Reverend John Hale and the Salem witch trials

June 3, 2014



John Hale, commonly referred to as Reverend Hale, was the Puritan pastor of Beverly, Massachusetts, during the Salem witch trials in 1692. He was one of the most prominent and influential clergymen associated with the witch trials, and is most noted as having initially supported the trials, and then changing his mind, publishing a critique of them.

Reverend John Hale was born on June 3, 1636, in Charlestown, Massachusetts. The oldest child of Robert Hale, a pig farmer, he was educated at Harvard College in Cambridge, Massachusetts, graduating in 1657. He began preaching in Bass-river-side, later called Beverly, about 1664, and was ordained as the first minister of the parish church there on September 20, 1667, when the congregation formally separated from Salem, and he remained until his death in 1700.[1] He married his first wife, Rebecca Byly, on December 15, 1664, and she died April 13, 1683, at the age of forty-five.[2] Their only daughter, Rebecca Hale, died at age 15 on May 7, 1681. They had one son, Robert Hale (1668 – 1719).

Hale remarried Sarah Noyes who preceded him in death at age 41 on May 20, 1697. They had a son, James Hale (1685 – 1742). After Sarah’s death, Hale married a third time to Elizabeth Somerby Clark (1646 – 1717).

As a child, Hale had witnessed the execution of Margaret Jones, the first of 15 people to be executed for witchcraft in New England, between 1648–1663.[3] He was present at the examinations and trials of various people who were accused of witchcraft in the Salem witch trials of 1692, and supported the work of the court. However, on November 14, 1692, 17-year-old Mary Herrick accused his second wife, Sarah Noyes Hale, and the ghost of executed Mary Esty of afflicting her, but his wife was never formally charged or arrested.[4] A later commentator on the trials, Charles Upham suggests that this accusation was one that helped turn public opinion to end the prosecutions, and spurred Hale’s willingness to reconsider his support of the trials.[5]

Reverend Hale died on May 15, 1700, in Beverley, Massachusetts. He is buried in the Hale family plot at Abbott Street Burial Ground in Beverly.


The inscription on his headstone reads:

Here lyes ye [the] body of ye

Reverend Mr. John Hale

A pious & faithfull minister

of ye gospel & pastor of ye

First Gather’d Church of

Christ in this towne of

Beverly who rest’d from

his labours on ye 15th day

of May Anno Domini 1700

in ye 64th year of his age


  1. Sibley’s Harvard graduates, Volume 1, pp. 509–512
  2. Sibley’s Harvard graduates, Volume 1, p. 517
  3. Jewett, Clarence F. The memorial history of Boston: including Suffolk County, Massachusetts. 1630–1880. Ticknor and Company, 1881, pp. 133–137
  4. No. 709: Statement of John Hale & Joseph Gerrish v. Mary Herrick, Records of the Salem Witch-Hunt, p. 703, Bernard Rosenthal, Ed. (Cambridge U Press, 2009)
  5. Charles W. Upham, Salem Witchcraft, 1969 (1867), Vol. II, pp. 345–346


Mary Barrett Dyer, one of the Boston Martyrs

June 1, 2014



Mary Barrett Dyer was an English Puritan turned Quaker who was hanged in Boston, Massachusetts Bay Colony, for repeatedly defying a Puritan law banning Quakers from the colony.[2] She is one of the four executed Quakers known as the Boston martyrs.

Tradition has it that Dyer, born circa 1611[1] was the daughter of Lady Arbella Stuart and Sir William Seymour,[3][4][5] but since her maiden name was Barrett, this is doubtful. As a child, she was an occasional guest of the royal court of King Charles I. The ball gown worn for these visits was brought with her to Colonial America and pieces are said to be in the possession of her descendants.[6]


Mary Dyer being led to the gallows in Boston by Howard Pyle, 1905, published in McClure’s 1907. From the collection of the Newport Historical Society.

She married William Dyer, a fishmonger and milliner in the New Exchange, as well as a Puritan, in London on October 27, 1633.[7] She gave birth to a total of eight children, two of whom died in infancy.

In late 1634 or early 1635, the Dyers emigrated to Massachusetts, where William Dyer took the Oath of a Freeman at the General Court in Boston on March 3, 1635 (or 1636). They were admitted to the Boston Church on December 13, 1635.[3]

In 1637, the Dyers became open supporters of Anne Hutchinson,[8] who preached that God “spoke directly to individuals” rather than only through the clergy. Dyer joined Hutchinson and the Rev. John Wheelwright during the “antinomian heresy” period,[9] in which they worked to organize groups of women and men to study the Bible in contravention of the theocratic law of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Mary also followed Hutchinson to the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations.

Dyer gave birth on October 11, 1637, to a deformed stillborn baby, who was buried privately. After Hutchinson was tried and the Hutchinsons and Dyers banished from Massachusetts in January 1637, the authorities learned of the “monstrous birth”, and Governor John Winthrop had the baby’s corpse exhumed in March 1638, before a large crowd. He described it thus:[10]

“it was of ordinary bigness; it had a face, but no head, and the ears stood upon the shoulders and were like an ape’s; it had no forehead, but over the eyes four horns, hard and sharp; two of them were above one inch long, the other two shorter; the eyes standing out, and the mouth also; the nose hooked upward; all over the breast and back full of sharp pricks and scales, like a thornback [i.e., a skate or ray], the navel and all the belly, with the distinction of the sex, were where the back should be, and the back and hips before, where the belly should have been; behind, between the shoulders, it had two mouths, and in each of them a piece of red flesh sticking out; it had arms and legs as other children; but, instead of toes, it had on each foot three claws, like a young fowl, with sharp talons.”

Winthrop sent descriptions to numerous correspondents, and accounts were published in England in 1642 and 1644. The deformed birth was considered evidence of the heresies and errors of antinomianism.

In 1638, the Dyers were banished from the colony, and followed Hutchinson to Rhode Island. On the advice of Roger Williams, the group moved to Portsmouth, where William Dyer signed the Portsmouth Compact in March 1638 along with 18 other men.[11] The Dyers ultimately settled in Newport, where by 1640, William had acquired 87 acres of land. He flourished in Rhode Island, serving as Secretary for the towns of Portsmouth and Newport from 1640 to 1647, General Recorder, and ultimately Attorney General from 1650 to 1653.[12]

Mary was dissatisfied with Rhode Island life, and traveled alone to England in 1650, where she joined the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) after hearing the preaching of its founder, George Fox. She eventually became a Quaker preacher in her own right.

