Lord Dunmore’s Proclamation: Information and Slavery

Conflict & War

December 30, 2019
by Patrick H. Hannum Also by this Author


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Lord Dunmore, John Murray, the 4th Earl of Dunmore (1730-1809) and Royal Governor of Virginia (1771-1776),[1] was an important political and military figure during the early stages of the American Revolution. One of Dunmore’s most controversial actions involved issuing a proclamation to free all slaves and indentured servants of rebels who would rally to the King’s standard, dated November 7, 1775, but issued a week later.[2] Dunmore’s Proclamation was also an announcement of martial law. One of the original surviving copies of Dunmore’s Proclamation of 1775 is on public display through March 22, 2020, in a special exhibition, “Forgotten Soldier,” at the American Revolution Museum in Yorktown, Virginia.

Dunmore took a significant political risk by issuing the proclamation, but his relatively weak political, security, and military positions may have forced him. His proclamation was intended to quell the growing rebellion in Virginia and draw those on the margins of Virginia’s political processes into the King’s camp, in opposition to the growing rebel insurgency. Dunmore’s Proclamation was an information document, capitalizing on the institution of slavery, designed to influence the population as Dunmore used all available resources to maintain control of Virginia while cultivating both internal and external support.

Information is an important element of warfare and frequently overlooked as a critical tool to shape the military and political operating environment. Information operations seek to address “the cognitive dimension [of warfare and] encompasses the minds of those who transmit, receive, and respond to or act on information.” In other words, information is a tool to shape human behavior, and information provides advantage by impacting an individual or group’s perception, judgement, and ultimately their decision making. Information provides a tool to “influence, disrupt, corrupt, or usurp the decision making of adversaries and potential adversaries while protecting” friendly information.[3] Many factors determine how information impacts a population: cultural beliefs, social norms, societal values, emotions, ideologies, vulnerabilities, and identities are all factors to consider when crafting messages to influence human behavior.[4] Slavery was a powerful cultural, political, and social institution in Virginia, and Lord Dunmore understood Virginia’s social and economic order. Slavery created a vulnerability Dunmore attempted to utilize to his advantage to enhance his political and military power.

Dunmore’s Proclamation was a masterful information document and reads in part,

the Peace and good Order may the sooner be restored, I do require every Person capable of bearing Arms, to resort to His Majesty’s Standard, or be looked upon as Traitors to His Majesty’s Crown and Government, and thereby become liable to the Penalty the Law inflicts upon such Offenses; such as forfeiture of Life, confiscation of Lands, &. &. And I do hereby further declare all indented Servants, Negroes, or others, (appertaining to Rebels,) free that are able and willing to bear Arms, they joining His Majesty’s Troops as soon as may be, for the more speedily reducing this Colony to a proper Sense of their Duty, to His Majesty’s Crown and Dignity.[5]

Immediately upon issuance, Dunmore’s Proclamation caused each Virginian to reflect on their loyalties and livelihood, as well as the economic, security, and cultural implications of slavery.[6] The events leading to Dunmore’s proclamation explain why he declared martial law and appealed specifically to enslaved persons of African descent to join him.

Slaves & Slavery
By 1775, slaves and slavery were an economic and cultural norm in the southern British colonies.[7] In this regard, the southern colonies shared similar views on the threat of a slave revolt or insurrection with the colonies in the Caribbean.[8] Perhaps Thomas Jefferson summarized the problem of slavery best when, in 1820, he wrote that slavery was like holding “a wolf by the ear, and we can neither hold him, nor safely let him go. Justice is in one scale, and self-preservation in the other.”[9] A more contemporary author described slavery as Virginia’s “Internal Enemy.”[10] Dunmore understood the dilemma confronting Virginians in 1775, and he exploited the threat of a general slave revolt or insurrection when issuing his proclamation. Summoning slaves and indentured servants to his Majesty’s standard was a form of economic warfare, denying the Whigs a source of labor.[11] It also fueled the fear of a slave revolt, striking at a significant vulnerability in the economy, social identity, norms, emotions, and ideologies of Virginians and the southern colonies in general.[12] Enslaved persons also provided Dunmore a potential source of military manpower that he never fully exploited.[13]

