Dear Cousins and Family Friends,
The week of June 6, 2001, has dealt our family a hard blow. Death has claimed our Cousin and Good Friend, Wayne Silver. Wayne, as everyone knew, WAS Kona. For the past twenty or so years, he had struggled to keep the Kona Baptist Church and the Kona Missionary Baptist Churches alive and in as good repair as his meager funds allowed. Not only that, he started assembling family history, memorabilia, documents and pictures into what is now the Silver Family Museum at Kona. In addition, he had assumed the responsibility of coordinating our annual Silver Reunion in July of each year. He loved his self created tasks and devoted himself to full time, unpaid work to rendering a wonderful service to us. It is doubtful that Wayne will ever be replaced. If we should be so fortunate as to have that happen, Wayne’s shoes can never be filled. Our heartfelt sympathy goes out to the family.
Wayne was buried as he had requested. He was interred before the next sundown after his death, wrapped in a blanket and in a wooden box. His brother-in-law, Bill Freeman, designed and built a beautiful pine coffin for him. It was a private ceremony only for the family and a few close friends in the Silver Cemetery at Kona. Wayne was laid to rest in the Memorial Garden that he and friends had built. It was his pride and joy. Mother Ruth, despite Wayne’s request that there be no marker, says that she will place a headstone for him. After all, mom knows best!
A Celebration of Life was given for Wayne on Saturday the 9th of June at 7:00 p.m. There was well over 100 people attending. The Little Church was filled to overflowing. All the windows were opened so that the friends and relatives on the outside could hear the readings and join in the singing. It was a ceremony that Wayne would have been proud of. I felt, along with many of the others, that he was in some way attending. It was a very wonderful way to say goodbye to an old and good friend.
The family reunion scheduled for Kona on the 28th of July will be held as usual. For those that have not attended before, the reunion will begin in the Silver Cemetery at 10:00 a.m. From the cemetery, we will proceed to the Little Kona Church where services will be held by the Reverend J. Howard Silver at 11:00 a.m. After the services, we will adjourn to the Big Church for the noon meal. Please be sure to bring a favorite covered dish. Plastic ware, paper plates and napkins will be provided.
In the past months, we have received several letters from family members complaining of the sales being held during the reunion. Let me reassure you that there will be no sales whatsoever within the church or outside on church property. This year will be an “old timey” reunion.
Good news from the research section. Ms. Dianne Rosenfield. Of Mar Vista, California sent some new research on the Griffith family. Dianne is a descendent of Greenberry Woody. Her research is most interesting. Nancy Ann Griffith’s parents are Orlando and Elizabeth Gaither Griffith. Elizabeth was b. 1725 in Frederick Co., MD. She was the daughter of John Gaither IV and Anne Ruley. John Gaither the IV is the son of John Gaither III and Elizabeth Duvall (related to Mareen Duvall). John III is the son of John Gaither II and Ruth Beard. John II and Ruth Beard are the parents of Benjamin Gaither (wife Sarah Chew Burgess) Benjamin and Sarah are the parents of Edward Gaither( wife Eleanor Whittle) Edward and Eleanor are the parents of Burgess Gaither (wife Amelia Martin). Burgess and Amelia are the parents of Burgess Gaither (wife Elizabeth Sharp Erwin), Clerk of the Court at the time of the Frankie Silver trial. In essence, the common ancestors are John Gaither II and Ruth Beard. Thank you Cousin Dianne!
Sabra Blackwell Coyle of Missouri requested information on the Blackwell family. We were able to help he and best of all, she was able to help us. Our files are beginning to fill out. It is always a pleasure to be able to help someone with their family tree. So, if you please, keep giving out our web site address and my e-mail address to anyone seeking information on our family. Just so no one misses out, we’ll give the addresses again. The Silver website is http://homepages.rootsweb.com/~silver. My email address is email@example.com. We will continue to research the Silver name and will be available to anyone who needs help. The newsletter is closing down but we will still be available to help anyone who needs it!
We were also able to help Dianne Cygan of Dallas, NC with her family tree. She is a descendant of Jacob William and Lucinda Jane Roland Silver. We were able to send her a pedigree chart, pictures and family group sheets. It is indeed gratifying to be able to help someone in this way.
Dawn Conti also contacted us. She is a descendant of the Stewart family. It was a pleasure to help her also.
