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Pioneer, American Revolutionary Soldier, and
Thomas Aldridge (Aldrich)
by James M. Sikes,
Birth and Death
Thomas Aldridge 5 Sikes
(ca 1759-1835) (Jonas 4
, James 3, Walter2, John1)
was born to Jonas
Sikes (ca 1722?-1784) and Elizabeth (Aldridge or Hill?) between May 19,
and October 18, 17591 in
County, Virginia. He died September 5,
1835 in Rutherford County, Tennessee. Thomas was 75 or 76 at the
his death. According to McCulloch (Mac)
a descendent of Thomas’s oldest son, Jesse W. Sikes (1787-1869),
is near Sikes Cemetery, but not inside the walls of the cemetery proper.
between Amanda Way and Kari Street, off the Old Nashville highway in
visit to Mac Sikes’s home in 1978,
he told me that Thomas Aldridge’s remains were not located at the graveyard
interred about 25 meters west, off the stonewall’s southwest corner,
backyard of a house located at 6448 Kari Drive
(35º55´54.94″N, 086º29´10.67″W).2 During a subsequent visit to the
July 13, 2007, I recalled the initial construction of that house. Mac mentioned the original Sikes Land located
in Rutherford County, Tennessee and the cemetery, were lost due to a
foreclosure during the great depression of the 1930s.
He indicated that the Daughters of the
American Revolution (DAR) placed Thomas’s tombstone inside the cemetery
as no one was quite sure as to the exact site of the real grave. Mac told me that the grave was near a big
tree that is no longer standing, but that his grandfather had indicated
grave was close to where the family’s cotton gin had once stood.
Marriage and Children
Thomas married Sarah Willis (1760-1849) on October 28, 17833 in a service performed by Reverend James Shelburne, sometimes depicted as Shelborn, Minister of the Baptist Congregation on the Meherrin River, Lunenburg County, Virginia4. Together, between September 5, 1785 and October 16, 1799,5 they had nine children, five girls and four boys. It seems odd that in a time of high infant mortality rates, all their children grew to adulthood. The children’s birthdates and probable birthplaces are as follows:
a. Elizabeth Ann (Sikes) West (1785-1877), was born September 5, 1785, in Halifax County, Virginia. She married Asa Henry West in Oglethorpe County, Georgia, and died on September 17, 1877 in Kansas City, Missouri. She rests next to her son, Thomas, in Elmwood Cemetery of Kansas City, Missouri. The 1840 Federal Census for Cole County, Missouri, show Elizabeth and her family are living together in Kansas City. In 1850, she is living with her sons Andrew and Thomas. Part of Elizabeth’s family live in Moniteau County, Missouri. Her oldest child, Anna Johns (West) Trail, was born on July 25, 1809. Another daughter is Sarah H. (West) Springer, born October 10, 1810, and she died February 15, 1878 in Johnson County, Missouri. A son, Andrew J. West, born ca. 1814 was single and living in Jackson County, Missouri in 1850. Another daughter, Mary Ann (West) Moad, married John T. Moad on August 27, 1835 in Cole, Missouri. The youngest son, Thomas West, was born on June 21, 1816, and he married three times. Wives names, in order of marriage, were Kisiah Harmon, Marion Anthony, and Lucy Redford. Thomas West died on April 15, 1873 in Kansas City and rests next to his mother in that cities Elmwood Cemetery.
b. Jesse W. (Willis) Sikes (1787-1869), was born October 13, 1787 in Wilkes County, Georgia, and died February 25, 1869 in Rutherford County, Tennessee. He married Martha Louise Howse (1809-1886) on March 14, 1827. [Picture on the left of Jesse W. and Martha Louise Howse is part of Dr. Lewright B. Sikes’ collection.] They lived on Jesse’s large plantation in a home called Oleander House, which later burned. In 1979, Lewright B. Sikes wrote in The Sikes Family of Middle Tennessee, that the “Census property value returns for 1850 indicate that Jesse was one of the twenty wealthiest planters in the Rutherford County.” Both Jesse and Martha’s remains rest inside the walls of Sikes’ Cemetery in Rutherford County, Tennessee. They had eight children between 1829 and 1844, five daughters and three sons. Their two oldest children are Mary Tennessee (Sikes) Mosely (1829-1864) and Sarah J. (Sikes) Johnson (1832-Unknown). William Howse Sikes (1834-1892), the oldest son, took over Oleander House after serving as a Captain in the Confederate Army. Another of Jessie’s daughters, Margaret (Maggie Sikes) Raines (1835-1862), rests with her husband in the Sikes’ Cemetery. Not much is known about Martha S. Sikes (1837-Unknown). Jesse W. Sikes, Jr. (1839-1863), a Confederate Cavalryman, died during the war in Decatur, Alabama and is buried there, but the family erected a marker for him in the Sikes’ Cemetery. Adeline (Sikes) Gilbert (1841-Unknown) is the last daughter born to Jesse and Martha. Ambrose T. Sikes (1844-1873) is their youngest son. Ambrose died young and lies next to his parents in Sikes’ Cemetery.
