By Willard D. Callender
Samuel Callender was a Patriot in the War for Independence. In his native Virginia men had learned the ways of freedom by winning their battles against the danger of frontier life and in competition with the French and Indians. The Bible, which they read and believed, convinced them that they were freeborn men, and that they possessed certain divinely given rights. Samuel Callender was one of those young men, who inspired by a burning conviction of the justice of a Cause, turned his back on parents and the comforts of his plantation home and joined the army. He probably served for about three years, after which he turned to Connecticut where he met and married Martha Slossom. His name has been enshrined at Valley Forge upon a bronze plaque along with other heroes. One finds it at the left of the entrance as he steps into the reception room in the base of the Washington Memorial Bell Tower.
One can scarcely imagine the anguish of spirit during the days of a growing spirit of rebellion. Communities were torn asunder by bitter conflicts of loyalty. Families were divided, parents from children, fathers from their sons. On the one hand loyalty to the mother country while on the other resentment for wrongs. It all started with the concept of injustice over being taxed for that which did not profit them and in which they had no voice. The heaping up of indignities saw anger give place to rebellion and rebellion to a demand for Independence. Whereas the majority favored severing relations with the mother country perhaps a third of the Colonists never sympathized in the war that ensued.
The resisting colonists were at first trying to secure the natural rights of citizens, not independence. Up to the time of bloodshed, they were loyal British subjects. During the French and Indian Wars a few brief years before, colonial soldiers had fought side by side with British regulars in securing the Mohawk Valley for the Crown.
George Washington himself was the brightest example of loyalty. The English were greatly in his debt for his part winning control of the Ohio valley. Yet the conflict of loyalty found him on the side of freedom and justice for the colonies. He had a profound sense of that which is right in the sight of God and out of a sense of duty he took his stand. A wealthy man, one of the largest land owners in the New world, who was ready to enjoy the fruits of honor and respect won by earlier services, he had everything to lose and little prospect for gain. Without hesitation he placed his life, honor, and fortune on the side of right. Events such as the Stamp Act and the quartering of foreign soldiers in the homes of colonists, together with numerous other infringements of human rights, persuaded him and other patriots that it was necessary to defend what they described as "Inalienable Rights".
This provides the background to understand what drove Samuel Callender apart from his father. The hot disputations of the day destroyed peace on the Callender Plantation. The fiery invectives of Tom Pam were welcome to Samuel but to his father were nothing short of treason. Then came the Battle of Bunker Hill, and in July of 1776, the ringing statements of Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence. The rift between father and son became permanent when in November of 1776 Samuel enlisted in the Ninth Virginia Regiment. He enlisted from Loudon County in which we assume the plantation was located.
The legend inscribed on the Samuel Callender Family Tree, deposited in the Historical Library, Scranton, Pa., reads:
Samuel Callender: Of the American Revolution. He served as Corporal in Captain John Hay's Company of foot, 9th Virginia Regiment, commanded by Colonel Mathews, Revolutionary War. His name appears upon the rolls of that organization for the period from November 1776 to October 1777. The records also show that one Samuel Callender served as Corporal and Sergeant in Captain William Henderson's Company of Colonel Daniel Morgan's Rifle Battalion Continental troops. His name appears upon the rolls of that organization from the period of July 1777 to December 1777. The War record office says it is possible that as they have no record of the places of enlistment of either of these Callenders, they are identical."
His own statement reads: "Enlisted in 1776 for a term of two years in the standing army and in the Ninth Virginia Regiment commanded by George Mathews, colonel in Captain John Hay's Company in 1777." He also stated that he was at the taking of Burgoyne after two severe battles at Saratoga, N. Y. and that in November they marched back to Whitemarsh Hill where they joined Washington's Army. He also mentioned participation in the Battle of Monmouth and other parts of the New Jersey Campaign of 1778, which followed the winter at Valley Forge.
