“Loyalist Trails” 2017-51: December 17, 2017

In this issue:
Christmas 1779: The Slow Beginning of the End, by Stephen Davidson
The Loyalists: A Look at Their History and Impact
Get Published; Bring Your Loyalist Story to Light
Tour 2018: “In the Footsteps of our Irish Palatine Ancestors”
Borealia: How to Start Your Thesis
JAR: Ballston Raid of 1780: Military Operation or a Time to Settle Old Scores
The Junto: Portrait of a Juntoist in Motion
Ben Franklin’s World: The American Revolution in the Age of Revolutions
Washington Papers: Escaping General Washington – The Story of Deborah Squash
Where in the World?
Region and Branch Bits
From the Twittersphere and Beyond
Additions to the Loyalist Directory
Last Post
      + Earl Norman Plato, UE
      + Alexander Campbell of Point au Bodet and Williamstown


Christmas 1779: The Slow Beginning of the End, by Stephen Davidson

© Stephen Davidson, UE

It’s not particularly easy to find a loyalist-themed Christmas story that has a happy ending. However, with Orson Welles’ familiar quote in mind, perhaps we can make the Christmas of 1779 suit our purposes. The quote? “If you want a happy ending, that depends, of course, on where you stop your story.”

Any time of the year is a difficult time for soldiers to say good-bye to family and friends, but perhaps Christmas time is the most heart wrenching. But during the American Revolution, very few colonists outside of the Roman Catholic Church and the Church of England would observe Christmas. So perhaps when General Sir Henry Clinton ordered upwards of 14,000 soldiers and sailors onto 90 transports and 10 warships to set sail for Charleston, South Carolina, it may not have been especially hard to for them to bid adieu to friends and relatives in frosty New York City.

According to a rebel newspaper based in New Jersey, some of Clinton’s fleet left as early as December 23rd. The last left New York on the 26th. So, if any of the deployed British, Hessian or Loyalist troops were in the habit of celebrating Christmas, some would have been able to enjoy their Christmas dinners before boarding their southern bound transports.

Clinton had received intelligence that conditions in the southern colonies were ripe for a British victory. The war in the middle and northern colonies was at a standstill; the British believed that Loyalists were in sufficient numbers in the south to defeat the rebel forces. A British presence was all that was required.

As recently as December 15th of that year, Vice Admiral Arbuthnot of the royal navy had received an address from “the Loyal Refugees from the several revolted Provinces of New Hampshire, Massachusetts Bay, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, the Three Lower Counties on Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, and South-Carolina”.

Writing to his office in New York City, the loyalists assured Arbuthnot that “the same Principles of Duty which urged us to the free, and great sacrifices we have made, will also actuate us in future, to afford to you, upon all occasions, as well as to his Excellency the Commander in Chief, every aid, and influence in our Power, for restoring Peace, Order and good Government, to these his Majesty’s Colonies.” It seemed that the Loyalists of the southern colonies were primed and ready to help the British.

Once they brought North and South Carolina, Virginia, and Georgia to heel, the British commanders reasoned, it would simply be a matter of time before the northern colonies would taste defeat.

Memories of Christmas feasting and gift exchanges quickly evaporated as the fleet encountered a winter storm that pushed some of Clinton’s ships northeast. A rebel newspaper reported, “Off Cape Hatteras, about four weeks since, they met with a severe storm, which separated the fleet, and obliged the two sloops, as well as most other vessels having horses, to throw them overboard.”

Clinton’s fleet was supposed to be sailing south for Charleston, South Carolina, the largest city in the American South and a strategic port. Its 12,000 citizens were almost evenly divided between blacks and whites. Blacks saw the British as their liberators from slavery. White loyalists were sure to hail the troops as their saviours from harsh rebel persecution. No wonder British optimism was high.

By January, the scattered and battered fleet had regrouped in Georgia. Two weeks later, Clinton’s forces disembarked below Charleston on Valentine’s Day and began their siege of the city. By May 12, 1780, the rebel forces had surrendered.

The patriot newspaper in New Jersey had bad news for its readers. ” We are sorry to inform our readers that the garrison of Charles-Town, consisting of 2571 continental troops, including officers of every rank, surrendered prisoners of war on the 12th ult. but the particulars coming late to hand, and being very lengthy, are deferred till our next.”

It was, in fact, the single greatest patriot defeat of the American Revolution. Clinton saw to the establishment of armed camps in the colony’s interior and began to raise Loyalist units from among the population.

