“Loyalist Trails” 2017-02: January 8, 2017
In this issue:
– Mother Goose, Loyalist-Style: Part 1 of 2, by Stephen Davidson
– Reader Challenge: A Revolutionary Nursery Rhyme
– History of Nova Scotia: Plan to Invade Nova Scotia
– The Great Dismal Swamp: a Thriving Refuge for Runaways
– RevWarTalk: The Van Wyck Homestead
– Atlantic Loyalist Connections: Help with 18th-19th Century Given Names
– JAR: Major Misconceptions that should be Dispelled
– James Moody: American Soldier
– War of 1812: Major John Button
– Where in the World?
– Region and Branch Bits
– From the Twittersphere and Beyond
– Last Post: John Frederick Sanders, UE
© Stephen Davidson, UE
Have you ever wondered if there was a loyalist equivalent to Yankee Doodle Went to Town?
The lyrics to this song (composed in the 1750s) were sung during the Seven Years War when British and colonial troops fought against New France. And yes, the song was making fun of American colonists (the fathers of the next war’s patriots and loyalists). “Doodle” is a corruption of a German word for “fool”, while “macaroni” was 18th century slang for “trendy”. The British officers who sang the song were calling New Englanders simpletons, claiming that their colonial cousins believed that they could attain sophistication by simply putting a feather in their caps.
The stories of the meanings for poems and songs such as Yankee Doodle are always fascinating reading. The same is true for that part of folk lore which we have come to call Mother Goose Poems. Rather than merely being nonsense poems for children, nursery rhymes were reputed to be the editorial cartoons of their day. They were said to poke fun at the rich and powerful in an era when outright criticism would result in imprisonment or execution.
Most of the Mother Goose poems originated with the generations preceding the eighteenth century, removing any hope that there might be a verse or two with “secret meanings” related to the American Revolution. But perhaps –just for the sake of preserving some loyalist era history—we could retro-fit a Mother Goose rhyme to provide a counter-balance to Yankee Doodle.
Would it be totally inappropriate to use Three Men in a Tub to help us recall some events from the American Revolution? True, this poem actually dates back to the 15th century, but with a little remodelling it could be given a 300 year update to serve our purposes. And so, –with tongues firmly planted in our cheeks– let’s see what a loyalist-leaning nursery rhyme might have as its “secret meanings”.
“Rub a dub dub” for any loyal colonists who survived the American Revolution would inevitably bring to mind the gruesome practice of tarring and feathering the “friends of the king”. Unfortunately for the loyalists of the rebelling colonies, there are hundreds of examples that can be used to illustrate this line of poetry.
James Galloway, who had once been the speaker of the Pennsylvania Assembly, “considered himself in great danger” from the patriots of Philadelphia. On one occasion he had “two or three mobs” at his doorstep ready with hot tar and brushes to give him a feather coat. Galloway’s friends were able to dissuade the mob, but on another night thirteen drunk “Dutchmen” argued whether they should tar and feather Galloway or hang him! Luckily for the loyalist, an innkeeper tipped him off and he was able to escape with both his life and his skin intact.
The administering of tar and feather was not limited to violent mobs. It could be a penalty in a court of law. Consider the case of another Pennsylvania loyalist named William Caldwell. Because he would not join his rebel neighbours, Caldwell was brought before the local committee which sentenced him to be tarred and feathered. Two hundred “men in arms attended in order to see the sentence put in execution” on June 15, 1775.
Owen Richards, a customs official in Boston, was tarred and feathered simply for doing his job. The citizens of Massachusetts didn’t appreciate having to pay customs. When Richards had a ship’s cargo seized, local rebels gathered up the dockside tar used for ship repairs and gave the poor customs officer a feather coat in 1770. This was five years before the first exchange of revolutionary fire.
Fortunately for the loyal colonists, there was a man like Peter Dean. As soon as the “troubles” began in South Carolina, Dean signed a protest against the colony’s rebels. He later restored guns that the patriots had spiked to prevent their being fired in honour of King George III’s birthday. But what most endeared him to the loyalists of South Carolina was the fact that Dean organized a militia of one hundred men and thus, in his own words, “prevented some people from being tarred and feathered”.
“Three men in a tub” might remind a historian of the loyalists along the Atlantic seaboard who used their sailing ships to aid the royal cause. Interestingly enough, records have survived of loyalists who were among three owners of vessels.