William briefly joined her but returned alone to Rhode Island in 1652; Mary remained in England another five years. Her 1657 return to New England was ill-timed; John Endicott had succeeded Winthrop as Governor in 1649, and was far more intolerant of religious dissension.[13] When Mary’s ship landed in Boston, she was immediately arrested. Her husband secured her release nearly three months later, on account of his prominent social status in Rhode Island, on the condition that William “give his honor” that Mary would never return to Massachusetts.

Dyer continued to travel in New England to preach Quakerism, and was arrested in 1658 and expelled from New Haven, Connecticut for preaching “inner light” and the notion that women and men stood on equal ground in church worship and organization. After her release, she illegally returned to Massachusetts to visit two imprisoned English Quakers, William Robinson and Marmaduke Stephenson. When she traveled to Massachusetts a third time with a group of Quakers to publicly defy the law, she was arrested and sentenced to death. After a short trial, two other Quakers were hanged, but Dyer was spared at the last minute because her son interceded on her behalf against her wishes.[14]

She was forced to return to Rhode Island, and traveled to Long Island, New York to preach, but her conscience led her to return to Massachusetts in April 1660 to “desire the repeal of that wicked [anti-Quaker] law against God’s people and offer up her life there.”[15] Despite her husband’s and family’s pleas, she refused to repent, and was again convicted and sentenced to death on June 1, 1660.

The next day, as she was escorted to the gallows by Captain John Evered of the Boston military company, Evered said to her “…that she had, previously been found guilty of the same charge, and been banished, that she now had one last chance to repent and be banished again.” Dyer refused and was then hanged.[3]


“The Quaker”Mary Dyer led to execution on Boston Common, 1 June 1660, by an unknown 19th century artist. Courtesy of the Brooklyn Museum.

Her execution is described by Edward Burrough in A Declaration of the Sad and Great Persecution and Martyrdom of the People of God, called Quakers, in New-England, for the Worshipping of God (1661).

“ Nay, I came to keep bloodguiltiness from you, desireing you to repeal the unrighteous and unjust law made against the innocent servants of the Lord. Nay, man, I am not now to repent. ”

—Mary Dyer’s last words

After her death a member of the General Court, Humphrey Atherton, is reputed to have said, “She did hang as a flag for others to take example by.”[16] She was buried on Boston Common in an unmarked grave.

A bronze statue of Dyer by Quaker sculptor Sylvia Shaw Judson stands in front of the Massachusetts State House in Boston; a copy stands in front of the Friends Center in downtown Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and another in front of Stout Meetinghouse at Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana.


Photograph of the Anne Hutchinson-Mary Dyer Memorial Herb garden at Founders’ Brook Park, Boyd Lane, Portsmouth, Rhode Island. Photograph taken September 1, 2009, by Michael Steven Ford .

In Portsmouth, Rhode Island, Mary Dyer, the Quaker Martyr, and her friend, Anne Hutchinson, have been remembered at scenic Founders Brook Park with the Anne Hutchinson/Mary Dyer Memorial Herb Garden, an educational botanical garden, set by a scenic waterfall and historical site of the early colony of Portsmouth. The garden was created by artist and herbalist Michael Steven Ford, a descendant of both women.

Notable descendants of Dyer include Rhode Island Governors Elisha Dyer[6] and Elisha Dyer, Jr.,[6] and U.S. Senator Jonathan Chace and University of Georgia archivist Jill Robin Severn.[6]


  1. Her Oxford Dictionary of National Biography article says “of whom all that is known of her parentage is her maiden name”. It is reasonable to surmise that her date of birth was around 1611.
  2. Rogers, Horatio, 2009. Mary Dyer of Rhode Island: The Quaker Martyr That Was Hanged on Boston Common pp. 1–2. BiblioBazaar
  3. “Notable american women: a biographical dictionary”, Edward T. James, Janet Wilson James. Harvard University Press, 1974. ISBN 0-674-62734-2, ISBN 978-0-674-62734-5. p. 536
  4. “Character Counts: The Power of Personal Integrity”, Charles H. Dyer. Moody Publishers, 2010. ISBN 0-8024-3909-8, ISBN 978-0-8024-3909-3. p. 208
  5. “Mary Dyer: biography of a rebel Quaker”, Ruth Talbot Plimpton. Branden Books, 1994. ISBN 0-8283-1964-2, ISBN 978-0-8283-1964-5. p. 12
  6. “Mary Dyer: biography of a rebel Quaker”, Ruth Talbot Plimpton. Branden Books, 1994. ISBN 0-8283-1964-2, ISBN 978-0-8283-1964-5. p. 13, 16
  7. Anderson, Robert Charles; Sanborn, George F. Jr.; Sanborn, Melinde L. (2001). The Great Migration, Immigrants to New England 1634–1635. Vol. II C-F. Boston, p. 379-381: New England Historic Genealogical Society
  8. The Journal of John Winthrop 1630–1649, Dunn, Savage, Yeandle, Harvard University Press, Cambridge 1996, p. 255
  9. ODNB article by Catie Gill, “Dyer , Mary (d. 1660)”, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 [1]
  10. The Journal of John Winthrop 1630–1649 [Cambridge, 1996], p. 254
  11. Bicknell, Thomas Williams (1920). The History of the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations. Vol.3. The American Historical Society. p. 992
  12. Austin, John Osborne (1887). Genealogical Dictionary of Rhode Island. J. Munsell’s Sons. p. 290
  13. Biography of Mary Barrett Dyer
  14. Mayo, Lawrence. John Endecott. Harvard University Press (1936). p. 243
  15. Biography of Mary Barrett Dyer
  16. Quaker Book of Discipline, 1927 printing, p. 32

Jacob Leisler, New York Huguenot pioneer

May 31, 2014



Jacob Leisler was a German born American colonist who helped create the Huguenot settlement of New Rochelle in 1688 and later served as the acting Lieutenant Governor of New York. Beginning in 1689, he led an insurrection dubbed Leisler’s Rebellion in colonial New York, seizing control of the colony until he was captured and executed in New York City for treason for William and Mary.