Events Leading to the Proclamation
Dunmore became a polarizing figure early in the revolution. His actions further energized the already alarmed and mobilizing population of Virginia when, on April 21, 1775, he ordered the removal of twenty barrels of gun powder from the magazine at Williamsburg.[14] Using information as a tool to justify his actions, he partially placated Williamsburg city officials when he advised, “I had removed the Powder, lest the Negroes might have seized upon it, to a place of security from whence when I saw occasion I would at any time, deliver it to the people.”[15] Yet, when outlining his future actions to William Legge, 2nd Earl of Dartmouth, Secretary of State for the Colonies, on May 1, 1775, he announced his intentions to arm slaves if the Virginians did not terminate military activities against the Crown. “Otherwise,” he stated, “I shall be forced, & it is my fixed purpose, to arm all my own Negroes, & receive all others that will come to me, whom I shall declare free.”[16] Dunmore’s November Proclamation was not a hastily contrived idea void of political top cover.

As royal governor, Dunmore dismissed the House of Burgesses in May 1774, before they had an opportunity to renew the Virginia militia law. Citizens in six Virginia towns and counties, however, began creating independent militia companies in the fall of 1774, and the numbers of independent companies in other counties grew throughout the winter and spring of 1775. Virginians lacked any legal authority to form militia units, making the independent militia extra-legal; they justified their actions because of the crisis of confidence in the royal government.[17] As Dunmore’s grip on control of Virginia weakened, he saw an opportunity to counter the Whig or Patriot moves through the institution of slavery. Dunmore correctly viewed slavery as a significant economic and military threat or vulnerability to Virginia’s social and economic order.

Lord Dunmore analyzed the potential risks and consequences of arming negroes for years before acting on this idea. He afforded Lord Dartmouth an opportunity to consider the political consequences and issue appropriate guidance. In fact, he addressed the same issue, although in the context of an external threat from Spain where slaves could have been induced to fight against the British, to Dartmouth’s predecessor, Lord Hillsborough, less than a year after assuming duties as Virginia’s royal governor. In 1772, Dunmore wrote that slaves were, “ready to join [those] that would encourage them to revenge themselves,” and given their degree of vengeance their goals could “inevitably be effected in a very short time.”[18]

Slavery was an important issue for Dunmore because slaves constituted a full one-third of the population of Virginia in 1775.[19] Although Dunmore relented on actually arming slaves during the events of April and May, his request for support reached Lord Dartmouth and received his approval. In response to Dunmore’s proposal to arm slaves to help restore Dunmore’s control of Virginia, Dartmouth wrote, “with a supply of arms and ammunition you should be able to collect from the Indians, negroes, and other persons a force sufficient if not to subdue rebellion at least to defend Government.”[20] Dartmouth backed up his words with action, when he directed “3,000 stand of arms with two hundred rounds of powder and ball for each musket and 4 light brass 3-pounders to be delivered to your lordship’s order.”[21] Lord Dartmouth was willing to arm anyone who would rally to Dunmore’s support to save the government, including slaves.

Dartmouth acted quickly on Dunmore’s request, but the magnitude of the growing rebellion, spreading to thirteen of Great Britain’s North America colonies, caught the Crown unprepared.[22] Although both sides needed to mobilize their available military manpower, neither the Patriots nor the British government were willing to establish formal and consistent policies concerning the use of freed or escaped slaves in the military. Over the eight years of the American Revolution the policies of both sides vacillated, often leaving the practical issues associated with slaves to local commanders. Slaves economically benefited both Tories and Whigs in the South as a source of labor in a labor-intensive economy. Once either side officially sanctioned granting freedom to slaves for their military service, both Whig and Tory masters would experience the loss of their bonded labor pool. Neither side was willing to take the risk associated with reordering society. But Dunmore understood the informational value of his actions on the Whigs psyche and livelihood as well as the very practical implications of increasing his military manpower.

