By: Sarah Hill
(The following is an article from our monthly newsletter, and we thought we would post it here as well.)
Hot dogs. Watermelon. Ice cream. Parades. Fireworks. What do you think about as Independence Day approaches? Often I’m distracted by which breakfast we’ll go to, decorating the children’s bikes for parades, organizing friends and family to gather for grilling and fireworks. I’ll give the occasional thought to the names we all know: George Washington, Paul Revere, Benjamin Franklin, even Betsy Ross. But this year I considered that those famous names make up a small percentage of the over 200,000 men who fought in that war to establish The United States of America. Motivated by this thought, I looked to my family tree to see if I had ancestors in New England around 1776.
It turns out that my family tree is full of patriots. One such man was Captain John Barney, who was born in Massachusetts but was living in Vermont at the time of the Revolutionary War. Not only was he a Captain in the Vermont militia, but he also must have been a pretty prominent serviceman because he went by “Captain Barney” for the rest of his life. His son, also named John, fought alongside him in the war.
These men, based on their locations and military units, were involved with capturing Fort Ticonderoga in 1775. I also found it fascinating that one of the leaders of the American troops at that time was the famous Colonel Benedict Arnold, before he shifted his allegiance. Fort Ticonderoga was taken in a morning raid when the British were still asleep without a single shot being fired. While this wasn’t a huge battle, it was a big strategic win side since it effectively severed communications between the British troops in the north and south. Additionally, this fort held cannons that were moved to Boston and ultimately helped drive the British out of that city.
Family history research reveals that John Barney’s brother-in-law not only fought in the War, but initially headed to Canada with a small band of men to try to keep the British from invading. Unfortunately, they were captured and held until he contracted smallpox, at which time they let him go. I can only imagine how relieved they were to turn him out, with how devastating smallpox could be to a garrison. I wonder what his wife must have felt, knowing he had been captured, and then having him return gravely ill. The British could never have foreseen that he would not only survive, but rejoin the war efforts, live a healthy and happy life, father 15 children, and live to a very old age.
While these stories are specific to my family tree, there are thousands of stories with a similar cause at its heart: The American Revolution. As we celebrate Independence Day this month I challenge you, if you haven’t already, to honor an actual name this holiday. Consider the men who fought for and the women who supported the belief in freedom. I hope to honor my ancestors this holiday by teaching my children about our family’s participation in American History. What stories are in your family tree? Who will you honor?
Associated Revolutionary War Databases on WorldVitalRecords and FamilyLink.com
Over 11,000,000 names in Revolutionary War Pension Records- http://worldvitalrecords.com/indexinfo.aspx?ix=ft_revwarpensrec
Over 250,000 names in Revolutionary War Service Records- http://worldvitalrecords.com/indexinfo.aspx?ix=ft_revwarservrec