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Revolutionary War

The Revolutionary War had a direct effect on nearly everyone in New England. The strong British presence in Boston brought trade and commerce to a halt in the Massachusetts seaports. In Salem all three of Charles Vanderford's (223) sons were involved in the war. In New York it was a similar situation. The British occupied New York City and were advancing south from the Canadian border. Of the New York VanderVoorts 15 were involved in fighting during the war. Even in the rural farming areas of Maryland and the Carolinas the Vanderfords served in the local militia. Quite a few signed up for terms in the State Militias and fought in various battles.

The following Vanderfords are documented as serving in the War:

Charles Vanderford (1008)
  • Feb. 1776 - July 1777, private in the New Hampshire Line. Took part in the Battle of Valcour Island.
  • Oct. 1777 - May 1778, served on the brigantine Tyrannicide.
  • 1778 or 1779, served on the brig Hazard.
  • Nov. 1780, was on the brigantine Murr.
John Vanderford (1011)
  • Oct. 1775 - Dec. 1776 - served in Capt. Thomas Barnes' Co., Col. John Mansfield's (19th) Reg. commanded by Lieut. Col. Israel Hutchinson.
  • Feb. 1777 - Oct. 1777, served on the brigantine Massachusetts.
  • July 1780, was on the privateer Harlequin when it was captured by the British and was imprisoned in Old Mill Prison in Plymouth, England.
Benjamin Vanderford (1012)
  • July 1780, was on the privateer Harlequin when it was captured by the British and was imprisoned in Old Mill Prison in Plymouth, England.
James Vanderford, Jr. (1049)
  • Winter 1778/9, was a 5 month militia-man for the State of North Carolina.
  • Dec. 1779, was a 3 month substitute for the state militia.
  • April 1780 - June 1781, was a local minuteman.
  • June - Oct. 1781, was a state militia-man. Took part in the Battle of Eutaw Springs.

Matthew Vandiver (1038)

  • Winter & Spring 1776, was a 5 month N. C. State Militia soldier.
  • Spring 1780, was a 3 month militia-man.
  • Winter 1780, with his horse, enlisted for 3 months.
  • Fall 1781, again enlisted for 3 months.

Edward Vandiver (9035)

John Vanderford

  • private Jan. 1777 - Holme's Battalion New Jersey Militia
Noah Vanderford
  • private died March 5, 1778 - 7th North Carolina Regt.
Abraham Vanderford
  • Nov. 1779, was in 1st Battalion, Brigadier Gen. Oliver Delancy's Brigade, Savannah, Georgia
Garret VanderVoort - Graham's Regt., New York
Jacobus VanderVoort - Brieckerhoff's Regt., New York
John VanderVoort - Brieckerhoff's Regt., New York
Samuel VanderVoort - Brieckerhoff's Regt., New York
Peter VanderVoort - Brieckerhoff's Regt., New York
James VanderVoort - 3rd New York Regt.
John VanderVoort - Cooper's Regt., New York
Jonas VanderVoort - Cooper's Regt., New York
Peter VanderVoort - Cooper's Regt., New York
Paul VanderVoort - Cooper's Regt., New York
John VanderVoort - Weissenfell's Regt., New York
John VanderVoort - 4th New York Regt.
John VanderVoort - Wilsiett's Regt., New York
Peter VanderVoort, Jr. - Wilsiett's Regt., New York
Paul VanderVoort - Hay's Regt., New York

The following Vanderfords served according to family history but so far no documented proof of that service has been found:

Charles Wrench Vanderford (1026) in the Maryland Line
John Vandeveer (1015) fought under General Francis Marion, the "Swamp Fox."
George Vandever (1020) was at Yorktown when Cornwallis surrendered.

The Battle at Valcour Island

On October 11, 1776 at Valcour Island, near the western shore of Lake Champlain, a naval action was fought which helped decide the fate of the Revolution. Most of the American vessels were built on the site and could not have withstood even a fresh breeze on the ocean. They were manned by a strange collection of fighting men; only a few could be called sailors. They lost the battle, outmanned and outgunned, but their fight was a delaying action, gaining time for the weak Colonial forces to gather, arm and train.

America's most famous traitor, Benedict Arnold, was the hero of Valcour Island. Arnold saw that the British would use the lakes as an invasion route to cut the Colonies in two. So he scraped together a fleet capable of at least delaying the British advance.