The first member of our “three men in a tub” is Francis Green who had a one-third share in the ship Tryon. Worth £8000, the Tryon “did great service” to the British government on her “different cruises”. Unfortunately, Green did not elaborate on how his ship helped the loyalist cause. Another of his vessels was “of great use to the army by giving material intelligence of the French fleet”. Green was an outspoken friend of the king, a very brave stance for a Boston merchant. He was “treated ill” by rebels as early as 1774. Two years later, Green and eight of his dependents were among the 1,100 loyalists who fled Boston for the safety of Halifax. The British government eventually awarded Green £600 a year for his losses.
Joseph Durfee, a Norfolk, Rhode Island loyalist, had a 33% interest in the schooner Dolphin. Before the outbreak of the revolution, Durfee and his two partners used their schooner to trade between New York and Rhode Island. But by 1775, Durfee “decidedly declared himself averse to the opposition to the British government”. This made the loyalist and any of his property fair game for New England rebels. A patriot privateer vessel seized the Dolphin as it was sailing in Long Island Sound and took it off to New London, Connecticut.
Durfee and his family left Rhode Island when the occupying British troops sailed for New York City. During the remainder of the revolution, Durfee served as superintendent of small craft and was recognized as a “faithful servant of the crown”. The New York barrack officer also employed two of the loyalist’s schooners. Following the conclusion of the war, this “man in a tub” and his family settled in Shelburne, Nova Scotia.
Edward Thorp was a Stamford, Connecticut merchant who held a one-third interest in a number of sailing vessels. He conducted trade with the sourthern colonies and ferried passengers to New York. During the revolution, rebels seized two of his sloops, a schooner worth £600, and a ship worth £1000 that he used to trade with Jamaica and Florida. The loyalist compensation board awarded Throp £40 a year for the remainder of his life.
“And who do you think they be?” Yes, even a question can call to mind a part of the loyalist experience. Henry Nase was a loyalist soldier who kept a diary of his revolutionary war experiences. In the fall of 1782, Nase was in Charleston, South Carolina as the British forces were evacuating the colony. On November first his diary entry recorded the events surrounding a court of enquiry. A field officer and four captains met near the gallows on Charleston’s grand parade to “ascertain the person of James McCan”. Who they thought him to be would have serious consequences. Was this the McCan who had deserted from the 19th Regiment?
The loyalist soldier confessed that he had, indeed, “deserted his colours” three times. Military justice was anything but slow. Upon his confession, McCan was immediately hanged. Six hundred loyal soldiers and a crowd of at least 2,000 spectators witnessed the consequences of the court determining McCan’s identity.
See next week’s Loyalist Trails for the conclusion of our tweaking of Three Men in a Tub.
To secure permission to reprint this article, email Stephen Davidson.
A wee opportunity to let loose your poetic skills and energy. Are you up to the challenge? Write a nursery rhyme based on one you are familiar with but change the content to reflect the Revolutionary War period – events leading up to it, during it or afterwards, including loyalist settlement in Canada. Indicate the title of the nursery rhyme it is based on. Preferably short ie one, two or three verses, but longer ones won’t be refused should your creative juices really catch fire with this opportunity.
Submit to the editor: firstname.lastname@example.org.
1776 January 13 “Provided there are not more than 200 British Troops at Halifax”
George Washington to Continental Congress
January 30, 1776
(The original of this document is among George Washington’s papers now held by the U.S. Library of Congress)
…Knowing the great Importance Canada will be of to us, in the present Interesting Contest, and the relief our Friends there stand in need of, I should be happy, were It in my Power, to detach a Battalion from this Camp, But It cannot be done. On the 19th. instant, I had the Honor to write and inclose you the Resolution of a Council of War, and the Sentiments of the General Officers here as to the propriety of sending Troops from these Lines (for the defence of which we have been and now are obliged to call in the Militia) to which I beg leave to refer you. You may rest assured, that my endeavours and exertions shall not be wanting to stimulate the Governments of Connecticut and New Hampshire, to raise and forward reinforcements, as fast as possible, nor in any other Instance that will promote the expedition.
