Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Details of the Death of John Bellinger in the Revolutionary War

I have previously written about one of my Revolutionary War ancestors, John Bellinger, and his history as related by my great grandfather and other published resources.

It always pays to go back and continue to look for more information. I've just discovered a more detailed account of my ancestor in The Frontiersmen of New York written by Jeptha Root Simms in 1883. I discovered this by again searching in Google books.

His account reads:

Death of John Bellinger and Escape of his Comrades. - On some occasion during the war and believed to have been in 1778, John and Christopher Bellinger, brothers and Philip Harter, were on the flats between Fort Dayton and the river getting hay. John Bellinger was some 25 years of age; his companions were several years younger. As John was engaged in pitching hay into a window with a fork, and his friends in raking at a little distance from him, a tory, named Harmanus House, and two Mohawk Indians appeared in a corn field near the laborers. The latter having taken the precaution to carry their guns to the field, had laid them upon the trunk of a wind-fallen tree near where they were at work. Christopher first discovered the foes approaching, and shouted the prophetic words of the times - "The Indians!"

John Bellinger was an uncommonly strong and courageous man, and withal swift on foot. With uplifted fork he ran  directly for the guns, quite as near to which was his tory foe; his brother and Harter at the same time fleeing for the fort, pursued by the Indians. As John neared his own gun, House drew up to fire on him, but before doing so he called back his comrades by a signal whistle. He then fired, and one of  freedom's boldest champions was weltering in his gore. Christopher and Philip reached the fort in safety. There were other Indians concealed near the field, as was afterwards understood, who dreaded the vengeance of John Bellinger more than that of a score of ordinary men. The enemy obtained, with his scalp and the plunder of his person, the three guns which the young men had taken to the field. The loss of this brave partisan was severely felt in the German Flats, for his was one of the master spirits of that section, just suited to the times. But, like many noble young Americans, he was surprised and slain, either from envy or the British value to a tory neighbor of his scalp-lock. House called back his accomplices to assist him, fearing if he fired and missed his victim, and their guns were unloaded, his fate would be sealed. He was well acquainted with Bellinger before the war. The remains of the fallen hero were taken to the fort and buried with becoming respect.

* * *

This account provides much more detail about the man who was my fourth great grandfather. Other sources indicate that his death occurred on July 24, 1780, not 1778 as in this account. At the time of his death, he was married to Ernestina Harter. Ernestina gave birth to the couple's only child, yet another John William Bellinger, eight months later. Ernestina had at least two other husbands who also fought in the Revolutionary War: Adam Staring and John Myers.


  1. Susan, a couple of things. First, I have quite a few family members from Herkimer, NY, and used the book, Early Families.... Second, I have always wondered what the book title by Simms was. Now I know. Thank you. And how nice that you found quite a narrative on your Revolutionary War ancestor. Impressive, and exciting.

  2. Silly me the second time today I have found someone I thought I had clicked follow. At least I have you on twitter. Enjoyed your post, and have learned something too.

  3. Wonderful to make such a find. Congratulations!
    Persistence pays dividends. ;-)

  4. Thanks for the comments, everyone. Glad you found it interesting. There are WAY TOO MANY Bellingers in that area of New York. And, of course, they all have the same names!