The statue of Jacob Leisler on North Avenue in New Rochelle, New York

Leisler was born in the village of Bockenheim, now a central part of Frankfurt am Main, Germany, in March 1640, the son of Calvinist French Reformed minister Jacob Victorian Leisler. He went to New Netherland (New York) in 1660 as a soldier in the service of the Dutch West India Company. Leaving the company’s employ soon after his arrival, he engaged in the fur and tobacco trade, and became a comparatively wealthy man.[1] He married Elsie Tymens, the widow of Pieter Cornelisz. van der Veen in 1663.[2]

In 1674, he was one of the administrators of a forced loan imposed by Anthony Colve.[3] While residing in Albany, in 1676 Leisler engaged in a theological dispute with the Rev. Nicholas van Rensselaer, who had been appointed to the Reformed pulpit by James, Duke of York (later King James II).[1] His finances and reputation both suffered from this encounter, as he and Jacob Milbourne were forced to pay all the costs of a lawsuit they had originated in the dispute.[3] While on a voyage to Europe in 1678, he was captured by Moorish pirates, and was compelled to pay a ransom of 2,050 pieces of eight to obtain his freedom.[1]

Leisler had endeared himself to the common people by befriending a family of French Huguenots that had been landed on Manhattan island. They were so destitute that a public tribunal had decided they should be sold into slavery in order to pay their ship charges. Leisler prevented the sale by purchasing the freedom of the widowed mother and son before the sale could be held. Under Thomas Dongan’s administration in 1683 he was appointed one of the judges, or “commissioners,” of the court of admiralty in New York, a justice of the peace for New York City and County, and a militia captain.[1]

The English Revolution of 1688 divided the people of New York into two well-defined factions. In general, the small shopkeepers, small farmers, sailors, poor traders and artisans allied against the patroons (landholders), rich fur-traders, merchants, lawyers and crown officers. The former were led by Leisler, the latter by Peter Schuyler, Nicholas Bayard, Stephen Van Cortlandt, William Nicolls and other representatives of the aristocratic Hudson Valley families. The Leislerians claimed greater loyalty to the Protestant succession.[2]

In 1688, Governor Dongan was succeeded by Lieutenant-Governor Francis Nicholson. In 1689, the military force of the city of New York consisted of a regiment of five companies, with Leisler as one of the company captains. He was popular with the men and was probably the only wealthy resident in the province who sympathized with the Dutch lower classes. At that time, much excitement prevailed among the latter, owing to the attempts of the Jacobite office-holders to retain power in spite of the revolution in England and the accession of William and Mary to the throne.[1] When news of the imprisonment of Governor Sir Edmund Andros in Boston was received, the Leislerians took possession, on May 31, 1689, of Fort James (at the southern end of Manhattan Island), renamed it Fort William, and announced their determination to hold it until the arrival of a governor commissioned by the new sovereigns.[2]

On a report that the adherents of King James II were about to seize the fort and massacre their Dutch fellow-citizens, an armed mob gathered on the evening of 2 June 1689 to overthrow the existing government. The cry of “Leisler” was raised, and the crowd rushed to his house. At first, he refused to lead the movement, but when the demand was reiterated by the men of his regiment, he acceded, and within an hour received the keys of the fort, which had meanwhile been seized. Fortunately for the revolutionaries, the fort contained all the public funds, whose return Lieutenant Governor Nicholson demanded in vain. Four hundred of the new party signed an agreement to hold the fort “for the present Protestant power that reigns in England,” while a committee of safety of ten of the city freeholders assumed the powers of a provisional government, of which they declared Jacob Leisler to be the head, and commissioned him as “captain of the fort.” In this capacity, he at once began to repair that work, and strengthened it with a “battery” of six guns beyond its walls, which was the origin of the public park that is still known as the Battery.[1] Thus began Leisler’s Rebellion.[2]

The aristocrats also favored the deposition of James, but preferred to continue the government established by his authority rather than risk the danger of an interregnum.[2] Nicholson and the council of the province, with the authorities of the city, headed by Mayor Stephen van Cortlandt, attempted by pacific means to prevent the uprising, but without effect. Finally, becoming alarmed for his own safety, Lieutenant-Governor Nicholson sailed for England on the June 24. The mayor and other officials retired to Albany.[1]

Albany held out against Leisler’s authority for a time. In November, Leisler sent Jacob Milbourne to Albany with an armed force to assist in its defense against the Indians. Milbourne was directed to withhold aid unless Leisler’s authority was recognized. This was refused, and Milbourne returned unsuccessful.[1] But after the destruction of Schenectady on February 19, 1690, by the French and Indians, Albany submitted to Leisler’s authority.[4]

Under authority of a letter from the home government addressed to Nicholson, “or in his absence, to such as for the time being takes care for preserving the peace and administering the laws in His Majesty’s province of New York,” Leisler had assumed the title of lieutenant-governor in December 1689. He dissolved the committee of safety, appointed a council, and took charge of the government of the entire province.[2][5]

Leisler summoned the first Inter-colonial Congress in America, which met in New York on May 1, 1690, to plan concerted action against the French and Native Americans in the ongoing conflict.[2] The congress planned an expedition against Canada. It equipped and dispatched against Quebec the first fleet of men-of-war ever sent from the Port of New York. However, the expedition was unsuccessful.[4][5] Colonel Henry Sloughter was commissioned governor of the province by William and Mary on September 3, 1689, but he did not reach New York until March 19, 1691.[2]

Acting on behalf of a group of Huguenots in New York, Leisler brokered the purchase of the land upon which they would settle. In 1689 John Pell, Lord of Pelham Manor, officially deeded 6,100 acres (25 km²) to Leisler for the establishment of a Huguenot community. In addition to the purchase money, Leisler and his heirs and assigns were to yield and pay unto John Pell and his heirs and assigns (Lords of the Pelham Manor) one “Fat Calf” yearly as acknowledgment of their feudal obligation to the Manor.[6] This site of this settlement is now occupied by the city of New Rochelle, New York.[1]

On January 28, 1691, English Major Richard Ingoldesby, who had been commissioned lieutenant governor of the province, and two companies of soldiers landed and demanded possession of the fort. Leisler refused to surrender the fort without an order from the king or the governor, and after some controversy an attack was made on 17 March in which two soldiers were killed and several wounded.[2]

On Governor Sloughter’s arrival in New York the following March, he immediately demanded Leisler’s surrender. Leisler likewise refused to surrender the fort until he was convinced of Sloughter’s identity and the latter had sworn in his council. As soon as the latter event occurred, he wrote the governor a letter resigning his command. Sloughter replied by arresting him and nine of his friends. The latter were subsequently released after trial, but Leisler was imprisoned, charged with treason and murder, and shortly afterward tried and condemned to death. His son-in-law and secretary, Milbourne, was also condemned on the same charges. These trials were manifestly unjust; the judges were the personal and political enemies of the prisoners, and so gross were the acts of some of the parties that Sloughter hesitated at signing the death-warrants, and it is said that he finally did so when under the influence of wine.[1]


Howard Pyle’s depiction of Governor Sloughter signing Leisler’s death warrant.

