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Adams Countians In the American Revolution

Militia In the Revolution

John Horner

The American Revolution, initially but an armed demonstration to protest the treatment being accorded by the British government to certain of her colonies, gradually broadened to civil war all along the seaboard. The first clash came at Lexington, Mass., April 19, 1775, and was quickly followed by the assembling of a Continental Congress which created an inter-colonial force, the Continental Army, and chose George Washington as commander-in-chief.

Despite continuing efforts to reach a settlement, relations between Great Britain and the colonies grew worse, and in July, 1776, the delegates in Congress agreed to declare independence.

Some persons, even among those who had been active in the early phases of the struggle, drew back from this unforeseen development which changed resistance into full-fledged revolution. These and other Americans who declined to support the Revolutionary leaders became known as Tories or Loyalists The great victory of 1777 at Saratoga, New York, brought to the erstwhile colonies full alliance with France and material aid from Spain and the Netherlands, and at the same time gave to the war new international aspects. The climax, but not the end, came with the surrender of a large force at Yorktown, in October, 1781.

The last bloody encounter between British and American troops occurred in November of the next year, and Congress proclaimed the war at an end on April 11, 1783. Yet a band of Loyalist guerillas remained active in Pennsylvania until June, 1784, and the British continued until 1796 to hold Detroit, with the result that for well over a decade after the formal close of the war, Indian allies of the British continued sporadic attacks.

From June 30, 1775, to July 22, 1776, all those armed forces from Pennsylvania not in actual service with Washington's army were immediately subordinated to the Committee of Safety of the province. That Committee was replaced by a Council of Safety, a body which actually served as provisional executive for the new state and which was in charge of Pennsylvania troops from July 22, 1776 to March 13, 1777.

Under the constitution adopted in 1776, the Supreme Executive Council succeeded to authority on March 4, 1777, and was until 1790 the executive of Pennsylvania, there being for fourteen years, during and after the Revolution, no individual serving as governor. This Supreme Executive Council appointed and commissioned officers, called up militiamen as needed for tours of active duty, and otherwise regulated Pennsylvania's military establishment.

For the notably brief period between March 4 and 13, 1777, certain powers of supervision remained with the old Council of Safety, but on the later date that Council was broken up and replaced by a State Board of War and a State Navy Board. These Boards were in turn dissolved on August 7, 1777, and thereafter the overburdened Supreme Executive Council controlled directly the otherwise uncoordinated branches of the Pennsylvania military.

At the beginning of 1775, Pennsylvania, founded under Quaker auspices, differed from other American colonies, in being totally devoid of military organization. Early in that year, as tension mounted, there appeared spontaneously in certain localities volunteer companies of Associators patterned essentially upon groups which had existed briefly in 1747-48 and again after Braddock's defeat in 1755. These volunteer companies made up the Military Association, a civilian reserve designed to repel invasion. On June 30, 1775, the Provisional Assembly gave official recognition to the Associators and grouped their companies into battalions.

Organization was territorial, so that normally a company consisted of men from a single township, while a battalion included all the Associators of several neighboring townships. Ages ranged from six-teen to sixty years. Provision was made for recruiting the ranks of Associators in each county a small corps of Minute Men, on call for special short notice, but no evidence of the existence of such a corps in Pennsylvania survives. It is notable, however, that during the summer campaign of 1776, thousands of Pennsylvania Associators saw active duty in New Jersey.

In theory, the Military Association was a voluntary organization, but men refusing to enroll were termed Non-Associators, and as the struggle became bitter such men were disarmed, fined and otherwise punished. Coercion led numbers of half-hearted Whigs and many Tories to enroll in the Military Association, diluting its ardor and dissipating its effectiveness. During the winter of 1776-77, the Association collapsed, and the Assembly replaced it with a militia system which, though imperfect, proved better adapted to Pennsylvania's needs.

With no radical changes, the new militia system served the Commonwealth through war and peace until 1842. The Pennsylvania Militia, properly so-called, was organized under an act of March 17, 1777, which provided for compulsory enrollment by the constables of all able-bodied male whites between the ages of eighteen and fifty-three. Exemptions were extremely limited, and an estimated 60,000 men enrolled.

For purposes of administration and drill, Companies and Battalions were set up on a geographical basis similar to the arrangement already familiar with the Associators. Local militia activities were coordinated by a County Lieutenant, who reported to the Supreme Executive Council. Each training company was divided by lot into eight equal Classes. These classes were an effective device for rotating service and establishing quotas. As need for men arose, each class was in its turn called for a two-month Tour of Active Duty. This class system made it possible to call troops in such numbers as were needed without depriving any particular district of its entire labor and protective force.

Once on active duty, militiamen were reorganized into new but temporary commands, units entirely distinct from their permanent home companies. Under such a system the permanent training companies could have no campaign history, could win no battle honors. In many instances, members of the militia gave no military service beyond routine drill, and some escaped even that. Only in extreme cases was any individual militiaman required to drill with his neighbors as many as twelve times each year, and at most he was called upon to perform during the entire course of the war, two or possible three, short tours of active duty.

