McAlpin’s Corps can refer to either of two loyalist units in the British Army in Canada commanded by Major Daniel McAlpin during the American Revolution. In most instances the name describes the American Volunteers, a corps of American loyalists who served in the Burgoyne Expedition. The term was also used at times to refer to a ‘battalion’ put under command of McAlpin in 1779 made up of the remnants of Burgoyne’s several loyalist corps, including the American Volunteers, the King’s Loyal Americans, the Queen’s Loyal Rangers and Adams’ Rangers.
Daniel McAlpin was a retired, elderly British army Captain of the 60th Royal American Regiment who had become a major landholder at Stillwater, New York. From 1775, McAlpin was actively persecuted by rebels for his loyalty. In September 1776, he received a warrant from Sir William Howe to raise a loyalist corps and secretly began recruiting men. McAlpin was arrested but later escaped and went into hiding. When the British army under General Burgoyne marched South towards Albany, McAlpin joined at Fort Edward.
McAlpin’s unit, the American Volunteers, first mustered 1 August 1777. The corps numbered some 184 men and officers and was engaged largely in the batteau service and defending supply lines during the campaign. Following the battle of Freeman’s Farm, a portion of McAlpin’s men were drafted into British regiments to help offset heavy casualties. After the defeat at the battle of Bemis Heights, Burgoyne allowed loyalist troops to quietly escape before his surrender. Men of the American Volunteers were entrusted with transporting Burgoyne’s military pay chest back to Canada to prevent its capture. Fifty of these men were taken prisoner on the retreat, but the chest was safely delivered.
The loyalist units of Burgoyne’s army returned to Canada seriously mauled and badly under-strength. The units were loosely assembled into a battalion, initially under Sir John Johnson of the King’s Royal Regiment. In May1779, the unit was turned over to McAlpin, who was made Major-Commandant. The troops were primarily engaged in garrison duty and building fortifications to secure Quebec Province against American invasion.
In late 1779, McAlpin became seriously ill. Despite his condition, he continued in his duties until his death in July 1780. McAlpin was replaced by Major John Nairne of the 84th, who was ordered to form the rather loose collection of men into formal companies. Even so, the unit was often referred to as McAlpin’s Corps.
In November 1781, the American Volunteers, King’s Loyal Americans and most of the Queens Loyal Rangers were incorporated into a new provincial regiment, the Loyal Rangers, under the command of Major Edward Jessup.
Following the war, the Loyal Rangers, including former American Volunteers, were settled in the South East of what is now the Province of Ontario, in Ernestown, Edwardsburgh, Augusta and Elizabethtown townships.