Emerging Revolutionary War welcomes guest historian Christopher of The British-American Historian blog.
Almost two years after debating a joint French-American assailment of Lord Cornwallis’ precarious position in Yorktown, Virginia over Washington’s grand plan to recapture New York long after being swept from the city and its environs as independence was officially declared in 1776, the implacable Washington prepared to reenter New York in triumph.
Eight years after making New York the center of the British war effort in the American Revolution, the massive garrison was greatly reduced and preparing for its final retirement from the new nation. The new commander in chief of North America, Sir Guy Carleton, arrived in New York on May 5, 1782 to relieve Sir Henry Clinton. Carleton won accolades for holding Quebec City when the Continental Army struck during a late night blizzard, an accomplishment that was all the more vaunted now that the British were losing territory that did not include Canada. Carleton lost no time in notifying Washington of his arrival in an affable letter sent on May 7th, 1782 in which Carleton wrote “if the like pacific disposition should prevail in this country, both my inclination and duty will lead me to meet it with the most zealous concurrence”.
A notable disruption in the growing amity was the unresolved Asgill Affair. Exasperated with wanton assailments of loyalists in New Jersey, a prominent rebel militia commander named Joshua Huddy was plucked from the provost in New York by an American member of the Associated Loyalists. The Associated Loyalists were presided over by William Franklin, the loyalist son of Benjamin who had endured arduous captivity before being exchanged. In response to the wanton execution of Joshua Huddy, Washington ordered a British officer to await reprise. Charles Asgill was selected, but pleas from the French along with Washington’s honorable disposition prevailed and the captain was spared.
The city and Long Island were swarming with thousands of loyal “Refugees” who had fled from every rebellious colony to seek the king’s protection. Ranging from itinerant tenant farmers to some of the largest landlords in America such as Beverly Robinson and Frederick Philipse, Carleton’s task of evacuating the troops could not be fulfilled until such persons were safely resettled in the empire. While many of the men joined provincial regiments that saw combat in the south (playing a pivotal role defending Savannah and being routed at Kings Mountain) and performed prodigious woodcutting on Lloyd Neck for the insatiable demand for firewood, flocks of women and children crowded the city. A subset of the refugees were former slaves who had flocked to the British cause for the promise of freedom under Dunmore’s Proclamation and the Philipsburg Proclamation, a promise Washington would vigorously contest in negotiations.Continue reading “Evacuation Day”