On the frontier, where the menace from Indians allied with the British was constant, the response to calls for militia duty was excellent, but elsewhere it was much less satisfactory. Many men listed on company rosters never drilled and tens of thousands in the militia never experienced a single day of active duty. Avoiding militia calls was not difficult. A man who failed to report for drill merely paid an Exercise Fine.

A militiaman called for active duty who found such duty inconvenient was permitted to hire a Substitute to march and fight in his stead. Frequently no substitute was furnished, but instead a Substitute Fine was paid. Militia fines became an important source of revenue.

Frequently, the term "militia" was loosely applied to the earlier Associators with resulting confusion. They were alike in that each of the two groups was composed of civilians, men who could not reasonably be called upon for any prolonged tour of duty or for travel far from home. Such men could give but limited service and were used chiefly to garrison nearby forts, to guard prisoners, to serve in local campaigns or temporarily to support the Continental Army.

However, membership in the Associators differed greatly from membership in the militia, for, technically, enrollment in the Associators was voluntary, while membership in the militia was strictly compulsory with the obligation legally defined. Pay for military service was often long delayed. Thousands of militiamen returned from tours of active duty unpaid, bearing only a slip signed by a commanding officer. General financial confusion and the collapse of wartime currencies made prompt payment impossible, but eventually, under an act of April 1, 1784, Pennsylvania compensated such men for their active service and settled accounts with certain other public creditors by passing to them interest-bearing Certificates of the Funded or Militia Debt. These certificates (bonds in the modern sense) were ultimately redeemed at face value. Unfortunately, when redemption came many of the original holders had long since sold their certificates at heavy discounts.

Horner Brothers As Militia

David Horner came with his brother, Robert, to this country from County Antrim, Ireland about 1760, and settled on 600 acres in Mt Joy Township, York County, near where the Hoffman Home is now located-land which they had purchased from the heirs of William Penn. The name of David Horner is shown on the muster rolls of The War of the Revolution as a Private in Capt. William Lindsay's Co., York County Militia, from December 8, 1781 to February 8, 1782. His name also appears on the payroll of Capt. Lindsay's Co. for the above dates.

In a Source Book of York County, Pa., In the American Revolution compiled by Henry Young in 1939(Black Series, P. 160), under Recquisition of Recruits, David Horner's name is listed as a Recruit. 2nd Class and Robert Horner as Recruit, 4th Class, as of the 1st day of February, 1781. In a letter addressed to Mrs. Harvey Thomas, of Baltimore, Md., dated December 21, 1915, from the Pennsylvania State Library, Division of Public Records, it states, "The name (David Horner) is also shown on the muster rolls of the War of the Revolution as a 1st Lieutenant in Capt. Robert Horner's Co, 2nd Battalion, Mt Joy Township, York County Militia". The letter is signed by Thomas L. Montgomery, State Librarian. This is verified in the Pennsylvania Archives, Series 6, Vol. II, p. 470, where Robert Horner and David Horner are named as Capt. and 1st Lieutenant respectively, in the Mt. Joy Company's List of Field Officers of the 2nd Battalion of York County Militia. Also in York County, Pennsylvania In the American Revolution: A Source Book com- piled by Henry James Young in 1939(Red Series, Vol. I, pp. 14 and 15), Robert and David Horner are listed as Capt. and 1st Lieutenant in the 2nd Battalion, headed up by Robert McPherson, Col., David Kennedy, Lt. Col., and Moses McLean, Major.

Again, in the Pennsylvania Archives, Series 6, Vol. II, pp. 807-808, one can read, "Known all men by these presents that we, Samuel McIllheny, Samuel Linn, David Horner, Robert Breckenridge, Andrew Smith, Robert Horner, Patrick Gibson, Joseph Walker and James Walker, do hereby authorize and empower James McIllheny in our and each of our names for us to use and receive for us and each of us the certificates and sums of money due to us for personal service at Camp Security in guarding British prisoners, and in our names to sign, seal and deliver acquittances or discharges as shall be judged necessary hereby holding firm whatsoever our said attorney shall do or lawfully cause to be done in the premises. In witness whereof we have hereunto set our hands and seals the 8th day of March, 1787". Signed, Samuel McIllheny, seal, under Capt. Johnson. This apparently was an attempt to secure pay for guard duty performed from July 10th to September 11th, 1781.

Regarding the Horner brothers service, available evidence indicates that one or the other or both, were on active duty at Camp Security from July 10th to September 11th, 1781, and that one or the other or both were also on active duty from December 7th, 1781 until February 8th, 1782

Camp Security

Camp Security was a camp for captured British prisoners and was in operation from August, 1781, until sometime in 1783. An act of Congress in 1781 directed that the British Convention of Prisoners in Maryland and Virginia be removed to Yorktown, Pa. for fear of rescue by Cornwallis, and the York County Militia was ordered out to guard them.

In a letter from Joseph Reed, President of the Provincial Council of Pennsylvania to Lt. William Scott, commanding officer of the York County Militia, dated June 28, 1781, it was ordered for the prisoners to be placed in huts near York. Col. James Wood wrote from Lancaster on the 30th day of June, 1781, that he intended to "hut" the prisoners near York, and subsequently a spot four and a half miles east of town was selected. This was a small plantation owned by Daniel Brubaker, of Lancaster County, and was situated in the extreme northeastern part of Windsor Township, on the north side of the road leading from Longstown to East Prospect.

