David Center for the American Revolution Seminar: "Suffering for the Crown: The Hudson Valley Loyalists, Violence, and Forced Migration in Revolutionary North America" with Kieran O'Keefe

3:00 - 4:30 p.m. ET

Register for this event online via Zoom.

April 10, 2024

3:00 - 4:30 p.m. ET

Kieran O'Keefe

The seventh 2023-2024 David Center for the American Revolution Seminar will take place April 10, 2024 at 3:00 p.m. ET on Zoom.

The speaker will be Kieran O'Keefe. Kieran is an Assistant Professor of History at Lyon College in Batesville, Arkansas. He earned his Ph.D. from The George Washington University in 2021. He is currently working on his book manuscript, titled Suffering for the Crown: The Hudson Valley Loyalists, Violence, and Forced Migration in Revolutionary North America. This study explores how violence and forced migration to Canada shaped Loyalist communities during and after the Revolutionary War.

Kieran will be presenting is paper titled "Suffering for the Crown: The Hudson Valley Loyalists, Violence, and Forced Migration in Revolutionary North America" A description of the paper is below. The paper will be pre-circulated to registered participants in advance of the seminar meeting. 

To attend the seminar and to receive a copy of the paper, please register via Zoom. 

The David Center for the American Revolution Seminar serves as a forum for works-in-progress that explore topics in the era of the American Revolution (1750-1820). Questions about the series may be directed to Adrianna Link, Head of Scholarly Programs, at [email protected]

NOTE: Seminars are designed as spaces for sharing ideas and works still in-progress. For this reason, this event will not be recorded.

There were three major developments in the Revolutionary War in the Hudson Valley starting in 1778. The first was the escalation of partisan violence. This partisan warfare took center stage because the British high command shifted its focus to the South, leaving Loyalists to wage most of the war in the Hudson Valley. Loyalists responded to this development with a burst of military enthusiasm. The growth of militarism was in part incited by Patriot atrocities which Loyalists felt they needed to avenge. Consequently, a bloody partisan war consumed the Hudson Valley, with much of the violence driven by a desire to retaliate against the enemy and the demonization of the other. As a non-conventional conflict, the partisan war brought more groups into the struggle, most especially Indigenous peoples. Native Americans, seeking to push back against colonialism, entered the war to a greater degree, often joining white Loyalists in attacks against the northern and western Hudson Valley.

There was also more state-sponsored violence against Loyalists. The state established new government bodies to oversee loyalism, taking more direct oversight than it had earlier in the war when local authorities generally handled Loyalist affairs. With bloodshed mounting, Revolutionary leaders determined that Loyalists could not be citizens because of their anti-republican beliefs and because of their violent behavior. As a result, the state legislature passed several laws that stripped Loyalists of their civil and political rights, effectively depriving them of citizenship. The state also enacted land confiscation, which was in part a response to the more militant loyalism, with authorities arguing that Loyalists were innately violent and should not own land in a republic. 

A third major development was that suffering became a central part of Loyalist identity. In response to persecution, Loyalists streamed into New York City and Canada for British protection, often arriving in very distressed conditions. To survive, they petitioned for support from the British military. These petitions highlight how Loyalists had come to view themselves at this point in the war. More than anything, their petitions emphasized their suffering. Having experienced persecution from Revolutionaries, suffering was a shared experience among almost all Hudson Valley Loyalists. They explained that they had suffered because they wanted to prevent the ruin of their country and stop a capricious government. As a collective ordeal, suffering became the glue that held the community together and a central part of how they identified.

The partisan war that lasted from 1778 to 1783 led to several major developments. Beyond bringing bloodshed to all peoples of the region, the growth of militant loyalism led Revolutionaries to determine that Loyalists could not be citizens and deserved few political or civil rights. The intensification of war also led to more Loyalist suffering, which in turn became wedded to Loyalist identity.