1776 Flag

Joseph Martin: The Almost Revolutionary War Patriot

Joseph Martin is my newly discovered 4x great grandfather. During past research for ProGen, I broke down the brick wall that was my 3x great grandmother, Telitha Martin. I realized through newspaper research that her last name was truly Martin and she was from Wayne County, North Carolina. Since we just celebrated the anniversary of our great nation, I’ll delve into a story about this almost patriot.

I am a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution. When I found Joseph Martin, I immediately searched for him in the DAR Patriot Index, as he was of the right age to serve. However, there was a problem…

Ancestor #: A074372

Any future descendants of Joseph Martin must provide proof of service. The comments state: “1) PENSION REJECTED FOR LACK OF PROOF. MUST PROVE SVC. DATACF 9/2018.”1 Joseph Martin’s pension had been denied several times for lack of proof that he served.2 Even though this isn’t what I wanted to see, the DAR Patriot Index did give me some new clues about his life.

The 22-page pension file is located at Fold3. During the Fall Term of 1832, Joseph Martin petitioned the Superior Court of North Carolina to obtain benefits based on the Act of Congress, passed June 7, 1832.3 This Act of Congress expanded the original pensions provided to revolutionary soldiers, providing them full pay for life for all officers or enlisted men who served at least 2 years in the Continental Line or in-state troops, militias, the navy or marines.4 Applying for this benefit would have been a significant sum for Joseph Martin with the benefits being available to his widow and children after death.5

Signature of Joseph Martin in his Revolutionary War Pension Application.6 Isn’t that a beautiful signature?

Why Was He Denied Benefits?

Due to his ” his very imperfect knowledge of the language,” Joseph Martin could not remember any other men he served with or their names, just his commanding officers and the name of the lieutenant who bought his horse.7 This language barrier appears to have caused Joseph problems and is the reason for the denial of benefits.8

This declarant solemnly swears that he did not leave the Army disgracefully but was always willing to serve his adopted country against his ancient foe.9

Joseph Martin – Revolutionary War Pension File

In this modern age of technology and information right at our fingertips, I decided to take a look and see if I can verify his pension statement.

Vive le Roi!

Joseph wrote in his pension statement that he left France with Count d’Estaing and the French Fleet onboard Le Rebatter in 1779.10 He was about 19 years old and possibly a stowaway.11 After four or five months at sea and one skirmish with the British Fleet, they landed south of Savannah, Georgia, and took part in the Siege of Savannah in September of 1779.12 Joseph did not know it at the time, but this would become known as the second deadliest battle of the Revolutionary War.13 It is not known if Joseph was a part of the advancing line screaming “Vive le roi!” at Spring Hill with d’Estaing,14 but we do know he left the French Troops after the failed siege and “rambled” to Southampton County, Virginia.15

Ça Ira
Ça Ira (formerly the Couronne) fighting at the Battle of Genoa on 14 March 179516

My research could not find a ship named Le Rebatter.17 The word “rebatter” in French can mean reshuffle but it’s likely he meant “Le Rebâtir” meaning to build again.18 The French Line included 33 warships and 6,000 French troops.19 There is one ship in the French Line that was a rebuild. It was called Le Couronne, an 80-gun ship.20 It is not known if this ship took part in the Siege of Savannah but she did take part in other naval skirmishes on this side of the Atlantic just before and after the siege.21 I could not find a comprehensive list of ship names under d’Estaing that landed in Georgia.

At this time, the British had a stronghold in Norfolk and Portsmouth, which was just east of Southampton County.22 Joseph said in his pension statement he was a stand-in for one William Denson, “who employed him as his substitute in an eighteen months service to which he was drafted.”23 It is a possibility Joseph served as a substitute for Denson, as Virginia needed to raise 3,000 men to fill the states 1781 quota for the Continental army.24 To fill this quota, each county had to split their local militia into divisions, equal to the county quota for new recruits.25 Each militia division would need to supply a single recruit.26

William Denson

It was easy to verify there was at least one William Denson who lived in Southampton County, Virginia during 1780-1781. In 1780, an indenture of feoffment was made between William Denson and Henry Pope.27 William Denson sold Henry Pope thirty acres of land he had inherited from his father, Francis Denson. This deed states William lives in Nottoway, in the county of Southampton.28

To see if William Denson served in the Revolutionary War, I searched the DAR Patriot Records Index,29 DAR Revolutionary Pension Card Index,30 Fold3,31 and the 850 results from the United States Rosters of Revolutionary War Soldiers and Sailors, 1775-1783 database32 with negative results. I could not verify if William Denson ever served. It seems like it is a possibility Joseph Martin could have stood in for Denson and served his 18-month conscription.