 Lt. Scott wrote to President Reed on July 28, "Agreeable to your Excellency's orders, I have found a place for the convention prisoners to encamp, about four and one half miles southeast of Yorktown which Col. Wood has approved a suitable and convenient place. I have also called the Fourth Class of the Militia, who have furnished upwards of one hundred men to guard them."

On August 2, 1781, Col. Wood states, "I have fixed the British troops on good ground between York and the Susquehanna, so as to be very convenient to throw them across the Susquehanna River in any emergency!"

The real story of Camp Security began at Saratoga, N. Y., on October 17, 1777, when General John Burgoyne, following strict military etiquette, presented his sword to victorious General Horatio Gates. "The fortunes of war, General Gates, has made me your prisoner", he said. To sound of muffled drums, the remnants of Burgoyne's army, numbering about 5,800 men, stacked their arms on the level plain above the banks of the Hudson River near the ruins of old Fort Hardy and became prisoners of war.

The "Convention Army", as it was called, was lodged in eight of the thirteen states at one time or another and traveled more than a thousand miles, before they finally came to York. Prisoners incarcerated in Charlottesville, Va., after the long trek south from Mass., were ordered to Fort Frederick, Md., when war intensified late in 1780. By now, deaths, desertions and partial exchanges had reduced their numbers to about 4,000. Shortly after the poor devils settled into Frederick prison, orders from Continental Congress set them on the road to York to prevent their rescue.

Hannah Williams described the prisoners to a friend, "I never had the least idea that creation produced such a sordid set of creatures in human figure-poor, dirty, emaciated men, great numbers of women who seemed to be but beasts of burden, having a bushel basket on their backs by which they were bent double. The contents seemed to be pots and kettles and various sorts of furniture. Children peeping through the gridirons, some very young infants who must have been born on the road, the women in bare feet, clothed in dirty rags."

When the locals heard that 2,000-4,000 British prisoners were coming to town, they were naturally upset. To allay their fears, the prison pen was given the comforting name of "Camp Security".

The chronology of events above show that during the summer of 1781, plans were executed to prepare a place for the displaced British prisoners, the Camp was established in August of that year, and "the Fourth Class of Militia called. . . to guard them".

Robert Horner is listed as a Fourth Class Recruit as of February 1, 1771 and perhaps he was one of the 100 or so militiamen called up. Sgt. Lamb was a soldier in the Royal Welsh Fusiliers and was taken prisoner at the surrender of Burgoyne's Army at Saratoga. His description of the Camp follows:

"A great number of trees were cut down in the woods; these were sharpened at both ends and drove firmly into the earth, very close together, enclosing a space of about two or three acres, American Sentinels were placed outside of this fence, at convenient distances in order to prevent our getting out.

At one angle, a gate was erected and on the outside thereof stood the guard-house; two sentinels were constantly posted at this gate, and no one could get out unless he had a pass from the officer of the guard, but this is a privilege in which very few indulged. Boards and nails were given to the British in order to make them temporary huts, and to secure them from the rain and heat of the sun."

Other descriptions of the Camp were more down to earth. Inmate huts were small, poorly constructed wooden hovels with dirt floors. Each hut had no windows, one door fixed in place by five or six nails and no insulation to speak of. Rain and snow leaked in everywhere. Cooking fires were made in the center of the floor. Food, clothing and warm blankets were in meager supply and disease was rampant throughout Camp in the early days. Meal, flour and occasional rancid meat was supplied the prisoners, but in miniscule amounts.

The lack of food, clothing and heat brought on the spread of disease. In a 35-day span, more that 40 men, women and children were buried-an average of over one per day. Medicine was quite scarce and mostly reserved for the colonists who were in want of many things due to the war. As supplies became depleted, prisoners simply had to fend for themselves. Provisions that were supposed to be shipped in by Congress rarely arrived. The conditions in this prison pen were not vastly different from those of the Civil War which would follow 80 or so years later. In addition to Camp Security, a small village was constructed mainly for some of the non-commissioned officers, their wives and children. Their huts were similar to the ones within the stockade, but since they were "paroled" prisoners, that is, they could travel within ten miles of the stockade unimpeded, their village was nick-named "Camp Indulgence".

During a two-month tour of active duty, guards served one day on and one day off until their time ended and they could return home. For over a century, the exact location of Camp Security was in oblivion. Then, in 1979, combined efforts of Historic York, Inc., Springettsbury Township officials and Dr. Barry Kent, state archaeologist, pin-pointed the location on a parcel of undeveloped land known as the Wiest farm in the Stonybrook section of Springettsbury Township.

A subsequent series of digs and excavations to a depth of about ten inches revealed 100 refuse fire pits, outlines of building foundations and "privies", as well as thousands of artifacts associated with this type of facility. A historical marker at the corner of E. Market St. and Locust Grove Rd., four and one half miles east of York City indicates the location of the Camp.

Read other articles on the Revolutionary War

Read other articles by John Horner