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John Murray, 4th Earl of Dunmore

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Title: John Murray, 4th Earl of Dunmore  
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Subject: Burning of Norfolk, Battle of Kemp's Landing, Pittsburgh/On this day, Gunpowder Incident, List of colonial governors of Virginia
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John Murray, 4th Earl of Dunmore

The Right Honourable
The Earl of Dunmore
Governor of the Province of New York
In office
Monarch George III
Preceded by Sir Henry Moore
Succeeded by William Tryon
Governor of the Province of Virginia
In office
Monarch George III
Preceded by Lord Botetourt
Succeeded by Patrick Henry (as Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia))
20th Royal Governor of the Bahamas
In office
Monarch George III
Preceded by James Edward Powell
Succeeded by John Forbes
Personal details
Born 1730
Taymouth, Scotland
Died 25 February 1809
Ramsgate, Kent, England
Nationality British

John Murray, 4th Earl of Dunmore PC (1730 – 25 February 1809), generally known as Lord Dunmore, was a Scottish peer and colonial governor in the American colonies.

Murray was named governor of the Province of New York in 1770, he succeeded to the same position in the Colony of Virginia the following year, after the death of Norborne Berkeley, 4th Baron Botetourt. As Virginia's governor, Dunmore directed a series of campaigns against the trans-Appalachian Indians, known as Lord Dunmore's War. He is noted for issuing a 1775 document proclaiming martial law in Virginia (usually known as Dunmore's Proclamation) in an attempt to turn back the rebel cause in Virginia. Dunmore fled to New York after the Burning of Norfolk in 1776, and later returned to Britain. He was Governor of the Bahama Islands, from 1787 to 1796. Dunmore was the last royal governor of Virginia.

Family and early life

Murray was born in Tymouth, Scotland. He was the eldest son of William Murray, 3rd Earl of Dunmore, and his wife, Catherine (née Murray); he was a nephew of John Murray, 2nd Earl of Dunmore. In 1745 William Murray and son, John (then only 15), joined the ill-fated campaign of "Bonnie Prince Charlie" (Charles Edward Stuart). Young Murray was appointed a page to Prince Charles. The second Earl, his uncle, remained with the Hanoverian regime.

After the Jacobite army was defeated at Culloden (1746), the Murray family was put under house arrest, and the patriarch, William, was imprisoned in the Tower. By 1750, William had received a conditional pardon. John was now 20, and joined the British Army. In 1756, after the deaths of his uncle and father, Murray became the fourth Earl of Dunmore.

Dunmore married Lady Charlotte, daughter of King George III. The Dunmores had another daughter close to her age, Lady Catherine Murray, and soon after they landed in Virginia, they had another child, Lady Virginia Murray.

Colonial governor of New York

Dunmore was named the British governor of the Province of New York from 1770 to 1771. Soon after his appointment, in 1770, Virginia's governor, Norborne Berkeley, 4th Baron Botetourt (Lord Botetourt) died, and Dunmore was eventually named to replace him.[1]

Colonial governor of Virginia

Dunmore's War

Dunmore became royal governor of the Colony of Virginia on 25 September 1771 . Despite growing issues with Great Britain, his predecessor, Lord Botetourt, had been a popular governor in Virginia, even though he served only two years before his death. As Virginia's colonial governor, Dunmore directed a series of campaigns against the Indians known as Lord Dunmore's War. The Shawnee were the main target of these attacks, and his avowed purpose was to strengthen Virginia's claims in the west, particularly in the Ohio Country. However, some accused Dunmore of colluding with the Shawnees and arranging the war to deplete the Virginia militia and help safeguard the Loyalist cause, should there be a colonial rebellion. John Murray, 4th Earl of Dunmore, in his history of the Indian Wars, denied these accusations.[2]

Battle for control

Lacking in diplomatic skills, Dunmore tried to govern without consulting the [3]

When Dunmore finally convened the Colonial Assembly in March 1773, which was the only way he could deal with fiscal issues to support his war, the burgesses instead first resolved to form a committee of correspondence to communicate their continued concerns about the Townshend Acts and Gaspee Affair to Great Britain. Dunmore immediately postponed the Assembly. Many of burgesses gathered a short distance away at the Raleigh Tavern and continued discussing their problems with the new taxes, perceived corruption and lack of representation in England. When Dunmore reconvened the Assembly in 1774, the burgesses passed a resolution declaring 1 June 1774 a day of fasting and prayer in Virginia. In response, Dunmore dissolved the House.

The burgesses again reconvened as the [5]

In the face of rising unrest in the colony, Dunmore sought to deprive Virginia's militia of military supplies. Dunmore gave the key to the Williamsburg armory to Lieutenant Henry Colins, commander of H.M.S. Magdalen, and ordered him to remove the powder, provoking what became known as the Gunpowder Incident. On the night of 20 April 1775, royal marines loaded fifteen half-barrels of powder into the governor's wagon, intent on transporting it down the Quarterpath Road to the James River and the British warship. Local militia rallied, and word of the incident spread across the colony.

