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Not all Black Loyalists were fortunate enough to keep their newly found freedom. For many, if not most, it was a brief experience, soon to be taken away from them.

In the chaos of war, many found the blacks to be easy victims. Many Loyalist soldiers considered blacks to be prizes of war, no matter how they came into their care. Boston King tells us an instructive story of how one Loyalist tried to desert while taking him as a prize. King escaped and even had the British troops exact revenge on the deserter's property, but we can be sure that not all blacks treated in this manner were so fortunate.

Some stories that have been preserved in Shelburne's Court records are illuminating. A Charleston Loyalist named Jesse Gray seems to have made quite a career of seizing Black Loyalists. Two cases concerning him exist; the heart-wrenching story of Mary Postell and another black woman named Molly. Both women told the same sad story of entering into his employment voluntarily and then being seized as slaves. Similar tales come from Pero and Tom, who claimed to have been seized and then sold to a Shelburne Loyalist named Joseph Robin. Another man claimed to have lost his bill of sale for a man named James Singletory. All of their claims of freedom were rejected.

In general the attitude towards this sort of treatment in the south seems to have been very casual. Lacking protectors like Carleton and Birch in New York, the blacks were an easy target for people who had lost everything and felt they were owed compensation. In Charleston, when the negotiations regarding the fate of the blacks collapsed the evacuation turned into anarchy. About 10 000 blacks were evacuated with the whites, 4000 as free blacks and 6000 as slaves. But of course it's impossible to tell how many of the free men were claimed as slaves and how many of the slaves should have been free.

Slaves who were captured by the British were treated poorly. Although in many cases they assisted the British in the capture of their plantations, this didn't give them much chance of freedom. Most officers treated them as personal loot, the spoils of war. To combat this problem and to obtain much need labourers, Clinton ordered that they be treated as British property. Many who were told of this policy took the opportunity to sell their booty as quickly as possible; perhaps several thousand were shipped off to the West Indies. And in fact, sometimes the British would grant these slaves to soldiers and officers as a sort of medal for brave service.

Many Black Loyalists had been evacuated to Florida, especially St. Augustine. When it too had to be evacuated as it was returned to the Spanish, blacks were a low priority. Some sought to sell them or seize them as slaves, and others were abandoned to the Spanish. Naturally, the Spanish would hardly consider these escaped British partisans to be free men. A lucky few managed to be evacuated to Nova Scotia, where they joined the growing communities of free Black Loyalists.

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Slave Revolt: 1827
Blacks who had revolted against their masters to help the British capture their plantations were often returned to slavery at the end of the war.

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Mary Postell

Henry Clinton

Boston King


Postell Deposition

King's Memoir