Skip to content

WHILE loyalism was conspicuous in the east at the beginning of the war, it hardly made an appearance in the west until the prolongation of the struggle began to try the patience of the people. At first the frontier enthusiastically favored the Revolution and sent a large number of riflemen to swell the patriot forces. But the pressure of war, the interruption of trade, the heavy taxes collected from backwoodsmen unaccustomed to pay taxes, the worthlessness of the currency, and the various Tory influences brought to bear gradually tainted the country bordering on western North Carolina and made some impression on the whole mountain region. In 1775 and 1776 Toryism was practically non-existent in the west, but as 1777 wore away without bringing success to the American arms, the western country began to show the effects of doubt and discouragement. Hamilton's loyalist proclamations, sent out from Detroit all along the frontier, made waverers, and British agents carried the royal oath of allegiance through the back settlements of Virginia and Pennsylvania and found many timid subscribers.

In Augusta William Hinton raised a band of seventy-five men, to whom he administered the British oath.<a href="#1" class="toolTip" title="Footnote: 1

Augusta Records, I, 509, 528.">[1] On August 13, 1777, Hinton visited the house of one David Harned with some armed followers and indulged in much treasonable gasconade, declaring "himself in favor of the crown of Great Britain and that General Howe might as well go home with his men, for he could raise men enough to subject the country and that he would do it yet." Militia dispersed Hinton's force and arrested the ringleader, who was wounded in the fray, together with several followers. Augusta court sentenced Martin Cryder, John Cryder, and Hinton, the worst offenders, to fines and prison terms of several years. It appears the court did not enforce these sentences in full, but released the prisoners after a salutary term in jail.<a href="#2" class="toolTip" title="Footnote: 2

The court tried several other cases of disaffection. On September 16, 1777, John Archer was made to take the oath of allegiance and bound to good behavior for a year, for "disaffection to the Commonwealth," and on the following day Alexander Miller, formerly a Presbyterian minister, was fined £100 and sentenced to two years' imprisonment.

About the same time loyalists gathered in some numbers near Cheat River in Monongalia, but were dispersed by a militia force under the command of Zackwell Morgan. After the skirmish the militia wished to hang their prisoners, but were prevented, though the Tory leader Higginson lost his life in a rather obscure way. He was crossing Cheat River as a prisoner in irons under the charge of Morgan and several others, when he either fell out of the boat, or was thrown out, and drowned.<a href="#3" class="toolTip" title="Footnote: 3

The Revolution on the Upper Ohio, 113.">[3] Popular opinion charged Morgan with murder and he was tried; a probably somewhat partial jury acquitted him. In December, 1777, Yohogania court arrested and examined John Campbell, Alexander McKee, and Simon Girty, the noted Indian leader. Girty was discharged; McKee, who had been put on parole as a suspected loyalist, was again paroled. Farther south, in Montgomery, William Preston, countylieutenant, labored to secure the submission of Captain Thomas Burk, his militia company, and forty others, all of whom refused the Virginia, oath of allegiance. Preston complained that the act of May, 1777, directed against the disaffected, carrying penalties of disarmament and loss of civil rights, gave the frontiersmen no concern, since they did not talk treason and so failed to come within the act of 1776 for " punishing certain offenses."

Indeed, the southwest in the summer of 1777 was a greatly disturbed region. Tories from North Carolina and others, it is stated, from eastern Virginia traveled in bands through the mountain settlements, stealing horses and committing robberies and occasionally murder.<a href="#4" class="toolTip" title="Footnote: 4

L. P. Summers's History of Southwest Virginia, 272">[4] A few of these Tory outlaws were captured and tried; among them Isaac Sebo, Jeremiah Slaughter, and William Houston, who were convicted of being inimical and suffered confiscation of property and imprisonment. William Campbell, countylieutenant of Washington, arrested a wayfarer who bore documents in his shoes tending to prove that he was a British emissary sent to stir up the Indians, whereupon the rough-and-ready colonel hanged him on a near-by tree without form of trial.<a href="#5" class="toolTip" title="Footnote: 5

Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, vii, 120">[5]

Campbell was very active in stamping out disaffection in the southwest, and largely because of his ruthless vigor and energy Toryism failed to develop in that section. The oath of allegiance prescribed by act of assembly was rigorously administered in the west as in other parts of the State, but it meant little, for lawlessness rather than any attachment to the royal cause was the origin of discontent and trouble there. The disturbed conditions inseparable from a state of war, together with the absence of many of the best men of that wild country in the army, gave horse-thieves and counterfeiters an excellent opportunity to ply their trades, and such outlaws were glad to form connections with brother outlaws of loyalist pretensions in North Carolina. Francis Hopkins, a counterfeiter serving a term in jail, escaped and raised a band of brigands, which lived by horsestealing and highway robbery. Campbell arrested Hopkins one day while he was riding a stolen horse and unceremoniously hanged him on the roadside. After his death his brother, William Hopkins, continued making depredations in Washington County until arrested in 1779. He was sentenced to jail and confiscation of estate "for treasonable practices against the United States of America, in taking up arms under the British standard."<a href="#6" class="toolTip" title="Footnote: 6

Summers, 277.">[6] Regulators patroled Washington County, as well as other western counties, for several years and sternly repressed disorder. In neighboring Montgomery County a condition of anarchy existed until militia from Washington suppressed the lawless element.

