Tuesday, May 27, 2014



     "How did thirteen colonies, with a barely functioning central government
      and a thrown-together, underfunded and poorly supplied army of constantly
      fluctuating size and composition, win the Revolutionary War?  One reason
      was the colonies' ability to rely on their common citizens to supplement
      the Continental Army with the local militia.
      While it was the Continental Army that had to do the bulk of the work to win
      the war for Independence, the story of the American victory cannot be told 
      without the militia;
      - - - -a bulwark against tyranny, and a line of national defense- - - - called up
      during the Revolution, as needed, to suppress insurrections and repel invasions."


This is Dan  McLaughlin's account:
     A force comprised mainly of Massachusetts and Maine Militia supported by a small detachment of Marines was to make an amphibious landing in Maine and assault a British Fort, was, he contends, ( a complex operation, unsuited to militia,) despite superior numbers compared to the enemy and some initial momentum, the unwieldy joint command co-ordinated poorly with its Continental Navy support, the Maine Militia turned out in smaller numbers than expected (1500 called, 875 engaged), and the Miliitia maintained an ineffective siege and cut and ran when counter-attacked.  The commanders of the expedition, including Paul Revere, ended up being hauled before a court-martial, and Maine remained in British hands for the rest of the war.

     There is an excellent article in Wikipedia for those of you who are interested in knowing more.  The Penobscot Expedition is deemed the largest American Naval expedition of the American Revolution and the United States worst Naval defeat prior to Pearl Harbor.  It was one of the greatest British victories of the war.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Penobscot_Expedition.

      Into this scene, we find young John Sawyer, his brother Thomas, who was a private in the Continental line,a separate unit,  and a number of other young men from Old Falmouth.  Later, I will include some of these men who gave testimony to John's service when he was applying for a military pension.  

     My understanding is that an Act of of Congress issued sometime around 1830, allowed Revolutionary War veterans to apply for benefits.  According to Rodney Sawyer, John Sawyer's statement was taken on July 25, 1832 when he was then,  71 years old.  I'm including some, but certainly not all, of the documents that did result in the pension being issued to Abigail Graves Sawyer, John's widow. I chose these because they appealed to my curiosity to know something of the people who were neighbors and friends of the Sawyers and because they have visible signatures.   

Massachusetts Soldiers and Sailors of the Revolutionary War
    The following are documents pertaining to the pension application process.  It appears that there needed to be at least three persons to give testimony to John Sawyer's service and that each of the statements had to be witnessed and verified by the Court.

I was particularly interested in this because the witness is Joseph Pride; same name as one of the Captains, John served under in two of his enlistments during the Revolution, and again, in the War of 1812.  Could this be a son of Capt. Pride?


Note the amount to be paid.

You will also note the outlined names of John, his brother and cousin.

      John Sawyer served three enlistments periods during the Revolutionary War.  Twice his service was centered around defense of Falmouth (Portland) and under the command of Capt. Joseph Pride.  When a much older man, he again took up arms to defend the port of Portland during the War of 1812.  He must have had great respect for his commanding officer, Capt. Pride, because John enlisted in the same company.

      Now it's true John Sawyer would have been around 52 years old during the War of 1812, and I'm sure there were younger, more able young men available for service.  However, according to friend and Portland historian, Herb Adams:
            "Older men of Falmouth  DID proudly march as a unit to dig the Forts 
              up on Munjoy Hill (today's Fort Allen is still there---the Old Fort Lawrence
              below it on the shore, is gone now.)  They were called "The Exempts" (that
              is officially exempt, from military service) and did..."Fatigue Duty" (digging
              forts and gun emplacements, or standing guard duty), and were very much
              cheered and applauded for it.  I have some photographs of news items
              about this from the Portland papers of the day."

    I hope Herb will share some of these photos for our interest.  Undoubtedly, these older men were well respected for their patriotism and experience, both by their communities, and the Officers of the Militia units they served.  I am happy that the reclamation project:' Unearthing the Roots of the Back Cove and East Deering Communities' has brought out their stories.  Of course, as I have said so many times before; along with these discoveries, come more questions.



          I have included John Sawyer's family sheet from Ancestry to call attention to the children.  It appears that John and Abigail Sawyer had five children; four of who died very young.  Since no record seems to exist of where these young ones were buried, I wondered what were the customs for interring babies and young children.  We are acutely aware that there well over 100 burials at the East Deering/Grand Trunk Cemetery.  Would the Sawyer children  be among the missing and unidentified field stones or memorials?

       I contacted my friend and President of Maine Old Cemetery Association, Cheryl Willis Patten for some guidance here.  Cheryl indicated that all families during the 18th and 19th century would have been very caring for their deceased children and would have marked their graves with field stones until they could afford an engraved stone.  In many cases, the children's names might be added to the parent's stone as I have often seen in any number of the well cared for cemeteries in the state. 

 More and more, I realize just how much we have lost of these families' stories and their contribution to Portland's history because of the damage and ravages of vandalism.  Makes it all the more important to preserve what little remains!

     As is our custom since the reclamation project began, and,  with the addition of the Grand Trunk Veterans Memorial in 2012, a few friends gather to lay flags and a wreath for Memorial Day.  This year, Samantha Allshouse (back from college; soon to start her Senior year at U Maine Farm.!),and  her Mom, Lynda, Megan Cunningham (Junior Girl Scout Bronze Award Candidate) and her Mom Julie and yours truly had the honor, and even sang 'Taps.'  Hope you enjoy the photos!