Published in Fall 2007 issue of the The Georgia Historical Quarterly

The Plight of a Georgia Loyalist: William Lyford, Jr.

By J. G. Braddock, Sr.

John Cutler Braddock served admirably in the American Revolution as a patriot commanding Georgia galleys in fiercely fought battles. His uncle, Capt. William Lyford, Jr., a Loyalist, served just as admirably piloting British warships along the southeastern coast and waterways.[1] Yet historians, while including the exploits of Braddock in a number of postwar writings, rarely refer to Lyford. Only one historian mentioned his wartime service and confined it to a single paragraph extracted solely from his Loyalist claim.[2] Some writers confuse him with his father; just one identified him as a Loyalist and only in indirect terms, saying he was "a devoted British subject banished after the Revolution."[3]This inequity is surprising. Historical records of Lyford, being significantly more abundant than those of Braddock, picture him considerably more interesting than his nephew and indicate that his contributions to Georgia's overall history to have been at least as much, if not more.

Lyford and Braddock arrived at the onset of the Revolution through nearly identical courses; they both followed their fathers' career paths. In colonial times it was a common practice for a son to enter into his father's trade. If the father were a mariner, his son would be apprenticed to learn that vocation. Both men were fortunate enough to have served their apprenticeships under fathers who were highly skilled mariners; both fathers had gained considerable recognition for their abilities in seafaring and naval warfare.

John's father, Capt. David Cutler Braddock, served his apprenticeship on his father's decks in New England waters before becoming first mate of the Ancona, a merchant ship sailing for distant ports. A Spanish privateer captured the Ancona, which was full of rice that had been loaded at Charles Town, South Carolina, and was on its way to English markets, and took the vessel to St. Augustine, Florida. Taken captive, David Braddock soon escaped from his prison in the "Castle" and made his way up the coast to St. Simons Island, the headquarters of James Oglethorpe, Georgia's founder and military leader. Oglethorpe placed him in command of the provincial schooner Norfolk. After the Spanish failed in an attempted invasion of St. Simons in the summer of 1742, Braddock helped chase the enemy fleet back to St. Augustine. Impressed with his performance against the Spanish, the South Carolina government soon asked him to command one of its two new provincial half-galleys, the Beaufort. While in command of the Beaufort he married Mary, daughter of Lyford Sr., and John Cutler Braddock was born in Beaufort, South Carolina, October 3, 1743. The southern tip of Hilton Head Island and an adjacent cove, where the Beaufort was anchored, still bear his name. After cruising the southeast coast for three years guarding the lower colonies against Spanish invasion, Braddock relocated to the Savannah area. Settling on land along the Ogeechee River he operated in the Caribbean as a highly profitable privateer. In December 1756 he drew a well-known nautical chart of lower Florida and the Keys as he lay in wait for treasure-laden galleys funneling through the Florida Straits on their way to Spain. The village of Acton, on the outskirts of Savannah, elected him to the Georgia Commons House of Assembly in 1764.[4]

William Lyford, Sr., was as much a master mariner, perhaps more so. One historian called him "South Carolina's most intrepid seaman."[5] At the time William Jr. was born in Nassau, Bahamas, in 1719, well over a thousand pirates used the port as a base. While engaged in commercial shipping between Caribbean islands and the lower colonies in 1728, Spanish privateers took his ship and carried it into Havana, Cuba. He escaped in a dugout and made his way across open seas to Nassau. Lyford Sr. relocated to Beaufort, South Carolina, after his wife died, running out on a large debt his father-in-law subsequently paid. In short order he became harbor pilot at Beaufort, commander of South Carolina's southernmost fort, and captain of the colony's provincial half-galley, Charles Town. He was aboard the Charles Town in the small fleet that sailed from South Carolina to Georgia's aid in the 1742 Spanish invasion. Later, along with his son-in-law, David Braddock, in command of the Beaufort, he patrolled the southeast coast for Spanish intruders. Caught red-handed trading with the Spanish in St. Augustine while on a prisoner swapping mission, Lyford Sr. was arrested and charged with treason. A letter from Capt. Ashby Utting, commander of the formidable British man-of-war, H.M.S. Loo, to Gov. James Glen making it clear that no other man in the province was capable of piloting the Loo in and out of Port Royal harbor saved him from being transported to England for trial. Stripped of his command in the provincial navy, he became fulltime pilot of the Loo and was aboard when the vessel ran aground on the Florida Key now bearing the ship's name. Shortly afterward, he was observed trading with the Spanish at St. Augustine. Wisely, he returned to the Bahamas where he finished out his career in command of a successful privateer.[6]

Other than John Cutler Braddock's marriage in 1769 in historical Jerusalem Church in Ebenezer outside Savannah and his acquisition and disposal of a piece of land in what is now Effingham County, Georgia, historical records say nothing of the younger Braddock until the Revolution.[7] On the other hand, William Lyford, Jr., upon coming of age, proceeded to have his activities recorded in more than one hundred historical records of South Carolina, Georgia, and the Bahamas. He started out his adult life by moving from Beaufort, where he spent his adolescent years, to Charles Town, where he became a carpenter. Within months he returned to his true calling by becoming master of one of his father's trading schooners and on it accompanied the elder Lyford on his last attempt at trading with the Spanish at St. Augustine.[8]

