|Ray Jerrems with Research by Sandra Walcyk||
David Jerrems took part in the American Revolutionary War (in Australia we know it as the American War of Independence) in the 1770s.
Most of the following information is the result of research by Jerrems Journal reader Sandra Walcyk.
The American Revolutionary War: The War began in the US on April 9 1775 when a group of colonists fought British soldiers at Lexington, Massachusetts. The War lasted 8 years and the battle scene stretched from Quebec in the north to Florida in the south and from the Atlantic Coast inland as far west as Illinois.
A significant event in the early stages of the War was the adoption, by the Second Continental Congress, of the Declaration of Independence on July 4 1776. The War did not involve large numbers of men; the size of the fighting forces rarely exceeded 15,000 men, and was more usually around the 3-5000 mark.
Where David Lived: David lived in the Colony (now a State) of Connecticut, located on the north east coast of the United States. It is sandwiched between the much larger States of Massachusetts (to the north) and New York (to the west and south), where a lot of fighting took place during the War. It was a small colony, demonstrated by the fact that it is now the third smallest state in the United States, but it made a significant contribution to the war effort. Reputedly this was due mainly to the friendship of its Governor (Jonathon Trumbull) with the overall commander of the Colonial forces, General George Washington.
The small size of the fighting forces on both sides meant that Connecticut's contributions were significant, notwithstanding its small size. Connecticut, like some of the other States, had a militia system which was started in the early 1730s. Men between 16 and 60 were required to undergo periodic military service. They were grouped on a geographical basis, a group of towns contributing men to a particular regiment. During the War these militia regiments supplied men to the regular army, known as the Continental Army.
Regiments were made up of "companies", which were of similar size to modern-day platoons.
David's Company: David's Company was part of the Eighth Connecticut Regiment, initially called the Eighth Connecticut Battalion. We have 19 monthly "muster sheets" (as they were known) for the Company for most of the months between November 1778 to May 1780, when he was discharged. These are our only source of information about David so I have spent some time scrutinising them for clues.
The muster sheets were handwritten, possibly by the Regiment's Paymaster, and they set out the men's names, their rates of pay, and any days they had been sick.
The sheets show that the Company was made up of the Commanding Officer (Colonel Giles Russel initially and later Captain Lieutenant Asahel Hodge), 3 sergeants, 3 corporals, one drummer, one piper, and the privates.
The Regiment was attached to George Washington's Colonial army, known as the Continental Army. David served in it for a period of 3 years (the period for which he had signed up) from 26th May 1777.
David received the princely sum of five dollars per month, which works out at seventeen cents a day. In today's currency he would have been able to buy a McDonald's "Big Mac" once every 3 weeks.
Role of David's Regiment: During his 3-year tour of duty from 1777-1780, he most likely took part in 2 battles (the Battles of Brandywine and Germantown) near Philadelphia in Pennsylvania in late 1777, and then survived the grim 1777/8 winter at Valley Forge, near the same area in Pennsylvania.
He then travelled east to New Jersey and probably fought in the Battle of Monmouth, south of Newark, New Jersey. In late 1778, he was back north in Connecticut and spent 2 more severe winters in 1778/9 at Redding, Connecticut, and 1779/80 at Camp Peekskill, New York. He was then moved south to Elizabethtown and Newark, New Jersey in early 1780 to counter Loyalist & British raids. He may have been at Morristown, New Jersey at the time of his discharge in May, 1780.
Our hero probably travelled a total of more than 500 miles between all those locations and, after discharge, still had at least 60 miles more to travel back to Connecticut to gorge himself on his Mom's apple pie!
Conditions for the Soldiers: David must have frequently endured severe conditions, of both cold and heat. He had served through three severe winters (also in the first winter at Valley Forge the troops had so little food supplied to them that they had to forage for it). He also endured extreme heat, an example being the Battle of Monmouth, where both sides suffered casualties from heat exhaustion. In addition the soldier's food and equipment was very basic and medical help minimal. These conditions, and battle casualties, led to a quite high fallout rate amongst the troops.
This is borne out by the Company's high attrition rate (about 45% in a little over 2 years). The November 1778 roll shows the Company strength of 28 privates but this had run down to 20 by August 1779. At the September 1779 camp at Peekskill they were built back up to about 37, presumably this being the standard strength. David's Company (possibly set up in May 1777) had therefore been depleted from 37 to 28 by November 1778 and finally 20 in August 1779. David did not escape, he is shown as having been "absent sick" in 4 of the rolls.