Credit: Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division
Revolutionary War: Virginia, 1778-178133

The Regiments of Col. Blount & Col. Parker

Joseph later states “he was placed under Col. Blount in his Regiment — Col. Parker commanding another Regiment.”34 He goes on to state that during his term of service he was in a Light Horse company and sent out as a spy, where he captured two British soldiers called York volunteers.35 After this capture, he was ordered to Petersburg, Virginia, and placed under Continental officers.36 Col. Blount gave him a short furlough to see a female friend (whom he married later), with a promise to report back to Petersburg.37

When Joseph returns to Petersburg, the commanding officer does not receive him so he leaves to find his former commanding officer.38 According to his story, it must be October 1781,39 as Cornwallis has surrendered at Yorktown and Joseph’s services were no longer needed.40 He never received a full discharge.41

In the FamilySearch Wiki for Southampton County, Virginia, there were two regiments associated: the 4th Virginia Regiment and the 15th Virginia Regiment.42 As Joseph states he was only in service for 7 months, ending with the surrender of Cornwallis, it appears he would have been conscripted in April of 1781.43. The 15th Virginia Regiment officially disbanded in January of that year, therefore he would not have been conscripted into that regiment.44 The 4th Virginia Regiment was still in service but under the leadership of Col. John Neville.45

I can only find one Colonel Blount serving during the Revolutionary War. From 1777-1780, he was the chief paymaster of state forces.46 He was involved with recruiting and reequipping forces to support Washington’s main army in the north and military operations in defense of the southern states.47

Col. Parker must have been his first commanding officer since Col. Blount is the one that gave him leave at Petersburg. In researching to find a Col. Parker, the only Colonel to have the last name Parker was Col. Richard Parker of the 1st Virginia Regiment.48 However, he died from wounds at the Siege of Charleston in 1780.49 He does not fit within the time frame of Joseph’s service. I can find no other Col. Parker during this time period. Perhaps he has misremembered the name or is mispronouncing his name.

Lieut.  Benjamin Griffin 

At this point after the Siege of Yorktown in October 1781, Joseph Martin states he sold a captured horse to a Lieutenant Benjamin Griffin.50

In 1781, there is a Benjamin Griffin listed in the New York 2nd Regiment and a Benjamin Griffin in the 6th Regiment Militia of Vermont.51 The New York 2nd Regiment participated in the Siege of Yorktown, not the Vermont Militia.52 The New York Benjamin Griffin is listed as a private, not a Lieutenant and is on the payroll for July – December 1781.53

If Joseph returned to Petersburg, he could have crossed paths with a Benjamin Griffin, who was ready to go home and needed a horse. While this Benjamin Griffin is not a Lieutenant, selling a horse to a returning soldier is within the realm of possibilities.

Conclusion

I do believe Joseph could have served in the Revolutionary War, first with the French and later as a patriot. Due to being a substitute for William Denson and never receiving discharge papers, it is likely he could have fought without any type of record. Joseph’s “imperfect” knowledge of English and his older age could have played a part in misremembering or even mispronouncing the names of the people he was associated with. Further research will have to be done off-line to continue the search for Joseph’s service. I plan on a visit to NARA once the COVID restrictions lift and a possible visit to the Family History Library.


  1. Daughters of the American Revolution, DAR Genealogical Research System – Online Help, (https://services.dar.org : accessed 1 Jul 2020.)  

  2. Records of the Department of Veterans Affairs, 1773 – 2007, Joseph Martin; “Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files,” database with images, Fold3 (https://www.fold3.com : accessed 10 May 2020); citing Case Files of Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Applications Based on Revolutionary War Service, compiled ca. 1800 – ca. 1912, documenting the period ca. 1775 – ca. 1900, Record Group 15, M804-1640, National Archives, Washington, D.C. 

  3. Ibid. 

  4. Will Graves, “An Overview of Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty Land Legislation and the Southern Campaigns Pension Transcription Project,” Southern Campaigns Revolutionary War Pension Statements & Rosters, (https://revwarapps.org : accessed 1 Jul 2020). 