Soon after his father's departure to the Bahamas, Lyford Jr. became master of the twenty-ton schooner Betsie, a merchant ship owned by Christopher Gadsden, who would become one of the South's leading proponents of revolution. Three years later, in September 1756, while commanding Gadsden's brigantine Darling, he evaded a French frigate of thirty-six guns after an all-day chase near Cape Florida by escaping into the shallows of the Bahama Bank. In spite of his superb seamanship, he failed to outmaneuver French privateers July 7, 1758; they took their prize to the island of Martinique. But by late August Lyford commanded another vessel, the brigantine Spy, sailing it from Charles Town to distant ports in the northern colonies, islands of the Caribbean, and England. French privateers struck again a year later, capturing the Spy and carrying the vessel to Port-au-Prince in Haiti. In late 1760 Lyford commanded the schooner Blakeny, sailing between Charles Town, Savannah, and the Bahamas.[9]

On June 27, 1761, Lyford became master and part owner of the newly built 60-ton brigantine Neptune. Upon his return from the Neptune's maiden voyage to Jamaica, the South Carolina provincial government fined him £60 for failing to obtain a £1,000 provincial license for the new vessel. He made no more voyages on the Neptune; instead, he sailed from Charles Town in command of the privateer Harlequin on May 15, 1762. His temper brought a quick end to the venture. While on the high seas he became infuriated with a negligent crewman and struck him; the crewman later brought charges. The vice-admiralty court in Charles Town found Lyford guilty of assault and ordered him to pay the crewman £5 and half his costs. To add to his woes, Lyford returned from the privateering expedition to learn of the death of his wife of seventeen years.[10]

The ink had hardly dried on the court's ruling when the Treaty of Paris ended the French and Indian War in 1763, making French and Spanish vessels no longer fair game, and dashing any aspirations Lyford may have had for returning to privateering in the Caribbean. Within weeks, he and several other men from Charles Town purchased the newly built coasting schooner Georgia-Packet. Boasting of a square-stern, the ship weighed twenty tons and carried a crew of three. With Lyford as master, the vessel ferried commercial cargo between Charles Town, Savannah, Pensacola, Mobile, and islands of the Caribbean for the next three years.[11]

        Surveyor's plat of of the acre lot leased to William Lyford on Cockspur Island. Courtesy Georgia Archives,    Morrow

In the meantime, David Braddock's reputation earned him considerable regard on maritime matters with his colleagues in the Georgia Commons House of Assembly, so it is not surprising that Gov. James Wright commissioned his brother-in-law, William Lyford, Jr., as pilot of Georgia's several bars and inlets in June 1766. Lyford immediately bought a new pilot boat, a thirty-two foot schooner-rigged named the Favorite, and moved from Charles Town to Cockspur Island in the Savannah River near its entrance into the ocean. Two years later, under the cover of night, thieves stole the Favorite. After lengthy advertisements in Charles Town and Savannah newspapers and offers of a reward failed to recover the pilot boat, the Georgia Assembly voted him £100 for the building of a new one, with the condition he remain as pilot in Georgia for at least two years.[12]

With several of his slaves well trained in all the skills of piloting helping operate two or more of his boats simultaneously, Lyford's business did well the first few years. But with the increase in size of his immediate family when his wife gave birth to two daughters, he found it necessary to build a house on an acre grant he had received on Cockspur Island. Births within his slave families further increased the number of people making demands on his profits. Several unexpected losses, including his nearly completed house in a severe storm, added to Lyford's mounting financial worries. On April 11, 1770, he appealed to the Georgia Commons House of Assembly for relief. He reminded the house that he had been very well settled in Charles Town four years earlier when he was invited to come to Savannah as pilot by "the principal part of the Inhabitants of Savannah, especially by the most part of the Merchants, who made frequent applications to the Memorialist, declaring that as the Province stood in great need of a Good Pilot, to Navigate with Safety Ships and Vessels into and out of the Port of Savannah, and such a person was difficult to be found, they did not doubt but that the Commons House of Assembly would grant Yearly a Sum equivalent to any extraordinary trouble and loss of time he would be at or sustain by the Distance he would be obliged to bring up Vessels from Cockspur to Savannah the difficulty of Navigation, and the extraordinary Number of skilfull hands he would of Course be obliged to keep employed in that Business." He then complained that the annual grant had not been equal to the trouble and expense of carrying on the business, and with the uncertainty of the number of vessels entering the port, Lyford considered continuing in the job not worth his while. The Georgia house quickly agreed to provide a sufficient annual grant. He made a similar appeal to the house three years later, with the same favorable results.[13]

