United Empire Loyalists (or simply Loyalists) is an honorific title which was first given by Sir Guy Carleton, the 1st Lord Dorchester, the Governor of Quebec, and Governor General of The Canadas, to American Loyalists who resettled in British North America during or after the American Revolution.
The American Revolution of 1776 – 1783 saw great numbers of Loyalists emigrate from their homes in the 13 Colonies plus East and West Florida to Canada, the United Kingdom, the Bahamas, Bermuda, Sierra Leone and Jamaica among others.
Who were the peoples who settled in Prince Edward Island as a direct consequence of the American Revolution?
The great Loyalist emigration to Prince Edward Island was, in fact, a broad spectrum of peoples who left the American colonies. They included Loyalists from Maine to West Florida, African Americans, Hessian Soldiers, and disbanded soldiers. The range of their ethnicities was just as broad — English, Scottish, Irish, German, Dutch, French, and Spanish, among others. Religious beliefs were as varied as the freedom of worship in America permitted, including but not limited to Anglican, Presbyterian, Quaker, Roman Catholic, Lutheran, French Huguenot and the Dutch Reformed Church.
The period of 1776 – 1783 saw waves of emigration from the American 13 Colonies and later the Floridas as the colonial governments fell to the revolutionaries and their allies. The first large wave to come to Prince Edward Island was from New England after the evacuation of Boston. First landing in Nova Scotia, those with military experience and others were recruited into the Royal Nova Scotia Volunteers who would be sent to protect Prince Edward Island during the Revolution under the command of Lt Colonel Thomas Herlihy, formerly of Middletown, Connecticut. Although this regiment would be later dispatched to Cape Breton, several of the members remained or returned to Prince Edward Island.
The second major wave of immigration was in 1784 – spring 1785 when the results of Governor Patterson’s pitch of free land to Loyalists and Disbanded Soldiers culminated in hundreds of new settlers to be settled throughout the province. This second group also included those among the last to evacuate New York City at the close of the war and for whom no land was allotted in Nova Scotia. And finally, a smaller third wave of Late Loyalists and Loyalist children filtered into Prince Edward Island over the next 2 decades.