Royalist Americans

“Believing that I owed duty to my King [in 1777], I became known as a loyalist, or, as they called me, a tory; and soon found my situation rather unpleasant.”

—Anonymous royalist American from Hoosick Valley, New York, 1828

Royalist Americans at Saratoga

Not all Americans wanted independence from Britain during the American Revolution; in fact, many Americans fought to keep the 13 colonies within the British Empire. In many ways, this made the Revolutionary War a civil war, with neighbors fighting against each other on the field of battle because of the causes they believed in.

Called royalists and loyalists by the British and “tories” by the Americans fighting against them, royalist Americans were the targets of oppressive discrimination in upstate New York. State-authorized Committees of Safety and Protection were empowered to root out suspected royalists living in their communities. Even a simple accusation of being unfriendly to the United States was all that was needed to arrest a suspect. A guilty verdict could result in a monetary fine, confinement, and / or confiscation of property, including one’s home.

Many royalists living in upstate New York and Vermont saw Burgoyne as a savior meant to restore the previous crown-authorized “legitimate” governments to power. Over the course of the summer of 1777, over 1,000 royalists flocked to Burgoyne’s army, seeking refuge from persecution or, in many cases, to take up arms against the “rebels.” There were not enough guns to arm those willing to fight, but there were many other opportunities for royalist men and boys to serve, including service as boatmen, bridge builders, laborers, or as scouts and spies.

When the British negotiated terms of surrender at Saratoga in October, many remaining royalists sought permission to escape through the wilderness for the safety of British-held Ticonderoga. The royalists feared that if they surrendered along with the British and Germans of Burgoyne’s army, they would be treated with extreme prejudice by victorious United States troops. As it happened, the Saratoga Convention stipulated that the American royalists were to be immediately released, unharmed, to Canada under the condition that they would not fight again.

Royalist American units at the Battles of Saratoga

  • King’s Loyal Americans (Jessup’s Rangers)

  • Queen’s Loyal Rangers (Peters’s Corps)

  • Loyal Volunteers

  • Volunteers under the Command of Daniel McAlpin

  • Captain Samuel Adams’s Company of Rangers

  • A small detachment from the King’s Royal Regiment of New York

  • A small detachment from the 1st Battalion, Royal Highland Emigrants

  • Captain Hazzard Wilcox’s Company of Pioneers

  • Captain Hugh Monro’s Bateaux Company

  • Captain Peter Van Alstine’s Bateaux Company

Last updated: October 4, 2022

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