Military Wiki
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 February 25, 1809(1809-02-25)
Ramsgate, Kent, England
Nationality British

John Murray, 4th Earl of Dunmore (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, although he did later spent time as 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 Alexander Stewart, 6th Earl of Galloway, in 1759. Their daughter, Lady Augusta Murray, was a daughter-in-law 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. Theodore Roosevelt, 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 House of Burgesses of the Colonial Assembly for more than a year, which exacerbated an already tense situation.[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 Second Virginia Convention and elected delegates to the Continental Congress. Dunmore issued a proclamation against electing delegates to the Congress, but failed to take serious action.[4] In March, 1775, Patrick Henry's "Give me Liberty, or give me Death!" speech delivered at St. John's Episcopal Church in Richmond helped convince delegates to approve a resolution calling for armed resistance.[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 Governor's Palace to his hunting lodge, Porto Bello in nearby York County.[6] On 6 May, Dunmore issued a proclamation against "a certain Patrick Henry... and a Number of deluded Followers" who had organised "an Independent Company... and put themselves in a Posture of War." [sic][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 Fowey in the York River. Over the next months, Dunmore sent many raiding parties to plunder plantations along the James, York and Potomac rivers, particularly those owned by rebels. The raiders exacerbated tensions, since they not only stole supplies, they also encouraged slaves to rebel. In December, 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 Lord Dunmore's Proclamation, also known as Lord Dunmore's Offer of Emancipation. Dated 7 November 1775, but proclaimed a week later, Dunmore thereby formally offered freedom to slaves who abandoned their Patriot masters to join the British. Dunmore had previously withheld his signature from a bill against the slave trade.[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" after his victory in Princess Anne. However, despite winning the Battle of Kempe's Landing on 15 November 1775, Dunmore's forces 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 County, Virginia, formed in 1772, was named in his honour. However, as the American Revolution got underway, the citizens changed its name to Shenandoah County in 1778.
  • Lake Dunmore in Salisbury, Vermont, was named after him in 1773, since he had claimed ownership of the area while he was Governor of New York.[13]
  • Porto Bello, the hunting lodge of Lord Dunmore, still stands on the grounds of Camp Peary in York County, Virginia. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Access to the base is highly restricted, so the structure is not available for public viewing.
  • The Dunmore Pineapple was built in 1761 before he left Scotland. The building is now owned by the National Trust for Scotland and is leased to the Landmark Trust who use it to provide holiday accommodation. The gardens are open to the public year round.
  • Dunmore Street in Norfolk, Virginia was named for him. It is said that the naming of Dunmore Street was not to honour the ex-governor, but to celebrate the place in Norfolk where he had last set foot.
  • The borough of Dunmore in Lackawanna County, Pennsylvania is also named in his honour.
  • Lord Dunmore Drive in Virginia Beach, VA.


  1. Dunmore Biography.
  2. Roosevelt, Theodore (1889). [1], Chapters VIII "Lord Dunmore's War" and XI "The Battle of the Great Kanawha", passim.
  3. 3.0 3.1 PBS org
  4. "Proclamation".
  5. 5.0 5.1 Red Hill.
  6. Kibler, J. Luther (April 1931). "Numerous Errors in Wilstach's 'Tidewater Virginia' Challenge Criticism". pp. 152–156. Digital object identifier:10.2307/1921010. JSTOR 1921010. 
  7. 7.0 7.1 Wikisource-logo.svg Wilson, James Grant; Fiske, John, eds. (1900) "Dunmore, John Murray" Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography New York: D. Appleton 
  8. Lanning, Michael Lee (2005). African Americans in the Revolutionary War. Citadel Press. pp. 59. ISBN 0-8065-2716-1. 
  9. Raphael, Ray (2002). A People's History of the American Revolution: How Common People Shaped the Fight for Independence. Harper Collins. pp. 324. ISBN 0-06-000440-1. 
  10. Stephanie True Peters (2005). Smallpox in the New World. Marshall Cavendish. p. 43. 
  11. Guy, Louis L. jr. bad link as of 12/16/12 --no independent access to Norfolk Historical Society Courier (Spring 2001)
  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
    Houghton, Mifflin and Co.,). Virginia: a history of the people,. pp. 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
    St Martin's Press, New York). Debrett's Peerage and Baronetage.
     , Url

External links

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

This page uses Creative Commons Licensed content from Wikipedia (view authors).