1 Nephi 1: 1, 3
...therefore I make a record of my proceedings in my days. And I know that the record which I make is true; and I make it with mine own hand; and I make it according to my knowledge.

^^That pretty much explains this blog.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Benjamin Lemaster: Revolutionary War Hero, Part I

          I usually spend July 4th writing about my ancestors. I am so grateful I got the genealogy bug when I did. One would think a stay-at-home mom would have enough to do with four children and a part-time job with the newspaper, but I know my ancestors in heaven urged me on, and I was glad to oblige. A lot of the people from whom I acquired all the information have now passed on, so it was Providence that I gathered it when I did.

          I am writing this post for my family—my children, siblings, cousins—so they will know of their proud heritage.  I got all the information from a collection of handouts I acquired from Katherine LeMaster Dendy, written by Agnes McNeill, entitled "Benjamin Lemasters and the American War for Independence."  I also gleaned from the internet and several Wikipedia pages for the battles.

          This information predates David McCullough’s “1776,” but it is jogging my memory. I read that book, trying to know what it would feel like to be Benjamin Lemaster.

          I posted an article by Meridian Magazine on my Facebook page today, July 4, 2016. It spoke a lot about George Washington, and it reminded me of Benjamin Lemaster, who fought in almost all of George Washington's campaigns.

          Benjamin Lemaster (or alternatively spelled LeMasters, Lemasters, Lemastres, Lemaitres) enlisted in the Revolutionary War Service in September 1776 in Berkeley County, Virginia, even though he lived in northwestern Virginia, in Monongalia County, a few counties over (we don't know why he didn't enlist in Monongalia County, near his home.) He was twenty years old. 

          His younger brother, Joseph, two years his junior, joined up as well in December 1776 and mustered into the 13th Virginia Regiment. They served together in the Battles of Brandywine and Germantown, and wintered in Valley Forge. 

          There was no training period for the recruits. It was presumed they knew how to load, shoot and care for their rifles or muskets. Their uniforms were the clothing on their backs, and their gear consisted of whatever they brought with them in their knapsacks.

__________OF BENJAMIN LEMASTER__________

September-October 1776: Enlistment
          Benjamin Lemaster enlisted in the First Virginia Regiment at Berkeley County, Virginia, now Morgan County, West Virginia, in September 1776. He was under the command of Captain William Lewis. He stated in his Pension Statement that he enlisted for three years, and he did end up serving for almost three years, but he most likely enlisted for a three-month term which was scheduled to begin October 1 and end December 31, 1776.

October 22-28, 1776: Joined the Continental Army at White Plains, New York
          The area was known as “white plains” because of the frequent presence of ground mist hanging over the low, marshy landscape. Benjamin no sooner got to White Plains then he found out what war was all about.
October 28, 1776Battle of White Plains
          Benjamin Lemaster witnessed the Continental Army reduced to shreds by the scarlet and white-clad British regulars. American troops retreated in a panic—not for the last time. “What have I done?” must have crossed his mind. It would have mine.
          In his Pension Statement, Benjamin recalled: I was enlisted by Lieut. Cup [Culp]a recruiting officer, for Capt Lewis company. I joined his company at the white Plain – which was attached to the first Virginia Continental Regt. Commanded by Col. Richard Parker and Genl. Muhlenburg’ brigade – Genl. Washington commanded at the white Plains. Lord Sterling commanded the division of the army to which I belonged. The British came out and attacked its right wing in which the Delaware troops suffered considerably. . .”

November 10-29 1776:  Retreat from Newark, NJ
          Benjamin was among 3,000 troops ferried across the Hudson to block a British strike into New Jersey. They took up positions at Newark on November 13. By November 29, they abandoned Newark, burned their tents (because no wagons were available to carry them), then destroyed the only bridge across the Raritan River, just ahead of the Hessians. Another retreat.

November 30, 1776: Camped at Brunswick, New Jersey

December 3, 1776: They reached Trenton and had five days to get across the Delaware River. For seventy miles up and down the Delaware, the Americans confiscated every craft capable of carrying a man across the river, then went into what they thought would be their last encampment. Their enlistment was up December 31. Benjamin was probably counting the days when he could start back for Virginia.

December 8, 1776: In camp on the Pennsylvania bank of the Delaware River
          In his Pension Statement, he continued: “We retreated towards Brunswick crossed the River & encampted [sic] on the Delaware, where I was detached with others under Lieut. Kilpatrick to protect the people of Trenton from the robberies of the Hessians—on rejoining the army we took up the line of march and went to Trenton.”
          C. Leon Harris transcribed another statement made by Benjamin Lemasters regarding his pension [it was amazing the hoops he had to jump through to get his $80 per annum pension in 1832]: “The army retreated to Brunswick being persued [sic] by the British and continued retreating until they got to the Pensylvania [sic] shore of the Delaware river where the main body of the army remained during a considerable part of the winter. From this place he was taken under the command of Capt __ Kilpatrick (although he still belonged properly to Capt Lewis’ Company) across the Delaware river to Guard Trenton from the ravages of the British.”
          The way he told the story, he went back across the Delaware to Trenton before Washington and the others crossed on Christmas Day. 
          Bummer. I always pictured Benjamin crossing the Delaware River with George Washington. It looks like he preceded him there.

