Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Paying Respects To Revolutionary Roots

It isn’t unusual for Americans today to have ancestors who lived here during the Revolutionary War.  Of the 60% who do according to, 6.3 million or 2% have ancestors who fought with the revolutionaries in that War of Independence.

I paid respects to great-grandparents (3-5) on each side of my family who fought in that war during several segments of my nearly 8,000 miles of road trips this summer.  They were named McCrory, Shumway, Messersmith, Shelton and Bowman.

They were Scots-Irish, Welsh, French, German, Swiss and English.  Some were already third and fourth generation Americans when Independence was declared from Great Britain, but one took up a rifle for the cause just months after arriving in the colonies.

They represented Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Virginia and North Carolina, and coincidentally, three, two less than an hour away, making their homes not far from Durham NC where I have made mine for the last quarter century after having grown up and living until then in the Rocky Mountains and along the Pacific Mountains of South-central Alaska.Guard Huts for Washington's Guarde At Valley Forge

Two were militia and three served as regulars in line regiments of the Continental Army.

Two fought mostly in the northern theater, two mostly in the southern and one in the west, but they also fought side by side in some battles with at least three encamped during the turning point at Valley Forge that infamous winter of 1777 with General Washington.

One of the later even served a stint in the Commander-In-Chief’s special guard after General Von Steuben broadened rotations to include soldiers from units outside Virginia. (huts shown in this blog)

Two others who were too old to serve in combat headed local committees of safety in Massachusetts and Virginia that helped form units in which their sons served, provided supplies and adjudicated proceedings for neighbors who remained loyalists during the war.

Two served under or with other family members including fathers, brothers and uncles.  They fought with units such as the 4th Massachusetts, the 5th Pennsylvania, the 9th North Carolina and various units of Virginia Militia.

Two served much of the war, other enlisted for shorter periods or when called, and one was with the tough “over the mountain men” who marched through the Blue Ridge to fight when needed.

After research has revealed this information along with documents, I am now even more reverent at the mention of conflicts such as Bunker Hill, Dorchester Heights, Saratoga, Long Island, New York, Princeton, Rhode Island, Brandywine, Germantown, Monmouth, Trenton, Stono Ferry, Cowpens, King’s Mountain and Guilford Courthouse.

They all survived the war, one after being a prisoner of war.  They were only privates and sergeants and ensigns, although the uncle under which one served became a general.  After the war, they returned to their lives as farmers.

But they all witnessed and participated in the creation of a nation.  Some of them or their descendants moved west or south and west, often on lands granted for their service, and to settle new territories such as Tennessee, Ohio, Illinois, Missouri and Alabama and eventually, Utah, Idaho, Arizona and California.

Eventually descendants of all five ended up at some point in time living in or along the western slopes of the Rocky Mountains with unions to each other through my parents and heritage passed down to me and my two sisters, to my daughter and her cousins and my two grandsons and their cousins, with whom I will leave more detail.

I had heard hints about one or two of these ancestors from grandparents and relatives who did this kind of research the old fashioned way.  Fortunately, the advent of the Internet and digitalization of military records, pension records, records curated for membership applications, minutes of town hall meetings, unit rosters, census records, family bibles etc. have made it possible to dig much deeper.

I am proud of what these ancestors did, but humbled is probably a better description of how I feel.  Hopefully, this gives me the courage and patience to fight through the obfuscation created by bitter partisanship, mind-numbing ideologues, anonymously-fueled ad onslaughts, repetitive sound bits and tons of misinformation.

These ancestors also inspire me to remain a political Independent, stay moderate and seek pragmatic solutions.

And to that end the least I can do pay my respects for their service is to vote my conscience.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Very interesting!....and well said. My ggg grandfather was Stephen Shelton born in 1777 in Casswell, N.C. and served in the War of 1812. His father was Robert Shelton of Virginia who I am trying to find Revolutionary War records for...I suspect that he may have been killed, and his son Stephen was raised by an uncle.