Honoring Those Who Sleep

George Washington was born on February 11, 1732 . . . or February 22, 1732. It depends on whether you’re using the Julian calendar as they did back in 1732 or the Gregorian calendar which was adopted twenty years later, resulting in some apparently conflicting records for genealogists.

The celebration of our first president’s birthday was designated a federal holiday by President Chester Arthur, in 1885. The actual date of the observance has been tinkered with in order to provide federal employees (and others whose employers follow the federal holiday schedule) with more three-day weekends. Thus, Washington’s birthday celebration is now always on the third Monday of February.To dilute things even further, the holiday has also morphed into Presidents’ Day to include the honoring of Abraham Lincoln, who was born on February 12, 1809, although the new name was never adopted officially.

To my mind, neither one of these men — or any of the other 42 who were elected POTUS — would have had the post had it not been for the soldiers who answered the call to fight for the cause of freedom in the Revolutionary War. So today I’m going to tell you about just one such soldier in my family tree.

Tobias Wilhoit (or Wilhite or Wilhoite) was my great-great-great-great grandfather. I clearly remember the moment when I discovered Tobias and his Revolutionary War service: I was sitting in the Kentucky Historical Society Library in Frankfort and burst into tears . . . my mother — the orphan, the inmate — qualified for membership in the DAR! And so did I, for that matter.

Tobias Wilhoit was born on October 15, 1750, in Culpeper County, Virginia. His grandfather’s family had immigrated from Germany in 1717, involuntarily indentured servants in the Germanna Colony in Spotsylvania (a story for another day). We know a few details about his military service because on March 14, 1833, he filed an application for pension benefits, which reads:

Says that he was born in Culpepper Co. Va. where he resided when called into service on the 8th August 1777.  I was drafted and marched in Captain Ephriam Rucker’s Company from Culpepper Court House.  My regiment was commanded by Col. Barbour, and the Major was Roberts and my company was attached to General Stephens Brigade and we marched to Germantown where we arrived after the battle at that place and soon after my time expired, which was a 3 months tour, but 4 months before I reached home, I was honorably discharged.

Again in the month of June 1780, I was drafted for 3 months in Captain Ephriam Ruckers Company, Col Barbour’s Regiment, but having been taken sick, I did not serve my whole time with my company, having only been able to serve 3 or 4 months but was prevented by sickness having performed my duty as far as I was able to gain in the month of July 1781. I was drafted in Captain Ephriam Rucker’s Company in Col Barbour’s regiment, and in General Stephen’s Brigade and performed my duty until my time expired, which was about one week before Lord Cornwallis was taken at Little York where I aided in enlisted him before the surrender and I was discharged at Little York.  I was not in any battle.  I was drafted, the several tours I was in the war which amounted in the whole to the time I have stated which was nine months in all, including the time I was sick.  I lived in Culpepper county, Va. during the war when not in actual service and about the year 1799, I removed to Kentucky and the last 24 years I have lived in Mercer Co., Ky.  I do not know of any person now living, except Polly Wilhite [wife] and Abraham Wilhite [son], whose affidavits are annexed by whom I can prove my services.

The affidavits of Abraham and Polly Wilhite, Mercer Co., Ky., March 14, 1833, state:

Say they were well acquainted with Tobias Wilhite and know that he went upon three [tours] during the revolutionary war from Culpepper Co. Va.  We recollect of his starting each time and when he returned which he has correctly stated, as we lived with him at the time and his statements contains the truth of his services in 1777, 80 and 81.

Tobias was granted an annual allowance of $22.33, which began on March 4, 1831; he died on February 7, 1839, at the age of 88, at the Shaker settlement near Harrodsburg, Kentucky (another story for another day).  His name is on this plaque in a memorial at Fort Harrod, placed there by the DAR in 1938 “To honor and commemorate the men who fought in the American Revolution and sleep in Mercer County, Kentucky.”

tobias plaque

Does it matter that Tobias wasn’t in one of the famous battles of the revolution, that he wasn’t horrifically injured or maimed? Not to me. I’m especially glad that he wasn’t killed on the field of battle! No, he left Polly with four little children to go do his duty — they all sacrificed. And that’s something we should remember when we think of every veteran, whether in wartime or peace.


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