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Loyalist Trails UELAC Newsletter, 2017 Archive

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“Loyalist Trails” 2017-33: August 13, 2017


2017 UELAC Conference: Discover Your Roots

June 22 - 25, 2017; London, Ontario

Hosted by: London & Western Ontario Branch and Grand River Branch

Registration and details.

Penelope Winslow: The Loyalist "Princess" of Plymouth (Part 1)

© Stephen Davidson, UE

Pretending to be a princess is a favourite daydream of little girls in the 21st century, and toy manufacturers have been quick to produce dolls with sparkling ball gowns to let children play out their fantasies. Frilly ball gowns, however, have had a toxic impact on some people's perceptions of the loyalists. Far too many people have seen The Coming of the Loyalists, a painting by Montreal artist Henry Sandham, and have come to believe that it accurately portrays Canada's refugee founders.*

Published over a hundred years ago, Sandham's illustration shows aristocratic women in gaudy ball gowns stepping onto a rocky Maritime shore as they are greeted by men in expensive clothes. To the casual observer, it seems obvious that the loyalists were highly paid government officials – the elite of colonial society – who, having backed the losing side of the American Revolution, were given a cruise ship ride to the welcoming shores of Nova Scotia. This distorted image has had a negative impact on Canadians, loyalist descendants, and Americans.

Besides being horribly inaccurate, this romanticized depiction of loyalist émigrés has led some of our fellow citizens to believe that all loyalists were upper class nobility. Unable to empathize with a pack of lace-trimmed dandies and princesses, these Canadians completely lost any interest in this compelling chapter in their country's story.

This stereotype of the loyalists was regularly featured in the American history books of an earlier generation. It made the hated "Tories" all the easier to demonize since they clearly had no connection to the typical American colonist.

Unfortunately, some descendants of American loyalists have helped to promote and further the notion that the revolution's refugees were "of the better sort". They preferred to view their ancestors as colonial "royalty", giving themselves a pedigree that they felt somehow made them better than their fellow Canadians. By indulging in their own "princess fantasies", they failed to appreciate the far richer stories of their loyalist ancestors: ordinary folks who were forced to endure extraordinary circumstances.

American loyalists were refugees of a bitter civil war, and their experiences were common to those of displaced people throughout time: violent persecution, divided families, loss of property and goods, and a dependence on others for assistance. Like the refugees of the 21st century, the loyalists represented all strata of society. The vast majority of these Americans was working and middle class folk – even slaves. And yes, some – a minority – were used to fine lace and ball gowns.

Let us consider the story of one American woman who could be said to fit the stereotype of a "loyalist princess" – Miss Penelope Winslow of Plymouth, Massachusetts. It is a story of high society, sumptuous balls, and elegant carriage rides – but it is also a story of loss, separation and loneliness. It bears absolutely no relation to the "loyalist princesses" in Sandham's painting.

The first bit of romantic fiction that needs to be shattered is the image of well-attired women stepping ashore as if they had just enjoyed a diverting boat ride in a gentle swan pond. The ships that evacuated loyalist refugees were transport ships that had been used to carry British horses, troops and food – or they were hired patriot vessels only recently used for smuggling contraband goods or carrying out privateer raids. Evacuation ship quarters were cramped; neighbours were noisy – or even worse, infected with measles. The first thing most female passengers wanted to do after two weeks at sea was to go ashore and find a stream of fresh water so that they could wash their family's clothes. They were not looking for a ball.

No amount of political influence could guarantee good sailing conditions. Penelope Winslow's sister Sarah wrote down her memoirs of their family's trip from New York City to Nova Scotia. Granted, they were able to choose their fellow passengers, but it was certainly no cruise ride to sanctuary.

"Our voyage was a tedious one. We set sail with every flattering appearance, but in a few hours after the wind came contrary, and continued so the whole of the way which rendered it a disagreeable. Fifteen days from the evening after we left New York, until the day we landed at this place. Not one hour good weather had we. Very sea sick and extremely frightened were we all ..."

But there is more wrong with the Sandham painting than its portrayal of a calm voyage in a magnificent vessel to a refuge where passengers are greeted by men in embroidered jackets and snow-white stockings. The expressions of delight and optimism on the ladies-in-ball-gowns bear little resemblance to the emotions of Penelope Winslow, our loyalist princess. It's time to begin her story.

