Posts Tagged ‘Patriot’

Revolutionary War – Patriot or Loyalist?

Was your Revolutionary War Ancestor a Patriot or Loyalist?

Up until now it has been my opinion that most men of fighting age during the Revolutionary War took one side or the other. Of course I would have presumed that there might be a few exceptions, but I’m talking about the masses here.

Well to my amazement I came across a posting on the New Jersey rootsweb mail list, of a message that was posted by a very nice lady in Delaware regarding this subject. OK – so you are thinking “What does this have to do with Upstate New York Genealogy”?

Well if it is true, and I suspect that there will likely be a broad variance of opinions by many historians, then it will be something for Upstate New York researchers as well as historians and genealogists everywhere.

The best way to present this is to show you my correspondence with the original writer. (She has kindly given me permission to do so.)

[from] unyg
[to] Delaware Dolores,

Reading the New Jersey mail list I just came across a posting of your reply to a another person about revolutionary war ancestors and read with amazement the following statement:

Even if “able bodied,” only about one man in eight was actually a Patriot soldier in 1776, at the highpoint of the War — then only half that percentage in the War’s later years. These are estimates made in The Beards’ New Basic History of the United States.

I would like your permission to use that quote in a Blog on my website and perhaps to toss it out to the Rev War and some other mail lists.

It just about floored me! I just presumed (not a good thing to do) that ALL men of fighting age either served on one side or the other.

I have always used this thought when researching a rev war era family. If the Beard’s statement proves correct, and I am of no opinion either way, then I think it will help family history researchers of all stripe.

Thank you for posting it, I must purchase a copy of Beard’s, can’t believe I don’t have one already.


Delaware Dolores responds:

I have the 1960 version of the book. It sounds as if the 1944 version would be just as good, for the Revolutionary War years. The 1944 book (without the New in the title) is by Charles and Mary Beard. Then the son, William (Ph.D.) added to his parents’ research, particularly by portraying the 1944-60 time period.

I was paraphrasing below, but the basic facts come from page 121. On page 117, it tells of how “hundreds of militiamen insisted on quitting as soon as their terms of service were over, no matter how grave the danger to the American cause and despite the pleas of their officers.”

This reality caused Gen. Washington to repeatedly beg the Congress to fund a regular Army, until they finally agreed to grant extra pay to officers and long-term soldiers in the final years of the War. It seems that a movie I’ve seen shows how delayed this support was.

To be fair, the Beards’ “one in 8″ estimates refer to numbers serving at a given time, rather than the bottom-line totals who at least served one brief term.

I live west of Dover Del. but am from South Jersey. I’m on a committee planning a 2-day Revolutionary War-focused event in Greenwich NJ, for Sept. 27 and 28. I belong to one Revo. List already, and believe I posted that same info on there.

Why not just add me to the general Blog? I’d then like to get on all known Revo-focused lists with an announcement about Sept. 27 and 28 — not only as a festival to possibly attend, but conceivably participate in, via reenactments, drama, dance, music, or artisan demo/sales.

Dolores may be reached at:


So let’s toss this out to readers of the Upstate New York Genealogy Blog.

What is your opinion? Are we searching for military records in Patriot and Loyalist collections everywhere with only a slim margin of success?

Do you have any opinions on the Beards’ historical writings? Are they reliable? Did they have an agenda to warp history? I have no idea or opinion, but I would love to hear what you readers think.

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