The Parker-Robinson get together went well at Ellijay, Macon County earlier in the month. There was a tour of the cemetery where Nancy Silver Parker Robinson is buried. These folks get together several times a year and have a grand time renewing family ties and welcoming newcomers. Charlie Parker of Pennsylvania has worked long and hard contacting family members. His able assistants, Barbara and Ron Gregory of SC, Carol Ann Taylor of Fletcher, NC and a big bunch of the Georgia line, too numerous to mention, have put Ellijay on the map and the Parker name to the forefront. They will be having their regular reunion in September at Ellijay. For those who need information about attending may call or write Barbara Gregory at 855 Idlewild Drive, Rock Hill, SC 29732, Phone 803-327-3015: Carol Ann Taylor at 31D-8 Fanning Road, Fletcher, NC 28732 Phone 828-687-3892 and last but not least, Charlie Parker at 1051 Howes Run Road, Taurentum, PA 15084 Phone 724-224-2472.
As was mentioned earlier, this is the last issue of Silver Notes. The reason for closing it is the fact that with Wayne’s passing, we have no source of family news at Kona. Without the news source, the newsletter would contain nothing but feature articles. This could get boring. Clarence, Rex and I feel a little sad at seeing the close, but we all agreed that it would be best.
I would especially like to thank John Silver Harris for his advice and material along the way. Also for permission to use the name Silver Notes and to use his files that he has amassed over the years. Ms. Nancy Puckett has been especially kind to me in sending many articles that have appeared in past issues. David Taylor and Norma Westall have contributed a ton of articles. I hope all these reporters that are now unemployed will be so kind as not to forget me and keep up their correspondence!
I would like to thank all those who sent mail and were loyal readers over the past five years. I would especially like to thank Cousin Clarence Tillery for all the hard work he has done and also Rex Redmon for all the articles and notes that he has supplied. Without the help of these two cousins, it would have been impossible to keep Silver Notes going for as long as it has.
We will try to enclose the refund due to everyone who had paid in advance with this issue. If in the event we are not able to, we will send them out as private mail to you. If there is a problem with the refund, let me know at the address on the cover envelope and we will attempt to correct it. We have kept an accurate account but as everyone knows, even the most accurate accounting system will have its minor problems.
Before closing, I would be remiss not to mention the hard work from Charlie Parker and his group that has done so much for Kona’s churches. Charlie contacted several of us about three years ago with a plan he had for Kona. That plan was to raise money for the repairs to the Kona Baptist Church(s). His plan for a raffle was highly successful. Another of the group, Barbara Gregory and husband Ron took the plan even further when she came up with the idea for a Silver Family Cookbook. Barbara’s and Ron’s hard work was joined by Wayne, Carol Ann Taylor and members of the family to create not one but two cookbooks which were highly successful. Not satisfied with success, Barbara then came up with the idea to print and sell T-shirts. This in turn was even more successful and has added many dollars to the fund. Charlie, Barbara, Ron, Carol Ann, Wayne, Laura Cooper and Pat and Dan Dowd and others worked tirelessly to provide these funds for the Kona Church Fund. Many others who were not able to work directly on the projects have donated generously. They deserve thanks also.
Barbara and Ron also provided many of the items given the church on their own. Guttering, a refrigerator, dishes, shelving, cabinets, microwave, heaters and a list of other items too long to print, out of their own funds. Barb and Ron spent many hours on the road bringing materials to Kona with Ron having to rent a trailer several times. They did this willingly with no thought of reward or refund. Kona owes them a debt of gratitude that can never be repaid. I would hope that at the reunion, each of us would pause to say, “thanks,” to all these fine people who have done so much in such short time.
If there is anyone who would care to continue this newsletter, I will be happy to help them get started. Our mailing list can be used to start. Some of us would like to continue as “stringers” or contributors of articles of interest to the Silver family and its extended families.
Again, thanks to everyone. It has been a lot of fun and a real learning experience for me. I feel that the newsletter accomplished its original plan and that was to bring our family closer and renew friendships and family ties. I hope all our readers feel that way.
Cousins Clarence, Rex and John
A gripping new play by two mountain authors uses newly discovered documents to offer a fresh examination of Appalachia’s most lurid axe murder mystery.
