“Loyalist Trails” 2020-10: March 8, 2020

In this issue:
Registration is Open for UELAC Conference 2020: “Eyes on the Heart of the Continent”
Hazardous Assistance: Stories of the Loyalist Underground (Part 1 of 4), by Stephen Davidson
Digby’s First Framed House Builder – A Loyalist Born in Ireland
Atlantic Loyalist Connections: A Tree Grows in Planter Nova Scotia
JAR: How to Write Like a Revolutionary War Spy
JAR: Mapping the Battle of Eutaw Springs: Modern GIS Solves a Historic Mystery
Friday, 2 Mar 1770: Five Ways of Looking at a Brawl (3 Days Before the Boston Massacre)
A Town Meeting for a Town in Turmoil After the Boston Massacre
Eyewitness William Wyat Describes the Boston Massacre
The Boston Massacre: Deadly Squabble Was Not Quite As The Propaganda Portrayed It
Six Things Everyone Gets Wrong about the Boston Massacre
Book Review: Stripped and Script: Loyalist Women Writers of the American Revolution
Draughts or Checkers in the 1700 and 1800s
Region and Branch Bits
      + St. Lawrence Branch UELAC Receives Grant
From the Twittersphere and Beyond


UELAC Conference 2020: “Eyes on the Heart of the Continent” – Registration is open!

Registration is now open; the registration form is available.

Hosted by Manitoba Branch Wed 24 June through Sunday 28 June.at the Delta Marriott Hotel.

Go to the conference page “Eyes on the Heart of the Continent” for all the details. There you will find:

• the registration form to download, print and mail or email; soon to be available pay online by credit card (hopefully Paypal as well)

• a slightly revised schedule

• the latest communique #3

• a map of downtown Winnipeg

• a lightly revised version of Presenter Profiles

…Mary Steinhoff and Wendy Hart, UELMB2020@gmail.com

Hazardous Assistance: Stories of the Loyalist Underground (Part 1 of 4)

© Stephen Davidson, UE

Some concealed complete strangers in secret rooms, attics, or hidden compartments while soldiers searched the house. Others harboured families as they made their way north to sanctuary. Some offered shelter to scouting parties and spies. Others took food into the forest for fugitives who were hiding from local authorities.

These images are most often connected with those who gave shelter to enslaved Africans as they sought refuge in Canada by means of the Underground Railway. To others, such images might bring to mind the stories of Jews fleeing Nazi oppression during World War Two. However, the actions cited above are actually part of a forgotten chapter of Loyalist history. Many “friends of the king” rendered loyal service during the American Revolution by providing shelter, meals and even ammunition to loyal refugees, British soldiers, and spies.

When Allied soldiers found themselves behind enemy lines during the two world wars, they depended upon the help of farmers and villagers as they made their way across Europe to sanctuary in Britain. The king’s soldiers were often in similar situations in the thirteen colonies. While most stories of those who harboured British and Loyalist soldiers during the War of Independence have been lost to history, a handful have survived.

When General Burgoyne’s 6,000 German and British troops became prisoners of war following the disastrous defeat at the Battle of Saratoga, they were supposed to be returned to the United Kingdom. Instead, they were incarcerated in Charlottesville, Virginia, then Maryland and finally in Pennsylvania.

During their captivity in Pennsylvania, some British soldiers managed to escape. John and Elizabeth Obenholt were known to be friends of the British military, and often assisted its officers in crossing the Delaware River to safety. According to testimony given after the revolution, John Obenholt “had been active in carrying some of the soldiers who were taken prisoner under Burgoyne”. He “went to New York once or twice on this business to carry in prisoners”.

Unfortunately there are no further details of how the prisoners knew where the Loyalist Obenholts lived or how the family ferried the prisoners of war to British headquarters in New York City. Obenholt’s efforts on behalf of enemy soldiers were eventually discovered, resulting in his arrest and his being charged with high treason. Obenholt broke out of jail and found sanctuary in New York City where he died in 1780. Both his wife Elizabeth and his son remained in Bucks County, but their 260-acre farm, gristmill, houses and barns were confiscated by Pennsylvania’s rebels.

In 1787, John Obenholt Junior went to Montreal to seek compensation for the family’s losses. Whether the family was ever repaid for its privations and the service it provided escaping British prisoners of war remains unknown.

