Daily Herald Article November 11, 2006
John Gowdy built a fort guarding Connecticut’s coast.
And Eli Skinner — just 14 years old — played the fife as they marched into battle.
They were soldiers in the American Revolution. All three, along with a handful of other Revolutionary War vets, are buried in suburban cemeteries — their lives and their graves a bridge to a historical era often obscured by time and distance.
Veterans Day would not be established until nearly a century and a half after those soldiers fought, but the memory of their sacrifice can also help us understand and appreciate the sacrifices of contemporary veterans, historians say.
“Without the American Revolution, there would be no Veterans Day,” said Donald Parrish, of Downers Grove, who heads the Sons of the American Revolution’s Fox Valley chapter. “It’s utterly fundamental.”
Parrish and others in his group comb through pension records, national archives and church files to find Revolutionary War veterans buried in the suburbs.
Dudley, Gowdy and Skinner were among a handful of Revolutionary War veterans who followed their sons to today’s Chicago suburbs.
“In those days, it was the custom to care for your elders,” said Michael Johnston of Oswego, whose ancestors include a general, lieutenant, sergeant, corporal, private and drummer boy in the American Revolution.
All followed different paths into battle.
Many enlisted as boys fighting for independence. Some came with their families, and some fled battle to return home.
“What a lot of people kind of miss is the fact a lot of these men that fought in the Revolution, a lot of them were in their late teens, early 20s,” Johnston said, “which is pretty much the same age as people serving in Iraq, Afghanistan and everywhere else.”
Here are capsule histories of Revolutionary War veterans known to be buried in the area northwest of Chicago:
By the time his three tours of duty were done, Burroughs had worked his way from private to sergeant. Burroughs’ tenure in uniform culminated Oct. 1777 during the Battle of Saratoga, where the American victory turned the tide of the revolution and attracted French involvement on the side of the rebellion.
A month later, Burroughs was discharged. He returned home to New Hampshire. But for a brief return to service in 1780, Burroughs spent most of his adult life in Vermont.
He followed his son — Daniel Burroughs Jr., a veteran of the War of 1812 — to Kane County in 1837. Spanning more than 500 acres, their claim was one of the county’s largest. Burroughs died in 1843. He was 88 and now rests in Plano’s Griswold Cemetery.
Lake County’s lone American Revolution veteran, Collins signed up to serve in 1781 at the age of 16. When his Massachusetts hometown was pressed to round up soldiers, Collins was picked to serve. He spent two years in uniform, marching through much of Massachusetts and New York.
After his discharge, Collins returned home before moving to New York, Canada and ultimately Illinois. In 1847, at 82, Collins died. He is buried in Wadsworth’s Mount Rest Cemetery.
He followed his neighbors into battle.
Just 18 years old, Dudley enlisted when the New Hampshire militia was called up. What was intended to be a single year of service doubled, inspired, historians speculate, by Gen. George Washington’s plea at the Battle of Trenton’s famous Christmas attack.
“You have worn yourselves out with fatigues and hardships, but we know not how to spare you,” Washington told his soldiers, Dudley among them. “The present is emphatically the crisis which is to decide our destiny.”
After the war, Dudley married and settled in Vermont. He moved to Lisle Township shortly after he turned 80, following his son west. He died in 1846 and is buried in the Naperville Cemetery.
He enlisted days after his 17th birthday.
Gowdy spent much of his service guarding the Connecticut coast from British attack. A native of the state, Gowdy helped build Fort Trumbull that protected the New London harbor. Future assignments took him to Providence and Newport, Rhode Island.
Gowdy left military service in 1778. He spent his adult years living in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York and by 1853, Illinois. Gowdy, then 93 years old, settled in Batavia with his family. He died in February 1854 and is buried in the East Batavia Cemetery.
When British forces clashed with George Washington’s band of soldiers north of New York City, Miner was there.
Just 19 years old, his regiment joined Washington’s troops driven from Manhattan a month earlier. It was October 1776. The loss marked the nadir of the American battle for independence. Yet Washington and his soldiers — Miner included — rebounded. Miner enlisted four times before his military tenure ended.
He married and settled in Connecticut and later Vermont. Historians say it’s unclear when he settled in Illinois. But on March 29, 1849, Miner, then 92, died. He is buried in the Elk Grove Cemetery.
Armed with a drum, he marched into battle.
Just 15 years old, Powers enlisted as a drummer boy in 1776. He beat his way through the Battle of Remington, the Battle of Saratoga and the devastating winter at Valley Forge. And in 1781, Powers was present during the Siege of Yorktown that ultimately prompted an end to the American Revolution.
Federal officials never provided the military pension Powers sought, an indication he may not have been honorably discharged, research shows.
“His file claims desertion,” Johnston said. “Unfortunately, as in a lot of these cases, records this old are very difficult to find.”
One thing is absolutely clear. In 1844, he settled in Kane County with his son’s family. Powers died seven years later. He was 91. Today, Powers is buried in Lily Lake’s Canada Corners Cemetery. An obelisk memorial was added to his gravesite in 1902. The granite was shipped from Vermont, his home state.
When his band of soldiers headed into battle, they followed the pitch of Skinner’s fife.
It was a fitting role for a 14-year-old. Skinner played across much of Massachusetts. Only when his troop arrived at New York’s Fort Ticonderoga did he switch to garrison detail.
Skinner went on to become a blacksmith. He married twice and had 10 children, some of whom he followed to Cook County in 1848. Considered one of the region’s first European settlers, Skinner found land near Algonquin and Arlington Heights roads today.
He died in 1851 and was buried at the Elk Grove Cemetery. He was 90.
In October 1780, Connecticut’s governor called for able-bodied men to enlist. Not yet 14, Vaughn signed up days later. He helped patrol and scout along the Connecticut coast. He later volunteered for three months of garrison detail under his father’s command in New York.
After the war, Vaughn settled in Connecticut and later New York. At 78, he headed west to Kane County. He died four months after moving. Today, he is buried in Aurora’s Spring Lake Cemetery.
Source: Fox Valley Chapter, Sons of the American Revolution