Whatever sacrifices the British, Hessian and Loyalist soldiers made in their Christmas holiday departure from New York, they seemed –in the long run– to have been worth the cost. That is, if we “stop the story” in May of 1780.

Of course, the rest of the year did not go as the British had planned. Loyal colonists did not rise up in the thousands. Patriot victories at Ramseur’s Mill, Hanging Rock, and King’s Mountain decimated both the king’s forces and their morale.

By the fall of 1781, American and French forces had surrounded the British army in Yorktown, Virginia. The eventual British surrender on October 19th was the death knell for any hope of victory over the American rebels.

As British soldiers, Hessians and Loyalists gathered around their campfires for the Christmas of 1781, they had no way of knowing that the American Revolution was nearing its end. By the following Christmas, British vessels had already sailed away with loyalists from Savannah and Charleston — the first of hundreds of evacuation ships that would eventually take the king’s loyal Americans to Nova Scotia, Canada, Britain, and the Caribbean.


In next week’s Loyalist Trails, we’ll learn the stories of two loyalists who served under Sir Henry Clinton in his siege on Charleston — men who had once shared their general’s high hopes during the Christmas of 1779.

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

The Loyalists: A Look at Their History and Impact

By Elwood Jones, published in the Peterborough Examiner

Loyalists have been poorly treated by American historians. Gary Nash, writing in First City, Philadelphia and the Forging of Historical Memory, linked the treatment partly to the lack of archival sources in the main American museums and repositories. In simplest terms, the important archival records of Loyalists were either carried off with them to their new homes, or were destroyed by the Patriots who took over their residences.

Those who supported the Revolution believed they were supporting “the glorious cause.” American historians wrote about the winners.

There has been a resurgence of interest in the history of Loyalists, and the “Spirit of 1783.” In this view, the Loyalists were not the losing side; they were the foundation for a second British Empire, that flourished over the next century: the boast was correctly, that the sun never set on the British Empire.

The distinction that resonated with me was that the American Revolution was about “liberty” while the opposition was about liberties. The first led to the idea that the rule of the majority should prevail; the second believed that people’s differences should be respected.

Get Published; Bring Your Loyalist Story to Light

The Loyalist Gazette is published twice yearly by the United Empire Loyalists’ Association of Canada, in the Spring and Fall. It carries articles and pictures of particular interest to those with an interest in the American Revolutionary War period in history, featuring articles about Loyalists, Loyalist/American Revolution era, Loyalist communities, up to and including the War of 1812, etc.

Do you have such a history, a family genealogy or even a story about your related research that you would like to share in the Loyalist Gazette.

If you have some material, please pass it along and we can discuss.

Or, if you have an idea, or would like to ask some questions, I would be delighted to discuss with you and see where it goes.

No need to be a member; contributions from all are welcome.

Look forward to hearing from you; best of the season to all.

Bob McBride, UE; Editor, Loyalist Gazette

Tour 2018: “In the Footsteps of our Irish Palatine Ancestors”

Expressions of interest requested: Bus Tour, September 13-23, 2018, Montreal – New York City – Saratoga Springs – St-Ignace-de-Stanbridge – Quebec City – Montreal.

The “In the Footsteps of our Irish Palatine Ancestors Tour” attempts to bridge the gap between the Irish Palatine Association’s 2009 Tercentennary Tour in Ireland and our 2013 “Irish Palatines in Ontario Tour.” We will be following the footsteps of the Irish Palatines who left Ireland in 1760 to go to the New World, settling in New York City and then the Camden Valley, only to have their lives turned upside down once more when the American Revolution broke out in 1776. We will follow the men who fought for the British and who then had to flee to Quebec when Burgoyne was defeated, followed later by their families. We’ll also briefly explore some later Irish Palatine settlements in Quebec.

This circle tour will start and end Montreal, Quebec, Canada. We will travel and stay in the following locations: Montreal (one night stay), New York City (two nights), Saratoga Springs, NY (three nights), St-Ignace-de-Stanbridge, Quebec (two nights), Quebec City (one night), ending up back in Montreal (one night). Read more details.

Borealia: How to Start Your Thesis

Jerry Bannister 11 December 2017

Starting a graduate thesis is hard. Anyone who tells you otherwise is lying, delusional, or one of those bizarre people who find it easy. December in Canada brings awful holiday specials on TV, complaints about freezing rain and, for those of us in universities, worries over what’s left undone from the Fall term. This is that liminal time when classes have ended but the final grades are not entered. It’s the anxious time when both professors and graduate students are supposed to have accomplished nearly half their work for the academic year. While the end of classes stirs warm illusions of productivity, the spectre of the holidays brings cold memories of what invariably happens to all those carefully laid plans. If, as I said last June, early summer is when stress becomes as unavoidable as black flies, by December it’s stuck to us like ice to a car windshield.