In late 1773 Lord Dartmouth, England's Secretary of State in London, wrote Governor Wright asking several questions about the colony of Georgia. In responding concerning the colony's principal harbors, Wright wrote of the Savannah River: "On the Bar of which [is] call'd Tybee there is Three Fathoms and a half Water at low Water or better. And up the River to the Town, there is in General about Thirteen Feet Water at high Water common Tydes, but there being Three Sand Banks in different Places therefore at present and until they are removed. Vessels at the Town do not load deeper than from Twelve to Thirteen feet and then are Obliged to fall down to Cockspur to take in the rest of their loading. But for a more Circumstantial Account of this Inlet & ca [etc.] I beg leave to refer to the Inclosed Sketch Mark'd A No. 1." The sketch was a detailed maritime chart he had Lyford make of the Savannah River entrance.[14]

Although Lyford's career as a pilot seemed on track, tragedy struck the night of Saturday, September 10, 1774, when one of his slaves set fire to his home on Cockspur Island and burned it to the ground. Lyford's wife and children escaped with only the clothes on their back. The loss was estimated at £2,000. Local authorities turned the incident into a double tragedy when they sentenced the slave publicly burned at the stake. Still, Lyford did not seem to be hurt financially following this substantial loss.[15]

For a man expert at portraying himself to be in dire financial straits to the Commons House of Assembly, Lyford, by any standard, had begun to prosper. By the beginning of 1776 he and twenty-two skilled slaves operated a number of pilot boats in the ports of Savannah and Sunbury in Georgia and Port Royal in South Carolina. In addition to receiving from the government an annual salary of £1,500 plus thirty-eight shillings for each vessel piloted in and out of port, he received a fee from each vessel. After the Trustees Gardens, plots of land allocated for agriculture along the river on the outskirts of Savannah, failed as a place for growing experimental crops, they were divided into residential lots. Lyford purchased number eleven for "forty-one pounds lawful money." Seventeen years later he valued it at twice the amount, eighty pounds, in his Loyalist claim. He also received grants of six-hundred acres along Little River in St. Paul's parish, now Richmond County, on January 3, 1775, and 1,350 acres on the Satilla River in St. Patrick's parish, now Glynn County, February 7, 1775. Prior to receiving the grants, he had purchased one hundred acres on "Great Tibie" Island and one hundred sixty acres at an unspecified location. Furthermore, he moved his family to a 2,250-acre rented plantation on St. Catherine's Island, below Savannah, and began farming it full scale.[16]

Then came the revolution against Great Britain. Although Lyford and Braddock had followed in their fathers' steps along almost identical courses to adulthood, they chose to steer their lives in diametrically opposing directions at the start of the war. Braddock threw himself wholeheartedly into the cause of liberty as commander of the Lee, one of Georgia's four galleys. Although the precise date Lyford chose the direction in which his loyalty would take him is not known, a resolution of the January 8, 1776, meeting of the Council of Safety closely pinpoints when he made his choice: "Resolved, that the President do write to the Committee for the Parish of Saint John [Liberty County] requiring that they use the utmost Vigilance in watching the motions of the pilots for the harbour of Sunbury; and that, in particular they send for Captain William Lyford and question him as to his piloting into any port in this Province any ship or vessel of war of our enemies, and that they take such steps with him, if he appears inimical to the common interest, as will be sufficient security against his aiding our enemies." The committee found Lyford "inimical" when they called upon him; subsequently they placed his name on a list the Council of Safety compiled of forty-three Georgians "whose going at large is dangerous to the liberties of America."[17]

A year and a half later, on October 2, 1777, the Council of Safety, meeting at Midway, gave Lyford forty days to depart the country, under threat of death, for refusing to take an oath of loyalty or give assurance of his fidelity. He left for St. Augustine within the prescribed time, taking with him his family and as many of his slaves and possessions his boats could hold. A party of soldiers burned his plantation house on St. Catherine's Island and made off with stock, provisions, equipment, and slaves that the family did not take with them.[18]

In the early days of the fighting, a mass exodus of Loyalist fam­ilies filled waterways, roads, and trails leading to East Florida. In a letter written in May 1783, East Florida's governor Patrick Tonyn advised British colonial secretary Thomas Townshend that twelve thousand had moved to the province. They came from Georgia, the Carolinas, and many of the northward colonies seeking the safety of British-controlled East Florida. Safety was about all they found. A large percentage arrived with little more than the clothes on their backs. An estimated five thousand pre-Revolution arrivals already occupied much of the relatively small area of land that had been rendered civilized and safe enough for human habitation.[19]

