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.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Benjamin Lemaster, Revolutionary War Hero, Part IV

Please begin reading this four-part chronicle HERE.     

     I’ve taken most of my information in this four-part saga from Benjamin Lemasters and the American War for Independence, by Agnes McNeill, via Katherine LeMaster Dendy. Some information came from Wikipedia and other web sites. I’ve given credit to photos when it was available.

     As I said before, I will be forever grateful that I took the time to pursue my family history while my children were young—and not save it for retirement. Most of the people from whom I gathered so much information—on both sides of my family tree—are no longer with us: my dear grandmothers, my great aunt Kitty, my cousin Kent Kessler and all my West Virginia cousins who are now in heaven having reunions without me.

     I also have living cousins who have given me enormous bounties of information on this line: Karen “Kandy” Kessler Cottrill, and Judi Spencer, James Lewis Ball. At one time, when email was new and the internet wasn’t invented, we exchanged thousands of emails on our research. Yes, thousands. Good times.

     And thank goodness for the internet. When I started doing my research back in the late 1970s, there were no computers—just libraries and hard copies from a Xerox machine.

     After spending some time in New Orleans and gleaning information from my father’s first cousins, and my second cousins, we purchased a computer in about 1994. What had taken me three weeks to “fill in the blanks” by hand on pedigree charts after that trip, took me 30 minutes on the computer. That’s progress!

     When I returned to New Orleans in 2001, when the World Wide Web was still young, I spent a week sitting in the New Orleans Library, twirling the handles of microfilm readers until my shoulders ached. Now, most of that information is on the internet.

     I am thankful for my kissin’ cousins who have spent entire lifetimes gathering this information about Benjamin Lemaster(s) for me. There are many, many of my cousins, far and wide, who have used this patriot to join the DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution).

     I visited the DAR headquarters in Washington, D.C. in about 2006. It’s a beautiful building full of books, documents, photos, and letters. I would like to join that community. Maybe I’ll save that for when I retire.

     This is the last segment I will pursue on Benjamin Lemaster. Be proud if he is your ancestor. I know I am.

__________OF BENJAMIN LEMASTER__________

Washington Rallying the Troops at Monmouth
by Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze
June 28, 1778: Battle of Monmouth Court House, New Jersey
     Prelude to Battle: To be brief and not tell the whole story, suffice it to say, once they learned of the French helping the Americans, the British decided to leave Philadelphia for New York, and possibly flee to Quebec. They were going to take ships down the Delaware Bay and up to New York, but the Loyalists in the city heard they were leaving and demanded they take them with them.

     The Loyalists/Tories took up all the room in the ships, so the British soldiers were left to hoof it through New Jersey to New York, under the command of Sir Henry Clinton, who replaced William Howe in May 1778.

     The evacuation began June 18, 1778. Little did Clinton know that Washington’s new and improved troops, fresh from Valley Forge with new recruits, pursued a parallel path through New Jersey, waiting for a time to strike.

     Washington sent Charles Lee, only recently exchanged after a winter of captivity in New York, to head up the 5,000 men to provoke the British. The First Virginia Regiment was with them. On June 28, the British launched the attack, focusing on the left wing under the command of Major General William “Lord Stirling” Alexander.

     If you remember the photos of the organization chart from the Valley Forge Visitor Center, Lord Stirling was the head honcho reporting to Washington, and our Benjamin served under Brigadier General Peter Muhlenberg, who served directly under Lord Stirling. BUT Benjamin’s regiment, under Colonel Richard Parker, were in the Advance Guard—the Right Wing. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monmouth_order_of_battle)

     To make a long story short, after doing some battle, and with his men dropping from "fatigue," Lee ordered a retreat and the men landed in the lap of Washington, who sent them all back to the battlefield. Washington was so enraged, it’s reported he actually cursed at the general in public, something he rarely did. He also dismissed Lee from the battlefield.

You can see where Lee charged into the battle, then his retreat, right into the path of George Washington.

     Lee was eventually court martialed and never led another unit. Read more about this HERE

     The temperatures on June 28, 1779 were in the 100s, so you can bet the humidity was probably in the 80s or 90s. Many men on both sides suffered from heat stroke—37 Americans died of "fatigue." This severely impacted both armies—the British lost 59 to heat stroke. The Americans, plagued by the hottest time of the day—could not pursue the fleeing British.

