“Loyalist Trails” 2016-19: May 8, 2016

In this issue:
Conference 2016: Loyalists, Lighthouses & Lobsters
Spies and Refugees on Board the Asia (Part 2 of 4), by Stephen Davidson
Borealia: Empire by Collaboration
JAR: Temper, Temper: Officers and Gentlemen Go Berserk
Where in the World?
Region and Branch Bits
From the Twittersphere and Beyond
Editor’s Note


Conference 2016: Loyalists, Lighthouses & Lobsters

The 2016 UELAC Conference in Summerside PEI will be hosted by the Branches of the Atlantic Region: Abegweit, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia on July 7-10.

Information about the conference, including the registration form, is now available read here.

Spies and Refugees on Board the Asia (Part 2 of 4)

© Stephen Davidson, UE

On the evening of August 23, 1775, a group of rebels stealthily approached the Battery, a fortification on the southern tip of Manhattan Island. Their mission: to seize the twenty-one cannons before the British commandeered them. Having received reports from his spies that the rebels might try to capture the Battery’s guns, Captain Vandeput sent some of his men in a boat to keep an eye on the shore. The British were not the only ones ready for a fight. Aware that the Asia might try to stop them, Captain Lamb of the Provincial Artillery prepared his men for the possibility of an attack from the man-of-war.

Just after midnight the rebels carried off the first of the Battery’s cannon. A British musket fired, a shot that Vandeput would later maintain was merely a signal to the Asia. However, the nervous rebels thought that they were being attacked. They fired back, killing one of the Asia‘s crew. The situation quickly escalated.

The Asia fired three of its cannon on the Battery. Some nearby buildings received minor damage, but it was not Vandeput’s intent to harm the city — merely to scare off the raiders at the battery. Nevertheless, rebels spread the alarm that the city was under attack.

Hugh McGregor remembered this day. The Scottish immigrant had just arrived in New York, his first stop on the way to New Johnston in Tryon County. McGregor would not enjoy his nine-acre homestead for very long. He joined the loyalist cause and fled to Canada in 1780. He served with the engineer’s department on Lake Champlain “all the war”. After 1783, McGregor settled in Lower Canada. When he made claims for compensation five years later, he described his first day in North America as the day “when the Asia fired on the town.”

It was an unforgettable day for New Yorkers, too. They were thrown into a panic. Patriot drums called men to arms and church bells rang in alarm. Gathering up what they could carry, hundreds of frightened citizens fled out of range of the Asia‘s guns to the safety of the countryside.

Outraged by the “attack”, rebels formed a mob that sought out a target to avenge the Asia‘s assault on the Battery. Unable to seize Tryon, Colden, or Matthews (the city’s loyalist mayor), the mob surrounded the home of Dr. Myles Cooper, the outspoken loyalist president of King’s College. They threatened to take him from his bed, cut off his ears, slit his nose, and strip him naked. Cooper managed to escape out a back window, fleeing across Manhattan in his nightshirt. He hid in the old Stuyvesant mansion near the East River until he could find refuge on the Asia.

In the morning’s light, Governor Tryon hastily convened a meeting between Vandeput and local officials to smooth over the affair. Although things calmed down, one local minister reported that city looked as deserted as it might in the midst of a plague. The political skies were beginning to darken with the clouds of war.

Within weeks of the rebel seizure of the Battery’s cannons, Captain Vandeput received orders from Admiral Graves in Boston, “to seize and keep in safe custody any Continental Congress delegates, any Rebel General Officers or the chief radical leaders in New York”. While there are no records of Vandeput arresting any rebels, loyalists began to flock to the Asia in greater numbers to escape persecution from their patriot neighbours.

Ephraim Sandford of Salem, Westchester County, “suffered from his Sentiments being known in favour of {the} British Government”. He “went on Board the Asia to take Refuge” in 1775, staying there until the arrival of the British fleet in 1776. He later recruited 63 men for the British army, becoming a captain in the Queen’s Rangers. At the end of the Revolution, Sandford spent time Nova Scotia, England, and New Brunswick. He finally settled in Canada, making his appeal for compensation in Montreal in the fall of 1787.

Two other New York loyalists are noted as having found sanctuary on the Asia. Both men would later leave families to grieve for them.

