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Loyalist Trails UELAC Newsletter, 2013 Archive

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"Loyalist Trails" 2013-26: June 30, 2013


Defenders of a Loyal Colony (Part II), by Stephen Davidson

Defenders of a Loyal Colony; Part II of the story of the 2nd Battalion Royal Highland Emigrants

An often forgotten chapter of the American Revolution is the warfare conducted in and around the loyal colony of Nova Scotia. Like the thirteen colonies to the south, Nova Scotia suffered attacks from within its borders and from with out. It had citizens that took up arms for the rebel cause, and it endured on-going attacks from patriot privateer vessels. Halifax, "the warden of the North", was home to British naval shipyards and was a tempting prize for rebel conquest.

Consequently, a loyalist corps was created to defend Britain's “fourteenth colony” – the second battalion of the Royal Highland Emigrants (RHE). (The first battalion served in Quebec.) The Royal Fencible Americans and the Loyal Nova Scotia Volunteers also protected the seaside colony – but their stories will be told another day.

The early core of the second battalion was a group of Scottish settlers who were on their way to Albany, New York. Intercepted by a British man of war, they had the choice of either "volunteering" for military service or going to prison for their emigration debts. Highlanders from St. John Island (modern day PEI), Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and some of the rebelling colonies also joined the RHE. This is the story of their wartime service, the defence of a loyal colony.

Names had a way of changing during the course of the American Revolution, and such was the case with the Royal Highland Emigrants. With an official notice published in a London newspaper in January 1779, both battalions of the RHE were elevated from the status of a provincial (colonial) regiment to a regular regiment of the British Army. This promotion came with a new title for the RHE – the 84th Regiment of Foot. All of the regiment's service before 1779 is noted as being performed by the RHE; all records after 1778 refer simply to "the 84th". For the rest of this article, the 84th – the name used for the RHE for five years – will be used.

The 2nd battalion of the 84th stood ever ready to defend Nova Scotia from rebel attack at twelve strategic locations. These fortifications were the Citadel, Fort Charlotte, Spry East Battery and Fort Needham (Halifax), Fort Cornwallis (Kentville), Fort Howe (modern day Saint John, N.B.), Fort Frederick (Newfoundland's Placentia Bay), Fort Cumberland (near modern day Amherst), Fort Anne (Annapolis Royal), Sydney Mines Battery (Cape Breton), Fort Sackville (Bedford), and its headquarters, Fort Edward (Windsor).

Despite being stationed at garrisons in Nova Scotia, soldiers of the 84th fought their first battle off the coast of Newfoundland in October of 1776. Thirty men were among those aboard the Newcastle Jane, a ship carrying uniforms and 20,000 from Boston. An American privateer attacked the British merchant vessel, but after a 24-hour battle, the Newcastle Jane escaped, leaving 11 patriots dead and 13 wounded on the damaged privateer. It was the first time a merchant vessel had ever been the victor in an encounter with rebels.

In May of 1777, Massachusetts' rebels overwhelmed the settlers at the mouth of the St. John River and began to establish a base of operations on the western edge of Nova Scotia's frontier. A month later, three British warships anchored to the east of the rebel post. Soldiers from the Royal Fencible Americans (RFA) and the 84th went ashore and advanced upon the unsuspecting rebels. Captain Alexander Macdonald, commander of the 2nd battalion, described the battle in one of his reports:

Our men "Engaged the Enemy who were about a hundred Strong & after a Smart firing & some killed & wounded on both Sides the Rebels ran with the greatest precipitation & Confusion to their boats. Some of our light armed vessels pursued them & I hope before this time they are either taken or starving in the Woods." The Siege of Saint John was the last land battle to occur in Nova Scotia during the revolution and was the only time in which a fort was recaptured from rebel forces.

Five months later men from the 84th were part of the raiding party that attacked a rebel privateer port at the mouth of the Penobscot River. Their capture of the fort stopped it being used as a staging area for future rebel raids on Nova Scotia.

Nevertheless, the settlers at the mouth of the St. John River feared more attacks from the sea and demanded military protection. Major Studholme of the RFA supervised the building of Fort Howe, which he had constructed on a hilltop across the harbour from Fort Frederick. (Rebels had destroyed the latter in 1775.) One company of the 84th helped to man the garrison for the rest of the war, but they were not happy when Studholme forced them to serve as "sailors and marines" to combat American privateer vessels. No doubt it broke the monotony of sentry duty at Fort Howe.

Another company of the 84th surprised and destroyed an American ship that was threatening Cape Sable Island in September of 1778. A month later men of the 84th sailed into Annapolis Royal where they discovered rebels attacking Fort Anne. They destroyed the enemy vessel.