James Tait was a Virginian refugee who appeared before the loyalist compensation board when it convened in London in April of 1785. In his testimony before the commissioners, he recounted how he had drawn road maps for the royal army as he had expressed “a desire to be of every service in his power to the British troops”. However, were it not for the testimonies of three witnesses, posterity would not know of how Tait had come to the aid of British prisoners of war and fellow Loyalists.

Colonel Jacob Ellegood, who Patriots had incarcerated for over five years, was finally released “on parole” in May of 1781. This Virginian Loyalist’s freedom was based on his promise not to take up arms for the remainder of the war. Four years later, Ellegood testified that Tait often visited him during his parole, putting himself at personal risk by providing Ellegood with the latest local intelligence. Had Tait’s activities been discovered by Virginian rebels, they would have been considered him a spy and would either have hanged him or tossed him into jail.

But Tait did more than pass along news. James Ingram spoke on his behalf, testifying that the Virginian Loyalist had “assisted him to make his escape and was of use to many other Loyalists”. Finally, Lord John Murray, the earl of Dunmore and the last royalist governor of Virginia, testified that Tait was “very active in protecting prisoners”. Unfortunately, the transcripts of the loyalist compensation board do not contain specific details of Tait’s adventures in assisting British prisoners of war and Loyalist refugees.

Elizabeth Thompson had the opportunity to tell about her dealings with incarcerated soldiers when she appeared before the same loyalist compensation board two years later. Elizabeth and her husband had immigrated to Charleston, South Carolina from England in 1768. Although her husband’s occupation is not known, Elizabeth was a shopkeeper who made women’s clothing, specifically mantuas. (A mantua was a loose robe made from a single length of cloth and by the mid-18th century was part of the formal wear of the well-to-do woman.)

The Thompsons were forced to separate when the Charleston Council of Safety demanded that Elizabeth’s husband take the “oath to the rebel states”. Thompson left South Carolina for England, never to return. Elizabeth stayed in Charleston where she continued “unmolested … except that the rebels took her Negroes from her, and they threatened her”. A witness at her compensation hearing recalled how Elizabeth was in “a good way of business and was esteemed to be worth a good deal of money.”

Despite Patriot threats, Elizabeth did what she could to befriend the British soldiers who were imprisoned in Charleston. She made it her business to learn when prisoners were brought into the city and “always assisted them”. At times she served as a courier for incarcerated British officers, carrying letters to the British army on their behalf – or “employing a Negro” to deliver their letters.

James More, who had once been a prisoner himself, testified on Elizabeth’s behalf that she was “a Loyalist and very serviceable to the British Prisoners”. He remembered that she had sent “several bottles of rum and other things” to “prisoners in distress”.

Strange as it sounds to modern ears, it was not unusual for captured enemy officers to be “boarded out” within the community if they gave their word that they would not try to escape. Elizabeth Thompson decided to take advantage of this honour system and provided rooms in her home to seven Loyalist officers for “nearly four months”. The high-ranking prisoners were thus able to live in more civilized surroundings than were to be found in a Charleston jail.

The Royal Commission on the Losses and Services of American Loyalists recognized Elizabeth’s efforts to aid and house Loyalist prisoners in Charleston, compensating her for all that she had sacrificed. The commission also conferred Loyalist status on both Elizabeth and her husband.

James Moody was a prominent Loyalist combatant whose continued disruptions of Patriot activities made him a “most wanted criminal” in the eyes of New Jersey’s rebels. Despite all of their efforts, Moody survived the war and eventually settled in Nova Scotia.

Two years before the Revolution came to an end, he wrote a book entitled Lieutenant James Moody’s Narrative of his Exertions and Sufferings in the Cause of Government since 1776. Besides reciting all of his many adventures in fighting New Jersey’s rebels, Moody used his memoir to pay “glowing tribute to his brother loyalists”.

Although there were many occasions where he had to entrust his life and safety to strangers, Moody was “never disappointed or deceived by any of them”. He recounted how “he was several times in hiding for months at a time; but though many of these people were in sore straits and knew they would be generously rewarded for handing over so obnoxious a person, there were so far from betraying him that they often ran hazards in giving him assistance”.

More stories of those who risked both their freedom and their lives to help fugitive Loyalists will be told in next week’s Loyalist Trails.

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

Digby’s First Framed House Builder – A Loyalist Born in Ireland

By Brian McConnell, UE

No houses remain today in Digby, Nova Scotia from its original settlement, although Holdsworth House, a Bed & Breakfast is named after James Addington Holdsworth, who arrived with other Loyalist refugees in 1783. It is located on Carleton Street which carries the name of Sir Guy Carleton, Lord Dorchester, who served as Governor General of British North America. He and Rear-Admiral Robert Digby were responsible for the evacuation of the Loyalists from New York at the end of the American Revolution.

