, when it was en route to the eastern part of Long Island. Ultimately, further facts about Turner’s life cannot be ascertained.

After the war

With the Treaty of Paris in 1783, the Maryland “Loyalist” Regiment was disbanded. Many of the members of the regiment embarked for Nova Scotia (specifically New Brunswick) from New York on a ship called the HMS Martha. However, the ship wrecked in the Bay of Fundy after the captain refused to lower lifeboats until he could row away on his own, with over a hundred killed, with only 72 of the 137 Marylanders surviving. [14] As the survivors came to Nova Scotia with nothing left but promises of land and the clothes they were wearing, “cold, wet, hungry, and exhausted” while some historian declared years later: that this is “the price that came with being on the wrong side of history.” Todd W. Braisted wrote about this shipwreck specifically in the Journal of the American Revolution, telling more of the story:

…Five years later [in 1783], after campaigns primarily against the Spanish forces invading West Florida, the corps mustered less then ninety enlisted men. With preliminary articles of peace in the spring of 1783, their days as soldiers were coming to an end. And if they desired to remain living under His Majesty’s government, then they would need new homes…Those not wishing to leave received their discharges the first week of September, including sixteen of the Maryland Loyalists…Among them were 122 men, women and children from the Maryland Loyalists on the transport Martha, John Willis master…Besides the Maryland Loyalists, the Martha carried part of another Provincial regiment, DeLancey’s Brigade..,It would appear that the officers and men of the Maryland Loyalists and DeLancey’s were not the first survivors of the Martha to make it ashore…The troops from DeLancey’s would settle amongst the parishes of Northampton and Southampton, while the Maryland Loyalists drew lots on both sides of the mouth of the River Nashwaak, a tributary of the Saint John.

With this, the survivors settled in New Brunswick, specifically on the “east side of St John” and another grand near “the present town of Marysville.” [14] These who survived included Captain Caleb Jones, Philip Barton Key, “whose nephew was Francis Scott Key,” Captain Jonathan (John) Stirling who lived until age 76, dying in “St. Mary’s, York County, New Brunswick” just like his wife.

At the same time, Walter Dulany “returned to Maryland from England with his new wife, Elizabeth Brice Dulany,” in 1785, a woman who was the “widow of his uncle, Lloyd Dulany.” His wife even visited George Washington’s Mount Vernon that year, with Washington describing one of his guests as “Mrs. Dulany wife to Waltr. Dulany, lately from England came to Dinner, & stayed all Night.” I guess the fact they were on different sides during the war didn’t matter to Washington in 1785. As for James Chalmers, he was no longer welcome in the US, so he fled into exile, returning to England just like Dulaney Addison, a captain in the regiment. [16] There he rejoined the military, served as inspector general in the West Indies, did some writing and died in London in 1806, with Addison dying in the same place in 1808.

James Frisby likely went to Nova Scotia too. But he may have returned to Kent County by 1808 as a Richard Frisby, in Kent County, bought “seven negro men from James Frisby for five shillings” in 1802. In a note worth mentioning, Philip Barton Key returned to the United States and his seat in the Tenth Congress was contested since he was an “officer in the Maryland Loyalist Regiment” but he defended himself in a manner which might show a “changed viewpoint” [17]:

He said that his constituents knew the very circumstances of the follies of his early life, and his enemies had represented to them that, having been over twenty years ago in the British army, he was not a proper person to represent them. The people scouted the idea; they knew me from my infancy; but I had returned to my country, like the prodigal son to his father; had felt as an American should feel; was received, forgiven, of which the most convincing proof is my election to this house.