So, instead of finishing my own grading today, I want to give some unsolicited advice to graduate students and their supervisors. My advice is meant to be pondered now but acted upon in January, because, if you’re like 94.7% of the academic world, you will get precious little work done once the holidays are upon us. You can fight it and make yourself unproductive and miserable, or give into seasonal reality and be unproductive yet happy. Like finishing a thesis, starting one depends as much on emotional momentum as it does on ability or work ethic. If you feel crappy about your thesis, reading twenty books each week is not going to help much. That crappy feeling is typically caused by a sense of not feeling in control. In this emotional state, the thesis is everywhere yet nowhere, something always in your thoughts but rarely on your screen. Gaining a sense of control is, of course, an exercise in creating fiction, because so much of the thesis process lies, like so much of life, beyond your actual control. You can control what you write but not how others will respond to it.

Read more.

JAR: Ballston Raid of 1780: Military Operation or a Time to Settle Old Scores

by Michael Aikey 6 December 2017

Around 1:00 a.m. on Tuesday, October 17, 1780, four year old Melinda Gordon, asleep in bed with her parents Lt. Col. James Gordon, the local militia commander, and his wife Mary, was abruptly awakened by loud noises. Melinda later recalled,

We were awakened by the breaking of both the windows in the room and looking up saw a number of muskets with bayonets protruding into the room. My father arose and in his shirt, went to the hall and opening [the door] he found the hall filled with armed men and Indians. As he opened it, a large Indian lifted his tomahawk and as it was descending, his arm was caught by Munro or Frazer (I forget which.) My father was well acquainted with both of them and had befriended them. He was then led out of the door and put under guard, — one Langdon had charge of him. The Indians, male and female … commenced pillaging.

Old neighbors and acquaintances, displaced voluntarily or otherwise from their homes, livelihoods and families by a raw and unforgiving civil war, had returned.

The Ballston Raid of 1780 was one of three coordinated raids launched primarily out of Canada in late September 1780 which struck upstate New York targets in Albany, Tryon, and Charlotte counties. Subsequent to the failed British campaigns of Brig. Gen. Barry St. Leger and Lt. Gen. John Burgoyne in 1777, the war in New York State above the Hudson River Highlands for the next two years was a limited conflict fought primarily on the state’s western frontier south of the Mohawk River.

Read more.

The Junto: Portrait of a Juntoist in Motion

by Rachel Herrmann 13 December 2017

I’ve had a blog, in one place or another, since 2002, and thus the distinction between “a blog” and “a blog post” is a hill on which I am willing to die. But before Ben Park approached me to be one of The Junto’s founding members, I hadn’t blogged extensively about history. Five years later, I still want to write about other topics in addition to history, but I firmly believe that my history teaching and history scholarship have benefitted from my membership here. That said, I think my role as a blogger for The Junto has changed since 2012, and will continue to transform in the future. Today, I want to reflect on some of these changes.

First for me must be the subject of teaching. A lot of the posts I wrote here before 2013 related more to teaching generally than they did to teaching early American history. I can attribute that focus to inexperience teaching early American history, inexperience researching early American history, and anxiety about blogging too much, too soon, about a dissertation that was struggling in search of an argument. But I can also examine my attention to teaching, and attribute it to the conviction then and now that half our jobs as historians should take place inside a classroom, or in preparation for classroom work. This conviction hasn’t changed since that point earlier in the decade.

Read more.

Ben Franklin’s World: The American Revolution in the Age of Revolutions

Laurent Dubois, a professor of History at Duke University and author of four books about slavery and revolution within the French Caribbean, helps us begin our two-episode exploration of the American Revolution in the Age of Revolutions.

During our investigation of the Age of Revolutions in the Caribbean, Laurent reveals what the French Empire looked like on the eve of its revolutions; Details about the French Revolution and how the American Revolution influenced it; And, information about revolutions in the French Caribbean, such as the Haitian Revolution, and how these revolutions began.

Listen to the podcast.

Washington Papers: Escaping General Washington – The Story of Deborah Squash

Kathryn Gehred, 15 December 2017

In April 1781, about six months before the American victory at Yorktown, an opportunity for a different kind of liberty arose for Deborah, an enslaved 16-year-old at Mount Vernon. A fleet of British “plundering vessels” had appeared in the Potomac, burning homes and destroying property as they advanced. The Savage, a sloop of war commanded by Captain Thomas Graves, approached within a quarter mile of the home of the Continental Army’s commander in chief. Deborah saw an opportunity to join the British and gain her freedom.

