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Dauphin County Pennsylvania in the Revolutionary War

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The Revolutionary War

As In all the great wars in which this country has been engaged, Dauphin county had her share in the great struggle for inde- pendence. In fact her "Hanover Resolutions" antedated the "Declaration of Independence" of July 4, 1776, by more than two years. The discussion which ensued upon the "Paxton Boys" affair, in fact sowed the seeds of the great Revolution; and in a letter of Governor John Penn to his brother In England, v/rltten at this time, he thus alludes to the Inhabitants of Paxtang: "Their next move will be to subvert the government and establish one of their own." And no wonder, for they were a liberty loving people, oppressed by the tyranny of Europe, which fact drove them to seek a land of refuge midst the wild forests of America, where they believed they might be permitted to worship God according to the dictates of their own personal conscience.

As early as the spring of 1774 meetings were held in the vari- ous townships of Dauphin county, the resolves of only two of which have been preserved in record form for the historians of latter days. The first was that of a meeting of the people of Hanover township, Lancaster county, held Saturday, June 4, Colonel Timothy Green serving as chairman, at which assembly it was unanimously resolved:

"1st. That the recent action of the Parliament of Great Bri- tain is iniquitous and oppressive.

"2nd. That it is the bounden duty of the people to oppose every measure which tends to deprive them of their just prerogatives.

"3rd. That In a closer union of the colonies lies the safeguard of the liberties of the people.

"4th. That in the event of Great Britain attempting to force unjust laws upon us by the strength of arms, our cause we leave to heaven and our rifles.

"5th. That a committee of nine be appointed who shall act for us and in our behalf as emergencies may require."

The committee consisted of Timothy Green, James Caruthers, Josiah Espy, Robert Dixon, Thomas Koppenheffer, William Clark, James Stewart, Joseph Barnett and John Rogers.

The resolutions referred to are worthy of a perpetual record, for they sounded the sharp, certain key-note which was eventually to sever the connection between Great Britain and the American colonies. While the people at Philadelphia and the lower counties were deliberating and doubting the expediency of independence, the Scotch-Irish districts, firm and dignified, demanded justice and boldly denounced British tyranny and wrong. Let it be further re- corded here that these Hanover "resolves" preceded those of the famous Mecklenburg Convention, showing that the same Scotch- Irish liberty-loving people were the "head and front of the American Revolution of 1776."

Following in the footsteps of these brave men, on Friday follow- ing, June 10, 1774, a similar meeting was held at MIddletown, Colonel James Burd, chairman, at which these stirring resolves were concurred in, and which served as the text of those passed at the meeting of Lancaster, subsequently, which read as follows :

"1st. That the acts of Parliament of Great Britain In divesting us of the right to give and grant our money, and assuming such power to themselves, are unconstitutional, unjust and oppressive.

"2nd. That it Is an indlspenslble duty we owe to ourselves and posterity to oppose with decency and firmness every measure tend- ing to deprive us of our just rights and privileges.

"3rd. That a close union of the Colonies and their faithful adhering to such measures as a general Congress shall judge proper, are the most likely means to procure redress of American grievances, and settle the rights of the Colonies on a permanent basis.

"4th. That we will sincerely and heartily agree to and abide by the measures which shall be adopted by the members of the general Congress of the Colonies.

"5th. That a committee be appointed to confer with similar committees relative to the present exigency of affairs."

The German inhabitants In the eastern portion of Dauphin county were but little behind in action for asserting their rights, and consequently met at Hummelstown (then called Frederickstown) , on Saturday, June 11, 1774, at which Captain Frederick Hummel was chairman, resolving to stand by the other townships of the county in all their actions.

Oppression, taxation without representation, and a host of other political evils created an ill feeling to the mother country.

It was in the month of December, 1774, that a general com- mittee of Lancaster county was formed, consisting of delegates from all the townships. At the first meeting of that committee the present territory of Dauphin county was represented by the following gentlemen:

Paxtang. — James Burd, Joseph Sherer, John Backenstose.

Hanover. — Timothy Green, William Brown, James Cooper.

Derry. — Castle Byers, William Laird, Robert McKee.

Upper Paxtang. — (Above Kittochtinny Mountain), William Patton.

Londonderry. — John Campbell.

In 1775 appeared from:

Paxtang. — Joseph Sherer, William Brown, John Harris.

Hanover. — John McCune, John Rogers, William Cathcart.

