Looking through his military records, my eyes stuttered on one word. How could this be, dear grandfather? What is your story?
Surprised but not daunted by the information, I chose to research why Patriots became deserters…why did my grandfather leave General Washington and his troops as they sought and fought to guard Pennsylvania and New Jersey from the British in the winter of 1777?
Obsessed With History writer, Garit Boothe, offers some answers about why men deserted during the Revolution: lack of proper shoes and uniforms to survive the winter; irregular pay for months on end; PTSD (yes, walking toward the enemy with cannon fire at one’s back can do that); huge chance of losing as the Patriots and Washington had less supplies and soldiers; and/or personal problems at home. Boothe’s comments can be read at https://www.quora.com/Why-did-soldiers-during-american-revolution-desert.
Another commenter, Roosevelt Wallace, states that desertion is not about cowardice. It can be about lack of proper training, lack of food and supplies, weather conditions, disease, lack of leadership. (Wallace’s comments appear at the end of Boothe’s article.)
What I do know about Joseph is this: he was 37 years old when he enlisted. He was a farmer. He was a common family man with no military training. The leader of his company was Peter Dickerson, who was the local tavern keeper. Which of the above reasons spurred him to desert? How did his brain, his heart, and his conscience work that all out?
I also know this about Joseph: in 1790, he helped form a local militia to protect the citizens of western Pennsylvania. He and his family moved on to the Ohio and Illinois Territories, where he was again part of the local militia. So…
My original intent was to research my 4th great grandfather’s military records so I could apply to the DAR and win recognition for him since no one in the family had ever chosen to honor him. Well, surprise, surprise, surprise…my dear grandfather, now I know why your descendants had not. I also know that you hold a special place in my heart for trying.
One thought on “52 Ancestors In 52 Weeks: Surprise”
We can’t begin to understand what they faced! And as you said, they were just regular people.. we simply can’t judge.
I love that you ended by saying he had a special place in your heart. Right where he should be.