…In my Letter of the 24th. Instant, I mentioned the arrival of thirteen of our Caghnawaga Friends; They honored me with a Talk to-day as did three of the Tribes of St. Johns and Pasmiquoddi Indians; Copies of which I beg leave to inclose you. I shall write General Schuyler respecting the Tender of Service made by the former, and not to call for their Assistance, unless he shall at any time want it, or be under the necessity of doing it to prevent their taking the side of our Enemies.
I had the Honor of writing you on the 19th of November and then Informed you of having engaged two persons to go to Nova Scotia on the business recommended in your Letter of the 10th. and also that the State of the Army would not then admit of a sufficient force being sent for carrying into Execution the Views of Congress respecting the Dock Yards &ca.
I would now beg leave to mention, that if the persons sent for Information should report favourably of the expediency and practicability of the Measure, that it will not be in my Power to detach any Men from these lines, the situation of our Affairs will not allow on it. I think it would be advisable to raise them in the Eastern parts of this Government.
If it is attempted, It must be by people from the country. A Col: Thompson a Member of the General Court, from the Province of Main, and who is well spoken of by the Court, and a Captain Obrien have been with me. They think the Men necessary, may be easily engaged there and the measure practicable; provided there are not more than 200 British Troops at Halifax.
Read more of the correspondence through 1776.
Deep in the Swamps, Archaeologists Are Finding How Fugitive Slaves Kept Their Freedom.
The worse it gets, as I wade and stumble through the Great Dismal Swamp, the better I understand its history as a place of refuge. Each ripping thorn and sucking mudhole makes it clearer. It was the dense, tangled hostility of the swamp and its enormous size that enabled hundreds, and perhaps thousands, of escaped slaves to live here in freedom.
We don’t know much about them, but thanks to the archaeologist hacking through the mire ahead of me, we know they were out here, subsisting in hidden communities, and using almost nothing from the outside world until the 19th century. The Dismal Swamp covered great tracts of southeast Virginia and northeast North Carolina, and its vegetation was far too thick for horses or canoes. In the early 1600s, Native Americans fleeing the colonial frontier took refuge here, and they were soon joined by fugitive slaves, and probably some whites escaping indentured servitude or hiding from the law. From about 1680 to the Civil War, it appears that the swamp communities were dominated by Africans and African-Americans.
From the 1760s until the Civil War, runaway slave ads in the Virginia and North Carolina newspapers often mentioned the Dismal Swamp as the likely destination, and there was persistent talk of permanent maroon settlements in the morass. British traveler J.F.D. Smyth, writing in 1784, gleaned this description: “Runaway negroes have resided in these places for twelve, twenty, or thirty years and upwards, subsisting themselves in the swamp upon corn, hogs, and fowls….[On higher ground] they have erected habitations, and cleared small fields around them.”
The Van Wyck Homestead Museum or Van Wyck-Wharton House is an early 18th-century Dutch colonial house in the Town of Fishkill, New York, United States of America. It served as a headquarters to a major military supply depot during the American Revolutionary War and has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since April 13, 1972.
The Van Wycks were an aristocratic family originally from Holland who were a prominent part of Dutchess County history. Members of the Van Wyck family served in the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, and also held both local and national political positions.
During the American Revolutionary War, the property was the home of Isaac Van Wyck. However, because of its strategic location with regard to the Hudson River and major roads, the Old Albany Post Road (later US 9) running north-south and the road running east-west (later NY 52 and Interstate 84), it was requisitioned by the Continental Army. The building became the headquarters of the Fishkill Supply Depot, which was created on the orders of George Washington in 1775.
A walnut tree, which stood in front of the house until 1898 when it was toppled by a storm, served as a whipping tree for punishing soldiers. An iron claw which was attached to the tree for this purpose was recovered from the tree and is now on display in the house. The mock trial of Enoch Crosby, who had infiltrated a loyalist group and is considered as the first secret agent of the United States, was held in the building. The house is therefore the likely setting for James Fenimore Cooper’s novel, “The Spy” which is based on Enoch Crosby’s story.
By Leah Grandy, a Microforms Assistant at the Harriet Irving Library.
Here are some “Tips” to assist in the interpretation of last names with a focus on Maritime Canadian resources, although many of the following suggestions are applicable elsewhere.
It is most important not to get hung up on a certain spelling of a surname! A huge variety in spellings of names existed in eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. For instance, if a name is written “Havens” and you were looking for “Haven”, you should certainly not automatically discount this record. Coolen, Coolin, Coolan, Cooling, Coulin, Coulen, and Coolahan are all variations of the same surname found in Nova Scotian documentation. It is useful to compile a list of all the variations you have found of the surname which you are researching and look up each version when you utilize a new resource.