A conclusion

There are many other sources I could have used in this article including page 149 of Washington’s Immortals, page 49 of “Loyalists and Redcoats: A Study in British Revolutionary Policy,” and page 57 of Cliff Sloan and David McKean’s The Great Decision: Jefferson, Adams, Marshall, and the Battle for the Supreme Court (New York: PublicAffairs, 2010), among many others. [18] Clearly the Wikipedia pages for the “Maryland Loyalists Battalion” and James Chalmers are utterly worthless. The Maryland Historical Society has a number of records relating to Maryland sympathizers of the British Crown, as noted here, to name some of the important ones:

Fisher Transcripts – Maryland Loyalist Papers, 1771-90: transcriptions of Loyalist claims (MS360)

American Loyalist Claims (E277.C688)

Frederick County Treason Papers: Loyalist insurrection plot (MS576)

Maryland Loyalist Muster Rolls (MS548)

Meyer and Bachman, “First Battalion of Maryland Loyalists,”  Maryland Historical Magazine. Vol. 68, pp. 199-210 (MF176.M18)

Orderly Book of the “Maryland Loyalist Regiment”, June 18, 1778-Oct. 12, 1778 (MF185.M39)

Scharf Papers: Loyalist political activity during Revolution (MS1999)

Perhaps the Dulany Family Papers has something as well.

This is just a start on the Maryland Loyalist Regiment but it is something that definitely needs to be written. I look forward to your comments as always.

Update:

Searching about the Maryland “Loyalist” Regiment once again, I found another individual who has switched from a continental regiment to this regiment: John Jasper, a Marylander. He was said, as noted by research fellow Natalie Rose Miller, that he deserted from the First Maryland Regiment in early 1778 and enlisted in this regiment in May 1778, meaning that he undoubtedly fought with the regiment at Monmouth ad later at Pensacola. Apart from this, I also found one site noting the general history of the regiment:

Garrisoned Philadelphia and New York; 26 August 1776, Battle of Valley Grove Long Island; 1779-1781, Garrisoned Pensacola; 9 March-8 May 1781, Besieged at Pensacola Defeated and Surrendered to Spanish General Bernardo de Gálvez

Finally, I found a blog which chronicles the “Genealogy of United Empire Loyalists in New Brunswick, Canada” which has pages on the following members of this regiment:


Notes

[1] Report on American Manuscripts in the Royal Institution of Great Britain, 422; Stuart Salmon, “The Loyalist Regiments of the American Revolutionary War 1775-1783,” Ph.D Dissertation, 2009, University of Stirling,p.94.

[2] Salmon, “The Loyalist Regiments of the American Revolutionary War 1775-1783,” pp iii-vii, 55.

[3] David W. Guth, Bridging the Chesapeake: A ‘Fool Idea’ That Unified Maryland (Blomington, IN: Archway Publishing, 2017), 64.

[4] Sina Dubovoy, The Lost World of Francis Scott Key (Bloomington, IN: WestBow Press, 53; <Sabine, The American Loyalists, 410.

[5] Sabine, The American Loyalists, 633-634, 650; Report on American Manuscripts in the Royal Institution of Great Britain, 336, 423, 428.

[6] The latter link cites James Moody, Lieut. James Moody’s Narrative of his Exertions and Sufferings in the Cause of Government, since the Year 1776, Richardson and Urquhart (London, 1783), 8-9.

[7] Siebert, Wilbur H. “The Loyalists in West Florida and the Natchez District.” The Mississippi Valley Historical Review, vol. 2, no. 4, 1916, pp. 473;Guth, Bridging the Chesapeake, 64-65.

[8] René Chartrand, American Loyalist Troops 1775–84 (US: Osprey Publishing, 2008), 8, 14, 16; Siebert, “The Loyalists in West Florida and the Natchez District,” 474. Seibert talks about PA Loyalists at entrance to harbor

[9] Siebert, “The Loyalists in West Florida and the Natchez District,” 476.

[10] Sabine, The American Loyalists, 204; William Odber Raymond, The United Empire Loyalists, 36; Report on American Manuscripts in the Royal Institution of Great Britain, Vol. III (Hereford: Anthony Brothers Limited, 1907), 87, 107, 280; Siebert, “The Loyalists in West Florida and the Natchez District,” 481.

