Claudius Smith – Loyalist


Claudius Smith (1736 – January 22, 1779) was a notorious Loyalist guerrilla leader during the American Revolution. He led a band of irregulars who were known locally as the ‘cowboys’.

Claudius was the eldest son of David Smith (1701–1787), a respected tailor, cattleman, miller, constable, clergyman, and finally judge in Brookhaven, New York. His mother was Meriam (Williams) Carle, a daughter of Samuel Williams of Hempstead, New York. David Smith was the son of a Samuel Smith, but the identity of this Samuel is not certain. {ref|ssmith}

==Claudius as a guerrilla leader==

During the Revolutionary War, Claudius, along with several members of his family, including three of his four sons (William, Richard, and James), allegedly terrorized the New York countryside in an area formerly known as Smith’s Clove (presently Monroe), Orange County, New York, where David Smith and his family had moved about 1741 from Brookhaven.

Accounts differ on Claudius Smith’s size and stature. A 1762 French and Indian War muster roll lists him as 5’9″. However, a 1778 wanted poster for his arrest claims he stood nearly an unbelievable seven feet tall.{Citation needed|date=May 2007}

All accounts agree that Claudius was a Loyalist and took part in Tory raids alongside the Mohawk Indian Chief, Joseph Brant.{Citation needed|date=December 2011}

Though he gained a fearsome reputation among the Patriots, Claudius is not actually known to have killed anyone. He was even viewed by some as sort of a Robin Hood, helping to defend the Loyalists in the area. At one point, Smith even ended up in jail with a close relative of Capt John Brown (1728–1776), the grandfather of John Brown the abolitionist.

However, when one of Smith’s men did apparently rob and kill a Patriot leader, Major Nathaniel Strong, on October 6, 1778, New York Governor George Clinton posted a reward of $1,200 for Smith’s arrest. Claudius was soon captured and was hanged on January 22, 1779 in the town of Goshen, Orange County, New York. Two of his sons, William and James (the latter captured in February 1779 by an Abner Thorpe ), would suffer the same fate.

Richard Smith remained at large at least through 1781, when his name appears in a letter addressed to Governor Clinton from Gen George Washington warns Clinton that he was the target of a planned kidnapping by the remaining members of the Smith Gang.

==Claudius Smith in fiction==

Richard Smith is a character in Elizabeth Oakes Smith’s 1867 novel Bald Eagle; or, The Last of the Ramapaughs, which portrays Claudius’s son as seeking vengeance on the people of Orange County for the killing of his father.