THERE is not a part of Pennsylvania wherein the love of liberty displayed itself earlier or more strongly than in the county of York. Military companies with a view to the resisting of Great Britain were formed in York, while the people of the neighboring counties slept. In those days there were men here, of broad breast and firm step, who feared no power and bowed to no dominion. The first company that marched from Pennsylvania to the fields of war was a company of rifle-men from the town of York: they left this place on the first of July l775. York county sent out more soldiers during the revolution than any one of her neighboring sisters.
We will first mention the companies of the town of York before and during the revolution, which, however were not formed with a view of being immediately engaged in the dangers of war, and which, as then constituted, marched to no fields of fame. Hundreds of such companies were formed throughout the county, but as an enumeration of them would be lengthy and tedious, and as they are connected with no deed of danger, we will omit all particular mention of them, and confine ourselves to the town of York.
As early as December 1774, a company was formed in the town of York, the object of which was to make soldiers who would be well disciplined for battle in case the disaffection then existing towards England, should proceed to open hostilities. The officers of this company were James Smith, Captain, Thomas Hartley, first Lieutenant, David Green, second Lieutenant, and Henry Miller, Ensign. Each of those officers thus early attached to the cause of liberty, was much distinguished in the subsequent history of our country. The first was a signer of the declaration of independence; the second was a colonel in the revolution, and for eleven years a member of congress; and the third and fourth were each distinguished officers, and "acquired a fame and a name" connected with the cause they supported.
The second company formed in the town of York was in February 1775, the officers of which were Hartman Deustch, Captain; Mr. Grubb, first Lieutenant; Philip Entler, second Lieutenant, and Luke Rause, Ensign.
In December 1775, the third company was formed in York town, entitled "The Independent Light Infantry company belonging to the first battalion of York County." This company drew up and signed a constitution consisting of thirty-two articles, the original manuscript of which, with the signatures of all the officers and soldiers, lies now before us. It was signed on the 16th of December by the following persons, James Smith, Colonel; Thomas Hartley, Lieut. Colonel; Joseph Donaldson, Major; Michael Swoope, Major; George Irwin, Captain; John Hay, first Lieut.; Wilham Baily, second Lieut.; Christoph Lauman, Ensign; Paul Metzgar, Henry Walter, Jacob Gardner, and John Shultz, Sergeants; and William Scott, Clerk: then follow the names of one hundred and twenty-two private soldiers, a catalogue of which would be too lengthy. This company was commanded in 1777 by William Baily, Captain; Christoph Lauman, first Lieut., and William Scott, second Lieut. - Mr. John Hay being elected a member of the state convention held in that year.
Companies were already formed throughout all the county, and every thing spoke of freemen under arms for liberty. But confining ourselves to York-town, we will mention the other companies which were formed here at the commencement of the revolution. The fourth company was formed in the spring of 1776, & its officers, were Michael Hahn, Captain; Baltzer Spengler, first Lieut.; Michael Bitlmeyer, second Lieut.; and George Michael Spengler, Ensign. The fifth company was likewise formed in the spring of 1776, whereof Charles Lukens was Captain; Christian Stake, first Lieutenant; and Cornelius Sheriff, second Lieutenant. The sixth company was formed in May of the same year, and was commanded by Captain Rudolph Spangler. The first and second companies formed in town, had long since been dissolved, and the soldiers thereof joined and became a part of the fifth and sixth companies: so that in June 1776, there were four different military associations of the town of York. The third, fourth, fifth, and sixth companies constituted a part of those five battalions which marched to New Jersey in 1776 to form the flying camp. Though they thus marched out of the county yet it was to no warlike field, the only object being to form other companies, which shall be mentioned in their places.
'We will secondly consider the companies, composed of the citizens both of York-town and York county, which were formed with a view for actual service, and which shared in the dangers and glory of the revolution.