On the 16 May 1691 Leisler and Milbourne were executed.[2] By the English law of treason their estates were forfeited to the crown, but the committee of the Privy Council to whom the matter was referred reported that, although the trial was in conformity to the forms of law, they nevertheless recommended the restoration of the estates to their heirs. In 1695, by parliamentary act through the efforts of Leisler’s son, Leisler’s name was cleared and his estate restored to his heirs. Three years later the Earl of Bellomont, who had been one of the most influential supporters of the efforts of Leisler’s son, was appointed governor of New York, and through his influence the assembly voted an indemnity to Leisler’s heirs. The governor authorized the honorable reburial of Leisler and his son-in-law at the Dutch church.[1]


  1. Wilson, James Grant; Fiske, John, eds. (1892). “Leisler, Jacob”. Appletons’ Cyclopædia of American Biography. New York: D. Appleton
  2. Chisholm 1911, p. 402
  3. “Leisler, Jacob”. The American Cyclopædia. 1879
  4. “Leisler, Jacob”. New International Encyclopedia. 1905
  5. “Leisler, Jacob”. Encyclopedia Americana. 1920
  6. New York – A Guide to The Empire State, Work Projects Administration of New York, p. 245


  • Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). “Leisler, Jacob”. Encyclopædia Britannica 16 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 402. which in turn cites:
  • John Romeyn Brodhead, History of the State of New York (vol. 2, New York, 1871)
  • E. B. O’Callaghan, Documentary History of the State of New York (vol. 2, Albany, 1850) (for the documents connected with the controversy)


Today is the traditional observance of Decoration Day, May 30th

May 30, 2014



Three years after the Civil War ended, on May 5, 1868, the head of an organization of Union veterans — the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) — established Decoration Day as a time for the nation to decorate the graves of the war dead with flowers. Maj. Gen. John A. Logan declared that Decoration Day should be observed on May 30. It is believed that date was chosen because flowers would be in bloom all over the country.

The first large observance was held that year at Arlington National Cemetery, across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C.


The ceremonies centered around the mourning-draped veranda of the Arlington mansion, once the home of Gen. Robert E. Lee. Various Washington officials, including Gen. and Mrs. Ulysses S. Grant, presided over the ceremonies. After speeches, children from the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Orphan Home and members of the GAR made their way through the cemetery, strewing flowers on both Union and Confederate graves, reciting prayers and singing hymns.

Local Observances Claim To Be First Local springtime tributes to the Civil War dead already had been held in various places. One of the first occurred in Columbus, Miss., April 25, 1866, when a group of women visited a cemetery to decorate the graves of Confederate soldiers who had fallen in battle at Shiloh. Nearby were the graves of Union soldiers, neglected because they were the enemy. Disturbed at the sight of the bare graves, the women placed some of their flowers on those graves, as well.

Today, cities in the North and the South claim to be the birthplace of Memorial Day in 1866. Both Macon and Columbus, Ga., claim the title, as well as Richmond, Va. The village of Boalsburg, Pa., claims it began there two years earlier. A stone in a Carbondale, Ill., cemetery carries the statement that the first Decoration Day ceremony took place there on April 29, 1866. Carbondale was the wartime home of Gen. Logan. Approximately 25 places have been named in connection with the origin of Memorial Day, many of them in the South where most of the war dead were buried.

Official Birthplace Declared In 1966, Congress and President Lyndon Johnson declared Waterloo, N.Y., the “birthplace” of Memorial Day. There, a ceremony on May 5, 1866, honored local veterans who had fought in the Civil War. Businesses closed and residents flew flags at half-staff. Supporters of Waterloo’s claim say earlier observances in other places were either informal, not community-wide or one-time events.

By the end of the 19th century, Memorial Day ceremonies were being held on May 30 throughout the nation. State legislatures passed proclamations designating the day, and the Army and Navy adopted regulations for proper observance at their facilities.


It was not until after World War I, however, that the day was expanded to honor those who have died in all American wars. In 1971, Memorial Day was declared a national holiday by an act of Congress, though it is still often called Decoration Day. It was then also placed on the last Monday in May, as were some other federal holidays.

Some States Have Confederate Observances Many Southern states also have their own days for honoring the Confederate dead. Mississippi celebrates Confederate Memorial Day on the last Monday of April, Alabama on the fourth Monday of April, and Georgia on April 26. North and South Carolina observe it on May 10, Louisiana on June 3 and Tennessee calls that date Confederate Decoration Day. Texas celebrates Confederate Heroes Day January 19 and Virginia calls the last Monday in May Confederate Memorial Day.

Gen. Logan’s order for his posts to decorate graves in 1868 “with the choicest flowers of springtime” urged: “We should guard their graves with sacred vigilance. … Let pleasant paths invite the coming and going of reverent visitors and fond mourners. Let no neglect, no ravages of time, testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten as a people the cost of a free and undivided republic.”


The crowd attending the first Memorial Day ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery was approximately the same size as those that attend today’s observance, about 5,000 people. Then, as now, small American flags were placed on each grave — a tradition followed at many national cemeteries today. In recent years, the custom has grown in many families to decorate the graves of all departed loved ones.

The origins of special services to honor those who die in war can be found in antiquity. The Athenian leader Pericles offered a tribute to the fallen heroes of the Peloponnesian War over 24 centuries ago that could be applied today to the 1.1 million Americans who have died in the nation’s wars:

“Not only are they commemorated by columns and inscriptions, but there dwells also an unwritten memorial of them, graven not on stone but in the hearts of men.”

