Wlliam Gilmore Simms
Joscelyn: A Tale of the Revolution >> End Matter >> Notes

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Novel (Romance) | The Reprint Company | 1975, 1976
Transcription EXPLANATORY NOTES309
8.28 "Tom Browne": Thomas Browne is the historical character most important to the novel. Simms first made use of his story in Mellichampe (1836) in which he attributed portions of Browne's history to the character Barsfield. In the preface to this earlier novel, Simms wrote that Browne was "one of the most malignant and vindictive among the southern loyalists, and one who is said to have become so solely from the illegal and unjustifiable means which were employed by the
patriots" to convert him to the revolutionary cause (Mellichampe [New York, 1853] , p. 2). A contemporary account of these "unjustifiable
means" in the Georgia Gazette of 1 August 17 75 reports that the "Sons
of Liberty" (also called Liberty Boys) from Augusta visited New Richmond, S.C., to charge Thomas Browne and William Thompson, "two young gentlemen lately from England," with having made statements against American independence. Thompson escaped when he heard of their approach, but Browne refused to run and was captured. The Liberty Boys then "politely escorted him to Augusta, where they presented him with a genteel and fashionable suit of tar and feathers, and afterwards had him exhibited in a cart...." The next day the Gazette reports that Browne retracted his objectionable statements. Hugh McCall, an early Georgia historian, adds the detail that Browne and Thompson made their remarks "accompanied by toasts at a dinner," after which they fled and were pursued by the Liberty Boys
(The History of Georgia [1816] , II, 46). According to a more recent
biographical study, Browne was not a Scotsman, as Simms implies in Joscelyn, but was instead the son of Jonas Brown of Whitby, England. He came to Georgia in late 1774 to establish a plantation, and apparently would have succeeded if he had not been interrupted by the civil conflicts of 1775. According to Browne's own later testimony,
which disagrees somewhat with the Georgia Gazette account, a party of
one hundred men came to his plantation demanding that he renounce his loyalty to the British government. When he firmly refused, most of the men left, but a few remained, and later, by burning his feet with torches, forced him to sign an oath of loyalty to the revolutionary cause. (Simms' fictionalized version of this event agrees most closely
with the Georgia Gazette account.) When allowed to escape, Browne
hurried to South Carolina to join with loyalist forces there. After the events of 1775, he was active in attempting to implement an unsuccessful plan to use the Indians against whig forces along the frontier, and later he was commander of the Florida Rangers. In May 1780, he commanded the loyalist forces that occupied Augusta. From that position of power he began his revenge upon the whigs in the Augusta area for the pain and humiliation they had caused him five years earlier. His most notorious atrocity was the hanging of several wounded prisoners in his own presence so that he could watch them die, and the release of others to the Indians to be tortured to death. After the war Browne was exiled and settled on the island of St. Vincent in the Bahamas, where he died in 1825.