     By twilight, the British had all withdrawn from the battlefield. In fact, they withdrew from the whole area during the night. Washington chose not to follow them, probably because of the fatigue of his men.

     Having just spent the winter at Valley Forge, though, the Americans were renewed by this engagement, even though the battle was a draw (neither side gained the field of battle). Even so, both sides claimed victory.

     Although the war would last five more years, this was the last engagement between two full armies ever fought during this war. It was considered the last battle of the northern theater.

M'r Capitaine du Chesnoy, A.d.C. du Général LaFayette. - Library of Congress
Map of the Battle of Monmouth Courthouse, N.J.
Public domain
     As an aside, this is the battle of “Molly Pitcher” fame. Learn about that HERE.  
Molly Pitcher

June-July 1778: Hospitals in Brunswick, NJ and White Plains, NY
     It appears Benjamin Lemaster was one of the unfortunate victims of heat stroke. In those days, without “air conditioning,” it was very difficult to cool down a body during heat stroke, especially in 100-degree weather, other than cool baths, and ice, if you could get it. Symptoms include confusion, agitation, slurred speech, delirium, seizures, coma, nausea and vomiting, flushed skin, rapid breathing, racing heart rate, throbbing headache. Ugh.

     According to his muster roll for the month of July 1778, Benjamin Lemaster spent time in the hospital at Brunswick, NJ, then a flying hospital at White Plains where his regiment removed, and where he first began his service in the war, if you remember.

     By August, he stood guard duty at White Plains. In September, he was stationed at Camp Robinson in NY “on command.” From October through December he suffered through another winter camp at Middle Brook, NJ, then ended up sick again at Brunswick in January 1779.

     He began the spring of 1779 on lookout duty at Sandy Hook, NJ. Sandy Hook is an elongated sand bar attached to the New Jersey coast and which jutted directly north into Lower New York Bay. The southern tip of Long Island and the Verrazano Narrows were visible from Sandy Hook. Washington posted lookouts here to keep him apprised of the movement of British ships into and out of New York harbor.
Sandy Hook, NJ, across the Jamaica Bay from New York.

     This last assignment must have been boring. During his stint at Sandy Hook, Benjamin Lemaster had nothing to report. Little did Washington know, the British abandoned the plan to go north and were gearing up for battle in the south.

May 7, 1779: Last Muster Roll
     Benjamin Lemaster drew pay on 7 May 1779 for service in the month of April at Sandy Hook, the last muster roll on which he appears as a member of the First Virginia Regiment.   

     According to his Pension Statement, he took a furlough to go home and get married. While home, he said the battle of Yorktown took place, so he never returned to duty. His memory was a little foggy because the Battle of Yorktown took place in October 1781. His two years were up in April 1779, so that’s probably why he didn’t return. He had served two years, four months, and two weeks.

     By the time he gave his first pension statement in 1832, he was 76 years old. He couldn’t remember the order of the battles—and who can blame him? He participated in so many, he must have been addled just a little bit. 

     The pensions were supposed to be given to men who fought in the war and were now destitute. Benjamin sought a pension in 1832 because, before that, he owned too much property or land to qualify. He was granted the pension in 1833, retroactive to 4 March 1831. Fifty-seven years had passed since his original three-month enlistment in September 1776.

     He had to testify again in 1835 because his 1832 testimony didn't add up. Though Agnes McNeill wrote that his $80 per annum pension was reinstated, I have found no evidence of this. The poor man died in 1837.

     Read part of his Pension Statement HERE

     I have more information about Benjamin, but I decided only to write about his Revolutionary War experiences. I urge you to go online and find what you can about the war and the engagements in which he fought.

     This is only one of many of our ancestors in Grandmother Mary Lou’s lineage who fought in the Revolutionary War. Be very proud of your heritage. It is noble.

     Please visit this YouTube channel to see the homestead gravesite of Benjamin Lemaster and his wife, Rebecca Ann Martin Lemaster.
Benjamin Lemaster gravesite, and homestead in Bucks Garden, Summersville, Nicholas County, WV 

     I visited many family plots like this throughout West Virginia in the summer of 2006, when our cousin, James Lewis Ball, graciously escorted me all around creation in the heat of the summer. I was in my glory. J

     We descend from their second of 10 daughters, Mary “Polly” Lemasters, who married James Clendenin Boggs, son of Francis Charles Boggs (born in Chester County, PA, near Doe Run), who also fought in the Revolutionary War. But that’s another story.

You’re welcome!