To ensure the sacrifices of America ’s fallen heroes are never forgotten, in December 2000, the U.S. Congress passed and the president signed into law “The National Moment of Remembrance Act,” P.L. 106-579, creating the White House Commission on the National Moment of Remembrance. The commission’s charter is to “encourage the people of the United States to give something back to their country, which provides them so much freedom and opportunity” by encouraging and coordinating commemorations in the United States of Memorial Day and the National Moment of Remembrance.

The National Moment of Remembrance encourages all Americans to pause wherever they are at 3 p.m. local time on Memorial Day for a minute of silence to remember and honor those who have died in service to the nation. As Moment of Remembrance founder Carmella LaSpada states: “It’s a way we can all help put the memorial back in Memorial Day.”


Courtesy of the U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs,

Colonel William Barton

May 26, 2014



William Barton was an officer in the Continental Army during the War of Independence who retired with the rank of colonel. He later served as adjutant general of the Rhode Island militia.

Barton was born in Warren, Rhode Island on May 26, 1748. He worked as a hatter in Providence, Rhode Island. In 1771, he married Rhoda Carver. In 1775, he enlisted in the Continental Army as a corporal. He fought in the Battle of Bunker Hill. On August 2, 1775 he was appointed the adjutant of Richmond’s Rhode Island Regiment. He was promoted to captain on November 1, 1775.


Sketch from “Washington and his masonic compeers” by Sidney Haydens (Masonic publishing and manufacturing co., 1866)

In 1777, as a major in the Rhode Island state troops, he planned and led a raid on British headquarters, capturing Major General Richard Prescott. On the night of 10 July, with 38 men in four whaleboats, Barton crossed Narragansett Bay, passed unobserved by three British frigates, and, landing about half way between Newport and Bristol Ferry, went to the farm house where Prescott had his headquarters. The guards were surprised, the door of Prescott’s room was broken in, and the general was hurried away half dressed and taken to Warwick Point, and afterward to Providence. For this exploit, the Continental Congress gave Barton a sword and passed a resolution honoring his service.

Barton was promoted to lieutenant colonel on November 10, 1777 and was made colonel of Stanton’s regiment of the Rhode Island Militia with “rank and pay of colonel in the Continental Army” upon the resignation of Colonel Joseph Stanton, Jr.. He served until the end of the war.[1]

In 1783 Barton became an original member of the Rhode Island Society of the Cincinnati.

When Rhode Island ratified the Constitution of the United States in 1790, Barton was sent to New York to notify George Washington.[2]

Later in life, Barton became embroiled in a suit in Barton, Vermont, which he helped to found. He refused to pay a fine and as a result, at the age of sixty-four, he was confined under house arrest. At the age of seventy-seven, he was released at the initiative of the visiting Marquis de Lafayette, who agreed to pay the balance of his fine.

Barton died on October 22, with the year of death being given variously as 1831 or 1833. He is buried in the North Burial Ground in Providence, Rhode Island. Fort Barton in Rhode Island was named after William Barton.


  1. Heitman’s Register of Continental Army Officers. pg. 77
  2. “Journal of the U.S. Senate, Tuesday, June 1, 1790″. Library of Congress
  • Boatner, Mark Mayo, III. Encyclopedia of the American Revolution. Revised ed. New York: McKay, 1974. ISBN 0-8117-0578-1
  • Falkner, Leonard. “Captor of the Barefoot General”. American Heritage Magazine 11:5 (August 1960)
  • Heitman, Francis B. Historical Register of Officers of the Continental Army during the War of the Revolution. New, enlarged, and revised edition. Washington, D.C.: Rare Book Shop Publishing Company, 1914. Available on Google Book Search, page 90 shows Barton’s service record and dates of promotions.
  • This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Wilson, James Grant; Fiske, John, eds. (1900). “Barton, William”. Appletons’ Cyclopædia of American Biography. New York: D. Appleton

Adamson Tannehill, American Revolution and War of 1812

May 23, 2014



Adamson Tannehill, a native of Maryland, is representative of the United States’ founding generation whose members were active participants in the early military and political events of their country’s establishment. He was among the first volunteers to join the newly established Continental Army during the American Revolution. He served for five and a half years, ultimately achieving the rank of captain and commander of the army’s longest serving rifle unit. After the war, Tannehill and members of his family settled in Pittsburgh, his last military post of the conflict. He was an early leading citizen of Pittsburgh and a distinguished Pennsylvania politician who held several local and state appointed and elected offices, including one term as a U.S. Congressman; served on the founding boards of civic, state, and national organizations; and had prominent military roles in the state’s post-Revolutionary War years.

Adamson Tannehill was born in Frederick County, Maryland, on May 23, 1750, probably close to Frederick Town (now Frederick). He was the oldest of nine children born to John Tannehill, owner of a tobacco plantation, and Rachel Adamson.[1] His maternal grandfather took a special interest in the grandchild who bore his name, and he provided funding to secure a fine education for Adamson.[2] Little else is known of Adamson’s earliest years. No known portraits of Tannehill exist; however, family records indicate that as an adult he “was six feet in height, well proportioned and of commanding appearance.”[3] At the age of 25, he enlisted in one of the first American military units to form when the war with Great Britain started in the spring of 1775.