The British under Sir Guy Carleton spent the summer of 1776 constructing a small navy at St. Johns located on the northern end of Lake Champlain. The British fleet was in the St. Lawrence supplying men and material. From there, they dismantled a three-masted ship, Inflexible, and two schooners, Maria and Carleton, carried them overland and reconstructed them at St. Johns. They rebuilt the gondola, Loyal Convert, and built twenty gunboats and a great sailing raft, Thunderer. The British armada was ready to sail on October 4th with the following firepower:

Inflexible 18 - 12 pounders
Maria 14 - 6 pounders
Carleton 12 - 6 pounders
Loyal Convert 7 - 9 pounders
Thunderer 6 - 24 pounders, 6 - 12 pounders & 2 howitzers
20 gunboats each carrying one gun in the bow

The Americans under Benedict Aronold had 3 schooners and a sloop on the lake. Four companies, each with 50 carpenters bringing their own tools, came from coastal New England to Crown Point, Ticonderoga and Skenesboro to build a fleet for Arnold. Two types of craft were built: the galleys were round-bottomed, 72 feet long, 20 feet wide and carried 80 men, the gondolas were flat-bottomed, 45 feet long and carried 45 men. By August 20th the Americans sailed with the followning fleet:

Royal Savage, schooner 4 - 6 pounders, 8 - 4 pounders & 10 swivels
Revenge, schooner 4 - 4 pounders, 4 - 2 pounders
Enterprise, sloop 12 - 4 pounders & 10 swivels
Lee, cutter 1 - 12 pounder, 1- 9 pounder, 4 - 4 pounders & 2 swivels
Congress, galley 1 - 18 pounder, 1 - 12 pounder, 2 - 9 pounders, 6 - 6 pounders, 6 - 8 swivels
Washington, galley 2 - 18 pounders, 2 - 12 pounders, 2 - 9 pounders, 4 - 4 pounders, 1 - 2 pounder & 8 swivels
Trumbull, galley 1 - 18 pounder, 1 - 12 pounder, 2 - 9 pounders, 6 - 6 pounders, 6 - 8 swivels
Providence, gondola 1 - 12 pounder, 2 - 9 pounders
New York, gondola 1 - 12 pounder, 2 - 9 pounders
Jersey, gondola 1 - 12 pounder, 2 - 9 pounders
Boston, gondola 1 - 12 pounder, 2 - 9 pounders
Phildelphia, gondola 1 - 12 pounder, 2 - 9 pounders
Connecticut, gondola 1 - 12 pounder, 2 - 9 pounders
New Haven, gondola 1 - 12 pounder, 2 - 9 pounders
Spitfire, gondola 1 - 12 pounder, 2 - 9 pounders

General Arnold spent September sailing north from Crown Point looking for a favorable position from which to meet the British. He knew the British fleet could throw almost twice the firepower of his fleet and was manned by trained seamen under Royal Navy officers. Arnold's squadron, on the other hand, was manned by 700 landsmen, "few of them were ever wet with salt water."37 Charles Vanderford (1008) was one of the men assigned to the gondola Boston.

A position was chosen in the channel between Valcour Island and the shore. A heavily wooded promontory projecting from the island on its west side hid the American vessels from those advancing from the north. The American general formed a crescent line of battle inside the southern end of the channel. From this position he could either sail out and fall on the rear of the unsuspecting Brisith as they passed or force the British to attack him against the wind into the converging American fire.

The British, sailing boldly down the lake without forward scouts, didn't sight the American squadron until they were two miles past the southern end of Valcour Island. The British immediately turned but had to beat up against the strong northerly wind which had been bearing them southward.

The British gunboats, manned by oars pulled into the attack along with the Carleton. The Americans weighed anchor and met the enemy with three galleys and the Royal Savage. The combined British fire was too much for the Americans and they retreated to their anchorage. However, the Royal Savage, damaged aloft and unable to manuever in the narrow channel, ran aground on the southern end of the Island.

By noon all the American vessels and most of the British were engaged. The British were deprived of their most powerful ships; the Thunderer, Loyal Convert and Inflexible were too far downwind and unable to get within range. The fierce firing kept up until dusk when the whole force anchored and awaited daylight to renew the action.

The American squadron had lost the Royal Savage, run aground and set afire by the British, and the Philadelphia, hit so badly she sank. The Congress had been hulled twelve times and the Washington had lost almost all her officers. But, worse still, the ammunition was running low. To renew the battle in the morning would have been suicide, so, under cover of darkness, the shattered squadron slipped away.

With only a lantern, carefully shaded so as to show a glow only directly behind in the stern of each ship, the American vessels slipped through the British line. By dawn the Americans were ten miles down the lake. Here they anchored to make some much needed repairs. The gondola Jersey ran aground and was too full of water to be got off. The gondolas Providence and New York were shattered beyond repair and were sunk.

The British with a favorable wind pursued the Americans and caught up with them at Spit Rock. Attacked by the Inflexible, Carleton and Maria, the Washington was forced to strike her colors. But the Congress and the remaining gondolas, including the Boston with Charles (1008) aboard kept up firing until they were wrecks with no chance of escape. The remaining men ran what remained of their vessels ashore and set them afire. The men then marched through the woods to Crown Point.

