De Lancey, Oliver

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De Lancey, Oliver

DE LANCEY, OLIVER. (1718–1785). (The elder.) Senior Loyalist officer in America. New York. Born 16 September 1718 in New York, De Lancey was the youngest son of Etienne De Lancey, who came to New York in 1686 after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, and of Anne van Cortlandt. In 1742 De Lancey married Phila Franks, a Jew from New York City. A successful merchant and landowner, he and his brother James (1703–1760) built the family party into a position of power in New York provincial politics, constantly finding themselves in conflict with the royal governor. Despite his aristocratic status, De Lancey became popular among the working class of New York City and campaigned easily among its members. He served during the Seven Years' War as one of New York's paymasters and raised and led volunteers to Fort Ticonderoga in 1758. When his brother James died in 1760, De Lancey became head of the family's political faction, serving on the governor's council for the next fifteen years. In 1769 he formed an alliance with the Sons of Liberty, leading his party to victory over the Livingston faction in an election marked by demonstrations and the intimidation of voters. In 1773 De Lancey reached the apex of his power, being named commanding colonel of the Southern Military District. Almost immediately thereafter his relationship with the Sons of Liberty soured as the latter's demands turned more radical. Over the next year New York's political factions traded places, with the Livingstons allying with the Patriots while the De Lancey faction became identified with Governor William Tryon.

De Lancey fled New York City on 20 June 1776, joining the British forces. General William Howe promoted De Lancey to brigadier general, making him the highest-ranking officer in the British forces. Oliver raised a brigade of fifteen hundred Loyalists who were generally known as De Lancey's New York Volunteers. Two of these battalions served in the South with distinction and the third remained throughout the war on Long Island, as did De Lancey himself. On 26 November 1777 a Patriot raiding party destroyed De Lancey's mansion on the Hudson River near Greenwich Village. He was included in New York's Act of Attainder of 1779, and his property was confiscated. Leaving New York City with the British in 1783, De Lancey received a pension and £23,446 from the crown to cover his claimed losses of £78,016. He and his wife settled in Beverley, England, where he died on 27 October 1785.


Jones, Thomas. History of New York during the Revolutionary War. Edited by Edward Floyd De Lancey. 2 vols. New York: New York Times, 1968.

                             revised by Michael Bellesiles

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De Lancey, Oliver

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