In the years prior to the American Revolution, Lord Dunmore, whose roots ran back to Scotland, served as the Colonial Governor in both New York and Virginia. A staunch supporter of the English Crown and Parliament’s policies, Dunmore raised the ire of patriot leaders in Williamsburg, including Patrick Henry. Dunmore tried to dissolve the Virginia House of Burgesses and then attempted to deny the patriot militias' access to guns, powder, and shot. It was a challenge to Dunmore that Patrick Henry famously shouted, “Give me liberty, or give me death.”
Best known for Lord Dunmore’s Proclamation, issued in 1775, Dunmore, in an effort to undermine patriot resolve, declared that any enslaved person who fled his master and would serve with loyalty towards Great Britain, would secure their freedom. By the wars end between 800 to 2,000 enslaved African Americans in Virginia fled to British lines. Some were organized into a fighting unit known as Dunmore’s Ethiopian Brigade. On their tunics they wore the slogan, “From Slavery to Freedom.” The Ethiopian Brigade found early success in the field, but Dunmore’s force was soundly defeated at the Battle of Great Bridge on December 9, 1775. Dunmore and what remained of his fighting force fled Virginia for the Bahamas many of them dying from smallpox and other diseases.
Dunmore’s last service to England was as Governor of the Bahamas from 1787 – 1796.