Grand River Branch
United Empire Loyalists' Association of Canada
Selected Reprints from the
Grand River Branch Newsletter, Branches
"The Provincial Loyalist Corps: Settlers of Upper Canada (Ontario) Butler's Rangers (1777-1784); Indian or Native Allies; Jessup's Corps, The King's Royal Americans (1777-1784); The King's Royal Regiment of New York, Royal Yorkers; Royal Greens, John Johnson's Greens (1776-1784); Queen's Rangers (1776-1783) (1791-1802); Royal Highland Emigrant Corps (1775-1784)"
Angela E.M. Files, February 1991, Vol.3 No.1, Pages 5-8
The term 'provincial corps refers to a military body of officers and soldiers who represent a particular province or area of a country. During the Revolutionary War, the provincial loyalist corps were organized in the thirteen colonies from the Province of Maine in the north to Georgia in the south. A corps was usually named in honour of the King of England, the founder or commander of the unit or its geographical location in America. One source notes "some 19,000 colonists served in forty-two loyalist ... corps.
The provincial corps often served as occupation forces in support of the regular British army. They assisted in this capacity in New Jersey (1776); in the Philadelphia area (1777 and 1778); the outpost at Augusta, Georgia (1779 to 1781) and in the back country of South Carolina (1780 to 1782). Loyalist forces sometimes took the brunt of the fighting. Sir John Johnson's Royal Yorkers fought the victorious battle at Oriskany in the Mohawk Valley during Burgoyne's ill-fated expedition in 1777; the Queen's Loyal Rangers were nearly annihilated at the Battle of Bennington during the same campaign and the Queen's Rangers and the New Jersey Volunteers participated in various military engagements in both the northern and southern theatres of war.
The provincial loyalist corps were subordinated to British policy. Loyalist officers were seldom, if ever elevated to the ranks or commanding positions of their British counterparts. Often acting under the authority of the regular army, Loyalists were sometimes employed as spies, counterfeiters, foragers, guides, guerillas, pilots, propagandists and pioneers.
At the conclusion of the American Revolution, most of the officers, enlistees and their families were forces to leave the former thirteen colonies. Their homes and properties having been confiscated by the American state authorities, most of the provincial loyalist corps were resettled in the maritimes colonies and in what would soon become Upper Canada (Ontario) and Lower Canada (Québec). Some of the wealthiest Loyalists and almost all former colonial officials returned to Great Britain. A few went to the west Indies or the Floridas. Six of the principal loyalist corps and Native allies were: 1) Butler's Rangers, 2) Captain Joseph Brant and the Six Nations allies, 3) Jessup's Corps, 4) King's Royal Regiment of New York, 5) Queen's Rangers and 6) Royal Highland Emigrants. The following concise, historical summary of each corps, is intended to enhance our understanding and our appreciation of these early settlers of Upper Canada.
Col. John Butler was born in New London, Connecticut and he settled in the Mohawk Valley, N.Y., prior to the American Revolution. At the outbreak of the Revolutionary War, he had to leave his estate for Fort Niagara. Butler asked Governor Guy Carleton for permission to raise a corps of rangers to serve with the Indians. His request was granted and Butler's Rangers was established in
September, 1777. Most of the men were recruited from the Hudson and Mohawk Valleys of New York, but also from Pennsylvania and Ohio. They raided enemy settlements at Wyoming Valley, German Flats, Cherry Valley and in June, 1782 were victorious at Sandusky. When his Rangers were disbanded in the Spring of 1784, Col. John Butler settled in the Niagara Peninsula. A few settled on the Detroit River, in Ameliasburg and Sandwich (Windsor).
Captain Joseph Brant commanded many of the Indian allies of the British during the War of Independence. When Sir John Johnson fled his estate in New York in 1776, to organize a provincial corps, Brant followed him. In the Fall of 1777, some of the Fort Hunter Mohawks fled to Fort Niagara and some settled in Lachine, near Montréal. During the war, the Indians fought under Captain Joseph Brant, Col. John Butler and others. The Native people who settled in the environs of Montréal, served under the military leadership of John Deserontyou, Aaron Hill and Isaac Hill.
On May 22, 1784, these three men landed with their Mohawk followers near the present site of Deseronto, Ont. On that same day, Col. John Butler negotiated with the Mississauga Indians for the purchase of land between Lakes Ontario and Erie. Later, Chief Joseph Brant led his Indian people to a tract of land along the Grand River.