John Adams recorded a September 1775 conversation in his diary with two Georgia delegates to the Continental Congress, Archibald Bulloch and John Houstoun. They informed Adams that a force of 1,000 regular troops could bring Georgia and South Carolina to their knees; should the King’s forces proclaim freedom to the slaves and provide arms and clothing, “twenty thousand negros would join it from the two provinces in a fortnight.”[23] They also outlined a communications network among slaves that passed information over hundreds of miles in a week. However, the men explained that security in these two states lay in the fact, “all the kings friends, and tools of government, have large plantations, and property in negros; so the slaves of the Tories would be lost, as well as those of the Whigs.”[24] The institution of slavery, economic dependence on slave labor, and the fear of slave insurrection, prevented either side from tapping militarily into the vast manpower reservoir. Britons on both sides of the Atlantic viewed the thirteen colonies as populated by “free-born British white subjects.”[25] Neither side in the conflict was willing to disrupt the status quo in the South.[26] Dunmore truly made a bold move, recognizing the slaves and indentured servants as important, if not essential, elements of Virginia’s population with the potential to sway the situation in favor of the Tory cause.

Dunmore’s April 1775 threat of freeing and arming slaves, along with the actual seizure of gunpowder, shocked the members of the Virginia Convention. Benjamin Waller of Williamsburg reported that the people lost confidence in Dunmore because of “the declaration he made of raising and freeing the slaves.” John Randolph, attorney general of the City of Williamsburg, reported that Dunmore stated, “if negroes offered their services, they would be received.”[27] Word of Dunmore’s remarks spread across the state, alarming citizens. Leaders in Westmoreland, Louisa, Chesterfield, Spotsylvania, Essex, Henrico, Prince William, Hanover, Norfolk, and Nansemond Counties all publicly denounced Dunmore’s pronouncement.[28] Even those with Loyalist views later admitted that Virginians “may be compell’d to take up arms, which is contrary to their inclination, their Interests, & future Views, those in the Country must rise to suppress any Insurrection amongst the Slaves.”[29]

As summer turned to fall, Dunmore capitalized on the institution of slavery and the fear of slave insurrection when he began accepting slaves, who sensed an opportunity for freedom, into his small but growing band of supporters. Lacking sufficient ground forces, Dunmore used smaller vessels to patrol the many rivers and bays in the tidewater region of Virginia in an effort to interdict the illegal arms trade. While these vessels patrolled Virginia’s waterways, they also took slaves aboard. Officers serving in the Williamsburg volunteer companies informed the Virginia Convention, during August 1775, “the Governor’s cutter had carried off a number of Slaves belonging to private gentlemen, and they thought it high time to develop a doctrine of reprisal.”[30]

With rhetoric flying on both sides, the war of words turned deadly. The Whig or Patriot forces drew first blood on October 26-7, 1775 at Hampton, with freed slaves helping crew Dunmore’s tenders attempting to land in the midst of the fighting and suffering casualties as a result.[31] Tories, led by Dunmore and his regulars, accompanied by volunteers and armed former slaves, retaliated at Kemp’s Landing on November 15.[32] The information war transitioned into a shooting war. By this time, hundreds of freed slaves were already serving in the governor’s Loyalist military force both on land and on Virginia’s many coastal waterways.

