“Loyalist Trails” 2018-36: September 9, 2018

In this issue:
Certified Free by General Musgrave (Part 2 of 4), by Stephen Davidson
Borealia: Hope and Despair in the Meghalayan Age
JAR: Dying to Celebrate
The Junto: Elizabeth Seton and Me – Or, How I Almost Wrote a Book about a Saint Without Mentioning God
Ben Franklin’s World: The Early History of the United States Congress
Where in the World?
Region and Branch Bits
From the Twittersphere and Beyond
      + Explanation for the Arrangement of First Nations Warriors Bodies?


Certified Free by General Musgrave (Part 2 of 4)

© Stephen Davidson, UE

During the summer of 1783, Sir Guy Carleton, the commander in chief of British forces in America, was desperately trying to see to the speedy and safe evacuation of the king’s soldiers and loyalist refugees through the port of New York City. Among the officers who worked beside Carleton was Thomas Musgrave, a decorated hero of the American Revolution, and the son of a British baronet.

However, as he was the sixth son of Musgrave baronet, Thomas could not expect lands or title to sustain him after the conclusion of the war. He needed to investigate the possibilities of obtaining land in British North America, something that he did through a loyalist friend from Massachusetts, a man named Edward Ludlow.

For the moment, Musgrave could not be distracted by thoughts of becoming landed gentry in a newly configured British Empire. General Samuel Birch, the commandant of New York City, , was about to return to England, leaving an office vacant for Musgrave that he did not especially want to accept. In an August letter to Ludlow, the British officer said “I have entered on his troublesome office, but flatter myself that it will not be for long duration, as every dispatch is making for the evacuation that circumstances will admit.”

Birch had been one of Carleton’s right hand men, dealing with the settlement of claims for compensation, managing New York City’s budget, hiring evacuation vessels, and seeing to the fair treatment of Black Loyalists. The British had promised freedom to the slaves of patriots who served the crown for at least a year. Despite the fact that the Treaty of Paris contained clauses instructing slaves to be returned to their masters, Sir Guy Carleton felt that anyone who had joined the British before the end of the war was a free person and not a slave.

Early in 1783, Carleton decided to provide legal documentation for this new status and had Birch create a certificate that gave its bearer his/her freedom and the right to go to “Nova Scotia, or wherever else he may think proper”. It cited the names of the British officers who had issued the initial offers of emancipation and gave permission for the certificate holder to leave New York. The final touch was Brigadier General Birch’s signature. But with Birch’s departure, it fell to Thomas Musgrave to issue emancipation documents – precious pieces of paper which would become known as “Musgrave certificates”.

Musgrave first emancipation certificate was issued to Rosanna Mott, a 25 year-old woman who had been enslaved by a patriot in Charleston, South Carolina. She boarded the William and Mary that set sail for Germany on August 14, 1783. Since Birch did not leave New York until August 21st, most of the Black Loyalists who carried emancipation documents during that month held ones with Birch’s name on them. It seems that Musgrave must have worked alongside Birch in signing the certificates in the days preceding the former commandant’s departure.

Thomas Musgrave would sign his name to more than 340 additional emancipation certificates before the last Black Loyalist had set sail for Nova Scotia on November 30, 1783. Sixteen African men, women and children were the final passengers to have their freedom recognized by the British crown through Musgrave’s signature. Their ship, L’Abondance, was bound for Port Mouton, Nova Scotia. Loyalists who had been personnel with the British army’s commissary general department – as well as members of the British Legion–had established a settlement near the old French outport that they named Guysborough in honour of Thomas Musgrave’s commander. An earlier evacuation vessel, the Nancy, had taken the frames of houses in its hold. Considering that most loyalists spent their first Nova Scotia winter in old army tents, sod huts, or log cabins, this provision for “pre-fab” housing was quite a luxury.

Musgrave, as a member of the British occupational forces, had to leave New York City five days before the final evacuation of Black Loyalists. Although town lots at the mouth of the St. John River had been set aside for him, Musgrave never joined his loyalist friend, Edward Winslow in what would become the colony of New Brunswick.

