In 1864 Rev. Elias Hillard, a Congregational Minister and erstwhile historian, embarked on a “do-or-die” mission. It was the last chance history would have to record by word or photos the last surviving soldiers of the American Revolutionary War.
Incredible though it may seem, six veterans who served in the Revolution were alive eighty-three years after British General Cornwallis surrendered to the Americans at Yorktown ending the War of Independence. Even more incredible is that, because of Rev. Hillard's efforts, photos of the six veterans are available in the historical record, the only photos of any of the War's soldiers.
Since all six surviving soldiers were over 100 years old, Rev. Hillard's historical quest took on great urgency.
In July of 1864 — even as another war, the Civil War was in its third year — Rev. Hillard with missionary zeal pursued his plan to track down the survivors of the Revolution, interview them, have them photographed, and record their oral history for his book.
Though the camera was newly invented some three decades before and still a marvel, it was able to provide Hillard with the actual photos of each of the six survivors.
As Hillard said at the time, "History lives in the persons who created it."
"Our own are the last eyes that will look on men who looked on Washington; our ears the last that will hear the living voices of those who heard his words."
The dimly remembered reminiscences of the six veterans form a portrait of a bygone generation. Dignified yet capable of irreverence. Unpretentious yet full of wisdom. Mild and yet endowed with an indomitable will.
These six are the Argonauts of a bygone age. They were the last generation that was a living link with the time when the Americans achieved national independence.
— Selections from "The Last Men of the Revolution," Courtesy of Barre Publishers.
102 Years Old. Born in Newburyport, Massachusetts in November, 1764. Died February 19, 1867. Enlisted in July of 1780 in Hailstown, New Hampshire. Served in the Battle of Saratoga in which British General Burgoyne was defeated.
Discussing his service in the Continental Army....."we were stationed in the Mohawk Valley. Arnold was our fighting general, and a bloody fellow he was. He didn't care for nothing; he'd ride right in. It was 'Come on, boys!' 'twasn't 'Go boys!' He was as brave a man as ever lived. He was dark-skinned, with black hair, of middling height. There wasn't any waste timber in him. He was a stern looking man, but kind to his soldiers. They didn't treat him right: he ought to have had Burgoyne's sword. But he ought to have been true. We had true men then; 'twasn't as it is now. Everybody was true; the Tories we'd killed or driven to Canada.......The men that caught Andre were true. He wanted to get away, offered them everything. Washington hated to hang him; he cried, they said."
Commenting on the Battle of Saratoga: "The first day at Bemis Heights (we) both claimed the victory. But by and by we got Burgoyne where we wanted him, and he gave up. He saw there was no use in fighting it out. There's where I call 'em gentlemen. Bless your body, we had gentlemen to fight with in those days. When they was whipped they gave up. It isn't so now."
REV. DANIEL WALDO
Rev. Daniel Waldo
101 Years Old. Born in Windham, Connecticut on September 10, 1762. Died July 30, 1864. Drafted into the Continental Army in 1778. Taken prisoner by the Tories a year later in Horseneck, Connecticut.
His connection with the Revolution began when he was 16 years old. A year after he was drafted into the army he was taken prisoner by the Tories.
He was brought to New York where he was confined in the Sugar house in New York together with 20 or more members of his company. Sugar House Prisons were sugar refineries, sturdy stone and brick buildings. They were used by the British as prisons where captured American soldiers and civilians were confined. Two months later he and his whole company were exchanged for British prisoners and released. Rev. Waldo said he never saw Washington or La Fayette. A minister in the Congregational Church, he served for a short time as chaplain at New London. In his later years, at the age of 96, he was chosen chaplain of the House of Representatives.
"In his personal habits Mr. Waldo was very careful and regular. His standing advice was to 'eat little.' He drank tea and coffee. The control of the temper he deemed one of the most important conditions of health, declaring that a fit of passion does more to break down the constitution than a fever. His memory was excellent, differing from that of most aged people, in that he retained current events with the same clearness as the earlier incidents of his history."
105 Years Old. Oldest Survivor of the Revolutionary War. Born in Northbury, Connecticut on September 10, 1761. Died on May 20, 1866. Served in the Battle of Brandywine and later Yorktown when British General Cornwallis surrendered
to the Continental Army, ending the War.
