Remembering Our Forgotten Patriots & 7th Anniversary

Remembering Our Forgotten Patriots” was the program presented by State Corresponding Secretary and member of State Speakers Staff Holly Matthews, Tennessee Society, Daughters of the American Revolution (TSDAR), at the February 11 meeting of the Martha Dandridge Washington (MDW) Chapter, National Society, Daughters of the America Revolution (NSDAR).

The program focused on Patriots of Black, Native American, and mixed-race heritage who served in the Revolutionary War. The speaker also shed light on female Patriots. She noted that in 2001, the DAR published a book which identified more than 6,600 Black and Indigenous

Patriots. That number was expanded in revisions in 2008 and 2012.

The DAR “E Pluribus Unum Educational Initiative” was begun in 2020 “to increase awareness of underrepresented Revolutionary War Patriots,” specifically African Americans, Native Americans, non-Europeans, Patriots of mixed-heritage, and women.

Speaker Matthews shared stories about Patriots of Color that were new to many of her listeners. For example, although many had seen the famous painting “Washington Crossing the Delaware” by Emmanuel Leutze, few realized that two Patriots of Color are in the painting. One oarsman in the bow of the boat is African American, and one in the stern is Native American.

The first Patriot of Color introduced by Speaker Matthews was Abraham Nimham, a Mohican. Nimham had command of the Stockbridge Indian Company, which served in New York, gathering intelligence on British troop movements. Unfortunately, Nimham and his father Daniel died on August 31, 1778, when the company was ambushed by the rangers led by John Graves Simcoe who observed, “The Indians fought most gallantly; they pulled more than one of the Cavalry from their horses.”

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Next, Salem Poor, a Black man who was born enslaved in Massachusetts in 1747, purchased his freedom when he was only 22 years old. Because the minutemen allowed Black volunteers, Poor joined and was part of the First Andover Company. A hero at Bunker Hill, Poor shot and killed British Lt. Col. James Abercrombie. Although Poor’s commander and 14 officers petitioned the Congress to recognize his gallantry and bravery, it never did, and he died a pauper. Salem was buried in an unmarked grave in Boston. On the positive side, in 1975, the USPS issued a stamp honoring him in the “Contributors to the Cause” series.

A Patriot of Color named Collins was a bugler and enslaved personal servant to Colonel William Washington, George Washington’s cousin. At the Battle of Cowpens in South Carolina, he was reported to have shot British officer Banastre Tarleton and saved Colonel Washington’s life. Documents show that 15 other Black Patriots served at Cowpens. Artist William Ranney painted “The Battle of Cowpens,” which shows Collins shooting Tarleton in the nick of time to save Colonel Washington.

The fourth Patriot featured in the presentation was John Neptune, a member of the Penobscot Tribe in Maine. Neptune and a number of other Penobscot men joined to defend Maine from the British as they tried to attack from Canada. Neptune was later elected to the lifetime position of Penobscot Lieutenant Governor.

Mary Hemmings Bell’s story was quite unusual as she was part of the Hemmings family enslaved by Thomas Jefferson. When British forces came to Richmond, VA, with the intent to trap Jefferson, he was gone. They took Mary and the other enslaved persons from Monticello to prison in Yorktown. They were imprisoned until after the Siege of Yorktown when George Washington brought them home.

Patriot Garshom Prince not only served in the Revolutionary War, but also fought in the French and Indian War. He was a servant to Captain Robert Durkee and fought and died along with Durkee at the Battle of Wyoming in Pennsylvania.

Colonel George Middleton led an all-Black militia called the Bucks of America. He fought at the Battle of Bunker Hill, was Grand Master of the African Masonic Lodge, and founded the African Benevolent Society.

Tennessee became home to Patriots of Color. Ambrose Month lived in Knox County. He was free and of mixed-race, Black and Shawnee. During the Revolutionary War, he lived in Spotsylvania County, VA, and served as a private in the Continental Army. In addition, Mark Murray, also a free man but of Black and Irish heritage, served in North Carolina and fought valiantly. Sadly, when he applied for a Revolutionary War pension at the age of 89, he was rejected. He applied for a pension every year until the age of 98 but never received it.

Finally, Primes (or Primus) was a personal servant to Col. Thomas Carson and served in North and South Carolina. He was at Gum Swamp, the Battle of Cowpens, Kings Mountain, and Guilford Courthouse. He lived in Roane County, TN, when he applied for a pension at age 86. Sadly, as with many applications from Patriots of Color, his was never granted.

Following the fascinating presentation, new Member Barbara Morgan was inducted into the chapter, and Regent Janet Guyett, 2nd Vice Regent and Membership Committee Chairman Gail Brosk, and Chaplain Glenda Roach participated in the induction.

Special guest “Martha Dandridge Washington,” portrayed by Pending Member Ann Blomquist, clothed in period dress, explained the garments worn by a Revolutionary War Era lady such as Martha Washington and noted the purpose of each item of clothing. Blomquist’s humorous monologue was punctuated by laughter from the amused audience.

Everyone shared in refreshments following the presentations and short business meeting.

A highlight of the light lunch was a sheet cake with the picture of Martha Dandridge Washington on it.

For information about the DAR, contact MDW Registrar Karen McFarland at (865) 258-8670 or Regent Janet Guyett at (865) 712-8782.

Second Vice Regent and Membership Committee Chairman Gail Brosk, Regent Janet Guyett, new Member Barbara Morgan, and Chaplain Glenda Roach participated in the induction ceremony of Morgan at the meeting of the Martha Dandridge Washington Chapter, NSDAR, on February 11.

Martha Dandridge Washington, portrayed by Pending Member Ann Blomquist, drew chuckles from her audience as she shared information about Revolutionary War Era ladies’ clothing.

The Seventh Anniversary of the Martha Dandridge Washington Chapter, NSDAR, was celebrated on February 11. State Tennessee Name Tags Committee Chairman and MDW Registrar Karen McFarland, State Corresponding Secretary and Honorary Cavett Station Chapter Regent Holly Matthews, MDW Regent Janet Guyett, State Recording Secretary and Honorary MDW Chapter Regent Jane Chambers, and State DAR Good Citizens – Appalachian District Vice Chairman Ellie Betts participated in the festivities.

Source: Submitted by Jane Busdeker, Corresponding Secretary, MDW Chapter, NSDAR