Lyford fared better than most of his fellow expatriates. He had a sufficient number of his boats to accommodate his wife and two chil­dren, forty-eight slaves, and some household goods and necessities on which they could subsist.[20] His need of a livelihood and an outlet for his fierce loyalty found fulfillment in Britain's call for pilots who knew the intricacies of waterways of the southeastern coast. The Royal Navy kept him and his boats busy guiding men-of-war, troop trans­ports, and supply ships along the coast and across bars into inlets and harbors in East Florida's continuous effort to keep in check Georgia's burning desire to pull off a successful invasion of the province. In me­morials later written to accompany Lyford's Loyalist claim for losses, numerous officers wrote glowing reports of services he rendered. George Keith Elphinstone, who earlier had commanded men-of-war, including the Perseus, along the southeast coast before becoming Ad­miral Viscount Keith, wrote to Lyford that "I can with great truth cer­tify that during the time I commanded the King's ships on the coast of Florida, Georgia, and Carolina, that you were very useful on many occasions, particularly in piloting them on the coast and the distant harbours and inlets both for supplying the King's subjects with provi­sions and for attacking the enemy and that you were always ready to give assistance when the service required it, and I think you justly en­titled to be rewarded as far as circumstance will admit of it." The me­morial of James Moncrief, who had been commanding engineer of the southern district prior to the end of the Revolution, echoed EIphinstone's sentiment. Capt. M. Scallion, who had commanded His Majesty's armed galley Arbuthnot when it made a devastating raid on Sunbury in April 1782, certified that "William Lyford behaved like a brave and active man and that upon many occasions he rendered me very essential service in distressing the enemies by piloting me through many intricate navigations, which obliged the Rebels to abandon many of their boats on the frontier." He added that Lyford also had piloted to safety many other of His Majesty's ships.[21]

Royal Navy vessels operating in southeastern waters also kept Lyford's slave pilots busy. Lt. Cmdr. James Howe wrote: "These are to certify to the Principal Officers and Commissioners of His Maj­esty's Navy, that a Negro man named Trap the property of Capt. William Lyford was sent on board His Majesty's armed galley Fire Fly under my command by order of His Excellency Sir James Wright as pilot in the month of July 1781 the said galley then being detached up Savanah River under the direction of Capt. Creyk of His Majesty's Sloop Otter, and I do further certify that the said Negro Trap, was born upon the books of His Majesty's said galley Fire Fly under my command until August following when he died."[22]

In one of the more significant events of the fighting in Georgia, the British captured Savannah in late December 1778 after a fleet from New York landed three thousand British and Hessian soldiers under the command of Lt. Col. Archibald Campbell. In a letter to commissioners of His Majesty's Treasury, Lyford claimed: "One of the petitioner's Negro Pilots was the person who conducted into Savannah River the fleet that carried Colonel Campbell there in 1778 when he reduced Georgia to the King's obedience."[23]

A watercolor of Cockspur Island painted in 1764, about the time Lyford lived there, by an unknown artist.  Courtesy Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library, University of Georgia Libraries.

With Savannah and much of south Georgia under British con­trol, Lyford and his entourage returned home in early 1779. He resumed his job as chief pilot of Georgia at the Savannah harbor and remained in the position several months after Cornwallis sur­rendered in October 1781. When the British evacuated the city in July 1782, he returned to St. Augustine, but soon found that a ready means of livelihood no longer awaited him there.[24] Appar­ently desperate for money and having outstanding debts owed him in Savannah, he sailed northward again. He arrived at Thun­derbolt, on the outskirts of the city, March 13, 1783, and sent a let­ter, along with a flag from the governor of East Florida to Georgia's governor, Lyman Hall, requesting permission to enter Savannah to conduct some private business. Holding out a faint hope that a spirit of clemency had come with victory, he included a letter from John Haley, who served as justice of peace in St. Au­gustine, imploring the governor to allow Lyford and his family to return to Georgia to reside. The governor and his executive council, meeting that same day, curtly ordered that Lyford "do imme­diately return to East Florida."[25]

Lyford had another important reason for visiting Georgia. Al­though he and his nephew, John Braddock, had for seven years poured their hearts and souls and maritime skills in heroic pro­portions into the object of opposing sides, blood proved thicker than water. Before leaving for Savannah, Lyford had attended a meeting in St. Augustine led by a young Loyalist from South Caro­lina, twenty-five-year-old Col. Andrew Deveaux. South Carolina's Confiscation Act (passed March 20, 1782) declared Deveaux to be an "obnoxious" person for leading a small band of Tories in hit-­and-run attacks against the property and persons of Whigs. He had left with the British when they evacuated the province later that year. Several other like-minded Loyalist refugees, primarily mariners, were also at the meeting. In May 1782 the Spanish had allied themselves with the Americans against their old enemy, the British, and had seized Nassau. The young colonel had devised a plan for driving the Spanish out of the Bahamas' capital. Deveaux and the men met to make preparations for putting the plan into action. Lyford visited his nephew to enlist another seasoned sea fighter for the Nassau venture, and Braddock agreed to join the seventy men who sailed in six vessels from St. Augustine in late March 1783. The small flotilla arrived at Abaco, fifty miles north of New Providence, and waited while Deveaux enlisted 170 more men from nearby islands. A letter Deveaux wrote to a friend in St. Augustine described their landing of April 16 in Nassau and the trickery he used to capture the Spanish forces.[26]