In the summer of 1779 Tories from the Yadkin River in North Carolina and the New River in Montgomery formed a combination for the purpose, it seems, of attacking the State lead mines in that county. William Preston, the county-lieutenant, unable to cope with the situation, called upon William Campbell, who came to his assistance with a body of Washington militia. This small force overran the disaffected region, quartering itself on Tories, plundering them, and compelling some of them to enlist in the American army or give security for good behavior.<a href="#7" class="toolTip" title="Footnote: 7

Summers, 20.">[7] The adjacent region in North Carolina received like treatment. Campbell then went on to break up a nest of outlaws in Black Lick Valley in what is now Wythe County; according to accounts he arrested a dozen robbers who had been raiding the settlements and hanged them on two great white oaks known for a century afterwards as the "Tory Trees." Whether Campbell actually executed so large a number of men offhand is doubtful, but that strong means were employed in 1779 to suppress the lawless and discontented element is evident from an act of immunity passed by the assembly in the fall for the benefit of William Campbell, Walter Crockett, and their associates.<a href="#8" class="toolTip" title="Footnote: 8

Ibid., 292.">[8]

Disaffection had spread widely through western Virginia by 1779. In Augusta a number of prosecutions are recorded; a deposition dated in September, 1779, states that one Robert Craig was a violent Tory.<a href="#9" class="toolTip" title="Footnote: 9

Augusta Records, I 377.">[9] The next year James Anderson, a school-teacher, was summoned to court for drinking confusion to Congress; and, more significant still, a writ was returned in April, 1780, marked: "Not executed for fear of the Tories." In Rockingham disaffection was greater. Francis McBride was bound to appear before the November, 1779, grand jury to answer a charge of speaking "words disrespectful to the Government & present Constitution."<a href="#10" class="toolTip" title="Footnote: 10

J. W. Wayland's History of Rockingham County, 75.">[10]
Likewise Gerard Erwine was bailed to appear in court because he had "propagated some news tending to raise Tumults and Sedition in the State"; and two others were convicted of conspiring with the enemy. The court, on June 9, 1780, examined John Davis on suspicion of treason and "other misdemeanors," sending him on to the general court for trial.<a href="#11" class="toolTip" title="Footnote: 11

Wayland, 81.">[11]

The situation became actually dangerous in western Virginia in 1780, with the predominance of the British in the South. The troubled New River was again the principal scene of disturbance, although a larger territory was more or less involved. William Preston appealed for help to Jefferson, then governor, who directed William Campbell to put himself at the head of the Washington and Botetourt militia and take in hand "those Paracides," as the heated governor styled them.<a href="#12" class="toolTip" title="Footnote: 12

Executive communications, 1780.">[12] A couple of months later, in September, 1780, Jefferson wrote the President of Congress that disaffection had spread over Washington, Montgomery, Henry, and Bedford, and that many hundreds had actually enlisted to serve the king of England. This statement was exaggerated, but solid reason existed for ill-ease. On October 27, 1780, he wrote the Virginia delegates in Congress:

A very dangerous Insurrection in Pittsylvania was prevented a few days ago by being discovered three days before it was to take place. The Ringleaders were seized in their Beds. This dangerous fire is only smothered: When it will break out seems to depend altogether on events. It extends from Montgomery County along our Southern boundary to Pittsylvania and eastward as far as the James River. Indeed some suspicions have been raised of its having crept as far as Culpeper.<a href="#13" class="toolTip" title="Footnote: 13

Ford, ii, 356.">[13]

The Montgomery outbreak was serious because disaffection there could count on the support of a district in North Carolina where loyalism became actually predominant following the Tory uprising in Surry County in 1780. The lead mines in Montgomery, the point aimed at by the malcontents, were of great importance and a blow at them was a blow at the American cause; but the insurgents were suppressed before they had the chance to do more than threaten. They received rough treatment. Colonel Charles Lynch, superintendent of the lead mines, took the foremost part in terrorizing them, and is said to have given origin to that famous euphemism, "lynch law," by his proceedings on this occasion.<a href="#14" class="toolTip" title="Footnote: 14

Calendar of Virginia State Papers, iii, 190.">[14] It is possible that insurgents were executed without trial; beyond doubt violent and illegal means were used, because the assembly, in October, 1782, passed another immunity act for William Preston, Charles Lynch, and all others engaged in suppressing the conspiracy.<a href="#15" class="toolTip" title="Footnote: 15

Hening, xi, 134.">[15]
Even after this lesson, in April, 1781, Preston reported that the lead mines were in some danger from the disaffected.<a href="#16" class="toolTip" title="Footnote: 16

Calendar of Virginia State Papers, ii, 36.">[16]

The whole southern border of Virginia was more or less in a state of disturbance in 1780. Volunteers were in the field from a number of counties, - and apparently in some strength judging from their expenses, - engaged in overawing the conspirators along the Dan River and westwards. Companies of mounted infantry from Montgomery and Washington ranged through the borderland. between Virginia. and North Carolina, making many arrests; seventyfive offenders were taken under guard to Bedford jail, where they remained about a month. Those arrested were probably the most notorious and it is likely that the troops quartered themselves upon less active malcontents and wasted their substance, as had been done the year before. There was also a little bloodshed. Major Joseph Cloyd, of Montgomery, went over the North Carolina line with three companies of mounted volunteers, partly Virginians, partly Carolinians, and attacked a force of Carolina loyalists at Shallow Ford on the Yadkin River, on October 14, 1780. A brisk engagement resulted in the defeat of the Tories with a loss of twenty killed and wounded. This expedition, and the decisive defeat of the Carolina Tories at King's Mountain in September, relieved western Virginia from the danger of becoming the seat of a loyalist uprising in 1780.