In 1777, a provincial corps known as Jessup's Corps or The King's Loyal Americans was formed by the Jessup brothers Ebenezer, Edward and Joseph, prominent Albany businessmen who had large land holdings along the upper Hudson River in New York. In 1776, Jessup's Corps assembled at Crown Point to join General Sir Guy Carleton's advance to Albany. Crown Point was a fortified village on Lake Champlain in north-eastern New York and the site of a strategic fort during both the French and Indian, and the Revolutionary Wars. The campaign which followed opened with success at Ticonderoga but collapsed with the surrender of General John Burgoyne (1722 - 1792) and his army at Saratoga in 1777. Under the terms of the Saratoga Convention, the "Jessup's" were permitted to return to Canada. After 1778 the corps engaged in several raids on Lake Champlain and along the Mohawk River. During their term of parole they were employed in building and shipping. The uniform consisted of a blue coat with white trim. At the conclusion of the Revolution, most of the men and families attached to Jessup's Corps settled in eastern Ontario. It is estimated that 68% of the Corps' veterans remained on designated Crown land.
Following the death of his famous father, Sir William Johnson on July 11, 1774, Sir John Johnson inherited his estates on the Mohawk River. At the outbreak of the American Revolution, Sir John Johnson lived in his own estate surrounded by loyal German Palatine settlers and newly arrived Scots Highlanders, chiefly of the Clan MacDonnell. With 4,000 troops of from New England, Philip Schuyler of Albany set out to disarm Loyalists along the Mohawk Valley and to exact assurances of neutrality from Johnson. Hostages were taken from among the Palatine Germans and the Highlanders and sent to Connecticut.
During the winter of 1775-1776, John Johnson received confidential information that he was to be taken prisoner by the rebels. In 1776, he gathered 200 of his loyal friends and fled to Montréal. Johnson sought permission to raise a battalion among his Mohawk River neighbours. The Crown authorities granted Johnson's request on July 7, 1776 and the unit was named the King's Royal Regiment of New York. A second battalion was formed in 1780. The first battalion was composed mainly of Scottish Highlanders and other tenants of Johnson's estate. Sir John Johnson led two major raids into the Mohawk Valley in May and June of 1780. It is estimated that 90% of the Royal Yorkers settled on the Crown land set aside for them in eastern Ontario.
Colonel Robert Rogers (1731-1775) of New Hampshire raised the first Queen's American Rangers, the men recruited from Connecticut and New York. Col. Rogers was a hero of the Seven Year's War, having provided the British and
colonial authorities with useful services under dangerous conditions throughout the long campaign against the French.
When John Graves Simcoe took command, the Queen's Rangers consisted of eleven battalion companies, one Highland, a grenadier and light company. Simcoe added a cavalry troop. They served at Brandywine, September 11, 1777, Germantown (1777) and the march to Philadelphia (1777), Monmouth, N.J., Charlestown, S.C., and surrendered with Cornwallis at Yorktown, Va., in 1781. The unit disbanded in New Brunswick, in 1783.
Lt. Gov. Simcoe raised a second Queen's Rangers to clear forests and build roads from Kingston to Queenston and the Dundas-Yonge routes in York (now Toronto). They were first stationed at Newark (Niagara-on-the-Lake) and then moved to Toronto. About 54% of the Rangers remained on their dedicated Crown land grants.
Allan MacLean (1725-1795) of Torloisk, Isle of Mull, Scotland raised a loyal regiment of disbanded Highland soldiers and Scots emigrants, who had recently settled in North America. The regiment was known as the Royal Highland Emigrant Corps. MacLean commanded the First Battalion and John Small (1726-1796) of Perthshire, Scotland commanded the Second Battalion. The "Emigrants" provided garrisons at Québec City, Montréal, Carleton Island, and elsewhere. They disbanded in June of 1784. Many of the ex-soldiers returned to their pre-war homes, others settled for the first time in the upper St. Lawrence Valley, eastern Ontario and in the Windsor area. The Second Battalion settled in the township of Douglas, N.S.
1Paul H. Smith, "The American Loyalists: Notes on Their Organization and Numerical Strength", William and Mary Quarterly 25 no. 2 (1968): 259-277.