Thursday, April 19, 2012

Aftermath of the Shot Heard 'Round the World

The case of Uriah Thayer illustrates some of the challenges of documenting service in the Revolutionary War. It would seem from the pension requests of my ancestors that virtually no one kept any paperwork pertaining to their service and in some cases there was no paperwork to be kept. I have seen a few that state they were verbally discharged without formal papers. These verbal discharges seem to be from the beginning of the war. Uriah came from Braintree and joined Silas Wild's Company of minutemen who assembled on April 19, 1775. After 9 days he was sent home but would later join the army again at least 3-4 times and possibly more. His wife, Phebe (Hayden), states in the pension records that he was gone for most of the first three years of their marriage. Other soldiers state that they believe he served for the better part of 5 years. Despite these testimonies, there is only documentation of a little over a year of service when it is all consolidated. Further complicating the process of obtaining a pension, Uriah died in 1805, well before the 1818 law providing for pensions. Phebe was illiterate (based on her signing the application with her mark - see below). She ended up getting a pension for $39 that was later raised to $50 per annum. At the age of 92, she was still corresponding with the government, applying for a land bounty. I cannot find proof that the land bounty was granted but it may have been.

Piecing together the 74 pages of his pension record (the longest I have encountered), Uriah responded to the call for troops when the British marched on Lexington and Concord. He spent time in Boston guarding the harbor and was serving with General Benjamin Lincoln when he supervised the evacuation of the British. He may or may not have fought at Saratoga or gone on an expedition to Canada.

I doubt any of the men responding to the alarm from Lexington and Concord gave a thought to pensions or what their families might need from the government in the future. I'm sure they didn't envision the bureaucracy and red tape they or their spouses would encounter when trying to access their benefits.
Raising the Alarm

Uriah Thayer - 4th cousin 7 times removed (closest relationship)
Common ancestors - Samuel Bass to T. Richard Carter
John Alden to Linona Alice Yates
Thomas Rogers to Fern Lyndell Cotton

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