c. Susanna (Sikes) Rogers, was born April 10, 1789 in Wilkes County, Georgia and died 1860 in Bedford County, Tennessee. She married James Alfred Rogers (1777-1851) in 1807. Alfred Gooding Rogers (1809-1878) is her oldest child and he moved to Homes County, Mississippi. Thomas Madison Rogers (1813-1881) lived and died in Bedford County, Tennessee. One son, James M. Rogers (1823-1863) moved from Bedford County, Tennessee to Benton County, Arkansas. Another son, Daniel Willis Rogers (1818-1874), died in Pope County, Illinois.
d. Rebecca (Sikes) Springer (1791-1858), born September 16, 1791 in Wilkes County, Georgia, and according to Thomas A. Sikes’s 1820 pension application, was living in her father’s home in Rutherford County Tennessee. She was the second wife of Josiah Springer (1774-1870) of Pennsylvania and Kentucky and they married in 1828. Her confirmed daughter is Elizabeth Springer (1830-Unknown). Greg Bonner hypothesized on his 2005 Roots Web site that Louisa Ann Springer (1831-1916) may have been a daughter of Josiah Springer and his second wife, Rebecca Sikes. Currently there is no documentation confirming this theory.
e. Jonas E. Sikes (1793-1858), born July 3, 1793 in Greene County, Georgia, and died before July 1858 in Bedford, County, Tennessee. Jonas Sikes served in the War of 1812. He married Anna Elizabeth Dean (1793-ca.1850) in 1814 and they moved to neighboring Bedford County, Tennessee after 1830. Together they had eight children between 1815 and 1827, four daughters and four sons. Mahala (Sikes) Jones (1815-1877), whom Jonas later sued, was his oldest child, and she also lived in Bedford County. Mary Elizabeth (Sikes) Atkisson, or Atkinson, (ca 1816-Unknown) was the second child. James H. Sikes (1820-aft 1870), the oldest son, moved to Benton County, Arkansas. The fourth child is Robert M. Sikes (1821-1906) and he lived in Bedford County most of his life. In his advanced years, he lived with his grandson, Thomas Aldridge III, in Greenville, Hunt County, Texas. The fifth child is Thomas Aldridge Sikes II (1822-1905). Thomas Aldridge Sikes II was living in Bedford County, Tennessee during the 1900 Federal Census. Nicholas “Jed” Sikes (1824-Unknown) and Green Morgan (Grimm) Sikes (1826-1906) are the sixth and seventh children and they settled in Hunt County, Texas. The youngest child was Minerva May Sikes (1827-after 1900), and she was living with her brother, Robert M. Sikes, in Bedford County, Tennessee in 1850.
f. Nancy (Sikes) Hix (1795-Unknown), born July 5, 1795 in Oglethorpe County, Georgia, died after 1859 in Benton County, Arkansas. She married William Hix (1792-1866) about 1813 and had nine or more children. They moved from Rutherford County, Tennessee to Bedford County around 1830, and then onto Benton County, Arkansas in 1854-1855. The children are Mary Hix Walker
(ca 1814-Unknown), Sarah “Sally” Hix Walker (1815-1899), William Jonas Hix (1818-1879) who settled in McDonald County, Missouri, John Hix (1820-Unknown), Susan Ann (Hix) Tuck (1825-1902), Martha (Hix) Deason Capp (1827-Unknown), Francis Hix (1829-Unknown), Nancy A. Hix (1835-Unknown), and Jonas Hix (1818-1870), who married Angelina O’Connell and moved to Benton County, Arkansas. Indications are that there may have been one other female child who may have died in Little Rock, Arkansas and that either Francis or Nancy A. married a man named Snow while the family was moving along the Arkansas River toward Fort Smith, Arkansas.