Samuel Callender returned for a visit home after one year in the army, but his displeased sire refused to see him. It has been written, "After about a year of army life, the boy yearned to see his pleasant home and these dear faces once more, but the offended father refused to see his disloyal son". There is a word picture in the author's mind which has been handed down through the family in which we see Samuel and his mother walking down a road together for a last tearful farewell. He never returned home. It is interesting to note that one year after enlistment would be at the time of return from the battles of Saratoga and just preceding the encampment at Valley Forge. At any rate he did come to Valley Forge and spent the winter there as a Corporal in the "Life Guards" of General Washington. To leave the comforts of the Plantation for the sufferings of Valley Forge demonstrates his full dedication to a great cause.
The events from Saratoga to Valley Forge take on meaning as one reads a letter written by Isaac Gibbs, a New Hampshire soldier from Valley Forge in March of 1778 to a relative back home. This letter is on display in the Museum at Valley Forge, and deals with the same movements in which Samuel was involved. Gibbs stated that he took part in two severe battles at Saratoga and the defeat of Burgoyne. He narrated that the army then marched South thru Albany and crossed the North River (Hudson) to Green Bush, suffering great hardships as they marched Southward. They encamped several days at Peekskill for rest and recuperation. At this time a rumor circulated that they were on their way to join Washington's Army near Philadelphia. A group of New Hampshire soldiers decided to desert. Upon hearing this, a certain Captain Isaac with his men followed and overtook the deserters. In response to his query as to where they were going, the leader informed Beals that they were going home. Captain Beals then ran his sword through the man who in turn discharged his gun into the Captain. AD returned to camp where both men died the next day. The letter continued with information that they finally joined Washington's Army at Whitemarsh on the 22nd of November, 1777. Regarding Valley Forge, Gibbs wrote, "We live in huts self made ... People are mainly Quakers and are not friendly to our cause … makes it difficult that we have to take provisions from them and pay for what they are worth."
Samuel Callender was one of the soldiers in the Continental Army which suffered thorough the winter of 1777 and '78 at Valley Forge. He was one of two hundred men known as "Life Guards" who protected the person of General Washington. All were six feet or more tall and lived in huts standing in a row just to the rear of the General's Headquarters. Each hut provided shelter for twelve men, with beds on each side tiered three deep. A fire place at one end provided heat. Plans for the huts were drawn up by Washington himself. Two of the life guards stood six feet two inches tall and served as "standins" for the general. Ill fed, nearly naked, poorly trained, the redeeming qualities of this army were courage and purpose. The words of Washington inscribed on the magnificent National Memorial Arch tell the story eloquently: "Naked and starving as they are we can not enough admire the incomparable patience of the soldiery".
The men who went into Winter Quarters at Valley Forge in December 1777 numbered about 11,000, of whom nearly 3,000 were ill or otherwise unfit for service. Hundreds died before spring. Those who were fit benefited from the work of Drill Master Baron Von Steubens that when the army broke camp in June the ragged rabble had been transformed into an effective fighting force. In truth a nation was born at Valley Forge.
The major source of information about Samuel Callender is his grandson, Nathan Callender. We are particularly indebted to him for "The Reminiscences of a Revolutionary War Hero" a paper prepared and delivered at the first Callender Reunion which was held at Montdale, Pa., in September of 1889. This was printed by Truman E. Clark, Edella, Pa. and a copy of it is in the Historical Library at Scranton. Other writings, memos, and statements have proved helpful. Alfred Lister, for many years historian of the Callender Association, made intensive research, collecting valuable information from the War Records Office, and all other possible sources. We also have Samuel Callender's own formal statement of war record from which we quote freely.
Nathan Callender wrote, "Grandfather Callender was nearly six feet in stature, of heavy build, and a little round shouldered. He had a well developed head and face, with expressive black eyes. He was quick in movement, persistent and resolute regardless of consequences, where right or wrong were concerned."
Interesting tales about Samuel Callender at Valley Forge have been circulated in family circles. Three of these were woven into verse by Miss Oriana Williams and read at the Callender Reunion of September 4, 1897. One had to do with the concern that Washington had over the shabby appearance of men who were to welcome General Lafayette upon his first arrival. Samuel came to the rescue and made the men look very acceptable. This is the way Miss Williams expressed the procedure:
Our grandsire, though resources Were very scant and few, Began the undertaking To make the old look new; He brushed and furbished, patched and schemed, Succeeding better than he dreamed! Then came an inspiration Advanced for time and age; He cut from sheets of foolcap white Collars and cuffs sufficient quite. With shirt frills stiff and shining Adjusted them to each, The general stood astonished, At first deprived of speech, Then spoke, and to our grandsire brave, Warm commendation gave."