Developments in the west were but an acute phase of the dissatisfaction current in Virginia at the time. The overgrowing burdens of the war and the constant calls on militia for field service had largely sapped the real enthusiasm which the generality had shown in 177'6. Moreover, the patriot organization, once so strong, had now greatly relaxed. County committees had passed out of existence with the end of the political revolution and the establishment of a permanent government; ordinary governmental machinery replaced the much more acute and efficient Revolutionary tribunals. Expression of Tory opinion seldom met with punishment, and in the tidewater counties correspondence with the enemy seems to have been common. The attitude of the people towards military service constantly became more unwilling; malingering abounded and complaints were frequent and loud.<a href="#17" class="toolTip" title="Footnote: 17

Legislative Petitions. Charlotte (A3995).">[17] A petition from Caroline County, probably written by Edmund Pendleton, graphically describes the atrocities in that county of secret Tories, who should be more properly denominated malcontents. These continually charged the government with corruption and perfidy, protested against taxes and militia draughts as tyrannical and unconstitutional, refused to give aid in times of danger and belittled the successes and magnified the misfortunes of the American arms.<a href="#18" class="toolTip" title="Footnote: 18

Legislative Petitions. Caroline (A3740).">[18]
Such murmurings typify the attitude of certain classes of every population called on to undergo a severe and wearisome strain like the Revolutionary War, the classes that value present comfort and welfare more than political principle and are devoid of military enthusiasm at any time. Probably a considerable number of people in every county in the State were of this persuasion in 1780, for the brave and ardent spirits had gone off to join the army and were for the most part dead, and the indifferent or faint-hearted predominated. Such men, of course, were not Tories, but they would bend with the storm and might constitute a distinct danger in a crisis.

But disaffection in the east was not merely passive. The militia draughts, the most onerous imposition of the government, met with open resistance at Northumberland Court House, near the Potomac, where on September 14 and 15, 1780, a great riot took place and a number of people were killed and wounded. On the second day the local militia which remained faithful succeeded in putting down the rioters, who were tried by court-martial and sentenced in many instances to serve as soldiers for eighteen months or the war. The majority of mutineers who had not been captured surrendered on these terms, but a few boarded English vessels in the Bay and escaped.<a href="#19" class="toolTip" title="Footnote: 19

Calendar of Virginia State Papers, I, 534.">[19] The many instances of growing disloyalty to the American cause brought the government in 1780 to take further measures against offenders. The assembly amended the act "for the punishment of certain offenses" so as to make it a misdemeanor after August 1, 1780, to state by writing, printing, or speech that America ought to be dependent on Great Britain, to acknowledge allegiance to the king, or encourage submission to the British. Prosecution should be made in county courts and penalties were limited to fines of one hundred thousand pounds of tobacco and imprisonment for five years. The act was limited to the duration of the war.<a href="#20" class="toolTip" title="Footnote: 20

Hening, x, 268.">[20]

This law made procedure far more certain and satisfactory than before, but it was supplemented by still more direct measures. An extraordinary act "for giving farther power to the governor and council" put the inhabitants of sections threatened by invasion under a modified martial law. The government received authority to commit suspects to jail or remove them to places of confinement. In case of invasion or insurrection, persons acting as guides or spies for the enemy, giving them aid or intelligence, or dissuading militia from service were to be tried by courtmartials of militia officers. Sentences required confirmation by the governor. Most of the trials for disaffection in 1781. were conducted by court-martials, which, under this act, had cognizance of offenses hitherto unnoticed by the law. But in spite of such legislation, the government showed mildness towards the wrongdoers brought to its notice in 1780. The assembly at its October session pardoned the people of Henry, Bedford, Pittsylvania, Botetourt, Montgomery, and Washington who had taken the king's oath or encouraged enlistments in the British service, but had not committed any criminal acts, provided they swore allegiance to the Commonwealth before the last day of February, 1781. The benefits of this act were extended to a handful of Tories in the public jail at Richmond.

