SAR Chapter president talks about the First Revolutionary War Christmas of 1776

CASSADAGA – Chapter President Steve Boothe referenced Richard Ketchum, author of the book “The Winter Soldiers” (1973) as well as Thomas Paine’s “Common Sense” (1776) pamphlet at a recent meeting of the Chautauqua County Chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution (SAR).

Paine’s writing of 1776 helped to gin-up the cause of independence, as did the Trenton Battle of Dec. 25-26, 1776. Paine’s immortal words are herein remembered: “These are the times that try men’s souls…” It was a very dark time in late 1776, so General George Washington came up with the strategy of attacking Trenton, New Jersey. American soldiers left bloody footprints during their march; and, two men froze to death on the way to Trenton. At the time, the Hessians were partying, celebrating Christmas. The American attack made for a complete rout of the Germans, and nearly 1,00 Germans were captured. Lt. James Monroe, born in 1758, future president of the United States, was severely wounded during the combat.

A famous painting, the crossing of the Delaware, resulted from the action of that night, painted by German-American Artist Emmanuel Leutze (1816-1868) in 1851, originally shown at the Metropolitan Museum of the Arts. Another painting depicted Hessian Col. Johann Rall surrendering his sword to General Washington. Col. Rall, mortally wounded, died that might and was buried in an unidentified grave at the Trenton First Presbyterian Church.

Later, the Princeton attack was yet another success, though American General Hugh Mercer, friend of Washington, lost his life to British bayonet attacks.

SAR member Frank Stow talked about his Stow ancestry. Stephen Stow, a Revolutionary War captain, cared for sick soldiers at Milford, Connecticut, and came to be known as the “martyr of Milford.” He died in 1777 from smallpox. Captain Stow is in the same family line as Harriet Beecher Stow, author of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” published in 1852. President Abraham Lincoln suggested that Harriet started the Civil War with her writing of her novel.

SAR member Doug Arters talked about an historical painting, an illustration, and a poster. The painting was found in storage in Arters’ mother-in-law’s home. In April 1607, led by the Englishman the Rev. Richard Hunt, English settlers landed at a Virginia peninsula which they named Cape Henry in honor of the son of King James of England. Perhaps half these settlers died after settling at Jamestown, Virginia. They were probably not fully prepared for the vigors and difficulties of survival, suffering from diseases and salty water. Hunt was one of those who died. The painting depicts a large cross made of oak brought with the settlers from England.

The illustration compares the Pennsylvania Rifle to the 1773 Brown Bess musket, the weapon of choice for the British Army for quite a few years. The Pennsylvania Rifle could not, of course, adapt to fixing a bayonet, but was a much more accurate weapon because of its spiraling barrel inner grooves.

Finally, the poster was shown, designed by historian David Barton of Aledo, Texas, briefly outlining the life of Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson was born in 1743. Arters noted that America’s first war, as an independent nation, was fought against the Muslim Barbary pirates in the early 1800’s under Jefferson’s Administration. The US Navy, (and other countries’ navies), in our day, is still waging battles against pirates in the Middle East. Jefferson died on July 4, 1826, the 50th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence, as did Founding Father John Adams of Massachusetts.

The SAR is a fraternal organization whose members trace back to an ancestor who served the cause of liberty in the military, congress, or in some other capacity. Many men, and some women, lost their lives to disease as captives.

The next SAR meeting is set for Jan. 5 at noon at the Cassadaga Country Club, 55 Frisbee Road, as a fellowship gathering. The meal will be ordered off the menu, and guests are invited to attend. For more information, contact the chapter president, Steve Boothe at 574-7995.

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