[11] “Subsistence Due the Commissioned and Non Commissioned Officers and Private Men from 25th June 1782 to the 24th of August, all days included being 61 days,” August 1782, British Military and Naval Records (RG 8, C Series) – DOCUMENTS, p. 8. Courtesy of Library and Archives Canada; “Abstract of 61 Days Pay for the Commissioned Staff and Noncommissioned Officers and Private Men from the 25th of June to the 24th of August 1782, inclusive,” August 1782, British Military and Naval Records (RG 8, C Series) – DOCUMENTS, p. 9. Courtesy of Library and Archives Canada. This calculation comes from 2016 US dollars according to Measuring Worth.

[12] Lorenzo Sabine, The American Loyalists: Or, Biographical Sketches of Adherents to the British Crown in the War of the Revolution; Alphabetically Arranged; with a Preliminary Historical Essay (Boston: Charles C. Little and James Brown, 1847), 60-61; Robert S. Allen, Loyalist Literature: An Annotated Bibliographic Guide to the Writings on the Loyalists of the American Revolution (Toronto: Dundurn Press Limited, 1982), 44. Other units created at the same time included the Roman Catholic Volunteers unit and the First Pennsylvania Loyalist Battalion/Regiment.

[13] For more see Ford, Paul Leicester, ed. Orderly Book of the “Maryland Loyalists Regiment” . . . 1778. Brooklyn: Historical Printing Club, 1891. The book is also mentioned here, here (full book), and here.

[14] Siebert, “The Loyalists in West Florida and the Natchez District,” 482; Guth, Bridging the Chesapeake, 65; William Odber Raymond, The United Empire Loyalists (St. Stephen, N.B.: Saint Croix Printing and Publishing Co., 1893), 38. The Provencal Archives of New Brunswick, Canada adds that “one unfortunate ship, the Martha, having on board detachments of the Maryland loyalists and of de Lancey’s third battalion, was wrecked on a ledge of rocks near Yarmouth, and out of 174 souls about 100 were lost. The other vessels arrived safely after a voyage of from ten to twelve days.”

[15] Sabine, The American Loyalists, 62, 634; Theodore Corbett, Revolutionary Chestertown: Loyalists and Rebels on Maryland’s Eastern Shore (Charleston, SC: The History Press, 2014), 120; William Odber Raymond, The United Empire Loyalists, 43.

[16] Guth, Bridging the Chesapeake, 65; Sabine, The American Loyalists, 118.

[17] Maryland in Prose and Poetry: Recitations and Readings Pertaining to the State, pp 222-223.

[18] Other sources include: Kathleen DuVal, Independence Lost: Lives on the Edge of the American Revolution (New York: Random House, 2016, paperback), 113-114, 155, 165, 182, 204, 215; issue 68 in 1973, article in Maryland Historical Magazine by Mayer and Bachmann titled “The First Battalion of Maryland Loyalists”); Murtie Jane Clark, Loyalists in the Southern Campaign of the Revolutionary War (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1981), 16-17; Mary K. Meyer and Virginia B. Bachman, “Genealogica Marylandia: The First Battalion of Maryland Loyalists,” Maryland Historical Magazine Vol. 68, No. 2, summer 1973, 199, 209; M. Christopher New, Maryland Loyalists in the American Revolution (Centreville, Maryland: Tidewater Publishers, 1996), xi, xii, 20, 45-46, 49-51, 57-58, 63, 65, 82-83, 89-95, 100, 151, 148; Albert W. Haarmann, “The Siege of Pensacola: An Order of Battle,” The Florida Historical Quarterly 44, no. 3 (1966): 193-199; Timothy James Wilson, “”Old Offenders:” Loyalists in the Lower Delmarva Peninsula, 1775-1800″ (PhD diss., University of Toronto, 1998), 116, 179-180, 182-183; Richard Arthur Overfield, “Loyalists of Maryland During the American Revolution” (PhD diss., University of Maryland College Park, 1968), 207, 214-215, 234, 237-238, 243; Robert Mann, Wartime Dissent in America: A History and Anthology (New York: Palgrave Macmillian, 2010), 15-17; David H. White, “The Spaniards and William Augustus Bowles in Florida, 1799-1803,” The Florida Historical Quarterly 54, no. 2 (1975): 145-155; Major Walter Dulany, Maryland Loyalists to General Carleton, New York 13 April 1783, PRO 30/55/10078; nd Major Walter Dulany, Maryland Loyalists to General Carleton, New York 13 April 1783, PRO 30/55/10078. Sadly I can’t access this, this or this.

