Reviewing my ancestral heritage this Independence Day, I have weighed the Loyalists against the Colonial Patriots and found those true to the King of England wanting.
I might be unhappy with the results, because I’ve always been quite proud of my Irish ancestry and the heroics of my Galway-born third-great-grandfather Peter Daly (1763-1832), who ascended to the rank of captain and was subsequently granted land in Ontario after the end of the American Revolution. Indeed, I still have the utmost respect for his unwavering allegiance to the Crown.
But, as I research my American roots, I find a host of grandfathers who took up arms to gain independence from England, and I’m confident many more are secreted between other pages of my family history.
Among those I know was my fifth-great-grandfather, Maryland-born Tennessean Solomon Grace (1745-1829), who was a member of the Caroline County Militia. Another was a sixth-great-grandfather David Haddon (1730-1791), a New Jersey-born Virginian in the Continental Army of his adopted home state.
Also serving in Virginia was my sixth-great-grandfather Richard Elliott (1736-1799), also Jersey-born but living in Virginia. I find two references to his service, first as a private and later as a colonel.
Finally, I’ve found information on my Pennsylvania-born ninth-great-grandfather Captain John Cox (1739-1818), who lived and fought in Virginia but spent his last days in Ashe County, North Carolina.
Were I to continue this research — and I likely will — I would expect to find greater numbers fighting for independence from British rule and but few ancestors loyal to the Crown.
It was an independent spirit that brought our forebears to America and led them westward into the Appalachians, the farmlands of Kentucky, Tennessee, Ohio and Indiana, and finally to Missouri.
Not only in our country’s struggle for independence, but in all subsequent conflicts, I’ve had family members defend the flag, from the War of 1812 until today. My dad served in World War II, his brother in Korea, and though I was never “in-country,” I served during the Vietnam War.
I would expect the pattern of my ancestry and service to country to differ little from that of my neighbors, friends and peers.
So, as we celebrate at some lake or in our own backyards this Independence Day, I pray we take a moment to reflect on the personal sacrifice of many of our own family members in defense of our flag.
I would be remiss to ignore this holiday season the divisive forces in our nation today, or to even pretend all Americans have always enjoyed the freedoms decreed in our Declaration of Independence. A study of history shows, though, that Americans of all races and creeds have shed patriot blood.
To salute Old Glory is to salute every man and woman — my kin and yours — whoever put on a uniform or took up arms to defend what our Stars and Stripes represent.
I pray we celebrate this holiday as what is good and honorable in the collective history of all individual Americans, and though a bit tattered from the many struggles she has endured, may our flag ever fly.
Jim Hamilton is a freelance writer and former editor of the Buffalo Reflex. Contact him at email@example.com. Copyright James E. Hamilton, 2020. Find his latest essay collection, “Ozarks RFD 2010-2015,” at your local newspaper office or at Headings Feed and Greasy Creek Store in Buffalo.