For most of the revolution, however, the 84th had to be content with poet John Milton's description of service: "They also serve who only stand and wait". Their commander, Alexander McDonald often raised the boredom of garrison duty in letters to his superiors.

"We have absolutely been worse used than any one Regiment in America and has done more duty and Drudgery of all kinds than any other battalion in America these three Years past and it is but reasonable Just and Equitable that we should now be Suffered to Join together at least as early as possible in the Spring and let some Other Regiment relieve the different posts we at present Occupy."

However, when five companies of the 2nd battalion were sent off to the Carolinas, it became apparent how valuable their sentinel duties had been. Men of the 84th left Fort Anne in the summer of 1780 for a tour of duty in the south, leaving the people of Annapolis Royal feeling exposed and vulnerable. Within a year's time, two rebel schooners attacked the town, imprisoned every man, and looted every shop and house. Less than twelve months after that, a rebel sloop sailing near Annapolis Royal sent the populace into a panic until it was captured by a Nova Scotian privateer.

With the defeat of General Cornwallis at Yorktown in the fall of 1781, the British lost their will to continue the war. But off the coast of Nova Scotia, New England privateers continued to prey and plunder. Ninety rebels from these vessels attacked Lunenburg in August of 1782, burning down its blockhouse and plundering the town. The damages came to 10,000. Nova Scotia still had need of defenders such as the men of the 2nd Battalion.

In October of 1782, the men of the 84th who had gone off to fight in North Carolina returned to Halifax. A year later the 2nd Battalion disbanded, having completed six years of service to the crown. The Highlander emigrants finally received the land that was promised to them when they had been impressed into the British services. They settled in Douglas, not too far from their regiment's headquarters in Windsor, Nova Scotia. Some, dissatisfied with their grants, moved to Pictou County' East River, Colchester County, Nova Scotia's eastern shore, St. John Island, and the Fundy shore of New Brunswick.

During its eight-year history, the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Highland Emigrants Regiment (the 84th) had liberated a community from rebel invaders, scared off privateer attacks, and kept vigilant guard over Nova Scotia from twelve strategic fortifications. The men of the 84th had fulfilled their mandate – the successful defence of a loyal colony.


2013 Conference Well Met

How do you critique the annual UELAC Conference? Following tradition it could be said that the "Meet Us At The Head of Lake Ontario" UELAC Conference 2013, was "the best ever." You don't have to take my word it for either. With opportunities to attend membership or genealogist workshops, listen to great speakers or even socialize, the challenge to enjoy yourself was minimal. Tours to the Niagara region, Stoney Creek Battlefield and local historic sites ensured you didn't stay in your hotel room. If you were a delegate to the AGM or Dominion Council, you left confident that reading the reports ahead of time was worth the commitment. While reviewing the menus might make you salivate, it would be a greater challenge to describe as effectively the benefits of sharing the banquet entertainments with fellow members of UELAC. Ruth Nicholson, Chairman of the 2013 Conference, has provided a brief summary (PDF) that clearly suggests it was a "Conference Well Met."

A photographic essay will be available later once all pictures have been received. If you have a picture that can be sent electronically, please share it with


The Name is Familiar, But the Face [is missing]

While the names of UELAC Dominion Presidents can be easily found, a photographic record of those who have served in that position during the past 99 years is far from complete. At one time, a melange of formal portraits and photocopies of images from various print media was framed and displayed in the dominion office. When the office was moved from the third to the second floor of the George Brown House back in the nineties, the collection was placed in storage in the home of the Dominion Archivist. Following the 2012 placement of the UELAC archives in GBH, the presidential portraits have been scanned for use during the centenary celebrations.

However, the history of our association is still lacking both names and pictures of UELAC Dominion Presidents who served prior to 1950. While we have listed Wilson Saunders Morden 1919-1924, Major M. Stanley Boehm 1925-1926 and J.A.C. Cameron 1927-1929, no pictures have surfaced. If you have a picture of those three gentlemen or can provide information to fill the gaps in the list, please contact


Where in the World?

Where is Kawartha Branch member Bob McBride?

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 to Jennifer Childs.

Loyalists and the War of 1812

Thanks to those who have contributed to the slowly growing index of Loyalists and the War of 1812.

We have added a new entry for William Jarvis thanks to Bob Jarvis, UE.

If you have a family ancestry which qualifies (see the heading of the page with entries), please submit to Our rich history continues to emerge through these family histories.