g. John Sikes, a fraternal twin to Mary, born August 25, 1797 in Oglethorpe County, Georgia, may have married three women in his lifetime. He married his first wife in Bedford County, Tennessee. The others were from either Green County, Alabama or Pickens County, Alabama. He died in Chickasaw County, Mississippi about 1870. The exact mothers of his eleven children are unknown. Indications are that his other two wives were Nancy (1824- ca 1860) (unknown last name/per LD records, CD-ROM#72) and Rebecca (1824-Unknown). Elizabeth (Sikes) Driver (1820-Unknown) is the oldest child. Raleigh (Rolley) M. Sykes (1821-1863) married Rutha Wood in 1850, and he was wounded on December 31, 1862, during the Battle of Murfreesboro, Tennessee. He died in Bedford County, Tennessee, a few days later. Robert Sikes’s (1824-aft 1870) spouse was born in North Carolina, and they raised their family in Pickens County, Alabama. A report indicates that Abner Davis Sikes (1826-1892) was wounded during the Civil War. Indications are that he married a woman named Caroline and they lived in Monroe County, Mississippi until his death. John Sikes (1830-Unknown) worked in Pickens County, Alabama through 1850. Other children are Sarah A. (Sikes) Clear (1831-Unknown), Nancy Roxanna (Sikes) Green (1833-aft 1880), who settled in Monroe County, Mississippi, James R. Sikes (1835-Unknown) who married Frances Ophelia Smith (1858-1942), Margaret Sikes (1837-Unknown), Selena Sikes (1840-Unknown), William F. Sikes (1843-Unknown), and Mary E. Sikes (1846-Unknown). Indications are that many of John’s children moved out of Alabama and into Mississippi.
h. Mary “Polly” (Sikes) Harrison was (twin) born August 25, 1797 in Oglethorpe County, Georgia. She married James Harrison on April 15, 1823 in Rutherford County, Tennessee. In Thomas A. Sikes’s Revolutionary War Pension Application of 1820, there is an affidavit that reads, “Living in his household are wife Sarah, age 60 years, also 2 daughters. Rebecca Sikes age 26 [real age is 29] and Mary age 24 and 2 small children, issue of Mary Sikes, a boy named Carril, age 3 years and a girl named Sarena, age 1 year.” It is obvious that the two children were born out of wedlock. Between two different references, there are five children listed. Only one of the references gives ages of her first two children. The other reference shows one son and two daughters. David Harrison, Mary Harrison, and Sarah Harrison do not have birthdates. Could these have been James Harrison’s children from an earlier marriage? Carroll I. Sikes, 62, is a basket maker and appears in the 1880 United States Federal Census, living in Beaver Dam, Butler County, Missouri. In his household are Phebe, his 37-year old wife. The Census shows a William R. Sikes, 13, to be a son who helps Carroll on the farm. Also living there was a daughter, Chriseeta M. Sikes, 10, and Jarvis C. Taylor, 2, an orphan.
i. Robert Sikes is the youngest child of Thomas A. and Sally. He was born October 16, 1799 in Oglethorpe County, Georgia. He married Elizabeth
they lived in Perry County, Alabama. Together
had five children, three boys
and two girls. Benjamin Franklin Sikes
(1825-1908) is the oldest. Samantha
(Sikes) Deason Bray Atkinson’s (1827-1895) bodily remains are in Avoca
close to her father. James “Wade” Sikes
(1828-1929) lived to be over 100 years. T.W.
Sikes (1830-1919) lived in Rogers, Arkansas. Martha
Louise (Sikes) Booth (1832- ca.
1911) moved to
Benton County, Arkansas with her husband, John, an early Indian trader. She was living with her oldest brother, B.
F., when he died in 1908. One reference shows the five children divided
Robert’s estate after the death of his second wife in 1878, but no
date, or bride’s name, have been positively identified.
Eventually, all of Robert Sikes’s children
lived in Benton County, Arkansas.
Early Years in Lunenburg County, Virginia
Thomas Aldridge Sikes’s
Sikes (ca 1722-1784) is counted on the 1750-1751 Norfolk County,
Titheable List for paying taxes while living with his brother Jacob.6 I have questions about Jonas’
birth date as
seen in many family trees. His mother
and father did not marry until 1713 and James Sikes’ (ca. 1676-1742)
Last Will and Testament list Jonas as the fourth son.
