United Empire Loyalists

by Carol Adams Stuart

From "The Descendants of Jacob Bonesteel", June 2005



(By Dr. H. C. Burleigh, author of "The Burleigh Papers")


We who live in the twentieth century have little or no conception of he difficulties which face our Loyalist ancestors one hundred and eighty-five years ago.  I am sure that many of us have heard someone say: "My people came to Canada during the American Revolution.  They were Loyalists, you know."  It was just as simple as that--almost like getting in the family car and driving to Belleville.  Although we well know that it was not that easy, we often fail to appreciate the time and effort expended in that momentous journey.  Family legends have been handed down through too many generations for us to have retained more than the barest outlines.  However, we have only to recall that there were no aeroplanes, no automobiles, no motorships.  Travel by land over rough trails was confined to crude, springless vehicles, by horseback or on foot.  Travel by water depended upon the use of squared sails when the wind was favorable; otherwise by river currents or the use of oars.  Travel by air was only for the birds.

Were it not for contemporary documents preserved here and there, our knowledge of those far-off days would be scant, indeed.  We are fortunate that one such document in the handwriting of a Loyalist officer was preserved.  It is a day to day account of the experiences of a group of Loyalists, many of whom were destined to be first settlers in Ernesttown Township.  This treasure begins on August 16, 1777, when the group left its home in Claverack, until June 9, 1778, when they arrived in Quebec City.  It is a most revealing story, and one well worth repeating.


The Author was Lieut. Henry Simmons, (husband of Anna Margaretha Bonesteel) who led the 437 men, women and children of Jessup's Loyal Rangers in the first settlement of Ernesttown in June, 1784.  Simmons belonged to a Dutch family, judging by his spelling and evident pronunciation.  He was 37 years of age, and a married man, when he left his home, never to return, that August day so many years ago.


This was the summer of 1777.  The Colonists had been in open rebellion for two years.  In 1775 a rebel force attempted to capture Quebec.  They besieged the city through the following winter, but retired hastily when a British fleet arrived before the city.  By November, 1776, the rebels had been driven south by way of Lake Champlain, and the British under General Carleton ended the campaign by the occupation of Crown Point.  In the spring of 1777, a British army under General Burgoyne advanced slowly in the direction of Albany and the Hudson Valley.  The Loyalists, who had been persecuted, fined and imprisoned, flocked to the Royal Standard as Burgoyne proceeded southward.




The Sixtenth Day of August 1777 I left my house at Claverack and Set out with a Company of Seven and twenty Men and officers to go to General Burguins armey which was at that time at fort Miller and Arifet at the Batten Kill in the Flyeing arme the 27th of Augt.--(1) and was musteret that same day and joint Lt. Co. Je Saups Corps--(2) till further ourder and there we Lay till the lt of Septr the 29th Chrichtyan havver and Pardlomees Hess went home to gitt more men.  the 8th, of Sept we gat arms for 12 men--(3) and thath night we was Alarmet as if the Enmy Was a Comming But it Was a


1.  75 miles in 11 days!  They had to travel through enemy country, likely at night along untrodden paths, fording streams, and hiding in thickets by day.  Their food was what they could carry on their backs.


2.  The Kings' Loyal American Regiment, commended by Lieut-Col. Jessup.  Simmons became Lieutenant in Capt. Christian Wehr's Company.


3.  They must have been a motley crew--no uniforms, and only 12 of them armed.


fals Larm  the Nest night we Lay an our Arms on the Est of the Barracks the 10th we gat armes for 9 men more  the 13th we Movet town--(4) as fare as Shullers uper Sawmill--(5) and there We lay till the 16th and that Day we went to Von fechteis--(6) and there we lay one Day and the 18th we went to Leut Sworts hous--(7) and there we lay till the 19th till som time in the night and then we went that night to John Doyleos--(8) and that Day our flying Arme and the Revels had a Batle at free mans farme--(9)  But our men Boit the Revels to Reterin and Kilt Betwin 3 and 4 hundaert of the Enmy and we had about two hundret Deat and Wountet the eeth of Sept Christyan Haver and Hess Came in again and Brought 18th men with them and a Commettee man PreSsoner--(10( and so we Lay there till the 7th Day of ocdr  they hat and other Batle West of fremen--(11) and our arme Retreteat that next Day Back to John Daylors on the hill and that Day Engaget with Canons But how many was killet of either Sit I can not Say and the 8th we Wend in the night as fare as Vnfechtes and --(12) the 9th in the night to Saratoga--(13) there we Lay that night


4.  Having crossed the Hudson to the west bank on a bridge of boats.

5.  This is General Schuyler's Upper Sawmill, evidently on the Fishkill stream.

6.  Von Fechten's house, a few miles south of Saratoga Village.

7.  Lieutenant Sword's house

8.  John Taylor's house

9.  The battle of Freeman's Farm, also known as the first battle of Saratoga.  It was fought in the cornfields and fence rows of John Freeman, a Loyalist.

10.  Haver and Hess were absent 23 days, 29 August to Sept. 22, in making the round trip to Claverack for these 18 men.  Simmons now commanded 45 men.