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Favoring the British Crown: enslaved Blacks, Annapolis, and the run to freedom

This watercolour sketch by Captain William Booth, Corps of Engineers, is the earliest known image of an African Nova Scotian. He was probably a resident of Birchtown. According to Booth’s description of Birchtown, fishing was the chief occupation for “these poor, but really spirited people.” Those who could not get into the fishery worked as labourers, clearing land by the acre, cutting cordwood for fires, and hunting in season. Image and caption are courtesy of the Nova Scotia Archives, used within fair use limits of copyright law.

In 1777, William Keeling, a 34 year old Black man ran away from Grumbelly Keeling, a slaveowner on the Eastern Shore of Virginia, which covers a very small area. [1] The Keelings were an old maritime family within Princess Anne County. William, and possibly his wife Pindar, a “stout wench” as the British described her, would be evacuated July 1783 on the Clinton ship from New York with British troops and other supporters of the British Crown (“Loyalists”) likely to somewhere in Canada. [2] They were not the only ones. This article does not advocate for the “loyalist” point of view, but rather just tells the story of Blacks who joined the British Crown in a quest to gain more freedom from their bondage rather than the revolutionary cause. [3]

Black families go to freedom

There were a number of other Black families that left the newly independent colonies looking for freedom. Many of these individuals, described by slaveowners as “runaways,” had fled to British lines hoping for Freedom. Perhaps they saw the colonies as a “land of black slavery and white opportunity,” as Alan Taylor put it, seeing the British Crown as their best hope of freedom. [4] After all, slavery was legal in every colony, up to the 1775, and continuing throughout the war, even as it was discouraged in Massachusetts after the Quock Walker decision in 1783. They likely saw the Patriots preaching for liberty and freedom as hypocrites, with some of the well-off individuals espousing these ideals owning many humans in bondage.

There were 26 other Black families who passed through Annapolis on their way north to Nova Scotia to start a new life. When they passed through the town, they saw as James Thatcher, a Surgeon of the Continental Army described it on August 11, 1781, “the metropolis of Maryland, is situated on the western shore at the mouth of the river Severn, where it falls into the bay.”

The Black families ranged from 2 to 4 people. Their former slavemasters were mainly concentrated in Portsmouth, Nansemond, Crane Island, Princess Ann/Anne County, and Norfolk, all within Virginia, as the below chart shows:

Not included in this chart, made using the ChartGo program, and data from Black Loyalist, are those slaveowners whose location could not be determined or those in Abbaco, a place which could not be located. [5] It should actually have two people for the Isle of Wight, and one more for Norfolk, VA, but I did not tabulate those before creating the chart using the online program.

Of these slaveowners, it is clear that the Wilkinson family was Methodist, as was the Jordan family, but the Wilkinsons were “originally Quakers” but likely not by the time of the Revolutionary War. The Wilkinson family was suspected as being Loyalist “during the Revolution” with  “Mary and Martha Wilkinsons (Wilkinson)… looked on as enemies to America” by the pro-revolutionary “Patriot” forces. However, none of the “Wilkinsons became active Loyalists.” Furthermore, the Willoughby family may have had some “loyalist” leanings, with other families were merchant-based and had different leanings. At least ten of the children of the 26 families were born as “free” behind British lines while at least 16 children were born enslaved and became free after running away for their freedom. [6]

