Chapter 7, Page 65
We continued to York and was joined to
Halls - Overstreets and Their Kin in the Revolution
The Virginia Grandfathers who were living in Bedford county during the years 1774 - 1789 were involved in the Revolution. They really had no choice, regardless of their individual opinions about the conflict. During the later part of the Revolution, Virginia became a semi-military state and nearly every man (and woman!) willingly or not, was involved.
In his application for a pension as a soldier in the War, George Dabney, brother-in-law of John Overstreet, said:
"After his return from duty as a militiaman on the western frontier in 1778, in which he substituted for his father….he remained (in Bedford county) and was Enroled as a militia and thrown into the classess by number and as soon as it came To his Turn, he again Entered the Service…."Dabney was eighteen years old that year.
In other words it was an automatic drafting system involving all able-bodied white males from the age of sixteen upwards.
Assuming that all the Halls and their kinsmen from ages 16 to 45 in those years were automatically militiamen, why is it then so difficult to trace down those that actually served?
Unless in the period following the War, they, or their widows, received land bounties or pensions, there would no permanent records of their services. Also, with such a common name as Hall, and the consist use of common given names of John, Thomas, William, etc., without middle initials or names, the researcher is never certain of who was who.
There are at least six John Halls who drew pensions from Virginia, none of them from Bedford county. There were five William Halls, Thomas Halls, etc. Consequently, the identity search is difficult and time consuming.
Of course, the clear-cut record for any veteran is with the pension (and sometimes) bounty applications. But, for several reasons, many who served, particularly the militiamen, could not prove their service, even though the generations following them - their families - knew they were veterans, officially they were not.
For the common soldiers, pensions were first available for a select group (John Overstreet was in it!) in 1818; by that time many veterans had died and, of course, were not recorded. In subsequent years, the provisions for pensions were liberalized so that by 1832 many militiamen could qualify --- again, many had died in the interim.
Pensions for widows came into existence in the 1840's, by which time many of the women had also died. As will be shown by the examples in this discussion, because they had migrated away from their home communities, reliable and acceptable witnesses to their services would be hard to find.
In all pension and bounty requirements, service had to be proved and for many militiamen it was difficult to prove that they had met the minimum time requirements (at least three months). Their services had been sporadic and limited, discharges never given, lost or destroyed. As in the Bedford companies of 1781 they deliberately destroyed their orderly books in order to avoid charges of desertion. +
In most instances need had to be proven, which would eliminate those wealthy veterans who would not perjure themselves. The class system was strong during the Revolution and the officer group were treated generously by their grateful state governments. Common soldiers at first received no rewards.
Those in special services, rangers, scouts, spies may never have been recorded - no possibility of leaving records. Outside the officers group, there were no veterans' organizations. The rush to the western lands following the Revolution also had its effects on the records of the conflict.
Older men, needed at home, were substituted for by their sons, and it was perfectly acceptable for a draftee to purchase a substitute - as many records show.
Certain patriotic organizations as of today, accept members whose ancestors performed Public Service in the Revolutions. That is, were local officials in the Civil government. Also, where records show that the forebearer (s) had furnished supplies and food.
Public Service wasn't necessarily a voluntary act. It was a form of taxes. A farmer had to furnish from his granary and aid in keeping the destitute families of men away on 'Tour.' (on duty)
Following the conflict, those who had furnished supplies could appear in county courts and lay claims for the contributions. Several of the Grandfathers are credited for Revolutionary service in this manner.
Both John Hall, d. 1794 and Hezekiah Hall, d. 1811, qualified for Public Service as did the older Overstreets.
None of the sons of John or Hezekiah Hall were in the Revolution - they were too young. ++ There were a number of Hall veterans from Bedford county, some of them serving with distinction. Since their relationships to the family cannot be proven, they are not discussed. It is possible that some of the William Hall's (d. 1757) served, but not enough is known about them to give positive identification. Records of various parties named Hall that served from Bedford county will be placed in the files for future study.
The Revolutionary War record of John Overstreet, 1760 - 1848, is well documented in the chapter devoted to his life. He was of the Continental Line - a regular soldier. Like the Halls there were a number of Overstreets serving from Bedford county. Since it is difficult++ to place them, only one family whose identity is positive, will be discussed: (He was an older brother of John).
1744 - 1842
(From his pension application) 'On the 29th day of October, 1833 ---personally appeared in open court, before the county court, now sitting, Thomas Overstreet, as resident of Russell Parish in this county and state aforesaid, aged 89 years, who being first duly sworn according to law: doth on his oath make the following declaration in order to obtain the benefit of the act of congress, passed June 1833.
