10 Most Famous Loyalists of the American Revolution

During the American Revolutionary War, there were a number of American colonists who stayed loyal to the British Crown and were known as Loyalists, Tories, Royalists, or King’s Men.

Patriots, who backed the revolution, saw them as “persons antagonistic to the rights of America” and opposed them.

Fifteen percent of Loyalists, or between 65,000 and 70,000 people, left the country after their cause was defeated, primarily settling in other parts of the British Empire, most notably Britain and British North America (now Canada).

Most southern Loyalists relocated to Crown-aligned Florida and British Caribbean colonies. Those from the North who identified as Loyalists often settled in Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia.

They identified themselves as United Empire Loyalists. The majority of compensation took the form of Canadian land grants or British monetary payments made through legal channels.

About 37% of the damages suffered by Loyalists who left the United States were compensated by the British government, which paid them over £3 million. In most cases, loyalists who remained in the United States were allowed to keep their property and apply for citizenship.

After the war, when prejudiced laws were finally overturned, many Loyalists came back to the United States.

Famous Loyalists

1. William Franklin

William Franklin

American-born lawyer, soldier, politician, and colonial administrator William Franklin (22 February 1730 – 17 November 1813). That he was Benjamin Franklin’s illegitimate son was a well-known fact.

William Franklin served as the final colonial governor of New Jersey (1763–1766) and was a loyalist during the American Revolutionary War. (His father Benjamin, on the other hand, was a Founding Father and a significant Patriot leader during the American Revolution.)

Having spent 1776–1778 in a Patriot jail, William emerged as the Loyalists’ most prominent leader after his release. New York City served as his home base as he assembled armed formations to fight on the side of the British. After was forced into exile in 1782, he fled to Britain. Even before he passed away, he was a London resident.

2. Thomas Hutchinson

Thomas Hutchinson

Before the American Revolution, Thomas Hutchinson (9 September 1711–3 June 1780) was a prominent Loyalist politician in the Province of Massachusetts Bay and a successful businessman.

The “most significant loyalist figure in pre-Revolutionary Massachusetts,” he was a key factor in the colony’s resistance to the American Revolution. He was a prosperous businessman and politician who was involved at the highest levels of Massachusetts government from 1758 through 1774.

Hutchinson was a divisive political figure who, despite initially opposing Parliamentary tax measures directed against the colonies, came to be branded by John Adams and Samuel Adams as a proponent of detested British taxation.

The then-Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Lord North, held him responsible for escalating tensions that eventually sparked the American Revolutionary War.

3. James Chalmers

James Chalmers

During the American Revolution, James Chalmers served as an officer and published pamphlets in support of the Loyalist cause.

After the War of Independence, the ambitious military strategist Chalmers, born in Elgin, Moray, Scotland, moved to Kent County and became “one of the Eastern Shore’s most important landowners.”

Under the pseudonym “Candidus,” he wrote a booklet criticizing Thomas Paine’s Common Sense in 1776. The pamphlet was named Plain Truth.

The mob’s pursuit of Chalmers after he published Plain Truth in Chestertown, Maryland, made life unpleasant, so in August 1777, he joined the British army traveling up the Chesapeake Bay to Philadelphia under the command of General Sir William Howe.

Following the war, Chalmers found himself unwelcome in the United States and was forced to seek refuge in exile. After moving to England, he published a pamphlet criticizing Paine’s economic theories and another about the conflict in Santo Domingo.

4. Thomas Brown

Loyalist to the British cause during the American Revolution, Thomas “Burnfoot” Brown lived from 27 May 1750 to 3 August 1825. While his original plan was to settle down as a colonial landowner, he ended up leading a quite eventful and contentious life instead.

Lt. Col. in the King’s Carolina Rangers, he was a major figure in the Province of Georgia for the Loyalist cause during the American Revolutionary War.

Once the Patriots won the Revolution and the British were overthrown, Brown was exiled to British East Florida and then to St. Vincent’s Island in the Caribbean.

5. Benedict Arnold

Benedict Arnold

Soldier Benedict Arnold participated in the American Revolutionary War from 14 January 1741 until his death on 14 June 1801.

Before switching sides and joining the British in 1780, he was a renowned general in the American Continental Army. He was given complete authority over the New York military academy West Point by General George Washington.

In September 1780, Arnold’s intention to surrender the fort to British forces was discovered, and he immediately withdrew to the British lines. Later in the war, Arnold was promoted to brigadier general in the British army and given command of the American Legion.

In the aftermath of his leading the British army against the soldiers he previously commanded, his name became synonymous with treason and betrayal in the United States.

