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Three Local Boys Become Frontier Patriots in the American Revolution

James F. Engler, Sr.

Joseph, Jacob and Thomas Ogle, sons of Benjamin Ogle and his first wife Rebecca Browner, grew up in Frederick County in the early days of its history. While it is not completely clear whether they were actually born in the area - they may have been born in Delaware - it is safe to say that most of their childhood years were spent in the frontier that was then Frederick County. Their uncle, Major Joseph Ogle, was the first of the family to appear in the County in the 1730s (his 250 acre farm called "Peace" was patented on 5 APR 1737 on the east side of Owens Creek), and served to lay out many of its early roads, some of which have remained in use to this day. His younger brother Benjamin first appears in the records in 1741, when he signed a petition for a road from William Elder's property to Pipe Creek; a half brother Alexander arrived later, first appearing in the records on 16 DEC 1763, as "Alexander Ogle of New Castle County," when he purchased 250 acres of "Williams Project" (west bank of the Monocacy River near the mouth of Fishing Creek).

Sometime before 1760, Benjamin's first wife died. He married a second time to Agnes Harris and had a family of six children by her. In this mixed family - not unlike today's family situations - it may have been that the children of the first marriage did not get along well with their step mother. While we don't have anything to tell what the relationships were really like, it is interesting to note that Major Joseph Ogle in his 1754 will left bequests specifically to his three nephews.

The colonies were changing and the frontier was moving west, as it ever had. In 1769, the eldest of the three brothers took his wife, Prudence Drusilla Biggs (daughter of local Benjamin Biggs and his wife Henrietta Prudence Deborah Margaret Munday, the daughter of another early settler, Henry Munday), and their young family west and settled in Ohio County, Virginia, near current day Wheeling, West Virginia. His brother Jacob is believed to have brought his wife Mary Wilson and their family to the area in the 1770s; it is unclear if their bachelor brother Thomas settled in the area or not. The settlements were scattered, and each was heavily fortified to withstand the attacks of local tribes that were not pleased at the encroachments of the English into lands that were promised to them perpetually.

The Revolution echoed even into these forested regions of the country. Some consider that the first shots of the Revolution were not at Concord, but at Point Pleasant, down river from Wheeling, where Lord Dunmore, the colonial Governor of Virginia, sent a force that drove the local tribes across the Ohio. It is believed that at least one of these brothers was among the Virginia militia troops assembled for that 1774 campaign. Once the "shots heard 'round the world" were fired, though, even in the wilderness the effects were felt, where Indian allies of the British saw this as their chance to wreak their revenge on the invading colonists.

On 7 June 1777, Joseph Ogle was elected by his fellow settlers to lead a company of militia to patrol these borders and defend against tribal attacks; Governor Patrick Henry formally appointed him to the rank of Captain shortly thereafter. His brother Jacob served as Sergeant in the same company, while Thomas joined a regiment of Virginia and found himself assigned first to Fort Pitt.

In September 1777, Joseph and a dozen of his company were at Fort Henry, the wooden fortifications at what is now Wheeling, when they were attacked in the First Siege of Fort Henry. On 1 September 1777, Joseph led a sortie out of the fort to try to rescue the survivors of Capt. Samuel Mason's company, who had attacked what was believed to be a small raiding party, only to find themselves out numbered. Only a few of the men under Joseph's command escaped to the fort, Joseph and his brother Jacob among them. On 27 September 1777, Jacob went with a force out again, and this time fell in Foreman's Massacre at Grave Creek, some 14 miles below Wheeling on the Ohio River, leaving behind a widow and 6 children.

Thomas started his war service as a private in the Virginia regiments and in time was elected captain of one of the companies that were a part of the 1782 campaign, now known as Crawford's Defeat. Following attacks on Indian villages in the Sandusky region, the American force was in turn ambushed by the Indians (Battle of Sandusky Plains), who kept up a running attack as the American troops retreated toward the Ohio. At one point Thomas was severely wounded, his back broken by a ball, and asked to be left behind with his weapons and told the others to "Tell brother Joe that you left me here lord of the soil-I'll keep my tomahawk; feign dead, and when they come to take my scalp, I'll fix one of them."

Joseph continued to serve on the frontier after his brothers' deaths and was present at the Second Siege of Fort Henry (11 SEP 1782), considered one of the last battles of the Revolution. In 1785, Joseph took his second wife, Jemima Meigs (his first wife having died in 1777) and his children down the Ohio to settle in the American Bottom, the fledgling English-speaking settlement just east of St. Louis in Illinois. There Joseph remained a local leader and Indian fighter. In 1821 at an advanced age he died in his home in St. Clair County, Illinois. Several years later, Ogle County, Illinois was named in his honor.

Three brothers raised in Frederick. Two gave their lives in the cause of American independence, a third lived far beyond those days, having served honorably the cause and helping the country to grow in its early years. They are three Frederick County brothers who are credits to where they grew up.


Thomas' death in Crawford's loss at the Battle of Sandusky Plains in 1782, has been described in the Draper papers. Further accounts of these skirmishes can been studied in Historic Account Of The Expedition Against Sandusky Under Colonel William Crawford In 1782, by C.W. Butterfield (Cincinnati, 1873); History Of The Pan-Handle, West Virginia, edited by J.H. Newton (Wheeling, 1879); History Of The Upper Ohio Valley, by Brant and Fuller (Madison, 1890); Frontier Defense Of The Upper Ohio, 1777-78, by Thwaites and Kellogg (Madison, 1912); and Pioneers of Old Monocacy, by Tracey and Dern, 1987, p. 331.