In April of 1784, rumours that connect Musgrave’s name to a list of political appointments were spreading throughtout the scattrered loyalist refugee community. Ward Chipman, another Massachusetts loyalist, wrote to Edward Winslow from London saying that Nova Scotia would be divided, creating a loyalist colony to be named New Ireland. General Henry Edward Fox would become its governor while General Musgrave would be made governor of Nova Scotia with Sir Guy Carleton as the governor general of all of British North America. (Apparently his three month stint as New York City’s commandant made Musgrave a viable candidate to govern an entire colony.)

By July, Chipman had other news for Ludlow. His letter listed names of loyalists who would be given positions in the new colony of New Brunswick, a colony that would not be governed by General Fox. Instead, “the government was then offered to your friend, Colonel Musgrave, who declined it”.

General Fox himself wrote to Ludlow in August of 1784 saying that he understood that the crown had planned to recall Nova Scotia’s governor, John Parr, and put Thomas Musgrave in his place. However, Parr had more friends in high places, and he was able to remain governor until his death in 1791.

Clearly, Musgrave’s future did not lay in British North America. In 1785, he was in Berlin; two years later he was appointed colonel of the 76th Regiment of Foot that was created for duty in India. Following eleven years of service in the subcontinent, he returned to England where he became the governor of Gravesend and Tilbury, the fortifications that protected the Thames. He would retain his rank as colonel of the 76th until his death. When Musgrave’s older brother died in 1800, Thomas became the seventh baronet of Hayton Castle. It was a title he would enjoy for the last 12 years of his life. Musgrave died unmarried on December 31, 1812.

Although he left no heirs to assume his family’s heriditary title, Thomas Musgrave was instrumental in freeing over 260 slaves who would be able to bear the title of “United Empire Loyalists”. The stories of the Black Loyalists were were “certified free by General Musgrave” will be told in next week’s Loyalist Trails.

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

Borealia: Hope and Despair in the Meghalayan Age

by Gregory Kennedy on 4 Sept. 2018

Life as an academic often feels like constant movement between hope and despair. Hope that our research will have an impact, and be accepted our peers … despair at the latest setback with grant applications. Hope that our teaching will inspire young people to think critically and take an active role in their society … despair at the unending obligations with regards to administration as well as the scope of the challenges faced by universities today. Often, how we view these things reflects our level of agency. Agency is “generally understood to mean the capacity of individuals to act independently to make their own free choices.” Are we victims or champions in our daily saga? To what degree are we able to adapt to circumstances to ensure success? I think that most of us would agree that as academics we are fortunate in our capacity to influence our milieu and promote positive change.

Historical actors of all professions similarly alternated between optimism and pessimism, and the early modern period was no exception. The writings of explorers like Samuel de Champlain relate the abundance of natural resources and the great potential for trade and settlement that they saw in what was to them a New World. However, the documents also attest to the forbidding task of colonization and indeed, survival. Champlain described his first desperate winter in 1604 on île Sainte-Croix. Entombed in ice on the island for six months, his men melted snow for water and tried to stretch out meagre firewood supplies. Nearly half of the 80 men eventually succumbed to scurvy, a horrible fate of slow wasting away. Everyone was sick. To add to the morbid scene, Champlain performed impromptu autopsies to try to determine the cause of the illness. Horrified by the putrid flesh and black blood that emanated from the corpses, Champlain admitted that it had been foolish to rely on summer reconnaissance when determining an appropriate winter outpost. The survivors learned from their mistake, moving to the more open harbour of Port Royal where they could also seek assistance from the local Mi’kmaq community led by their sagamo, Membertou.

Read more.

JAR: Dying to Celebrate

by Joseph Lee Boyle, 4 September 2018

During the American Revolution, hundreds of civilians and military men on both sides were killed or injured by accidents. A number of these occurred during occasions which were supposed to be joyous.

One of the earliest was Robert Jewell. Samuel Rowland Fisher heard of his death in 1781, and remembered he had been keeper of the New Goal, “a Joyner by Trade & at a grand entertainment of the Congress at the State house in 1775—when there was a firing of Cannon, he lost his Arm by some of the Guns—in consequence of which he was placed to keeper of that house.”

