Madison Square

Madison Square
Savannah Under Fire archaeologists work in Madison Square, Savannah, GA, surrounded by visitors and citizens interested in our dig.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Before GI's: Original American Soldiers

As I work on Memorial Day, I was thinking about our original American soldiers and sailors who fought in the American Revolution.  My favorite being George Washington. But he gets enough press.

I would like to celebrate the soldiers who slogged through the mud but didn't get recognition. Men like Eleazar Phillips, who after being discharged from the militia in Charleston, served aboard the Wasp as a Steward and Purser under Capt. Bulfinch. Historical documents indicate he was present for the death Casimir Pulaski aboard the Wasp after the 1779 Battle of Savannah.  After being honorably discharged again, Phillips joined another militia company, serving in the Siege of Charleston. In May of 1780, he was taken prisoner for 12 months.

Phillips served for low, frequently late, pay with no promise of a pension or GI Bill. If the rebels lost.... Well, Ben Franklin said it best at the signing of the Declaration of Independence, "We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately."

The pages below are Martha Phillips' 1838 deposition, part of her application for her husband's pension.

Before 1818, pensions were only awarded to officers or those killed or disabled. (Widows could apply for the pensions of deceased servicemen.) The Revolutionary War pensions records are available on These records, mostly from the National Archives, have been scanned and are searchable. Some records are available free of charge, or you can subscribe to have access to all of the records.

I highly recommend browsing through their stash. While old documents can be difficult to read, the software makes it as easy as possible.  The stories of the servicemen vibrantly come through the documents. And footnote has documents throughout the entire span on American history, so don't stop at the Revolution!

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