“Loyalist Trails” 2016-21: May 22, 2016
In this issue:
– Conference 2016
– Spies and Refugees on Board the Asia (Part 4 of 4), by Stephen Davidson
– Borealia: Early Canadian Environmental History Series
– JAR: The Loyalist Exodus of 1778 [from South Carolina]
– Where in the World?
– Region and Branch Bits
– From the Twittersphere and Beyond
– Editor’s Note
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.
© Stephen Davidson, UE
The Asia, which had struck so much fear in the patriots of New York City, was small compared to other vessels in the British armada. The fleet that was anchored off of Staten Island in 1776 numbered 400 ships and 73 war ships. These vessels made up the greatest expeditionary force of the 18th century, the largest, most powerful armada ever sent forth from Britain or any other nation. A total of 32,000 troops disembarked at Staten Island, a trained force that outnumbered the population of New York City. Local loyalists could not help but believe that the Revolution was in its dying days.
On the morning of August 27th, the British launched their attack on the colony. George Washington, who was in Brooklyn at the time, saw the Asia and four other ships sailing up the East River. By noon the British were victorious. Within three days, the patriots had lost the Battle of Long Island. On September 15, British troops stepped ashore onto Manhattan Island near the same house to which Myles Cooper had fled in August of 1775.
As soldiers marched through the streets of New York, the Asia and two other vessels sailed up the North River to attack the rebel battery at Paulus Hook. Patriot fire ships failed to set Vandeput’s vessel aflame, and by the end of the day, New York City had become the new headquarters for the British forces in the Thirteen Colonies.
Loyalists still made their way to the Asia, but now it was to enlist. Up until the Revolution, William Harding had been providing for his young family by transporting goods along the Hudson River in a sloop. After settling in Saint John, the Irish immigrant later testified that he “went on board the Asia and joined the British at New York soon after it was taken.” Harding initially served the crown as a pilot. Later, he enlisted with Captain Ward’s regiment, was wounded, and then imprisoned in chains in a dungeon for three weeks.
Colin Hamilton, a native of New York City, recounted his war record to the RCLSAL when it convened in Montreal in 1788. He also had enlisted on board the Asia. Chief among his memories of his going to the man-of-war was that he brought nothing with him — not even his carpenter’s tools or clothes. Hamilton served in the 84th Regiment throughout the Revolution and eventually settled in modern-day Cornwall, Ontario. John Hamilton, a fellow Scottish immigrant and loyalist, boarded the Asia the same day as Colin, but his service to the crown was not recorded.
While the Asia‘s more dramatic adventures in New York City were drawing to a close, the man-of-war received a notation in the records of Long Island patriots. Sometime around 1776, the rebels had been systematically disarming the loyalists of Queen’s County. Their efforts were thwarted, however, by the fact that the Asia was promptly replacing the confiscated arms. Benjamin Whitehead, Dr. Charles Arden, Joseph French and John Polhemus, all loyalists of Long Island, were consequently summoned before the provincial congress to explain why they had accepted weapons from the British man-of-war.
In 1776, Joseph French was placed under guard for 34 days with no less than 12 men and an officer keeping an eye on him. The fact that French distributed the money used to raise a corps of loyalists at Tryon’s request did not garner him any favour with the local patriots. Dr. Arden was later tried for “persuading other adherents of the Crown to have no concern with congress”, but he managed to make his escape to England before the Revolution was over. In 1783, Polhemus led a company of loyalists to settle in Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia.
The Asia was finally ordered home in January of 1777. Its three year mission in the Thirteen Colonies had made its captain and crew witnesses to some of the most crucial events of the American Revolution. Although the man-of-war is only given the briefest of references in history books, the ship was remembered vividly by at least twenty loyalists. To them, the Asia would always be a source of sanctuary and a site of war-time service.
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There is one last footnote to the story of the Asia and American loyalists. A Black Loyalist named Richard Corankapone Wheeler would encounter the Asia in Sierra Leone on the coast of West African in 1800. Twenty-four years earlier, 23 year-old Wheeler bought his freedom and then joined the loyalist side of the American Revolution, serving the crown for seven years. After settling in New Brunswick, Wheeler began to use his African name, Corankapone. News from England in 1791 prompted Corankapone and his fellow Black Loyalists to sail for Halifax to join other African settlers in Nova Scotia to sail eastward to Sierra Leone. British abolitionists offered the refugees a unique solution to their unjust treatment — the opportunity to found a free, Christian colony on the shores of West Africa.