From a letter written May 15, 1783, by Governor Tonyn to the British home secretary Townshend, it is easy to surmise that De­veaux and his officers knew about the treaty that would soon return Florida and Minorca to Spain. Apparently they devised the expedi­tion, one in which they faced enormous odds, in a bid to gain favor that would result in their receiving consideration from the British for lands in the Bahamas. Tonyn wrote: "I have the honour of ac­quainting you, of the reduction of the Island of New Providence, by the intrepid and spirited conduct of Major Deveaux, of the South Carolina Militia. A young Gentleman who had resided here for some time as a Refugee, having lost the greatest part of his for­tune in South Carolina, with the remains, he fitted out and col­lected a small fleet of Privateers, and about two hundred Loyalists; with these, and by an allowable artifice he reduced the Spanish Garrison. As I was doubtful of his success, I claim not the credit for countenancing the Expedition. I am confident that his spirit and success will, Sir, recommend him to your favor and protection."[27]

Although the treaty in which Great Britain returned Florida and Minorca to Spain was not formerly ratified until September 1783, ceding of them had been preliminarily agreed upon in Jan­uary of that year. As meager as their sanctuary in East Florida had been, word of the province's impending loss came as cataclysmic news to Loyalists in Florida. After spending as much as seven years struggling to rebuild their shattered lives into some semblance of what they had been before the revolution, they were going to have to start all over again somewhere else. Most had no idea where that somewhere else would be. The first two paragraphs of a letter signed "A PLANTER," written May 20, 1783, to the East Florida Ga­zette and reprinted in the June 28 issue of the South Carolina Weekly Gazette described the bleak plight of Florida Loyalists:


The distresses to which the unfortunate Loyalists in America are now reduced are too poignant not to command the pity and com­miseration of every friend of human nature. The man that is steeled against such forcible impressions is a monster that should be drove from the circle of cultivated society. In most situations when calamities and misfortunes prey upon the mind, hope buoys us up and keeps us from sinking into the ocean of despondency and despair:-But the unhappy Loyalists have no hope to cheer up their spirits; even this last refuge of the afflicted is denied them. During a seven year war, they have been induced to brave every danger and difficulty in support of the government under which they were born in hopes that they and their children would have the fruits of their labours in peace and security. Instead of their rea­sonable expectations, they find themselves at the conclusion of a peace sacrificed to the ambition of their enemies, expelled from their native country, and thrown on the whole world friendless and unsupported. It would be needless to recapitulate the many prom­ises of 'support and protection held out to the public by the King and those acting under their authority. These promises have been violated in every instance; and that national faith, which we had been accustomed to look upon as sacred, basely bartered for an in­glorious peace. Even this province to which the other colonies have fled for shelter is now given away to a foreign nation, and no resting place is left for the reception of the wretched:- Where such a place can be found is beyond human sagacity to discover.[28]


Lyford certainly needed a place to go. Any hopes he may have had of Georgia's governor relenting on his bid to return home were dashed when the Georgia Assembly passed the Bill of Attain­der, Banishment, and Confiscation, which included his name, along with 260 other Georgians, on May 4, 1783.[29] The British Bahamas, place of his birth, certainly would be his first choice now that Georgia was closed to him.

If Deveaux and his officers, through the Nassau raid, hoped to make a play for land in the Bahamas, it paid off handsomely. The government awarded generous grants to the expedition's partici­pants. Even the men Deveaux had recruited from the islands were compensated, receiving grants totaling six thousand acres on Eleuthera Island. Lyford received two grants, one for 448 acres on the western tip of New Providence Island, the other for 592 acres on Cat Island, near Port Howe. John Braddock received two gen­erous grants on Long Island, one of them numbered consecutive to a grant given Deveaux.[30]

Lyford eventually made his home on the Cat Island grant and farmed the land on New Providence, planting eighty acres with cotton and thirty with plantains. After visiting Cat Island during the time he resided there, and long before "experts" decided in 1926 that Watling Island, not Cat Island, was Columbus's San Sal­vador, Daniel McKinnen wrote in A Tour Through the British West In­dies-1804 of where it was thought the illustrious navigator's foot had first touched the New World: "A small Indian village, consist­ing of 6 houses, then stood near the landing place, surrounded by trees, exhibiting the appearance of gardens. A country house be­longing to Mr. Lyford, and called Columbia in Honour of the great navigator, is now situated near this supposed spot."[31]

On March 16, 1784, while still in St. Augustine, Lyford submit­ted to Britain's Royal Claims Commission an application for the amount of £9,345 to cover material losses he sustained as a Loyal­ist. By 1787, having received no settlement from the petition, he had fallen deep in debt sustaining his family and slaves, and trying to develop the land on New Providence into a profitable planta­tion. Most men nearing the age of seventy would have given up in despair. He could have sold his slaves, of which he had thirty-eight valued at £1,940, and his land for enough money to sustain him through his remaining years. Instead, he sailed for England aboard the brigantine Providence Packet. His mission was to obtain memorials from fellow Loyalist friends who were now in England and who could testify to his loyalty and service before and during the war (his first submission probably had not been acted on be­cause it lacked these) and personally resubmit his application be­fore the Claims Commission.[32]