Another story of that time was passed on by Nathan Callender and was also cleverly woven into verse by Miss Williams. It states that while the British lay in Philadelphia, grandfather (Samuel Callender) and Michael Vail, Sr., were spies and suspected by the enemy. To avoid the English soldiers who were in hot pursuit, they were recieved into a house which was within the lines. The British asked if two strangers had passed that way. The answer given was, "They have just gone up", as the speaker looked UP the road. Actually the two had merely "gone up" stairs in the house, and came down again as their pursuers went out and "up" the road. I recall hearing these stories from my father as a boy.
Washington's Army broke camp at Valley Forge on June 19, 1778, the day after the British evacuated Philadelphia. Crossing the Delaware at New Hope into New Jersey, the army proved the effectiveness of its winter training by defeating the British in the Battle at Monmouth, and by pursuing Howe's Army across the state. Samuel was in this campaign as we note from his statement, "Enlisted under Major Washington into Colonel Stephen Millen's Regiment, in Captain Heards Company of Light Dragoon, for a space of three years, and in 1778 was at the Battle of Monmounth, and in many scrimmages in the course of three years, served my enlistment."
Nathan, in his "Reminiscence of a Revolutionary War Hero" wrote, "We may presume that he (Samuel) was "the young Callender" of United States history who secured our flag at his own imminent peril in one of the sharpest conflicts of the Revolution". It would indeed be interesting to have the details of this incident. It seems possible, however, to the writer that this may describe the experience of another hero, John Callender of Boston, who redeemed his reputation in the Battle of Long Island by heroism which received the personal praise of George Washington. He had previously disgraced himself in the Battle of Bunker Hill. Whatever may be the facts, we can rest assured that Samuel possessed those qualities of manhood which gave birth to such deeds of heroism.
Samuel stated that upon his discharge from the army he was given a warrant to receive one hundred acres of land from the state of Virginia. Instead of accepting the land he returned to Connecticut with a fellow soldier. There he met, fell in love with, and married the soldier's sister, Martha Slosson.
Martha was born in Stamford, now Darien, Connecticut, February 27, 1755. Nathan, her grandson, writes of this marriage in quaint language: "If Callender loved the brother, he might fall in love with his sister, and so make a brother of a soldier, and a wife of his sister. As courtships are too sacred ground to intrude on, we may not tarry here. Martha Slosson and Samuel Callender have in this audience the fifth generation good examples of Anglo Saxon stock". This of course, refers to the Reunion of Callenders who were the descendants of this couple and is quoted from the previously mentioned "Reminiscences of a Revolutionary War Hero" read in 1889.
The account by Nathan Callender continues, "To this devoted couple was born seven children, three boys and four girls. The sons are Samuel, Nathan, and Stephen. The daughters are Sally, Betsey, Rhoda, and Mary or Polly. Three of the girls married and died in Orange County (N.Y.) and left numerous progeny to adorn society. Here were born our revered fathers whom no community will blush to own. These in early days settled in Pennsylvania, in the County known as Lackawanna, then Luzerne."
Information regarding the family of Martha Slosson is found in "Slosson Genealogy", a book by D. William Patterson, donated to the Boston Genealogical Historical Library in 1932. It begins with Nathaniel Slosson born in 1696 and lived in Norwich, Connecticut, and who later bought land in Kent. He married Margaret Belden and brought up twelve children. From baptismal records of the Congregational Church, Darien, we learn that Martha was daughter of David Slosson, who was born in 1736. The fact that another David was born on September 28, 1714, may confuse the picture.
Samuel Jr., was the oldest son of Samuel and Martha. Nathan wrote of him "he was a man of good business faculties; one of nature's noble men…. We read of the second son, "Nathan was a man of pushing business habits and accumulated a fair property. He died near Green Grove in 1830, aged forty four". The youngest son, Stephen, died in 1821 leaving a widow and three little children, and fourth born the following spring. The story of that brave pioneer mother who reared those children, amid the privations of a wilderness, has been memorialized on the Robert Tennant gravestone, in a neglected cemetery in West Preston, Wayne County, Pennsylvania.
