New York and the American Revolution

I discovered an old book treasure in a used book store a while back–The American Revolution in New York:  It’s Political, Social, and Economic Significance written by a group of scholars at University of the State of New York (Albany: 1926).  And this little volume is truly a treasure for understanding the impact of the Revolutionary War on New York ancestors.

New York was a Loyalist stronghold.  Between 1776 and 1780, New York City was a mecca for Loyalists–from all over the Colonies.  The city was the headquarters of the British High Command and a place where the officers and men of the British Army congregated–for entertainment, for supplies, and for orders.  Civilian loyalists were fed, protected, clothed, granted annuities, and appointed to specific offices.  They were able to live a semblance of a normal life–within the boundaries of the City.

In other parts of New York, the exodus of persons loyal to the British Crown began as early as 1774–when war seemed imminent–to Canada, to New Brunswick, to Nova Scotia, to the West Indies, and to England.  A few left for South America as well.  About 35,000 Americans left the state.  The British Parliament appointed 5 commissioners, in 1783, to classify the thousands of petitions for compensation and help.

By 1784, ten years later, The whole area changed substantially:  2/3rds of the voters were disfranchised in New York, Richmond, and King counties.  All of the Borough of Westchester, 1/5th of Suffolk County.  Lawyers could not practice; physicians were boycotted. Those known to support the British often had to flee in the night to avoid arrest and imprisonment.

Patriots were organized into committees for each county–committee members paid bills for the poor, offered bounties to the soldiers, recruited additional troops, bought supplies, repaired guns, secured wagons and sleds for transportation of men and guns, guarded stores, advanced cash to pay for food, fuel, and ammunition, regulated prices, conducted local elections and  local legal business like the probating of wills and appointing of guardians.

Committee System which fought and won the American Revolution:

Continental Congress (whole country)

Provincial Congress (New York)

County Committees                              Emergency Committees

Committee of Correspondence           Committee of Observation

Local Boards                                           Sons of Liberty, Daughters of Liberty

Committee Minutes for some counties have been printed; some are available only in manuscript at the New York State Archives. Newspapers of the time include ads and articles on these activities–loyalist and patriot.  Most of these sources are still to be abstracted and indexed before you can fully understand and document the impact of this war of wars on your ancestors.  Your favorite New York genealogist, Arlene Eakle

PS  Is this fun or what?  The more you learn, the more you still have to discover.  Stay tuned.



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