William McMurray lived exactly this type of life. He filed his pension application, "The Pension Application of William McMurray S41862" when he was living in Jefferson County, OH and had reached an age of 65 years old. His words speak for themselves: "This Deponent entered the service of his Country in the Army of the Revolution, about the first of June in the year of our Lord 1775 -- enlisting as a private soldier in the company of Capt. John Lowdon on the first Regiment in the Pennsylvania Line commanded by Col Thompson for the term of one year -- In this time the Deponent marched from Northumberland County, Pennsylvania to Boston where his time having expired he reenlisted in the same Company, Regiment & line for 2 years and served therein at the Battles of the Brandywine & Germantown. He was among those unfortunate Americans who were unmercifully massacred by the British at Paoli, where he was wounded and escaped with difficulty. He was honorably discharged at the Army, Valley Forge in Pennsylvania in June 1778." This application indicates that there may have been no break in McMurray's first term of service and his second. Thus, continuously, he experienced the forced march to Boston, the siege of Boston, the Battle of Brandywine and Germantown - both serious American defeats, surviving the Paoli Massacre, and was honorably discharged from the Army at Valley Forge in June 1778 - after the epic winter that is etched in the mythos of America, meaning, he must have endured that winter at the famous encampment. Many men would have considered themselves to have done their duty to their country and left active service for the remaining duration of the war. But, William McMurray was not just any ordinary man. He continues - "He again entered service on board an armed Vessel called the "South Carolina" commanded by Commodore Gilliland [sic, Alexander Gillon] (Capt. John Joiner). He was taken from this Vessel, put into a Prison Ship at New York confined for 3 months, suffering many and great hardships until he effected his escape by stratagem -- ..." His service aboard the frigate South Carolina is not what is remarkable here but, rather, his escape from the prison ship in New York harbor. There are recorded escapes but, these were seldom and few. Still, all this fits in the life story of a remarkable man - if indeed all the recounted events happened as they are stated.
(Note: At this point in his pension application, there appears the notation: "Thomas Vaughan, Charles Cochran, James Long gave affidavits supporting McMurray's services in the Penn. line.)
Nothing in his application or the attached notations states that William McMurray was born in Pennsylvania. But, the fact that he immediately enlisted in the Pennsylvania Line and served there after his reenlistment for two more years seem to indicate that he was from the state. Also, the regiments attacked by surprise at Paoli were Pennsylvanian regiments. Again, it is known that the frigate South Carolina docked in Philadelphia and that Commodore Gillon and after him, Capt. John Joyner, recruited among Pennsylvanians for additional seamen and marines. Thus, chances are that he was a native of Pennsylvania.
We next catch sight of William McMurray by means of a sworn statement dated July 17, 1820 in which he states "...that I have not since that time by gift, sale or other wise disposed of my property or any part thereof with intent thereby so to diminish it as to bring myself within the provision of an act of Congress..." This same type of statement has been seen before by which a potential pensioner hoped to prove that they had not done anything which might disqualify them from receiving the pension from the government. But, McMurray, to make his point of need, attaches a "schedule" to his application which lists all that he owns. At the time of his application, William McMurray claimed to own 3 horses, 2 cows and calves, 1 hog, 6 shoats, 1 old wagon, 2 split-bottom chairs, 1 tea kettle, 6 plates, "some few knives & c..." He assesses these items at $72.00 but, from the prices he gives for them at the side of his application, these items amount to exactly $172.00. He goes on to state that "I have a small crop of grain in the field which I obtained by clearing man for man at the rate of 4 crops for clearing it. My occupation a Farmer, but not able to do more than one 4th of the dates work in a day. The number of my family is a science to myself, viz.
Ann my wife aged 46 years very sickly
William aged 18 years, weakly in body
George aged 16 -- as well as common
Mary aged 14
Betsey aged 12
Patty aged 8 -- convulsive
Hannah aged 6 -- weakly
Daraniah aged 4
Like many other veterans of the American Revolution, William McMurray has immigrated west hoping to find a new life in a new land. Instead, they are reduced to applying to the government of their new country to assist them and their families in their later years. How quickly the nation forgets her heroes of the past....the heroes of her past.