1. The first company to be mentioned is the rifle-company already alluded to, which left York on the 1st of July 1775, and marched directly to Cambridge near Boston. It was at first commanded by Captain Michael Doudle, who however was soon succeeded by his first Lieutenant, Henry Miller. Those who belonged to this company may be called enlisted volunteers; for they actually enlisted and bound themselves to military service for the space of one year, and this they did "of their own heads," without being required or even so much as requested thereto by the state or by Congress.
2. In 1776 the counties of York and Cumberland were required each to raise four companies for the forming of a regiment. Of this regiment, William Irwine, at first, was Colonel; Thomas Hartley, Lieut. Colonel; and James Dunlap, Major. Of the four companies raised in York county, David Grier was Captain of the first, Moses M'Lean, of the second, Archibald M'Allister, of the third, the name of the Captain of the fourth we cannot give. These companies, which were enlisted for fifteen months left the county to follow the fate of war in the latter end of March, In the year 1777 this regiment formed the 11th regiment of the Pennsylvania line, and its officers were Thomas Hartley, Colonel; David Grier, Lieut. Colonel; and Lewis Bush, Major.
3. Early in May 1776, a rifle company which had been enlisted to serve fifteen months marched from the county of York to Philadelphia, where it was attached to Colonel Miles' Rifle Regiment. The Captain of this company was William M'Pherson; and the third Lieut. was Jacob Stake.
4. In July 1776, five battalions of militia marched from York county to New Jersey. Out of these five battalions there were formed in about six weeks after their arrival, two battalions of the flying camp: those who did not belong to the camp returned home. The reason of so many more than there was occasion for, being called forth from all the counties seems to have been firstly to try the spirit of the people, and secondly to show the enemy the power of the nation they warred against.
As the flying camp is closely connected with the honours and the sufferings of many men in this county, we will briefly state its history. Congress, on the 3d of June, 1776, "Resolved, that a Flying Camp be immediately established in the middle colonies, and that it consist of 10,000 men:" to complete which number, it was resolved, that the colony of Pennsylvania be required to furnish of the militia, 6,000
The militia were to be engaged until the 1st of December following, that is, about six months. The conference of committees for Pennsylvania, then held at Philadelphia, resolved on the 14th of June, that 4500 of the militia should be embodied, which, with the 1500 then in the pay of the province, would make 6000, the quota required by Congress. The same conference on the 25th, recommended to the associators of York county to furnish 400 men.
Thus York county furnishing 400
The other counties, and Philadelphia city, in all 4,100
Troops under Col. Miles, 1,500
The Convention of the state, on the 12th of August, resolved to add four additional battalions to the Flying Camp, York county being required to furnish 515 men toward making out the number of 2984, the amount of the four new battalions. On the same day, Col. George Ross, Vice President of the Convention, Col. Thomas Matlack of Philadelphia, and Col, Henry Schlegel, of York county, were chosen, by ballot, commissioners to go to headquarters in New Jersey, and form the flying camp.
The Flying Camp was accordingly soon formed: it consisted of three brigades. The brigadier general of the first brigade was James Ewing of York county; his brigade consisted of three battalions, the first of which was commanded by Col. Swope of York County; the second, by Col. Bull of Chester county; and the third by Col. Watts of Cumberland county, father of the late David Watts Esq. of Carlisle. Of the other brigades and battalions, we are not at present able to speak with much certainty.
As the two battalions formed from the five battalions of York county militia which marched to New Jersey, underwent the hard fate of severe war, we will be somewhat particular concerning them.
The officers of the first battalion were Col. Michael Swope, Licut. Col, Robert Stevenson, and Major William Baily. It was composed of eight companies, of each of which we will give the names of the officers, as far as we have been able to learn them:
1st Company. - Michael Schmeiser, Captain.
Zachariah Shugart, First Lt.
Andrew Robinson, Sec. Lt.
William Wayne, Ensign.
2d Company. - Gerhart Graeff, Captain.
3d Company. - Jacob Dritt, Captain.
Baymiller, First Lieut.
Clayton, Second Lieut.
Jacob Mayer, Ensign.
4th Company. - Christian Stake, Captain.
Cornelius Sheriff, First Lt.
