Not every Virginian supported independence; some remained loyal to the king. In 1775, the royal governor, Lord Dunmore, fled to a ship on the Chesapeake Bay and was joined by other officials, merchants, and servants, as well as enslaved people belonging to “rebels” and freed by a proclamation from Dunmore. Dunmore formed the able-bodied men into two small military units.
After losses from battle and disease, surviving Loyalist soldiers and civilians sailed to British-held New York in 1776. Elements of the Queen’s Loyal Virginia Regiment, a white regiment, merged into the Queen’s Rangers, a corps that served throughout the war and then went to Canada. The Royal Ethiopian Regiment, a Black regiment, disbanded in 1776, but some of its members became civilian employees of the British forces. Smaller numbers of Loyalists, both Black and white, joined British troops in Virginia in 1779–1781.
At the war’s end in 1783, almost 900 Black Virginians were among the Loyalists leaving New York with the British evacuation; most went to Nova Scotia, and some later moved to Sierra Leone. Many Virginia Loyalists (almost all white) who went to various British territories petitioned the British government’s Loyalist Claims Commission for compensation for their lost property. Claims Commission applications from Virginians are on Library of Virginia microfilm as part of the Virginia Colonial Records Project.