Using the 1713 marriage date, and if the
normal cycle between the birth of children is between 16 months to two
Jonas’s birth year would have to be around 1722. This
makes him about 37 when Thomas
Aldridge was born. Between 1751 and
1759, he married Elizabeth (Aldridge?) (Hill?). Like
many other Virginians of the time, they moved west to
County. Caution is advised as Lunenburg
County was later divided into many other Virginia counties. The
these counties includes the area just north of the North Carolina state
boundary and is in the south-center portion of Virginia.
During Jonas’s life, one of the first mass
migrations occurred into what was to become central Virginia. “One historian found what he called a
‘phenomenal movement’ of the population of those living in Lunenburg
Virginia. From 1750 to 1769, 80 percent
of the population disappeared from the county records; 40 percent did
five years from 1764 to 1769.”7
other coastal families moved west, they bought the holdings of those
even farther into what at the time was wilderness.
Jonas Sikes, Thomas’s father, was one of
those that bought the land of those moving farther west.
Jonas is on the Cumberland Parish, Lunenburg
County, Virginia Titheable List, compiled by Thomas Tabb on June 10,
which indicates that he owns 125 acres of land. Jonas
sells this land in 1765. This
transaction is mentioned in Lunenburg County, Virginia Deeds, “Deed
10, page 226: October 6, 1765 from Jonas
Sikes of Lunenburg County, to Edward Jordan, Sr. of Lunenburg County,
(pounds), a certain tract of land in Lunenburg, 125 acres bounded by
Jordan, Pool, a new line. Signed – Jonas
Sikes. Witness – none.
Recorded October 10, 1765.” Within
years, Jonas buys another 100
acres tract of land as indicated in Lunenburg Counties Deed Book 11. “Deed Book 11, Page 154. May
1768 from Valentine Brown of
Lunenburg, to Jonas Sikes of Lunenburg, for 12 £ (pounds), a
certain tract of
land in Lunenburg, about 100 acres bounded by Burchet, Cox, Brown,
Sikes. Signed – Valentine Brown. Witness – none. Recorded
12, 1768.” Thomas Aldridge Sikes must
some land once he returned from the Revolutionary War, because on July
1781, the Lunenburg County, Virginia Deed Book 13 recorded that he
acres of land to Benjamin Burchett for 30 pounds (£).8 Lunenburg County Deed Book 13, Page
documents that Thomas A. also sold land on December 7, 1871to Michael
Jr. and Michael Mackie, Sr of Lunenburg County, Virginia.
About 1784, Thomas A. inherits additional
property in Norfolk County, Virginia from his father. Jonas’s
indicates his death before
December 1784 and an extract of the will reads, “Item, I give and
my son Thomas Aldridge Sikes the lott of land in Norfolk County near
Bridge commonly known by the name of Sikes Ordinary and the rents due
to him and his heirs and it is my intention that my son Thomas Aldridge
shall have no other part of my Estate given before to my other eight
Sikes and Sarah are listed on the 1785 Halifax County, Virginia10 Heads of Families, compiled by John P.
Smith. He was living close to his
mother, Elizabeth, who is at her home with six of his brothers and
sisters. With the 1785 date on the Heads of Families, and the September 5,
1785 birth of Thomas Aldridge’s oldest child, Elizabeth Ann Sikes, it
logical to assume that she was born in Halifax County, Virginia. He was provided a certificate for his back
wages for services in the Revolutionary War after July 27, 1786. Current research shows no other Halifax
County, Virginia transactions. Thomas
moved his family sometime between late 1786 and his first
appearance in Oglethorpe County, Georgia tax records in 1787.11
Revolutionary War Service
On September 16, 1776, Virginia authorized the formation of the 14th Virginia Regiment, Continental Army. The unit, although not fully organized until February 12, 1777, received its assignment to the Main Army on December 27, 1776. The 14th Virginia Regiment consisted of ten companies from twelve south central Virginia Counties. These counties were Halifax, Bedford, Pittsylvania, Hanover, Albemarle, Fincastle, Dinwiddie, Prince George, Goochland, Louisa, Charlotte, and Lunenburg.12 Captain Edward Garland’s Company, in which Thomas Aldridge Sikes was a Private, was attached to the 14th Virginia Continental Line.13 Their first Regimental Commander was Colonel Charles Lewis. The muster roll sworn on July 3, 1777 reveals that between May 7, 1777 and May 10, 1777, the unit was in Alexandria, Virginia.14 On May 22, 1777, the members of the 14th Virginia Regiment received an assignment to be part of Brigadier General George Weedon’s 2nd Virginia Brigade, which was part of General Nathanial Greene’s Division.15 & 16 The 14th left Alexandria, Virginia, passed through Baltimore, Maryland and then through Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on its way to join Washington’s forces.
