Archiver > BRETHREN > 2008-07 > 1214934980

From: "William Thomas" <>
Subject: [BRE] DAR/Anabaptists
Date: Tue, 1 Jul 2008 13:56:20 -0400

I would like to add some historical points to the discussion on the DAR and
those who joined based on ancestors who belonged to the Anabaptist
denominations like the Brethren, Mennonites and Amish.

First, I highly recommend you read the book “Brethren in the New Nation”, by
Sappington. Although this book does not deal with the Revolutionary War
period, it does go into explicit detail regarding how the Brethren dealt
with the draft during the Civil War. The attitudes toward pacifism shown in
Sappington’s book during the Civil War would also have been the same in the
Revolutionary War. The non-enroller listings for Frederick County, MD, and
the non-associator listings for Lancaster County, support this view.

Militia lists are nothing more than name lists of those eligible for the
militia. Most colonies had militia ordinances. For example Frederick
County, VA had this ordinance in 1775. “Every Member of this County between
sixteen & sixty years of Age, shall appear once every Month, at least, in
the Field under Arms; & it is recommended to all to muster weekly for their
Improvements”. There were exceptions, including clergy, and the ability to
pay a substitute.

The records from that period show that the militia was more like a rabble
than an army. They fought well if you put them behind a stone wall or in
the trees. But they typically cut and ran during the European style battles
that typified those in the Revolutionary War. General James Wolfe of the
French & Indian War called the militia “contemptible cowardly dogs”. John
Hancock said, “To place any dependence upon Militia, is, resting upon a
broken staff.” The Militia was typically a regional defense force. New
England militia fought in the engagements in their area, southern militia in
the south, etc. Their term of service was dictated by the farming cycle.
The real fighting was done by the Continental Army.

In regard to those that joined the Continental Army. Patriotism wasn’t
always the driving motivation to join the army. Many signed up for the
bonus due to economic hardship. As a French volunteer noted, “There is a
hundred times more enthusiasm for this Revolution in any Paris café, than in
all the colonies together.” Desertion was wide spread, and several mutinies
occurred including one that required the disbanding of the 10th Pennsylvania
regiment (the regiment of one of my supposed DAR ancestors!).

In regard to Austin Cooper’s comments on Brethren in the militia. I believe
Austin made the same assumption as many others in the DAR have made, and
that is militia lists and militia members were one in the same. Just for
the record, the engagements in the Brothersvalley area were Indian raids led
by Simon Girty. In 1779, 250 militia were sent from York, Cumberland and
Lancaster County to defend Bedford and Westmoreland County (Brothersvalley
was part of Bedford County at that time). Girty and his Indians burned
Hannastown in 1782.

Bill Thomas

This thread: