Revolutionary War Patriots

Battle of Lexington

Happy 4th of July!

As we march into the 4th of July Weekend and celebrate our freedoms, I pause and reflect upon my Patriot ancestors who marched for our liberty in the War of Independence. 

These men marched and fought for you and they marched and fought for me. And yes, often, women marched and fought, too. Theirs was a grand dream of citizens governing citizens under shared laws. We became the land of the free because of the actions of these brave women and men. As we celebrate Independence Day, I take a moment to remember those who fought for our freedoms and made great sacrifices for all of us.

Here are a few names and stories of my Revolutionary War forebears. I share this brief narrative with you in an effort to keep alive the memory of these courageous individuals and to honor the values for which they stood.

As you know, the Revolutionary War began in all seriousness in 1775 with the skirmishes that unfolded in Lexington and Concord. Many other events led up to the firing of that famous musket shot of April 19, 1775, but the “hot” war officially began on that day.

The first Revolutionary War patriot that comes to mind is Captain Joshua Gray (1743 – 1791). Joshua Gray is my fifth great-grandfather on my father’s side of my family. He fought in the Revolutionary War as a captain in a company of Minute Men who marched on April 20, 1775 in response to the alarm of April 19, 1775. They marched towards Marshfield, Massachusetts after the alarm for Lexington went out.  

Captain Gray was also engaged from July 1, 1775 to December 31, 1775 serving in defense of the sea coast. Additionally, he served as a captain in Colonel Cary’s Regiment which was raised to reinforce the Continental Army until April 1776. It seems, from letters he sent to his wife, he was stationed outside Boston for a few months during this time period. Finally, the record shows, Joshua Gray was chosen 1st major in Colonel Nathaniel Freeman’s Regiment of the Massachusetts Militia (1st Barnstable Company). That’s some soldiering!

Joshua was a fervent Patriot and it was written of him, “In the local annals of the Revolution, Joshua Gray was a prominent figure. At its outbreak, when public meetings were being held in various towns on the Cape by the ‘Body of the People’ to declare for their rights and liberties, and to prepare for action, he was among the leading patriots in enthusiasm, efficiency, and service.”

Next, we visit with a father and son team of Patriots, my fifth and sixth great-grandfathers, who fought in the American Revolution. Both of these men were named Perez Waterman. The details of the service of the first Perez Waterman (1713 – 1793) are limited but the second Perez Waterman (1739 – 1821), the Patriot ancestor through which I joined the Sons of the American Revolution, are substantial.

Perez initially served as a 1st sergeant in Captain Nathan Mitchell’s Company of Minutemen, which marched, like Captain Joshua Gray, in response to the alarm of April 19th, 1775 with service of 11 days. 

Perez was living in Bridgewater, Massachusetts at the time of the call to march to Lexington. Given Bridgewater’s relative proximity to Lexington and Concord, I often wonder if Perez was engaged in the ongoing skirmishes with the British as they retreated from Concord towards the safety of Boston. It is unlikely he participated in the Lexington or Concord engagements but perhaps Perez Waterman joined his compatriots in the New England woods and harassed the British soldiers as they made their way back to Boston – a bloody and costly retreat to Boston for the British.

Perez was also an ensign in the company of Captain James Allen enlisting in May 1, 1775, with service of about 14 weeks lasting to the middle of August 1775. Additionally, he mustered in the company of Captain Allen. Finally, the record shows he served as a lieutenant in the company of Captain Nathan Packard from July 10, 1780 to Oct 31, 1780 for an additional 14 weeks serving in Rhode Island. 

Did Perez Waterman participate in the Battle of Rhode Island which took place in August, 1778? We can only wonder. We do know, through the writings of his grandson C.C.P. Waterman, Perez Waterman fought in the defense of New Bedford under the command of Major Israel Fearing during the early days of the Revolutionary War.

Battle of Bunker Hill

From these three men, we turn to five other men in my family known to have served in the Revolutionary War. Names like Lot Thatcher (1757 – 1833), Isaac Johnson (1721 – 1807), Daniel Lathrop (1721 – 1818), Ephraim Cary (1714 – 1791), and Jonathan Cady are included in that list of Patriots. All these men are ancestors from my father’s family line.