Book Rockets, Bombs and Bayonets and the Battle of Plattsburg

Alexander Craig has written a new book, entitled Rockets, Bombs and Bayonets: A Concise History of the Royal Marines and Other British and Canadian Forces in Defence of Canada, 1812-1815. He takes the point of view of the Royal Marines and the other British and Canadian forces that served alongside them. The Chesapeake raids, the battles of LaColle Mill, Plattsburgh, Oswego, Big Sandy Creek, Bladensburg, Washington, North Point, Baltimore and the major battles in the New Orleans campaign are all covered extensively, using firsthand accounts of serving officers, soldiers and other eyewitnesses.

As part of the Battle of Plattsburg commemorations, Alex will use the book as the basis for a lecture, followeed by a book signing on Sunday, Sept. 8, 2013, from 7:00pm-8:30pm at the War of 1812 Museum (operated by the Battle of Plattsburgh Association), 31 Washington Rd., Plattsburgh, New York.

Visit Epic Press for more information; the book is available from many retailers.

...Bill Glidden, Historian

From the Twittersphere and Beyond

Additions to the Loyalist Directory

As time permits, we add information to the Loyalist Directory. The latest additions and updates are as follows:
- Mills, John – from Don Praast

Please help us build the directory by contributing more information for it. Contact for instructions and guidance.

Last Post: Robert “Colin” Mills, UE

The Hamilton Branch UELAC lost one of its life members this past week. While the involvement of Colin Mills with the Loyalists goes back to his childhood and the influence of his uncle, Stanley Mills, donor of the United Empire Loyalist monument in Prince's Square, Hamilton, Colin continued to hold a special relationship with the Branch. He was also proud that his mother was a distant relative of Lt. Gov. John Graves Simcoe. The information submitted to the newspaper only hints at his many interests.

MILLS, Robert Colin It is with sorrow we announce the passing of Robert "Colin " Mills, 6th generation Hamiltonian. Lover of and long-time resident of Belle Cote, Cape Breton. Beloved husband of Barbara, father to Linda (Peter Sutherland), Lucy (Robert Camargo), and David (Janet Lebeau); grandfather to Christopher (Genevieve), Andrew (Meadow), Kristin, Jesse (Charlene) Sam (Michelle), Hal, Mark, Alex (Jenna) and Bryn; great-grandfather to Cora, Gwyneth, Grayden and Ellis, and leaves behind his beloved dog Brett. Owner of the world renowned Herbert S. Mills China at King and James. An original member and past president of the Hamilton Branch of the United Empire Loyalist's Association and an enthusiastic traveller and herpetologist. A vivid teller of tall tales, some even true! His family came to the Canadian wilderness in the 1790s and built a cabin near the corner of King and Queen St., as one of the area's first settlers long before Hamilton existed. At a young age, he spent countless hours exploring the escarpment looking for salamanders and snakes, and developing a keen interest in natural history. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to Calvin United Church in Margaree Harbour, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia or the Nova Scotia Nature Trust at A graveside service will take place on Wednesday, July 3rd at 1:30 p.m. at the Hamilton Cemetery, 777 York Blvd, Hamilton.

Born in Hamilton on April 23, 1917, Colin studied at St. Andrew's College in Aurora and University of Michigan where he was asked to write Amphibians and Reptiles of Canada, the first such Canadian record.

He worked for his father, Herbert S. Mills in the prestigious family business, Mills China, and travelled annually to England to purchase china for the store. Decades ago, Mills China was THE place to buy quality china and many famous customers travelled great distances to deal with the Mills firm. Colin reported that such famous people included the Roosevelt Family and the US Secretary of State, who would drive up in an entourage of limousines and intricate security routines, to make their purchases while the store was kept open at night for their convenience.

After meeting her at a well-remembered New Year's Eve Party over 65 years ago, Colin married Barbara. She had served 4 years in the RAF and came to Canada to visit an aunt in Burlington. Colin had also served briefly in the Canadian Army. At least this is what he told us.

Colin was "present" in the branch; in this photo he speaks at the first celebration of Loyalist Day in Ontario, in 1998, in front of the Loyalist Monument in Hamilton where the celebration continues to be held each year.

His presence and influence will be missed.

...Gloria Oakes, Hamilton Branch

Editor's Wishes

The weekend goes well here – sunshine, the right temperature for me, and a holiday weekend. I wish you all a wonderful Dominion – oops, Canada Day tomorrow. And to the rebel contingent a great Independence Day on Thursday (just think, if you hadn't done that, Canada would now have 60 provinces). Everyone, be happy, be safe, and enjoy.


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