After the arrival at Digby in 1783 of some 1,200 Loyalist refugees who had remained loyal to Great Britain during the American Revolution they set about building their new homes. The first framed house was built by a man who was a native of Ireland. His name was Richard Hill.

Read more.

Atlantic Loyalist Connections: A Tree Grows in Planter Nova Scotia

By Leah Grandy, 26 Feb 2020

First brought to Nova Scotia as a young shoot in 1786, the “Bishop Pear Tree” still stands – gnarled but solid – near the edge of the Ken-Wo Golf Club in New Minas, Nova Scotia. The young tree was carried from Connecticut by Peter Bishop Jr. returning with his new wife to Nova Scotia, two hundred and thirty-four years ago.

Peter Bishop Jr. (1763-1848) was the son of Connecticut Planter, Peter Bishop Senior (1735-1825), and had gone back to his father’s hometown of New London to get married. The elder Peter Bishop had been one of the original land grantees in Horton Township, settling in what is now New Minas, Nova Scotia. Peter Bishop Sr. had come with the New England Planter migration, which included his father, John Bishop Sr., and three brothers – John Jr., William, and Timothy – around 1760.

Read more.

JAR: How to Write Like a Revolutionary War Spy

by Don N. Hagist 5 March 2020

Congratulations! You’ve been commissioned as an officer in the Continental Army, and General Washington has given you command of an important position near the front lines. You’ve assessed information gathered from patrols, deserters, prisoners, and local inhabitants, and you realize that something very important is about to happen. You must send a message to Washington immediately, but the information is very sensitive – you can’t risk the message being captured, or anyone else reading it. You need to write a secret message, but how?

Being a wise officer, you purchased a book that Washington himself recommended, Essay on the Art of War, a 1761 English translation of a 1754 French text (for this article, we’re using the 1761 London edition). You open it to the section titled “Secret Correspondence,” pages 207 to 212. It offers two suggestions – ciphers, or invisible ink.

You know that Washington recommended the use of invisible ink, which could then be revealed with a “sympathetic stain” that would give color to the writing. Your book describes a formula for an invisible ink and the fluid used to reveal it.

Read more.

JAR: Mapping the Battle of Eutaw Springs: Modern GIS Solves a Historic Mystery

by Stephen John Katzberg 3 March 2020

When dealing with available sources to investigate questions related to historical events, the researcher has at his disposal a limited set from which to choose. Contemporaneous accounts, reports, maps, plats, legal filings, and location evidence exist in a more or less complete record. Nevertheless, linking the elements bearing witness to one event or another is limited by the fact that quantitative analysis, across multiple data sets, is a modern invention. Navigation based on known, regularized coordinates only became available in the middle 1700s. Instrumentation to measure location and distance is also of modern origin.

Creating maps with accurate local detail has made plats or land resurveys great resources, but very difficult to “sew” together since they generally contain very few identifiable topographic features and are at various scales. The advent of geographical information systems (GIS) has caused major improvements in quantitative mapping. The ability to relate maps done on known scales has made for a whole host of applications when coupled with modern remote sensing from sources such as aircraft cameras, spacecraft imagery, surveyed maps, GPS mapping and laser scanning LIDAR. These applications include county property mapping, road routing, commercial company siting, business locating, and the like. Using GIS to corroborate the historical record compared to quantitative maps is an obvious potential application.

The Battle of Eutaw Springs has associated with it an historical mystery concerning the details of the distribution of troops and their actions. What follows is an illustration of applying GIS to the historical record. The result is a proposed resolution of that mystery that allows the historical narrative to be reconciled with a correct geographical interpretation. A venerated map passed down in time from 1822 until today will need to be redone.

Listen to the podcast.

Friday, 2 Mar 1770: Five Ways of Looking at a Brawl (3 Days Before the Boston Massacre)

By J.L. Bell 2 March 2020

Here are five men’s perspectives on what happened outside John Gray’s ropewalk in central Boston on Friday, 2 Mar 1770, 250 years ago today.

Read more.

A Town Meeting for a Town in Turmoil After the Boston Massacre

by J.L. Bell 6 Mar 2020

After the shooting on King Street on 5 Mar 1770, townspeople raced to take the wounded to doctors and to demand justice.

