HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — Happy Birthday America! And as we celebrate our independence on the 4th, the fight to earn that freedom lasted eight years. I just discovered some of my ancestors were involved.
Jess Brown is a member of the Tennessee Valley Chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution. He contacted me to see if I was interested in finding out whether I’m a descendant of an American patriot. I gave him the names genealogists needed to get started.
Only about seven in 10,000 Americans have proven they’re a bloodline descendant of a revolutionary war patriot. I wasn’t very hopeful. Genealogists Penny Chilton with the Maple Hill chapter of DAR, and Ray Cassell, Registrar for the Tennessee Valley SAR chapter went to work.
When I sat down with them to see what they’d found, I was surprised. “You are six patriots,” Jess told me. “Your cup runneth over,” he said with a smile.
Most patriots are recognized for their military service. “They literally grabbed a musket or otherwise a weapon and were prepared to fight red coats,” Jess said. Others take a public oath of allegiance. “They publicly signed a document and said I renounce my loyalty to King George, and I am now one of these new Americans,” Jess told me.
Some also gave money or supplies to help the colonial revolutionary war effort. Jess added, “Maybe if you had a great, great, great grandfather or whatever that gave cattle or pigs, whatever to feed the troops, you could qualify as a patriot.”
My family tree includes two who took up arms. Two gave money and two took an oath of allegiance. “You are indeed a Yankee doodle dandy,” Jess said with a laugh, “No doubt buddy.”
Three patriots are on my mother’s side of the family, three on my father’s. One generation after the revolution, my descendants moved to Tennessee and put down deep roots. Penny showed me several photographs including some of my great, great parents and the son of one of the patriots.
They also showed me a drawing of the uniform my great, great, great, great, grand grandfather from Virginia may have worn. “Joseph Slayden was a trooper in the 1st Continental Light Dragoons, a form of light cavalry, the eyes and ears of the army,” Ray told me, “They’re the ones who patrol ahead, that screen the movements of the army, gather intelligence and report back to their headquarters.”
He probably served in a unit under the command of William Washington, George’s cousin. As a private, he earned roughly 100 dollars a year for his service. Just up the road is the only gravesite of my six American patriots. Penny telling me, “William Ogilvie is first family of Tennessee.”
He was born in Virginia and signed an oath of allegiance to North Carolina but settled in the Volunteer State. He had a large farm in William County, just south of Nashville where I grew up. “The farm is still in the family,” Penny said, “The family cemetery is there by the house. It’s on private land but you can ask. It is marked by the Daughters of the American Revolution that he is a patriot.”
July 4th will feel a little different this year knowing some of my family members were involved in one of the three ways to help win our nation’s independence. “These were the Americans that stood in the Revolutionary War,” Penny said with a smile, “Your lineage represents each one of those.” That gives me six more reasons I’m proud to be an American.
If you’re interested in learning if you may be a descendant of an American patriot — several groups can help. You can visit the website of the Tennessee Valley chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution here and the Daughters of the American Revolution’s website here.