Lord Dunmore, the English colonial governor of Virginia, had published a proclamation in November 1775 declaring “all indented Servants, Negroes, or others, (appertaining to Rebels,) free that are able and willing to bear Arms.” Lund Washington, George Washington’s cousin who managed Mount Vernon in its owner’s absence, reported rumors that “there is not a man of them, but would leave us, if they believe’d they could make there Escape.”

Read more.

Where in the World?

Where is Nova Scotia Branch member James Diltz?

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.

  • Snow and winter at Ft York. How much different it would have been in the early years of Upper Canada with probably still forest in the background (no tall buildings anyway), but still snow in your face.
  • I recently had the opportunity  to correspond with the Governor General’s Office to replace a lost certificate (Coast Guard Medal)  presented to me years ago.  I used my normal “James Kelsey U.E.L. Island” return address.  The Canadian Federal Government typically does not recognize or use the post-nominal U.E. but I included it with my name in the correspondence. It was most gratifying to receive  the return envelope came back with the U.E. after my name.  I am glad to see that the highest federal office in Canada made a small acknowedgement to those who laid the foundation that made this the greatest country in the world. Garry Kelsey U.E.

From the Twittersphere and Beyond

  • Memorial plaque to Loyalist Bishop Charles Inglis, his first wife Mary and two children at Christ Church, Dover, Delaware, USA where he ministered years before appointment as first colonial Bishop in Nova Scotia
  • Today in History: Lars D.H. Hedbor @LarsDHHedbor (see his page for associated photos):
    • 16 Dec 1773 Sons of Liberty throw tea shipment into Boston Harbor to protest Tea Act.
    • 15 Dec 1776 British defeat superior French naval force at battle of St. Lucia.
    • 14 Dec 1775 Continental Army forces occupy Norfolk, Virginia, leading to its burning to deny British use of town.
    • 13 Dec 1776 Washington’s hapless subordinate Gen. Charles Lee captured in Basking Ridge, NJ.
    • 16 Dec 1780 Militia “Overmountain Men” ward off attempted attack by British-allied Cherokee at Boyd’s Creek, TN.
    • 12 Dec 1782 HMS Mediator defeats five armed American and French ships off Ferrol, Spain.
    • 11 Dec 1777 Cornwallis’ forces stumble across Patriots on the way to Valley Forge under Washington, force them back.
    • 10 Dec 1775 HMS Rose raids Jamestown, Rhode-Island, burn ferry house at West Ferry & many other structures.
    • 10 Dec 1778 John Jay elected as 6th President of the Continental Congress, later abolished slavery in NY as Gov.
  • Townsends: Rutabaga has Never Tasted so Good. The translation for these “Yellow Turnips” was made possible by Kayla and Karen at Old Salem Museums and Gardens, who are presently translating two 18th Century German cookbooks.
  • Seven Years War: On 10 December 1757: William Johnson, sick in bed, writes Lord Loudon about the vulnerable state of New York’s western frontier, pleading for reinforcements and rangers
  • 18th Century dress, Robe à la Polonaise via Met Museum
  • Lovely, lovely- brocaded silk sack back (Robe a la Francaise) w/deep box pleats cascading from neck (also known as a Watteau back or pleats), American, c. 1765-80.

Additions to the Loyalist Directory

As time permits, we add information to the Loyalist Directory. The latest additions and updates are as follows:

  • Campbell, Alexander – from Sunday Moran
  • Robblee, John – from Bob Robblee
  • Robinson, Joseph – from Bob Robblee

Last Post

Earl Norman Plato, UE

Col. John Butler Niagara Branch members, sadly announce the passing of long time member, Earl Norman Plato, UE, (October 23, 1931 — December 14, 2017).

Earl was very proud of his ancestor Peter James Plato UEL.

Earl was an educator, author and founder of the Bert Miller Nature Club. He was a founding member of the Bertie Historical Society, recognized with many life time achievement awards for both nature and history. He loved to speak at meetings and was always available to fill in as speaker on very short notice.

Great is Thy faithfulness.

God gave us an incredible gift in Earl Plato.

As a family, we are thankful for eighty six years of his unfailing love and the testimony of his life of faith.

The many years of nature walks, listening to his creative life giving stories, and being the recipient of his heartfelt prayers are precious treasures to us all.