The Americans were heavily defeated, losing eleven of sixteen ships and eighty casualties, but the effects of this action were far-reaching. The British had been forced to construct a squadron and take part in a punishing naval battle which consumed precious time. They then considered it too late in the season to advance to the Hudson before winter set in. If the British had been able to press on to Albany that summer they would have linked up with Howe's advance up the Hudson thereby cutting the colonies in two.

After this action, Charles (1008) was assigned to guard cattle to Skenesboro, New York. In June or July 1777 after being sick in the hospital for eight weeks he was discharged. Charles then enlisted in the Massachusetts State Navy and served out the rest of the war.

The Battle of Eutaw Springs - September 1781

This was a battle in which both parties claimed victory, but the British were the lossers even though at the end of the fighting they held the battlefield. The casualties were high on both sides: American - 517, British - 683. These losses were harder on the British, who could less afford the great loss in this bloody and hard-fought action. The British Colonel Stuart was wounded and compelled to retire from the field. Eutaw Springs was the last of General Greene's four battles in his Carolina campaign and the British had slightly the better of each encounter. Yet at the close of each of these battles, the cautious Greene was in better shape than the victorious British commanders. By the end of the year he had pushed the British back into Charleston, where he blockaded them. The British troops in South Carolina were thus unable to proceed north to Virginia to relieve Lord Cornwallis. Without additional British supplies and forces Cornwallis was forced to surrender, giving the American colonies their victory and freedom.

The battle took place on September 8, 1781 just west of Eutaw Springs in South Carolina. The British were under Colonel Stuart and numbered about 2300, consisting of Stuart's own regiment, the 3d or Buffs; the Flank Battalion lately arrived, under Major Majoribanks; the remains of the 63rd and 64th Regiments which had served the whole of the war; Lieutenant-Colonel Cruger's Battalion of De Lancey's Brigade of New York; Lieutenant-Colonel Allen's Battalion of New Jersey Loyalists; the New York Volunteers, under Major Sheridan; and a cavalry raised by the Loyalists in Charlestown under Major Coffin.

Greene's army was composed of: S.C. Volunteers or Militia

Sumter & Pickens, 307, Marion, 240 547
S.C. State Troops, Cavalry, 72, Infantry, 73 145
N.C. Continentals (Sumner) 350
N.C. Militia (Malmedy) 150
Virginia Continentals, Infantry (Campbell) 250
Virginia Continentals, Cavalry (Washington) 80
Maryland Continentals (Howard) 250
Delaware Continentals (Kirkwood), Lee's Legion 320
Total 2092 38

Colonel Stuart having the intelligence that General Greene was on the march to attack him, moved his army to Eutaw to meet and protect a convoy of provisions then on the road from Charlestown. He made his camp at Eutaw thinking Greene would be delayed waiting for Marion. The British encampment was in the open ground to the south and west of a two story brick house.

General Greene began his march on September 5th, having dispatched an order the day before to Marion to join him. On the 7th, James Vanderford (1049), one of the North Carolina Militia, 7 miles from the British encampment.

Early in the morning of the 8th, Colonel Stuart sent out, separately, a party of 100 unarmed men to gather sweet potatoes and Major Coffin with 140 infantry and 50 cavalry to gain information about the whereabouts of the Americans. Four miles from camp, Coffin encountered the American advance and immediately charged with a confidence which betrayed his ignorance of its strength and of the near approach of the main army. The British were met and easily repulsed, but the probability that the British main army was near at hand to support the detatchment forbade a protracted pursuit. Meanwhile, the sweet potato gathering party was drawn out of the woods by the firing and fell into American hands.

General Greene and Colonel Stuart now both went about forming their lines for battle. The first line of Americans consisted of equal divisions of South Carolinians on the left and right and the North Carolinians under Colonel Malmedy in the center. It was here, in the front and center, that James (1049), who had enlisted a few months earlier and never seen action, found himself. Behind him, the second line was composed of the Continentals.

The American's advanced in their lines on both sides of the Congaree or River Road. The army had to move slowly to perserve their order, the ground undulating gently and covered with a thin woods. The British were waiting on ground somewhat elevated in front of their encampment, completely in the woods.