Such leniency may or may not have been misplaced. Certainly Jefferson's government was frequently defied and nothing like the vigorous anti-loyalist spirit that marked the beginning of the Revolution existed in 1781. When the British first seriously assailed Virginia in 1779 and occupied Suffolk, destroying enormous quantities of stores and meeting with no resistance from the illprepared militia, they reported that numerous applications of submission were made them by the inhabitants.<a href="#21" class="toolTip" title="Footnote: 21

Virginia Historical Register, iv, 188.">[21] The spirit of disaffection existing along Chesapeake Bay from the first began to show itself as the war turned against the Americans. British cruisers and privateers swarmed in the Bay, plundered the whole tidewater section, and inflicted immense damage; a British fleet in a single raid in 1779 carried off three hundred slaves along with much other property. Towards the close of the Revolution the State contained an increasing number of passive Tories, secret traitors who would take no overt step, but watched the trend of events intently. The Virginia delegates in Congress wrote home, on April 2, 1781, that a French warship had carried a number of Virginians to Newport, among them traitorous citizens who might injure the cause by giving information to the enemy or sowing disaffection.<a href="#22" class="toolTip" title="Footnote: 22

Calendar of Virginia State Papers, ii, 4.">[22]
The number of malcontents, already considerable in 1779 and 1780, increased in 1781, with the transfer of hostilities to Virginia soil. The inevitable sufferings of war, which had been great from the first, were now aggravated by the operations of countless commissaries and quartermasters, State and Continental, who plundered right and left, sometimes giving worthless certificates in return for what they took and sometimes not.

A good many Tories were in prison at the beginning of 1781. Even in the pressure of Arnold's invasion, on January 3, 1781, the council examined one of them, Robert B. Carre, who was remanded to jail for the period of the invasion because of disaffection.<a href="#23" class="toolTip" title="Footnote: 23

Council Journal (1781), 4.">[23] On February 1, 1781, when the storm had abated, Jefferson wrote to Governor Lee, of Maryland, in regard to one Joseph Shoemaker, who had been guilty of violence in Virginia and was now under arrest in Baltimore, declaring that the government had no prison in Richmond and suggesting that Shoemaker be tried and executed in Maryland if he were guilty of any crimes in that State. But Lee declined to act as Jefferson's hangman and sent Shoemaker to Richmond, where he was imprisoned in Henrico jail along with other Tories. These latter, to the number of about twenty-five, complained that they had been confined in jail for six months without trial and asked to be examined in any convenient county court or be released on bail pending examination.<a href="#24" class="toolTip" title="Footnote: 24

Executive Papers (December, 1781).">[24]
Other complaints came to the government in 1781 from suspects imprisoned elsewhere. Reuben Mitchell, a ship-captain Virginia State Library. confined in Hanover, complained that he had been sixteen days in the provost guard without trial and that he was unable to secure a copy of the charges against him. John Cabeen, a Carolinian who had been arrested in Virginia and thrown into jail at Charlottesville, declared that he was kept chained among a gang of felons and had been given no hearing.

Arnold's raid displayed in striking manner the military weakness of Virginia and the government's utter unpreparedness; it was a feat as discouraging to the patriot population as it was encouraging to the ill-disposed. Discontent with the government became general, while actual disaffection grew widespread. Ordinary suspects could, of course, be clapped into jail and left to cool their heels, but there were insidious forms of treason which it was difficult for the government to combat. The British, with an utter lack of scruple, sought to undermine the patriots by mean intrigue as persistently as they attempted open conquest; they used every weapon and advantage of war, honest and dishonest.

Among their choice tactics was the perversion of flag-of-truce vessels to partisan purposes. The British had sought and obtained leave for flag-of-truce vessels to restore kidnapped slaves and other plunder to their owners in return for supplies. This was, of course, an accommodation both to the plunderers and the plundered, but chiefly to the former, who needed the supplies. After a time the system was so stretched as to make distinctions between the property of persons who had been active in the patriot cause and of those who had remained passive, the latter being restored and the former kept. Finally a flag-of-truce went so far as to open trade with Mrs. Byrd, of Westover, widow of the distinguished William Byrd, a loyalist, under the pretense of making restitution for captured property. The facts became known, and the council, on February 22, 1781, informed Baron Steuben, who had allowed the British ship to go up the James, of its disapproval of Mrs. Byrd's conduct in receiving goods from the enemy in circumstances amounting to actual barter.<a href="#25" class="toolTip" title="Footnote: 25

Council Journal (1781), 61.">[25] Jefferson wrote Mrs. Byrd a few days later that her offense came within the act defining treason and that the attorney-general would proceed against her. The vessel, he said, had been allowed to ascend the river solely to return slaves carried off, instead of which it had begun a regular commerce.<a href="#26" class="toolTip" title="Footnote: 26

Governor's Letter-Book (1781), 152.">[26]
The council directed a warrant to issue to the judges of the general court for the trial of Mrs. Byrd in Richmond on March 15, 1781. But the trial never took place, owing possibly to Mrs. Byrd's sex and rank, possibly to the gravity of the situation in Virginia, which precluded the paying of attention to such comparative trivialities. So this woman escaped the fate of one of Washington's old loves, Mary Philipse, who was attainted of treason. The council, however, forbade flags-of-truce to be used in negotiating the return of plundered property.<a href="#27" class="toolTip" title="Footnote: 27

Council Journal (1781), 68.">[27]

Eastern Virginia was more and more threatened as the year advanced; the defenselessness of the State encouraged Arnold to take position at Portsmouth, while at the same time Cornwallis gradually drew near from the South. But in the southwest, the region where discontent was most acute and dangerous, the situation was improved by the chastisement of the Cherokee Indians, who had begun to make themselves troublesome in December, 1780. The Cherokees were by far the most formidable and dangerous tribe the Southern colonies had to reckon with. Partly civilized and threatened by the growing frontier of Virginia and the Carolinas, the Cherokees listened readily to the British agents and Tories who worked steadily to raise them against the borders. When at last they moved, Virginia and North Carolina militia combined to make a force of respectable size, invaded the Cherokee country, and burned -a number of their towns.<a href="#28" class="toolTip" title="Footnote: 28

Calendar of Virginia State Papers, I, 435.">[28] The Indians prudently allowed the militia to return home unopposed. But though the Cherokee expedition had a good effect on the far frontier, discontent was too prevalent in the west in the spring of 1781 not to show itself.

