Winslow Papers

The Loyalist Flight to Nova Scotia

Over 75,000 Loyalists emigrated from the United States in the wake of the American Revolution, with almost half of them electing to relocate to Nova Scotia. As Edward Winslow's close friend Ward Chipman wrote in a 1783 letter, "Nova Scotia is the rage."1

The British authorities agreed to help the Loyalists move to their new homes in Nova Scotia, offering transportation, provisions, and free land to those who wanted to live under the British flag. By the fall of 1783 instant cities were emerging at Shelburne and Saint John and dozens of other communities were being carved out of the rocky shores of the old colony of Nova Scotia. In a letter written on 19 April 1783 Captain Robert Morse outlined the army's role in supporting the Loyalist migration. Morse authorized a young engineer named Lieutenant Lawson to make preparations for the disembarkment of the Loyalists arriving at Shelburne, Nova Scotia, and instructed him to

carefully examine the Harbour with a view to find the proper place to land the Troops, Provisions, Ordinance, and all the King's Stores, and to establish an Military Post which may afford protection to Shipping and be capable of defence toward the Sea as well as by Land, having in contemplation a Town, Wharfs, Barracks and other Public Buildings necessary to a great and permanent Establishment, for all which purposes ample Observations of Lands should be made, and the Refugee Settlers shown the spot intended for the Town, upon which only they should be permitted to Build agreeably to a plan laid out for them.2

Notwithstanding the assistance offered, the first year in a new colony proved a great challenge for the Loyalists. They arrived largely empty-handed and many were forced to live in tents until they could build more commodious shelter. For the new arrivals, winter promised to be a particular challenge. Sir Guy Carleton was well aware of this difficulty when he wrote to Brigadier General Henry Fox on 18 July 1783, informing him that "As the situation of the Refugees who have gone to Nova Scotia, may require that they should have a further allowance of Provisions to carry them thro' the Winter, I have directed provisions to the 1st of May next, to be furnished to those whose necessities may require it."3 Fortunately, for the Loyalists, the provisions arrived before the snow fell, and the majority of Nova Scotia's Loyalists made it through the harsh winter of 1783-84.

Corey Slumkoski
University of New Brunswick


1. Letter from Ward Chipman to Edward Winslow, 29 July 1783, Winslow Family Papers, Volume 2-113. Back

2. Copy of a letter from Colonel Robert Morse to Lieutenant Lawson, 19 April 1783, Winslow Family Papers, Volume 2-77. Back

3. Letter from Sir Guy Carleton to General Henry Fox, 18 July 1783, Winslow Family Papers, Volume 2-109. Back

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