Absent a standing professional Army in 1775, America’s first battles during its War for Independence, at Lexington and Concord, were fought almost entirely by members of the militia. At the …
Absent a standing professional Army in 1775, America’s first battles during its War for Independence, at Lexington and Concord, were fought almost entirely by members of the militia. At the Battle of Bunker Hill, it was the militia that was largely responsible for inflicting heavy losses on the British Army, and in many major Revolutionary War battles over the years, from Vermont to South Carolina, militia units were crucial to American victories, usually supplying their own weapons, equipment, and supplies.
And yet militia members during that era were typically not considered military men in the same sense as those men who had enlisted in the Continental Army were, and even today the debate continues as to whether or not they should be regarded as military veterans. The National Society of Daughters of the American Revolution does recognize an ancestor’s service in local or state militia during the time period from 1775 to 1783, as well as service in the Continental Army or Navy or as a privateer when considering eligibility for membership, but such equal regard for members of the militia is not yet universal.
Of course, prior to 1818, American military veterans in general did not receive much consideration at all once their military service ended, and even at that point it was only the indigent and the disabled who were afforded modest stipends for their sacrifice. It wasn’t until 1832 that military pensions became available to all those who served, regardless of circumstance. That year, according to the American Revolution Institute of the Society of the Cincinnati, “Congress decided to award pensions to the surviving veterans of the Revolutionary War. These were the first pensions paid to American veterans without regard to rank, financial distress, or physical disability. They reflected the gratitude of a free people for the soldiers who secured their freedom.”
The men who fought at the Battle of Minisink on July 22, 1779, including those who were killed there, were members of militia units, mainly from Goshen and Warwick and Sussex, NJ, and might not be considered military veterans by some, but they will be recognized as such this Veterans Day by the Barryville based non-profit history education group, The Delaware Company, prior to the Highland History Hike the group is sponsoring at the Minisink Battleground Park at 58 County Road 168 in Barryville.
The Battle of Minisink was the only Revolutionary War battle fought in the Upper Delaware, and the bodies of the men who were killed there were left on the battleground for 43 years before any remains were recovered and afforded a proper burial. At that point, only about 300 bones were found, so, in many ways, the battleground is a burial ground as well.
The hike will be narrated by this columnist, your Sullivan County Historian, who also serves as president of The Delaware Company.
Topics to be covered during the event include the language, culture, and legacy of the indigenous Lenape people, as well as their interaction with the early European settlers, the establishment of the Cushetunk settlement, the timber rafting industry and its impact on the region and the nation, the D&H Canal, and of course, the Battle of Minisink itself, the events leading up to it, and its aftermath. There will also be an update on The Delaware Company’s ongoing Minisink Trail Marker Project, which it is hoped will be completed by the summer of 2024.
The Highland History Hike will begin at 2 p.m. on Saturday, November 11. Participants should meet at the Tusten Pavilion just off the parking lot. In case of severe weather, the hike will be canceled, and any announcement about that will be made on The Delaware Company’s Facebook page.
The Highland History Hike is free and open to the public. The Minisink Battleground Park is owned and operated by the County of Sullivan with historical programming provided by The Delaware Company.
John Conway is the Sullivan County Historian and a founder and president of The Delaware Company. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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