Dunmore informed Dartmouth on December 6, 1775 that he formed the Ethiopian Regiment, made up of slaves responding to the unfolding events in Virginia when they sensed an opportunity for freedom.[33] None of the members of this unit were actually from Ethiopia; many were likely American-born slaves along with others born in West Africa. (During the eighteenth century, “ethiopian” was a generic term to describe anyone with a dark complexion, primarily those originating from south of Egypt.[34]) In addition to the Ethiopian Regiment, Dunmore formed the Queen’s Own Loyal Virginia Regiment.[35] The Ethiopian Regiment consisted of  soldiers under the command of white officers while the Queen’s Own Loyal Virginia Regiment was exclusively white. Dunmore’s Ethiopian Regiment included about 300 soldiers during late 1775, with estimates of 850 to 1,400 serving through the summer of 1776.[36] Both the Ethiopian and Queen’s Own Loyal Virginia Regiments were relatively short-lived. After Dunmore’s evacuation from Virginia in 1776, both units disbanded in New York.[37] The majority of the surviving Ethiopians who evacuated north joined the Black Pioneers and remnants of the Queen’s Own “formed a significant part of the Queen’s Rangers”[38]

Unfortunately for Dunmore, Dartmouth’s letter endorsing his decision to arm slaves and others, along with materiel support, did not arrive in Virginia until December 19, 1775, ten days after Dunmore’s army suffered devastating casualties at Great Bridge. Dartmouth, to his credit, had responded immediately to Dunmore’s request for support, but delays in actually dispatching correspondence and deploying resources to Dunmore from across the Atlantic proved critical. Naturally, Dunmore expressed his frustration over the lengthy delay associated with cross-Atlantic communication and support when he wrote, “I had taken ships into his Majesty’s service . . . all of which I am now arming . . . I am equipping a fleet, raising and army, all this without any order from your lordship or any other person, but if I had done wrong the blame must not be laid at my door.”[39] Dartmouth’s correspondence arrived along with the 3,000 muskets, powder, shot and canon aboard the supply ship Maria, escorted into Norfolk Harbor by HMS Liverpool, a twenty-eight-gun frigate, under command of Capt. Henry Bellew. Dartmouth’s attempt to arm the Virginia Loyalists in response to Dunmore’s request was too little and too late to save Virginia from Patriot control.[40]

Only two weeks after Capt. Bellew delivered the 3,000 stands of arms, Norfolk, the largest city in Virginia, lay in ruins.[41] Loyalists found themselves confined to ships in Norfolk Harbor and Dunmore contemplated what might have been had Dartmouth’s endorsement of his efforts to arm the slaves been timelier. Dunmore wrote, “had I had 500 men here six weeks ago and the arms etc. your lordship has now sent me, they would not have been able to have raised any number that could have possibly opposed my march to any part of this colony.”[42]

Dunmore’s Proclamation
Dunmore issued his proclamation on November 15, 1775, after engaging and dispersing an estimated 300 Princess Anne District Militia at Kemp’s Landing in Princess Anne County.[43] During the engagement, Dunmore captured two Whig militia colonels, killed five, wounded others, and took fifteen other prisoners.[44] One of these men, Col. Joseph Hutchings, a member of the Committee of Safety from Norfolk, received a saber wound to the face inflicted by his former slave, sent into the swamps to capture him. Hutchings’s former slave was now an armed soldier serving the royal governor.[45] This event further terrified an already nervous population across the southern colonies, confirming fears that liberated slaves would take retribution on their former masters—with the consent of the royal governor.[46]

Dunmore printed copies of his proclamation on the printing press he seized from John Hunter Holt in Norfolk. His proclamation was likely one of the first documents printed aboard ship by Dunmore using this press because Dunmore did not begin publishing his own newspaper until November 25, 1775. Before seizure by Dunmore, Holt used the Virginia Gazette or Norfolk Intelligencer to support the Patriot, Whig, or rebel position, using the newspaper as an information tool to influence the population and antagonize the royal governor and his naval commander, Capt. Matthew Squire, with a series of inflammatory articles. Holt published a hard-hitting narrative on September 27, 1775, attacking both Dunmore and Squire, accusing the British of bestiality after liberating livestock to support crown forces. Dunmore, sensitive to his own image and aware of the importance of the information environment, could suffer no more of Holt’s journalism, and sent a detachment of marines ashore to seize his press on September 30.[47] Dunmore moved it aboard ship in the Elizabeth River near Norfolk to secure and protect it from Whig reprisal.[48]

