J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Alex Cain on Burgoyne’s Loyal Volunteers, 2 June

On Saturday, 2 June, the group that reenacts McAlpin’s Corps of Loyal Volunteers, a Loyalist military unit formed in 1777, will drill at the Oaks Mansion in Worcester, starting at 11:00 A.M. As part of that event, Alex Cain, also author of We Stood Our Ground: Lexington in the First Years of the American Revolution, will speak about the Loyalist units in Gen. John Burgoyne’s army.

Daniel McAlpin was a retired British army captain just settled in Stillwater, New York, when the war began. In September 1776 he received a secret commission from Gen. William Howe and began recruiting a regiment to support the Crown. Patriot neighbors caught on, and he had to escape and go into hiding.

McAlpin joined Burgoyne at Fort Edward in 1777 as the British thrust downward from Canada. His corps, numbering fewer than 200 men, formed that August. The Online Institute for Advanced Loyalist Studies shares several documents related to McAlpin’s command.

Most of Burgoyne’s army consisted of British regulars and troops sent from Germany. The relatively few Loyalists were at extra risk if captured, in danger of being treated as traitors to the new U.S. of A. rather than ordinary prisoners of war. So how did the general look out for those men when he surrendered after the Battles of Saratoga? That will no doubt be part of Cain’s talk.

The Oaks is located at 140 Lincoln Street in Worcester. Judge Timothy Paine (1730-1793) began its construction in 1774, then ran into trouble as his Loyalist leanings made him unpopular. It took about twenty years before the mansion was completed in its first state.

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