Born in 1743, thirty-two years before the first shots were fired in the American Revolution, Penelope was the oldest daughter in the family of Edward and Hannah Winslow. Her younger siblings were Sarah and Edward Junior. The family was a fine example of colonial "nobility", being able to claim that most cherished of American ancestors – a Mayflower passenger. When Penelope was eleven years old, the Winslows moved into a palatial, multi-storied mansion that overlooked Plymouth Rock.

Given that her father was on the board of selectmen for Plymouth and at various times had served as Massachusetts' treasurer, a justice of the peace and as the collector of customs, it was indeed a "palace" worthy of a colonial aristocrat. Penelope learned to read, write and – like other women of her station – produce fine needlework. Like European nobility, the family did not have to concern itself with menial household chores. They had enslaved Africans to see to their every need.

A life of luxury and privilege was the only one that Penelope had ever known – until the Battle of Lexington sent shockwaves throughout the thirteen colonies and the Winslow family.

Penelope's story continues in next week's Loyalist Trails.

* See the painting "The Coming of the Loyalists" (with description)

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

Spanish Capture of British Bahamas

The capture of the Bahamas took place in May 1782 during the American War of Independence when a Spanish force under the command of Juan Manuel de Cagigal arrived on the island of New Providence near Nassau, the capital of The Bahamas. The British commander at Nassau, John Maxwell decided to surrender the island without a fight when confronted by the superior force.

Read more.

Boston 1775: The Massachusetts Militia, and Its Exceptional Men

Next week I'll be one of the presenters at a teachers' workshop organized by Minute Man National Historical Park. My topic will be the Massachusetts militia system and that institution's role in The Road to Concord.

Preparing for that session, I've been reviewing the Massachusetts militia laws. In January 1776 the General Court approved an update of the main law, which dated to the reign of William and Mary.

The new law defined the people required to participate in the militia's seasonal military training this way ...

Read more.

Understanding the American Revolution using George III's archives

By Andrew O'Shaughnessy, Sons of the American Revolution (SAR) Visiting Professor.

The objective of my research project was twofold. Firstly, it aimed to explain the significance of the archives of George III and the Georgian Programme for our understanding of the American Revolution. Secondly, it examined the personal role of George III in the formulation of strategy in the Revolutionary War.

The papers of George III are fundamental to interpreting the British side of the American Revolution. The King was a critical figure because he enjoyed considerable power under the constitutional system of the 18th century. The monarch was still actively involved in politics, selecting both the Prime Minister and members of the Cabinet. The King also had much influence over the independent country gentry who made up the majority of members of the House of Commons. This was augmented by the patronage of individuals known as placemen and direct control of some constituencies.

Read more.

JAR: Dunmore's War: The Last Colonial Conflict of America's Colonial Era

Dunmore's War: The Last Colonial Conflict of America's Colonial Era, by Glenn Williams (Westholme, 2017); Reviewed by Eric Sterner 9July 13, 2017).

In 1763, King George III issued a proclamation essentially declaring the regions west of the Allegheny off limits to settlement by whites. As it took responsibility for territories once claimed by France, Britain hoped to minimize existing and future conflict by separating the colonies from Indian territory. London had no interest in paying for security beyond the Alleghenies or another war on the American frontier.

The proclamation, of course, increased tensions with Britain's American colonists, particularly speculators and those who expected to be rewarded with land beyond the mountains for their service during the French and Indian War. A subsequent series of treaties opening territory between the Ohio River and Alleghenies sought to appease colonial interests in Virginia and Pennsylvania, while minimizing conflict with the Iroquois Confederacy to the north and the Cherokee nation to the south, both powerful nations on the American border. Unfortunately, the Shawnee were stuck in between. Quite simply, the Iroquois, who claimed authority over that tribe, gave away traditional Shawnee hunting grounds.

As whites flooded into the area, cultural interaction, conflicting notions of property, order, and justice made violence all but inevitable. Robbery became murder, followed by revenge raids, more murder, mutual racial animosity, and the destruction of small settlements along the Ohio. Animosity begat animosity and as violence between colonists and Indians living along the Ohio escalated in 1773 and 1774, war rumors, diplomatic attempts to secure allies, and efforts to mobilize martial resources intensified.

Read more.