  5. Ibid. 

  6. Records of the Department of Veterans Affairs, 1773 – 2007, Joseph Martin; “Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files,” database with images, Fold3 (https://www.fold3.com : accessed 10 May 2020); citing Case Files of Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Applications Based on Revolutionary War Service, compiled ca. 1800 – ca. 1912, documenting the period ca. 1775 – ca. 1900, Record Group 15, M804-1640, National Archives, Washington, D.C. 

  7. Ibid. 

  8. Ibid. 

  9. Ibid. 

  10. Ibid. 

  11. Ibid. 

  12. Ibid. 

  13. Gordon Burns Smith, “Siege of Savannah,” New Georgia Encylopedia, (https://www.georgiaencyclopedia.org : accessed 2 Jun 2020), rev. 1 Nov 2016. 

  14. Ibid. 

  15. Records of the Department of Veterans Affairs, 1773 – 2007, Joseph Martin; “Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files,” database with images, Fold3 (https://www.fold3.com : accessed 10 May 2020); citing Case Files of Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Applications Based on Revolutionary War Service, compiled ca. 1800 – ca. 1912, documenting the period ca. 1775 – ca. 1900, Record Group 15, M804-1640, National Archives, Washington, D.C. 

  16. Wikipedia, (https://en.wikipedia.org : accessed 1 Jul 2020), “French ship Ça Ira (1781),” rev. 31 Dec 2019.  

  17. Wikipedia, (https://en.wikipedia.org : accessed 1 Jul 2020), “List of ships of the line of France,” rev. 2 Sep 2020. 

  18. Eugène Pellissier, French Roots and Their Families A Synthetic Vocabulary Based Upon Derivations for Schools and Candidates for Public Examinations, (London: Macmillan and Company, 1886), 21; digital images, Google Books (https://books.google.com : 2 Jul 2020). 

  19. W3R-US, 1778 & 1779 France Agrees to an Alliance and Sends a Fleet under Adm. D’Estaing, (http://w3r-archive.org : accessed 1 Jul 2020). 

  20. Wikipedia, (https://en.wikipedia.org : accessed 1 Jul 2020), “List of ships of the line of France,” rev. 2 Sep 2020. 

  21. A T Mahan, DCL, LLD, The Major Operations of the Navies in the War of Independence, (London: Sampson Low, Marston & Co Ltd, 2005), 128; Project Gutenberg (https://www.gutenberg.org : 3 Jul 2020). 

  22. Patrick H. Hannum, “Norfolk, Virginia, Sacked by North Carolina and Virginia Troops,” Journal of the American Revolution, (https://allthingsliberty.com : accessed 3 Jul 2020). 

  23. Records of the Department of Veterans Affairs, 1773 – 2007, Joseph Martin; “Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files,” database with images, Fold3 (https://www.fold3.com : accessed 10 May 2020); citing Case Files of Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Applications Based on Revolutionary War Service, compiled ca. 1800 – ca. 1912, documenting the period ca. 1775 – ca. 1900, Record Group 15, M804-1640, National Archives, Washington, D.C. 

  24. John R Van Atta, “Conscription in Revolutionary Virginia: The Case of Culpeper County, 1780-1781.” The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, vol. 92, no. 3 (1984), pgs 263-81; digital images, JSTOR, (https://www.jstor.org/ : accessed 27 Jun 2020). 

  25. Ibid. 

  26. Ibid. 

  27. Court Order Book 1778-1784, “Southampton Project,” browsable images, “Southampton Records,” Kenneth Brantley, The Brantley Association of America, (https://www.brantleyassociation.com/ : accessed 4 Jul 2020), page 2 of 6, digital image page 114 of 517; original images available upon request through the Southampton County, Virginia Circuit Court. 

  28. Deed Book 5 1773-1775, “Southampton Project,” browsable images, “Southampton Records,” Kenneth Brantley, The Brantley Association of America, (https://www.brantleyassociation.com/ : accessed 4 Jul 2020), page 5 of 6, digital image pages 452-453 of 517; original images available upon request through the Southampton County, Virginia Circuit Court. 

  29. Patriot Records Index, Daughters of the American Revolution, (https://services.dar.org : accessed 5 Jul 2020), Surname Denson; Negative search result for William Denson of Virginia. 

  30. Revolutionary Pension Card Index, Daughters of the American Revolution, (https://services.dar.org : accessed 5 Jul 2020), Surname Denson; Negative search result for William Denson of Virginia. 

