Wallis, Samuel

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Wallis, Samuel

WALLIS, SAMUEL. (?–1798). Loyalist secret agent. Born in Maryland of Quaker descent, he became a substantial Philadelphia merchant, shipper, and speculator long before the War of American Independence. An investor in frontier lands, he took advantage of the 1768 Treaty of Fort Stanwix to build a substantial house in Muncy, Pennsylvania, on the west branch of the Susquehanna River, about twenty-five miles north of Fort Augusta at Sunbury. He used to spend the summers there, returning to Philadelphia for the winter. When the British arrived in Pennsylvania in 1777–1778, he worked secretly for them and helped to organize Loyalist raids on the frontier. In 1778, during a major Indian raid, nearby settlers took refuge in Wallis's stone dwelling before moving on to Sunbury. Afterward, Wallis had the effrontery to demand a garrison of Continental troops to supplement the useless militia. In August a detachment of the Sixth Pennsylvanian Regiment was posted close by. Later he was asked to draw up a map of the Iroquois country for use by Sullivan in his expedition in 1779. He is supposed to have supplied a false map—intended to send Sullivan a hundred miles astray—while providing the British with an accurate one. Unfortunately, as neither map has ever been found, and Sullivan did not stray out of his way, the story may be untrue.

Wallis used his house as a rendezvous for British and Loyalist frontier agents, and he was one of the spies who reported to John André and George Beckwith, Henry Clinton's intelligence chiefs in New York. André made use of him in mid-1779 when Benedict Arnold was making overtures from Philadelphia. Beckwith tried to get Wallis to exploit the mutiny of the Pennsylvania Line (1-10 January 1781), but the opportunity passed before anything could be done. He continued to send intelligence and food shipments to the British army until 1782, all the time keeping up close personal contacts with the Continental Congress and posing as a Whig. In 1782 he moved permanently to Muncy, expanded his land holdings to about seven thousand acres, and—especially as the agent of the Holland Land Company—became a major speculator in lands farther west. He died of smallpox in Philadelphia in 1798; his fortune, possibly owing to the concurrent financial crisis, was lost.

So good was Wallis's cover that his Loyalist activities went unsuspected until the Clinton and Arnold papers reached the public domain in the early twentieth century. His significance lies less in the damage he may have caused the rebels—which in the nature of things is hard to evaluate—but as a rare known example of the operations of a British agent. Many others, like Wallis, must have contributed to the jigsaw André and Beckwith labored to assemble for Clinton. Like him, too, they may have honestly worked for a British victory while taking care to be on the winning side in the end.

SEE ALSO André, John; Arnold's Treason; Beckwith, George; Clinton, Henry; Fort Stanwix, Treaty of; Sullivan's Expedition against the Iroquois.


Van Doren, Carl. Secret History of the American Revolution: An Account of the Conspiracies of Benedict Arnold and Numerous Others. New York: Viking, 1941.

                               revised by John Oliphant