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!


Anonymous said...

I'm so glad to hear that he was able to keep his pension. I haven't found that information yet. Thanks, JS

Tara Bragg said...

Susan, this is the most I have ever read about my favorite ancestor, Benjamin LeMasters. I want to encourage you to not wait to join the DAR, do it now, the Society needs you and your daughters!!! I just became a member on July 5th and used Benjamin as my patriot, I wish I had done it sooner. I, too, am descended from his daughter Mary 'Polly' but also from his third daughter Nancy who as you probably know also married a Boggs, they both had children marry into my George Mollohan/Wm 'English Bill' Dodrill line. I was fortunate to be able to sit with my Grandmother while she spoke of the family lines and put it all on paper by the time I was 12, which means I have been at this for nigh on 40 years!! So like you I started when there was no such thing as a computer!! I live in central WV and the area is full of his descendants and I am constantly finding 'new' cousins. I thank you for all your effort in researching Benjamin's history, I am finally able to associate him with all of his battles.

Thank you so much, Tara

Susan Knight said...

Tara, it's great to know (of) you. I have plans to go back to PA in October and want to visit Valley Forge again and take my family there.
I have been to WVa several times and have taken tours of our ancestral cemeteries. Our cousin, James Lewis Ball, is now very elderly, but a little over 10 years ago, he drove me around to all the old homesteads, including the cemetery in the woods where Charles Francis Boggs is buried.
The name Mollohan is familiar to me. I just got back into my genealogy. I have been interviewing my ancestors since 1979.
It was a pleasure to research our Benjamin. I found out that I don't have any evidence that his pension went through. I was reading from another's booklet who said he did get it, but I found no evidence myself.
Poor guy. To fight like he did--especially at Fort Mifflin. Reading about that siege made me cry tears. I hope I can go there when I'm in PA as well. My Mom loves history, so if I can't get my siblings to go, I know she will go with me. She's in her 80s, but is proud of her heritage too.
Nice to know you. You can find me on Ancestry.com. I believe I'm listed as Susan Tobelmann Knight. I don't know if I'd have to invite you, but that's where I have most of my family tree.