Historical Markers
Loyalist Raid of 1778 Historical Marker
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Loyalist Raid of 1778

Philadelphia and its Countryside/Lehigh Valley


Marker Location:
State and Mercer Streets, Newtown

Dedication Date:
September 20, 2001

Behind the Marker

On the evening of February 18th, 1778, a raiding party of forty Loyalists in the Light Dragoons and Bucks County Volunteers left Philadelphia and marched the twenty-six miles to Middletown in Bucks County, where they surprised and captured a guard and some cloth at Jenk's Fulling Mill. They then continued to Newtown, where they overpowered sixteen Pennsylvania militia men in a house known as "Bird in Hand," five of whom they killed. They then returned to Philadelphia, carrying with them 2,000 yards of material, two wagons filled with timber, and thirty-two prisoners.
British etching from 1783. Cartoon shows three Natives, representing America, murdering six loyalists, four are being hung, one is about to be scalped, and the last, appealing to Fate, is about to be killed by an ax-wielding Native.
"The Savages Let Loose" or " The cruel fate of the Loyalists"

The Bucks County raid - fifty-six miles traversed in only twenty-two hours - was a bold stroke. In addition to depriving poorly dressed soldiers of the 13th Pennsylvania Regiment of cloth they desperately needed for uniforms, it was the most daring and successful military venture undertaken during the British occupation of Philadelphia - and it was led and carried out by Pennsylvanians.

A Tory newspaper in Philadelphia called the "Newtown Skirmish," as it would later become known, a "gallant action" that "must certainly meet with the applause of the public, and do great credit to officers who conducted it, and the men who, under their direction, accomplished it." It also showed the commitment of Americans loyal to the Crown to fight for their beliefs.
Oil on canvas of Mrs. Benedict Arnold wearing a low cut pink dress and sporting rosy red cheeks, with her daughter in a pale pink dress, sitting beside her.
Mrs. Benedict Arnold and daughter.

Unlike other states, Pennsylvania faced both Tories, who continued to support the crown, and pacifists, mainly Quaker and other religious sectarians who refused to take an oath of allegiance or support the new radical, Whig government. At first Pennsylvania's leaders attempted to respect their neighbors' right to choose their allegiance - or neutrality - but as the war heated up, so did the pressures to declare for one side or the other.

In June, 1777, the Pennsylvania Assembly passed a law requiring all white males to take a "test oath," renouncing allegiance to the King and swearing it to the new United States. This was unacceptable to Pennsylvania's large and diverse population of Mennonites, Moravians, Quakers, and members of other pacifist sects that did not permit the taking of oaths or the bearing of arms.

Many Pennsylvania Germans, having already been required to give an oath to George III, were reluctant to break their word, especially as one George Kriebel put it, when it was not yet clear "upon what side God almighty would bestow victory." When Mennonites in Upper Saucon refused to take the oath they were stripped of all their personal belongings so that "not even a morsel of bread [was] left of them for their children." Congress became so angered at the neutrality of Philadelphia Quakers, some of whom they believed were profiting from war while aiding the British, that it in August, 1777, it pressured Pennsylvania officials, many of whom were quite obliging, to arrest more than forty Quakers, some of whom were then exiled from the state.
Philadelphia, December 8, 1777 "Regulations" Broadside
"Regulations" Broadside, Philadelphia, PA, December 8, 1777.

The British occupation of Philadelphia on September 26, 1777, placed the city under the control of the British military and local Tories, many of whom had been supporters of the old Proprietary and Quaker parties. Prominent among these was Joseph Galloway. A wealthy merchant and political ally of Benjamin Franklin before the war, Galloway had served as speaker of the Pennsylvania Assembly from 1766 to 1775, and then as a delegate to the First Continental Congress. Opposing independence he then fled to British lines, and now returned to the city as Philadelphia's Superintendent General.

Other Pennsylvania loyalists served as sheriff and held other offices. For the men and women willing, and in some cases eager, to fraternize with handsome British officers, the social season, capped off by the extravagant Meschianza, became a whirl of balls and parties, described with delight in marker letters by Peggy Shippen, Rebecca Franks, and other young belles.

Due to the short duration of the British occupation of Philadelphia and the state's peculiar three-way conflict, southeastern Pennsylvania was largely spared the vicious and bloody partisan warfare of southern New York, eastern Jersey, South Carolina, and Georgia - and of its own contested Wyoming Valley .

Galloway did, however, conduct a census on each household's loyalty and equipped Loyalist troops, including those that conducted the Bucks County raid in February. At the same time, bandits and guerilla groups robbed the homes of their Whig neighbors and intercepted supplies destined for Washington's troops. The most infamous of these were the Doan brothers of Bucks County, who between 1777 and 1784 carried out a series of daring robberies.
Oil on canvas of the Reverend Duché dressed in his clergy robe and reading the bible to his wife, who appears to listening attentively.
Reverend and Mrs. Jacob Duché, by Thomas Spence Duché, Jr., c. 1780-1789.

In March 1778 the exiled state legislature in Lancaster passed an Act of Attainder to confiscate the properties of those who joined the British. When the British fled Philadelphia on June 28, 1778, Galloway and other prominent loyalists left with them. More than 390 British supporters lost their properties. Many joined the more than 60,000 American loyalists who fled the country during the war. A small number of prominent refugees, including Philadelphians Joseph Galloway and the Reverend Jacob Duche', former pastor of Christ Church, marker received stipends from the Crown.

More than 30,000 relocated, with no financial assistance, to Nova Scotia. Least fortunate were the African Americans who sided with the British, some of whom found themselves returned to slavery in the Caribbean. After the war for independence was over, Pennsylvanians exercised remarkable restraint against those who had supported and socialized with the British. Conflicts, however, did continue. The Constitutionalists - who supported the 1776 constitution - attempts to keep neutrals and Tories from voting was an important and divisive political issue in the 1780s.
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