Virginia was home to many of the most famous rebels like George Washington during the American Revolution, but it was also a den of Tories who remained loyal to the British king.
Loyalists in all the colonies rejected what they called “the unnatural rebellion” and resisted Patriot forces as they tried to restore the king’s peace to British America.
In Virginia, a civil war raged between white colonists, enslaved people who sought their freedom, and many more who just tried to stay out of the way. And when the war ended, many Loyalists faced a desperate choice: abandon their homes and seek refuge in the empire, or melt back into American society and hope their neighbors remained ignorant of their political leanings.
What can we learn by studying the disaffected in the American Revolution? What do we gain by looking at the Revolution not as a glorious cause, but as a civil war?
On today’s show, we begin a two-part look at Loyalism in the Chesapeake Bay region by talking with scholars who are working hard to reconstruct the Loyalist experience in Virginia and Maryland.
Drs. Stephanie Seal Walters and Alexi Garrett join Jim Ambuske today to talk about Virginia Loyalists and their world, and their ambition to make documents submitted to the Loyalist Claims Commission by Virginians beginning in 1783 more accessible to the public.
On our next episode, Drs. Ben Bankhurst and Kyle Roberts stop by to chat about their Maryland Loyalism Project, a digital archive they’ve created with help from their students to tell the stories of those who gloried in the name of Tory in the Revolutionary Era.
Be sure to stay tuned for that conversation.
About our Guests:
Stephanie Seal Walters, Ph.D., is Digital Liaison to the Humanities at the University of Southern Mississippi. She is an Atlantic World historian studying loyalists and loyalism in Virginia and British North America in the Revolutionary Era. She also serve as the Assistant Editor for the Civil War and Reconstruction Governors of Mississippi Project.
Alexi Garrett, Ph.D., is the 2020-2022 Institute of Thomas Paine Studies and University of Virginia Press Post-Doctoral Fellow at Iona College. She is an early American historian who researches how elite, unmarried white women (legally classified as feme soles) commercially related to the people they enslaved, and how they managed slave-manned enterprises in the American revolutionary and early national periods.
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