Monday, October 24, 2016

Benjamin Lemaster: Revolutionary War Hero, Part III: Valley Forge

Please begin reading this chronicle HERE.

All photos of Valley Forge in this blog post were taken by Susan Knight, except for the photo of Washington's Headquarters. They may be shared, with credit, but not sold. Click on them to enlarge.

__________OF BENJAMIN LEMASTER__________
Valley Forge, 1777-1778 

Benjamin Lemaster suffered in Valley Forge along with four thousand fellow volunteers. He had seen many battles since he joined the war effort in September 1776. 

Command of the court-martialed Stephen’s division was turned over to Peter Muhlenberg, a Lutheran minister from Woodstock, Shenandoah County, Virginia. The First, Fifth, Ninth and Thirteenth Virginia regiments were assigned to Muhlenberg, along with the First and Second Virginia State Regiments and a German Regiment.
        The First Virginia was placed under the command of Colonel Richard Parker. Benjamin Lemaster served under Parker for the duration of his service in the army.

The First Virginia Regiment was part of Muhlenberg’s Brigade under Lord Stirling’s Division and entered Valley Forge with 237 men, 94 fit for duty. It left Valley Forge with 507 men and 281 fit for duty.

And, serendipity for the Lemaster brothers, Benjamin's brother Joseph, in the 13th Virginia Regiment, was also assigned to Muhlenberg's Brigade. They got to see each other every day (I assume). It is sweet to think that the two "boys," ages 21 and 19, dealt with the harsh winter together, no doubt buoying up each other in the crisis, sharing letters from home, and reminiscing of their life in Maryland and Virginia before the war. 

Joseph Lemaster's son, John Waddell Lemaster, named his first son Marcus Lafayette Lemaster (a play on Marquis perhaps?), which makes me wonder how many times he heard his father tell stories about being in the company of the Marquis de Lafayette. Lafayette was only 19 years old himself in 1777, like Joseph Lemaster, when he joined with Washingtonas a volunteer Major General (?!?). He also fought in the Battle of Brandywine along with the Lemaster boys. You can read more about this amazing young man, who considered George Washington his adopted father, HERE

Joseph Lemaster's regiment left Valley Forge in May 1778 and headed west for Pittsburgh. The boys would meet again when they both mustered out of the army, Benjamin in 1779 and Joseph in 1780.

I visited Valley Forge in 2010 before I moved west. I was told by the park rangers that the winter of 1777-78 was not bitter cold like 1776 and, in fact, many died from disease due to the milder temperatures—in the 40s—making Valley Forge very muddy which was the scourge of the camp.

As the result of this mild winter, the most common killers in camp were influenza, typhoid, pneumonia, dysentery, and typhus.

The Pennsylvania winter, with freezing, thawing, and freezing again, and the light snow which gave little snow melt for water, caused waves of illness and many deaths. Most men died during the warmer months from March to May. An inoculation program, and camp sanitation, eventually helped limit the death tolls.

Discouraged soldiers deserted in great numbers. Mutiny was feared. All Washington had to do was mention that he would “retire” to his plantation and all murmuring would stop.

Though many soldiers had a full uniform, shortages of clothing did cause severe hardship for a number of the men. I often wonder if my Benjamin suffered due to lack of clothing and shoes. After all, he came to the war with only the clothes on his back and his musket (or rifle—whichever he had).

Only a muslin shirt.
I wonder if this is what Benjamin wore,
or if he was lucky enough to have a wool coat like the man behind this one.
The soldiers built log cabins under General Washington’s precise instructions—14 x 16 feet, 6-1/2 feet high, a door next to the street and a fireplace in the rear. Since most of the men were not skilled craftsman—and one man complained of having a dull ax—there were some personalizations that went on as men from different regions had differing techniques for building.

Hut at Muhlenberg encampment at present-day Valley Forge, Pennsylvania

“And as an encouragement to industry and art, the General promises to reward the party in each regiment, which finishes their hut in the quickest, and most workmanlike manner, with twelve dollars.”  --General orders, December 18, 1777
The first hut appeared in three days. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Valley_Forge)
By mid-January, most soldiers were housed, twelve to a hut. (http://valleyforgemusterroll.org/encampment.asp)

Hut at present-day Muhlenberg encampment where the reenactments take place.
This is the inside of an officer's hut. It only has one bed.
Perhaps the Marquis de Lafayette had a hut like this.
He insisted on living in the midst of his men.