Confrontation with the Hanover militia

The Hanover militia, led by Patrick Henry, arrived outside of Williamsburg on 3 May. That same day, Dunmore evacuated his family from the [5]

Dunmore threatened to impose martial law, and eventually retreated to Porto Bello to join his family. Dislodged by the Virginia rebels and wounded in the leg,[7] on 8 June, Dunmore took refuge on the British warship Washington commented “I do not think that forcing his lordship on shipboard is sufficient. Nothing less than depriving him of life or liberty will secure peace to Virginia, as motives of resentment actuate his conduct to a degree equal to the total destruction of that colony.”[7]

Dunmore's Proclamation

Dunmore is noted for [3] The proclamation appeared to respond to the legislature's proclamation that Dunmore had resigned his position by boarding a warship off Yorktown nearly six months earlier. However, by the end of the war, an estimated 800 to 2000 escaped slaves sought refuge with the British; some served in the army, though the majority served in noncombatant roles.[8][9]

Dunmore organized these Black Loyalists into the "Ethiopian Regiment". However, despite winning the Battle of Kemp's Landing on 17 November 1775, Dunmore lost decisively at the Battle of Great Bridge on 9 December 1775. Following that defeat, Dunmore loaded his troops, and many Virginia Loyalists, onto British ships. Smallpox spread in the confined quarters, and some 500 of the 800 members of the Ethiopian Regiment died.[10]

Final skirmishes and return to Britain

On New Year's Day in 1776, Dunmore gave orders to burn waterfront buildings in Norfolk from which patriot troops were firing on his ships. However, the fire spread. The city burned, and with it any hope that Dunmore's loyalists could return to Virginia.[11] Dunmore retreated to New York. Some ships of his refugee fleet were sent south, mostly to Florida.[12] When he realized he could not regain control in Virginia, Dunmore returned to Britain in July 1776. Dunmore continued to draw his pay as the colony's governor until 1783, when Britain recognized American independence.

From 1787 to 1796, Dunmore served as governor of the Bahamas.


Dunmore sat as a Scottish representative peer in the House of Lords from 1761 to 1774 and from 1776 to 1790.


Dunmore died in February 25, 1809 and was succeeded in the earldom by his eldest son, George. The Countess of Dunmore died in 1819.


Dunmore Town, Harbour Island, North Eleuthera, Bahamas.


  1. ^ Dunmore Biography.
  2. ^ Roosevelt, Theodore (1889). [1], Chapters VIII "Lord Dunmore's War" and XI "The Battle of the Great Kanawha", passim.
  3. ^ a b PBS org
  4. ^ "Proclamation".
  5. ^ a b Red Hill.
  6. ^ Kibler, J. Luther (April 1931). "Numerous Errors in Wilstach's 'Tidewater Virginia' Challenge Criticism".  
  7. ^ a b  
  8. ^  
  9. ^  
  10. ^ Stephanie True Peters (2005). Smallpox in the New World. Marshall Cavendish. p. 43. 
  11. ^ Guy, Louis L. jr. (Spring 2001)Courierbad link as of 12/16/12 --no independent access to Norfolk Historical Society
  12. ^ Pybus, Cassandra Jefferson's Faulty Math: The Question of Slave Defections in the American Revolution William and Mary Quarterly vol. 62 no. 2 (2005)- subscription or bad link as of 12/16/12
  13. ^ Zaremba, Robert E. and Danielle R. Jeanloz, Around Middlebury (Arcadia Publishing, 2000), p. 95.

Further reading

  • Cooke, John Esten (1884). Virginia: a history of the people,.
    Houghton, Mifflin and Co.,. p. 523.
     , Ebook (full view)
  • David, James Corbett. Dunmore's New World: The Extraordinary Life of a Royal Governor in Revolutionary America---with Jacobites, Counterfeiters, Land Schemes, Shipwrecks, Scalping, Indian Politics, Runaway Slaves, and Two Illegal Royal Weddings (University of Virginia Press; 2013) 280 pages
  • Kidd, Charles; Williamson, David; Debrett, John, eds. (1990). Debrett's Peerage and Baronetage.
    St Martin's Press, New York.
     , Url

External links

  • Leigh Rayment's Peerage Pages
  • Lundy, Darryl. "FAQ". The Peerage. 
Government offices
Preceded by
Sir Henry Moore, Bt
Governor of the Province of New York
Succeeded by
William Tryon
Preceded by
William Nelson
Governor of the Province of Virginia
Succeeded by
Patrick Henry
as Governor of Virginia
Preceded by
John Brown
Governor of the Bahamas
Succeeded by
Robert Hunt
Peerage of Scotland
Preceded by
William Murray
Earl of Dunmore
Succeeded by
George Murray
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