The oldest survivor of the Revolution at 105 years old, Lemuel Cook entered the service of his country in 1781. "When I applied to enlist, Captain Hallibud told me I was so small he couldn't take me unless I would enlist for the war [ed. note: the war's end as opposed to enlisting for 3 months, 6 months or a year]. Cook agreed and served at the battle of Brandywine and at Cornwallis' surrender, ending the war. Explained Cook: "It was reported Washington was going to storm New York.....No more idea of it than of going to Flanders......Then we were in Virginia. There wasn't much fighting. Cornwallis tried to force his way north to New York; but fell into the arms of La Fayette, and he drove him back. Old Rochambeau told 'em, 'I'll land five hundred from the fleet, against your eight hundred.' But they darsn't. We had little to eat and nothing to drink under heaven. We hove up some brush to keep the flies off. Washington ordered that there should be no laughing at the British; said it was bad enough to have to surrender without being insulted."
Today Cook still walks comfortably with the help of a cane; and with the aid of glasses reads his 'book,' as he calls the Bible. "He is fond of company, loves a joke, and is good-natured in a rough sort of way. He likes to relate his experiences in the army and among the Indians. The old man's health is comfortably good; and he enjoys life as much as could be expected at his great age. Altogether, he is a noble old man; and long may it yet be before his name shall be missed from the roll of his country's deliverer's."
ALEXANDER MILLINER (MARONEY)
Alexander Milliner (Maroney)
104 Years Old. Born in Quebec on March 14, 1770. Died in 1874. Fought in the Battles of White Plains, Brandywine, Monmouth and Yorktown. Also served in the Navy on board the old frigate Constitution.
Too young at the time of his enlistment for service in the army, Alexander was enlisted as a drummer boy. Recounting the past, he said he was a great favorite with Washington. After the beating of the drums of reveille, Washington would come along and pat him on the head, and call him his boy. On one occasion, “a bitter cold morning,” he gave him a drink out of his flask. He described Washington as “a good man, a beautiful man. He was always pleasant; never changed countenance, but wore the same in defeat and retreat as in victory. One day the General sent for me to come up to Headquarters. After the Life Guard came out and paraded, the General told me to play. So I took the drum, overhauled her, braced her up and played a tune. The General put his hand in his pocket and gave me three dollars; then one and another gave me more-- so I made out well; in all I got fifteen dollars.”
Milliner was in a number of battles, including Saratoga. Of Burgoyne's surrender he said, “The British soldiers looked down-hearted. When the order came to 'ground arms,' one of them exclaimed, with an oath, 'You are not going to have my gun!' and threw it violently on the ground and smashed it. Arnold was a smart man; they didn't saerve (sic) him quite straight.” After his service in the Continental Army, Milliner married Abigail Barton, aged eighteen.
He and his wife lived together for sixty-two years 'without a death in the family or a coffin in the house.' They had nine children, forty-three grand children, seventeen great-grand children and three great-great-grand children. At the time of his wife's death he was one hundred and two years old and still able to cultivate his garden.
102 Years Old. Born in York, Maine on October 6, 1764. Died on May 2, 1866. Saw fighting at the Siege of Castine where he was taken prisoner by the British.
His service with the War of the Revolution was limited. He enlisted at the age of fifteen for the coastal defense of his own state, Maine. The only fighting he saw was at the siege of Castine where he was taken prisoner. But the British, declaring it a shame to hold as prisoner one so young, promptly released him. Upon the close of the War Hutchings was married at the age of twenty-two, after which his wife Mercy bore fifteen children.
In his later years he is described as being “an early riser and a hard worker. He smokes regularly, and uses spirituous liquors moderately. His mind is still vigorous, though his body is feeble. His memory is good, retaining dates especially, so that he is a referee in the family in the matters of history.” One of his last requests was that the American flag should cover his remains, and be unfurled at his funeral. This was done; and in the stillness of a bright Spring afternoon, in the midst of an assembled multitude, upon the farm which for nearly a century had been his home, all that was mortal of the old hero was removed from earthly sight, while the stars and stripes he had so long honored, floated above his grave.”
104 Years Old. Born near Hagerstown, Maryland on November 14, 1760. Died on August 15, 1864. Served in the Militia of Pennsylvania on three separate tours of duty.
Enlisting at the age of sixteen, he signed up for the service of guarding the frontier, where he spent five years mostly in the vicinity of Wheeling, Virginia. Records indicate he served three tours of duty in the militia of the state of Pennsylvania. At the end of the War Link married a distant relative of his. “After this event, being fond of change, he roamed about from place to place, living but a short time in each; and so spent the earlier part of his life. At the age of sixty, he walked from his home in Pennsylvania to Ohio, a distance of one hundred and forty-one miles, accomplishing it in three days, an average of forty-seven miles a day.
When seventy years of age, he set about clearing a farm and remained for some time on it. Perpetuating the habits of his army frontier service, he paid no attention to his manner of eating, either in quantity, quality or time; and he was addicted to strong drink. He labored severely and constantly. Notwithstanding all, his health was good till near the very close of his life.”