Loyalists and the British evacuation of Philadelphia, 1778

by Samuel Mostyn

Samuel Mostyn to Thomas Pennant, June 7, 1778. (GLC09023)On September 26, 1777, the British began an eight-month occupation of the city of Philadelphia during the American Revolution. This allowed British troops to spend the winter billeted in comfortable quarters, while Washington’s troops suffered at Valley Forge. When France recognized the United States and declared war on Great Britain in February 1778 British war strategy changed to meet the new threat, and the army evacuated Philadelphia on June 18, 1778.

This letter of June 7, 1778, from newly promoted British army lieutenant Sam Mostyn to his patron in Wales describes some of the chaos and panic among loyalists in Philadelphia during the British evacuation. Fear of reprisals from patriots was exacerbated when, on May 8, the Supreme Council of Pennsylvania “publish’d a List of Persons whom they mean to treat as Traytors to the States of America” and ordered them to turn themselves in. As a result, some “were oblig’d . . . to leave This Town & put them selves on board the Ships, some for England and others to take their Chance with the Army.”

A full transcript is available.

Excerpt

Samuel Mostyn to Thomas Pennant, June 7, 1778

Dr Sir

Yesterday Genl. Clinton was pleas’d to appoint me to be a Leiut. in the 49th Regt for which good fortune, I am & ever shall be grateful to you & your good friend Judge Barrington . . .

I wou’d be glad to give you some News worth the Trouble of reading but I have none, except that the Commrs. are come, and we are in great anxiety to know what Plan will be fix’d upon for the ensuing Campaign – Peace is not wish’d at all, nor hardly talk’d of as the Rebels have declar’d they will not treat but as Independent States. All the Goods of this Town, are put on board Ships, and fallen down the River by Order of the Commander in Chief – Many People who fear’d being left behind, have embark’d in these ships, all the heavy Baggage of the Army, the Women & Children are embark’d also; The Rebels have publish’d a List of Persons whom they mean to treat as Traytors to the States of America, if they will not give them selves up before the 21st of June 1778. Even then to take their Tryals for their several Treasons &c &c. This has oblig’d several People to leave This Town & put them selves on board the Ships, some for England and others to take their Chance with the Army. . . .

I am Dr. Sir, your much
oblig’d Hum. Sert.
Sam: Mostyn
     Lt. 49th Rgt.

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