Read more (brief).
Published January 2, 2017. Name one major misconception about the American Revolution that you would like to dispel.
Nathan Hale is perhaps the best known American spy in our history. Yet, almost everything we have been told about him is incorrect or inaccurate. Even the numerous statues of Hale placed around the country are nothing more than an idealized image of what an American hero should look like. He was not Washington’s choice for the spy mission, but rather volunteered after the chosen candidate refused the job. He was not vetted as to his suitability for the task, nor given any meaningful spy training. His cover story to explain his presence in New York was laughable. He was captured because a British counterintelligence office exploited his naïve personality and convinced Hale that he was a fellow American spy. No one knows what his last words were prior to being hanged. And, he was never a patriotic icon during the Revolution; he only became one several decades later. The one indisputable fact is that he was a brave patriot who died for his country. But, he was a lousy spy, sent on a poorly planned mission that from a professional perspective was doomed from its start. — Ken Daigler
Read what the others had to say about misconceptions.
By Kyle Gaffney, 6 January 2017
The traditional lore of the American Revolution holds that small groups of Patriot citizen-soldiers using unconventional tactics defeated a superior foe, who was using European tactics unfit for combat in the wilderness of North America. The lesson modern strategists are led to take from the experience of British operations during the American Revolution is that imposing one’s military doctrine in an alien environment is a recipe for disaster. Founding lore, however, overlooks a class of colonists lost in the clamor to understand to what transpired in 1776: Loyalists. Loyalist provincial units formed in 1776 were led and staffed individuals who shared similar North American experiences with their Patriot opponents. This included the frontier mentality that has come to define the Early American way of way of war. The wartime experience of Tory Lieutenant James Moody provides a vignette of a British High Command that attempted to incorporate the methods and tactics that American Revolutionaries later became famous for. Modern strategists would do well to learn from the full picture.
James Moody owned a large farm in a fertile valley located in Sussex County, in northern New Jersey. By his own admission, he remained wary but uninvolved in the growing revolutionary tumult. Privately he held a negative opinion of revolution and the revolutionaries. Once known, his stance earned him the ire of his neighbors. When revolution came to Sussex County in December of 1776, the Sussex Committee of Safety ordered the Sussex Militia began sweeping the county for Loyalists with the intention of jailing them. Moody remained free until February of 1777, when he fled his farm under fire from the militia. James Moody then gathered 70 other Sussex Tories and led a fighting retreat to Staten Island. From there, he promptly enlisted in the New Jersey Volunteers—Skinner’s Greens, a loyalist line infantry provincial unit commanded by New Jersey’s former Attorney General, Cortlant Skinner.
Around 1810, in response to unrest, John Button (of Markham Twp) organized a group of neighbours and friends into a cavalry unit which came to be called Captain John Button’s Troop of Markham Dragoons (aka Button’s Troop). This was the first troop of cavalry raised in Upper Canada and was attached to the North York Regiment of Militia. The Troop performed admirable service in York, Niagara, and Detroit. John’s son Francis, about 18 at the time, was one of the ‘despatch [sic] riders’ between York and Kingston. A number of the Troop were taken prisoner in 1813 when the Fort at York fell to the American Troops.
Following the war, the troop did not disband, but was active during the 1837 Rebellion and the Fenian Raids in 1865. Tradition has it that command of the regiment was passed on to the eldest son. At some point, they became known as D Squadron of the Governor General’s Body Guard which is now known as the Governor General’s Horse Guards.
Read more about Major John Button, ancestor of Jo Ann Tuskin UE. and the unveiling ceremony in 2016 of a War of 1812 plaque, one for him and another for his son Col. Francis Button.
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.
