The history of the Provincial Corps of Pennsylvania Loyalists is presented in 7 parts. Click below to skip to:
Part 1 - Introduction & The Philadelphia Campaign, 1777
|A History of the Provincial Corps of Pennsylvania Loyalists - Part 7 of 7|
Parole, Reduction & Exile
Major General CAMPBELL had gotten the best terms he could for surrendering, in short degree due to the resoluteness of the garrison and their conduct in the siege. The officers and men would be sent first to Havana, and then proceed on parole to New York, where they would remain until exchanged for a like number of Spanish officers and men.67
The fleet carrying the prisoners left Pensacola on 5 June 1781, thus ending the Pennsylvania Loyalists' experience in the Deep South. After spending ten days in Cuba, the troops once again embarked in Spanish vessels under white flags, ready to return them to New York, from whence they had come three years before. The voyage home was eventful in itself.
The ship carrying some of the Pennsylvania Loyalists, under the command of Captain Joseph Swift, the St. Joseph and St. Joachim, was surprisingly boarded and taken by the Holker and Fair American, two Rebel Privateers, and ordered to steer for Philadelphia. No doubt the prisoners felt very great apprehensions at this development.
It was bad enough losing almost half their number killed in one blinding moment, but being sent to Philadelphia could lead to the rest of their deaths as well. Many, it will be remembered, were deserters from the Continental Army and liable to be shot as such. Those that were true Loyalists could be tried by the state for high treason, something not normally done to those in the Provincial regiments, but the threat remained.
The reason for their being attacked by the Rebels was from the terms of the surrender, which specified that the prisoners, as a term of their parole, would not serve against the Spanish or their allies, which meant the French. Spain, unlike France, was not an ally of the Rebel American government, merely fighting on the same side. This left open the possibility that the troops, once they returned to New York, could serve against the Rebels. This clause was enough for the privateers to justify capturing them.
To the great relief of the Pennsylvanians, and in a bit of irony, a Loyalist privateer schooner named the General Arnold and another vessel recaptured the ship before it reached the Delaware River.68 The schooner of course was named after Benedict Arnold, the former Rebel Major General and commandant of Philadelphia, who had deserted to the British in 1780.
Thus rescued, the ship and occupants arrived in New York 23 July 1781. The rest of the garrison had arrived over a week before.69
All the troops were posted to Newtown, Long Island, where they would remain as prisoners on parole for exactly a year. For some of the officers, none of whom by the way had been killed or wounded in the siege, there was entertaining and socializing to be done.
Benjamin BAYNTON almost seemed to be suffering from a severe bout of depression or perhaps post traumatic stress. He confined himself to his quarters and refused to socialize with any of his fellow officers.
He was poor but not in debt, and to have wined and dined his companions would have certainly been well beyond his means. This inactivity would last until 24 July 1782, when the Pensacola survivors were officially exchanged and allowed to do duty.70
By July of 1782 however, there was not much in the way of combat duty to do. Sir Guy CARLETON had taken over as the final commander in chief of the British Army in America and had suspended offensive operations while peace was discussed in Europe.
With the preliminary articles drawn up early in 1783, and peace soon to follow, there was little to do but to decide whether or not to leave America for other parts of the British Empire, or return home amidst their enemies. There were few left in any event.
Upon their return from Pensacola, they mustered just 9 officers, 4 staff officers, 3 sergeants, 2 corporals, and 43 privates; their actual strength was less than that of a standard company of infantry.71 Ensign William McMICHAEL and ten others remained behind either at Havana or Pensacola as prisoners, probably due to being taken at various times prior to the capitulation of the garrison, or due to the severity of their wounds.
The corps finally ended its existence quietly in 1783. Before the final evacuation of New York, Lieutenant Colonel ALLEN and the downtrodden Lieutenant BAYNTON left for England, the latter never realizing his goal of being promoted to captain.
The corps, such as it was, embarked on board the Bridgwater for the River Saint John on 12 September 1783. They had on board 51 officers and men of all ranks, 12 women, 11 children and 6 servants.72 They left behind Major KEARNY and a new addition to the corps, Ensign William Johnson HOLT, both of whom would soon embark for England.73
The regiment, as all other Provincial Corps in Nova Scotia, would be disbanded on 10 October 1783. The British would provide the disbanded soldiers with 100 acres of land each, plus an additional 50 acres for each dependent. They would be allowed to keep their arms, accoutrements and uniforms, plus be furnished with building implements and provisions.
The corps would eventually draw Block 12 as their lot of land for their new homes. In time the surviving officers and men would start life anew with their fellow Loyalists and carve out a new society, maintaining their Loyalty to the British, but still retaining the American spirit of ambition and hard work. It would be difficult though, for many years.
William ALLEN, broken in health, had to fight to continue receiving his half pay as a disbanded officer while in Lyons, France.74 Francis KEARNY would lose his entire estate in New Jersey and wind up in poverty and debt in London.75 He was forced to the disagreeable necessity of selling off half of the annuity of his half pay for the sum of £ 50, which could not have lasted long.76
Thus had they suffered for the Crown, losing their estates or connections, but maintaining their Loyalty or fleeing a worse situation, forced to start life all over again under the most challenging of circumstances.
67 "Orders, Head Quarters, Lines of Fort George 10th May 1781." CL, Frederick Mackenzie Papers.
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