Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Silas Weeks, A Casualty of the Revolutionary War

In my post last year about my maternal 6th great grandmother Zillar Hunter, I wrote about the death of her husband Silas Weeks on May 22, 1778, during the American Revolution, and I said I didn't know if he was killed in the war or if he died of disease or wounds. The card record for him lists his death date beside "Casualties" (see below). I still don't know for sure how he died. In my search for information, I came across a write-up on a family tree that said he probably died at Valley Forge, General George Washington’s encampment. I believe this is the likely scenario.

The Revolutionary War card index record for Silas Weeks (from fold3.com)

Silas joined Donoho's Company of the 6th North Carolina regiment in 1777 and served under Col. Gideon Lamb.[1] During the time Silas was with them, this regiment fought in Pennsylvania in the battles of Brandywine and Germantown. (I won't go into a description of the battles, but the links in the footnotes have more information.)
The battle of Brandywine took place on September 11, 1777. In an effort to stop the British advance on Philadelphia, the capital of the colonies, General Washington chose Chadds Ford on the Brandywine River as his defense. Outmaneuvered by the British led by General Howe, the Americans were defeated. They retreated to Chester, Pennsylvania, and the British finally took Philadelphia, on September 26, 1777.[2]
On October 2, 1777, General Washington came up with a plan to attack General Howe’s 9,000 troops stationed at Germantown (now a part of Philadelphia). The battle took place on October 4, but because of “bad luck and poor timing,” the Americans were again defeated. They retreated to Whitemarsh where they stayed for six weeks before leaving that December for Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, on the Schuylkill River to spend the winter.[3]

Locations of Brandywine, Germantown, and Valley Forge (from Google Maps)
Click on the image for a larger view.

Silas survived these two battles, but camp conditions at Valley Forge were deplorable. Not only did the troops endure the harsh winter, but disease was rampant and there was very little to eat. Death was all around, and the men were demoralized and desperate. Some deserted. The weather improved a little by February, and by March, food and supplies finally started coming in. In April 1778, the American troops were turned into “a fighting force” by Baron von Steuben. The Americans learned of the French alliance in May 1778 which meant military and financial support would be forthcoming. I hope Silas was able to feel the renewed strength of the Army. He may have been too sick to be much aware of it. He was dead by the time the Americans left Valley Forge in June 1778, ready to fight and heading for the Delaware River to cross into New Jersey.[4] 
I believe Silas probably died of disease. I don’t think he could have languished from December to May with a wound in the terrible camp conditions. I didn’t find him in a search of the muster roll on the Valley Forge Legacy website. The website says many records have been lost over time, so what they have isn’t complete.[5]
Silas, like countless others, gave his life in the fight for American freedom. He aided in that struggle, but he never knew that the Americans were victorious in their fight.



[1] Fold3.com. Compiled Service Records of Soldiers Who Served in the American Army During the Revolutionary War. Database online; Roster of Soldiers from North Carolina in the American Revolution. Reprinted for Clearfield Company, Inc. by Genealogical Publishing Col, Inc., Baltimore, Maryland, 2000, 2003. Originally published by The North Carolina Daughters of the American Revolution, Durham, 1932, pp. 85, 91.

[2] "History of the Battle of the Brandywine." Electronic document, http://www.ushistory.org/brandywine/thestory.htm, accessed February 9, 2015.

[3] "The Battle of Germantown." The Philadelphia Campaign 1777.  Electronic document, http://www.ushistory.org/march/phila/germantown.htm, accessed February 9, 2015; "Whitemarsh." Electronic document, http://www.ushistory.org/march/phila/whitemarsh.htm, accessed February 9, 2015; "What Happened at Valley Forge." Electronic document, http://www.ushistory.org/march/phila/valleyforge.htm, accessed February 9, 2015.

[4] "What Happened at Valley Forge." Electronic document, http://www.ushistory.org/march/phila/valleyforge.htm, accessed February 9, 2015.

[5] Valley Forge Legacy. The Muster Roll Project. Electronic document, http://www.valleyforgemusterroll.org/muster.asp, accessed February 9, 2015.

No comments:

Post a Comment