Earl loved his Lord Jesus Christ and was a faithful committed follower.

He was blessed with sixty one years of marriage to his true love, Elaine.

A wonderful father to Paul (Laurel) Plato, Liz (Neil) Cudney, Bev (Chris) Bradnam, Diane (John) O’Brien and Allison (Ken) Kells. He instilled in each one of his 13 grandchildren (Jage, Kiersten, Seth, Jackie, Nathan, Joel, Lucas, Daniel, Jesse, Kiara, Ashlyn, Conlan and Mackenzie) a love for nature and was blessed with 6 great-grandchildren (Brailynne, J.J., Rachael, Callum, Claire and Wesley).

Earl was well known by the community of Ridgeway and Fort Erie leaving a rich legacy as an educator who loved, taught, and wrote, about local history and nature. He wrote many books and we will miss his weekly newspaper articles. Earl was the founder of the Bert Miller Nature Club and a founding member of the Bertie Historical Society, recognized with many life time achievement awards for both nature and history.

Visitation at Williams Funeral Home in Ridgeway on Saturday, December 16, 2017.

The Celebration of Earl’s life Sunday at 2:00 p.m. at Grace United Brethren Church, 895 Empire Road, Sherkston. Any gifts given will go toward Grace United Brethren Church where Earl was a long time faithful member.

“Well done good and faithful servant.”

…Bev. Craig UE, Col John Butler Branch


Alexander Campbell of Point au Bodet and Williamstown

The claim of Alexander in Montreal reads:

Evidence on the Claim of Alexr. Campbell, late of Schohary, Albany County, N. York Province.

Claimt. Sworn:

Probably a Lt.

He is a native of Scotland. He came to America in 1756 as an officer in the 42nd Regt. In 1762 he settled at Schenectady. In 1775 he lived at Schohary & kept a store there. The rebels early in the year offered him the command of a Regt. to be raised in N. Y. State, which he refused & communicated their intentions to Gr. Tryon. He afterwards had several applications made to him to sign an association, which he refused. In consequence he was declared an enemy to America & his safety threatened.

A number of people of bad character formed themselves into a Committee & examined all persons who had anything to alledge agst. him. His House was attacked by the mob but he opposed them & went soon to New York. But before he left Schohary he had influence with the inhabitants to quiet them & induce them to remain in their allegiance.

He went on Board the Duchess of Gordon to Govr. Tryon, who declared that he would return to the Country and join his efforts with other friends to suppress the rebellion. He returned to Schenectady.

In 1796 [1776] he was taken Prisoner & carried in Irons to Connecticut for 7 months & 15 days.

Believes this was done in consequence of his sending intelligence to Sir John Johnson of danger he was in & of intelligence being discovered which he had sent. Which joined to his Public & avowed principals(sic) of Loyalty made them determined to distress him.

In Septr., 1778, he was ordered to remove out of the Province in 48 hours with his family & what he could carry in a waggon.

He came to St. John’s, Lake Champlain, and brought with him despatches from the Gen. commanding at New York.

He offered his services to Gen. Haldiman(sic) but had no Commission allowance or Provision during the War.

He now resides at Point au Bodet, 50 miles up the river, and has as yet no grant of Land.

Produces Certificate from Richd. Duncan, Capt. in Sir John Johnson’s Regt., that claimt. was a Magistrate in N. York Province, & that he had been ill-used & imprisoned for his declared Loyalty & attachment to Gt. Britain, & in 1778 that he was banished for refusing to take an Oath to the States.

18th Aug., 1787.

Check the entry in the Loyalist Directory, content originally contributed by Stephen Davidson, Sunday Moran has added

He married Mary MacMillan, daughter of Dougald MacMillan UEL and his wife Isabella.

His son John Hooke Campbell was probably born in NY 1779 but lived and died in Williamstown,Glengarry County.

I have several copies of documents including a letter to John from Alexander McKenzie in Polched Rathemarchus dated 22 June,1809 which gives some hints to Alexander Campbell’s family in Scotland. This comes from a bio/chart of Alexander and his descendants written and given to The Family History Library in Utah.

Sunday asks for help. She is trying to find out more about Alexander Campbell prior to living in Schohary, Albany Co.,NY province.

…Sunday Dawn Robinson Moran, UE

In the Loyalist Directory, the first entry for Alexander Campbell, marked proven, has several entries for those who have proved to one of the Alexander Campbells. If any of those certificate entries were in fact proven to this better identified Alexander Campbell, please tell me (Editor), and I will move that entry to this Alexander.