Beyond this, it is worth looking at how the British classified the 31 women listed in the Book of Negroes” compiled in 1783, of which Annapolis was one of the stops on their way to Canada. Four were listed as “likely wench[s]” , four as “ordinary wench[s]”, 18 as “stout wench[s]”, and five as other. Those who were “likely wench[s]” were likely categorized as “common women” (the definition of wench) rather than “girl, young woman” since all adult women were called “wench” without much exception. [7] As for those called “ordinary” they would belong to the “to the usual order or course” or were “orderly.” The majority were “stout” likely meaning that they were proud, valiant, strong in body, powerfully built, brave, fierce, strong in body, powerfully built rather than the “thick-bodied, fat and large, bulky in figure,” a definition not recorded until 1804.

Fighting for the British Crown

Tye Leading Troops as dramatized by PBS. Courtesy of Black Past.

When now-free Blacks, most of whom were formerly enslaved, were part of the evacuation of the British presence from the British colones from New York, leaving on varying ships, many of them had fought for the British Crown within the colonies. Among those who stopped by Annapolis on their way North to Canada many were part of the Black Brigade or Black Pioneers, more likely the latter than the former.

The Black Pioneers had fought as part of William Howe’s army, along with “black recruits in soldiers in the Loyalist and Hessian regiments” during the British invasion of Philadelphia. This unit also provided “engineering duties in camp and in combat” including cleaning ground used for camps, “removing obstructions, digging necessaries,” which was not glamorous but was one of the only roles they played since “Blacks were not permitted to serve as regular soldiers” within the British Army. While the noncommissioned officers of the unit were Black, commissioned officers were still white, with tank and file composed mainly of “runaways, from North and South Carolina, and a few from Georgia” and was allowed as part of Sir Henry Clinton‘s British military force, as he promised them emancipation when the war ended. The unit itself never grew beyond 50 or go men, with new recruits not keeping up from those who “died from disease and fatigue” and none from fighting in battle since they just were used as support, sort of ” garbage men” in places like Philadelphia. The unit, which never expanded beyond one company, was boosted when Clinton issued the “Phillipsburgh Proclamation,” decreeing that Blacks who ran away from “Patriot” slavemasters and reached British lines were free, but this didn’t apply to Blacks owned by “Loyalist” slavemasters or those in the Continental army who were  “liable to be sold by the British.” In December 1779, the Black Pioneers met another unit of the same type, was later merged with the Royal North Carolina Regiment, and was disbanded in Nova Scotia, ending their military service, many settling in Birchtown, named in honor of Samuel Birch, a Brigadier General who provides the “passes that got them out of America and the danger of being returned to slavery.” Thomas Peters, Stephen Bluke, and Henry Washington are the best known members of the Black Pioneers.

The Black Brigade was more “daring in action” than the Black Pioneers or Guides. Unlike the 300-person Ethiopian Regiment (led by Lord Dunmore), this unit was a “small band of elite guerillas who raided and conducted assassinations all across New Jersey” and was led by Colonel Tye who worked to exact “revenge against his old master and his friends” with the title of Colonel a honorific title at best. Still, he was feared as he raided “fearlessly through New Jersey,” and after Tye took a “musket ball through his wrist” he died from gangrene in late 1780, at age 27. Before that happened, Tye, born in 1753, would be, “one of the most feared and respected military leaders of the American Revolution” and had escaped to “New Jersey and headed to coastal Virginia, changing his name to Tye” in November 1775 and later joined Lord Dunmore, The fighting force specialized in “guerilla tactics and didn’t adhere to the rules of war at the time” striking at night, targeting slaveowners, taking supplies, and teaming up with other British forces. After Tye’s death, Colonel Stephen Blucke of the Black Pioneers replaced him, continuing the attacks long after the British were defeated at Yorktown.