Lyford arrived in London in early June, and on the fourteenth wrote a letter to "The Right Honorable the Lords Commissioners of His Majesty's Treasury" advising them of his reason for being in London. He ended the letter with the plea: "The petitioner, there­fore, most humbly prays your Lordships to recommend him to the Commissioners for American Claims in order to his receiving a temporary allowance for his present support." Treasury sent the request to claims on July 20, and soon afterward he received twenty-five pounds to provide for his immediate needs.[33]

Lyford then began the demanding task of seeking out those now residing in London who knew him in Georgia and East Flor­ida, and· who were willing to provide memorials attesting to his character, loyalty, and his valuable service as a pilot. In addition to the memorials cited earlier from naval officers, he procured gen­erous testimonies from several men who served in high positions. Anthony Stokes, former chief justice of Georgia, wrote that he was well acquainted with Captain Lyford and certified that he was not only uniformly loyal, but was also active in the cause of govern­ment and deserved "every mark of Attention that can be shewed to him." Former Georgia lieutenant governor, John Graham, wrote of Lyford's many years as the King's pilot in Georgia and that he had taken a very active and decided part in support of his majesty's government during the war. Furthermore, on all occa­sions Lyford manifested his loyalty and zeal for the King's service. Former East Florida governor Tonyn wrote that Lyford demeaned himself as a good and faithful subject while residing in that prov­ince. James Hume, who had served as chief justice of East Florida, wrote: "At the request of Captain William Lyford I do hereby certify that from the commencement of the disturbances in Georgia he conducted himself as a staunch and zealous Loyalist." It took Lyford until November 13, five months after his arrival in London, to track down Samuel Hunt Jenkins, former member of the Geor­gia Assembly, who wrote a memorial similar to that of Humes.[34]

Lyford's quest for at least some reimbursement for the losses his intense loyalty cost him had been a long journey-in distance, in expense, and in discouragements-from the time and place of those losses. Ten years had passed since the Revolutionary govern­ment confiscated his extensive property in Georgia. In addition to the untold miles he had piloted British warships up and down the southeast coast, he had traveled from Savannah to St. Augustine when banished as a Loyalist, from St. Augustine to Savannah after Savannah's reduction, from Savannah to St. Augustine at the war's end, from St. Augustine to Thunderbolt vainly seeking permission to return to Georgia, from Thunderbolt back to St. Augustine after being refused reentry, from St. Augustine to the Bahamas after the cession of Florida to Spain, and from the Bahamas to London seek­ing a fair settlement of his claim. Not counting the confiscated property valued in his claim at more than nine thousand pounds, he lost ten years of a substantial and steady income operating pilot boats in Savannah and Sunbury, incurred the considerable expense of developing his grants in the Bahamas into inhabitable and farm­able lands, and now had to bear the costs of roundtrip passage to London and subsistence and lawyer fees during his lengthy stay. Not only did he endure the expected discouragements of all dis­placed Loyalists, Lyford also suffered the discouragements of the failure of his original claim submitted three years earlier and of hav­ing to leave his home and family, in his advanced years, to make a long, arduous voyage to England and pound the streets of London day after day seeking memorials and pressing for the settlement of his petition. In early autumn 1787, he received news that added tre­mendously to his weight of woes when he learned a storm had done extensive damage to his property. He told the claims commission that "by the last vessel from New Providence [he] hath received ad­vices that in the hurricane which happened there on the twenty-sev­enth day of August last past he had the misfortune to have all his buildings blown down, crop destroyed and in general such wreck and devastation in the property he possessed there that he is in dan­ger of having it entirely ruined unless by his presence he shall be capable in some degree to retrieve the losses he hath thereby sus­tained and that upon these accounts his presence in that country is become absolutely necessary."[35] Sometime after he made the long voyage back to his home on Cat Island in the Bahamas, the commis­sion considered only £7,157 of his £9,345 claim and granted him a mere £1,000 in settlement.[36]

Except for the official approval of the grant he had received on New Providence earlier, public records have nothing to say of him after his visit to England for almost seven years until the March 14, 1794, issue of the Royal Gazette in Nassau announced his death at the age of seventy five. The Georgia Gazette repeated the announcement in its March 27 issue.[37] The exact date of his death is not known. In 1996 the internationally famous novelist and res­ident of Lyford Cay, Arthur Hailey, with the help of Cat Island res­ident and educator Eric Moncur, located the ruins of Lyford's house but could not find his gravesite. Ironically, John Cutler Braddock died two months before his uncle and is buried some­where in Glynn County, Georgia, also in an unmarked grave.

