Relatively speaking, the United States is a young country— just over 235 years old. While many Americans celebrate July 4th as its birth, many others mark America’s official debut as being on October 19, 1781 when British General Charles Cornwallis formally surrendered his troops at Yorktown, Virginia.
From General Cornwallis’s perspective, it was the end of a long and weary effort, starting with victories in New Jersey and South Carolina followed by resistance in North Carolina. Realizing that his reinforcements had been blocked and that his troops were surrounded by French and Americans,Cornwallis was left with little choice. He surrendered. But not happily. Pleading illness on the day of the surrender ceremony, Cornwallis sent his sword carried by his second-in-command.
If Houses Could Talk
Stories about the American Revolution are still found everywhere. Even Jane Baker, co-owner of Saving Memories Forever, has some. She grew up hearing stories about her family’s home in Wilton, Connecticut.
During the Revolutionary War, the British used Wilton as an escape route. On their way south from Danbury, the British burned several roadside houses. Jane’s house was saved by the quick thinking of its owner’s wife who left baked goods on the kitchen table while she hid in the nearby woods. Grateful for the snack, the British left the house untouched.
That same house later hosted the Marquis de Lafayette on his victory tour in 1824. Yes, this is the same Marquis de Lafayette whose troops were instrumental in General Cornwallis’s surrender! At any rate, Jane’s “house story” reports that the Marquis drank too much and went to bed with his boots on, a real social faux pas in the days of ever-present horse manure.
Today, Jane shares these stories with her family.
Another source for oral history focused on the American Revolution comes in the form of a book entitled The Revolution Remembered: Eyewitness Accounts of the War for Independence by John C. Dann. The book provides an insightful way to explore the details of the war, told in the same way as the individuals who lived it.
What’s your story?
For many, exploring genealogy is a passion and a thrill. There are those among us who are proud members of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) or the Sons of the American Revolution (SAR). I wish I was one of their ranks because that would mean that I would have solved my biggest puzzle: the lineage of my Civil War ancestor. I have already established that he and his wife are the only two possible direct lines I may have to the Revolutionary War time frame in this country. My other lines immigrate to America long after the war is over.
The DAR recently celebrated its 123rd supporter of the genealogical community. Many of us have utilized their libraries, apps, and online databases to enhance our own research, and to tell better stories.
This week, we want to know. What’s your Revolutionary War story?
We share this history as a nation. Yet our history relies upon reports and observations of individuals. What will your descendants know about you in 235 years? Will they be able to hear or read your stories? They can. But only if you share those stories today. Make the conscious decision to leave those stories behind for them to explore.
Genealogist Jen Baldwin is the owner of Ancestral Journeys, specializing in the Rocky Mountain Corridor. She writes for a variety of publications, speaks regionally on genealogy related topics, is the creator and co-host of #genchat on Twitter, and owns Conference Keeper. She also is co-creator and Co-Chair of the NextGen Genealogy Network and is the Director of Operations for The In-Depth Genealogist. You can connect with Jen on her website or on social media.