After the war

Many of the stories of those who ended up in Canada and stopped in Annapolis are not known. What is clear however is that “an estimated 75,000 to 100,000 black Americans left the 13 states as a result of the American Revolution” with these refugees scattering “across the Atlantic world, profoundly affecting the development of Nova Scotia, the Bahamas, and the African nation of Sierra Leone” with some supporting the British and others seized by the British from “Patriot” slaveowners, then resold into slavery within the Caribbean sea region. Hence, the British were not the liberators many Blacks thought them to be.Still, after the war, 400-1000 free Blacks went to London, 3,500 Blacks and 14,000 Whites left for Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, where Whites got more land than Blacks, some of whom received no land at all. Even so, “more than 1,500 of the black immigrants settled in Birchtown, Nova Scotia,” making it the largest free Black community in North America, which is why the “Birchtown Muster of Free Blacks” exists. Adding to this, these new Black refugees in London and Canada had a hard time, with some of those in London resettled in Sierra Leone in a community which survived, and later those from Canada, with church congregations emigrating, “providing a strong institutional basis for the struggling African settlement.” After the war, 2,000 white Loyalists, 5,000 enslaved Blacks, and 200 free Blacks left for Jamaica, including 28 Black Pioneers who “received half-pay pensions from the British government.” As for the Bahamas, 4,200 enslaved Blacks and 1,750 Whites from southern states came into the county, leading to tightening of the Bahamian slave code.

As one historian put, “we will never have precise figures on the numbers of white and black Loyalists who left America as a result of the Revolution…[with most of their individual stories are lost to history [and] some information is available from pension applications, petitions, and other records” but one thing is clear “the modern history of Canada, the Bahamas, and Sierra Leone would be greatly different had the Loyalists not arrived in the 1780s and 1790s.” This was the result of, as Gary Nash, the “greatest slave rebellion of North American slavery” and that the “high-toned rhetoric of natural rights and moral rectitude” accompanying the Revolutionary War only had a “limited power to hearten the hearts of American slave masters.” [8]

While there are varied resources available on free Blacks from the narratives of enslaved people catalogued and searchable by the Library of Virginia, databases assembled by the New England Historic Genealogical Society or resources listed by the Virginia Historical Society, few pertain to the specific group this article focuses on. Perhaps the DAR’s PDF on the subject, the Names in Index to Surry County Virginia Register of Free Negroes, and the United Empire Loyalists Association of Canada (UELAC) have certain resources.

While this does not tell the entire story of those Black families who had left the colonies, stopping in Annapolis on the way, in hopes of having a better life, it does provide an opening to look more into the history of Birchtown, (also see here) and other communities in Canada and elsewhere. [9]

Notes

[1] Grumbelly was related to Capt. Keelings (of Princess Ann/Anne County, VA), x of whose people in bondage ran away to join the British lines” Argyll (joined Roal Artillery Department) and Robert. Grumbelly is also within this book. It would make sense it is Virginia’s Eastern Shore rather than Maryland’s, although this cannot be confirmed. William was undoubtedly one of many who was part of a small plantation within this area.

[2] Other would be evacuated on the La Aigle. His bio says that “William Keeling is assumed to be the husband of Pindar Keeling. They travel near to each other on board the Clinton and despite the presence of other Keelings, they are not listed in the Birchtown Muster.” Perhaps they settled in a different area or died on the voyage North. Pindar was formerly bound to a Norfolk slaveowner named Willis Ball. One transcript of the manifest says  “William Keeling, 40, feeble fellow. Formerly the property of Grumbelly Keeling of the East Shore, Virginia; left him 6 years ago. GBC.” This being the case, then it makes sense that he cannot be found in Maryland records. It also clarifies that on 31 July 1783 the Clinton was Clinton bound for Annapolis [Royal, Nova Scotia] & St. John’s [Saint John, New Brunswick]. This means it was going to Nova Scotia ultimately. The GHOTES Genealogy and History of the Eastern Shore group on Facebook lists 38 enslaved blacks who had left New York, originally enslaved in the Eastern Shore (presumably Virginia’s).