Other Pennsylvanians also served on board the frigate South Carolina and filed for pensions after the war. Many of them were from Berks County or, at least, were residing there when they filed for their pensions in their later years. One of these was Henry Lotz. His application, "The Pension Application of Henry Lotz S40950", states at the time of his filing, he was "...aged upwards of fifty-three years..." His application states "...that he enlisted in the Borough of Reading of aforesaid, in a Company commanded by Captain Joiner [John Joiner], in the year 1781, that he marched in said Company to the City of Philadelphia and there was put on the Ship called South Carolina, that his ship and crew were taken prisoners by the British in sight of New York lighthouse that among the rest of the Prisoners was put on Board the prison ship "Olde Jersey" that he was kept and treated as a prisoner of War, until released at the close of the War, that from the time of his enlistment, until released was upwards of one year, that he suffered very much..." At the same time that Henry Lotz filed his application, February 8, 1819, two others also appeared before the judge to verify that they had known Henry Lotz had served aboard the South Carolina. These two witnesses were George Merkel and Michael Spatz of the same borough as Henry Lotz. At the end of their deposition, they state "...that he (Henry Lotz) is in indigent circumstances and stands in need of the assistance of his Country for support." George Merkel signed his name but, Michael Spatz signed with an X instead of his name, indicating that he was most probably illiterate. Interestingly, Michael Spatz appeared before the same judge and stated briefly the conditons of Henry Lotz's service on board the South Carolina and closes his statement with "...and that this deponent served on the same ship." He again signs his name with an X instead of his given name. So, these two men, Henry Lotz and Michael Spatz, were recruited by Capt, Joyner to fill out his shipboard marine contingent but, were captured along with the rest of the ship's company as the South Carolina cleared the Delaware Capes on December 21, 1782. Henry Lotz, probably erroneously states that he was enlisted "...in the year 1781,..." instead of 1782. George Merkel does not claim service on board the frigate South Carolina in his pension application.
(Note: this is the first pension application that states that the South Carolina was taken "...in sight of the New York lighthouse..." This is certainly no the last mention of this landmark in pension applications for those who served on board the frigate South Carolina.)
Jacob Fleisher also appeared before a judge in Berks County to file his pension application. He was "...aged 57 years..." at the time. He states "...that he enlisted as a private soldier in the service of the United States in the year 1782 in the Borough of Reading County aforesaid by Lieut. Scull in a company Commanded by Capt. Joiner on the ship Carolina [South Carolina] that the ship and Crew were taken prisoners by the British in sight of the New York lighthouse that he together with the rest of the said company was put on board the Prison ship called "Old Jersey" and there kept a prisoner until after [the] War that from the time of his enlistment until his discharge was upwards of one year when he was released from Prison." Fleisher states that, like Henry Lotz before him, "...he is in reduced circumstances & Stands in need of the assistance of his country for Support."
Attached to the pension application of Jacob Fleisher are two supporting statements submitted by Michael Spats (later, Spatz) and John Fox. They both state in their own pension staements "...that this deponent also served on Board the aforesaid Ship (the frigate South Carolina)..." They also state that they are "...in reduced circumstances & Stand in need of the assistance of their country for Support." Both of these men signed by their mark X rather than their names. Michael Spatz appeared before the judge and made his deposition on June 13, 1818 while John Fox appeared and made his on January 25, 1819.
Just after these depositions, there appears a statement made by John Tobias on April 9, 1832 in which he states that he is personally acquainted with Jacob Fleisher and that said Jacob "...is very poor and far advanced in Age and is afflicted with the shaking palsy and is entirely disabled of performing Labor and that the following are all the property which said Fleisher possesses one tin plate [indecipherable word] one table one Lot crockery a small lot chairs several iron pots a small lot of kitchen furniture 2 beds & 2 beds stands and that said Fleisher has no Real Estate of any description whatever, and that said Fleisher was by profession a German School Master but by reason of bodily infirmities he was unable to pursue that occupation and that he has on the above date valued and appraised all the above mentioned items at the sum of $22 and 87 and a half since (cents) and that said Fleisher's children cannot contribute to his Support." A few of these "schedules" or inventories of possessions have been seen before now but, this is the first time one is seen that was made by a third party before a judge. Obviously, Fleisher is indeed in dire "..need of the assistance of his country for Support."