Was Frankie Silver a conniving wife who – like that other Frankie (and Johnny) – killed her husband in a jealous rage? Or, was she a brutally abused woman who merely fought back and killed her husband in self-defense?
The Southern Appalachian Repertory Theatre is proud to announce the world premiere of this historic drama written by our own award-winning director, William Gregg, and best-selling author Perry Deane Young. The new play is based on Young’s book, The Untold Story of Frankie Silver, Was She Unjustly Hanged? Both Young and Gregg are native mountaineers with close family ties to the story of this murder which happened December 22, 1831. Both were born in nearby Woodfin and graduated from Erwin High School. Gregg is the 7th great grandson of William Gregg, a member of thegrand jury that indicted Frankie. Young is the 3rd grand nephew of George Young, who sold the whiskey to Charlie Silver which may well have led to the murder.
For 170 years, this story has been misrepresented in folklore, songs, legends and published accounts. At long last, Frankie is given the chance through the magic of theatre to explain what may have happened in this authentic search for the truth behind all the myths and legends.
FRANKIE previews August 1st and plays through the 5th, as well as August 9-12 in the historic, intimate Owen Theatre on the beautiful Mars Hill College Campus near Asheville. Tickets are $18. Call for Information and reservations: (828) 689-1239.
Greetings again Silver Cousins and extended families across America and all places beyond.
First of all, I am back at the keyboard after having to take a writing sabbatical brought upon me---of all things, another “mini-stroke.” No, this was not my first encounter with this little monster from the darkness, but was, in fact, my third. Yet, with this occurrence, the hypertension was most severe, requiring intravenous medications to reduce it and bring it back under control which took several hours. And yes, this time I was more than a little scared! I do not have congestive heart disease which definitely can contribute to hypertension. My hypertension is stress and anxiety related.
My Doctors say they are doing all they can to treat me, now the rest is up to me. So, in addition to prescribed medications, I put myself on a “natural treatment program” of rigorous walks, (hope to work up to running) and an intake of a full compliment of vitamins and herbs along with breathing and meditation exercises and with help from our Creator, I feel I can lick this thing! Right now coping with a new concern, anxiety, seems to be the major obstacle blocking my way to a full recovery.
Without going further into great details with drawn out explanations. I will simply say that for a couple of months my thought processes were just not in gear and every time I sat down at the computer to write, my processor would not engage, and I do not mean my word processor. So, after many proofreads, rewrites, and thank goodness for the spell check program, here is my last article on some of our more colorful ancestors, the Scots-Irish.
But second, I would like to thank Cousin John Silver for filling in for me during my absence from Silver Notes by using some of my previously written material. So, in reality, nobody missed me at all did you? I trust everyone is healthy, prosperous and looking forward to an enjoyable summer. (We did miss you, Cousin Rex, you just didn’t know about it!)
Back in January when I started writing this last article, we were on the eve of the swearing in of a new president. For a period of time up to the swearing in, we did not know for sure who that new president was going to be. Neither did the Scots-Irish settlers, who had taken up arms against the British Crown during the Revolutionary War, know who or even if they would ever have a president after all the battles had been fought and all the smoke had cleared.
Approximately 218 years ago, in 1776, we were still under the rule of the British Crown and William Tryon was Governor of North Carolina. Second and third generations of Scots-Irish had survived the French and Indian Wars of the 1750s and had made their way from the crowded farmlands of Pennsylvania by traveling the Great Wagon Road through the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia and had dispersed in the Piedmont Section of the Carolinas. (Piedmont at that time in history meant “backwoods.”)
James G. Leyburn in his book, “The Scotch-Irish, A Social History” relates that, ‘The typical pioneer lived with his large family in a log cabin set in a space he had cleared in the forest. There he led a rough but simple life, hunting, trapping and farming with the crude implements and wasteful methods and usually having to fight Indians.’
He also neatly reflects on, “The transformation of the mind and the social life of the Scotch-Irish as they became Americans and as the Presbyterian Church lost its hold upon the thousands of them,” and continues by telling us about, “The realities of life in the American back-country at the time.”