Garrett Vanmeter, county-lieutenant of Hampshire, wrote to Jefferson, on April 11, 1781, informing him that the agent sent to impress clothes and beef and draught men had been forced by a mob to abandon his work and that peaceful methods had failed to bring the mutineers to obedience. At the same time William Preston reported that he did not think the Montgomery quota of militia demanded for general service could be raised, because nearly half of the militia were disaffected and any attempt to press them into service would either drive them to the mountains or bring on a riot. The Hampshire mutineers, finding a leader, had begun a rather serious disturbance.

A certain John Claypole said if all the men were of his mind, they would not make up any Cloathes, Beef or Men, and all that would join him should turn out. Upon which he got all the men present to five or six and Got Liquor and Drank King George the third's health, and Damnation to Congress, upon which complaint was made to three Magistrates. Upon which there was a warrant Issued for several of them, and Guard of fifty men with the Sheriff. When they came to the place they found sixty or seventy men embodied, with arms - after some time they capitulated. The Sheriff served the precept on the said John Claypole, but he refused to come with him or give up his arms; but agreed to come such a time, which time is Past - I was informed there are several Deserters amongst these people, Some of them from the English Prisoners.<a href="#29" class="toolTip" title="Footnote: 29

Calendar of Virginia State Papers, n, 40.">[29]

Jefferson replied that the spirit of mutiny must be crushed, yet counseled Vanmeter that it would perhaps be better not to move against the body of insurgents and drive them into open rebellion, but, on their dispersal, "take them out of their Beds singly and without Noise."<a href="#30" class="toolTip" title="Footnote: 30

Letter-Book (1781).">[30] This advice illustrates Jefferson's preference for finesse over direct methods. The insurgents, however, instead of dispersing as the governor expected, increased in numbers until they were reported to be a thousand strong. Vanmeter finally sent four companies of militia to break up the gathering, which was easily accomplished and without other casualties than one man accidentally killed. The only fighting of the outbreak took place when insurgents holding a mill fired on a party of horse without effect. Arrests followed the dispersion of the mutineers and the county court immediately examined forty-two prisoners, remanding some of them for trial. The assembly, which was anxious to end the sedition as quickly as possible, authorized the executive to offer a pardon, and the governor accordingly proclaimed it for the benefit of those insurgents outlying in the mountains. The council appointed a special court to try the offenders who had been arrested. It met at Hampshire Court House for the trial, in July, 1781, but as the judges appointed in the order failed to appear, nothing was done. Nevertheless, the threat was an excellent corrective for a turbulent community inclined to regard its own wishes as law. A number of excited women crowded the court-house, anxious to see the prisoners and fearing that they would be sentenced to death and immediately executed.<a href="#31" class="toolTip" title="Footnote: 31

Calendar of Virginia State Papers, ii, 285.">[31]
The government was at last showing that there was a limit to its complaisance, something it should have done long before.

No action was taken, but the ringleaders remained in jail. Later on Claypole and several of his associates appealed for an extension to themselves of the act of pardon, as in the case of the southwestern mutineers. Peter Hogg, the Rockingham county-lieutenant, gave the petition his support. The governor replied that he did not have the constitutional power to pardon offenders still in the possession of a court; only the assembly could dismiss prosecutions. At the same time Jefferson admitted that these men suffered hardship in being held for trial while their equally guilty comrades had been pardoned.<a href="#32" class="toolTip" title="Footnote: 32

Letter-Book (1781), 49.">[32] Finally the council decided to issue pardons to all the insurgents except John Claypole and four other ringleaders. One by one the last of the Hampshire insurgents were taken or surrendered; they claimed to have been misled through ignorance to oppose the taxes and the draught, which was an outworn but effective plea.<a href="#33" class="toolTip" title="Footnote: 33

Council Journal (1781-82), 21.">[33]
Eventually even the leaders were pardoned.

The Hampshire outbreak was, merely symptomatic of the discouragement prevalent in western Virginia and of the resentment caused by war taxes and draughting; what the people endured without murmuring in the Civil War seemed an intolerable burden in the Revolution. The draughts were especially resented and met with frequent resistance. In Augusta and Rockingham the people gathered for the drawings seized the lists and destroyed them. "I don't know where this may stop," wrote Major Thomas Posey, "if there is not a timeous check, in Hanging a few, for examples to the rest."<a href="#34" class="toolTip" title="Footnote: 34

Calendar of Virginia State Papers, ii, 107.">[34] But the government would shed no blood and offered a pardon to the rioters who would return to their duty. The latter thereupon surrendered the ringleaders, William Ward and Lewis Baker. In June, 1781, Augusta court found Ward and Baker guilty of levying war against the Commonwealth and held them for trial by a special committee the council appointed. In Bedford also a number of men combined to defeat the draught. James Galloway, the countylieutenant, overawed them and imprisoned their leaders in Bedford jail. A court-martial sentenced several of them to serve six months in the army, but they all managed to escape.<a href="#35" class="toolTip" title="Footnote: 35

Council Journal (1781), 115.">[35]
Reports from the southwest in June, 1781, stated that parties of Tories and deserters lurked in Montgomery and Washington Counties,<a href="#36" class="toolTip" title="Footnote: 36

Calendar of Virginia State Papers, ii, 184.">[36]
and in July, William Preston declared that more than half of the Montgomery people were disaffected and that their numbers were growing. Whigs could not be induced to enter militia service for fear of the Tories and Indians.

