For Want of His Silver Plate

By Gavin K. Watt

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It is unknown when Sir John Johnson first contemplated a major raid into his homeland of Tryon County’s Mohawk District. After evading capture in May 1776, he had anticipated a very short exile in Quebec and a triumphant return to the family seat of Johnson Hall, but that was not to be. For Want of His Silver Plate relates the history of Sir John Johnson's raid of 1780, providing much detail about individual events and people. Beyond the value of the narrative, the lists included in the Appendices will be of great value to military historians and genealogists alike. About the choice of title of the book: For the title of this book, the author paraphrased a fatuously derisive claim made by the famous American historian Franklin Hough, one of Sir John Johnson’s major detractors. To wit - the primary goal of his May 1780 expedition was to rescue his family’s collection of silver plate. That the raid was sanctioned and supported by the very demanding Governor of Canada, General Frederick Haldimand, was ignored by Hough. Further, that it:
  1. relieved a large body of loyalists from persecution;
  2. recruited sufficient men to complete Johnson’s first battalion, and to give birth to his second battalion;
  3. destroyed substantial supplies of crops and livestock that would have supported the Continental armies;
  4. resulted in the capture or death of several local supporters of the rebellion, and
  5. thoroughly alarmed the rebels’ administration including General Washington himself.
Hough obviously viewed these results as insignificant. Readers may judge for themselves. Contents include:
  • Preface and Acknowledgement
  • Chapter One – The Beginning – Exile
    • Johnson’s 1777 Role
    • 1778 – Johnson’s New Duties
    • The Rebels Retaliate
    Chapter Two – Raiding Begins, 1780
    • The appeal of the Captains McDonell
    • The Sacandaga Blockhouse
    • Alexander Harper
    • Crawford’s Raid
    • Governor Clinton’s advice
    • Disaster at Stanwix
    • The Tryon Militia reacts
    • The Planning of the Raid
    • The Raid Betrayed
  • Chapter Three – A Slick Advance and a Slick Withdrawal “You Are My Prisoner”
  • The Aftermath
  • Endnotes
  • Appendices (lists)
    • i. Men Captured at Remensnyder’s Bush 03 April 1780
    • ii. Tory Absconders Listed by Christopher P. Yates, 15 May 1780
    • iii. Royal Yorker Detachment Sent on May 1780 Expedition to Johnstown
    • iv. Royal Yorker and Other Recruits of the May 1780 Raid
    • v. Transcript of a Return of Blacks Taken by Sir John’s Expedition May 1780
    • vi. Some Rebels Taken During 1780 Johnstown Raid
    • vii. Listing of Johnson Family’s Silver Plate
    • viii. Deserters from the 1st New York Continental Line and Brown’s Company, 3rd Regiment, Continental Army, Fort Schuyler (Stanwix), 22 May 1780
    • ix. Some Losses Incurred During the May 1780 Raid
  • Bibliography
  • Index     (Browse the INDEX here)
  • 94 pages
  • 8.5 X 11"
  • Coil bound
  • Sources
  • Bibliography
  • Index
  • Published by Global Heritage Press, Ottawa 2018
  • ISBN 978-1-77240-119-6 (printed and bound)


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Gavin K. Watt - Historian & Writer