The Junto: Teaching Amid Political Tension: A Roundtable

Teaching with a Historical Sense and Respect, Aug. 7

I teach at a small liberal arts college in Kentucky. Like many academics, I spend most of my time teaching, thinking about teaching, and mentoring. I genuinely enjoy my students; they are smart, thoughtful, engaged, and generally eager to learn new things. And while the past year has been an interesting one to spend on a college campus, my students haven't seemed remotely surprised about the political, racial, and class tensions that have occasionally swept across campus.

Read more.

Teaching History in the Trump Era, Aug. 8

One day in my small undergraduate historiography seminar a few years ago, one student said something really offensive to another student. I can't really repeat the offending sentence, but it involved a racist aspersion toward a student of color and the offender invoked the name of then-candidate Trump as he spat out the shocking utterance. I remember being so shocked at what I had heard, and the condescending way in which it was said, that I shrank from the occasion. Luckily, the student at whom the comment was directed was more than capable of standing up for herself and others. No matter, I went home that day feeling like I had failed my students. The feeling did not go away for a long time.

Read more.

Historical Memory and Contemporary Politics, Aug. 9

When asked to contribute to this roundtable, my mind immediately turned to a 100-level course I taught this past spring, "Turning Points in American History." Though the course had been designed as a "greatest hits" of the US history survey, I decided that I wanted to interrogate the concept of memory as it relates to the Revolution, the Civil War, and more centrally, the shifting understandings of Freedom and Rights in the US. I intentionally chose materials that would trace these changing ideas over time and highlight the legacy of the Revolution in the Civil War, the 1960s, and our own moment today. Ultimately, I wanted to get my students to talk about the 2015 controversy that arose around the Confederate flag after Dylann Roof entered the Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston, SC and brutally murdered parishioners as they prayed. This, I hoped, would push them to consider the continued relevance of these moments – of history – for today. In forcing them to confront the ways the past still shapes our society and culture, I hoped they would be motivated to work towards a better future.

Read more.

Democratize the Classroom, Aug. 10

To be perfectly honest, the current age of turmoil has had a minimal impact on the content of my courses. Long before Donald Trump emerged as a presidential contender or Pepe the Frog became an absurd, menacing presence in Americans' collective consciousness, I had been teaching a politically engaged curriculum that focused on the intersection of racism, sexism, inequality, imperialism, and jingoistic excess in American history. I had designed these courses as a kind of rebuttal to what I saw as the defining sins of American life, and insofar as Donald Trump gleefully embodies these sins, my courses have aged well in the era of his presidency.

Read more.

Ben Franklin's World: George Washington's Revolution

Robert Middlekauff, professor emeritus at the University of California, Berkeley and author of Washington's Revolution: The Making of America's First Leader leads us on an exploration of George Washington the man and leader.

During our conversation, Bob reveals how Washington's will and judgement played a vital role during the War for American Independence; What drove George Washington to become a Patriot; And, How Washington's experiences, mistakes, and successes during the War for Independence provided him with the knowledge and skills he needed to lead the Patriots to victory in 1781.


Vice-Admiral The Hon. John Byron

John Byron (8 November 1723 - 10 April 1786) was a British Royal Navy officer and politician. He was known as Foul-weather Jack because of his frequent encounters with bad weather at sea. As a midshipman, he sailed in the squadron under George Anson on his voyage around the world, though Byron made it to southern Chile, and returned to England with the captain of HMS Wager. He was governor of Newfoundland following Hugh Palliser, who left in 1768. He circumnavigated the world as a commodore with his own squadron in 1764-1766. He fought in battles in The Seven Years' War and the American Revolution. He rose to Vice Admiral of the White before his death in 1786.

His grandsons include the poet George Gordon Byron and George Anson Byron, admiral and explorer, who were the 6th and 7th Baron Byron, respectively.

Read more.

The Conversation: Eclipsing the Occult in Early America: Benjamin Franklin and His Almanacs

By the time he was 20 years old, colonial American Benjamin Franklin had already spent two years working as a printer in London. He returned to Philadelphia in 1726. During the sea voyage home, he kept a journal that included many of his observations of the natural world. Franklin was inquisitive, articulate and interested in mastering the universe.

During one afternoon calm on September 14, Franklin wrote,

"as we sat playing Draughts upon deck, we were surprised with a sudden and unusual darkness of the sun, which as we could perceive was only covered with a small thin cloud: when that was passed by, we discovered that that glorious luminary laboured under a very great eclipse. At least ten parts out of twelve of him were hid from our eyes, and we were apprehensive he would have been totally darkened."

