Saturday, July 3, 2010

Thoughts related to Independence Day

We often know very little about even the most famous Americans from the 1700s. Their lives are surrounded by controversy and myth, and every academic gets to publish their own version of the facts. When it comes to my ancestors, who were not famous statesmen, it is far more difficult to tell their story. They can seem like mere names on a list. But thanks to having genealogists in the family, we have pieced together some details.

Colin Campbell- I first became aware of Colin Campbell when I was about eleven years old. My mother (Betsy Buck) showed me his name in a blue membership directory for the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR). I saw my great grandmother’s name printed with her DAR membership number, with the associated ancestor "Colin Campbell".

Colin Campbell was born in Scotland on January 27, 1749, four years after Charles Stewart’s uprising. Colin married Jean McPherson on his 24th birthday in 1773, three years before the Declaration of Independence was signed. In 1775 he was sent to the colonies as a commissioned officer in the British Army.

Upon finding that his brother William Campbell was an enthusiastic American patriot, Colin was persuaded to leave the Royal Army and join the Continentals in support of the colonial rebellion. Colin enlisted December 15, 1776 and was assigned to the 10th Virginia Regiment as Adjutant Major. William became the hero of the Battle of King’s Mountain, North Carolina where Loyalist forces suffered a critical defeat in 1780. "There Col. William Campbell, leader of the Virginians, a red-haired, 6-foot-6 giant married to the sister of firebrand patriot Patrick Henry, exhorted his men to ‘Shout like hell and fight like devils’... Loyalists were slain after they surrendered." (Smithsonian, July 2007, p44.)

Brother William later rose to the rank of General while Colin served until the surrender of Corwallis in 1781 and was paid off at Fort Pitt, Pennsylvania. Soon after Colin sent for his wife Jean McPherson and son Archibald and they settled near Abingdon, Virginia. Their son Archibald would marry the daughter of Henry Hawk (another Ft. Pitt soldier, see below) and served in the War of 1812. Colin died at the age of 85 on January 30, 1834.

Colin’s great grandson, Ota Hopkins Campbell would later serve in Confederate forces and fight at Gettysburg. There are two main sources of information for Colin; 1) Family Sheets on file with the DAR and 2) the PH Ropp Family Bible which is now stored in the Archives & Documents room at the Library of Virginia.

Henry Hawk- Also stationed at Fort Pitt was Henry Hawk (perhaps originally Hagg or Haugh), who is recorded as holding the rank of Corporal in the 7th Virginia Regiment. During the Revolutionary War, Fort Pitt served as the American headquarters for the western theater. Fort Pitt was originally built by the British in order to manage their volatile relations with the Delawares and Shawnees. It was abandoned to the locals in 1772.

A small brick building (called the Blockhouse) is all that remains of the fort in Point State Park, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Blockhouse was purchased and has been preserved by the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR). Amy Carter (Mother of Greg Carter and Debbie Hester) applied for DAR membership under Henry Hawk. The DAR places a limit on the number of descendants that may join under any particular veteran. The limit for limit for Colin Campbell had been reached. We are not sure if Hawk was born in Pennsylvania or in Holland. He married Catherine Wren. Their daughter, Mary Polly Hawk, married Colin Campbell’s son Archibald. Other than this we know very little about Henry Hawk and his role in the American Revolution.

Nathaniel Vasser was born about 1757 in Amelia Co., Virginia. He fought at the 1781 siege of Yorktown and witnessed the surrender of British General Cornwallis. Cornwallis had fortified both Yorktown and a naval base at Gloucester Point, just on the other side of the York River.

In 1782 Nathaniel married Sarah Hudson, a descendant of the famous explorer Henry Hudson. Nathaniel died June 18, 1823 in Halifax Co., VA. When Sarah filed for a widows pension, she stated that Nathaniel served as a private in the Virginia Militia and "was engaged in many battles".

About eighty years after the historic battle of Yorktown, Nathaniel’s great grandson, John D. Vasser, would be stationed at Gloucester Point during the War Between the States. And ninety years after that, in the 1970s, David and Stephen Schneider (descendants of Nathaniel and John Vasser) would play on the Yorktown battlefields and regularly get their hair cut at Eddy’s Barber Shop on the Yorktown waterfront, located several hundred yards from Cornwallis’s Cave.

1 comment:

Lee said...

I would like to know your source for information on Colin Campbell. There are errors! i.e., William did not have a brother named Colin. The DAR does not accept membership based on this Colin due to lack of proof of service. The Colin Campbell in Laird's company was not an officer.