In due time the Scots-Irish would become the first political radicals in America. They would help shape the Constitution; provide presidents, governors, justices and legislators, far in excess of their proportional numbers according to Leyburn. (296)
But first, in addition to the Scots-Irish, who were of the majority and were settling the wide Piedmont basin of North Carolina, there were also German Lutherans, Scottish Highlanders, some French Huguenots and a select few former indentured English servants, who were previously living on the fringes of Virginia and the North Carolina coast in the shadows of the large planters, all gradually drifted west and settled in the valleys of the Yadkin, Broad, Catawba and French Broad rivers.
Yet even earlier, as early as 1763, some of the men who fought in the western North Carolina mountains during the French and Indian Wars to quell the Cherokee uprisings which ended in 1761, realized the rich fertile valleys of the river bottoms would make fine farms and an especially good place to raise families. Feeling safe from the danger of additional Cherokee raids which were supposedly over, some of them packed their belongings and climbed the high mountains to take up homesteads in the valleys of the northern North Carolina of the Upper Holston, Nolichucky and Watauga rivers.
Other Scotch-Irish who had illegally slipped into the valleys of the Northern Mountains were actually already settled in what would eventually become eastern Tennessee. Thinking they were still in Virginia and eventually realizing their error, they negotiated directly with the Cherokee to purchase land for their homesteads. The Indians, elated to receive the white man’s goods, traded away tracts of their valuable extended hunting grounds. These were the first white settlers in what is today Western North Carolina.
While Scots-Irish settlers from Virginia were slipping into the Northern Mountains, Governor Tryon was personally leading an expedition into the Southern Mountains in 1767 to survey a boundary line which would permanently establish a line of demarcation and differentiate the lands of the Cherokee from the lands available for white settlement. The present Blue Ridge Parkway, along stretches of its North Carolina length, follows that old line of demarcation.
With boundaries established both for the Indians and white settlers, Scots-Irish included as well, and with peace at hand with the two warring peoples, white settlement began in the western foothills. Forts, or blockhouses, were established along the frontier just in case. For Davidson was erected at present day Old Fort in McDowell County. Near present day Lenoir, Fort Gryder was the blockhouse of security for our Scots-Irish ancestors living in the foothills of old Rowan County where today Caldwell County exists. Western expansion had truly begun.
Yet the flames which would ignite into a roaring indistinguishable fire were beginning to burn in the east. After settling in the higher Northern mountains and foothills of the Southern mountains, the Scots-Irish settlers notified the North Carolina Colonial Government in New Bern of their existence. They were, however, intolerant of restrictions and demanded a just share in their political organizations and freedom in their religious thinking.
By 1770, many of the newly arrived settlers, with the Scots-Irish in the majority, in the back woods and the western foothills of North Carolina, including those over the mountain, began to feel the increasing pressure from unfair taxes as well as unequal representation from the Colonial Government in New Bern. Feeling both economically and politically abused as a result of their geographic isolation, they sought compensation and satisfaction through a militant reaction which would become known as, “The Regulator Movement.”
These mountain and back-woods settlers were the forerunners of the Colonist, who six years later would raise the same issues with the English Government which initiated the Revolutionary War and the signing of a National Declaration of Independence separate from the British Crown. On numerous occasions they even went so far as to horsewhip, tar and feather Colonial Tax Collectors. Still feeling their voices were not being heard in New Bern, one English Tax Collector was hung when he came collecting taxes for the building Governor Tryon’s palace.
On May 16, 1771, after a year and a half of tolerating the harassment of the Regulators and fearing an attack on New Bern by the Regulators, Colonial Governor Tryon ordered a Colonial Militia of some 1500 men to confront the rebels. A battle ensued near Hillsborough, North Carolina, at a place called Almance Creek. Two thousand men answered the call of the Regulators, but their lack of organized military skills resulted in defeat and many of their leaders were tried for treason and were hung. To survive and have the privilege of returning to their families, many members of the movement took a reluctant and insincere oath of allegiance to the Crown. But many did not. They packed their belongings and moved with their families to the faraway mountains to the Watauga Settlement where a stand of solidarity began with a stronger sentiment for independence. They would later play a major roll in the defeat of the British during the Revolutionary, especially as “Over Mountain Men” at the Battle of Kings Mountain.
In 1772, realizing their isolation from the Colonial Capital and the lack of respect shown to these backwoods Scots-Irish, as they were referred to by the Easterners, those who had settled in the Watauga Valley of what is today Eastern Tennessee, established a document which became known as, “The Articles of The Watauga Association.” Short of swearing total independence from the Colonial Government in New Bern, the document did establish a form of informal independence for the Scots-Irish backwoodsmen.