Although Lyford's remains still lie in an unmarked grave, his name lives on and is spoken daily by the residents of Lyford Cay, the residential resort at the west end of New Providence Island. In fact, the last book of Arthur Hailey wrote before his death was The Lyford Legacy, a History of Lyford Cay from 1788. The book chronicles how the 448-acre land grant became the residential resort of Ly­ford Cay and how William Lyford's life became part of the region's colorful history.[38]


[1] According to a memo written by Georgia governor James Wright while in exile in Lon­don, Braddock commanded one of the three galleys that ran aground in Amelia Narrows while carrying Continentals to rendezvous with Col. John Baker's militia in East Florida. Allen D. Candler et aI., eds., The Colonial Records of the State of Georgia, 39 vols. (Atlanta and Athens, Ga., 1904-), vol. 38, pt. 2:124-26. Unpublished volumes in the collection of the Georgia Historical Society, Savannah (hereinafter cited as CRG); "Capt. Braddock" is named as commander of the Lee galley in Col. Samuel Elbert's much-cited letter to Gen. Robert Howe describing the capture of three British warships by three Georgia galleys at St. Simons Island on April 19, 1778. An article in the Royal Georgia Gazette told of a galley commanded by 'John Braddock" and another galley engaging the British brigantine Dun­more in a running battle. Royal Georgia Gazette [Savannah], September 27, 1781. See also, South Carolina and American General Gazette [Charles Town], April 23, 1778. He has brief mentions receiving orders as commander of the Lee in Colonel Elbert's Order Book and in the minutes of Georgia's Executive Council. See William Harden, ed., "Order Book of Sam­uel Elbert, Colonel and Brigadier General in the Continental Army" Collections of the Georgia Historical Society, 22 vols. to date (Savannah, 1840), vol. 5, pt. 2, 123, 186 (hereinafter cited as CGHS); Allen D. Candler, ed. The Revolutionary Records of Georgia, 3 vols. (Atlanta, 1908), 2:92 (hereinafter cited as RRG). Braddock was listed as a traitor in colonial Georgia's Trea­son Act of 1780, Disqualifying Act of 1780, and a list compiled by Loyalist Thomas Flyming of Georgians who "were all of them very active in rebellion against His Majesty in this Prov­ince ," RRG, 1 :352; Colonial Book DDD, microfilm, Georgia Archives, Morrow. In addition to his service in the Revolution, he served as an officer in the militia and held several public offices in Glynn County after the war, including two terms in the Georgia Assembly. See Margaret Davis Cate, Our Todays and Yesterdays: A Story of Brunswick and the Coastal lslands (Brunswick, Ga., 1930), 163, 169,231,234,236.

[2] Peter Wilson Coldham, American Loyalist Claims (Washington, D.C., 1980),298-99.  

[3] The confusion between father and son is understandable. The two are differentiated in only five of the 158 historical records mentioning them by the inclusion of "Junar," "son of," "younger Lyford," "Junr.," and "my son." Gordon Burns Smith, History of the Georgia Militia, 1783-1861, 4 vols. (Milledgeville, Ga., 2000), 3:36.

[4] "Letters from General Oglethorpe to the Trustees, 1735-1744," CGHS, vol. 5, pt. 1,67; South Carolina Gazette [Charles Town], July 30, 1741, August 30, 1742, January 27 and May 12, 1757, November 20 and December 23,1 758, February 11, 1759; James H. Easterby et al., eds., The Journal of the Commons House of Assembly, 14 vols. (Columbia, S.C., 1951-1989), 4:259; Candler et aI., eds., CRG, 6: 172; Georgia Gazette [Savannah], October 24, 1764. The chart is found in The coast of Florida from the Dry Tortugas to the old Cape by David Cutler Braddock, 1756, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.

[5] Lawrence S. Rowland, Alexander Moore, and George C. Rogers, Jr., The History of Beaufort County, South Carolina Vol. I: 1514-1861 (Columbia, S.C., 1996), 148.

[6] Colonial Papers, C.O. 23/2:85, British Public Records Office, London; Easterby et al., eds., Journal of the Commons House of Assembly, 1:370-371; South Carolina Governor and Council Journals, sessions of July 13, 15-16,23-24, August 3, September 9, October 8, 11-13, 15, 1742, November 21, December 13, 1743, microfilm, South Carolina Department of Archives and History, Columbia (hereinafter cited as SCDAH); Mendel L. Peterson., The Last Cruise of HMS. Loo (Baltimore, Md., 1955),36-39; South Carolina Gazette, June 23, 1746.

[7] C. A. Linn, ed., Ebenezer Record Book, translated by A. G. Voigt (Savannah, Ga., 1929), 78; Candler et al., eds., CRG, 11:201,303; Colonial BookX2, 727, microfilm, Georgia Archives.

[8] Miscellaneous Records-Charleston County, South Carolina, 114 vols., typescript, 69 A 25, Charleston County Public Library, Charleston; Easterby et aI., eds., Journal of the Commons House of Assembly, 5:354.

[9] Nicholas Olsberg, "Ships Registers in the South Carolina Archives, 1734-1780," South Carolina Historical Magazine 74 (January 1973): 204 (hereinafter cited as SCHM); South Carolina Gazette, October 2, 1756, July 7, 1758, July 30, 1760, January 5, February 27, 1761.

