Sunday, September 26, 2010

The American Revolution's Public Enemy Number One???

I have long been interested in the Revolutionary War service of various direct and collateral ancestors through my maternal line. It appears that I have several relatives who served on either side of the conflict as Loyalists or Patriots. One of my more intriguing relatives is Joshua Loring Jr. (1744-1789), who is my third cousin, eight times removed. The portrait of him here (Courtesy of Black Pearl Antiques & Fine Art) was painted by John Singleton Copley around 1780. I am related to Loring through his mother, Mary Curtis Loring. A Massachusetts native and former British Army officer, Loring was commissary of prisoners for the British during the American Revolution. Supposedly, his influence was attributed to the rumored affair that his wife had with General William Howe, who was the British commander in North America. Historians have painted Loring over the years as either an inhumane villain or as a well-intentioned individual who did the best he could with the resources he had. Here is a quick biographical sketch:

"LORING, Joshua, commissary of prisoners, born in Hingham, Massachusetts, in December, 1744; died in Edge-field. England, in August, 1789. Served as ensign (1761) and later lieutenant (1765) in the 15th Regiment of Foot. He was high sheriff of Massachusetts in 1768, subsequently mayor of Hingham, and one of those who signed an address to Governor Hutchinson in 1774, and to Governor Gage in 1775, approving their course. One of Gage's last official acts was the appointment of Loring, in June, 1775, as "sole vendue-master and auctioneer." He went to Halifax with the royal army the next year, and early in 1777 was appointed by Sir William Howe commissary of prisoners, toward whom he was accused of excessive cruelty. General Ethan Allen said of him that " he murdered precipitately, in cold blood, near or quite two thousand helpless prisoners in New York." But General Gold Selleck Silliman, in his letters to his wife, describes Loring as having treated him with "kindness, complaisance, and friendship." Other authorities agree that Loring starved prisoners so that 300 died before an exchange could be effected. His wife, Miss Lloyd, of Dorchester, Massachusetts, was a brilliant and unprincipled woman, noted for her extravagance and love of play, at which she occasionally lost as much as 300 guineas at a sitting. Loring owed his appointment of commissary of prisoners to her influence with Howe."

I am very interested to learn more about Loring. Through researching primary and secondary sources, I would be interested to see whether the accounts of him as being cruel and brutal toward Continental Army prisoners were true. The Lorings were a prominent loyalist family in America before and during the war. His father, Commodore Joshua Loring Sr., had been a high-ranking officer in the British Royal Navy during the French and Indian War. All of them had to later flee to England following the Revolution. Many of Joshua Loring Jr.'s descendants went on to distinguished careers in the Anglican Church as well as the British Royal Navy. In my opinion, the Lorings represent a little-known yet fascinating chapter of the American Revolution.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Sean - the American Revolution also fascinates me. My fourth great-grandfather served in the Pennsylvania Line under General Wayne. As rumor has it, I probably have your distant cousin's wife, Elizabeth, to thank for allowing me to be here today. Sir Billy Howe's interest in Elizabeth Loring kept him warm and occupied in a wintry Philadelphia while my fourth great-grandfather shivered in Valley Forge. Had Howe decided to pursue the Continental Army, it would have been an easy decimation. Interesting how things go, isn't it?


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