Tag Archives: Independence Day

A True Patriot: Samuel Bassett, a Fifer

Revolutionary Ancestors

Samuel Bassett,  (1754-1834) showed that even a fifer can be a hero. When I read his story I am so proud to be descended from a man of his strength of character and modesty.

…as I entered the army from patriotic motives, I felt unwilling to apply to my country for relief.
Drum and Fife Corps like Samuel Bassett.

Ancient Fyfe and Drum Companie, Sudbury, MA, photo by Joyce Isen

Born in Norton, Massachusetts in 1754, already the sixth generation of Bassetts in the new world, Samuel Bassett was one of many of my New England ancestors who fought in the Revolutionary War.  But his story touched me more than most.

I have given the background of Samuel Bassett’s town, Keene, New Hampshire, and his involvement in the Revolution, already, but I think his story is more effective told by Samuel himself. The historian’s account that you can read here, minimized the damage of his wound–calling it a superficial flesh wound.  Samuel’s own words tell a different story. There are two pension applications in his file, and this one, filed in 1826– when he would have been seventy-two years old– tells his story fifty years after his service to the country.

I Samuel Bassett of Keene in the county of Cheshire, state of New Hampshire, on oath depose that on April 1775 on hearing of the battle of Lexington I with about thirty others started from this place for the vicinity of Boston.  Soon after my arrival at Cambridge, I entered into the Company commanded by Capt. Samuel Stiles in Stark’s regiment to serve for eight months.

On the 17th of June, the day of the battle of Bunker Hill, I was ordered on to the hill as part of a reinforcements.  I arrived in season to take part in the battle but after a short time the vitriol began.  While nitrating, I was wounded by a musket ball which as I raised my right foot, entered my thigh midway above the knee and lodged in the knee.  The ball remained there four months and four days and was then extracted.  The wound was very painful, and for several months I could not walk without assistance and it has always been very painful.

At the time others obtained pensions, I was often told that I might obtain one, and advised to make application and the reason I did not then apply, and have not before applied is that at that time a prejudice existed against such as applied for pensions who could possibly live without it and as I entered the army from patriotic motives, I felt unwilling to apply to my country for relief. As I grow older, the disability increases–the wound is frequently very painful, depriving me of sleep and prevents me in a great degree from performing my daily labor. And I now feel under the necessity of applying to my country for assistance.

Since 1776, I have lived either in Keene or Packersfield near Roxbury and my occupation has been that of house joiner. I am not on the pension list of any state and recieve no pension whatever.

Another application, that looks like it was an interview, specifies companies he served in through his dismissal on the last day of December in 1776, and adds, “was a Fifer in all this process.”

In 1777 he was back under a different command and “marched to Mount Independence near Ticonderoga in April.” He testifies that he recollects “General Washington, General Putnam, Major Moore who was killed in the Battle of Bunker Hill and Col. John Thomas Dixon.”

Samuel Bassett was awarded $6 a month 3/4 disability pension, with arrears of $37.17. Twelve years later, after he died, his widow was awarded $18.39 a month widow’s pension with an arrears of $83.87.

Thank you, grandfather Samuel Bassett, for your part in building our country.

July 4 Recent Past

U.S. Flag in front of our house

Happy July 4

The picture above is of the flag in front of our house against a stormy sky. July 4 is the traditional start of the summer storms in southern Arizona, and hanging the flag is sometimes a dicey affair, if you want to bring it in before the rain starts. Likewise, the public fireworks displays routinely get canceled because of high fire danger.

I can’t say for sure how all my ancestors celebrated the 4th of July, but it was probably the traditional Parade, Political speeches and Picnic. I do know that I had ancestors who served in the Revolutionary Army, and signed the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution .  We’ll get around to their stories later, but imagine they were feeling like John Adams when he wrote to his wife Abigail on July 3, 1776:

Yesterday the greatest Question was decided, which ever was debated in America, and a greater perhaps, never was or will be decided among Men. A Resolution was passed without one dissenting Colony “that these united Colonies, are, and of right ought to be free and independent States,  and as such, they have, and of Right ought to have full Power to make War, conclude Peace, establish Commerce, and to do all the other Acts and Things, which other States may rightfully do.”  You will see in a few days a Declaration setting forth the Causes, which have impell’d  Us to this mighty Revolution, and the Reasons which will justify it, in the Sight of God and Man. A Plan of Confederation will be taken up in a few days.

Later the same day, Adams wrote:

But the Day is past. The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.

Although the new country took his advice in celebrating with pomp and parade, shows, bells, bonfires, guns (now fireworks representing guns) and illuminations–the date that became enshrined in history was not July 2, the date of the vote to declare independence, but July 4, the date of the acceptance of the written Declaration of Independence. John Adams didn’t mention speeches specifically, but they became a tradition of July 4 gatherings. You can find much information about the early celebration of Independence Day at  the site organized by James R. Heintze. American University, Washington, D.C, author of books about Independence Day.

For Independence Day, 2013, here’s a look back to a parade of celebration only about 50 years ago, when our country was 180 years old.

When we lived in Scottsdale, I  belonged to the Scottsdale Junior Women’s Club (a Federated Woman’s Club) and we sponsored a children’s parade each July 4. Kids came with wagons and strollers and bicycles all decorated with red white and blue and some of us dressed in colonial costume, or as Statue of Liberty.  Here’s me with Brent one year and Brent the following year.

July 4 parade, 1965

Vera Marie and Brent Badertscher, Scottsdale July 4 parade, 1965

July 4, 1966 Brent Badertscher

Brent Badertscher, Scottsdale Parade, July 4 1966, Az Republic

Enjoy your July 4 ice cream!