The Political Role Of Patriots And Loyalists In The American History

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Though often overlooked in exchange for the more notable events transpiring in New England and the middle colonies, the revolutionary war in South Carolina played a critical role in determining the outcome. The loyalists, also known as the tories or royalists, were American colonizers who supported the British monarchy during the American Revolutionary War. These loyalists had underlying liberalism paired with a sincere devotion to the king and the crown. At the beginning of the war, many loyalists called for moderation in the battle for colonial rights and were pushed only by extreme fellow colonizers into active loyalty. This belief seemed to be a common theme with the civil war with both sides starting first in moderation and continued to divulge further and further apart from each other's values. Many outright left after the war due to the segregation of beliefs. For several reasons, the loyalists opposed the Revolution. The most dominant view was the simple ability to be left alone and continue with the king's rule as it seemed most natural. Others thought a war with powerful Britain was useless, and losing was inevitable. The Patriots seemed to be the primitive side, trying to pick a fight with one of the greatest Navy's at the time with barely any resources to sustain themselves through the war. In South Carolina, the hardships felt by the families who endured this behavior, especially in the backcountry, were almost unimaginable to people of the modern era, with there being an even more violent political and religious unrest in the state. Loyalists in South Carolina had by far the most significant struggle of any state, and arguably their viewpoint on the American Revolution makes more sense than the patriots who rebelled due to the unique circumstances the loyalists endured.

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In South Carolina, Loyalism thrived amongst the rich aristocracies of English culture; however, backcountry pioneers were hesitant to become engaged in the controversy over royal taxation. Although several came from various levels in society, one commonality among the loyalists in South Carolina is that nearly all immigrated after 1765; only about one in six was native-born. Loyalists might in South Carolina diversified according to region. It was most vulnerable in the Lowcountry, where people were considerably outnumbered and where Loyalist officers neglected to coordinate among themselves and to develop a public opinion by offering a reasonable alternative to rebellion. Their lack of organization allowed the patriot party to carry out its revolutionary program there with little violence. However, patriots did face much stronger resistance in the backcountry, where more loyalists were led by men of higher intelligence. More uprising and skirmishes took place here than others around the state. Most were farmers who were not rich and not English, such as the German, Scottish, or Irish immigrants, were not true Loyalists. They valued their isolation in the western hills and would fight to protect their liberty as independent frontiersmen. They also swore their allegiance in part because it contradicted the patriot government who have been encountering a long-standing battle with the seaside nobility for schools, streets, and courts made them unsympathetic to the nationalists' cries. The backcountry had little representation in the Provincial Congress, coupled with the fact that the South Carolina branch was quick to join the Continental Congress without the consideration of the large population of farmers. This lead to even more unrest, and many future battles would be the cause of this thoughtless. Many farmers also feared the Cherokee. The British militia had been protecting their farms from the Indians who wished to take back their land, and the Patriots were threatening to drive the military out. In their eyes, the Patriots winning the war would be a step into an age of tyranny and chaos as exampled by the current actions of the backcountry rebels. Patriots also threatened to take their lands and farms away like the Indians, and many men were subjected to 'tar and feathering' by patriots. However, as war became imminent, decisions were forced upon them. Pressured from both sides—by the wealthy Loyalists in their midst and the coastal Patriots who arrived to recruit them—backcountry men proved stubbornly resistant to recruiting, sermonizing, and fear-mongering. With little to no resistance, the patriots took a more peaceful method by handing out pamphlets to convert the backcountry men; however, this only fanned the flames of loyalism, and a stronger resistance began to emerge to deal with the constant threat. With the war closing in the Council of Safety was established in 1775 by men named William Henry Drayton and William Tennent. Both men attempted to convince some Loyalist leaders in the back country to sign a neutrality pact, However many were upset with council as it did not guarantee the safety of the farmers and raised a large force of the king's men to stamp out the act. In acknowledgment, the Provincial Congress dictated Colonel Richard Richardson to establish an army to overwhelm the backcountry rebels. Richardson's troops battled and defeated the lack luster Loyalist army at the Great Cane Break in December of 1775. This failure indicated the end of Loyalist uprising in the interior until the British control in 1780. Despite this defeat, the backcountry Loyalist uprising in 1775 had a significant impact on British army plans by changing English diplomats and generals that Loyalists were various and rebellious in the southern backcountry. With such a force already forming, British leaders created an innovative 'southern strategy' to capture vital southern ports and, with the aid of Loyalist militia, and move back toward the north, silencing one colony after another.

