LORING, JOSHUA, privateer and naval officer; b. 3 Aug. 1716 in Roxbury (Boston), Massachusetts, son of Joshua Loring and Hannah Jackson, and descended from Thomas L. Loring who settled in Massachusetts in 1634; m. 1740 Mary Curtis of Roxbury, and they had four sons and a daughter; d. 5 Oct. 1781 at Highgate (London), England.
As a boy Joshua Loring, a tanner’s apprentice, decided to go to sea. During the War of the Austrian Succession he became master of a privateer and in 1744 was captured by the French and imprisoned briefly at Louisbourg, Île Royale (Cape Breton Island). Through the influence of Governor William Shirley of Massachusetts, Loring was made lieutenant in the Royal Navy on 23 May 1745. He continued to serve until 1749 and then went on half pay. In 1752 he acquired an impressive estate in Roxbury, presumably with prize money won during the war.
Following the outbreak of the Seven Years’ War, Loring went to England where, on 13 March 1756, he was promoted commander, given command of a brigantine, and appointed agent for transports leaving English dockyard ports. He arrived at New York with some of the transports on 21 June. His energetic preparations for operations on the Great Lakes planned by Lord Loudoun came to nothing when Montcalm*’s capture of Oswego (Chouaguen) drove British seamen off Lake Ontario. All that Loring could manage was a reconnaissance on Lake George (Lac Saint-Sacrement) in September. He then asked for a sea command, but it was not until 19 Dec. 1757 that he was given the Squirrel (20 guns). It seems to have been nothing more than a paper transaction to give him the rank of post captain in charge of all naval construction and operations on the “Lakes of America” for the ensuing campaign.
In 1759 Loring played an important part in acquiring vessels of all kinds, both in Boston for the attack on Quebec and at Ticonderoga (N.Y.) for Amherst’s planned thrust down the Richelieu valley. In October, with a brig and a sloop he had constructed, he put to flight the old French privateer Joannis-Galand d’Olabaratz on Lake Champlain. Loring had taken so long to prepare vessels, however, that Amherst decided it was too late in the season to pursue his advantage against the now exposed fort on he aux Noix in the Richelieu River. In August of the following year Loring accompanied Amherst’s army in the advance down the St Lawrence River from Oswego towards Montreal. Amherst pushed ahead with shallow draft gunboats while Loring’s two larger vessels, the Onondaga (22 guns) and the Mohawk (18 guns), picked their way slowly through difficult channels in the river and fell behind the main body. Loring did not appear fully to appreciate his tactical role. At Fort Lévis, the strong French outpost on Île Royale (Galop Island, east of Prescott, Ont.) commanded by Pierre Pouchot*, the gunboats had captured the French vessel Outaouaise before Loring arrived. When he did come up he failed to coordinate naval bombardment with that of the batteries set up on adjacent islands. All his vessels drifted out of range save the Onondaga, which received heavy French fire. Eventually its crew struck the colours, under circumstances which Loring himself was unable to explain, and he prevented the wholesale desertion of his men only by threatening to shoot the first to try. One of Amherst’s staff officers sent out a party of grenadiers to hoist the colours again. At this moment Loring “had the misfortune to loose the Calf of my right leg to a Cannon Ball,” and he took no further active part in the campaign. In the following years he provided vessels for operations on Lake Erie during Pontiac*’s uprising of 1763 and its aftermath.
Loring never received an active sea command. After six months’ leave in England in 1766 he returned in 1767 to his Roxbury estate. There he remained until “On the morning of the Lexington Battle [19 April 1775] . . . he mounted his horse, left his home and everything belonging to it, never to return again, and, pistol in hand, rode at full speed to Boston . . . .” He presumably left Boston for England during the evacuation in March 1776. In 1778 the state of Massachusetts proscribed and banished him, and Loring was driven back upon his personal resources. He died in England three years later; his widow survived him by eight years. The children of his eldest son included Robert Roberts Loring*, military secretary to Lieutenant-General Gordon Drummond*, governor of the Canadas during the War of 1812.
Joshua Loring placed great importance upon his quality as a naval officer, and his career served him well. Both in this capacity and as an agent of Amherst’s decisions he played a dramatic minor role in the defeat of France in North America. But it was as a resourceful New England opportunist that he made the momentous decisions of his life, including the last. “I have always eaten the King’s bread,” he had remarked on going into exile, “and always intend to.” Like other important choices, this was thrust upon him by main chance-and like the others it served him well in the end.
[Some of the primary sources have conflicting accounts of the events concerning the Onondaga on 22 Aug. 1760. John Knox and Pouchot, like Amherst, assumed Loring ordered the colours struck. Loring himself said the colours were struck against his wishes. That Amherst chose to believe him is clear from Loring’s subsequent employment. Onondaga’s second in command, Captain Joshua Thornton, a provincial officer who had taken a boat ashore on Île Royale, was dismissed from the service, even though Loring claimed to have sent him ashore as a stratagem. There must always be an element of doubt concerning this episode. a.b.d.]
An indifferent portrait was sold at Christie’s in 1969. There is a black and white photographic reproduction at the National Maritime Museum, London. AMA, SHA, A1, 3574, no.102. PAC, MG 18, L4, pkt.19. PRO, Adm. 1/2045–52, 3/64, 6/17–18; AO 13, bundle 47; Prob. 11/ 1084, f.539; WO 34/64, ff.133–225; 34/65. Correspondence of William Shirley (Lincoln). Knox, Hist. journal (Doughty). [Pierre] Pouchot, Memoir upon the late war in North America, between the French and the English, 1755–60 . . . , ed. and trans. F. B. Hough (2v., Roxbury, Mass., 1866). Charnock, Biographia navalis, VI, 259. G.B., Adm., Commissioned sea officers. John Marshall, Royal Navy biography . . . (4v. in 6, and 2v. supp., London, 1823–35), II, pt.2, 544–49. Frégault, La guerre de la Conquête. Stanley, New France. J. H. Stark, The loyalists of Massachusetts and the other side of the American revolution (Boston, 1910).