Two hundred and thirty four years ago today The Second Continental Congress declared “That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States” pledging “our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.” Many heard the call, militia’s were formed, young men ready to give their lives for their country.
One of those men was James Sammons, though you didn’t learn about him in high school. A third generation American, his Great Grandfather had emigrated from Ireland decades earlier. James was twenty eight and married in 1776. His oldest son, Groves, was only seven years old. And still he fought.
He was a private in the 15th Virginia Regiment. First seeing action in New Jersey, over 400 miles from his home. Under the command of General Washington his unit fought the British as they entered Pennsylvania on their way to Philadelphia. Though unsuccessful in preventing the capture of Philadelphia by the British, James and the rest of the Continental Army spent the winter in nearby Valley Forge.
The next spring the British abandoned Philadelphia. America’s new French allies, and their powerful naval fleet, made the continued occupation of Philadelphia dangerous. As the British retreated, James and the rest of the Continental Army attacked. Driving the British back to New York City.
Later, James’ unit was assigned to the Southern Department. The city of Charleston, South Carolina was a major commercial center, and site of a previous British attack in 1776. On March 29th, 1780 British troops laid siege to Charleston. Though James and his fellow soldiers fought valiantly, on May 12th they were forced to surrender. Thus ending James’ military career.
After the war James returned to his home state of Virginia, his wife Elizabeth and his children.
It is because of men like James Sammons that we celebrate our country today. And it is James Sammons, specifically that I thank on this Independence Day. You see James Sammons was my Great-Great-Great-Great-Great-Great-Great-Great Grandfather.