Londonderry. — William Hayes, Robert Clark, Jacob Cook.

Upper Paxtang. — Adam Werts, James Murray, Samuel Taylor.

When the battle drum first sounded in that long fought wan Dauphin county was ready for the engagement. Inside forty-eight hours of the receipt of the news of the opening battle at Lexington, (Massachusetts) the men able to bear arms in this region were organized for the defense of their long looked for personal liberty. War was no new thing to these people, in any sense, for it should be remembered that they had been cradled midst the clash of arms all along the frontiers made desolate by the savage Indians — the Delawares, with no mercy, and the perfidy of the Shawanese tribes.

The subjoined document gives the names ol the first company of. the Associators, now in record form. It consisted almost en- tirely of men from Londonderry township. Its commanding officer, Captain Jacob Cook, was prominent in organizing troops through- out the war, at the same time being a provincial magistrate, and as such continued by the convention of July 15, 1776. First Lieuten- ant William Hay rose to be a lieutenant colonel in the Flying Camp in 1776-77, doing great service in the Jerseys and at Brandywine and Germantown, as well. The McQueens, Robert and David, were subsequently connected with the Flying Camp and it is quite certain were at Fort Washington at its capture. Of this first Lon- donderry company, several served through the war from Quebec to Yorktown, while many of them fell on the bloody altar for the sake of liberty. The articles of association to which each and every one of these men subscribed their names to are worthy a sacred place in the annals of Dauphin county.

"The Association of the Liberty Company in Lancaster County.

"In order to make ourselves perfect in the art of Military, &c., We, the subscribers, have associated, and severally Agree, Promise, and Resolve as follows, viz:

"1st. That Jacob Cook be the Captain, William Hay the first Lieutenant, Robert M 'Queen the second Lieutenant, and David M'Queen the Ensign of the Company in London Derry called the Liberty Company, which said Officers, according to their respective stations, to have the Command of said Company whilst under Arms, Mustering, or in actual Service, and that the said Officers shall remain till altered by a Majority of the Officers and two-thirds of the Company.

"2nd. That none of the Subscribers or Company shall disobey the Orders of either of the said Officers whilst under Arms or Mustering, or in actual Service, under the Penalty of paying a sum not exceeding Twenty Shillings for every disobedience, to be inflicted and judged of by a Majority of the Officers.

"3rd. That each Person of the Company shall (if not already done) as soon as possible, provide himself with a good Gun or Musket, in good order and repair, with a Cartouch-Box or Shot- Bag, and Powder-Horn, and a half Pound of Powder and two Pounds of Lead.

"4th That each of the said Company shall attend weekly on Saturday, and on such other Times as the Officers of a majority of them shall appoint, in the Town of Lancaster, or in the county of Lancaster, at such places as the said officers shall deem necessary, under the Penalty of forfeiting and paying the sum of One Shilling, for every absence, Sickness of the person or Business out of the Town or Townships, to excuse. This is to be judged of by a ma- jority of the Officers; but in case of absence at any Meeting, the Party so absenting to show Cause to the Officers against the next succeeding Meeting, or the Fine to be absolute; every Person is to appear at such iVIeeting with his Arms and Ammunition as aforesaid under the Penalty of forfeiting the said Sum of One Shilling, for every Default, unless a Majority of the Officers shall remit such Fine.

"5th. That no Person of the said Company shall appear drunk, or curse or swear whilst under Arms Mustering, or in actual service, under the Penalty of paying Three Shillings for the first offence; Five Shillings for the second offence, and for the third offence to be expelled the Company, a Majority of the Officers are also to judge of these offences.

"6th, That should any of the Soldiers, by their conduct render themselves unworthy of being a Member of said Company, a Majority of the Officers and Company may expel him; and in such case the Party expelled shall yet be obliged to pay off all arrearages of Fines.

"7th. All fines to be paid or exacted in consequence of the Resolutions or Regulations of this Company, are to be paid to the Captain for the time being, or the Person appointed by him for that purpose, and are to be laid out for the use of the said Company.

"8th. That the said Company shall be increased to any number, not exceeding One Hundred Men.

"9th. That the said Company shall not be obliged to march out of this Province, without the Direction of a Majority of the officers, with the consent of a Majority of the soldiers.

"10th. That in case it be thought expedient the Companies of this County should form themselves into Battalions or Regiments, we do hereby impower the Officers aforesaid, to join with the other officers of the County, in choosing Field Officers to command such Battalion or Regiment.