This Declaration of Independence provided for a court of elected commissioners, a clerk of court, and a sheriff. It recognized no other form of higher authority and it recognized the raising and directing of its own militia and the power to negotiate with the Indians and other colonies.
A form of democracy had come to the western North Carolina Mountains in the form of this constitution. “The injustices and political, economic and religious oppression suffered by the Scots-Irish and other settlers of non-English heritage in their native European homeland and again in the Piedmont of North Carolina had taught these independent settlers much,” quotes Ora Blackman in her book, “Western North Carolina, Its Mountains and Its People to 1880.” Above all, this farsighted group of sturdy pioneers learned to prize freedom above all things.
The major roll, these Scots-Irish backwoodsmen of Western North Carolina would play in The War For Independence, presented itself in the Battle of Kings Mountain on October 7, 1780.
But first, General Cornwallis laid siege to the port city of Charles Towne, (Charlestown) South Carolina, in February of 1780. After the surrender of Charles Towne and with local Tory Loyalists who remained loyal to the British Crown, Cornwallis won another major against the Patriots in Camden, South Carolina, where over 800 Patriots were killed and a thousand taken prisoner. Cornwallis then marched uncontested into North Carolina and the frontier village of Charlotte.
With his western flank exposed to the local militia, Cornwallis dispatched Loyalist Scotsman Colonel Patrick Ferguson with nine hundred seasoned and hardened British soldiers and Loyalist on a search and destroy mission in the western foothills of the two Carolinas. While headquartered near the present day town of Tryon, North Carolina, Ferguson forwarded a warning to the backwoods Scots-Irish militia in advance of his approaching forces.
Ferguson’s ultimatum was, “Full surrender or he would march his army into the foothills and over the mountains if necessary to the Watauga Settlement, hang the Patriot leaders, lay their homes, farms and country to waste with fire and sword and take the women and children as prisoners.”
One can just imagine the reaction of these bold pioneers. They have settled a land far removed from their homelands and the origins of their ancestors to live without tyranny oppressing their lives. And now again, cruel inhuman anguish was tormenting their existence once more.
Enough was enough! The backwoods settlers, of whom the majority was Scots-Irish, reacted in the, “ways of old.” A call went out to all the clans from the foothills of Northern South Carolina to the Mountains of Southern Virginia. “Arm yourselves lads and laddies, we’ve a battle to fight!”
So on September 25, 1780, the quickly organized militia of over nine hundred frontiersmen “answered the call” and mustered at the Sycamore Shoals (present day Elizabethton, Tennessee) blockhouse. They wore not fancy uniforms of bright colors, but shirts and trousers of either homespun or deer hide. Their armaments were not large bore military rifles and cannon, but small bore hunting rifles, skinning knives and tomahawks. Yet, the greatest offensive weapon each militiaman possessed was his, “will to survive” and be “free from oppression.”
Gathering more militiamen as they descended the mountains into the foothills of North Carolina, the “Over the Mountain Men”(as they would become known in history) soon joined with others of their kind from South Carolina, and the force of two-thousand strong were soon “hot on the heels” of Ferguson and his forces.
Greatly outnumbered, two to one, Ferguson fled Tryon and retreated in the direction of Charlotte, hoping to reach the security of Cornwallis’ Army before being trapped by the Patriots.
Realizing Ferguson’s attempt to escape, the leaders of the Patriot militia, and with the thought of freedom in their minds, divided their forces and selected nine hundred of their strongest and most able-bodied men to pursue Ferguson. Mounting the strongest and fastest horses, this detachment of “Over the Mountain Men advanced in hot pursuit of Ferguson and his forces and overtook them near a high ridge in North Carolina near the South Carolina border about fifteen miles south of present day Kings Mountain, North Carolina. The date was October 4, 1780.
Ferguson took a stand on the high ridge and on October 7, the Over the Mountain Men completely surrounded the ridge. Surviving a cold, rainy night, the Patriots received their orders! Each man was instructed to, “become his own officer” and to fight the British, “Indian style.” In the morning the Patriots advanced up the ridge from tree to tree and every bullet found its mark that day. After only one hour, the raging battle ended. Ferguson lay dying, surrounded by one hundred twenty dead Crown soldiers. Another one hundred twenty three were wounded. His army surrendered! The Patriots had lost only twenty-eight dead and sixty two wounded. The day was won by our Scots-Irish ancestors!
