Finding Revolutionary Ancestors

It being Fourth of July weekend, thoughts naturally turn to 1776 and the Revolutionary War. What were our North American ancestors doing at that time? How many were directly involved? Even if proving descent from a Revolutionary War ancestor is not your goal, it is still fascinating to try to discover more about what these individuals lived through.

I have spent varying amounts of time on this sort of research, but enough to know that it gets complicated very quickly. Particularly early in the war, and even continuing throughout, each colony had its own militias, with differing levels of organization. Eventually, the federal government organized troops, and these fought alongside the militias. Distinguishing which unit an ancestor served in is not always easy, even when you have the number of a regiment! For today, I thought I’d touch on the ancestors who have records of one kind or another as Revolutionary War veterans, and what I know of them. With more time and research, I hope to be able to learn more.

Aaron and Abraham Pinney

All of us know of Paul Revere’s famous “ride,” but may not remember that it was the beginning of a bigger “Lexington Alarm” that called up volunteer militia from several colonies. Sergeant Aaron and Lieutenant Abraham Pinney, two sons of Abraham Pinney and Elizabeth Butler, were among the approximately 4,000 troops who marched from Connecticut towns “for the Relief of Boston in the Lexington Alarm” in April of 1775. According to the “Record of Connecticut Men in the Military and Naval Service During the War of Revolution” (1889), 74 citizens of Simsbury, Connecticut, were among those that answered the call. In the end, many more volunteers responded than actually served in battle, and some men returned home before getting to Boston, their service not being needed. We don’t know what Aaron and Abraham actually did. We do know that like many others, they signed up for additional service. When the Governor of Connecticut put out the call for more troops in July of 1775, Sergeant Aaron Pinney enlisted in the 4th Company of Huntington’s Eighth Regiment. According to the same “Record of Connecticut Men,” this group was stationed on the Sound (presumably Long Island) until September 14th, when General Washington called troops to Boston. The regiment “took post at Roxbury in Gen. Spencer’s Brigade.” Pinney’s service lasted from July 6 until December 14, 1775. No more is known of his experience at this point.

In 1776, both Aaron and Abraham were part of Captain Roberts’ Company of the 18th Regiment of Militia, which served in New York from August 24th until mid-September. They would have been part of the battles over Long Island and Manhattan at that time, not going particularly well for the colonies. Later in the war, Aaron Pinney is listed as part of Colonel Beebe’s regiment of militia, raised in the spring of 1780. No more is known of their service at this time.

John McCormick

Around May 1, 1776, John McCormick enlisted in the Virginia militia in the service of Captain James Robertson. In his own words from his pension file, he “volunteered to protect the inhabitants of the frontier from Indian depredations.” He was part of a group at Fort Lee in July of 1776 when it was attacked by the Cherokee. They left the fort deserted before the attackers arrived, and moved to Fort Caswell at Watauga. McCormick was one of about seventy-five men defending that fort as the Cherokee attacked and eventually set up a siege that lasted about two weeks. In October, his company left Watauga and pursued the Cherokee, who were allied with the British troops. He was then stationed at Fort Patrick Henry from November until February 1777.

At that point, McCormick moved north to Bedford County, Pennsylvania, and was required to enlist in the militia there. He is listed in Captain Solomon Adams’ Company of the Third Battalion and in Captain Charles Hainey’s company from Bedford County. It’s likely that he didn’t see any active service at that time, as men were required to enlist and drill, but often were not called into service. In 1780, John McCormick enlisted in Captain William McCall’s Company of the Third Battalion of Pennsylvania militia, and was assigned by Colonel Robert Culbertson to serve as a sentry for the town of Bedford. This he did for his required three-month service in the militia.

Pennsylvania Brethren

Several of my ancestors were staunch members of the Brethren Church in Pennsylvania, and as such, would have avoided military service as much as possible. Andrew Fridley is listed with the Cumberland County Militia from 1779-1781, with Captain Samuel Royer. Jacob Deardorff served as a private in 1783 in Lancaster County, under Captain John Shonhower. John Price served as a private under Captain Daniel Clapsaddle from 1780-1781. And Emanuel Stover is listed as a private under Captain Thomas Johnston from 1780-1782. In all likelihood, these men did not see active duty. At this time, I have not found muster rolls to indicate they served beyond the required drills.


There are a few other ancestors from the Gephart side of the family that appear on lists of Revolutionary War soldiers. I have not yet found any additional information beyond the following:

If you have any further information on any of these soldiers, please contact me. Meanwhile, Happy Fourth of July!

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