Battle positions at Eutaw Springs

"As soon as the skirmishing parties were cleared away from between the two armies, a steady and desperate conflict ensued. The Americans attacked with impetuosity. The conflict between the artillery of the opposing armies was bloody and obstinate in the extreme. Both of the the American pieces in the first line were dismounted and disabled. One of the enemy's, a four-pounder, shared the same fate. The militia of North and South Carolina attacked with alacrity the British regulars in their front. It was with equal astonishment, we are told, that both the second lines, i.e. the Continental and the British, contemplated these men, steadily and without faltering, advance with shouts into the hottest of the enemy's fire, unaffected by the continual fall of their comrades around them. It appears that General Greene even expressed his admiration of the firmess exhibited on this occasion by these men, writing to Steuben, 'such conduct would have graced the veterans of the great King of Prussia.'"39

The South Carolina militia was experienced but the North Carolinians had just been raised and were commanded by a foreign officer. Finally the British veterans of the 63rd and 64th Regiments rushed with their bayonets and the center of the American line yielded and was pushed back.

Upon the break in the American first line the brunt of the battle fell upon the Continentals of the second line. The British sprang forward sure of a certain conquest, but their line soon became deranged. General Greene ordered his Continentals to advance and sweep the field with their bayonets. The British army fell back in some disorder and the Continentals broke through.

"The retreat of the British army lay directly through their encampment, where the tents were all standing, and unfortunately presented many objects of temptation to the thirsty, naked, and fatigued. Nor was the concealment afforded by the tents at this time a trivial consideration, for the fire of Sheridan's New Yorkers from the windows was galling and destructive, and no cover from it was anywhere to be found except among the tents or behind a building to the left of the front of the house. The old story was repeated. The American line was soon in irretrievable confusion. When their officers proceeded beyond the emcampment, they found themselves nearly abandoned by their soldiers, and the sole marks for the party who now poured their fire from the windows of the house."40

"The demoralization of the American army was now complete. The fire from the house showered down destruction upon the American officers; and the men, unconscious or unmindful of consequences, perhaps thinking the victory secure, and bent on the immediate fruition of its advantages, dispersed among the tents, feasted upon liquors and refreshments they afforded, and became utterly unmanageable."41 General Greene now realized the extent of his misfortune, and ordered a retreat. He halted only long enough to collect his wounded.

It was said of the battle "that the conflict was exceedingly severe, and abounded with instances of the highest gallantry on both sides. The Americans were now inured to arms and danger; and the provincial militia, who alone led on the attack in the first line, not only fought with all spirit, but with all the perseverance of old, well-tried soldiers."42

The Americans took three or four hundred prisoners. Since James (1049) was at the end of his 3 month enlistment he was assigned as one of the guards who conveyed these prisoners to Salisbury, North Carolina for safekeeping.


The American Navy during the revolution was small and most of the action against the British at sea was by private vessels. These "privateers" sailed with the permission (a Letter of Marque) of the government to capture any vessels including private merchant ships flying the flag of the enemy, Britain. When an "enemy" ship was taken, it was sailed to the nearest friendly port and the cargo and ship sold. All hands shared in the profits realized from the sale.

Since there was a profit to be made many young men set sail on a privateer. John Vanderford (1011) and Benjamin Vanderford (1012) set sail in 1780 on the Harlequin. But there was also the chance "to be taken." In June the Harlequin was captured by a British frigate and by December 24th John and Benjamin found themselves in Old Mill Prison in Plymouth, England.

The British government had difficulty in defining the status of these prisoners. Since the American Colonists were British subjects they were designated as pirates and traitors and should have been condemned for High Treason. However, if somehow the American colonies were to emerge as the victors, then it would have been better for all concerned to have treated them as prisoners of war rather than as traitors and pirates. So the American prisoners were held in England with their trial dates indefinitely deferred.

Old Mill Prison was situated on a promontory between Plymouth and Plymouth Dock. There John and Benjamin's daily rations were set at "one pound of bread, one quart of beer and three quarters of a pound of beef per day and half a pint of peas or greens five times per week. On Sunday the beef was to be replaced by cheese."43

The American prisoners, finding themselves confined, employed considerable Yankee ingenuity attempting to escape. On January 5, 1779 alone, 100 escaped from Old Mill Prison. "Some went over the wall, some tunneled under the wall, others bribed guards, some walked out dressed as officials, another tried to get into a coffin as a replacement for one of their number who had died, while several less scrupulous connived with members of the local populace who helped them escape and then brought them back to collect the five pounds reward, which they afterwards shared."44 Splitting the reward was a good way for the prisoners to raise money. Once they escaped they needed money to purchase their passage to France.

There were two other ways of getting out other than escaping. One was to wait until being exchanged with a British sailor or soldier being held by the Americans. The second was to request a pardon and join the British Royal Navy. This was the avenue taken by John (1011), who was pardoned on May 11, 1781 and entered the Royal Navy on June 5, 1781. Benjamin (1012) did not join the Royal Navy, but that was more likely because he was in the hospital on May 10, 1781 than from moral considerations. John either served out his time with the British Navy or escaped because he was home in Salem before 1790. Benjamin was released at the end of the war.

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