HOWETSON, JAMES. (?–1777). Loyalist officer. Nothing is known of Howetson (also called Hewetson) before his appearance at the beginning of the Revolution as a British lieutenant living on half pay in Lunenburgh, New York. From the start, the local committee of safety kept an eye on him as a suspect person. At the insistence of the Albany committee, he signed a parole on 30 April 1775 promising to stay near his home, talk with no other Loyalists, and take no action against the Revolution. The committee became aware that he was violating this parole by helping to set up a Loyalist communication network but settled for a mild warning. Shortly after the British captured New York City in September 1776, Howetson received a commission as colonel of the Loyal Volunteers of Albany County. Howetson had the unenviable task of raising this regiment secretly, since he was behind enemy lines. Howetson did not receive any precise orders and so set about planning a number of operations, most importantly to seize the gunpowder stored at Albany; in grandiose moments, his Loyal Volunteers even thought to capture the whole city. None of these plans ever came to fruition. After disarming a few Patriot militia, the Loyal Volunteers fell into a trap set by militia units from New York, Massachusetts, and Connecticut at Livingston Manor on 2 May 1777. Over the next few days the Patriots arrested most of the Loyalists, including Howetson, who was charged with treason as he recruited for the enemy while a citizen of New York. A court-martial held on 14 June 1777 found him guilty and sentenced him to death. Howetson was hanged in Albany on 4 July 1777.
Ranlet, Philip. The New York Loyalists. 2nd ed. Lanham, Md.: University Press of America, 2002.