By July 3, 1777, they had arrived at General Washington’s Headquarters at Morristown, New Jersey. The July muster roster showed 36 men with the following disposition. First Lieutenant William Winn was in Virginia recruiting. Two men had died in Alexandria, Virginia. Thomas Mitchell died on May 7, 1777, and John Riddle died on May 10, 1777. Sergeant Rodwell McGuire , Private Thomas Wilkins, and Private Thomas Aldridge Sikes were sick in the regimental hospital. Rees Riddle was sick in Baltimore. John Thompson and John Riddle, Jr. were sick in Philadelphia. Charles Maddox was sick and had remained in Virginia. Jeffrey Russell, Jr. deserted on March 8, 1777, while Thomas Wilkinson deserted on May 3, 1777. A quick number count shows that Thomas’s unit had 24 men fit for duty. However, in August
1777, the next muster roll showed the addition of Joseph White to Garland’s Company. Thomas A. Sikes’s unit became the second regiment assigned to Brigadier General George Weedon’s 2nd Virginia Brigade.17
Aldridge Sikes joined the
with a three-year enlistment on December 1, 1776 and his pay was 6 ⅔
per month plus subsistence money at a rate of 1⅓ dollars per week. Thomas’s first duty day was January 9, 1777
and his first year of service was not easy. Records
indicate that he spent some time in the regimental
during the months of July 1777, November 1777, December 1777, and
1778. Before his discharge in New Jersey
on December 1, 1779, Thomas Aldridge Sikes would see service with his
they moved through many military camps. Locations
included Valley Forge, Pennsylvania (March-May
Brunswick, New Jersey (June 1778), White Plains, New York (July-August
WestPoint, New York (September 1778), Middlebrook, New Jersey (December
1778-April 1779), Smith’s Clove, New York (July-September 1779), and
New Jersey (July 1779 & September 1779).18
His first taste of major combat came at 10 A.M. on the
September 11, 1777, at Chadd’s Ford, Brandywine Creek, Pennsylvania. By now, if his birthday had passed, he may
have turned 18. General Greene’s Division,
along with General “Mad” Anthony Wayne’s Division, were given orders by
Washington to hold the center position at the ford.
As seen by this park service map, Brandywine
Creek was an obstacle that Lieutenant-General Sir William
18,000 men British Army of North America
could not cross anywhere but at the well-established fords.19 A
Hessian Baron Wilhelm Knyphausen opened with an artillery attack. As the German infantry force held
Washington’s attention, Howe and Cornwallis crossed Brandywine Creek at
and Jeffries Fords, winding up on Osborne’s hill, overlooking
Washington, seeing his error, ordered
General Greene’s units off the Chadd’s Ford line and into a gap of a
hundred yards in the American line that had developed on the right
flank. Coming on a run, Greene’s division
miles in about 45 minutes, joining a battle against British regulars
with bayonets, cannon, and muskets. During
one part of the subsequent late evening fighting
around what is
now Sandy Hollow Heritage Park, Brigadier General George Weedon’s 2nd
Virginia Brigade came in behind the pursuing British forces to inflict
casualties on the British 64th and 44th Regiments
Foot. By darkness, the battle had ended
with the British across Brandywine Creek. The
Continental Army, along with Thomas Aldridge Sikes,
fight for Greene’s Division came at Germantown, Pennsylvania on October
1777, between 6 - 9A.M. Although his
unit reached their assigned objective, the center of Germantown, they
because they could not hold off reinforcements that the British had
Philadelphia.22 Based on
personnel numbers, the original ten companies of the 14th
Continental Line underwent a reconstitution into eight larger units on
1, 1777. One finds that about this time,
Thomas Aldridge Sikes becomes a private in Captain John Winton’s
Company.23 After a few
skirmishes around Philadelphia,
Washington moved his army into Valley Forge on December 19, 1777. Disposition of forces on the defensive line,
as indicated on this National Park Service Map, shows Thomas’s unit
to the Park Headquarters on the road covering the Southeastern
the encampment. There they would stay
