Most Americans recognize a few of the Founding Fathers—Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Hamilton, Adams, Franklin—but what about some of their peers who have been lost to time? Brion McClanahan reports for Townhall Magazine.
In 1776, the signers of the Declaration of Independence pledged to each other “their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor.” Many lost everything, and the entire generation sacrificed for the promise of liberty and independence. Most Americans recognize a few of the Founding Fathers—Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Hamilton, Adams, Franklin—but what about some of their peers who have been lost to time? They have great stories that need to be told. Here are 10 Founding Fathers whose fantastic lives are in many ways better than fiction:
John Paul Jones (North Carolina via Scotland)
In August 1779, John Paul Jones won the most famous naval battle of the American War for Independence, one that American schoolchildren at one time knew from memory. Though sinking, in flames, and taking both friendly and enemy fire, his ship the Bonhomme Richard brought the larger and more powerful Serapis to its knees. Jones uttered perhaps the most famous seven words in American military history early in the contest. With the early action in his favor, the captain of the Serapis asked Jones if he had struck his colors, to which Jones responded, “I have not yet begun to fight!” Jones proceeded to turn the tide of battle in a bloody, hand-to-hand, three-hour struggle on the high seas. When the smoke cleared, the battered Richard and her indomitable captain had become legend. One historian wrote of the battle, “The achievement of the victory was ... wholly and solely due to the immovable courage of Paul Jones. The Richard was beaten more than once, but the spirit of Jones could not be overcome.” Jones was knighted by the French, treated to lavish parties and accolades on both sides of the Atlantic, and rightly became the first American naval hero and a conspicuous, though now forgotten, Founding Father.
Thomas Sumter (South Carolina)
South Carolina was arguably the most important theater of action during the American War for Independence. The governor, John Rutledge, led the war effort from the saddle while his brother, Declaration of Independence signer Edward Rutledge, wasted away in a British prison at St. Augustine. If not for the heroic efforts of militia leaders like Thomas Sumter, South Carolina and the rest of the Southern colonies may have capitulated to Gen. Lord Cornwallis during the critical years of 1779-1781. Sumter saw his home burned by the British and the countryside ravaged by British raiders, so he and other famous South Carolinian patriots (notably the “Swamp Fox” Francis Marion and Thomas Pickens) engaged in a bushwhacking effort to disrupt supply and communication and ultimately wear down British morale. It worked. The British called him the “Fighting Gamecock,” and Cornwallis said he was “the greatest plague in this country.” His most important victory was at Hanging Rock in 1780, where the poet James W. Simmons said Sumter “beat them back ... and carved at length a hero’s name upon the glorious Hanging Rock!” Sumer lived to the ripe age of 97 and after the war served in both houses of Congress and briefly as a minister to Brazil, but it was his resolute determination for independence that should have every American remembering the “Fighting Gamecock” from South Carolina.
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