"11th. That this Association to continue for the space of Eight Months next following, unless the time be enlarged by a Majority of the subscribers, or the Association dissolved by two- thirds of the Subscribers.

"12th. That this Company and every member thereof shall also comply with any other Resolutions that shall be entered into by a majority of the officers and a majority of the Company for the Regulation, Government or Support of this Company.

"13th. That a majority of the officers shall appoint the Sergeants, Corporals, and Drum for the Company.

"14th That the officers are to be fined for offences equal with ye privates.

"In testimony whereof we have hereunto set our Hands, the seventeenth day of May, 1775.


"A true Copy, Certified by Jacob Cook, Chairman of Com- mittee, and James Sullivan, Clk."

A Congressional resolution of June 14, 1775, provided for raising six companies of expert riflemen in Pennsvlvania, two in Maryland and two In Virginia, which, when completed, were to join the Continental Army at Boston, Massachusetts. June 22, the same year, it was ordered that "The Colony of Pennsylvania" be directed to raise tsvo more companies, which with the six were to form a battalion. The form of enlistment was:

"I have this day voluntarily enlisted myself as a soldier in the American Continental Army for one year, unless sooner discharged, and do bind myself to conform in all instances to such rules and regidations as are or shall be established for the government of the said army." Each company was to consist of one captain, three lieutenants, four sergeants, four corporals, a drummer or trumpeter, and sixty-eight privates. The pay of the officers and privates was as follows: Captain, twenty dollars per month; a lieutenant thirteen and one-third dollars; sergeant, eight dollars; a corporal, seven and one-third; a drummer or trumpeter, the same; privates, six and two-thirds, to find their own arms and clothes.

One of the first companies raised in the colonies was that of Captain Matthew Smith, of Paxtang. Within ten days after the receipt of the news of the battle of Lexington this company was armed and equipped for service, and when the orders of Congress came it was ready. At the same time a company had been raised in and around the town of Lancaster, which information reaching the Congress, both were accepted into the Continental service. The patriotism of Pennsylvania was evinced in the haste with which the companies of the First Pennsylvania (Thompson's) Battalion were filled to overflowing, and the promptitude with which they took up their march for Boston.

From a letter dated at Hartford the latter part of July it is stated : "Yesterday came to town a number of Paxtang boys, dressed and painted in the Indian fashion, being part of a body of two hun- dred volunteers who are on their way to General Washington's army at Cambridge. Several of them we hear are young gentlemen of fortune."

Thacher, in his military journal of the Revolution, under date of August, 1775, describes this battalion:

"They are remarkably stout and hardy men; many of them exceeding six feet in height. They are dressed in white frocks or rifle shirts and round hats. These men are remarkable for the accuracy of their aim, striking a mark with great certainty at two hundred yards distance. At a review a company of them while on a quick advance, fired their balls into objects of seven inches diameter at the distance of two hundred and fifty yards. They are now stationed in our lines, and their shot have frequently proved fatal to British officers and soldiers who expose themselves to view, even at more than double the distance of common musket shot."

These soldiers participated in the attack on Quebec, where Captain William Hendrick fell. The command, after desperate fighting, were forced to surrender. The survivors were paroled August 7, 1776, and after being exchanged followed the fortunes of the Pennsylvania soldiers who went with General Wayne to Georgia and resisted the fearful night attack on Wayne's camp near Sharon, Georgia, May 24, 1782, entering in triumph with him, the city of Savannah, July 11, and Charleston, on December 14, returning to Philadelphia in July, 1783.

On the 20th of March, 1776, John Harris wrote to the Com- mittee of Safety, informing that body that "a large quantity of pitch and tar may be made up the Susquehanna, Juniata, etc., which if wanted for public use, may be brought down the river in boats to Middletown, and from thence to Philadelphia." He also said "there are some good four-pounder cannons at Sunbury, cannon balls, swivels, etc."

It would seem that Harris Ferry was a depot for army supplies during the Revolution. Colonel Hartley wrote to President Reed, May II, 1779, that "the commissary in this county (York) had exerted himself very much in procuring provisions for the troops on the Susquehanna. The expedition on the waters must greatly depend upon the supplies from hence; but unfortunately no wagons can be provided in the ordinary course to transport the flour to Harris Ferry, where the boats are to receive the same."

Middletown, this county, is also noted in the Colonial Records, as being a supply depot for the army.