South Carolina Loyalists

Robert Stansbury Lambert wrote South Carolina Loyalists in the American Revolution (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1987).  It is beautifully documented.  And I have been reading it these last couple of days–

South Carolina had one of the largest loyalist populations in America.  And these persons are exposed to view by Lambert’s thorough study of the evidence:

  1. Original sources in numerous archives and libraries, including letters, diaries, journals, personal reports to government and military authorities
  2. Published and unpublished/manuscript compilations of loyalist data
  3. Biographies of the most significant players
  4. Local and state histories
  5. Personal interviews with others who study this period

Loyalists in the interior tended to be relatively recent immigrants who had moved into South Carolina after the Cherokee War, from northern Ireland, Germany, or from other colonies, particularly Virginia. The number of foreign and American loyalists with north Irish backgrounds suggest that caution should be exercised before accepting a simple “Scotch Irish” explanation of backcountry support for independence; it seems more likely that their relative newness to the areas in which they settled contributed to their indifference or hostility to the aggressive designs of the (SC) Provincial Congress in 1775.  Loyalists were clearly in a minority in the coastal areas of the province and their greatest strength lay among the large number of Scots business and professional men and among recently arrived artisans and merchants with close ties to Great Britain. (Conclusion, p. 306)

More important to you, as a genealogist, is the question of where to search next? What are the origins of these loyalists?

First, what happens to those who are loyal to the Crown when the war is over and the British troops withdraw?  The British arranged to evacuate some 10,000 people to England or to some other area of the Empire: East Florida (4200 whites, 7200 blacks); Jamaica (mostly blacks–about 900); Bahamas (3247, mostly blacks); Nova Scotia (about 900); England–where some stayed and some returned.  Freedom eventually came to most of the blacks that were evacuated.

Second, the postwar location of some 40% of free persons remained unknown–about 4,000 went over or into the mountains where they kept a low profile.  About 3,000 went to other states and blended into the local populations there as new immigrants–some even applying for bounty lands.*  Others stayed in the SC backcountry, went underground for ten years, and then re-surfaced.  Their patriot relatives protected them from the brutality of the laws.  Many returned from exile to become residents of  SC. To be reinstated into society, they petitioned the legislature to be pardoned or have the charge of exile removed, and paid the fine required to be readmitted.

Lambert acknowledges that the patriot version of the Battle of King’s Mountain has been widely available, the loyalist story was rarely told.  So he spends a full chapter on the battle from the perspective of the loyalist troops.  Commander Patrick Ferguson fully expected to win the battle against what he referred to as the rag-tag militias.  He was killed in the battle and his men were unable to re-group to stop the backcountry rebels.  Of the 687 loyalist prisoners marched to North Carolina, a fair number escaped to return home or to rejoin other loyalist units.

Footnotes reference petitions of militia officers with signatures of the men, payrolls, coffin lists kept by local carpenters so they could claim reimbursement, subscribers to association lists, and many other military and civil records which name the men involved (and sometimes their wives and children).

Through out the pages, the author has given as examples, numerous names of loyalists and their activities to support the Crown and its troops.  Some persons are identified with origins and places of settlement.  Some 95% of the surnames are Scots and Irish and Scots-Irish.  A few Huguenot and some German surnames are also referenced.

My specific interest centered on the Cunninghams from the Little River District which per capita held more loyalists than any other spot in the backcountry–this was the bailiwick of the Cunninghams who were called “inveterate enemies.”  Their lands that previously were sold for L10,000.00 were later auctioned off for L25.00.  And to this area, from East Florida, returned Patrick Cunningham, who paid his fine and was readmitted to citizenship.  Robert Cunningham died in New Providence, Bahamas.

Civil war and unrest, domestic violence, wholesale defections from under-oath troop units.  Men who gave their paroles to stop fighting.  Men who switched sides depending upon the troop strength and the predicted outcome.  Men who served as leaders for one side and when ignored for promotion, took lucrative offers from enemies–seems wisdom to search the records of both sides throughout the Revolutionary period.  The answers you seek could be in the records of either or both.  Your favorite genealogist, Arlene Eakle

PS The surnames of the men who remained loyal to the Crown are Scottish names and naming patterns.  Whatever their origins, ultimately they go back to Scotland.

PPS  My outgoing email is still not working–seems that my security system is blocking it so that the numbers and settings do not match.  Kathryn is still at work on it.  Incoming email still working.  My postal address Arlene Eakle, PO Box 129, Tremonton UT 84337.  My phone:  435-257-6649.

*I am currently tracing two families living in New York state–that by tradition come from South Carolina.  Lambert identifies New York soldiers who serve in loyalist units in South Carolina.  Did these soldiers fraternize with early members of these families?  What if…







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