No one could have known at the time, but the backwoods Scots-Irish Patriots and men of other European origins freed their back country forever of British oppression and persecution. The Battle of Kings Mountain inevitably led to General Cornwallis’ surrender at Yorktown.
In the fact that the Cherokees had allied themselves with the British during the American Revolutionary War, their lands in the mountains of South and North Carolina, Eastern Tennessee and Virginia were confiscated by the new United States Government.
The Cherokees were exiled to a small reservation deep in the Smokey Mountains. Their former hunting grounds, including Yancey and Mitchell Counties, now free from the threat of attack, were opened for legal settlement in 1783. First to take up their 640 acres of land as payment for serving as a Patriot during the Revolution were those who had fought in The Great War For Independence.
This story of the shaping and molding of the Scots-Irish peoples to a degree ends with the American Revolution. In the future they would become an integral part of the shaping and molding of the young United States of America. “The indoctrination of character instilled in the descendants of the early Scots-Irish wielded an extended influence on the communities in which the people lived and possibly on the nation as a whole,” states Leyburn in his conclusion of, The Scots-Irish. A Social History.”
Wayne Edward Silver
Wayne Edward Silver, 60, of 140 Grindstaff Road, died Wednesday, June 6, 2001, at Spruce Pine Community Hospital.
He was born December 30, 1940, in Mitchell County to Ruth Emma Robinson and the late William George Silver.
Wayne was laid to rest in the Kona Baptist Church Cemetery in a private ceremony by family and close friends.
Remembered as an accomplished pianist and keeper of the family archives at Kona Baptist Church, Wayne was a seventh generation son of German immigrant Georg Silber.
In addition to his mother he is survived by a brother, William George Junior Silver and his wife Brenda; one sister, Wanda Marie Silver Freeman and her husband Tom. Six nieces, Corrie, Sarah and Hannah Freeman; Misti, Sherry and Jennifer Silver and four nephews. John and Mark Silver, Will Freeman and Tim Foxx.
A celebration of his life will be held at 7 p.m. Saturday at Little Kona Baptist Church.
Henry Lee Silver
Henry Lee Silver, 92, of North Green Street, died Monday, June 4, 2001, at Grace Hospital after an extended illness.
Born in Burke County on May 13, 1909, he was a son of the late David Alonzo and Zeney Norman Silver. Mr. Silver was a faithful member of the El Bethel Baptist Church where he served as the church treasurer for 27 years. Sunday School teacher, Sunday School superintendent, Lifetime Deacon, Brotherhood Director and a member of the Adult Men’s Sunday School Class.
He had retired from Drexel Heritage after 29 years, was a member of the 1930 graduating class of Morganton High School and was a U.S. Navy veteran of World War II serving in both the Atlantic and Pacific theaters. He was an avid gardener and handyman.
In addition to his parents he was preceded in death by his wife of 49 years, Theresa Kincaid Silver; brothers, John Clarence Silver and Earl Douglas Silver and sister, Buena Coffey.
Surviving are: son, Dennis Silver and wife, Sandi, of Melbourne, FL; daughter: Marilyn Saulman and husband, Ralph, of Morganton; brother, James Gaston Silver of Parker, IN; sister, Lennie Harris of Morganton; grandchildren, Jonathan Saulman and wife Kelly, Phillip Silver, David Silver; step-grandchildren, Amy Hottle, Lisa Hottle and a number of nieces and nephews.
The funeral will be held at 1:00 p.m. Thursday at El Bethel Baptist Church with the Reverends Ron Cooper, David Bean and Jimmy Lambert officiating. Burial will follow in the church cemetery with military rites performed by the Morganton Ceremonial Team.
The family will receive friends today from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at Kirksey Funeral Home. At other times the family will be at the home of Mr. Silver on North Green Street.
Memorials to Mr. Silver’s memory may be made to the El Bethel Fellowship Hall Fund, P.O. Box 2518, Morganton, NC 28655 or to the American Heart Association, c/o Donna Smith, P.O. Box 560, Rutherford College, NC 28671.
