By Jared Olar
Later this month, the nation will observe Monday, Feb. 15, the third Monday of the month, as President George Washington’s Birthday. The federal holiday today is commonly called Presidents Day since President Abraham Lincoln’s birthday is Feb. 12 while Washington was born Feb. 11 on the old Julian calendar (Feb. 22 on the reformed Gregorian calendar). Washington is famed and revered as the first president of the United States of America, and also for his crucial role as the heroic commanding general of the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War.
Almost all combat and military activity during the War of the Revolution took place within the borders of the 13 English colonies on the Atlantic seaboard. Illinois in those days was under the control of the British Crown, having formerly been a French colonial territory chiefly inhabited by Native American tribes and small groups of French fur traders. Compared to the great and memorable battles in the 13 colonies, military activity in the territory that would later become the state of Illinois was negligible. American Revolutionary forces did, however, succeed in seizing control of the Illinois territory through Col. George Rogers Clarks’ Illinois Campaign in 1778-1779, securing the western frontier of the nascent American republic against British attacks from that direction.
Though there were few American soldiers then living in the future state of Illinois, a large number of Revolutionary War veterans subsequently settled in Illinois and are buried here. One of the volumes in the Pekin Public Library’s Local History Room collection is titled, “Soldiers of the American Revolution Buried in Illinois,” published by the Illinois State Genealogical Society as a part of the nation’s Bicentennial celebrations in 1976. This volume lists all Revolutionary War veterans known to be buried in the state. Among them are eight veterans buried in Tazewell County (none of them served directly under Gen. Washington, though).
To be clear, there are other heroes of the War of the Revolution who lived for a while in Tazewell County but moved on to other parts of the state, or to other states, and therefore aren’t buried in Tazewell County. However, these are the eight veterans buried in this county:
• Private James Campbell, died 1832 in Tazewell County, listed on Tazewell pension rolls
• Private Isaac Fletcher, born Oct. 26, 1763, in Westford, Mass., died Feb. 1838, married Ruth Pierce; served in Massachusetts as a substitute for his brother Levi who was ill; wounded and honorably discharged in 1782
• Private Elliot Gray, born Sept. 17, 1755 in Pelham, Mass., died March 1841, buried in Deacon Cemetery, Groveland, married Hannah Crawford; served in Massachusetts in the company of Capt. Elijah Dwight
• George Henline Sr., probably born in Virginia, died 1850, buried near son in Gilbert Cemetery near Armington; came to Hittle’s Grove, Tazewell County in 1828; fought in the Battle of Blue Licks, Ky., on Aug. 19, 1782
• Samuel McClintock, born 1763 in Augusta County, Va., died after 1840; served three times in 1781 in three different companies, was present at the Siege of Yorktown
• Private Norman Newell, born Aug. 28, 1761, died April 6, 1850, married firstly to Rosetta, secondly to Lucy Frisbee; served in the Connecticut Continental, in Capt. Ezekiel Curtis’ company, for eight months in 1777
• Private Levin H. Powell of Tremont, Ill., born 1763 in Loudoun County, Va., died Nov. 28, 1836, second wife named Elizabeth Cohagan; served in Virginia and South Carolina 1780-1783, discharged in Richmond, Va.
• Private David Shipman, born Aug. 15, 1765, in Virginia, died Aug. 11, 1845, buried in Antioch Cemetery near Tremont; served in 1780 in Capt. Robert Craven’s Rifle Company
The adventures of the last named Private Shipman and his manumitted former slave Moses Shipman were the subject of two previous From the Local History Room columns, on Sept. 21, 2014, and Jan. 4, 2014.