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, 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


Anonymous said...

Thank you for all your research. I too have been researching Benjamin LeMasters. Im proud to call him my ancestor. Although he was granted a pension, it appears to have been challenged and suspended later. The poor old soldier found himself once again trying to prove his service. It seems he had to prove the length of his service. I'm not sure if he regained his pension before he died. ( I found this information on fold3 military website). There is definite proof that he fought in many famous battles. It's amazing that he survived! Maybe you can do a Part 4 someday. Thanks again. JS

Susan Knight said...

I did do a Part IV.
You are right. I can't find where his pension was reinstated, but the person whose research I read and adapted here said he did finally receive a pension in 1835. I have found no proof of this. I'll have to amend my Part IV.
This breaks my heart. All that he went through. They even have his name on muster rolls. He gave proof of more than two witnesses. Those people should be ashamed of themselves. That wasn't what George Washington would have wanted for his good soldiers.