6. Joseph Brant (Thayendenegea)

Joseph Brant

Known by his British-sounding name Thayendanegea or Joseph Brant, this Mohawk military and political leader lived in what is now New York and was a close ally of the British during and after the American Revolution (March 1743 – November 24, 1807, respectively).

Perhaps more than any other Native American of his day, he was well-known to Anglo-Americans and British alike. He interacted with prominent figures like George Washington and King George III.

Despite the fact that Brant was not born into a position of leadership within the Iroquois League, he was able to rise to prominence because to his education, skills, and relationships with British officials.

Sir William Johnson, the important British Superintendent of Indian Affairs in the province of New York, married his sister, Molly Brant.

Brant’s Volunteers, comprised of Mohawk and colonial Loyalists, fought fiercely against the rebels on the New York frontier during the American Revolutionary War.

Later historians argued that the American claims that he committed atrocities, which earned him the nickname “Monster Brant,” were exaggerated.

7. Joseph Galloway

Joseph Galloway

Joseph Galloway (1731–August 29, 1803) was a prominent American lawyer and politician in the years leading up to the establishment of the United States.

One of the most prominent Loyalists in North America at the start of the Revolutionary War, he was a fervent opponent of American independence.

In the late 1740s, Benjamin Franklin made good friends with Galloway, the son of a wealthy landowner, who was studying law at the time.

Due to his connections with Benjamin Franklin and the Penn family through his father-in-law, he became embroiled in the political intrigue of the early American colonies.

Galloway, although only 25 years old, was elected to the Pennsylvania Provincial Assembly that year. After that, he served for 18 years total, eight of which were spent as speaker of the assembly.

In June 1778, as the British withdrew from Philadelphia, Galloway fled to England, where he was tried and convicted of high treason by the Pennsylvania Assembly and had his properties seized.

Galloway was a leader of the exiled loyalist cause, which included between 80,000 and 100,000 displaced colonists, all the way to the war’s end. He had left his wife and children in the Americas in the hopes of reclaiming his estates, but he would never see them again.

8. John Butler

John Butler

John Butler (1728-1796) was a British Indian Department colonial administrator, interpreter, merchant, landowner, and military commander born in the United States.

He was a Loyalist who commanded a light infantry force on New York’s northern frontier during the Revolutionary War. His regiment was called Butler’s Rangers.

He was born in Connecticut but later migrated with his family to New York, where he became fluent in many Iroquoian languages and found work as an interpreter in the fur trade. When the Mohawk and other warriors of the Iroquois Confederacy sided with the British during the uprising, he was prepared to collaborate with them.

Butler commanded the Seneca and Cayuga tribes in New York’s Saratoga campaign throughout the war. Later, he recruited soldiers from the Mohawk and other Iroquois nations to form a regiment of rangers under his command.

There was a slaughter at Cherry Valley, in central New York west of Albany, that became infamous among the rebels. Butler moved his family to Upper Canada after the war, where the government awarded him a land grant as compensation for his efforts.

9. Boston King

Boston King

After the American Revolutionary War, Boston King (c. 1760-1802), a former slave and Black Loyalist, was granted his freedom by the British and moved to Nova Scotia.

Later, he moved to Sierra Leone and became the first Methodist missionary to work among the indigenous people there and in nearby Freetown.

His autobiography, published in 1798, was one of only three written by Black Nova Scotians and stood out among slave tales for being a trans-Atlantic piece of literature.

South Carolina is the state where King was born into slavery. He became a carpenter’s apprentice. When the British invaded Charleston, he joined them because they promised slaves freedom.

10. Sir John Johnson, 2nd Baronet

Sir John Johnson, 2nd Baronet

On the side of the British during the American Revolutionary War was Brigadier General Sir John Johnson, 2nd Baronet (5 November 1741–4 January 1830), an American-born military officer, magistrate, landowner, and colonial official in the British Indian Department.

His father, the first British Superintendent of Indian Affairs, Sir William Johnson, 1st Baronet, was his paternal great-grandfather.

In 1774, he took up the baronetcy and estate his father had left him. At the risk of imprisonment by Patriot authorities, Sir John fled to Canada with his family and allies during the American Revolutionary War.

He commanded the New York-based King’s Royal Regiment and rose through the ranks to brigadier general before the war’s end in 1782. His appointment as Superintendent General and Inspector General of Indian affairs came the same year, and he served in that capacity until his death in 1830.

He was tasked by the British government with resettling exiled Loyalists in Upper Canada following the war, and by his own estimation, he was responsible for the resettlement of almost 3,800 people that year. He was also a member of the Lower Canadian Legislative Council.