Winslow Papers

The American Revolution

With the outbreak of hostilities in 1775, colonial loyalties were quickly divided. Although some colonists tried to remain neutral, many sided with the "rebels," while others backed the British Crown. The enmity between the two competing factions was severe. Jonathan Sewall summed up the distaste felt by many Loyalists toward their rebelling countrymen when he stated,

the Mad Conduct of my Countrymen has given me a Dose I shall never get over - God mend them, & bless them - but let me never, never be cursed with a residence among them again. I hate the Climate where Rebellion and Fanaticism are ingendered & I would shun it as I would a country infested with the plague - from all which, good Lord deliver me.1

Like Sewall, Edward Winslow was a staunch supporter of Great Britain and was determined to take an active part in the struggle. At the beginning of the war, he was appointed to the quasi-military position of "Muster Master General to the Provincial Forces taken into His Majesty's Pay within the Colonies lying on the Atlantic Ocean from Nova Scotia to West Florida inclusive."2 In this capacity, Winslow was responsible for drawing up a muster roll for each provincial regiment, and monitoring it to ensure that all the troops were properly paid, a task he faithfully performed for the war's duration. His work, which included fending off Patriot attacks and participating in raids against nearby enemy territory, involved some danger. In 1778 he explained in a letter to his friend Robert Hallowell that, "I am in an office the execution of which is frequently hazardous; I have hitherto performed my duty faithfully, and will continue to do it altho' Hell's in front and perdition in my rear."3

As the war dragged on, Edward Winslow and his compatriots became increasing frustrated. What they had expected was a short, decisive, and victorious campaign in which Great Britain emerged victorious. Instead, they watched as British forces and their colonial allies bungled one campaign after another. Winslow was also frustrated by the lack of recognition given to the Loyalists. In his opinion British authorities were more likely to grant a prominent position to a high-ranking rebel deserter than to any one of the numerous Loyalists, like Winslow himself, who had been staunch supporters of the British cause from the beginning of the war. As Winslow lamented,

when I cast an eye on some venerable figures and consider their services and their sufferings, and know that they are unnoticed and unforgotten, by Heaven I feel a noble indignation - and it rises and increases sweetly when I observe scoundrels who have emerged from the very centre of rebellion, fellows who have fill'd chairs at Congress - persecuted the loyal members of committees, and commanded Rebel regiments in times of action, now pushed most rapidly into places confidential and lucrative.4

Winslow and his fellow Loyalists had hoped that following the expected British victory that they would be offered positions suitable to their background and training. With the Patriot triumph, the only way to take advantage of British patronage would be to migrate to Great Britain or to one of its remaining colonies in North America.

Corey Slumkoski
University of New Brunswick


1. Letter from Jonathan Sewall to Edward Winslow, January 10 1776, Winslow Family Papers, Volume 1-53. Back

2. For the order granting Winslow this position see: Letter from Stephen Kemble to Edward Winslow, 30 July 1776, in W.O Raymond ed. The Winslow Papers (Saint John, 1901). Sadly, this letter has been lost and is no longer in the Winslow Family Papers. Back

3. Letter from Edward Winslow to Robert Hallowell, [2 May 1778], Winslow Family Papers, Volume 1-89. Back

4. Letter from Edward Winslow to Robert Hallowell, [2 May 1778], Winslow Family Papers, Volume 1-89. Back

Next - The Winslow Family's Hardship