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.
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!