Tannehill served in the Continental Army during the American Revolution, initially as the first sergeant in Capt. Thomas Price’s Independent Rifle Company,[4] one of the original ten independent companies of riflemen from the frontier regions of Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia authorized by the Continental Congress on June 14, 1775.[5] He received his commission dated January 1, 1776, as a third lieutenant[6] while serving at the Siege of Boston. In June 1776 Tannehill and his company were incorporated into the newly organized Maryland and Virginia Rifle Regiment, at which time he advanced to second lieutenant.[7] Later that year a large portion of his regiment was captured or killed at the Battle of Fort Washington on northern Manhattan Island. However, those members of the unit not taken in the battle, including Tannehill, continued to serve actively with Washington’s Main Army, participating in the Battles of Trenton and Princeton, and in the spring of 1777 were administratively attached to the 11th Virginia Regiment.[8][9] Tannehill was promoted to first lieutenant on May 18, 1777,[10] and the following month he was attached to the newly organized Provisional Rifle Corps commanded by Col. Daniel Morgan,[11] which played a major role in the Battles of Saratoga and a peripheral role in the Battle of Monmouth. He returned to the Maryland and Virginia Rifle Regiment (his permanent unit) in mid-1778 when Lt. Col. Moses Rawlings, the regiment’s commander who had been exchanged from British captivity earlier that year, was marshaling the remnants of his unit and recruiting new members while stationed at Fort Frederick, Maryland.[12][13] In early 1779 Tannehill and the regiment were assigned to Fort Pitt of present-day western Pennsylvania where they supplemented other Continental forces engaged in the defense of frontier settlements from Indian raids.[14] Tannehill advanced to the rank of captain on July 29, 1779,[15] and he commanded the regiment in late 1780.[16] He was discharged from service on January 1, 1781, when his unit was disbanded.[17]

After the war Tannehill settled in Pittsburgh, as did a number of other Revolutionary War officers, including his brother Lt. Josiah Tannehill.[18] He initially engaged in agricultural pursuits and was a tavern owner[19][20] and vintner,[21] president of the Pittsburgh Fire Co.,[22] and a trustee of the first Presbyterian church in Pittsburgh.[23][24] He later served as a local Justice of the Peace;[22] lieutenant colonel of Westmoreland Co. militia starting in 1788;[25] an original member of the Board of Directors of the Pittsburgh branch of the Bank of Pennsylvania, the first bank in Pittsburgh, starting in 1804;[26] one of five turnpike commissioners for the state starting in 1811;[27] major general of Pennsylvania Volunteers during the War of 1812;[28][29] and president of the Pittsburgh branch of the Bank of the United States starting in 1817.[30]

The high point of Tannehill’s active political career was his election as a Republican to the Thirteenth U.S. Congress for the period 1813–1815. He was an unsuccessful candidate for reelection in 1814 to the Fourteenth Congress.

In October 1800, Tannehill was temporarily removed from his office of Justice of the Peace after being convicted of extortion related to an event that occurred five years before in which he was alleged to have charged two shillings more than was allowed by law for two probates.[22] Although he was quickly reinstated to office in January 1801 by Governor Thomas McKean, the former Chief Justice of Pennsylvania, and subsequently held several prominent public offices, Tannehill believed the charges against him, likely born out of the contentious political conditions of the time, had marred his reputation. He vehemently disclaimed any guilt for the rest of his life.[31]

Tannehill died near Pittsburgh on December 23, 1820, at the age of 70. He was survived by his wife, Agness Morgan Tannehill,[32][33] and his ward, Sydney Tannehill Mountain.[34] Tannehill was interred in the churchyard of the First Presbyterian Church and reinterred in Allegheny Cemetery in Pittsburgh in 1849.



  1. Coe, pp. 1–2
  2. Coe, p. 3
  3. Coe, p. 6
  4. Maryland Historical Society (1927)
  5. Ford, v. 2, pp. 89–90
  6. Adamson Tannehill Papers, 1776 commission
  7. Ford, v. 5, p. 540
  8. Hentz (2006), pp. 135–137
  9. Hentz (2007), pp. 17–21
  10. Daniel Morgan General Orders (May 18, 1777)
  11. Long’s Provisional Rifle Co. pay roll (July 1777)
  12. Hentz (2006), p. 138
  13. Hentz (2007), pp. 29–30
  14. Ford, v. 13, p. 104
  15. Ford, v. 14, p. 896
  16. Return of the Maryland Corps (December 25, 1780)
  17. Maryland Historical Society (1900), v. 18, p. 365
  18. Foster, p. 16
  19. Boucher, v. 1, p. 376
  20. Dahlinger (1919), p. 18
  21. Killikelly, p. 111
  22. Dahlinger (1916), p. 130
  23. Killikelly, p. 362
  24. Harper, v. 2, p. 754
  25. Adamson Tannehill papers, 1788 commission
  26. Thurston, p. 251
  27. Walkinshaw, v. 3, p. 65
  28. Walkinshaw, v. 3, p. 356
  29. Harper, v. 1, pp. 355–356
  30. Killikelly, p. 263
  31. Chalfant, pp. 86–88
  32. Coe, p. 4
  33. Chalfant, p. 87
  34. Chalfant, p. 88


  • Adamson Tannehill Papers: Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania, MFF 2176, 10 p. (Tannehill’s commission as third lieutenant in Capt. Otho Holland Williams’ Independent Rifle Company, dated January 1, 1776, from the Continental Congress; Tannehill’s commission as lieutenant colonel of the fourth battalion, Westmoreland County militia, dated July 10, 1788, from the Supreme Executive Council of Pennsylvania)
  • Boucher, John N. (1908). A century and a half of Pittsburgh and her people. New York: The Lewis Publishing Co
  • Chalfant, Ella (1955). A goodly heritage: earliest wills on an American frontier. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press
  • Coe, Letitia Tannehill (1903). History of John and Rachel Tannehill and their descendants [unpublished manuscript]. Fort Wayne: Allen County Public Library, call number 929.2 T155F, 17 pp.
  • Dahlinger, Charles W. (1916). Pittsburgh: a sketch of its early social life. New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons
  • Dahlinger, Charles W. (1919). A place of great historic interest: Pittsburgh’s first burying-ground. Pittsburgh: (no publisher given)
  • Daniel Morgan General Orders (May 18, 1777): Virginia Historical Society, Orderly book of Major William Heth, call number Mss12:1777 May 15:1
  • Ford, Worthington C., ed. (1905, 1906, 1909). Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress, v. 2, pp. 89-90; v. 5, p. 540; v. 13, p. 104; v. 14, p. 896
  • Foster, Morrison (1932). My brother Stephen. Indianapolis: private printing
  • Harper, Frank C. (1931). Pittsburgh of today, its resources and people. New York: The American Historical Society, Inc., v. 1, pp. 355-356, v. 2, p. 754
  • Hentz, Tucker F. (2006). “Unit history of the Maryland and Virginia Rifle Regiment (1776-1781): Insights from the service record of Capt. Adamson Tannehill.” Military Collector & Historian 58(3), 129-144. ISSN 0026-3966.
  • Hentz, Tucker F. (2007). Unit history of the Maryland and Virginia Rifle Regiment (1776-1781): Insights from the service record of Capt. Adamson Tannehill. Richmond: Virginia Historical Society, Library General Collection, call number E259 .H52 2007, 46 p. (Expanded archive manuscript from which Hentz [2006] is derived.)
  • Killikelly, Sarah H. (1906). The history of Pittsburgh: its rise and progress. Pittsburgh: B. C. & Gordon Montgomery Co., pp. 111, 263, 362
  • Maryland Historical Society (1900). Archives of Maryland: muster rolls and other records of service of Maryland troops in the American Revolution (1775–1783). Baltimore: The Lord Baltimore Press (v. 18, p. 365: “Officers in the Maryland part of the Rifle Regiment Supernumerary Jany., 1st, 1781”)
  • Maryland Historical Society (1927). “A muster roll of Captain Thomas Price’s Company of Rifle-Men in the service of the United Colonies.” Maryland Historical Magazine 22, 275-283
  • Long’s Provisional Rifle Co. pay roll (July 1777): U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, Record Group 93, microcopy M246, roll 133, frames 414-415 (“Pay Roll of Capt. Gabl. Long’s Detach’d Comy. of Rifle men Commdd. by Colo. Danl. Morgan for the month of July 1777”)
  • Return of the Maryland Corps (December 25, 1780): Maryland State Archives, Maryland State Papers (Series A), Box 21, Item 119A, MSA No. S 1004-27 (“A Return of the Commissioned Officers of the Maryland Corps (Late Rawlings’s) Specifying their Names, Rank, Claims to Promotion &c.”)
  • Thurston, George. H. (1888). Allegheny County’s hundred years. Pittsburgh: A. A. Anderson & Son
  • Walkinshaw, Lewis C. (1939). Annals of southwestern Pennsylvania. New York: Lewis Historical Publishing Co., pp. 65, 356