Both Whigs and Tories printed copies of Dunmore’s proclamation in an attempt to influence the behavior of the people of Virginia and the other colonies through manipulation of the population’s fears and sense of vulnerability.[49] The war of words continued as shooting commenced. Dunmore’s logic in issuing the proclamation served two purposes: first, to intimidate and threaten the Patriots or Whigs, and second, to rally those with doubts about the rectitude of taking up arms against the Crown. Whigs printed and distributed Dunmore’s Proclamation as an example of the Crown’s desire to initiate a slave rebellion and destroy the economic and social systems in the southern colonies.[50]

Examples of both Whig and Tory printings of Dunmore’s Proclamation survive today.[51]

Dunmore’s Proclamation and other documents on display at the “Forgotten Soldier” exhibit. (Jamestown Yorktown Foundation)

The American Revolution Museum at Yorktown developed a special exhibition titled “Forgotten Soldier,” honoring African Americans during the American Revolution. On display through March 22, 2020 are three key surviving documents that help tell the often-marginalized story of the African-American soldier. These include a copy of “Lord Dunmore’s Proclamation of 1775” and the American “Inspection Roll of Negroes No. 1,” both on loan from the United States National Archives, and the British “Book of Negroes,” on loan from the National Archives of Great Britain.[52] The documents are some of the surviving artifacts that tell the story of those of African descent, a demographic that made up about twenty percent of the population of the thirteen colonies, yet due to slavery, they remain an afterthought when reporting the story of America’s eight-year military struggle for independence from Great Britain. A surviving original copy of Lord Dunmore’s Proclamation of 1775 on display in Yorktown, Virginia, places it only fifty miles from where Dunmore originally printed and publicly released the document in an effort to prevent Whig domination of Virginia.


[1]Dunmore viewed himself a governor and continued to draw his salary as Royal Governor of Virginia through the end of the American Revolution, See: David Brian Crawford, Counter-Revolution in Virginia, Patriot Response to Dunmore’s Emancipation Proclamation of November 7, 1775 (Muncie, IN: Ball State University, 1993), 107n13.

[2]John Murray, Fourth Earl of Dunmore, Biography, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, 2005, research.history.org/pf/declaring/bio_dunmore.cfm; and Dunmore to Dartmouth, December 6, 1775, K. G. Davies, ed., Documents of the American Revolution, 1770-1773 (Dublin: Irish University press, 1972-1981), 12: 59. Dunmore issued the proclamation only after his successful skirmish at Kemp’s Landing on November 15, 1775; he needed a military victory to add legitimacy to the proclamation and back up his threats concerning the use of force with creditable action.

[3]Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Joint Publication 3-13, Information Operations Washington, DC, November 27, 2012 Incorporating Change 1, November 20, 2014, I-3; Information is also considered one of four elements of national power along with Diplomatic, Military and Economic factors and is also one of the seven joint warfighting functions.

[4]Ibid., xi.

[5]Virginia Gazette(Dickson & Hunter), November 25, 1775, 3, research.history.org/DigitalLibrary/va-gazettes/VGSinglePage.cfm?issueIDNo=75.DH.54&page=3&res=LO. There are minor differences in the Proclamation between the versions published by Dunmore and those published by the Whig press.

[6]Dunmore reported his proclamation received an immediate and positive reception when over 100 former rebels signed loyalty pledges the day after he issued the document. He estimated over 3,000 Virginians pledged to support the royal government. See: Dunmore to Dartmouth, December 6, 1775, Davies, Documents, 12: 59. Unfortunately, Dunmore could not physically reach beyond Norfolk and Princess Anne Counties in southeastern Virginia; he had limited ability to physically influence anyone outside the Tidewater region and relied on information to influence Virginia’s population of 600,000 souls. The bulk of the slaves rallying to Dunmore were from Norfolk and Princess Anne Counties, See: John Page to Thomas Jefferson, November 25, 1775, Behavior of the Militia During British Conquest of Princess Anne and Norfolk, etc., Manuscript/Mixed Material, Library of Congress, www.loc.gov/resource/mtj1.001_0443_0446/?st=gallery; Page described the negroes as “cowardly scoundrels.”