"That he entered the service of the United States, under the folling named officers and served as herein stated - That in the fall, probably in September, he cannot recollect the day, 1777, he volunteered into the Service of the United States in Bedford county, Virginia, where he resided, under Capt. Samuel Campbell and Lieut. John Phelps to march against the Indians, who were said at that time to be collected together in the western part of Virginia - His company rendezvoused at Bedford court house, and marched from thence thro Botecourt to a placed called Benhevers Ford on Greenbrier River in Greenbrier county (now in West Virginia), a distance of about 130 miles, where they remained stationed one month - in expectation of the Indians - but not meeting with them, we were then marched to a mill in the same county, where we stationed about two months, still looking out for Indians, but they did not make their appearance. He was discharged by Capt. Campbell sometime in December 1777, but received no written discharge - There were no regular officers with the troops, nor any Continental regiments or companies with the troops during this tour - He was engaged in this tour three months - no other troops of any line along but his company & no field officers.
"Again in the winter of 1777, he thinks the last of December, but he cannot recollect the day, he volunteered into the service of the United States, in Bedford county, Va. Where he then lived, under Capt. William Leftwich, Lieut. Jno. Phelps to march against the Indians, who were said to be still collected in the western counties of Virginia. His company rendezvoused at Anthony's Store in Bedford county & marched from thence thro Boutecourt to the lead mines on New River in Wythe county, Va. They were stationed at this place five weeks & were engaged in building a Fort, for the purpose of protecting the country against the Indians, but no Indians making their appearance, and the people becoming pacified, they were discharged by Capt. Leftwich, but received no written discharge. He was engaged in this tour five weeks - There were no regular officers, nor any continental regiments, or companies with the troops - no field officers - The troops consisting of his company alone - He was discharged at the expiration of his tour by Capt. Leftwich.
"In the month of October, he cannot recollect the day, 1779, he again volunteered into the service of the United States, in Bedford county, Va. Under Capt. Jacob Early of the Virginia militia, for three months - His company rendezvoused at Maj. Ward's in Bedford County, Va. (now Campbell), and marched thence thro Charlotte, Prince Edward, Cumberland, Powhatas & Chesterfield counties to Petersburg, where joined the army commanded by Genl. Lawson, His other officers were Col. Charles Lynch, Maj. Leftwich, latter of whom, is the same officer he marched under at certain lead mines. He was stationed about half mile from Petersburg during the whole time. Of the regular officers he recollects, Genl. Lawson, Baron Steuben, Col. Holcombe. He was discharged in December 1779 by Col. Lynch, but received no written discharge - He refers to the affidavit of Maj. Samuel Mitchell, who served with this tour, to prove this services.
"In the two first tours mentioned above, there was but one company at any time in the service - He served not less than the period mentioned below, to wit: - the first tour three months - the second tour, five weeks - & the third tour, three months, for which he claimed pension - He has no documentary evidence of any of his services - He refers to the affidavits of Maj. Sam'l Mitchell & John Turner. Mr. Turner cannot recollect the time, in which, he served the two first tours -"
'In answer to interrogatories he states:
After relinquishing his claims to any other pension or bounty, except the present one, he then declares that his name is not on the pension roll of any other agency nor any other state, he signed his name.
William Leftwich, Samuel Mithell and John Turner all residents of Bedford county then gave their affidavits as to their memories of Thomas' service: these in turn witnessed by various Justices of the Peace. The court then certified the declaration. +++
Thomas Overstreet was allowed a pension of $22.88 per year. His allowable service was seven months and forty-five days; the pension was dated back to March, 1833. He died in April, 1842. ++++ His entire life was lived in Bedford county.
On November 23, 1826 he had married Fanny Roberts of his home county. She was allowed a pension on her application, March 11, 1854, at which time she was eight-five years of age, and residing in Bedford county. Like many Overstreets, they were Methodists and were married by a Methodist preacher.
The account of his War activities as given by Thomas Overstreet gives a good idea of the type of services rendered by the militia forces.
There were many participants from this famous Virginian family in the Revolution. The story of the Grandfathers is confined to those of immediate relationship to the Hall - Overstreet families.
1760 - 1843
George, brother of Nancy Dabney Overstreet and an intimate friend of his brother-in-law, John Overstreet, was a Bedford county militiaman and because of his youth served several 'Tours'. The last one ending at Yorktown.