In the east the situation in 1781 was almost as bad. The eastern people suffered as much as the west from taxes and draughts, and, in addition, were exposed to the depredations of the enemy and of quartermasters and other official and unofficial extorters. Indeed, the east offered a better opportunity for resisting the government than the west, for the presence of British troops in the former section during the greater part of the year gave encouragement to every kind of treasonable and seditious practice. There was much malingering, much shirking of duty, much secret intercourse with the enemy and some rioting and plundering, but no party or semblance of a party arose, as in North and South Carolina, to advocate the royal cause. The solidarity of the planter class on the American side remained practically unaffected, even though the evils of war were bringing out the weakness or lack of patriotism of many individuals of that type which all the world over is apt to bow the head to whatever cause happens to have the upper hand for the time being. But such men do not found parties. The records of the year are full of accusations of treason and Toryism; overt acts were not wanting and a handful of men actually made war on their State. Trials followed and many convictions of treason, but in the end mercy invariably triumphed, sometimes at the expense of justice. The government used great moderation in these critical months in dealing with those guilty of treason and disaffection.

There was some excuse for harshness, too. The British commanders, following the inexcusable custom they had introduced in the South, paroled unarmed citizens and threatened them with death if taken in arms against England at any subsequent time. Matthews seems to have been the first British commander to employ the system in Virginia; he paroled a number of Nansemond non-combatants in 1779, and Arnold and Cornwallis greatly extended it. As this practice, if systematically carried out and generally regarded, would have left it in the power of a mere raiding party of cavalry permanently to neutralize half a State, Jefferson could not, of course, put up with it. He accordingly required persons who had accepted paroles and intended to observe them to go within the British lines, where they belonged. Such action on his part was imperative; the government could not allow whole sections of the population to become paralyzed by a perversion of military usage.<a href="#37" class="toolTip" title="Footnote: 37

Council Journal (1781), 11.">[37]

The governor's decision put the inhabitants in the line of march of the British army in a most distressing quandary. Peacefulness was no protection whatever; unarmed planters and small farmers engaged in looking after their affairs and offering no pretense of resistance were forced to give their paroles not to serve in the American army at any time in the future, or were liable to be shipped off to New York to endure the horrors of the British prisons, almost unparalleled in history. On the other hand, if they gave parole and later were called into the field with the militia, they might be executed in case of capture. Jefferson retorted to this threat by threatening to execute an equal number of British prisoners in his hands, and it does not appear that Cornwallis murdered any citizens of Virginia under pretext of breaking parole as he murdered unfortunate Carolinians. Jefferson further attempted to make paroling difficult by isolating British posts as much as possible. In May, 1781, he asked the assembly to prohibit citizens from going within a certain distance of encampments of the enemy, and to provide a method for the speedy trial of persons caught furnishing the enemy with supplies or acting as guides. This was necessary, he declared, because the military authorities had no power over civilians and could not prevent people from staying in their homes and submitting to the enemy's demands in order to save their property.<a href="#38" class="toolTip" title="Footnote: 38

Council Journal (1781), 11. ">[38] The assembly thereupon extended the jurisdiction of court-martials over civilians guilty of intercourse with the enemy.

The government had an even more serious embarrassment in the rapidily growing spirit of lawlessness in tidewater Virginia. Jefferson wrote to Colonel Innes in May, 1781, that people in James City and York had committed acts amounting to treason and misprision of treason, although they had covered their tracks so well as to leave no legal proofs. He directed Innes to carry suspects before justices of the peace for ordinary legal investigation and ship them off to Richmond if so ordered by the court, but if evidence was lacking and there seemed danger of rescue simply to seize them without investigation and send them to Henrico jail. A dangerous outbreak against authority occurred on the Eastern Shore in April, 1781. This section, isolated and largely at the mercy of sea power, had always contained many British sympathizers and lukewarm patriots. Besides the necessary burdens of the war, like taxes and militia drawings, the people had suffered from unceasing ravages of privateers and plunderers, who were, for all practical purposes, simply pirates. In addition the government allowed several successive tax levies to pile up on Accomac and Northampton taxpayers without warning, and a militia draught proved the last straw. On April 20, 1781, a mob of several thousand men, armed with clubs and poles, met at Accomac CourtHouse for the purpose of opposing the draught. George Corbin, the acting county-lieutenant, attempted to quiet the rioters, but, finding his efforts useless, postponed the drawing to a later date. On this occasion the crowd again assembled in force and refused to listen to Corbin's pleading for obedience to the law. Once more the draught was not held.<a href="#39" class="toolTip" title="Footnote: 39