British army officers struggled to get from their lodgings to their companies’ barracks. They feared that locals would gather weapons and counterattack. There were rumors of a tar barrel being moved to Beacon Hill to summon militiamen from neighboring towns, though there’s little evidence those things actually happened.

At the Town House, acting governor Thomas Hutchinson assured the crowd that the civil government would investigate the event and pursue charges. Magistrates started to interview witnesses.

Whig leader William Molineux arrived and urged Hutchinson to order all the troops back to their barracks. Reluctant to be seen as controlling the army, the lieutenant governor merely asked Lt. Col. Maurice Carr to issue that order on his own authority.

Read more.

Eyewitness William Wyat Describes the Boston Massacre

March 7, 1770: Eyewitness William Wyat gives a deposition as to his experience at the Boston Massacre…

William Wyat provided the account below of the Boston Massacre just two days after the event. It was one of 96 such accounts collected by the town of Boston and printed for distribution in England as part of a pamphlet entitled “A Short Narrative of the Horrid Massacre in Boston Perpetrated…by Soldiers of the 29th Regiment.”

Read more (see “Document” below the “Questions”).

The Boston Massacre: Deadly Squabble Was Not Quite As The Propaganda Portrayed It

Eight British soldiers and their captain, pelted with ice and oyster shells, scrambled to form a defensive semicircle on a late-winter night as an angry, cudgel-wielding crowd spat on the troops and dared them to fire.

“Kill them!” the crowd cried, pressing toward the soldiers. “Why don’t you fire?” they shouted derisively.

And fire they did, 250 years ago Thursday, into a mass of civilians just yards from the Old State House of today. Five civilians would die, three were wounded, and the bloody chaos that was the Boston Massacre had suddenly quickened the pace toward revolution.

But this was not the coldblooded slaughter of legend, a massacre of Bostonian strangers by faceless troops led by Captain Thomas Preston. When the two sides faced off, they saw drinking companions, fellow tenants, and even in-laws sprinkled in on the other side.

It was a deadly confrontation between familiar faces. Little would ever be the same again in Boston, a cramped town of 15,000 people packed into a single square mile.

“When they’re looking at each other, they’re not looking at guys with guns and guys with sticks. They’re saying, ‘These are my neighbors,’ ” said Serena Zabin, a Carleton College history professor who explored their relationships in a recently published book.

Listen to the podcast.

Six Things Everyone Gets Wrong about the Boston Massacre

Everyone who took American history in school knows the basic story of the Boston Massacre, right? On March 5, 1770, a band of patriots stood their ground against the British troops occupying their land when a row of troops mercilessly fired into a crowd of innocent civilians at their commanding officers’ order. American patriots rallied in the aftermath of the violence and the massacre became shorthand for the brutal injustice of British rule.

Eventually, it was used to stoke support for full-on revolution. On the 250th anniversary of the massacre, this is the story that persists. But many of the facts that we think are true are really only part of the story, or just flat out wrong. How wrong? You’d be surprised.

First, it wasn’t a massacre. At least, not really.

It was, of course, a tragic series of events. Still, a handful of deaths is hardly a “massacre,” especially when stacked up against other historical events given that title, such as the Wounded Knee Massacre, which killed as many as 300.

Read more.

Book Review: Stripped and Script: Loyalist Women Writers of the American Revolution

Stripped and Script: Loyalist Women Writers of the American Revolution, by Kacy Tillman (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2019).

Reviewer: Emily Yankowitz, 5 March 2020

Studies of loyalist women were at the forefront of studies of women in early America and the American Revolution. Scholars including Mary Beth Norton, Janice Potter-MacKinnon, Linda Kerber have examined how women, supporters, neutrals, and opponents alike, experienced and participated in the American Revolution. Contributing to this vibrant area of scholarship, Kacy Tillman’s Stripped and Script: Loyalist Women Writers of the American Revolution focuses on loyalist women as writers. While much scholarship on the American Revolution and loyalism examines the rhetoric and war writing in essays, broadsides, and pamphlets typically published by men, Stripped and Script focuses on how women writers used “public, if not published” letters and journals to engage in politics and to craft their own senses of loyalties.

Much of the material in Tillman’s book will be familiar to those who have read Norton’s Liberty’s Daughters or other books on loyalist women. Tillman’s methods are new, although her actors will be familiar to those who have worked on loyalists. Tillman offers a new interpretation of the lives of seven loyalist women: Grace Growden Galloway, Sarah Logan Fisher, Elizabeth Drinker, Margaret Hill Morris, Anna Rawle, Rebecca Shoemaker, and Deborah Norris Logan. In light of this familiarity, it is refreshing to read a new interpretation of the lives of these women and their written materials from the perspective of a historically informed scholar of literature with a keen eye to turns of phrase.

