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Captain Alexander Chesney: A Loyalist During The American Revolution

by Familia Ulster Genealogical Review: No. 04, 1988


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by Eileen Black

"Among the numerous nineteenth century portraits in the Ulster Museum's collection, Charles Grey's painting of Captain Alexander Chesney is noteworthy, not only on account of its artistic merit - which is high - but because Chesney's life as an emigrant who later re-settled in Ireland is a fascinating tale, spiced with risk and adventure during the American colonies' struggle for independence.

The portrait, painted with extreme realism and close attention to every wrinkle, shows the eighty-six year old Chesney seated at a table, a document in his hand and a Bible close by, wearing an expression of shrewdness and enquiry in his eyes, a look of challenge on his face, notwithstanding his advanced years.

Fortunately for posterity, Chesney decided to record in a diary his experiences in America during the Revolution and his subsequent early career as a customs official in Ireland.

Written in 1795 and preserved in the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland, the diary, besides being a useful factual account, gives us an intimate glimpse of its writer as a man of tenacity and courage, who lost much during the Revolution but was able to make a decent life for himself on his return to his native land."

This article looks at Captain Alexander Chesney, an emigrant who re-settled in Ireland following his experiences in the American Revolution.