Alexander Grant came to the New World with Col. Montgomery’s Scottish Highlanders to fight in the Seven Years War. At its conclusion in 1763, he decided to stay in the thirteen colonies, making his new home in New York’s Dutchess County. He married Sarah Kent, the daughter of the Rev. Elisha Kent and Abigail Moss. Sarah was just twenty when she gave birth to the couple’s first child, Robert. Helen was born in the next year, followed by Elizabeth in 1771. Lucy, the last of the Grant children, was born in 1774 just before the “Troubles” began.

Being “firmly attached to Great Britain”, Major Alexander Grant “never made any submission to the rebels”. His loyalist stance would forever determine the direction of his four children’s lives. Rebels arrested Alexander Grant of Dutchess County while he was visiting in Massachusetts. Grant barely escaped being imprisoned in the Simsbury copper mines, an infamous underground penitentiary for loyalists. He broke out of jail and found sanctuary on the Asia. Grant later commanded 100 loyalists whom he had recruited on Staten Island and became a major in the New York Volunteers. His service to the crown was such that in later years it was noted “the services of … Major Grant are well known to all the army.” Grant died on October 6, 1777 when his regiment attacked New York’s Fort Montgomery. His widow and orphans later found sanctuary in Nova Scotia.

Peter Harris of Poughkeepsie, New York had to take shelter on the Asia after the “breaking out of the troubles”. His patriot neighbours did not appreciate his successes in recruiting for the crown. Thinking he was safe from harm, Harris returned home where rebels arrested him. The loyalist managed to escape his captors, and once again found refuge on the British man-of-war. Poughkeepsie’s rebels then banished Sarah Harris, and she eventually joined her husband in New York City. Within two years, Harris died, never knowing how the Revolution ended. Sarah left the Thirteen Colonies to settle in Nova Scotia with other loyalists.

In September of 1775, Governor Tryon learned of a rebel plot to have him kidnapped and then imprisoned in Connecticut. Knowing that New York City would doubtless be fired upon in reprisal, the governor decided to move his headquarters to the safety of the Duchess of Gordon that was anchored off of Staten Island near the Asia. The man-of-war’s 64 guns made sure that rebels saw the futility of any further plans to abduct their loyal governor.

Although the patriots controlled who had access to Tryon, they allowed him to receive visitors from the city. Among these guests were loyalist spies. One of them was Benjamin Ogden, a New York carpenter, who had been arrested in 1775 for being “a friend of Government”. Azor Betts, a fellow loyalist, later testified that Ogden was “the first man he thinks {was} apprehended and confined on account of his loyalty at New York.”

Ogden would later be “confidentially employed” by Tryon. Forced to leave his wife and family in the city, the carpenter lived for a time on the Asia and then the Duchess of Gordon. Rebels promptly seized all of Ogden’s furniture and tools (the latter were plentiful enough to supply 12 to 20 men). Rachel Ogden and her four children gathered up what was left of their possessions and joined Benjamin on Staten Island. Ogden’s service to the crown ranged from espionage to recruitment –and finally to a commission as a lieutenant in Governor Brown’s Brigade. He was killed during the battle at Hanging Rock in South Carolina in 1780.

Rachel Ogden married Timothy Wetmore and settled in New Brunswick with her son Andrew. Three of her children, Rachel (Mrs. George) Wetmore, Benjamin Jr. and Albert established themselves in Antigonish, Nova Scotia. Albert Ogden eventually returned to the United States, becoming a merchant in the city where his father had once found refuge on the Asia.

Read more about the Asia and the loyalists who boarded her in next week’s Loyalist Trails.

To secure permission to reprint this article, email Stephen Davidson.

Borealia: Empire by Collaboration – A Collaborative Review

Empire by Collaboration: Indians, Colonists, and Governments in Colonial Illinois Country, by Robert Michael Morrissey (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2015).

Reviewed by Robert Englebert.

I recently had an opportunity to discuss Robert Michael Morrissey’s new book Empire by Collaboration: Indians, Colonists, and Governments in Colonial Illinois Country with my senior level seminar on French-Indigenous relations in colonial North America. The following represents the product of our group musings rather than simply my own thoughts, and for full disclosure it is important to note that I am listed in the acknowledgments for his book. Still, I hope that the following will be useful for those seeking to unpack this fascinating new work on Illinois Country history.