Celebrating victories was costly for both British and Americans. On November 9, 1776, in England, “The following melancholy accident happened at Ulverston, in Lancaster, Nov. 9: A number of people were met together to celebrate the taking of New York, and to give a degree of grandeur to their rejoicing, drew up an old rusty cannon, which at the first discharge burst, and killed on the spot three boys, and miserably wounded a great many more.” On August 14, 1779, the British at Fort George in Maine were celebrating the denouement of the Penobscot Expedition, when “In the afternoon we fired a royal salute from the fort, and by accident of a gun hanging fire, one of the Artillery had his right arm broke, and his thumb blown off.”

Read more.

The Junto: Elizabeth Seton and Me – Or, How I Almost Wrote a Book about a Saint Without Mentioning God

By Catherine O’Donnell on 7 Sept. 2018

When I arrived at the archive in Emmitsburg, Maryland, my heart sank. My subject was Elizabeth Seton, woman of the early American republic and saint in the Roman Catholic Church, and the archives to which I’d traveled are held on the grounds of her shrine.

As I looked through letters and journals, I got a sense of Seton’s intellectual curiosity, glimpsed the way the era of revolutions affected her choices, and realized that slavery would be a part of this story, as it is a part of all stories of early America. By the end of the week, I’d solved the problem of writing about a saint: I wasn’t. I was writing about a woman.

That was both comforting and wrong-headed. To start with, Seton’s sainthood was the only reason she was visible as a woman. For generations, Sisters and Daughters of Charity had collected documents. These women, who understand themselves to be Seton’s spiritual daughters, offered me the tools of my trade—sources. But the sisters’ gentle presence also reminded me that people seek wisdom in Seton’s writings and inspiration in her life.

Read more.

Ben Franklin’s World: The Early History of the United States Congress

Matt Wasniewski, the Historian of the United States House of Representatives and Terrance Rucker, a Historical Publications Specialist in the Office of the Historian at the United States House of Representatives, lead us on an exploration of why and how the United States Constitution established a bicameral Congress and how and why the House of Representatives took the shape and form that it did during its early meetings.

During our exploration, Matt and Terrance reveal information about the Untied States House of Representatives’ Office of the Historian and the work its historians do; Details about the first three congresses of the United States: The First and Second Continental Congresses and the Confederation Congress; And the types of precedents and procedures early members of the House of Representatives established for later members and how and why they created those precedents.

Listen to the podcast.

Where in the World?

Where is David Hill Morrison of Bridge Annex (Virtual) Branch and Grand River 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 loyalist.trails@uelac.org.

Region and Branch Bits

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

  • Patients at Prince Edward County ON memorial Hospital’s diagnostic imaging now have a colourful distraction. The Prince Edward County Quilters’ Guild has donated a large, bright quilt to the hospital which will be displayed in the hallway. Prince Edward County has a United Empire Loyalist heritage.
  • Washington’s Lieutenants: The Generals of the Continental Army” will be the subject of a talk by William M. Welsch on Thursday, September 20, 2018 at Siena College, near Albany. See details and registration.
  • Tour of Revolutionary War sites in the Mohawk Valley. “Forts and Fights: The Revolutionary War in the Mohawk Valley” tour will be held from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sept. 21, starting in the parking lot of the Microtel Inn and Suites, 136 N. Comrie Ave. See details, registration etc.
  • Fifteenth Annual Fort Ticonderoga Seminar on the American Revolution September 21-23, 2018. Fort Ticonderoga hosts the Fifteenth Annual Seminar on the American Revolution September 21-23, 2018, in the Mars Education Center. This weekend seminar focuses on the military, political, and social history of the American War for Independence. See details and registration.