South Carolina saw over 200 battles throughout the Revolutionary war. This was more than in any other state. All these battles were fought with the help of the militia, who were comprised of the citizens and British soldiers. The militia service was short-lived for regular citizens — usually about three months or less at one time. Due to the spring planting and fall harvesting, It was essential to the militia to return home to check on the safety of their family and protect their farms. The merchants and artisans on the coast also spent little time in the army. This was due to making their living off of the trades of the Charleston port when the farmers finished their harvests. However, if this group did not fight, they would be subjected to a lack of trade with the very people they did not want to fight side by side with. This left the band of soldiers very untrained and unprepared. The citizens often wore linen shirts, buckskin breeches, and, sometimes, moccasins. They usually carried their supplies, including their rifle, powder, and shot. In their belt, they usually carried a knife and tomahawk, each in a sheath. They had borrowed a way of life and style of fighting from the Native-Americans with whom they had fought. The British, on the other hand, were the regular, or standing army. They served long periods and often had uniforms. These men were issued muskets with bayonets and other supplies. Not all had uniforms, but those who did wore various colors. The British often accused the Scotch-Irish as being as 'savage' as Native-Americans. Although fighting for the same cause, both sides were not on the same playing field. Early on, British military strategists saw South Carolina as a Loyalist stronghold. However, it was more sharply divided than British estimates. The strengthening of Loyalist sentiment and consequent Patriot hostility resurrected age-old animosities and loyalties as regions, individuals, or even families chose sides.

Consequently, the war took on the nature of a violent civil war. Raids, murders, and reprisals became the order of the day. Even, at times, families were fractured as members differed over the war. Plantations were plundered, and crops destroyed. With civil government virtually collapsed, violence and hatred grew to the point of hope for victory as the only solution. More and more, guerilla warfare replaced orthodox fighting. From the beginning, the British were undaunted. With such perceived Loyalist support, British victory over the rebels was to be an easy one - a quick expedition south to restore the 'King's Friends' to power over Patriots who had earlier wrested control from royal governors. With the Georgia and South Carolina under firm Loyalist control, red-coated British troops could then subdue North Carolina and Virginia. British General Henry Clinton, in his memoirs, The American Rebellion, stated that the British goal in the South 'was to support the Loyalists and restore the authority of the King's government.' Intense British political pressure emphasized Loyalist-related strategies as a means of victory; however, the British vastly underestimated the will of the loyalists in the South. The fall of Charleston on May 12, 1780, was perhaps the worst defeat Americans suffered during the entire Revolution. British losses were staggering: 110 dead, over 200 wounded and 500 captured. The blow was decisive; the war was lost, and American forces in the South played a significant part in the final victory. Additionally, historians point to numerous militia skirmishes in the backcountry and to Greene's long-term strategy of disrupting British logistics as crucial to final victory. On top of many losses, the militia often went unpaid. It was only after many years later when many Revolutionary veterans were aging, Congress passed more liberalized bounty laws awarding land as bounty for their service. To qualify, the militia had to file a pension application with necessary witnesses to one's service. The last pension law and the most liberal was passed in 1832. It granted additional benefits based on service and also granted benefits to widows of pensioners.

The most excellent example of hardships and punishments for being a loyalist in South Carolina came from Clergymen and other religious figures who took a very passive approach to the war. Presbyterianism was thriving, and the French Huguenots established peaceful settlements as well. Evangelists did foster help tolerance by teaching the 'inner faith,' but it simply was not enough. The patriots treated them terribly due to their viewpoint. By extension, these religious figureheads had pledged themselves to the church and the king. Before the events of the war took place, groups were arrested and imprisoned because of their perceived support of the British. Clergymen wished to be left alone to practice their religion without the rioting patriots taking their frustration out on the peaceful men. It was discovered that no rules were in place to protect his men who were being violently attacked by the patriots, which shows just how brutal conditions became. Many groups were forced to move around the state. These men attempted to protect their livelihoods and practices, but to little to no avail. Religious men who were forced to join, returned home only to find their property confiscated because of their alliance with the British. One account of reverend James Stuart, a native Virginian who had moved to South Carolina, experienced this first hand when he requested an audience with the Parliamentary Committee on Loyalists' Claim and Services only to find that there were no laws protecting loyalists. Hearing such news, he fled to the West Indies, hoping that the British troops would finish off the war. He returned and was appointed to the army for a few battles in Charlestown. James was then taken across the seas to continue fighting. He returned home from the war only to find that King George's army had lost, and due to Stuart's beliefs, he was the subject of low wages and the lowering of value for his estate. His belongings were also carted off to be sold. 

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