[10] Olsberg, "Ships Registers in the South Carolina Archives, 1734-1780," 251; Judgment Rolls, microfilm, SCDAH; South Carolina Gazette, May 1, 15, June 15, 1762; Pre-Federal Admiralty Court Records Province and State of South Carolina, microfilm, Charleston County Public Library; Mabel L. Webber, ed., "Register of St. Andrews Parish, Berkeley County, South Carolina" SCHM 15 (January 1914): 39.

[11] Olsberg, "Ships Registers in the South Caroline Archives, 1734-1780," 228.  

[12] Georgia Commission Book B1-1754-1778, microfilm, Drawer 40, Box 39, Georgia Archives; South Carolina Gazette, February 8, 1768; Georgia Gazette, February 10, 1768; Candler et al., eds., CRG, 14:535-36,562.

[13] Candler et aI., eds., CRG, 10: 669-70, 15: 176-77,498-500; South Carolina Gazette and Country Journal [Charles Town], June 19, 1770. A memorialist is one who presents a petition to a legislative body

[14] Candler et aI., eds., CRG., 38:113-14; Colonial Office Papers, 5/663: MPG357, British Public Records Office.

[15] Georgia Gazette, September 14,20, 1774

[16] American Loyalists Claims, Series II, 1780-1835, AO. 13/36: 500, 516, British Public Records Office; Georgia Colonial Records, Book A-B, 324-27, and Grant Book M, 901, 1014-15, Georgia Archives.

[17] William Bell Clark, ed., Naval Documents of the American Revolution, 9 vols. to date (Washington, D.C., 1968),3:688; "Proceedings of the Georgia Council of Safety, 1775-1777," CGHS,5:67.

[18] American Loyalists Claims, Series II, 1780-1835, AO. 13/36:516.

[19] Thelma Peters, "The Loyalist Migration from East Florida to the Bahamas," Florida Historical Quarterly 40 (October 1961): 127 (hereinafter cited as FHQ); Sherry Johnson, "The Spanish St. Augustine Community, 1784-1795, a Reevaluation," ibid. 68 (July 1989): 33.

[20] Robert Gary Mitchell, "Loyalist Georgia" (Ph.D. diss., Tulane University, 1964), 320.

[21] American Loyalists Claims, Series IL 1780-1835, A.O. 13/36:505-506,508,510.

[22] Ibid., A.O. 13/36:493.

[23] Ibid., A.O. 13/102:1063. The city of Savannah was an important southern objective for the British, and the army sent more than three thousand men to take it. The capture of three British men-of-war in April 1778 by three Georgia galleys, one commanded by John Braddock, followed shortly by another attempted invasion of East Florida, prompted the decision (probably at the urging of the governor of East Florida) to send the troops.

[24] Ibid.

[25] Telemon Cuyler Collection, Box 39, Folder 4, Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Li­brary, University of Georgia Libraries, Athens; Pre-l 800 File II, Microfilm, Drawer 202, Box 51, Georgia Archives; Candler, ed. RRG, 2:474-75.

[26] Colonial Office Papers, 23/26:223, British Public Records Office; Royal Gazette [Charlestown, South Carolina], March 20, 1782; Thelma Peters, "The Loyalist Migration," 124; South Carolina Weekly Gazette [Charles Town], May 24, 1783.

[27] Peters, "The Loyalist Migration," 127

[28] South Carolina Weekly Gazette, June 28,1783.

[29] Georgia Gazette, November 17, 1783. .

[30] Mary Moseley, The Bahamas Handbook (Nassau, 1926), 72; Register General Depart­ment of Land Grants-Book AI, 11, Book C1, 185, Book B1, 67, 86-87, Bahamas Department of Archives, Nassau.

[31] Book N, "Schedule of the property of William Lyford, now in Bahamas-March 23," 178, 144, Bahamas Department of Archives; Daniel McKinnen, A Tour through the British West In­dies, in the Years 1802 and 1803, Giving a Particular Account of the Bahama Islands (London, 1812),199.

[32] American Loyalists Claims, Series II, 1780-1835, A. O. 13/36:516; Book N, "List of debts due by Captain Lyford;" Book N, "Schedule of the property of William Lyford, now in Ba­hamas-March 23," 178, 144, Bahamas Department of Archives; American Loyalists Claims, Series II, 1780-1835, A.O. 13/102:1063

[33] American Loyalists Claims, Series II, 1780-1835, A.O. 13/102:1063; American Loyalists Claims, Series I, 1776-1831, A.O. 12/102:83, 88, Bahamas Department of Archives.

[34] American Loyalists Claims, Series II, 1780-1835, A.O. 13/102:504, 514, 1055, 1057, 1059, 1061.

[35] Ibid.,A.O.13/102:1061

[36] Mitchell, “Loyalist Georgia," 344.

[37]Royal Gazette [Nassau, Bahamas], March 14, 1794; Georgia Gazette, March 27, 1794.

[38] Arthur Hailey (1920-2004), The Lyford Legacy, a History of Lyford Cay From 1788 (privately published, c.2003) to raise money for the Lyford Cay Foundation to fund scholarships for Bahamians. Hailey died at Lyford Cay on November 24. This writer furnished Hailey with all the information about Lyford used in the book.