From the Twittersphere and Beyond

  • 27 August, 1783 – Boston King (1760-1802), preacher and author, age 23 arrives at Port Roseway NS (later named Shelburne) from New York on the L’Abondance in time to assist in establishing Birchtown. By January 1784, is was the largest free black settlement in North America with a population of 1,521 (Brian McConnell)
  • Today in History: Lars D.H. Hedbor @LarsDHHedbor (see his page for associated photos):
    • 8 Sep 1781 Last major battle of Revolution in Carolinas at Eutaw Springs, SC; British Pyrrhic victory.
    • 7 Sep 1776 American submersible the Turtle attempts first submarine attack in history; fails for lack of skill.
    • 6 Sep 1781 Traitor Benedict Arnold orders burning of entire city of New London, Connecticut to destroy supplies.
    • 6 Sep 1781  Massacre at Ft Griswold. 150 Patriots at Fort Griswold are killed/wounded trying to surrender. Col William Ledyard is killed with his own sword while surrendering.
    • 5 Sep 1781 French block British from evacuating troops at Yorktown in Battle of the Capes.
    • 4 Sep 1776 Lee, Gerry, & Wilcott sign Decl. of Independence, leaving only 2 more to sign.
    • 3 Sep 1783 Treaty of Paris ends the Revolutionary War.
  • Townsends:
  • On 6 Sept 1757, in 1757, the Marquis de Lafayette was born. He went on to fight with the Patriots in the American Revolution & in 1824 made a return visit to the US, welcomed by adoring crowds. At MA Historical Society until Sept 14  you can see the couch – see photo – that outfitted his rooms in Boston at that time.
  • Beautiful 18th Century fan of King George III and the Royal Family attending the Royal Academy Exhibition, 1790
  • 18th Century dress, Robe à la Française, c.1760’s
  • 18th Century quilted caraco & petticoat, 1770’s
  • 8th Century dress, Robe à la française, c.1775
  • 18th Century dress, Polonaise gown, British, c.1775-1780
  • 18th Century men’s silk embroidered waistcoat, c.1760
  • 18th Century men’s silk coat, 1750-70
  • 18th Centurymen’s court attire, silk embroidered coat and waistcoat, c.1790’s
  • The Anatomist overtaken by the Watch, c. 1770. The anatomist body-snatcher here is believed to have been Dr. William Hunter, whose anatomy school was in London’s Soho district and is now part of the Lyric Theatre.
  • A Duel in Hyde Park 1783. On the evening of the 3rd September 1783, Lieutenant Colonel Frederick Thomas sat down and wrote his will. Why is this will significant? It’s not the most interesting or especially informative. Well, because the following day, Fred Thomas had an ‘interview’ with a Colonel Gordon, but not an interview for a job, or a chat or a disciplinary meeting. He was meeting a Colonel Cosmo Gordon for a duel and was clearly wanting to ‘put his house in order’ before the event. The postscript was added to his will after the event took place. Fred’s opponent was Colonel Cosmo Gordon, the third son of William Gordon, 2nd Earl of Aberdeen (1679-1746) and his wife Anne, who was living in the parish of St. George, Hanover Square. Read more…


Explanation for the Arrangement of First Nations Warriors Bodies?

In the article “The Old Black Rock Ferry,” at Maritime History of the Great Lakes, is this paragraph:

On the high hill or bluff, which overlooked the ferry, old Fort Adams, or Battery Swift, was situated. There is now, in the office of the Niagara Street Railroad Company, a box of balls, bullets and other implements of war, which were found in the soil by those digging for the foundation of the depot building. The Maryland Gazette, of December 22d, 1763, contains an account of a battle between a detachment of English soldiers, who were moving from Fort Schlosser toward Detroit, and a body of Indians, whom they encountered at the foot of Lake Erie. The skeletons of Indians (arranged in the form of a circle, with their feet toward the center, and placed against a large iron kettle, their heads resting on hatchets, and forming the circumference of the circle), found by Col. Bird while preparing the ground for his present residence, show that this was the burial place of Indians killed in battle; and afford presumptive evidence that this was the scene of the engagement.

I can understand the Indians being buried with their tomahawks, etc. much like our ancestors with the swords. Is there an explanation for the symbolism of the “with their feet toward the center, and placed against a large iron kettle”. I wonder if it sets the stage so they can share a feast in the afterworld.

…Elsie Schneider