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Ward Chipman Remembers the Final Evacuation of New York

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Ward Chipman Remembers the Final Evacuation of New York

The final evacuation of British troops from New York took place on November 25, 1783. George Washington had demanded that Guy Carleton leave sooner but he refused, since the last of the refugees relied upon him and his troops to remain until they had boarded ships. A fuller description of the evacuation can be found in Guy Carleton, a Biography by Paul R. Reynolds, Toronto, 1980.

Following is Ward Chipman’s description of that day, from The Winslow Papers, 1776 to 1826, edited by W.O. Raymond in 1901. It also outlines Chipman’s activities in London in the days following.

Not many of our ancestors were of the gentlemanly class, or had ambitions equal to Chipman’s or Edward Winslow’s. However, they had lost much, and their scramble for influence was to regain at least some of their previous positions in society.

Evacuation day NY 1783

George Washington Entering New York, November 25, 1783

Library of Congress


Ward Chipman to Edward Winslow,

On. Board the Tryal, off Staten Island

Nov’r. 29th, 1783

My dear Winslow,—I have already written to you previous to the Evacuation of New York, but have received when ashore today at Staten Island your letters of the 9th and 15th inst., for which I thank you very much. I have been a witness to the mortifying scene of giving up the City of New York to the American Troops. About 12 o’clock on Tuesday the 25th inst, all our Troops were paraded on the wide ground before the Provost, where they remained till the Americans about 1 o’clock marched in thro’ Queen-Street and Wall-Street to the Broad-way, when they wheeled off to the hay-wharf and embarked immediately and fell down to Staten Island. I walked out and saw the American Troops under General Knox march in, and was one of the last on shore in the City; it really occasioned most painful sensations and I tho’t Sir Guy, who was upon parade, looked unusually dejected. The particular account of the business of the day you will find in the news-papers which I have enclosed to Blower. I have passed two days since in the City to which I returned upon finding all was peace and quiet. A more shabby ungentleman-like looking crew than the new Inhabitants are I never saw, tho’ I met with no insult or molestation. The Council for sixty days, which is invested with supreme authority for that term, is sitting; what will be determined by them is uncertain, many are apprehensive of violent and severe measures against individuals. I paid my respects to Generals Knox and Jackson, the latter is Commandant of the City; they received me very politely. I had the satisfaction also of seeing General Washington, who is really a good looking genteel fellow. Scarce any of our friends or any man of respectability remains at New York, they are principally embarked for England. I am now on board ship for the voyage. We have a good set—Col. Drummond, who is very civil, friendly and polite to me. Fred Phillips, who is as good a fellow as ever (I wish you had mentioned him particularly in your letter for he really loves you); Gilfillan1 whose factious character you know, and Mr. Sinclair in the civil branch of ordnance, Capt. Reid and two subalterns of the Royal Artillery, 8 in all and I assure you we make ourselves very cheerful. We expect to sail by Tuesday next.

My prospects in going to England are on the whole as favorable as I expected. I have as I mentioned to you, the whole business of the board of claims2 committed to my management, and I am not a little pleased to find that Harrison, who resigned his seat at the board some time before we left New York, obtained a warrant from Com’r in Chief for 20s stg. per day for the time he belonged to it. I think I shall be able to plead this precedent when I have finished the business. Sur Guy has given me a letter of introduction and recommendation to Lord North. Thompson, who plans to pass the winter upon the continent of Europe, writes me he has left a particular recommendation and introduction to me to Lord Sackville, so that on the whole I live in hopes of going to Halifax next year with a bold face. I consider the present by far the most important period of my life, and am determined to exert every faculty to get myself forward. I shall most anxiously expect the letter you promise me by Gen’l F. I have been explicit, be you so also in communicating your views, hopes and prospects. I need not repeat to you that your welfare and happiness is equally dear to me as my own; my principal anxiety is for us to get together again with some chosen friends and I think we should be happy in a desert

I immediately communicated your letters and enclosures relative to Cochran and little Weeks3 to Mr. Watson and Major Upham. Coffin this day tells me this business is satisfactorily settled for both. Greet Mr. Weeks for me and in my name, he is a worthy good Fellow and I both love and esteem him.

I intreat you my dear Ned let me know by every opportunity how you are and what is going forward in Nova Scotia. I shall not lose sight of that as my determined place of resort and shall of course be very anxious to know all the particulars about the settlements, locations, &c, &c.—

To Tom Coffin—indisputably the very best fellow in the world, and to Townsend4 who really loves you and speaks most affectionately of you I refer for all further particulars both of a public and private nature. Adieu my dear Fellow you shall hear from me the moment I arrive in England. God bless you with all good and make you as happy as you desire and deserve, prays most fervently and sincerely, your unalterably devoted & faithful friend,


To Father, Mother and Sisters, say that Chip thinks, dreams and speaks of them perpetually with the warmest friendship and affection.


  1. He was a deputy quarter master general in New York in 1783.
  2. This board was appointed by order of Sir Guy Carleton at New York on May 4, 1783. Its business was to investigate claims for supplies furnished of various sorts to the army. The chairman of the board was Gregory Townsend, assistant commissary general, and secretary to Ward Chipman.
  3. The reference seems to be to Rev. Joshua Wingate Weeks. In the year 1783 he was chaplain to the King’s Orange Rangers, then stationed at Halifax. Before the Revolution he was rector of Marblehead, Massachusetts. At the close of the war he settled in Nova Scotia, where he died in 1804.
  4. Gregory Townsend of Boston was assistant commissary general of New York and president of the board of claims. At the peace of 1783 he went to Halifax. He died there in 1798, and James Putnam and E.B. Brenton were executors of his estate.

Written by johnwood1946

November 4, 2015 at 9:05 AM

Posted in Uncategorized

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