The number of Loyalists who left the United States at the close of the American Revolution has been variously estimated. Judge Thomas Jones, the Loyalist historian, says that Sir Guy Carleton sent away from New York 100,000 persons; perhaps 70,000 would be nearer the mark. But be the number less or more, the British commander-in-chief was obliged to put forth his utmost exertions to provide for the establishment of the Loyalists in their new homes in the various parts of the world whither they desired to go. And busily engaged as he was the summer days of 1783 sped all too quickly, both for Sir Guy and, as the events proved, for the Loyalists as well. Refugees made their way from all parts of the old colonies to New York where they embarked for all parts of the world some going to England, Scotland and ireland, some to Canada, some to Nova Scotia and Cape Breton, some to Newfoundland and the Island of St. John's (now Prince Edward Island).
Those who had independent means formed companies and hired vessels for themselves; those impoverished by the event of the war were sent in fleets of transport ships to their several destinations by the British government. By the close of the summer the great majority of the loyal exiles had sailed from New York to their future homes.
Meanwhile the Provincial Regiments still remained. Sir Guy Carleton had been exceedingly anxious to hasten their departure, but the late arrival of the King's instructions relative to their disbandment, and the scarcity of transports rendered delay inavoidable. As already mentioned, Amos Botsford and his associates, and a little later Col. Edward Winslow, Muster-Master-General of the Provincial forces, had been sent to explore the St. John river with a view to the settlement of the loyal regiments in that locality. Gen. Fox, commander of the forces at Halifax, personally visited the St. John river accompanied by Col. Winslow as his private secretary, and it is probable that upon their recommendation and that of Surveyor General Charles Morris, the general locations were assigned to the loyal corps.
The King's American Dragoons had arrived at St. John before the close of the summer, and General Fox at once sent them to the tract of land allotted them in the parish of Prince William. This action was commended by Sir Guy Carleton, who wrote, "It was well judged to send the King's American Dragoons to the lands allotted to them as they will find great advantage in being placed on them so early in the season." In September General Fox visited the settlement founded by this corps, and issued the following order for its disbandment:
Township of Prince William
Sir, In consequence of His Majesty's instructions to His Excellency the Commander-in-Chief and the general orders herewith transmitted, you are hereby directed to disband the King's American Dragoons on the Tenth day of October next, and you are to take particular care that all the non-commissioned officers and private men are cleared with to that date, and 14 days' pay from that time will be allowed them, which you are also to deliver each of them (without deduction) agreeable to the instructions above referred to.
28th September, 1783
I am, sir, etc., etc.,
Henry E. Fox, Brig.-Gen.
Commanding the King's American Dragoons
The "township of Prince William" included a large tract of land fronting on the St. John river in the present parishes of Prince William and Dumfries. Capt. Munro passed through the settlements on his return to Quebec in the autumn of 1783, and in his report, from which we have already quoted in former articles, states, "That settlement goes on fast; exceeding good lands." Many of the soldiers, however, did not remain long in possession of their farms. Some simply abandoned them and they were escheated to the crown and afterwards granted to actual settlers, others sold them for whatever they would bring. As an instance there is recorded in the records of the old county of Sunbury (then including the entire St. John region) the following under date October 14, 1783: "Private Samuel Sullivan, of the King's American Dragoons, sells his claim to lot No. 204, in the township of Prince William, containing about 100 acres, his legal right by draft, to Reuben Chase for the sum of 2 pounds, and acknowledges himself satisfied."
On September 5th Sir Guy Carleton wrote General Fox that the loyal American regiments had embarked at New york on the 3rd of that month, and he hoped they would sail on the 7th. In spire of the anxiety of the commander in chief to hasten matters it was not until ten days later he was able to leave New York. On receipt of Sir Guy Carleton's letter General Fox wrote the following letter to Governor Parr.
