Magazine article VFW Magazine

Sacred Honor: The Immortal 56

Magazine article VFW Magazine

Sacred Honor: The Immortal 56

Article excerpt

Few Americans are aware of the tremendous sacrifices made by the brave and selfless men who signed the Declaration of Independence.

Have you ever wondered what happened to those men who signed the Declaration of Independence?

Five signers were captured by the British as traitors and were tortured before they died.

Twelve had their homes ransacked or burned. Two lost their sons in the Revolutionary army. Another had two sons captured. Nine of the 56 fought and died from wounds or the hardships of war.

What kind of men were they? Twentyfour were lawyers and jurists. Eleven were merchants. Nine were farmers and large plantation owners-men of means and well-educated.

But they signed the Declaration of Independence, knowing full well the penalty would be death if they were captured. They signed and pledged their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor.

Carter Braxton of Virginia, a wealthy planter and trader, saw his ships swept from the seas by the British navy. He sold his home and properties to pay his debts and died in rags.

Thomas McKean was so hounded by the British that he was forced to move his family almost constantly. He served in Congress without pay and his family was kept in hiding. His possessions were taken and poverty was his reward.

Vandals or soldiers or both looted the properties of Ellery, Clymer, Hall, Walton, Gwinnett, Heyward, Rutledge and Middleton. Francis Lewis had his home and properties destroyed. The enemy jailed his wife, after which she died within a few months.

At the Battle of Yorktown, Thomas Nelson, Jr., noted that British Gen. Cornwallis had taken over the Nelson home for his headquarters. The owner quickly urged Gen. Washington to open fire on the dwelling. The home was destroyed. Nelson died a bankrupt man.

John Hart was driven from his wife's bedside as she was dying. Their 13 children fled for their lives. His fields and grist mill were laid waste. For more than a year, he lived in the forests and in caves, returning home after the war to find his wife dead and his children vanished. …

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