This hut holds 12 people--4 bunks in each quarter
I call top!
Inside an enlisted men's cabin. How cozy.
-12 bunks-
-A fireplace-
-Playing cards-
-What more does a man need?-
Maybe food and clothing . . .
Over 2,000 log cabins and huts were built as well as a bridge over the Schuylkill. Because the weather was mild, the men were able to construct all they needed, and supplies were available. Being a greatly forested area, there was plenty of timber for the log cabins.

When I was there in 2010, I saw an earthen oven in the Muhlenberg encampment where the park ranger said they made their daily bread. Coals were spread along the ground for cooking purposes. Though they probably had to keep with their own regiments, I imagine to myself the two brothers making and breaking bread together.

The park ranger told me, as soon as Nathaniel Greene was appointed Quartermaster General, supplies were found and shipped down the Schuylkill from Reading and brought in from nearby farms. There was a forge on the property where they could attend to their weapons and wagons.

Those in camp came from all thirteen of the original states. Men, women and children, all different ethnicities and religions came together at Valley Forge. Women helped immensely with laundry, mending, cooking, and nursing the sick men.

As part of Benjamin Lemaster’s Pension Statement, in 1835, an Andrew P. Friend swore before the Justice of the Peace in support of his pension as a “Revolution soldier of the United States.” According to Friend’s best recollection: “. . . he knew the said Benjamin Lamasters of Nicholas County to have been in the army that he the said [Peter] McCune & Benjamin Lamaster had both their washing done By one Woman for some time.”

Women and children, who made up the “camp followers,” suffered the deprivations along with the soldiers. Women got half pay (half of what the soldiers received) and children, if they worked hard, got quarter pay.
Yes, even cute little boys like this served at Valley Forge.
This little guy is only 10 years old.
The best thing to happen to the camp was when Prussian Army Officer Baron Friedrich von Steuben arrived in February 1778. He wipped the army into shape and taught them how to be soldiers—the first training they had on the matter.

It took really long to load and fire. I was really surprised.
They only got one shot, then had to reload again.
May 6, 1778--the army celebrated France’s alliance with the formally-recognized United States, and whose arrival triggered the evacuation of the British troops from Philadelphia in June. (http://valleyforgemusterroll.org/encampment.asp)

June 15, 1778--Benjamin Lemaster turned twenty-two years old as they prepared to leave Valley Forge.

June 19, 1778--Washington’s men marched from Valley Forge to Philadelphia and retook the city. By the Battle of Monmouth, nine days later, the army demonstrated a more mature and improved expertise on the field of battle. Victory achieved.

I was able to look up Sergeant Lemaster on the computer at the Valley Forge Visitor Center and noted he was in the Muhlenberg regiment—the exact place where they have cabins to show tourists what it was like, and where they have their reenactments. It was the first area near the visitor’s center. Serendipity.

First Virginia Regiment, under Colonel James Hendricks.
In the history I have, it says he served under Colonel Parker, so I'm not sure
how the regiments were broken up. Some research for another day.

As you drive around the park, you will see various monuments
erected by the States whose soldiery participated at Valley Forge.
This is the Virginia monument.
Click on it to enlarge.

Even though I knew the cabins were only replicas of where they actually lived, just walking the hallowed grounds gave me chills. 

Seeing Washington’s headquarters made my soul swell with pride.  My Benjamin Lemaster served with George Washington in almost all the campaigns while enlisted in the fighting.

Washington's Headquarters in the bottom of the valley.
(This is the only photo I took from the internet.
I couldn't believe I failed to get a photo of the front of the house.
It isn't hard to envision the hubbub that took place in this room every day.

Martha Washington was here too.
          (And I have a table cloth made of that same blue material.)

Martha, as hostess, oversaw the kitchen, the food preparation, and the guests.
I'm sure she was a great comfort to her husband as well.
In the breezeway. Original.
View from the back of the big brownstone house.
There were 2,000 log cabins built all over the acreage.

             Everywhere I drove, I saw cabins tucked in the woods, each one representing hundreds of others, I imagine.
I also saw a few small herds of deer as I drove around.
At any time, Washington expected General Howe to march to Mount Joy, the top of the encampment, and overtake his men at Valley Forge. A redoubt was built and cannons were aimed at the city, a little more than 25 miles away.
The British never did leave the city.

This cannon, near the top of Mt. Joy, is still aimed at Philadelphia, 25 miles away.

End of Part III