Provincials

1775–1783

Beset by decentralized leadership, unreliable support, and the determination of the patriots, provincials were not utilized to their full potential in the conflict.

With tensions between Great Britain and her North American colonists coming to a boil, the crown found itself mobilizing for war in 1775. In addition to regular British soldiers and German mercenaries, British officials organized loyal Americans into conventional fighting units commonly referred to as provincials. A provincial soldier was a volunteer subject to the same control, benefits, and hardships as a British soldier but was ineligible for allowances and perquisites equal to those received by regular troops.

In South Carolina, Loyalists stepped forward in reaction to the actions of the Committee of Safety during the summer of 1775. However, British field commanders and civil administrators, expecting the war to be over quickly, did not raise many provincial units. By 1778 events in the northern theater caused the British high command to reexamine its strategy and turn its attention southward.

Emboldened by successes in Georgia in 1778 and 1779, the British army launched a major offensive against the patriot stronghold of Charleston, which surrendered on May 12, 1780. The South Carolina Royalists (a unit actually formed in East Florida from loyal refugees who were chiefly from Ninety Six District), the King’s American Regiment, and the British Legion were provincial units instrumental in the royal victory. Moving into the backcountry, Lord Cornwallis actively sought to recruit provincial units in South Carolina. One such regiment, raised by John Harrison of the Pee Dee region, became known as the South Carolina Rangers.

Beset by decentralized leadership, unreliable support, and the determination of the patriots, provincials were not utilized to their full potential in the conflict. With the end of hostilities, the officers and men of the various provincial units chose to relocate to Canada, Britain, and the West Indies.

Allen, Robert S., ed. The Loyal Americans: The Military Role of the Loyalist Provincial Corps and Their Settlement in British North America, 1775– 1784. Ottawa, Canada: National Museums of Canada, 1983.

Bass, Robert D. “A Forgotten Loyalist Regiment: The South Carolina Rangers.” Proceedings of the South Carolina Historical Association (1977): 64–71.

Lambert, Robert Stansbury. South Carolina Loyalists in the American Revolution. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1987.

Shy, John. “British Strategy for Pacifying the Southern Colonies, 1778– 1781.” In The Southern Experience in the American Revolution, edited by Jeffery J. Crow and Larry E. Tise. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1978.

Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Title Provincials
  • Coverage 1775–1783
  • Author
  • Keywords British officials organized loyal Americans into conventional fighting units commonly referred to as provincials, With the end of hostilities, the officers and men of the various provincial units chose to relocate to Canada, Britain, and the West Indies
  • Website Name South Carolina Encyclopedia
  • Publisher University of South Carolina, Institute for Southern Studies
  • URL
  • Access Date October 31, 2020
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update October 24, 2016
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