General Herkimer: While David was marching merrily south towards Philadelphia after joining up, a relative of Sandra was having a far less merry time to the north. He was Nicholas Herkimer, the cousin of Sandra's great great great great great great great great grandmother (to save you counting them, this is eight "greats"). Nicholas's grandfather was therefore Sandra's "ten greats" grandfather.
Nicholas Herkimer (Erghamar in German) was born in 1728 in German Flatts, New York. He became a Militia Captain in 1757 and served in the French and Indian Wars. In September 1775 he became Brigadier General of the Tryon County (current day Herkimer County) Militia.
In July 1777 General Herkimer led troops of approximately 800 men as he prepared to ward off 1500 British forces (led by Colonel St. Leger) which were approaching Fort Stanwix (near Rome, in New York State).
On Aug. 6, 1777, General Herkimer and his men were ambushed at Oriskany Creek, south of Fort Stanwix. General Herkimer was shot in the leg but continued to direct the battle, leaning against a tree. About a quarter of his men were lost.
After the battle, General Herkimer was taken to his home in the town of Danube, near the Mohawk River, south of Little Falls, NY. His leg injury necessitated amputation and he did not survive. He died on Aug. 16 or 17, 1777.
The Oriskany Battlefield has become a small park and has a monument there to General Herkimer and his men which resembles the Washington Monument in miniature. The home where he died still stands today. It has been restored and is open to the public during the summer months.
Sandra's father, a war buff, has a photo of "Cousin Nick" on his refrigerator door, in tribute to the most famous person on Sandra's extensive family tree. (Editor's Note: We need to get a copy of that picture!)
Gavin McCoy: In another interesting twist, when David was fighting at the Battle of Monmouth another soldier with a future connection with the Jerrems family was doing the same thing. He was Captain Gavin McCoy (1738-1800), who commanded a company in the Somerset County (New Jersey) militia throughout the War and fought in the Battle of Monmouth. He was born in New Jersey and died in Basking Ridge, New Jersey.
Gavin's great great grand daughter was to be Mary Bell Jerrems, the wife of Alexander Nicholl Jerrems. (Editor's Note: Subscriber Leila Menzies, one of our readers, did some sleuthing work. Leila "met" Ray through a genealogical website, she is related to Mary Bell. But that is another story which Ray will tell you about in a future article.)
Confession Time: Having described David as being a "Jerrems" I must now confess that we do not know exactly what David's surname was. The ancestry.com records I originally located about 4 years ago listed him as "Jerrems", but the muster sheets recently located by Sandra show David's name as Jerrems, Jerrom, Jerroms and Jerums, as nearly as can be deciphered from the handwriting. The predominate spelling was Jerrom, which is very close to the spelling of our "William Jerom" (who christened his children "Jerrems") born near Gainsborough in the early 1700s.
David may have been illiterate and the compiler of the muster sheets merely wrote down what he thought would be the spelling based on David's pronunciation. As far as the compiler was probably concerned the exact spelling did not matter much as long as he could account for where the money had gone and David (who probably would not have seen the sheet anyway) would not have been concerned, even if he could read, so long as he got paid.
In those days, before the advent of passports, cheque accounts, bankcards etc little turned on the precise spelling of a name.
Conclusion: Our super sleuth Sandra has not been able to find any further record of David, so we are left with only a glimpse of his life. But it is amazing that the muster sheets have survived for a period of almost 230 years.
I wonder if David is up there somewhere having a chuckle over the genealogical conundrum caused by the four different spellings of his name. Perhaps he would say, rephrasing what Humpty Dumpty said in Alice in Wonderland, "When I use a name, it means just what I choose it to mean-nothing more nor less".
Sample muster sheets
|An Old Newspaper Clipping from Fulton.com||
Marrying into the Family of the Veep and a Nobel Prize Winner
Jacksonville. Fla.. April 19, 1927
A niece of Vice President Charles Dawes, Mrs. A. N. Jerrems, Jr. will move nearer her noted uncle as the result of her marriage to the son of a Chicago merchant.
Before the recent wedding her name was Miss Mary Dawes Hayes. She is the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Hayes. Her uncle lives in Evanston, Ill, near Chicago.
The Florida journalist who wrote this article was
obviously more impressed by the aspect that Mary
was the niece of Vice President Charles Dawes.
Picture from Her Father's Refrigerator
It came in late, but made our deadline!
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