On the 27th day of August, 1832, Dabney appeared before the court of Wayne county, Kentucky to make his pension application. On that date he was 72 years old. On his oath he stated that:
"He entered the Service of the United States he believes in the month of August 1778 as Volunteer substitute for his father Cornelius Dabney who had been drafted as a militia in Bedford county, State of Virginia. He entered the service in the said County of Bedford under Captain Samuel Campbell he marched from there to Garrett's fort in Greenbriar county Virginia where he remained in service sometimes at Garrett's fort and Sometimes Benhevers fort being about nine miles apart. The Indians generally dispersed about the Time of our arrival there. He served his full three months for his father it being the Term of his Ingagement, when he honorably discharged by his Capt. And returned home, where he remained and was Enroled as a militia and thrown into classes by number and as soon as it came To his turn he again Entered the Service under Capt. John Trigg and ---
In the remainder of his pension application, George Dabney tells of returning to his home and the burning of his father's house which destroyed his papers. He offers the testimony of a 'certain James Turner' to vouch for his services, Turner having been with him on several of the 'tours.' He tells of his life after the war, living in Bedford county until 1804 then moving to Montgomery county Virginia and after about seven years coming to Wayne county, Kentucky.
In May, 1833 Dabney followed his original application with more specific evidence. He say that by securing some old Bible records, he learns that he was born in 1760 in Hanover county Virginia. He then offers several other references vouching for his service and veracity. Most interestingly, he tells that he was elected Capt. Of a company of Bedford militia in the years following the Revolution and 'served at that station for Ten years.'
Dabney eventually received his pension. He was credited with twelve months' service and the pension was for $40 per year. After his death, his wife Elizabeth (Betsy Echols Dabney) applied for the widow's pension, which if granted, would have been for same amount as that for her husband.
Her application was made from Clinton county, Kentucky, where she possibly lived with other family members and reveals the details of her marriage in which John Overstreet played a part. (see: chapter on John Overstreet). She was allowed the pension.
The record of George Dabney illustrates the relative ease of securing information about an individual who does not have a duplicate or confusing name. He is the only George Dabney in Virginia to receive a Revolutionary War pension. He also received a land warrant in Kentucky from the grateful state of Virginia.
From the ages of 18 through 21, George Dabney was intermittently in the service of the Revolution. He actually had four 'tours' of three months each; August 1778; January 1780; Fall, 1780 and Summer 1781. He was credited for the Dismal Swamp engagement and the Surrender of Cornwallis. At York as they called it, not Yorktown, he was engaged in labor on the earthworks, the outlines of which are still discernable at the battlefield.
The writer has information on a John Dabney, 1763 - 1833, thought to be another brother of Nancy Dabney Overstreet. He served several 'tours' from Bedford county and was at the Siege of Yorktown.
In his pension application of 1832 made from Scott county, Kentucky, we have his own words about Yorktown:
His second wife, Sarah Hartman Dabney, spent her last days in Illinois. She was thirty-seven years younger than John and was born after the Revolution was over. She died April, 1894. In other words this pension was paid almost to the year 1900. It was for $30 per year.
From the Public Service Claims in Bedford county as established in the Order Books of the County, we find the following family members furnished supplies for the Revolutionary War:
Specific references are made about these claims in the sections of the text in which these men are discussed.
Oaths of Allegiance were sometimes required, for reasons lost in history. Among those taken in Bedford county are:
A most intimate glimpse of the American Revolution as it affected Bedford county can be obtained from the pension applications and depositions given to support them. From such records we learn of Isaac Cundiff, a neighbor of the Halls; of members of the Hancock family who lived nearby; of the Blankenships (Abram was a shoe cobbler); members of the Burnett, Carter, Lewellan and Brown families were involved.
In 1845 Elijah Cundiff at age 86, a surviving veteran, was testifying on records. (By this date it was mostly for the widows as the men had passed on.) Elijah said in one deposition that he had lived on the same place for 82 years. John Ayers, Sr., of the Ayers-Methodist-Ministery family, at age 91 was a valuable person for establishing the events of the war as they affected Bedford families.
These people were true pioneers. Living in an isolated area, they settled there, grew-up together and inter-married (lots of cousins marriages) within a small geographical area. Since they were illiterate, many of them signing their names with an 'X', they did not depend on the written word but on their memories. When called on to legalize documents had, to have someone else vouch their marks and write out their documents.
Frequently, they remembered persons and dates by association. For example, when Mathew Hall vouched for Abram Blankenship's residence in the area he said: "that Blankenship was living in the same neighborhood the year his father (Hall's) died, 1794." Referring to Bible records was the exception, not the rule, as they could not write. Bible records became more common after 1800.
+The militiamen technically were right, their 'Tours" were over: actually they were deserters as this was war time and they had not officially been sent home.