Total solar eclipses are not rare phenomena; every 18 months on average one occurs somewhere on Earth. Franklin and his shipmates likely had seen eclipses before. What was different for Franklin and his generation was a new understanding of the causes of eclipses and the possibility of accurately predicting them.

Earlier generations in Europe relied on magical thinking, interpreting such celestial events through the lens of the occult, as if the universe were sending a message from heaven. By contrast, Franklin came of age at a time when supernatural readings were held in suspicion. He would go on to spread modern scientific views of astronomical events through his popular almanac – and attempt to free people from the realm of the occult and astrological prophecy.

Read more.

UE Loyalist Certificates Issued in July

A list of UE Certificates issued since late in 2012 – showing the Loyalist ancestor, name of descendant (when permission is granted), branch and date – has been updated with the certificates issued through the end of July of this year. The same updates have been applied to the Loyalist Directory.

Where in the World?

Where is Jean Rae Baxter of Kingston, Hamilton and Bicentennial Branches? ?

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

Region and Branch Bits

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

  • 18th Century Military Archaeology in the Upper Hudson and Champlain Valleys by David Starbuck. Organized by The American Revolution Round Table (ARRT) of the Hudson and Mohawk Valleys, to be held Thursday, August 24, 2017 at the Schuylerville Town Hall, 12 Spring St., Schuylerville, NY 12871 at 6:30 PM with social time followed by the presentation at 7 PM. The waterway that runs between Albany and Canada contains the richest cluster of 18th-century military sites in the US. Fort William Henry and Fort Ticonderoga experienced fierce conflict during the French and Indian War, and the Saratoga Battlefield is forever linked to the American Revolution. (see 1762 map) While military historians have told and retold stories of the area's battles and generals, archeologist David Starbuck turns to the daily lives of soldiers, officers, and camp followers by examining the many objects and artifacts they left behind. David Starbuck is an historical and industrial archaeologist, specializing in the archaeology of America's forts and battlefields, the archaeology of utopian societies (the Shakers), and the archaeology of medieval and post-medieval sites in Scotland. There will be time for networking before and after. $5 suggested donation. For information, email or call 518-774-5669.

From the Twittersphere and Beyond

  • St. Mary's Church at Auburn, Nova Scotia consecrated 1790 by Loyalist Bishop Charles Inglis (Brian McConnell UE)
  • Christ Church Anglican. Built by Loyalists in Shelburne, Nova Scotia. First service 1789.
  • Those aren't mini tipis in the Encampment! They're Bells of Arms, used to store muskets when in camp. (Jamestown - Yorktown)
  • That blackpowder smell. Love it! At Fort York (Toronto) on Simcoe Day.
  • Today in History: Lars D.H. Hedbor @LarsDHHedbor (see his page for associated photos):
    • 12 Aug 1776 Washington predicts British assault on NYC, but cannot prevent its capture on 15 Sep 1776.
    • August 11, 1776 At Boston, the Declaration of Independence was read in every church in the city and surrounding area.
    • 11 Aug 1775 Washington sternly warns British commanders to improve treatment of Prisoners of War
    • 10 Aug 1776 News of the Declaration of Independence reaches London. "We hold these truths to be self-evident..."
    • 9 Aug 1780 Spanish fleet captures 55 ships of British convoy, crippling East Indies commerce.
    • 8 Aug 1778 American land forces & French naval forces besiege Newport RI; land delays & weather defeat them.
    • 7 Aug 1782 Washington creates Purple Heart commendation for exceptional merit; awards only 3.
    • 6 Aug 1777 Patriot Gen. Herkimer mortally wounded in ambush; attempting to relieve besieged Fort Stanwix.
  • Townsends: Q&A - How Common Were Potatoes In The 18th Century?
  • The soft pink of a 1780s day dress finds its beautiful added interpretation through millinery at The Museum of London
  • Men's 18th Century silver grey waistcoat with floral embroidery, 1750-1770

Additions to the Loyalist Directory

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

  • Barry, Patrick - from Trevor Angel

Correction: Winners at UELAC Conference in London

Note that the list of winners was correct, but two people had been assigned to an incorrect branch. See the corrected list.