Lot Thatcher fought in the Revolutionary War serving as a private under Captain David Nye in the 4th Company in the 4th Plymouth County Regiment. He served for three days on an alarm of December 7, 1776 in defense of the Elizabeth Islands.

He also served under the command of Captain John Gibbs in the 5th Company in the 4th Regiment of Plymouth County, Massachusetts Militia. He marched on an alarm to Falmouth on September 13th, 1778. He served in that operation for five days. He was my fifth great-grandfather.

Isaac Johnson, my sixth great-grandfather, fought in the Revolutionary War as a major. He was from Bridgewater, MA and served in the 3rd Regiment Plymouth County Militia under Lieutenant Colonel Jeremiah Hall.

Daniel Lathrop fought in the Revolutionary War as a captain of an artillery company and Ephraim Cary served the cause of freedom as a selectman for the town of Bridgewater. They were both my sixth great-grandfathers.

Jonathan Cady fought in the Revolutionary War as a lieutenant with Captain Joseph Cady under Colonel Ebenezer Williams’ 11th Brigade. He was also a captain with Colonel Conants Regiment. I have the privilege of calling him my fifth great-grandfather.

Were these men inspired to reject the tyranny of a king after listening to the words of Thomas Paine from Common Sense?

“O ye that love mankind! Ye that dare oppose, not only the tyranny, but the tyrant, stand forth! Every spot of the old world is overrun with oppression. Freedom hath been hunted round the globe. Asia, and Africa, have long expelled her. Europe regards her like a stranger, and England hath given her warning to depart. O! receive the fugitive, and prepare in time an asylum for mankind.” – Thomas Paine

Finally, on this 4th of July, I remember one of my favorite family Patriots. He is my fourth great-grandfather, this time on my mother’s side, and his name was James Wheaton Brayton. James served as a private with the Rhode Island troops and also as a carpenter’s mate on the galley “Spitfire” and on the privateer “General Stark.” Much to my delight, I discovered James’ grave in my own hometown of Warren, Rhode Island.

The story is told, while fighting the British in the American Navy, James broke his arm and was subsequently captured. He was imprisoned on an enemy ship. After his arm sufficiently healed his captors placed a pen in his hand and instructed him to sign a document pledging allegiance to King George III. 

With Patriot defiance, he slammed his arm down with such force he broke the bone a second time – refusing to sign. The surgeon was obliged to set the break again and James was returned to the prison hold. Some weeks later, once the arm healed a second time, James was escorted to the table to sign his papers of allegiance once again. This time, too, he repeated his earlier performance and broke his arm upon the table. He was, the report states, “afterwards assigned to the Jersey prison ship.” This was a determined Patriot!

So, happy 4th of July! And as I honor and celebrate my Patriot ancestors, I also honor and celebrate all men and women who fought to secure our freedom and laid the constitutional foundations for our American way of life. We do indeed remain the land of the free and home of the brave, in large part, because of the selfless actions of so many Patriots who came before us. 

Do you have any Patriot ancestors in your family history? What are their names? Let me know in a comment below!

Surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown

32 thoughts on “Revolutionary War Patriots

    1. Dear Andrew,
      Another great article “From the Desert!” Thank you for all the information you pass on to us!! It’s wonderful to know our family history! Not everyone is as lucky to have an Andrew Raybold Whipple in their family!!
      Thank you, Andrew, for all your time and endless research!!
      Eleanor

      1. Eleanor, Thank you so much! You know well, I am standing on the shoulders of some great family historians!

      2. Hi Eleanor, thanks for your response to Andrew! I add my name to that!!!
        Hope all is well with you and yours!
        Linda

  1. Thank you for sharing … it’s great to remember those family members our heritage is founded on.

  2. Love it. I spent yesterday rereading some of the pension papers. My ancestors who were in the war include Phillip Tourgee, William Tourgee, and a few Gould’s.