Battle of Eutaw Springs, South Carolina

May 22, 2014



The Battle of Eutaw Springs was a battle of the American Revolution, and was the last major engagement of the war in the Carolinas.

In early 1781 Major General Nathanael Greene of the Continental Army began a campaign to end British control over the South Carolina backcountry. His first major objective was the capture of the British controlled village of Ninety Six. On May 22, 1781, Greene laid siege to the fortified village. After nearly a month Greene became aware that reinforcements under Lord Rawdon were approaching from Charleston. Forces under Greene’s command assaulted Ninety-Six on June 18, but were repelled. To avoid facing the force commanded by Rawdon, Greene retreated toward Charlotte, North Carolina. Rawdon pursued Greene for several days, but was compelled to abandon the pursuit because his men were exhausted by days of forced marching and he lacked sufficient supplies to continue. Despite the fact Ninety Six was the only remaining inland British outpost after the fall of Augusta, Georgia, Rawdon decided to burn and abandon it, and withdrew the garrison to Charleston. In poor health, Rawdon sailed for England in late August, leaving Charleston under the command of Colonel Alexander Stewart.


Battle of Eutaw Springs Commanded by Nathanael Greene, 1781

After Rawdon’s departure, Greene turned his army around and headed toward Charleston. His men were also exhausted by many days of marching and combat, so he set up camp above the Santee River to allow his main force to rest, while several detachments continued to harass the British as they withdrew toward Charleston. On August 22, his force prepared to face the remaining British forces garrisoned in Charleston.

Colonel Stewart led a force of 2,000 men from Charleston’s British garrison in search of Greene’s army. The force camped at Eutaw Springs, about 6 miles east of present-day Eutawville, then in Charleston District, but both now in Orangeburg County.

At 4:00 AM on September 8, 1781, Greene’s army began marching from Burdall’s Plantation in the direction of Eutaw Springs, which was 7 miles distant. In the van were Lieutenant Colonel Henry Lee’s Legion plus 73 infantry and 72 cavalry of South Carolina State troops under Lieutenant Colonel John Henderson and Captain Wade Hampton, respectively. Next in the marching column came 40 cavalry and 200 infantry under Brigadier General Francis Marion, followed by 150 North Carolina militia under Colonel Francis Marquis de Malmedy and 307 South Carolina militia led by Colonel Andrew Pickens. Continental Army troops formed the center and rear of Greene’s column. These were led by three green North Carolina battalions under Brigadier General Jethro Sumner. Major John Armstrong led a mounted contingent while Lieutenant Colonel John Baptista Ashe and Major Reading Blount directed the foot soldiers.[5] Ashe and Blount served with the 1st North Carolina Regiment,[6] while Armstrong belonged to the 4th North Carolina Regiment.[7]

Two Virginia battalions under Lieutenant Colonel Richard Campbell and Major Smith Snead were trailed by Colonel Otho Holland Williams’ two Maryland battalions under Lieutenant Colonel John Eager Howard and Major Henry Hardman. Lieutenant Colonel William Washington’s mounted men and Captain Robert Kirkwood’s Delaware infantry companies formed the tail of the column. Greene’s force had two 3-pound grasshopper guns under Captain-Lieutenant William Gaines and two 6-pound cannons directed by Captain William Brown. All told, Greene had 1,256 Continental infantry and 300 cavalry, the horsemen mostly divided between Lee and Washington. Lee’s cavalry were led by Major Joseph Egleston and his infantry by Captain Rudolph. Greene’s army numbered 2,400 men of whom 200 were left behind to guard the baggage train.[5]


Colonel William Washington is unhorsed during bitter fighting at the Battle of Eutaw Springs.