Read more.

Draughts or Checkers in the 1700 and 1800s

By Geri Walton | March 6, 2020

Draughts or checkers was a strategy board game played for fun and for its relaxing benefits in the 1700 and 1800s. The game had been around for a long time and involved two players moving diagonally with their game pieces and capturing opponent pieces by jumping them. Because it was easy to learn and play, everyone in the family could participate, although based on what country you lived in you might play it on a different number of squares because United States and British boards had 64 (8×8) squares, Polish 100 (10×10), and Canadians 144 (12×12).

In France draughts or checkers were originally called “fierges,” “ferses,” “jeu de dames,” or “dames.” This game had been played for some time before it was popularized at the French court in the 1600s by Pierre Mallet, mathematician to the king…

Despite the controversy over the name there were plenty of books published in the 1700 and 1800s that offered tips or guides on how to play draughts or checkers. For instance, there was William Payne’s book published in 1756 titled, An Introduction to the Game of Draughts….

Because the game pieces were so portable, people played it everywhere. Friends played it outside their cottages, club members played it in their fancy club rooms, and families played it in their drawing rooms or parlors. Another popular spot for playing the game was coffee houses with one image produced in 1720 showing three men playing draughts at Button’s Coffee House in London.

Read more.

Region and Branch Bits

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

St. Lawrence Branch UELAC Receives Grant

Four Cornwall/SDG organizations get over $18K from Ontario Heritage Trust. As part of Ontario National Heritage Week, Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry MPP Jim McDonell announced over $18,000 will be dispersed through provincial grants to four local heritage organizations. The SD&G Historical Society, United Empire Loyalists’ Association of Canada, the South Nation Conservation Authority , and the Glengarry Fencibles Trust are part of a wider 342 community museums and heritage organizations receiving over $5 million in funding from the Ontario Heritage Trust. The announcement was made Feb. 25.

Read more.

From the Twittersphere and Beyond

  • Hampton New Brunswick resident hopes someone will adopt decaying Loyalist home. A Hampton man who lives next door to a house likely built in 1790 hopes someone else will see its beauty is worth preserving. “There’s just so much history there, it would be lovely if someone stepped up and rebuilt it or even moved it but kept that style and history with us,” said Stephen Langille. He believes the house could be the oldest in Hampton. Debbie Hickey, manager of the King County Museum in Hampton, said it’s the Isaac Ketchum home. The Ketchums were a prominent Loyalist family who came to New Brunswick in 1783. Read more…
  • This Week in History
    • 2 Mar 1770 Benjamin Franklin sends another letter to the editor in London, describing colonial complaints about the British trade system. Read more… follow link
    • 3 Mar 1770 Gangs of Boston workmen and British regulars roam the streets of Boston with sticks and clubs, attacking each other. Local officials struggle to restore control, without much success.
    • 5 Mar 1770 Boston Massacre inflames Colonists as British fire on mob, killing 5.
    • 6 Mar 1775, the 5th anniversary of the Boston Massacre fell on a Sunday, therefore the Patriots observed the commemoration on Monday, March 6. Dr. Joseph Warren delivered the oration at Old South Meeting House.
    • 28 Feb 1776 Washington prepares to take heights above Boston, writing that it will “bring on a rumpus” with British.
    • 2 Mar 1776 Patriot bombardment of occupied Boston begins, eventually leading to British evacuation. As the Continental Army began its bombardment of Boston, they counted just 4970 men present and fit for duty.
    • 3 Mar 1776 Silas Dean departs to negotiate in secret for French contributions of arms and military materiel.
    • 4 Mar 1776 Cannon seized from Fort Ticonderoga are placed overlooking Boston, dooming British occupation.
    • 5 Mar 1776 “This is, I believe, likely to prove as important a day to the British Empire as any in our annals. This morning, at daybreak, we discovered two redoubts on the hills on Dorchester-Point.” A British officer in Boston
    • 6 Mar 1776 NY Provincial Congress dispatches force to disable Sandy-Hook lighthouse to confound British invasion.
    • 29 Feb 1780 Russia forms League of Armed Neutrality to check British interference with neutral merchant shipping.
    • 1 Mar 1781 The Articles of Confederation ratified, forming first national gov’t for new United States of America.
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