Calendar of Virginia State Papers, ii, 99.">[39] Thereupon confusion reigned on the Eastern Shore. Leading citizens advised their neighbors not to pay taxes; tax collectors refused to make collections or hand over money already received to the commissioners; others were threatened for attempting to collect. Corbin feared to use force to restore order, but the ringleaders in the riot were tried by court-martial and sentenced to serve as soldiers for the duration of the war. The court-martial referred John Curtis and William Garrison, the only men of position among the malcontents, to the council for trial. Corbin vividly described the situation on the Eastern Shore:

With the enemy's barges continually hovering around over Sea and Bay coasts, threatening to burn and plunder all who should oppose their wicked designs. The disaffected daily increasing by their clandestine trade with the British at Portsmouth, their threats thrown out against all who shall fail to apply for protection and accept the proposed mercy, in the British proclamations, which have been industriously and artfully circulated and enforced.<a href="#40" class="toolTip" title="Footnote: 40

Ibid., ii, 135.">[40]

An even more serious occurrence followed this disturbance. The disaffected, who were constantly becoming bolder because unmolested by the distracted government, had taken to robbing remote plantations and attempting to gain the assistance of the slaves. A planter accidentally surprised one of the conspirators while engaged in winning over some negroes and was shot dead. This outrage was too much for the patience of the people; they rose in arms, forced a confession from a slave, and hanged three of the plunderers.<a href="#41" class="toolTip" title="Footnote: 41

Calendar of Virginia State Papers, ii, 340, 412.">[41] The lynching was revenged by a descent on Pungoteague of British barges, commanded by one Robinson and manned chiefly by negroes. A handful of local militia turned out and drove off the raiders after a brief skirmish. The latter took to their boats, followed by the militia, who continued the pursuit up Chesapeake Bay for four days and nights, but without overtaking them. The patriots returned in no complaisant humor and a courtmartial proceeded to try John Lyon, rector of St. George's Parish, Accomac, for aiding the enemy and discouraging the militia from taking arms against Robinson's raiders. The case against Lyon looked bad, since he had gone on board Robinson's barge at night, though apparently unwillingly. He received a fair trial, and the sentence of five years' imprisonment imposed was strictly within the law; there could be no doubt of Lyon's open Toryism. Yet the minister bore a good character and was popular with his parishioners, some of whom petitioned the governor for a remission of his sentence to exile. John Cropper, the county-lieutenant, however, reported that Lyon deserved a halter.<a href="#42" class="toolTip" title="Footnote: 42

Council Journal (1781), 250.">[42]
Cropper sent the worst offenders in the Accomac outbreak, Lyon, John Curtis, William Garrison, and five others, as prisoners to Richmond, with a recommendation of leniency. The government was mild and changed Lyon's imprisonment to residence in the country twenty miles from Richmond, eventually allowing him to return to Accomac.

The whole tidewater section was becoming distracted, a prey to raiders all along the shores of rivers and bays, honeycombed with intrigue and full of secret traitors, who were too few in number in any one place or too fearful of public sentiment to act openly. The New York privateers in Chesapeake waters paid no attention to the political views of their victims, robbing good loyalists as willingly as rebels. Ralph Wormeley and Philip Grymes were among the former class. Wormeley's splendid estate at Rosegill was plundered by privateersmen, who found guides and assistants in the plantation negroes. Wormeley and other sufferers from this raid appealed to Leslie, commanding the British force at Portsmouth, to control his privateers, and Leslie returned some slaves and other stolen property.<a href="#43" class="toolTip" title="Footnote: 43

Calendar of Virginia State Papers, ii, 405.">[43] The privateersmen on the British side were difficult to restrain, for they were pirates in everything but name; they used New York as a refuge and the Union Jack as a cover for indiscriminate robbery and outrage. They were for the most part Americans, chiefly from New York, but also from Maryland and Virginia - fishermen, coast sailors, marine vagrants, who seized the unrivaled opportunity for crime offered by Chesapeake Bay and its numberless inlets. In the early years of the war the Virginia navy had kept these water-thieves in check, but the navy came to an end in the invasion at the beginning of 1781, and the pirates enjoyed full scope. Conditions in tidewater Virginia had become distressing by the summer of that year and continued so throughout 1782.

Constant arrests and trials in 1781 showed the extent of disaffection and the deep public discouragement. Local militia commanders, invested with the powers of martial law, strove to suppress the discontented whom the ubiquitous and energetic county committees had once so effectually terrorized. Cases of disaffection were numerous. Archibald Ritchie, of Tappahannock, the loyalist, happening to send a letter by the same messenger used by a privateer captain in Tappahannock jail, had his papers seized and sealed.<a href="#44" class="toolTip" title="Footnote: 44

Council Journal (1781), 359.">[44] Fauntleroy Dye, an ex-tobacco-inspector of Richmond County, had fallen into the hands of the enemy in 1779 and returned home somewhat later with a considerable sum of money, which naturally excited suspicion in the community. Dye, who had become thoroughly tainted during his captivity, began to use his influence to persuade his neighbors to resist militia calls and to hold private meetings of a doubtful character at his house. Learning this, Major Joel, with a party of mounted volunteers, went into Richmond, arrested one Tiffie, "a most notorious promoter of sedition," and surrounded Dye's house, where he took a few armed Tories, who had " in open contempt of the laws of their country, bid defiance to the county lieutenant, and held constant meetings of the disaffected."<a href="#45" class="toolTip" title="Footnote: 45

Calendar of Virginia State Papers, ii, 155.">[45]
A court-martial at Leedstown found Dye guilty of giving intelligence to the enemy and encouraging desertion, and sentenced him to prison for the period of the war.

