Britain’s inability to comprehend fully the nature of the American War of Independence constrained British strategic foresight in what was a people’s war, the struggle for hearts, minds and sentiments spanning a continent. As a result, throughout the war Britain struggled mightily in trying to reconcile political ends through military means.5 As early as 1774, General Thomas Gage, commander-in-chief of the British army in America and Royal Governor of Massachusetts, wrote to Lord Dartmouth, secretary of state for the colonies, that while he found the loyal population wanting in energy and direction, he believed that if properly led and supported by British arms it would openly declare for the Crown. Gage’s support for and inclusion of Loyalists in his plans for suppressing the Massachusetts rebels, not to mention the steadiness of the Loyalists, was, however, transitory. Left largely to their own devices, an erstwhile corps of 300 New England Loyalists in Freetown, Massachusetts, armed through Gage’s offices, was scattered by its rebellious opponents in April 1775. Gage’s fleeting engagement with New England Loyalists notwithstanding, he and his successors, Generals Sir William Howe and Henry Clinton, and many of their fellow officers recognized something of the revolutionary nature of the war, but differed on how best to prosecute it. They divided along the lines of adopting the hard hand of war and a more conciliatory approach. Even within this division distinctions appeared, ranging from a complete pullout from the rebellious colonies to a more indirect approach premised upon British maritime supremacy and

denying the rebels outside assistance. These conflicting opinions on the conduct of the war shed light upon the larger issue of Britain’s lack of focus and the difficulty it faced in trying to reconcile strategy with the desired state of affairs it hoped to effect in America. In both political and military circles, Britain was at a loss when it came to realistic assessments of Loyalist strength, potential and commitment, and how best it might recruit and employ the King’s Friends.6 Groping forward, Gage and the ministry looked southward, toward Pennsylvania and Virginia, where yet another scheme to raise the King’s Friends foundered when rebel forces captured and imprisoned the newly commissioned leader, Lieutenant Colonel John Connolly. Deeper and more steadfast pockets of Loyalism were found in Nova Scotia, but with the rebellion centered in New England and southward, this was scant consolation. At best, Canadian Loyalists reassured British authorities of their hold on the northern provinces and allowed them to focus on the problem with the 13 colonies.7 Shifting its attention even further south, by July 1775 North’s ministry was placing great faith in an imagined pool of loyal Americans living in the Carolinas and Georgia. The army, it recognized, was too small to crush the rebellion. Colonial governors’ reports fed the ministry’s hopes of an inexpensive and effective solution to compensate for the size of the British army, especially after Catherine II had rebuffed British inquiries about hiring Russian troops as auxiliaries. Agreements with German princelings finally secured the much-needed supplementary forces. That accretion notwithstanding, the Loyalist chimera continued pulling at the ministry. Dartmouth’s anticipation of North Carolina governor Josiah Martin’s efforts to raise his colony’s Loyalists resulted in his ordering “ten thousand stand of arms and six light field pieces” for the North Carolinians in September 1775. Martin, a refugee aboard a Royal Navy warship, had written to London about the many thousands of Loyalist signatures on petitions he had received. With adequate support, Martin opined, the King’s Friends, including Scottish immigrants, would rise against the rebels and even inspire a western Indian uprising in support of the Crown. Furthermore, Martin believed that the need to keep watch over slaves and disaffected indentured servants would dissipate rebel strength in the low country. Hope, not generally recognized as a principle of war, and the unsubstantiated belief in the size and commitment of Southern Loyalists continued driving the ministry’s plans and playing a significant part in planning for Britain’s invasion of the southern colonies.8