11.  This was the second battle of Saratoga, also called the battle of Bemis Heights.  Failure to rout the Revels led to Burgoyne's retreat and subsequent surrender.

12 From September 13th, when the Army crossed the Hudson River, to October 7th, the day on which the second battle of Saratoga was fought, Burgoyne's advance was about ten miles.

13.  This refers to the hill just north of the Fishkill and the village of Saratoga where Burgoyne encamped for protection.  Being here completely surrounded and short of supplied, the British were forced to surrender.


the 10th Went Bak agin about a mile  Som of the Vallutiers and gardet up the Batowes to the fish kill at Schullers--(14) and the Sam Day we wend as fare as arche mcnelas to cover the Artificers for to mack Briges--(15) and there we lay two Days  the 12th we wend Back agin to flying arme which lay on the hill north of the fish Kill and there we lay until the 17th  and that Day we layt town our arms by Capitulations and in the Convenon It was agreet that the Volunteer Saillors artyficirs batone men must go to Canada--(16) and so we Croset the Rever that Day and wend as fare as Bathen Kill--(17) the 18th to one Johnson and the 20th to fort Gorge--(18) and we lay there till the 22 th a boud one a clok and they wend as fare as the three mile paint and there we lay thed


14.  To guard the return of batteaux which had descended the Hudson as the army advanced.

15.  This took Simmons' party to the neighborhood of Fort Edward.

16.  By the terms of surrender all Americans who had joined Burgoyne must proceed to Canada.  There was nothing else to do.  All their property had been confiscated.

17.  Thus began the long and tedious trip to Canada, their future home.

18.  From the Battenkill to Fort George was 27 miles.  The party averaged 9 miles per day.


night and the 23th we Came on Dimon III and took a Butiacker--(19) and Came that Day to the nine mile lland thence the 24 within five mil of Sabath day pind and the 25th to Diante rogo--(20) and there lay till the 26th the Sund aboud one hour hight and there we gat a batone--(21) And wend that Day about 8 mille the Wind in the North and there we lay Still the 27th. and 28th. in the woods and a Storm from the north with Snow and a little Rain--(22) and 29th we wend as fare as one Mcelens there we came aboud noon the wind Stle in the north and it Rainth that afternoon and the next night the next Day the Wind Came to the South and wend from thence the 29th as fare as Split Rock--(23) there we lay wind Bound from the 30 and 31th  the 1th Day of Ocdower--(24)


19.  How the party was transported to Diamond Island is not known.  But once there they boarded a Butiacker for the journey northward.  I have been unable to discover what a Butiacker was, except that it must have been a vessel of some kind.

20.  They took three days to sail from Fort George to Ticonderoga, a distance of some 37 miles; the last leg, a matter of three miles, must have been on foot.

21.  A batteau ordinarily carried about 20 men, so it must have been very crowded with 28 men.

22.  This must have been a most dispiriting time.  It was now the last week in October, and snow and rain arriving on a north wind can create a most distressing situation.

23.  Split Rock is about 30 miles north of Ticonderoga, the traditional dividing line between the Iroquois and the Indians of the Lower St. Lawrence.

24.  This must be November.


the wind Came and boud to the South and that Day we Sailet as fare as the Easst Poind of mon comberlands pay--(25) and 2th from thence five mile to the north of point to faire--(26) the 3th aboud noon  We arift at Saint Johns--(27) and there we layet with Som french men the 5th we wend within a bout 1 mile of Labarens--(28) the 6th we wend to Lang gale--(29) and we Caute not git overe the Revere  we was appleaghtet to Stay there that night  the 7th we got over and that night we was billetet in the west Supbub of Montreal--(30)  the 8th we wend up to Lachenne--(31)  there we stayt that night  the 9th we was billetet in St. SuSe--(32) the 23th of Novemr  We Drowe half Mounding for the Men--(33)


25.  They had made 30 miles that day, the best since leaving Saratoga.

26.  Pointe au Fer (Iron Point).  The party had traveled more than 80 miles by water since leaving Ticonderoga eight days before.  They were now about to enter the Richelieu River which drains Lake Champlain.

27.  St. John's, the first French community and outpost, 24 miles north of Lake Champlain.  There was no room at the inn nor in the stables.  So they slept in the woods, and in November.

28.  This must be Laprairie, a village on the south shore of the St. Lawrence.

29.  Longueuil, across the river from Montreal.

30.  Almost four months had elapsed since leaving their homes in Claverack, and three weeks since their departure from Saratoga.  They were now in a foreign land, as far as speech was concerned, and 275 miles from homes and families.