Stewart had between 1,800 and 2,000 troops on hand. His British regulars were the 3rd Foot, 63rd Foot, 64th Foot, and John Marjoribanks’ 300-man flank battalion. The last-named unit was made up of the converged flank companies of the 3rd, 19th, and 30th Foot. The regulars were supported by two American loyalist contingents. These units were John Harris Cruger’s regular battalion of DeLancey’s Brigade and John Coffin’s South Carolina Tories, which consisted of about 150 regular infantry and 50 militia cavalry. Stewart’s artillery consisted of two 6-pound, one 4-pound, and one 3-pound cannons plus a swivel gun.[5]

In order to make up for a shortage of bread in his supplies, Stewart had been sending out foraging parties each morning to dig up yams, unarmed except for a small guard detail. At around 8 a.m. on September 8, Captain John Coffin and a detachment of his South Carolina Loyalist cavalry were reconnoitering ahead of Stewart’s main force when he encountered a mounted American scouting party under Major John Armstrong. Coffin pursued Armstrong, who led him into an ambush. Attacked by Henry Lee’s 2nd Partisan Corps, Coffin escaped but left 4 or 5 of his men killed and 40 more captured.[5] The Americans then came across Stewart’s foragers and captured about 400 of them.[8]

Greene’s force, with around 2,200 men, now approached Stewart’s camp while Stewart, warned by Coffin, deployed his force.[9] When the Americans realized they were approaching the British force, they formed two lines, with the militia in the front line and the North Carolina, Maryland and Virginia regulars in the second line. The British charged the American position and broke the center of the American forces’ first line. The North Carolina Continentals in the second line reinforced the first, and were temporarily successful until they too were broken by a British charge. The Virginia and Maryland regulars then came to the aid of their comrades. This attack stopped the British advance and the British began to retreat in disorder.

The Americans pursued the retreating British soldiers into the British camp, where a majority of the Americans stopped to plunder the British supplies. The tables now turned again. At the north-east corner of the camp was a strong brick house defended by a British battalion commanded by Major John Majorbanks. This battalion had driven off an earlier American cavalry attack before falling back to the house. An American assault on the house failed, and Majorbanks was able to restore order to the rest of the British force. The British forces launched a counterattack and drove the American forces from the British camp. One American battalion was able to delay the British advance sufficiently to allow the American army to retreat in good order.


The Battle of Eutaw Springs on September 8, 1781

The British casualty return stated the loss as 85 killed, 351 wounded and 257 missing.[3] However, Greene reported that he had captured 500 prisoners, including 70 wounded.[3] When Stewart moved camp on September 9, he left 54 of his wounded behind with a surgeon to attend them.[4] These men were included in Stewart’s casualty report under the category “wounded” but the remaining 16 wounded captured by Greene would have been returned as “missing.” The disparity between Stewart’s report of 257 missing and Greene’s figure of 500 prisoners may be due to Stewart regarding the capture of his foraging party as a separate engagement and not including their losses in his casualty return for the battle.[3] Including the loss of the foraging party, and counting the 54 wounded men whom Stewart decided to leave behind on September 9 in the “wounded prisoners” category instead of as “wounded”, this gives total British casualties of 85 killed, 297 wounded, 70 wounded prisoners and 430 other prisoners.

There were three successive versions of the American casualty return. The first, compiled soon after the battle, gave 251 killed, 367 wounded and 74 missing.[10] The second, compiled somewhat later and published by the Continental Congress, reduced the losses to 138 killed, 375 wounded and 41 missing.[11] The third and final revision, compiled on September 25, 1781, arrived at figures of 119 killed, 382 wounded and 78 missing.[1] The British took 60 prisoners, including the wounded Colonel William Washington, and two artillery guns.[2]

The claim of several historians that the British won the battle is challenged by Christine Swager in her book The Valiant Died: The Battle of Eutaw Springs September 8, 1781. The book argues that, first, at the end of the battle, the British held the majority, but not the entirety, of the field where the main battle took place. Greene held part of the field where the initial skirmish spilled out of the woods into the clearings. Swager also argues that Greene meant to re-engage the enemy on the following day, but was prevented from doing so because the excessively wet weather conditions negated much of his firepower.

Both armies did not leave the vicinity for at least a full day following the battle. When Greene withdrew, he left a strong picket to oppose a possible British advance, while Stewart withdrew the remnants of his force towards Charleston.[12] His rear was apparently under constant fire at least until meeting with reinforcements near Moncks Corner.


Portrait of the Battle of Eutaw Springs. No artist information available.

Despite winning a tactical victory, the British lost strategically. Their inability to stop Greene’s continuing operations forced them to abandon most of their conquests in the South, leaving them in control of a small number of isolated enclaves at Wilmington, Charleston, and Savannah. The British attempt to pacify the South with Loyalist support had failed even before Cornwallis surrendered at Yorktown.

Lord Edward Fitzgerald, later to become famous as a United Irish rebel, served as a British officer at the battle and was badly wounded.

The State Song of South Carolina contains the line “Point to Eutaw’s Battle Bed” in reference to this battle.


  1. Rankin, p. 360
  2. Adams, p. 103
  3. Boatner, p. 355
  4. Lumpkin, p. 305
  5. Boatner (1994), 351-356
  6. Heitman (1914), 77 & 108
  7. Heitman (1914), 75. Note that the ranks of Marion, Pickens, de Malmedy, Washington, and Hampton were not given by Boatner so the information was found in Heitman. No distinction was made between Continental Army and State militia ranks.
  8. Ward, pp. 828 and 921
  9. Boatner, p. 352
  10. Lumpkin, pp. 304-305
  11. Virtual War Museum: Battle of Eutaw Springs, September 8, 1781
  12. Pancake, p. 221


  • Adams, William Henry Davenport (1974). Famous Regiments of the British Army: their Origin and Services. Wakefield: E P Publishing. ISBN 0715810294
  • Boatner, Mark Mayo (1966). Cassell’s Biographical Dictionary of the American War of Independence, 1763–1783. London: Cassell & Company. ISBN 0-304-29296-6
  • Boatner, Mark M. III (1994). Encyclopedia of the American Revolution. Mechanicsburg, Pa.: Stackpole Books. ISBN 0-8117-0578-1
  • Heitman, Francis Bernard (1914). Historical Register of Officers of the Continental Army during the War of the Revolution. Washington, D.C.: Rare Book Shop Publishing Company.
  • Lumpkin, Henry (1981). From Yorktown to Savannah: The American Revolution in the South. New York: Paragon House Publishers. ISBN 0-913729-48-5
  • Pancake, John (1985). This Destructive War. University of Alabama Press. ISBN 0817301917
  • Rankin, Hugh F. (1971). The North Carolina Continentals. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press. ISBN 0-8078-1154-8
  • Swager, Christine R. The Valiant Died: The Battle of Eutaw Springs September 8, 1781
  • Battle of Eutaw Springs at
  • Ward, Christopher (1952). The War of the Revolution. New York: The Macmillan Company.\


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