[7]For a discussion of the politics of slavery during the American Revolution see: Donald L. Robinson, Slavery in the Structure of American Politics, 1765-1820 (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc, 1971), 98-130.

[8]Herbert Aptheker, American Slave Revolts (New York, International Publishers, 1983), 162-208.

[9]Thomas Jefferson to John Holmes, April 22, 1820, The Thomas Jefferson Papers, Founders Online, founders.archives.gov/documents/Jefferson/98-01-02-1234; This often-referenced Jefferson quote on slavery was in response to the Missouri Compromise of 1820.

[10]Alan Taylor, Slavery and War in Virginia, 1772-1782, The Internal Enemy (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2013), 13-52.

[11]Benjamin Quarles, “Lord Dunmore as a Liberator,” The William and Mary Quarterly, 15#4 (October 1956), 495-6.

[12]Personal identity and sense of self for the ruling elite of Virginia rested in the institution of slavery. Lord Dunmore and the merchant class did not share this same dependence on slavery although Parliament “steadfastly supported the institution of slavery” to maintain the mercantile system. This conflict in personal identity contributed to the suicide of William Byrd III, a prominent Virginia planter. See: Crawford, Counter-Revolution, 7-11 and 107-111. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, JP 3-13, I-3 & II-7. For the importance of human psychology in conflict and contemporary legal and policy details of how to implement psychological change, see Department of Defense Directive (DODD) S-3321.1, Overt Psychological Operations Conducted by the Military Services in Peacetime and in Contingencies Short of Declared War.

[13]Charles W. Carey, Jr., Lord Dunmore’s Ethiopian Regiment (Blacksburg, VA: Virginia Polytechnic Institute and University, 1995), 2 and 21-23.

[14]Virginia Gazette Supplement (Purdie), April 21, 1775, 3-4, Research, Colonial Williamsburg, research.history.org/DigitalLibrary/va-gazettes/VGSinglePage.cfm?issueIDNo=75.P.23&page=3&res=LO. For a detailed account of the gunpowder removal see: Norman Fuss, “Prelude to Rebellion: Dunmore’s Raid on the Williamsburg Magazine,” Journal of the American Revolution, April 2, 2015, allthingsliberty.com/2015/04/prelude-to-rebellion-dunmores-raid-on-the-williamsburg-magazine-april-21-1775/.

[15]Dunmore to Dartmouth, May 1, 1775, Davies, Documents, 11: 108.


[17]Michael Cecere, “The Rise of Virginia’s Independent Militia,” September 18, 2014, Journal of the American Revolution, allthingsliberty.com/2014/09/the-rise-of-virginia-independent-militia/.

[18]Dunmore to Lord Hillsborough, Secretary of State for the Colonies, May 1, 1772, Davies, Documents, 5: 94; and, Carey, Ethiopian Regiment, 7-8.

[19]Precise population data for the thirteen colonies at the time of the American Revolution is elusive. Based on multiple sources, the population of Virginia in 1775 was approximately 600,000, including 400,000 primarily of European decent and 200,000 of African descent, making Virginia the most populous of the thirteen states. Not all whites were free, many were indentured; over ninety-five percent of those of African descent were enslaved. For more specifics see, Everts B. Greene & Virginia D. Harrington, American Population Before the Federal Census of 1790 (Gloucester, MA: Peter Smith, 1966), 6-8, 141; Robert K. Wright, The Continental Army (Washington, DC: Center for Military History1983), 94; John U. Rees, ‘They Were Good Soldiers’: African American Serving in the Continental Army, 1775-1783 (Warwick, England: Heilon & Company Limited, 2019), 39-40; and Patrick Henry to Bernardo Galvez, January 14, 1779, in Ian Saberton, ed., Cornwallis Papers: The Campaigns of 1780 and 1781 in the Southern Theatre of the American Revolutionary War (Uckfield, England: The Naval & Military Press Ltd, 2010), 3: 300.