Towards the end of his pension application, Jacob Fleisher gives a more clear reason for his application. In an undated statement to "...the Honorable Committee on Pensions of the United States in Congress Assembled", Fleisher points out that he was originally on the pension rolls for $8 per month but, has consequently "...been stricken from said Pension List Roll..." and now he humbly "...comes before his Country for a fair and impartial investigation of his Enlistment as a Marine in the Revolutionary War,..." Fleisher states "...that he was fully determined to take an active part in achieving the Liberties and privileges which we now enjoy and on a certain day in the month of June of the year 1780 your petitioner met with an Officer in a public house in Reading County & State aforesaid who asked your petitioner if he would Enlist to him and said Officer said his name was Scull that he was Enlisting man for the services of the United States as Marines to fight against the Common Enemy I then said I was ready and we both appeared before a certain Mr. Reeser then a Justice of the Peace in and for Berks County who administered to your petitioner the usual Oath and I received the bounty money in the Name of the United States after remaining in Reading some time we Enlisted about 70 men we were then taken to Wilmington where we went on board a Frigate called the South Carolina and were on our duty as Marines outside the Capes we were taken by 3 British Frigates who made us all Prisoners of War conveyed us to New York and confined us closely in the Jersey Prison Ship then lying in the North River where we had a brutal Hessian & British Guard who treated us with savage brutality in this deplorable situation we remained about 11 months prisoners of War during this period many died of Starvation and Cold some from frozen limbs the number of Prisoners amounted to about 1400 on the Prison Ship out of 70 man which was our crew only 7 returned home and only 3 thereof do yet survive myself Michael Spatz and John Fox."
There are some discrepancies at this point in the declaration of Jacob Fleisher. The earlier cited article by Diana "Thompson" (this is the supposed name of this researcher, based completely on my speculations - this blog writer) states that several Pennsylvanians, specifically from Berks County, PA, died on board the frigate South Carolina while in service to the United States. The final voyage of the South Carolina, even though it involved firing between enemy ships, was so short that these men could not have died "on board" the frigate itself. Ms. "Thompson" cites the names of 21 Pennsylvanians who died on board the South Carolina and were residents of Berks County, PA. These names were gathered from letters of administration that were officially filed by surviving family members. Fleisher states that "Lieut. Scull", with the assistance of Jacob Fleisher, "...Enlisted about 70 men..." Fleisher states in his pension application that of the 70 men from Berks County only 7 of them returned and that at the point of him filing his application only three were still alive - himself being one of them.
If Ms. "Thompson" is correct in her list of the dead of Berks County, PA, then this should only represent 21 out of "about 70 men". Thus, almost 50 of them should have come home to Pennsylvania. It is completely possible that by the time Jacob Fleisher applied for the reinstatement of his pension, that he and Michael Spatz and John Fox were the only ones still alive. Since this last official statement of Jacob Fleisher is undated, we have no real manner of determining when Jacob Fleisher filed this statement. But, it is possible that Jacob Fleisher may have deliberately exaggerated the death toll on board the Old Jersey prison ship to better make the case that he survived this horrible ordeal and deserved having his pension reinstated by the United States.
(Note: There were several other prison "hulks" or ships also moored in New York harbor during the American Revolution. At least one other pension application filed by a Pennsylvanian who was also captured on board the South Carolina mentions being incarcerated on board the Scorpion prison ship. "The Pension Application of Abijah Hunt S23271" mentions this prison ship in Wallabout Bay, NY as being the prison vessel he was imprisoned on board of. Abijah Hunt filed his pension application on January 23, 1833 and he resided in Sterling, NY at the time.)