Sept. 17, 1783
Sir, By letters received this day from his excellency, the commander in chief, I find that it is his wish that the Provincial Regiments should be discharged as contiguous as possible to the lands on which they are to settle, for which purpose he desires me to communicate with your excellency, and to request that you would be pleased to determine the district of country where the different regiments are to be settled that they may be immediately ordered to their respective destinations. Those regiments which were embarking at New York are by the commander in chief's particular order to proceed immediately to the River St. Johns, and to take possession of that tract of land which your excellency has assigned the Provincial corps. The King's American Dragoons being already settled at that place it only remains that your excellency should point out places for the accommodation of the Fencible Americans commanded by Lieut. Col. Gorham, and the King's Orange Rangers commanded by Lieut. Col. Bayard. . . . I am also to make known to your excellency the commander in chief's earnest wish that you will be pleased to expedite the location of lands for the Refugees on the River St. Johns as soon as possible. I am also to acquaint your excellency of my intention to embark at this place tomorrow for the River St. Johns to carry into execution the commander in chief's orders relative to the Provincial corps and other matters of importance. . . .
I have the honor to be
Your excellency's humble serv't,
H. E. Fox, Brig. Gen'l.
His Excellency Gov. Parr.
Having visited the River St. John and formed a general idea of the country General Fox wrote to General Haldimand the same day in which he issued his orders for disbanding the King's American Dragoons the letter from which the following extracts are here given.
Augh Pack (Aukpaque)
Sir, Being on a tour of the River St. Johns, and a convenient opportunity offering by Capt. Munro, I avail myself of it to acquaint your excellency . . . . that the whole of the Provincial Regiments consisting of upwards of 3,000 men are embarked for the River St. Johns where they are to become settlers, and a tract of land is assigned by his excellency the governor of this province for that purpose, extending from the townships of Maugerville and Burton on both sides of the river on the route to Canada as far as to accommodate the whole, which will be a very considerable distance. This circumstance will, I flatter myself agreeably facilitate the communion between the provinces of Nova Scotia and Canada, an object which I am informed your excellency is anxious to effect, and which it is very evident must greatly contribute to the benefit of both provinces. It is the prevailing impression that the city and province of New York will be evacutated by the King's troops immediately, and that the British will embarke for Europe. Most of the foreign troops have already sailed.
Sept 28, 1783.
I have the honor to be, &c. &c.,
H. E. Fox, Brig. Gen'l.
His Excellency Gen'l Haldimand, Quebec
Meanwhile the provincial troops had sailed from New York for the River St. John. On the eve of their departure Sir Guy Carleton wrote to Lieut. Col. Richard Hewlett, of de Lancey's 3rd battalion, who appears to have been the senior officer accompanying the loyalist regiment to New Brunswick the following letter:
Sept. 12th, 1783
Sir: You are to take the command of the British and British American troops mentioned in margin [namely the Queens Rangers, Kings American Regiment, Garrison Battalion, New York Volunteers, 1st de Lanceys, 3rd de Lanceys, Loyal American Regiment, 1st Battalion 1st New Jersey Volunteers, 2nd ditto, 3rd ditto, Prince of Wales American Regiment, Pennsylvania Loyalists, Maryland Loyalists, American Legion, Guides [and] Pioneers, Detachment of Kings Dragoons, Detachment of North Carolina Volunteers]
These corps are to proceed to the River St. Johns in the Bay of Fundy in Nova Scotia. On your arrival there you will see that the stores intended for them are duly delivered, and you will take such steps as shall be necessary for the several corps proceedings immediately to the places allotted for their settlement, where they are to be disbanded on their arrival, provided it does not exceed the 20th October, on or before which day Captain Preoost, Deputy Inspector of the British American forces, has directions to disband them for which purpose you will give him the necessary assistance wherever you may be at the time, adhering strictly to the orders of 17th August last.
The disembarkment of the troops must not be delayed as the transports must return with all possible dispatch. Directions have been given to Mr. Colvill assistant agent for all small craft at the River St. John to assist the corps to their destinations.
In our next article we shall speak of the arrival of the Loyal regiments at St. John and their settlement in their new homes.
W. O. Raymond