By Garrett Jackson (SAR)
During the American Revolution, you could find German participants fighting for both the American and British causes. Several American officers were of German descent including Generals Friedrich von Steuben, Johann de Kalb, and Colonels Christian von Forbach and Wilhelm von Forbach. Along with these officers, German colonists from the mid-Atlantic states also served on the American side. A few Hessian mercenaries who were captured or deserted joined the Patriot forces.
General von Steuben spent his early life living in Russia with his father. He became a Prussian officer at the age of 17 and served in an infantry unit as a staff officer in the Seven Years War. After that he was promoted to a membership on the General Staff where he completed many military and diplomatic assignments in Russia before being attached to Frederick the Great’s headquarters.
The experience von Steuben gained while training for the General Staff would be used to train the inexperienced American troops. Von Steuben obtained the rank of Captain while serving on the General Staff. He was discharged in 1763 at the age of only 33.
Von Steuben arrived in Paris in 1777 and met with Benjamin Franklin. He had been endorsed by the French Minister of War, Count de St. Germain, for service to the American Armies. After Franklin wrote a creative letter to Washington introducing von Steuben as “Lt. General of the King of Prussia’s Service,” Congress agreed to let von Steuben serve as a volunteer, without a salary.
Von Steuben could not speak English. He picked some 100 men and used the training and experience from his days of training in the General Staff. The men showed a great deal of improvement in a very short time. He would swear at the men in German, then in French, and when they could not understand him, he would have his aides swear at them in English. Von Steuben’s American troops performed well at Barren Hill. Washington liked what he saw and recommended to Congress von Steuben’s appointment of Major General Inspector General. The appointment was approved on May 5, 1778.
Von Steuben was a great teacher for the American troops. He authored Regulations for the Order and Discipline of the Troops of the United States, that was later called the “Blue Book.”
Von Steuben never received a field commission; however, he did take command of one of Washington’s three divisions at Yorktown, due to his experience in battle. He was honorably discharged from the American forces on March 24, 1784. He later became an American citizen and was given a war pension. General von Steuben brought discipline to the American troops.
General Johann de Kalb
Johann de Kalb was born in 1721 to Bavarian peasants. At age 16 he left home and by the time he turned 22, he held the rank of Lt., serving in the French infantry. Baron de Kalb continued his military career fighting in the army of General Saxe, then making a name for himself in the Seven Years War. Baron de Kalb was a brilliant man, with a wealth of knowledge in mathematics, military tactics and foreign languages. In 1764, he married a wealthy heiress, whose fortune enabled him to retire from his military career and settle in Paris.
In 1768, Baron de Kalb’s education and ability to speak different languages allowed him to travel to America as a secret agent for Etienne Choiseul, the Count of Stainville. De Kalb returned to the army to serve France and was promoted to Brigadier General in 1776. He wanted to return to America and in April of 1777, he set sail along with Lafayette to America. When de Kalb arrived in America, he found that he had no contract to serve for the Patriot forces. He had to threaten a civil law suit to obtain his commission as Major General. He went to Valley Forge in November of 1777 and spent the winter there with Washington.
In the spring of 1780, after the battle at Charlestown, General de Kalb was ordered to move south. He had almost 1,200 troops. After the surrender of Charlestown, Gates was appointed as commander of the Southern Department. Gates took over command from de Kalb at Coxe’s Mill in July of 1780. The troops were half starved and sick from lack of supplies. General Gates ordered the troops to be ready to move on a moment’s notice, by promising the troops that supplies were on the way.
Gates moved toward Camden. General de Kalb and others recommended that they travel to Camden by a route taking them through Salisbury, Charlotte and the Catawba region, as there would be abundant crops to eat and the citizens would be more sympathetic along this route. Gates decided to take a shorter route containing many Tories, barren land and swamps. They began the march two days after General Gates took command.
Gates refused to listened to advice from de Kalb and other officers. On August 16, 1780, led the troops to one of the worst defeats of the war, at Camden. General de Kalb was wounded eleven times that day and died three days later.
Colonel Christian von Forbach and Lt.Col. Wilhelm von Forbach
In the 1700s Zweibrucken was a Duchy ruled by a Count, the father of Christian and Wilhelm. Their army was a crack, well-trained unit named the Royal Deux-Pont Regiment. Zweibrucken had a treaty with France and when France agreed to support the Colonies in the Revolutionary War, French General Rochambeau specifically requested the Royal Deux-Pont Regiment to join him, as they were well trained, but also might be able to help influence the British hired Hessians to desert. They were successful in luring 67 Hessians to their side during the war.