On Sunday, January 15, 1792, Richard Corankapone and 1,190 other Africans began a two-month journey that included violent storms, fatal diseases, and near encounters with slave ships. Corankapone’s leadership qualities were obviously recognized by those in authority as well as by his peers. During the terms of the three governors that were appointed for Sierra Leone, he served as both a marshal and a constable.
In 1800, some of the Black Loyalist settlers launched a rebellion. Corankapone and another marshal went to arrest the rebel leaders. As he had in 1776, Corankapone fought for the governing authority of the day, serving with the loyalist forces.
The loyal Africans received some unexpected but welcomed aid from an old friend of American loyalists — a ship that had once guarded New York City’s harbour. The Asia, now a supply ship, had only just sailed into Freetown’s harbour from England. Its crew came to the aid of Corankapone and his fellow loyalists, overwhelming their enemy. Thirty-three rebels were banished; two were hanged. It was the last time that the Asia would cross paths with refugees of the American Revolution.
To secure permission to reprint this article, email Stephen Davidson.
Sean Kheraj and Denis McKim
Welcome to a series on early Canadian environmental history, jointly hosted by Borealia and The Otter ~ La Loutre, the blog of The Network in Canadian History and Environment (NiCHE).
This joint series provides environmental historians of Canada the opportunity to reflect upon the state of so-called “pre-Confederation” history in the field. As was evident from the discussion at a panel on the subject of pre-Confederation Canadian history at the 2015 annual meeting of the Canadian Historical Association, the field has not vanished. It goes by other names and it no longer focuses on the framework of the nation-state. Many historians of Indigenous peoples of North America, for instance, focus on chronologies that pre-date 1867. Historians of the Atlantic World examine aspects of what might have once been called “pre-Confederation Canadian history,” but now fall within a transnational framework.
By Jim Piecuch Posted May 17, 2016
In March 1778, several hundred South Carolina Loyalists began a march to the British province of East Florida to seek refuge from persecution and assist the British. Their successful effort threw the Whigs of South Carolina and Georgia into a panic and provided a valuable accession of military manpower to East Florida. The Loyalists’ actions demonstrated that Britain had a substantial number of supporters in the southern backcountry, thus encouraging British officials in their expectation that a shift in military operations to the South would attract strong local support.
South Carolina Loyalists had first exerted themselves to support the British in November 1775, when some two thousand Loyalists surrounded a slightly smaller Whig force that occupied the backcountry town of Ninety Six. After several days of skirmishing, the two sides agreed to a truce and the combatants returned to their homes. The Whigs, however, then ignored the agreement and sent a militia force through the region, disarming the Loyalists and arresting their leaders in the “Snow Campaign” of November and December. Over the next two years, Whig leaders adopted a policy of harshly persecuting suspected Loyalists, causing many Loyalists to flee the state.
Where is Brian McConnell of Nova Scotia Branch? ?
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 email@example.com.
From the UELAC branches, news and events of interest to others.
- Loyalist Day in New Brunswick: Mayor-elect Don Darling with David Laskey UE and Jim McKenzie UE at the Loyalist Day Celebrations on May 18 in Saint John. Students have an opportunity to write an essay about the Loyalists. Here local student Haleema Nazir was offered congratulations; she met Mayor-elect Don Darling!
- Sir John Johnson Centennial Branch UELAC hosts their 49th Annual General Meeting and Luncheon, being held on Saturday, June 11, 2016, at the Lakeview Inn “located in the heart of the authentic Victorian village of Knowlton near Brome Lake”. During the luncheon, a special ceremony will take place to recognize and thank important partners of our Branch. We hope to see you at this special luncheon which will be followed by the Annual General Meeting. Bring questions and comments for improvements of your association and/or just bring your appetite. Michel Racicot, 1st VP Sir John Johnson Centennial Branch firstname.lastname@example.org
- The Queen’s York Rangers fought on after the Revolutionary War. Jarvis Rangers jacket, etc from Upper Canada Rebellion 1837
- An archaeological excavation in Lunenburg, N.S. has uncovered new evidence that points to the presence of a 250-year-old fort at the site of the Lunenburg Academy.
From northern Germany to Poland, Estonia, St. Petersburg, Helsinki and Stockholm, we have enjoyed touching many countries and cities around the Baltic. Our initial days of late Spring reverted more seasonal cooler and a couple of days of damp. One more stop on our way home and Sunday is a travel day, so this is being prepared Saturday afternoon Sweden time. Looking forward to our last stop – and to getting home again.