for six months, leaving the encampment on June 19, 1778. 24 The 14th Virginia
entered Valley Forge with 288 men assigned and only 118 fit for duty. They left six months later with 408 men
assigned, 225 fit for duty.25
Captain Winston’s Company did not report to Valley Forge until early March, 1778 because it remained “On Command”, a term meaning they were maneuvering between the British forces in Philadelphia and Washington’s Main Army at Valley Forge. In late June, while following General Clinton’s withdrawal from Philadelphia, Thomas’s unit participated in the Battle of Monmouth Court House. His unit held the extreme right flank of Washington’s defensive stand along the road near Freehold Meeting House.26 After leaving Monmouth, New Jersey, and moving north to White Plans, New York, Thomas Aldridge Sikes’s unit was re-designated the 10th Virginia Continental Line on September 14, 1778.27 They also received a new Regimental Commander, Colonel William Davies.28 The 10th Virginia Regiment was relieved from the 2nd Brigade on December 4, 1778 and became part of Brigadier General Peter Muhlenberg’s Virginia Brigade. In May 1779, while at Camp Smith Clove, the 1st Virginia Regiment of Foot and 10th Virginia Regiment of Foot were reported as one unit and Thomas Aldridge Sikes received a new Company Commander, Captain Peter Jones. On December 4, 1779, the unit was relieved of duty with Muhlenberg’s Brigade and sent south to be part of the Southern Department of the Continental Army. It is fortunate that Thomas Aldridge Sikes’s discharge came three days before the reassignment, as on May 12, 1780, the entire 1st and 10th Virginia Regiments of Foot, became prisoners of war during the siege of Charleston, South Carolina.29
When Thomas Aldridge Sikes filed one of his Revolutionary War pension applications, he mentioned being part of the Battle of Paulus Hook (also spelled Pawless Hook), a fort that is currently in Jersey City, New Jersey, just a few hundred yards from the famous Ellis Island.30 Thomas A. had participated in other fights, but this raid was unique in that it was full of adventure and risk, which eventually brought his small task force a special recognition from the Continental Congress on September 24, 1779.31
Major Henry Lee, “Light Horse Harry”, the father of another famous American, Robert Edward Lee, was the commander of George Washington’s Dragoons (Calvary force). On July 17, 1777, Major Lee participated in a daring raid against British forces occupying Stoney Point, New York. The Commander of this raid was General “Mad” Anthony Wayne and with its success, Wayne was a hero and Congress awarded him a Gold Medal. As only the third such medal awarded to that date by Congress, the other two being to General Washington for his work in Boston and General Horatio Gates for his work at Saratoga, Major Lee began to dream of commanding his own raid and winning the recognition from Congress and his military peers.32 Paulus Hook offered him that opportunity. The war around New York had ground to a near halt as the British had constructed remarkable fortifications and they chose to stay behind. All fights were small in scope and Lee’s plan to strike at Paulus Hook would add another morale boost to Washington’s force, so on August 11, 1779, Washington approved Major Lee’s request to conduct the raid.33 Lee needed additional troops. He got them from Lord Stirling’s Division. Half of Lee’s raiding force of 400 men came from Brigadier General William Woodford’s Brigade, 16th Virginia Regiment. Another 100 came from the 10th Virginia Regiment, of which Private Sikes was still an active member. The rest were a mix of companies from Virginia and Maryland. Only 60 men of Lee’s original Dragoon Command participated in the raid.34The original plan was to strike the Fort with a three-pronged attack, while Captain Joseph Reed was to form a reserve with the men from the 10th Virginia Regiment. Once they captured the fort, everyone would protect the prisoners, except for Captain Reed’s reserve unit, which was to become the rear guard.35 That was the plan, and as you might guess, nothing on a night attack goes as planned.