The Forbach brothers’ service to the American Revolution are best known at the Battle of Yorktown, August 20 to October 17, 1781. At dusk on October 11, 1781, digging was started so artillery could be brought into place, for the assault on Redoubts 9 and 10. By October 14, General Washington was advised the assault was now possible.
Alexander Hamilton was in command of 400 American troops that led the assault on Redoubt 10, while 400 French troops under the command of Colonel Deux-Pont assaulted Redoubt 9. Lt.Col. Wilhelm Forbach led the charge on Redoubt 9. This charge opened the British defenses and the battle was soon over. The regiment suffered casualties of 20% killed and 40% wounded. The brothers served in this regiment for three years.
After the British surrender, Lt.Col. Wilhelm returned to France to bring King Louis XVI the terms of the British surrendered and the captured flags they had recovered from the Battle of Yorktown. He was awarded the Order of St. Louis by King Louis XVI for his achievements. Both Forbach brothers returned to France after the American Revolution and became Generals when the French Revolution took place.
Nearly 30,000 Germans, usually referred to as Hessians, fought for the British against the American troops. They fought in almost every major battle north of Florida. Of all the German troops who fought in America, about 60% returned to their homeland. About 5,000 deserted, some joined the American forces. About 7,750 died from battle or disease. Of the 17,300 survivors, many were captured or wounded. Two of the greatest defeats suffered by German troops fighting for the British side were at Trenton and Bennington. Many German deserters were given permission to stay in America.
German Colonists in The Middle Atlantic States
Besides the notable German officers such as von Steuben and de Kalb – there were counted among the Patriots of the American Revolution, German Colonists, immigrants from the Palatinate and other areas of the German States. They were living in the Susquehanna River Valley of Pennsylvania. They had been residents of that area for years.
The Pennsylvania Archives, Series 5 (Military Records) is full of names like Private Deitrich Fasler and his son Henry Fasler whose ancestors arrived on the “William and Sarah” in 1727; Peter Epler, Adam Epler and John Epler whose ancestors arrived on the “Samuel” in 1737; and Private 7th Class Johann Jacob; Private 5th Class Johann George Shimpf who arrived on the “Phoenix” in 1751.
These German Colonists had the same desire for personal freedom, individual religious beliefs and independence from England, as did the colonists of Massachusetts and Virginia.
German Regiments formed by Congress.
On May 25, 1776, German Regiments were established by a resolution of Congress. One, in Maryland and Pennsylvania, with Colonel Nicholas Haussegger in command, 1776-1777 and then replaced by Colonel (Baron) Arendt, following a defeat at Trenton.
Also, the 8th Virginia, better known as the “German Regiment,” was commanded by General John Peter Muhlenberg, who came to America in 1742 from Germany. He returned to Germany at the age of 16 to attend Waisenhaus, only to return to join the 60th Foot (“Royal Americans”) and as secretary to one of its officers who happened to be a family friend, reached Philadelphia and was discharged early in 1767. In 1772 he moved to Woodstock, Virginia, to be pastor of the large colony of German immigrants.
In 1774 he was elected to the House of Burgesses and in 1775 he became a militia Colonel at the invitation of Washington. Soon thereafter, he preached his final sermon. Shedding his robes to reveal his uniform, walked to the church door and ordered the drums to beat for recruits. He enlisted over 300 of his congregation. This regiment became the 8th Virginia and his appointment as a Continental Colonel was dated March 1, 1776.
In the battle of Brandywine, September 11, 1777, he was credited for stopping the enemy so the main army could escape. At Germantown, October 4, 1777, he led his troops deep into enemy territory and fought his way out. His command participated in the battle at Monmouth and after winter quarters in 1778 commanded the reserve forces at Stony Point.
In the last battle with Cornwallis, he commanded a brigade in the assault of Redoubt 9.
A truly outstanding man from a remarkable family, Muhlenberg looked the part of a national hero; tall, strikingly handsome and courtly. His statues are in City Hall Plaza, Philadelphia and in Statuary Hall in Washington, DC.