December 25, 1776Battle of Trenton
          The Continental Army re-crossed the Delaware River under the cover of darkness to fall on the Hessian garrison at Trenton, New Jersey. Washington wanted to be across the river by midnight, but didn't make it to the other side until three in the morning.
          Under the command of Adam Stephen, of Berkeley County, the First Virginia guarded the north of the town, while two other regiments performed the duty of fighting in the streets of Trenton. 
          Brigadier General Adam Stephen commanded 541 men. This brigade served as bridgehead and advance guard, and formed part of the center of General Nathaniel Greene’s line for the attack, along with Stirling’s brigade. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Order_of_battle_of_the_Battle_of_Trenton) Benjamin Lemaster was in this brigade.
          As a side note, I found out that Adam Stephen was chastised by George Washington—and not for the last time: About 2 miles outside the town, the main columns reunited with the advance parties. They were startled by the sudden appearance of 50 armed men, but they were American. Led by Adam Stephen, they had not known about the plan to attack Trenton, and had attacked a Hessian outpost. Washington feared the Hessians would have been put on guard, and shouted at Stephen, "You sir! You Sir, may have ruined all my plans by having them put on their guard." Despite this, Washington ordered the advance continue to Trenton. In the event, [Hessian Colonel Johann] Rall thought the first raid was the attack which [British General James] Grant had warned him about, and that there would be no further action that day. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Trenton)  [Benjamin Lemaster was in this detached advance party, but not sure if he is one of these 50 men spoken of here.] 
 “The Hessian forces lost 22 killed in action, 83 wounded, and 896 captured. Colonel Rall was mortally wounded. In fact, all four Hessian colonels in Trenton were killed in battle. The Americans suffered only two deaths, from bare feet causing frostbite, and five wounded from battle, including a near-fatal wound to future President of the United States Lieutenant James Monroe[Imagine, our Benjamin serving with two future presidents of the United States!]
“Monroe was carried from the field bleeding badly after he was struck in the left shoulder by a musket ball, which severed an artery. Doctor John Riker clamped the artery, preventing him from bleeding to death. 
“Other losses incurred by the Patriots due to exhaustion, exposure, and illness in the following days may have raised their losses above those of the Hessians.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Trenton)
          For the first time in his short career, Benjamin Lemaster had taken part in a successful action, but he had little time to enjoy it. Some Hessians escaped and ran twelve miles up to Princeton, a strong British garrison. 
          Knowing the British troops would not sit still for very long, Washington ordered his exhausted troops back across the Delaware in the worst possible weather conditions, and he took the Hessian prisoners with him.

          I had always imagined my ancestor, Sgt. Benjamin Lemaster, to be on the boat with George Washington, crossing the Delaware on Christmas night. Now I imagine him crossing back over the Delaware the next day. It looks like this boat is going west, doesn't it?

"Washington Crossing the Delaware" by Emanuel Leutze, 1851, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City

 December 30, 1776: A Somber Plea
          The day before most of the enlistments expired, Washington had the troops assembled for parade, then rode among them with a personal plea that they stay for six more weeks. His pleas fell on deaf and frozen ears.
          David McCullough, in his book "1776," said the drums rolled, but no one stood forth. Washington offered them a $10 bonus if they would stay for six more months. The drums rolled again and still no one moved.
Washington turned his horse, dejected, and rode away, but then paused, and turned again to address the men. “My brave fellows, you have done all I asked you to do and more than could be reasonably expected. But this country is at stake, your wives, your homes and everything you hold dear. You have borne yourself up with fatigues and hardships, but we know not how to spare you. If you consent to stay one month longer, you will render that service to the cause of liberty and this country, which you probably could never do under any other circumstances.”
The drums rolled again and the men began to step forward. 
Our Benjamin Lemaster was one of these six-weeks men, and stood as a witness to the spiritual power of his commander-in-chief.

End of Part I.


Michael D said...

Once again, "thanks" cousin Susan for all the time and energy you've invested in such a great endeavor. I've always been fascinated by history, especially local history such as the War for Independence, and my personal connection to it. I too am in awe as I travel these same sacred grounds daily, often wondering how hard life must have been 240 years ago.
I also think of grandmother often and some of the wonderful times I had growing up around her. Keep up the good work.

Susan Knight said...

Thanks, Michael.As you can see, I love history too, and I love to research, so . . . I hope you'll go on to read the other three parts of his experience. The one at Fort Mifflin almost did me in when I read the research. I didn't include all the details. This is a "brief" history.
We are continually blessed by our ancestors and our lineage. And I hope you and your family will visit Valley Forge with a renewed vigor.
Love you!

John Truth said...

Susan, Do you have a post somewhere of how Ben LeMaster is related to us?

Susan Knight said...

John, I'm afraid I don't know who you are.
Would you give me some more information?
From whom do you descend?
Are you related to the Boggs family?
I have no "Truth" family in my genealogy program.
I'd be happy to help you, but with more information.