  3. I have at least four ancestors that served in the war of the Revolution. Frederick Wack was from Connecticut. When his company was in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, he was ill and left behind. He married a local girl and stayed in Buck County.
    Jonathan Weaver was from Coventry, Rhode Island. He served for seven days on alarm from July 24-30, 1778, under Major General Sullivan. He stayed in military service as an ensign in the 2nd Coventry Co., 2nd Kent County Regiment.
    Bejamin Purnell served in the militia forces of Maryland as an ensign in Sinapuxent Battalion, Worcester County, MD. Later, he was a 2nd Lieutenent in the 6th Company of the same battalion.
    Christophal Sax of Milford Township, Bucks County, Pennsylvania served as a private in the militia.
    And by the way, I have Whipple ancestors, from Rhode Island.

    1. I love these stories of our heritage! Are you an Ipswich Whipple or a Dorchester/Providence Whipple? I’m an Ipswich Whipple.

  4. I love reading history, mostly this period of time. I’ve been research my patriots and was overjoyed to find others who’s family descendants have known him as well. would like to know if you have anything else regarding Col Nathaniel Freeman although he is well documented ,I’m looking for more, thanks

    1. Thanks for the comment. No, I’m afraid I don’t have any information on Col. Freeman. Would love to learn!

    2. I started out being surprised by all our (mine and my husbands) ancestors who were involved in the Revolutionary war. Then I got curious and went back s few more generations to research how many ancestor had who were killed by Indians. Last count hubby has 32! I’ve learned so much about that time period in the last year. They didn’t teach us this stuff in school.

  5. I believe my 4th Great Grandfather was Nathaniel Bentley from Rhode Island. He was a privateer and commanded several ships during the Revolutionary War. He was captured and died on the HMS Jersey. I say “believe” because I have yet to confirm it with the DAR. I have solid evidence of everyone in my tree up to and including my 3rd Great Grandfather, John Bentley b 1782 in Massachusetts. I have been researching this for about two years now and can’t break this brick wall. I can find only one christening of “a” John Bentley and his siblings in MA in 1787 and it’s by Nathaniel and Anna Trowbridge Bentley. I would give anything to confirm my John Bentley is Nathaniel’s son.

  6. I joined the SAR on the back of Joshua Palmer, who was captured during the battle in Manhattan, died on the British ship “Jersey”. I have an Uncle who signed the US Constitution (donated his family bible) to a museum in Philadelphia. I have an ancestor who owned a paper mill, and was asked by Congress to print the first US dollar. Had an ancestor who was a good friend of Francis Scott Key, was a Doctor & Lawyer, unfortunately, my ancestor caught the flu from FSK and died, Francis Scott Key went on to become famous. I have an Ancestor, who was born in Baltimore, but fought with the French as a Major of Artillery during the Battle at Yorktown….currently working on supplementals.

  7. Great article – I have too many to name, but James Deakins, Alexander Ferris, Ensign Rexford, everyone on my tree is marked with a flag, and I have more than 20 who fought in the Civil War. Also have a few who fought in the Modoc War in Oregon Territory.

    1. Thank you! I have a number of ancestors who fought in the Civil War, too. I once visited a battle field where one of my great-grandfathers fought and it was a powerful experience.

  8. I have DAR proven & many still proving. Caleb Hill, Prince Alden, Abraham Pike (married Prince Alden’s daughter Mary Alden), Thomas Nevins Sr., Thomas Nevins Jr.

  9. Thank you for posting this a second time. I do enjoy reading your blog posts about our shared ancestors. This morning I’m thinking about the importance of a simple handwritten letter between family members. The letters between Saidee Waterman Leach and her son Douglas during WWII have filled in some important ‘holes’ in my family’s story and were a history lesson as well. He donated his papers to two universities and excerpts can be found in two books as well. Fortunately my personal letters to him didn’t ‘make the cut’!! My cousin Carol found them in a folder, neatly organized by date when he passed.

    1. Janet, Letter writing is really an art form in our family. How good it would be to have a few examples from each of Mary Waterman Raybold’s children to share among the family!

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