Jacob Holtzinger, Sec. Lt.
Jacob Barnitz, Ensign.
5th Company. - John McDonald, Captain.
William Scott, First Lieut.
Robert Patten, Second Lieut.
6th Company. - John Ewing, Captain.
John Paysley, Ensign.
7th Company. - Wjlljam Nelson, Captain,
Todd, First Lieut.
Second Lieut, Nesbit, Ensign.
8th Company._Capt Williams.
The officers of the second battalion were Col. Richard McMister (father of Archibald McAlister, already mentioned) Lieut. Col, David Kennedy, and Major John Clark*. The Captains were Bittinger, McCarter, McCoskcy, Laird, Wilson and Paxton, from York county. To this battalion were added two companies from the county of Bucks. Thus each battalion consisted of eight companies.
The above list, as to both battalions, is very imperfect; but there is not a document in existence by which it can be made better. The above information, as likewise nearly all that follows, has been communicated to us by a few men of silvered hairs, whose memories are still fresh with respect to the warlike hardships and dangers of their more youthful days.
The battalion of Cal. Swope suffered as severely as any one during the revolution.
The company of Gerhart Graeff belonging to that regiment was taken at the battle of Long Island, and but eighteen of the men returned to join the regiment. Not one of this company is now alive.
But the place which proved the grave of their hopes was Fort Washington, on the Hudson, near the city of New York, The officers belonging to Swope's battalion, that were taken at that place on the 16th of November 1776, were the following fourteen, Col. Michael Swope, Major Willijm Baily, Surgeon Humphrey Fullerton, Capt. Michael Schmeiser, Capt. Jacob Dritt, Capt. Christian Stake, Capt. John M'Donald, Lieut. Zachariah Shugard, Lieut, Jacob Holtzinger, Lieut. Andrew Robinson, Lieut. Robert Patten, Lieut. Joseph Walsch, Ensign Jacob Barnitz, Ensign and Adjutant Howe, Ensign Jacob Meyer. Of the company of Capt. Stake, we are enabled to give the names of those, beside the three officers already mentioned, who were taken prisoners: they were Serj. Pater Haak, Serj. John Dicks, Serj. Henry Counsel-man, Corp. John Adlum, David Parker, James Dobbins, Hugh Dobbins, Henry Miller (now living in Virginia) John Strohman, Christian Strohman, James Berry, Joseph Bay, Henry Hof, Joseph Updegraff, Daniel Miller, Henry Shultze, Bill Lukens, a mulatto, and a waiter in the company - with perhaps some more. The company of Capt. Stake consisted mostly of spirited and high-minded young men from the town of York and its vicinity.
Though each party suffered much, and the mutual slaughter was great, yet but two officers of the flying camp were wounded on that day. The first was Capt. McCarter, who was from the neighborhood of Hanover, and was about twenty-two years of age. He belonged to the battalion of Col. McAlister, and commanded the piquet guard when he was shot through the breast. His wounded fellow-officer, who lay by his side, saw him stiffened in death on the fifth day. The other was ensign Jacob Barnitz, of the town of York. Mr. Barnitz was wounded in both legs, and laid for fifteen months a comfortless prisoner without hope, his wounds still unhealed and festering. After his return he lived for years to enjoy the confidence and esteem of his fellow citizens; but, after sufferings which wrung him to the soul, he was obliged to commit him~clf to the skill of the surgeon, and to suffer the loss of those members which had once borne the hero and the patriot, as he proudly waved to the winds the ensign of the country's liberty,
"The stars and stripes,
"The banner of the free heart's only home."
* We perceive, by a number of letters now in our possession, from Gen. Washington, and Gen. dreene &c., to Major Clark, that the latter gentleman stood very high In the confidence and esteem of the American commander in chief. He was employed, during the war:, In duties for which no Individual would have been selected who was not deemed true as steel.
Source: Page(s) 61- 68, History of York County From its Erection to the Present Time; [1729-1834]; New Edition; With Additions, Edited by A. Monroe Aujrand, Jr.