  31. Revolutionary War Database, Fold3, (https://fold3.com : accessed 5 Jul 2020), Surname Denson; Negative search result for William Denson of Virginia. 

  32. “United States Rosters of Revolutionary War Soldiers and Sailors, 1775-1783,” database, FamilySearch, (https://www.familysearch.org : accessed 3 Jul 2020), Negative entry for William Denson of Virginia, Citing various published state rosters. 

  33. Vincent J Esposito and Matthew Forney Steele, United States Military Academy, Department of Military Art and Engineering, “Atlas to accompany Steele’s American campaigns,” (1956); digital image, Library of Congress, (https://www.loc.gov : accessed 4 Jul 2020). 

  34. Records of the Department of Veterans Affairs, 1773 – 2007, Joseph Martin; “Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files,” database with images, Fold3 (https://www.fold3.com : accessed 10 May 2020); citing Case Files of Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Applications Based on Revolutionary War Service, compiled ca. 1800 – ca. 1912, documenting the period ca. 1775 – ca. 1900, Record Group 15, M804-1640, National Archives, Washington, D.C. 

  35. Ibid. 

  36. Ibid. 

  37. Ibid. 

  38. Ibid. 

  39. Wikipedia, (https://en.wikipedia.org : accessed 1 Jul 2020), “Siege of Yorktown (1781),” rev. 22 Sep 2020. 

  40. Records of the Department of Veterans Affairs, 1773 – 2007, Joseph Martin; “Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files,” database with images, Fold3 (https://www.fold3.com : accessed 10 May 2020); citing Case Files of Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Applications Based on Revolutionary War Service, compiled ca. 1800 – ca. 1912, documenting the period ca. 1775 – ca. 1900, Record Group 15, M804-1640, National Archives, Washington, D.C. 

  41. Ibid. 

  42. FamilySearch Research Wiki, (https://www.familysearch.org/wiki : accessed 1 Jul 2020), “Southampton County, Virginia Genealogy,” rev. 25 Jul 2020. 

  43. Records of the Department of Veterans Affairs, 1773 – 2007, Joseph Martin; “Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files,” database with images, Fold3 (https://www.fold3.com : accessed 10 May 2020); citing Case Files of Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Applications Based on Revolutionary War Service, compiled ca. 1800 – ca. 1912, documenting the period ca. 1775 – ca. 1900, Record Group 15, M804-1640, National Archives, Washington, D.C. 

  44. Wikipedia, (https://en.wikipedia.org : accessed 1 Jul 2020), “15th Virginia Regiment,” rev. 17 Feb 2020. 

  45. FamilySearch Research Wiki, (https://www.familysearch.org/wiki : accessed 1 Jul 2020), “4th Virginia Regiment (Revolutionary War),” rev. 20 Mar 2020. 

  46. Robert K Wright, Jr and Morris J MacGregor, Jr, “Soldier-Statesmen of the Constitution,” U.S. Army Center of Military History, (https://history.army.mil : accessed 5 Jul 2020), “William Blount.” 

  47. Ibid. 

  48. Wikipedia, (https://en.wikipedia.org : accessed 1 Jul 2020), “Richard Parker (Colonel),” rev. 21 Jan 2020. 

  49. Ibid. 

  50. Records of the Department of Veterans Affairs, 1773 – 2007, Joseph Martin; “Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files,” database with images, Fold3 (https://www.fold3.com : accessed 10 May 2020); citing Case Files of Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Applications Based on Revolutionary War Service, compiled ca. 1800 – ca. 1912, documenting the period ca. 1775 – ca. 1900, Record Group 15, M804-1640, National Archives, Washington, D.C. 

  51. “U.S., Revolutionary War Rolls, 1775-1783,” database with images, Ancestry.com, (https://www.ancestry.com : accessed 5 Jul 2020), database search for Benjamin Griffin (1781); citing “War Department Collection of Revolutionary War Records,” Record Group 93, M246-138, National Archives, Washington. D.C. 

  52. Wikipedia, (https://en.wikipedia.org : accessed 3 Jul 2020), “Yorktown Order of Battle,” rev. 12 Sep 2020. 

  53. “U.S., Revolutionary War Rolls, 1775-1783,” database with images, Ancestry.com, (https://www.ancestry.com : accessed 5 Jul 2020), entry for Benjn Griffin (1781); citing “War Department Collection of Revolutionary War Records,” Record Group 93, M246-138, National Archives, Washington. D.C.