The first thing that grabbed us was the wonderful accessibility of the writing. Morrissey has a true talent for word-smithing and this book should appeal to a broad audience. Beneath its prosaic veneer, however, is a remarkably nuanced work that is sophisticated in its engagement with ethnohistory, New France, and Illinois Country history. Indigenous power and agency, imperial power and governance, slavery, environment, and a host of other themes all combine to provide a detailed reinterpretation of the development and emergence of empire in the Illinois Country — a vast region encompassing the Wabash, Illinois, and middle Mississippi rivers.

Read the review.

[Even at a quick glance, this review highlights (as I am sure the book does even more) how much depth there is to our history before the American Revolution. With a Loyalist’s focus on that era, others tend to get somewhat short shrift. — Ed.]

JAR: A Prisoner’s Poem: Philip Freneau’s Account of a British Prison Ship

By Michelle Porter, May 3, 2016

Most veterans have an aversion to publicly telling their traumatic experiences, preferring instead to let sleeping devils lie. Philip Freneau, however, was a professional writer and poet, not an enlisted soldier. Perhaps that is why he decided to tell his tale of terror twice—once in prose and once in poetry.

History is blurry about just how deeply Freneau was involved in the Revolution. He is listed as “Private; Serjeant [sic]” in the First Regiment of Monmouth (New Jersey) militia from 1778 thru 1780. Some maintain that having obtained letters of marque and reprisal from the Continental Congress, Freneau set about to privateer in the West Indies. Yet his surviving writings do not clearly mention this naval service. What is known is that one afternoon in late May of 1780, he was on deck of the newly-christened Aurora,[8] cruising down the Delaware Bay, bound for the West Indies.

Read about Freneau and The British Prison Ship.

Where in the World?

Where is Gov. Simcoe Branch member Jo Ann Tuskin?

To participate, submit a photo of yourself in UELAC promotional gear at a place of some note and tell us where it is (if you are a member of a branch, please indicate that as well). Send your submission to the editor at loyalist.trails@uelac.org.

Region and Branch Bits

From the UELAC branches, news and events of interest to others.

  • Bay of Quinte Re-enactment Encampment:
    • Come join us for A Walk Through Time: 1750-1800, a re-enactment event, on the weekend of May 28 & 29, 2016 at the UEL Heritage Centre and Park in historic Adolphustown. The camps will be open to the public 10- 5 Saturday and Sunday, and 7-9 Saturday evening to see the camps in the beautiful candle light and enjoy chatting by a fire. The encampment will feature civilian re-enactors and sutlers covering the periods of the French & Indian Wars, Revolutionary War, and the early Regency Period. It will show life during those periods, clothing styles, several demonstrations by workers, and presentations.
    • There will be 15 minute talks on a variety of subject including history in these time periods, skills and trades, and everyday life. Also ongoing demonstrations of daily life will occur including sewing, cast iron cooking on a fire, spinning wool, doll making, leather work, a fashion show, woodworking and a foundry. A variety of sutlers (merchants) will have goods for sale that could have been sold during these time periods. Please bring cash for your purchases.
    • This is an event that will have something for visitors of all ages to see and experience over the weekend. There will be a small admission fee at the gate to the UELHCP grounds each day.
    • For more information or if you would like to participate in the encampment, contact us by email adolphustownwalk@gmail.com or call Suzanne at 613-376-3908 or Sharon at 613-924-6090.
  • June 10-12 Port of Bath Gunboat Weekend, a marine heritage festival at Bath ON (near Kingston)

From the Twittersphere and Beyond

  • Old postcard of historic United Empire Loyalist statue in Hamilton, Ontario
  • George Washington ran Mount Vernon in the same manner he managed the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War and the new American government as the nation’s first president: through careful time management, a close attention to detail, and a taskmaster’s sense of duty. Thus it is no little surprise that Washington set the most accurate time piece available to eighteenth century Americans, a sundial, at the heart of his plantation. Read about the sundial.

Editor’s Note

It is time for a respite. I am at the airport on Saturday evening, trying to get this newsletter set up to distribute before boarding a plane to the Baltic. I am a little hurried, so please pardon any errata or omissions.