[20]Dartmouth to Dunmore, August 2, 1775, Peter Force, ed., American Archives, Documents of the American Revolutionary Period, 1774-1776 (Washington, DC: 1837-53), 4th ser., 3: 6, archive.org/details/AmericanArchives-FourthSeriesVolume3peterForce/page/n1.

[21]Dartmouth to Dunmore, July 12, 1775, Davies, Documents, 11: 45.

[22]Gen. Thomas Gage, commanding all British ground forces in North America, had limited military resources to assist the colonial governors. Gage ordered a detachment of the 14th Regiment from St. Augustine, Florida, to support Dunmore. The 14th Regiment numbered only 109 effective rank and file at Great Bridge on December 9, 1775 where they suffered over fifty percent casualties. Great Bridge essentially ended any opportunity for Dunmore to conduct sustained military activities ashore when his volunteers, black and white, witnessed a bloodbath of his regulars. See: Dunmore to Dartmouth, December 13, 1775, Davies, Documents, 12: 60.

[23]John Adams, The works of John Adams: Second President of the United States, With a life of the author, notes, and illus. by his grandson, Charles Francis Adams (Freeport, NY: Books for Libraries Press, 1969), Diary, Sunday, September 24, 1775, 2: 438.


[25]Robinson, Slavery, 83.

[26]Ibid., 105.

[27]Proceedings of the Virginia Convention, June 14, 1775, Force, Archives, 4th ser., 2: 1209-1215, archive.org/details/AmericanArchives-FourthSeriesVolume2peterForce.


[29]Richmond College Historical Papers, The Letters of Col. William Woodford, Col. Robert Howe and Gen. Charles Lee to Edmund Pendleton (Richmond, VA: Richmond College, 1915), Portsmouth, November 16, 1775, 101, archive.org/details/richmondcollege00richgoog/page/n104.

[30]Proceedings of the Virginia Convention, August 3, 1775, Force, Archives, 4th ser., 3: 373, archive.org/details/AmericanArchives-FourthSeriesVolume3peterForce/; Edmund Pendleton to Jefferson, November 16, 1775, Founders Online, National Archives, founders.archives.gov/documents/Jefferson/01-01-02-0135.

[31]Ibid., 58; Virginia Gazette(Dixon & Hunter), October 28, 1775, 3, Research, Colonial Williamsburg, research.history.org/CWDLImages/VA_GAZET/Images/D/1775/0183hi.jpg; Michael Cecere, “A Tale of Two Cities, the Destruction of Falmouth and the Defense of Hampton,” Journal of the American Revolution, September 9, 2015, allthingsliberty.com/2015/09/a-tale-of-two-cities-the-destruction-of-falmouth-and-the-defense-of-hampton/.

[32]Dunmore to Dartmouth, December 6, 1775, Davies, Documents, 12: 58-59.

[33]Ibid., 12: 59

[34]Carey, Ethiopian Regiment, 1.

[35]Dunmore to Dartmouth, December 6, 1775, Davies, Documents, 12: 59.

[36]Carey, Ethiopian Regiment, 79-82. Carey estimates about 750 slaves from Norfolk and Princess Anne Counties and 650 from other parts of Virginia joined the regiment, for a total of approximately 1,400. Former slaves in Dunmore’s regiment suffered extremely high mortality rates due to diseases like smallpox, a major killer. The Ethiopians suffered an estimated 250 dead on Gwynn’s Island in the Chesapeake Bay, Dunmore’s last stand in Virginia. As Dunmore evacuated Virginia an estimated 150 Ethiopians accompanied him, with only 120 “black and Tories” arriving alive in New York. About seventy Ethiopians headed south to St. Augustine, many were sick and likely never arrived.

[37]Michael Cecere, “The Battle of Gwynn’s Island: Dunmore’s Last Stand in Virginia,” May 26, 2016, Journal of the American Revolution, allthingsliberty.com/2016/05/battle-of-gwynns-island-lord-dunmores-last-stand-in-virginia/.