- The American Revolution Round Table (ARRT) of the Hudson and Mohawk Valleys proudly presents Redcoats, Hessians, and Americans Thursday, January 19, 2017 at 6:30 PM. Nearly 400 of those Redcoats, Hessians, and Americans were black or African American! In an age when the color of one’s skin could legally allow discrimination or enslavement, hundreds of black men and boys volunteered – or were forced to fight – on either side at Saratoga, the “Battle of the Millennium.” Come and learn about some of their extraordinary stories in Black and African-American Military Men at Saratoga, 1777! More on Facebook
- Spiral, a novel by David Richard Beasley, author of several books with Loyalist connections. Book Launch at Eva Brook Donly Museum (soide door), Simcoe ON 20 Jan at 7:00pm. All welcome, free. The decline of a prominent family owing to alcoholism and impoverishment in Hamilton Canada in the early 1850s leads to threats of suicide in 1873 when a young girl is denied her inheritance. The story is set against problems imperiling the city such as crime, cholera, financial collapse and legal malfeasance. The courage and reliability of another member of the family help rescue its reputation and contribute to the restoration of the city’s prosperity. Figures from the city’s past walk its streets, inhabit its taverns, fall in love and contrive criminal enterprises to bring it to life once more.
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- 2 Jan 1777 Second Battle of Trenton, results in British withdrawal from New-Jersey for the winter.
- 3 Jan 1777 Washington departs Trenton NJ under cover of darkness, engages British at Princeton in decisive victory.
- 4 Jan 1781 Virginia militia completes an expedition of eradication against the British-allied Cherokee.
- 5 Jan 1781 British force led by turncoat Benedict Arnold burns Richmond, Virginia.
- 6 Jan 1776 SC Council of Safety warns Georgia that British ships leaving Charleston are headed to Savannah.
- Used in the medical practice of bloodletting, pictured is a lancet case with several lancets, measuring overall 3″ x 1.5″ x 0.5″. For source and more details, click here.
- Centuries of New York History Prepare for a Move. Caked in dust and dating back to 1674, the written records of a growing city are headed to new homes, to be preserved and made accessible to researchers. On the upper floors of the grand courthouse, above the Corinthian columns chiseled from granite and the lobby with sweeping marble staircases peeking out from scaffolding, the rows of shelves, barely shoulder wide, form a maze that never seems to end. Caked in dust on the shelves are leather-bound volumes and stacks of parchment that, in a way, sketch out the story of New York City. Some of the early records swear allegiance to King George III, and the names of historic figures like Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr pop up in documents from when they were working as lawyers in the city. Read more…
- Torontonian Discovers Family’s Links to Underground Railroad. When Eric Plato was growing up in Niagara Falls, Ontario in the 1970s he had no idea that he was the great-grandson of a man who had escaped slavery through the Underground Railroad in the 19th century and settled in Canada. Born into slavery in 1833 in West Virginia, Burr Plato decided in 1856, at the age of 23, to make a break for freedom using the Underground Railroad. Along with seven others he passed through the safe houses and secret routes that made up the network to find his way to Fort Erie, Ontario where he would be a free man. Even though he had been a slave with no possible way of improving his life, he knew that education was the key to success in his newfound freedom. Settling in nearby Niagara Falls he worked as a farmhand and porter while learning how to read and write. Read more…
- Delicious little currant cakes from the 1796 cookbook “American Cookery” by Amelia Simmons! Watch video
- A Survival Guide To Colonial Cocktails (So You Don’t Die Drinking Them). When spirits entrepreneur Steven Grasse considered writing a book about early American cocktails, he already knew it was a subject that had been, in his own words, “done to death.” Ultimately, the book he did write, Colonial Spirits: A Toast to Our Drunken History, tells the story of a time when water was full of deadly bacteria, making alcohol the safest liquid to consume. As Grasse says, “this book is about survival.” Colonists, transplanted to a New World, were faced with the task of re-creating old recipes, often with unfamiliar new ingredients. Alcohol was a godsend in the Old World, sipped by adults and children alike. In the New World, imbibing called for experimentation. There was plenty of trial and error, and, in Grasse’s view, an unexpected recipe for democracy. Read more…
Passed away at Kingston General Hospital with his family by his side on Saturday, November 19, 2016 at the age of 83. Beloved husband of Monique for nearly 44 years. Loving father of Michael and David. Treasured grandfather of Christina, Brian, Jeremy, Emily and Joel. John will be missed by his sister Joan and brother Maurice. Friends and family are invited to gather at CATARAQUI CEMETERY AND FUNERAL SERVICES for a Graveside Service on Monday, November 28, 2016 at 1:00 p.m. with a reception to follow. Donations to either the Kidney Foundation of Canada or the Heart and Stroke Foundation would be appreciated.
John was a long-time member of Kingston and District Branch.