31.  Lachine.

32.  St. Suse must be St. Louis, and evidently a community on Lake St. Louis, west of Lachine.

33.  Apparently the usual issue to destitute groups.


St. Souse December 29th John Stopilbin Did and their we Staid till the 26th of May 1778 and then We Set out for Quebeck.  We Marcht as for as Montrial Staid thare un tel the 29th Day then Crosed the Rever St. Larence to longale Church--(34) Staid thare one Day and two Nights then the 31 Day Wee Came to Verene--(35) Staid thare that Night then the 1 Day of Juen wee Marcht Down to Sorell and Retoound back one mill  that Night Staid thare and the next morning we marcht up two mill--further and Crosd the Rever to Barkee--(36)  We Staid thare that Night and the 3 Dey Wee whent in bottoms and Roed Down Leak St. frances--(37) to St. Anns  wee Staid thare that Night and the 4 Day wee Come over the three Rivers--(38) and the 5 wee marcht to---(39)  Wee Staid thare that Night and the 6 Day Wee marcht to pont ofShambo--(40) and the 7 day wee Marcht to Carruse fery--(41)  Staid thare that night and the Next Day and Night and the 9 Day--(42)


34.  Longueuil Church.

35.  Varennes, on the south shore road to Sorel.

36  This is Verthier, on the north shore.

37.  This should be Lake St. Peter.  Lake Francis is west of Montreal.

38.  The journey from Three Rivers downward was on foot.

39.  The Lieutenant was stumped at this point.  He left a blank for this overnight resting place.  It was likely Ste. Anne-de-La-Perade.

40.   Deschambeault.

41.  Cap Rouge, a few miles west of Quebec City.

41.  The party arrived in Quebec on the 9th, after a leisurely trip of about 180 miles in two weeks.  Today, in your car you could complete the journey in five or six hours.


Thus ends Lieutenant Simmons' Journal.


And what of the men who followed Lieut. Henry Simmons into exile?  We have the answer on page 69 of his Orderly Book.  It reads:


October 3th/1777 I did arjved in Canada with


1.  John Simmon Set. 2.  gord Raus
3.  Wil Sol 4.  Henry finckel
5.  Balser Simmon 6.  Henry Enderson
7.  Jacob Bonistiel 8.  Andres Miller
9.  Aberm Reyfeberger 10.  Pitter Stieuer
11.  Jacob hes 12.  Conrath Rosman
13.  Nickles Hofman 14.  Aberm Scot
15.  fridrich becker 16. Pitter Eisselstein
17.  John Eisselstein 18.  John Meikel
19.  Pitter Hagetorn 20.  Vallendin Herman
21.  David Hofman 22.  Jost Hofman
23.  Philip Bonisteil 24.  John Bork
25.  John Schertz 26.  Matis Runs
27.  John Lieb  


  The War Office Papers in the Archives in Ottawa supplies the ages of most of these men.  Nine were in their teens, the youngest being Jacob Hess at seventeen; ten were in their twenties; four were thirty or more; and five were unknown.  Simmons himself was 37.  One of these, Sgt. Rouse, did not come from Claverack.  He joined the Company early in September, 1777.  Eleven of these men became settlers in Ernesttown in June, 1784.  They were Lieut. Simmons, Sgt. John Simmons, Baltus Simmons, Henry Finkle, Andrew Miller, Jacob Hess, Frederick Baker, John and Peter Asselstine and David and Joseph Huffman.  Pieter Stiever died in June, 1783.

  If it should possibly anger you because of my failure to supply the actual age in the Summer of 1777, I add the ages of these budding soldiers as they appear on 1 January, 1782, or 1783, in the War Office Papers to be found, if you do so desire, in the Public Archives in Ottawa, Canada.

Here is the list, showing also the supposed ages in the Summer of 1777 on enlistment under Lieut. Henry Simmons.


Age Jan. 1/1782

Assumed Age

Summer of 1777

John Simmons 30 25
George Rouse 30 25
Baltus Simmons 24 19
Abraham Scott 28 23
Andrew Miller 24 19
Henry Finkle 24 19
Jacob Ness 22 17
Nicholas Hoffman 30 25
Frederick Baker 25 20
Philip Bonisteel 24 19
Peter Asselstine 35 30
David Hoffman 28 23
Henry Anderson 23 18
Jacob Bonisteel 23 18
Pieter Stover (Stiever) 35 30
John Mickel 27 22
Pieter Hegedorn 28 23
Jobst Joffman 28 23
John Lieb 24 18

These two names were found in a similar list created 1 January, 1783.


Name Age in 1783 Assumed Age in 1777
John Pork 24 18
John Asselstine 28 22


The Officer, Lieut. Henry Simmons is recorded in a List of Pensioned Officers on June, 1806 as being 66 years of age.  This would indicate that he was 40 years in the Summer of 1777, when he led his party on the journey to Burgoyne's Camp at the Battenkill River.


If you haven't' enjoyed this dramatic account of a troublous journey, largely on foot or by batteaux, from Claverack to General Burgoyne at the Battenkill, then later to St. John, Quebec, and later ending in Quebec City, there is something wrong with your head, or possibly with mine.  When one remembers that very few could read or write, we are lucky to have such a clear picture of the situation, even though you have to ponder over the variations in spelling.


And if it is possible that your Loyalist ancestors participated in the journey it should add greatly to your knowledge, enjoyment and interest.  If so, you should be proud, indeed!


The above was transcribed by Dr. H. C. Burleigh (author of "The Burleigh Papers") and put into words the later generations would understand.


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