A glimpse of the home life of Samuel Callender in old age, has been handed down to us in an autobiography of Nathan, his grandson. "After the death of father (Stephen in 1821) we remained in the house with grandfather Callender, and much of the time lived as one family. The house contained two large rooms and a hallway below. The lower story was sealed with the best pine boards, nicely planed. The East room was occupied by mother and the 4 children, when all were home. S.H. (Silas Horton) was much with grandfather Wall. In the West room lived the dear old grandparents. Much of the time we took our meals in the West room together. Around the table in this room we all stood while the dear old man asked God's blessing on the two families. In that room I got my first impression of God from the lips of grandmother Callender, long before my dear mother sought and found the Lord which must have been about 1830. In March of that year, the dear old grandfather died. "
We find this same theme presented in the paper on "Reminiscence of a Revolutionary War Hero". One reads, "No unkind word or look of hers is remembered by me. I think she seldom frowned. As her sacred dust is here, and her name and age on this shaft, it is fitting here to pay this just tribute. My father's mother was in many ways my mother. One of her faults, if faults she had, was in too much indulgence of her pet grandson. From this precious woman we got our first impression of God. The idea then formed of Him is today photographed on my inmost soul. He was associated in my mind with green grass of the field, and when I looked there, I was reminded of the Lord. How persistently she looked after our morals. Every slang word … was always kindly reproved."
"The home of my grandparents and mother was like a little sanctuary. Every morning when the table was spread, usually in the West room, we stood up around the table while grandfather invoked God's blessing on us all. These same rooms were used in turn as a Sanctuary for Lord's Day Worship. These seasons of Sabbath worship alternated between the dwellings of Abram Wetherby, Samuel Callender, Roger Orvis, Michael and Wilmot Vail, and several others. Grandfather Callender was never late. Early to bed and early to rise and prompt to every known duty seemed to be his established habit. At what period he embraced Christ and united with the Baptist Church, of which he was a member, we have no means of knowing."
The address from which the above words are quoted was made at the site of the Samuel Callender monument in the cemetery at Montdale, Pennsylvania. Samuel and Martha and son Stephen were first buried in the Callender Burial ground, Blakely, Pa. We read in "From Burial Places in Lackawanna County" by Hollister (1871) that this was "the oldest in Blakely and best filled in the County". Lucy Wall Callender, Stephen's wife and mother of Nathan, died and was buried in West Preston November 5, 1877. Nathan raised the funds from among the family and arranged to have the bodies of Samuel, Martha, and his father moved from the Blakely cemetery to Montdale. His grandmother was moved September 18, 1889 and the other two bodies the next day. He hired John and George Williams to do the work and paid them fifteen dollars for their services. Using the money solicited, a monument was erected to the memory of the Revolutionary War Hero. Fitting dedication ceremonies were conducted September 28th of that year and was part of the program of the first Callender Reunion. The stone for Elder William Bishop, first preacher in Scranton, shares the lot with Samuel Callender, his remains having been moved there by Nathan Callender. These sacred plots were supplied free of charge in honor of these servants of God and Country.
Beyond the fact that he was born in 1756, the son of a Virginia Planter and gave up his home for the great cause of Liberty, we know little of the background of Samuel Callender. A general statement from early sources that the family came from Scotland about 1700, suggests that Samuel may have had hazy recollections that his grandfather came from there at about that time. It appears doubtful that he descended from the New England Callenders. I have no doubt however that all Callenders, whether the name is spelled in this way or by one of several variations, have a common origin in the town of Callander in Scotland.
The Family Tree of Samuel and Martha Callender has become mighty, with numerous branches and twigs. All members of it are justly proud of their ancestor who was patriot, pioneer and devoted Christian. In his humble way, he shared the convictions of the Father of His Country, and helped bring them to fruition. Rearing his family in a frontier community, and in strict accord with Christian Faith and morality, he helped to lay solid foundations for the future growth of the nation which he first helped bring to birth. May the memory of his life and the nobleness of his example, ever be kept fresh in the minds of his progeny.
Created by David Burman