Friday, July 3, 2009

Tribute to Revolutionary Heroes

On this 4th of July holiday, I would like to pay tribute to one of my Revolutionary War ancestors – Ranger James Riggs of the Pennsylvania Militia and member of the Continental Line.

The Corps of Rangers, (also known as Riflemen or Partisans) was created by the Continental Congress as a group of sharpshooters and long-term militiamen who were to serve out the duration of the revolution. Enlistment was expensive. Each soldier had to furnish a good long rifle, powder horn, charger, bullet screw, twelve flints, a pouch to hold four pounds of balls, knife, and whatever else he needed. The estimated total cost was somewhere between 20 to 30 English pounds. The most famous Ranger Corps were Morgan’s Rangers and Marion’s Brigade.

James Riggs is a descendent of Edward Riggs who came to the colonies in 1637. On October 30, 1666, Edward Riggs, along with 64 other residents of Branford and Milford of the New Haven Colony CT, signed an Agreement to found a common township at "New-Ark on Pesayack" – Newark, New Jersey.

On September 15, 1742 (a little over 100 years after Edward Riggs came to America), one of his descendants, James Riggs, was born in Rock Creek, Montgomery County, Maryland. The actual site of his birth is now the National Zoo in Washington D.C. In 1776 James, his wife, Mary, and their children; Robert, age 12, Thomas, age 9, Maxemelia, age 7, Mary, age 4, and Basil, age 2, moved to Friend’s Cove close to Bedford Pennsylvania. Right after the move, James enlisted in the Bedford County Militia as a Rifleman in Edward Rose’s Rangers and signed the following oath:

“I have this day voluntarily enlisted myself as a soldier in the American Continental Army for one year, unless sooner discharged, and do bind myself to conform in all instances to such rules and regulations as are or shall be established for the government of said army.”

The Pennsylvania Militia Riflemen as described by Dr. James Thatcher in his Military Journal of the Revolution:

“They are remarkably stout and hardy men; many of them exceeding six feet in height. They are dressed in white frocks or rifle shirts and round hats. These men are remarkable for the accuracy of their aim; striking a mark with great certainty at two hundred yards distance.”

Members of the Pennsylvania Militia Riflemen were with George Washington as he crossed the Delaware, and fought in the Battles of Brandywine, Germantown, and Whitemarsh, Long Island, and defended the southern end of the Schuylkill River.

After the American Revolution ended, James Riggs was personally granted 200 acres on the west side of the Ohio River. He and other Revolutionary War heroes (who were also awarded land grants for their meritorious service in the Revolutionary War and included the Dye family) cleared the area and James, himself, was the first settler to set foot on what later became the town of New Matamoras, Ohio.

I would like to thank my mother, Hyla E. (Athey) Watson, who compiled our family history (some of which is pre 1066) and includes the Athey, Dye, Riggs, and Ridgeway families. I would also like to thank the organizations of the Sons of the American Revolution and Daughters of the American Revolution for their detailed documents and meticulous records. I would also like to thank Dr. George Athey of Houston for his contributions to the Athey geneological records and information.