Monday, November 11, 2013

Honoring Our Veterans

Hola everyone!

Today is Veterans' Day in the United States, a federal (national) holiday in remembrance of the men and women who have served in our armed forces.

In the course of researching and recording my family's history, I discovered that my family have a record of American service that goes back all the way to the Revolutionary War (the War for Independence). 

There were, of course, those fighting Forsyths!  I've posted about them here and at my other blog, Maison Newton.  Three brothers from Granard, County Longford, Ireland enlisted in the British Infantry in October 1813 at Monmouth and fought in the Napoleonic Wars, and after that war ended their various regiments served in Canada.  John Forsyth and James Forsyth mustered out at the completion of their "bare term", and settled in upper New York state. My direct ancestor, Andrew "the Soldier" Forsyth (as I call him), also evidently mustered out of the British Army at the completion of his "bare term" (around 10 years) sometime in 1823 and in 1830 he enlisted in the United States Calvary, where he continued to serve until being wounded in the Mexican War in the 1843.  He died in 1861, months before the outbreak of the Civil War.

Andrew the Soldier's sons, Andrew Jr. and Jerome, both served in the U.S. Calvary in the "band," being enlisted by Andrew the Soldier initially when he entered the U.S. Calvary.  Think of the players of fife, horn and drum with the flag bearers of the Revolutionary War -- an image of the battered, bandaged and weary musicians and flag bearer bravely accompanying the troops into battle.  Often the "band" members were not even teenagers.  This tradition continued all the way through the Civil War, and sometimes encompassed large orchestras accompanying troops to the battlefield and playing while the fighting went on all around them!  I was utterly astounded when I read about this practice. 

Uncle Andrew Jr. served several terms in the "band"  but retired from the military after he moved to the family homestead near Green Bay, Wisconsin and got married. (Andrew the Soldier had bought acres of land near Green Bay, Wisconsin in the early 1830s, and the clan settled there, except for Aunt Josephine once she was married). 

This photo is from the Barlament family, descendants of Benjamin Forsyth, the youngest son
of Uncle Andrew Forsyth, Jr. and Ann McGinnis.  Date unknown.  This is Uncle with his
three surviving daughters: Josephine born 1845; Catharine born 1848; and Amanda born 1849.
 Matilda, born 1847, died in 1854 at the age of 7.  My direct ancestor, Jerome Forsyth, Uncle Andrew, Jr.'s
brother, also had a daughter named Matilda, who grew up to marry Edward Belanger, Jr.  Matilda and
Edward were the parents of Ida Belanger, who married Frank Chester Newton, and became
the parents of Francis John Newton, my dad. 

My direct ancestor, Jerome Forsyth, continued to serve in the military as a band member and, near the end of the Civil War, as band captain for one of the Wisconsin regiments, a singular honor.  He was wounded in the Civil War, recovered, and went back to his duties.  Aunt Josephine Forsyth, the youngest and only female sibling of the three offspring of Andrew the Soldier, married military men, her first when she was only 14, and was widowed - three times.  She followed the drum including accompanying husband #2 to the Mexican War and, after he died from complications of wounds received, a year or so later she married Michael "Smith" (Schmidt), perhaps a close acquaintance, a hero of the Mexican War who had retired from the military and set up a smithy in Green Bay.  Two of Aunt Josephine's sons fought in the Civil War.

Uncle Andrew, Jr. lost a son, Jerome (repeated use of family names gets confusing), in the Civil War. Jerome son of Uncle Andrew, Jr. (who, in turn, is the son of Andrew the Soldier) enlisted in the Wisconsin Militia, 12th Regiment Infantry, Company H, as a private, at Green Bay, Wisconsin on 10 Feb 1861, and mustered in 02 Oct 1861.  He died during an outbreak of an unspecified disease at Fort Leavenworth on March 30, 1862 at the age of 19.

Jerome Forsyth, my direct ancestor (son of Andrew the Soldier), had two sons who fought in the Civil War: Andrew (Andre) Henry Nelson Forsyth (I believe the Nelson was in honor of the famous British naval hero Admiral Nelson, who was created a peer of the British Empire for his service to the Crown), and George Forsyth.  Andrew/Andre Forsyth had an arm amputated as a result of a wound or wounds incurred in the war.  As far as I can tell, George Forsyth was not wounded.  I believe it may be George Forsyth upon whom an old family story is based about a soldier sneaking home during the Civil War to rest and get "fattened up" before going back to battle.  The family "hid" him in a hay loft in one of the barns until he recovered. Okay, I don't know how much of that is true - it was a story that my dad told several times when we were very young, as told to him by Matilda Forsyth(e) (dad's grandmother).  Yep, George Forsyth was AWOL, but as I learned by reading articles about the Civil War, this was not an uncommon occurrence at the time; soldiers would skip out and then report back to their old regiments months later and carry on as if nothing had happened!

Although I have not yet done follow-through research, there are records indicating that one or more of the sons of James Forsyth and John Forsyth (Andrew the Soldier's older brothers) also served in the Civil War.

It is not only the Fighting Forsyths, however, who served their country in the military service.

It is in the Bailey family line where ancestors who fought in the Revolutionary War appear.  Laura Ruth Bailey was my paternal great-grandmother.  She married David Villeneuve, who changed his surname to Newton sometime either before or after he emigrated from Prescott, Ontario, Canada to the Marinette area in northeastern Wisconsin in 1881.  I have just begun my research into the Bailey family line, having spent years working almost exclusively on my French-Canadian ancestors on dad's side of the family and my Polish ancestors on mom's side of the family.  Perhaps I may learn enough to establish that I am eligible for membership in the Daughters of the American Revolution, har!

Laura Ruth Bailey and my great-grandfather, David Antoine Villeneuve/Newton, had a large family, among whom was my paternal grandfather, Frank Chester Newton.  Grandpa Newton served in WWI, as did his brothers, Uncle Fred (Frederick Albert) Newton and Uncle Leonard Newton. 

My dad, Francis John Newton, WWII.
As regular readers here may already know, my dad, Francis John Newton, served in WWII and received the Purple Heart and Bronze Star.  He achieved the rank of Sergeant and was honorably discharged on 27 Jan 1946 at Camp Grant, Illinois.  He served in the U.S. Army,  63rd Armored Infantry Battalion, 11th Armored Division in Europe from September 1944 to August 1945.  He was a squad leader of a group of 12 riflemen.  He was wounded in action in Belgium on 5 Jan 1945.  He also suffered severe frostbite on his feet, a condition he never claimed for and which caused him much pain in his later years.

Dad would have loved to go on one of the Honor Flights to tour the Veterans' Memorials in Washington, D.C., but he died in early November, 2002, years before the Honor Flights began.  Dad's funeral was featured in an article in the Milwaukee Journal/Sentinel in November, 2002, that talked about the increasing number of WWII vets who were dying and the shortage of live bugle players who could play "Taps" at veterans' funerals.  I've posted about dad's service and veterans several times (some posts below):

May 28, 2012:  Memorial Day
June 1, 2009:  [President] Obama Goes to Bat for the Queen
November 11, 2007:  Some Thoughts This Veterans' Day
November 7, 2010:  The Top Secret "Rosies" of World War II

To all who have served our country in military roles (in uniform or not), today we honor you.  Let us never forget your sacrifices and what we owe to you and to your families.

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