[38]Robert S. Allen, The Loyalist Provincial Corps, in The Loyal Americans (Ottawa: National Museums of Canada, 1983), 12; Carey, Ethiopian Regiment, 79-82; “Queen’s Own loyal Virginia Regiment,” The On-line Institute for Advanced Loyalist Studies, www.royalprovincial.com/reenactors/groups/qolvr.shtml.

[39]Dunmore to Dartmouth, December 6, 1775, Davies, Documents, 12: 59.

[40]Dunmore to Dartmouth, January 4, 1776, ibid., 12: 62.

[41]For more information on the destruction of Norfolk see: Patrick H. Hannum, “Norfolk, Virginia, Sacked by North Carolina and Virginia Troops,” Journal of the American Revolution, November 6, 2017, allthingsliberty.com/2017/11/norfolk-virginia-sacked-north-carolina-virginia-troops/.

[42]Dunmore to Dartmouth, January 4, 1776, Davies, Documents, 12: 65.

[43]Dunmore to Dartmouth, December 6, 1775, ibid., 12: 59.

[44]Samuel Leslie to William Howe, November 1, (postscript November 26, 1775, Force, Archives, ser. 4, 3: 1717, archive.org/details/AmericanArchives-FourthSeriesVolume4peterForce/page/n99. For more details see: Patrick H. Hannum, “Recognizing the Skirmish at Kemp’s Landing,” Journal of the American Revolution, December 17, 2018, allthingsliberty.com/2018/12/recognizing-the-skirmish-at-kemps-landing/.

[45]Richard Henry Lee to Washington, December 6, 1775, Force, Archives, 4th ser., 4: 201-202, archive.org/details/AmericanArchives-FourthSeriesVolume4peterForce/page/n99.

[46]Richmond College Historical Papers, Portsmouth, 100 & 103, archive.org/details/richmondcollege00richgoog/page/n104; Adams,Works of John Adams, Diary, 2: 438.

[47]Gerald Holland, “The Seizure of the Virginia Gazette or Norfolk Intelligencer,”Journal of the American Revolution, January 20, 2016, allthingsliberty.com/2016/01/the-seizure-of-the-virginia-gazette-or-norfolk-intelligencer/.

[48]Dunmore to Dartmouth, October 5, 1775, Davies, Documents, 11: 137.

[49]Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Joint Publication 3-13, I-3.

[50]Virginia Gazette (Dixon & Hunter), November 25, 1775, 3, Research, Colonial Williamsburg, research.history.org/DigitalLibrary/va-gazettes/VGSinglePage.cfm?issueIDNo=75.DH.54&page=3&res=LO.

[51]B. Austerlund and Walter Pilkington, eds., American Notes and Queries, Lord Dunmore’s Emancipation Broadsides of 1775, February, 1947, Library of Congress, www.loc.gov/resource/rbpe.1780180a/?sp=2.

[52]Forgotten Soldier, American Revolution Museum at Yorktown, www.historyisfun.org/forgotten-soldier/; The Book of Negroes, Rediscovering Black History, National Archives, rediscovering-black-history.blogs.archives.gov/2015/10/29/repost-rotw-the-book-of-negroes/; and, Forgotten Soldier at the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown, Pieces of History, National Archives, prologue.blogs.archives.gov/2019/07/15/forgotten-soldier-at-american-revolution-museum-yorktown/.

One thought on “Lord Dunmore’s Proclamation: Information and Slavery

  • This is an exceptionally important piece in understanding the role slavery and the threat of freeing and arming the slaves played in the Revolution. Dunmore’s gamble on this tactic paying off failed, but the very idea of throwing into chaos slavery in the North American colonies was a psychological sword of Damocles hanging over patriots’ heads [including the New Englanders profiting from the “triangular trade.” If the slaves had turned on their “masters,” it wouldn’t have been a psychological weapon but steel or shot.

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