Elizabeth Lichtenstein Johnston (or Lightenstone) was born on a small farm beside the Little Ogeechee River on May 28, 1764, to Johann Lichtenstein, a scout-boat pilot, and Catherine Delegal, whose father, Philip Delegal, was a wealthy merchant.
Johnston spent her youngest years on the family's Skidaway Island plantation. John Lightenstone met the right people, partly because of his father-in-law Philip Delegal, and partly because of his relation to Gov. James Wright, whom he ferried around in his scout boat.
When her mother died in 1774, Elizabeth was sent to live with a great-aunt at her plantation "Mount Piety." She was sent to a private school where she learned needlework (practical and ornamental), dancing, music, and languages (Latin, French, and Greek).
Johnston saw the beginnings of the American Revolution in Savannah. She remembered armed mobs gathering to exact public oaths from everybody, and wrote of how a 'Tory' British pilot suffered the indignity of being tarred and feathered and "carried all over the town."
Her own father was asked by the Patriots to continue as scout boat captain because of his tremendous knowledge of Georgia's seacoast and navigable rivers, as well as years of military command. His refusal put him on the list of those for possible arrest.
In August 1778 the Patriot Council of Safety ordered the area along the Ogeechee River cleared of loyalist settlements, which they suspected were providing asylum for their husbands during raids from Florida.
In March 1778 Georgia sold off the property of 117 loyalists, including that of John Lightenstone. They were lucky, however, because Philip Delegal, Elizabeth's grandfather, stepped in to protect his family's assets.
Lightenstone's property consisted of the mansion along with all the outbuildings and slave quarters, 381 cultivated acres, 56 head of livestock (cattle, sheep, and hogs), and four horses, along with 150 acres of uncultivated land in Wrightsboro.
Lightenstone personally guided the British army of Scottish, Hessian and American Loyalist regiments up the Savannah River to an unguarded bluff from where they recaptured Savannah with virtually no casualties.
Once Elizabeth reached the age of 15, she married 25-year-old William Martin Johnston. His father, Dr. Lewis Johnston, was president of the Royal Governor's Council as well as commissioner of the Loyalist Bureau of Police.
The Johnstons were eventually forced to evacuate Savannah. Their saga took them many places before they found a new home. Elizabeth's 10 children were born in Savannah, Charleston, St. Augustine, Fla.; Edinburgh, Scotland, Jamaica, and then finally in Nova Scotia, which became their next permanent residence.
Johnston was 72 when she wrote her memoirs, 11 chapters of remarkable observations interspersed with personal vignettes. For her book, she chose the title "Recollections of a Georgia Loyalist," despite the fact she lived in Nova Scotia from 1806 until she died in 1848.