[3] The word “loyalist” is used in quoation marks as it is an inexact term, and like Patriot it was used positively by those supporting the British Crown. Instead, the term supporter of the British Crown or any of its derivatives is used instead.

[4] Alan Taylor, American Revolutions: A Continental History, 1750-1804 (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2016), 21-22; A. Leon Higginbotham, Jr., In the Matter of Color: Race & The American Legal Process: the Colonial Period(New York: Oxford University Press, 1980), 91-95, 98-99

[5] Specifically referring to Abbaco (John Rootes, Benjamin Guy), and unknown location (Solomon Slaughter, William Causins, Francis Wright, John Morris, Thomas Fisher. Here the locations of those included in the above chart: Norfolk, Virginia (John Hirst, Matthew Godfrey, Robert Gilmore, Samuel Bush [Boush], John Willoughby, David McClaurin, William Mallery, William EgersonJames Hunter, Edward Hack Moseley [Mozely], Joseph Mitchell, Thomas Newton Snr, Robert Barns, Charles Connor, Samuel Elliot Simon Hogwood, William Hancock, Archibald Campbell or Arthur Campbell., Thomas Hoggart/Hogwood, Mr. Scarborough, Stephen TankardWilliam Hogwood/Hopgood Sr.);  Nansemond, Virginia (Mills Wilkinson, Henry Burgess, Solomon Sheppard, Willis Wilkinson); Crane Island, Virginia (William Connor, George Robertson, Andrew Stewart [Stuart]); Portsmouth, Virginia (Willis Wilson, Andrew Sproule, Richard Brown); South Carolina (Captain Hullet, Bland Steward);  Princess Anne/Ann County, Virginia (Edward Moseley John Loveat); Pennsylvania (James Stewart); Mecklenburgh, Virginia (Richard Sweepston); Dismal Swamp (James Wright Moore); Petersburg, Virginia (John Holloway); Tanners Creek, Virginia (Anthony Walker [Walke]); Isle of Wight (Richard Jordan, Andrew Mckay); Suffolk, Virginia (Lambert Reddick); Greatbridge, Virginia (Alexander Foreman).

[6] The ten children born free were: Jonny, Patty, John Ceasor, Peter, Robert, George, Harry, Jonathan, Sally Nelis, and Agnes Reddick. The 16 born enslaved were: Sam, Ned, Lettius, Mary, Prudence, Edward, Valentine Nanny, Judy, Joseph ReddickElsey Reddick, Joseph, Jenny, AndrewPhebe,and Dempse.

[7] The “likely wench[s]” were Phillis, Seelah, Kitty, and Phillis Gordon. The “ordinary wench[s]” were Pleasant, Betsey, Molly (incurably lame of left arm), and Rose Wright. The “stout wench[s]” were Esther, Dorothy Bush, Mary Perth, Hannah Flemming, Fanny Brown (“Stout Lump of a Wench“), Wynce Gordon, Jane Halladay, Barbara Hancock, Peggy (“stout wench with 3 children 8, 5 and 4 months”), Rachel, Tilla Mosley, Patty Mosley (“stout wench,with child 2months“), Dinah Mitchell (“Stout healthy Negres with child in her arms. Left Charlestown from whence she was ordered by Dr. Humphry of the York Volunteers. then the property of Mitchel”), Jane Nelis, Nancy, Tamar Stewart (“stout wench, 3 small children“), Peggy Richards, Judith Johnson, and Dolly Wilkinson (“stout wench on her own bottom“). Patience was called a “likely girl,” Nancy Howard was called a “neat wench,” Chloe Johnson was called a “fine girl,” Nancy Sparrow was called a “feeble wench” and Mary Steel was called a “fine wench.”

[8] Gary Nash, Red, White & Black: The Peoples of Early North America (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2000, Fourth Edtion), 276. On pages 274-279, Nash focuses on Black “Loyalists,” while on pages 280-284 he focuses on Blacks who stayed in America.

[9] The Nova Scotia archives has varied results when one searches for “Birchtown.”