Caution was necessary to escape suspicion in the Summer of 1781, so general were the reports of disaffection. Because of communications carried on with the British at Portsmouth for the return of property taken by privateersmen, which led to suspicions of a widespread system of intelligence among loyalists, the government ordered the local authorities to arrest a number of persons along the Rappahannock and seize their papers: Ralph Wormeley, Jr., Philip Grymes, and about twenty others, some of them prominent merchants. These arrests had little effect in stemming the tide of discontent ever strengthening through the year. Amos Weeks reported from Princess Anne that there were many disaffected in the county, whom he wished to bring to justice. Thomas Newton confirmed his account:

The County of Princess Anne has neither civil or military law in it they are striving to collect their militia - to-morrow will determine their numbers to turn out - murder is committed and no notice taken of it for want of some support up the Country - a few desperate fellows go about in the sea Coasts and large Swamps and do mischief in the nights. Every one who appears active against them is the object of their fury.<a href="#46" class="toolTip" title="Footnote: 46

Calendar of Virginia State Papers, ii, 451.">[46]

Other counties in the neighborhood were as bad. With the British established at Portsmouth and sending out detachments into the surrounding country to build posts, the natural Toryism of southeastern Virginia reappeared. Josiah Parker, the militia commander in Isle of Wight, reported that some there visited the enemy and that many Norfolk, Princess Anne, and Nansemond people had been paroled by the British on their own request, although only twelve men in Nansemond had actually taken arms with them. Feeling ran so high between Tories and patriots in this region that violence followed; how much it is hard to say; the records speak vaguely of murder as being common, but specific instances are not so easy to find. One revolting crime is recorded. A militia captain named Nott, in scouting through Nansemond, fell into an ambush set by some local Tories and was mortally wounded. The ambushers put him in a cart and were on their way to the neatest British post when a squad of American dragoons fell upon them, retook the dying man, and captured the leader of the party, Dempsey Butler, a deserter from the militia and all-round bad character.<a href="#47" class="toolTip" title="Footnote: 1

Calendar of Virginia State Papers, ii, 189.">[47] Farther up the coast, in Gloucester, Sir John Peyton expressed a belief that the enemy were in communication with Gwynn's Island and Middlesex and that the people were generally inclined towards Toryism. Constant accusations of treason came to the council and many prisoners, some innocent, some unquestionably guilty. Benjamin Bronson and Warwood Burt, of York, were bailed to appear before the council on the charge of treason, and John Warden, against whom information had been lodged, gave bond of twenty thousand pounds of tobacco to appear.<a href="#48" class="toolTip" title="Footnote: 48

Council Journal (1781), 218.">[48]
On October 12, 1781, during the siege of Yorktown, the council dismissed a number of suspects on their expressing contrition and giving security to furnish each a soldier for the war.

What was in some respects the most remarkable trial case of Toryism during the Revolution was that of "Billy," a mulatto slave tried and condemned to death by Prince William court in May, 1781, "for aiding and abetting and feloniously and traitorously waging and levying war against the Commonwealth, in conjunction with divers of the same, in an armed vessel."<a href="#49" class="toolTip" title="Footnote: 49

Calendar of Virginia State Papers, ii, 90.">[49] Two of the judges dissented on the ground that a slave, not being a citizen of the State, owed it no allegiance and so could not commit treason. This was a new doctrine, fruit of Revolutionary humanitarianism. Slaves had been tried and executed for treason in the colonial period; a notable case had occurred in 1710, and a slave was executed for robbery and treason in Norfolk in 1778. Mann Page, the executor of the estate owning "Billy," appealed to Jefferson for a reprieve, which was granted, and later petitioned the legislature for his pardon, on the ground that his conviction of treason was illegal.<a href="#50" class="toolTip" title="Footnote: 50

Journal. House of Delegates (May, 1781), 11.">[50]
The committee appointed to consider the appeal concurred, and it is probable that the slave was pardoned, though the end of the case is obscure.

So far-reaching had been disaffection in Virginia that the public jail at the end of November, 1781, was filled to its utmost capacity with persons awaiting trial for political offenses. William Rose, the keeper, reported that seven men had been committed to jail on the governor's order, but that it would be impossible to keep them in so confined a space, along with the number already in prison, without endangering their lives, whereupon they were released on bail. On December 4, 1781, thirty-two loyalists captured at Yorktown and elsewhere were in the Richmond jail, besides other prisoners. This overcrowding in a small confine led the council to take measures for a jail delivery. The governor reported that the prisoners were so closely quartered that their lives were actually in danger and the council discharged them.

It could afford to be magnanimous. The war was over in effect; the peril past. But that dangerous discontent and open treason were progressing in 1781 to the point of threatening the activities of the government in waging the war cannot be doubted. There was no semblance of a Tory party, but everywhere were doubt, dissatisfaction, and a disinclination to make sacrifices. The victory of Yorktown rescued Virginia from a serious situation.