I found a bunch of information yesterday to support the case that one of my ancestors did indeed serve during the American Revolution — muster rolls, draft classes, pension ledgers and more. It’s an interesting exercise, even if what I seek isn’t always clear or obvious.
Let’s start with the fact that the German surname Stöber was in the midst of being anglicized at the time, so my search had to cover Stöber, Stober and Stover. My ancestor’s birth name, according to the records I’ve found, was Johann Valentine Stober III (though he may have been a IV) — but, for whatever reason, he went by his middle name and didn’t use the Roman numeral. Usually it was recorded as Valentine Stober, less often and later Valentine Stover. A couple of times I saw his first (middle) name misspelled Valintin.
Then there’s the murky matter of the military at the time. Colonial Americans didn’t much care for standing armies, and for good reason, so they formed militia of able white males between the ages of 18 and 53. And the term associators — tracing to Benjamin Franklin’s call in 1747 for an “Association” to defend Philadelphia — was used generally to identify voluntary military units (militia, essentially) assembled for defense in support of independence.
Not all associators were Patriots. There were loyalist associators as well, notably in Pennsylvania an outlaw gang of pacifist Quakers who engaged in espionage and sabotage of the American cause.
And then there were the military lines — quotas established by the Continental Congress to raise militia from each state. The Pennsylvania Line, for example, supplied troops to the Continental Line (the Continental Army).
One record shows my ancestor serving in the Eighth Company, Fifth Battalion, Lancaster County Militia. I found multiple records of his service in an unnumbered company (under command of Capt. John Jones), Eighth Battalion of Associators, Lancaster County (under command of Col. Peter Grubb), which was activated to the Continental Line on August 15th, 1776.
I also uncovered a handwritten document from years after the Revolution, an affidavit of sorts dated October 1st, 1832. At the age of 75 (just over a year before his death), Valentine Stober was applying for pension benefits related to his military service.
In the dictated application Stober describes his service, noting dates, places and names. He lists a number of officers, including the aforementioned Capt. John Jones — but he also mentions a Maj. Courtney (a name I’ve been unable to find on the Pennsylvania rolls) and a Col. Thomas Proctor — which probably was artillery Capt. Thomas Proctor, Third Battalion, The (Philadelphia) Association.
Stober says that he “enlisted with Captain
John Proctor Joseph Proctor of the Artillery of Pennsylvania line.” I’m making an educated guess at what was scratched out — I’ve found no “Joseph Proctor.” There was a Col. John Proctor, a militia commander from Westmoreland County in the western part of the state. At first I wondered if Stober’s memory had failed him, or if perhaps he simply wanted to associate himself with Proctor’s independent battalion.
The application does record that “Col. Proctor gave [Stober] a furlough with leave to return home until his health should be restored” after battling “the Camp Fever” (typhus) while posted at “Mud Fort.” I’ve found a couple of separate references to “Col. Proctor’s Artillery” at Mud Island Fort (later Fort Mifflin). That may indicate that Stober’s commander at the fort was indeed Thomas (artillery), not Joseph and not John (whose battalion was known as the “Old Westmoreland Rifles”), though the latter’s troops did contribute to American victories at nearby Trenton and Princeton.
Col. John Proctor’s battalion standard (battle flag) has become somewhat famous, by the way, in part because it’s one of few banners to have survived the Revolution. It’s a captured British standard, boldly decorated with symbolism we know from the Gadsden Flag, the letters “I.B.W.C.P.” (First Battalion, Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, or Provincials) and Proctor’s initials.
A lot of what you just read I didn’t know myself until 48 hours ago. I learned more, too, that I didn’t include here — I don’t like to be single-source on anything, so I read voraciously and corroborated carefully before sharing.
Sorting through the rich history of our nation’s birth always has fascinated me. It’s even more interesting now that it’s personal.
One year ago today we packed up our camp gear in preparation for the next day’s move. We did make time for one more trip into Yellville for good eats at Blacksheep BBQ.
Take care of yourselves, Patriots. Stay calm. Stay sharp. Stay free.
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