St Clair Cemetery, Mt Lebanon, Allegheny Co, PA

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Monday, May 07, 2012

Facing Court Martial Twice and Still a Great Believer

How many military personnel have faced a court martial over the years?  While I don't know the answer, I do find it interesting that my 4g-grandpa was under the command of a soldier who lived it, not once, but twice.

In searching for more information on the duties of one of my American Revolution patriot grandpas, I stumbled across an interesting story on his commander. 

Just to set the scene, let's go back to the year 1779 and the Second Pennsylvania Regiment.  My 4g-grandpa was a private in this company during the Revolution and is mentioned as being present at Valley Forge. 

As history has taught us, while there were no battles at Valley Forge, the winter of 1777-78 was a time of hardship for the American patriots.  My grandpa is just one of the many who was sick (according to the muster rolls) during his stay there.  Much has been written on Valley Forge, and it is fascinating to read the stories. 

The Captain of my grandpa's regiment was one Jacob ASHMEAD(1742-1814) who was from Germantown, PA.  When he assumed command of the 2nd PA Regiment, he was charged with recruiting soldiers and forming a light infantry company.

During the attack on Stoney Point, the men of the Light Infantry Brigade were to maintain silence.  ASHMEAD apparently felt his adrenaline go high, and shouted.  For this he faced a court martial and was found guilty of disobeying an order. One of the other leaders on the fateful night at Stoney Point was "Mad" Wayne ANTHONY, who received a medal for the victory of that battle.

ASHMEAD was also later arrested and faced a second court martial for disobeying an order, of which he was acquitted. Interesting in itself as both charges originated with the same man.

In reading the entry which was in the Orderly Book, I find it interesting to note that another officer tried to "excite" the soldiers under ASHMEAD's command and have them not obey the orders.  I wonder what reaction my grandpa had.  Did he fall in to the trap set by the other officer or did he believe in ASHMEAD and his patriotic zeal for America?  While I don't know the answer, and never will, I do know that my grandpa fought under his command.  Can I imagine the scene?  Sure. 

Part of being a family history seeker is to learn all there is about the time and place where ancestors lived.  Learning a bit more about my grandpa's commander makes my grandpa come more alive as I imagine his struggles with wondering which was the right course to take with the Continental Army's commanders.  Did he stand up and shout support for his commander?  I like to think so.

Learn more about Captain Jacob ASHMEAD and his involvement in the Continental Army at the NWTA, the Northwest Territory Alliance.  There is a wonderful 2008 article in the NWTA Courier which provides the details of the court martials.

Also of interest is that there is a definite tie between an ASHMEAD family of Germantown from that era and Dr. Benjamin RUSH, who signed the Declaration of Independence. I haven't taken the time to determine how Jacob ties in to Benjamin. 

For more reading on Jacob ASHMEAD, go to the Historical Society of PA and look at their collections.

Ahh, genealogy.  Those early believers in freedom just make me warm and fuzzy all over.

Moran, Donald, The Storming of Stony Point, Sons of Liberty Chapter, NSSAR,
VandePolder, Brian, Captain Jacob Ashmead has a Very Bad Year 1779, NWTA Courier, Sept/Oct 2008, pg 6-7
PA Archives
Orderly Book of Captain Robert Gamble, 1779

©2012 AS Eldredge

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