On Wednesday, August 18, 1777, the troops departed camp with empty wagons. The soldiers thought they were on a routine forage trip, but became suspicious that they were doing something very different when the wagons were turned back and the task force turned south onto the Bergen Road. The original plan called for the attack to begin at 12:30 A.M. on August 19, 1777. This was crucial as high tide would make the marsh and moat in front of the walls nearly impossible to cross and early morning twilight would be around 4:00 A.M. One of local guides had entered the woods off the Bergen Road too early and by the time the patriots got back on the trail; the main group was 3 hours behind schedule. After 2 A.M. the tired force reached the marsh surrounding the fort and still had 2 miles to go. Somewhere behind them, a detachment of 100 men had become separated from the main body and was lost in the woods. The balance of the force, some 300 men, with white feathers in their hats for recognition during the night attack, marched through the marsh, crossing streams with water reaching their shoulders, finally reaching dry land of the fort’s perimeter at 3:30 A.M. On the spot, Lee changed the battle plan and decided upon a two-pronged attack. The center and right wing of the original plan were deployed, while the left wing prong would be abandoned. Major Clark, Captain Reed, Lieutenant Archibald McAllister, and the 100 men from the 10th Virginia Regiment would become the right wing of the new attack plan. Captain Robert Forsyth commanded the former center prong, the new left wing. At 4:00 A.M., the columns moved forward and arrived at the moat undetected. As McAllister’s men jumped into the moat, small gunfire broke out along the defenses.36 Fighting that ensued was well explained in an interview with Private Miller Bledsoe, a friend of Thomas Aldridge Sikes, and a fellow Virginian and future Oglethorpe County, Georgia emigrant. “Mr. Bledsoe was detached with others, under Colonel [Major at the time] Lee, to capture a certain strong post of the enemy’s called the Hook. Just before the troops reached the fort, an hour before day, Lee harangued them and said he wanted no cowards. Seventeen stepped out of the ranks—the balance, with unloaded guns, made their attack. A soldier in his [night] shirt was in the act of putting his match to a cannon, pointed at the invading column, when Colonel Lee, who was foremost in charge, transfixed him with his sword. After a few minutes’ work with the bayonet, the fort was surrendered. In searching for the enemy in the dark, Mr. Bledsoe was shot at so close as to be burned by the powder, and was severely wounded by a bayonet.”37 In less than 30 minutes most of Paulus Hook was in American hands. In the process of the night attack, 50 of the British Command were killed, or wounded, from bayonets or swords. Lee’s forces took 158 prisoners, which included 10 civilians. Two of Lee’s attacking forces were killed, while five, including Miller Bledsoe, were wounded.38
Wading through the deep water had ruined all of the gunpowder in Lee’s force. A small redoubt in the northern end of the fort had not been taken and was manned by 25 Hessians. In addition, daylight was approaching, with British cannons across the Hudson River in New York opening fire. Lee’s forces began gathering prisoners, vacated the fort, and headed back to the Bergen Road. Thomas Aldridge’s unit, under the command of Captain Reed, received the assignment of rear guard. At 5:30 A.M., the main American force reached the road. Fortunately, they did not stumble upon any enemy patrols and at 1:00 P.M., the task force entered New Bridge, and safety. The unit had accomplished a remarkable feat by moving almost constantly for over 20 hours, over 40 miles of rough road and terrain, fighting a battle and only having lost two men, and returning home with a morale boosting victory.39 With the successful raid, Lee was given his Gold Medal, one of only eight awarded during the entire Revolutionary War.40
Thomas returned home to Halifax County, Virginia. National Archives files show that Thomas Aldridge was a member of, “A list of soldiers of the Virginia Line on Continental Establishment who have received Certificates for the balance of their full pay agreeable to an Act of Assembly passed November Session 1781.” A Colonel Thompson received the certificate on July 27, 1786 for the Sum of £53 and 13 shillings, which he later passed to Thomas.41
Creek and Cherokee Indians originally occupied the land including Oglethorpe County, Georgia. The Indian treaty of 1771 ceded lands that in 1777 became Wilkes County, Georgia. The state legislature divided Wilkes County on December 19, 1793. Oglethorpe County was created from the area in the northwestern corner of Wilkes County. Greene County was temporarily given authority over the land on which Thomas Aldridge Sikes lived, but on Christmas Day, December 25, 1794, this land was again transferred and it became the western boundary of Oglethorpe County. Thomas’s last eight children could have been born in the same house, but at different times, that house had been in three different counties. The 1800 Oglethorpe County Tax Digest reads: “Capt. William Stuart’s District, formerly Green County, now Oglethorpe County includes returns for; Isaiah Lowe, John Starkey, Jr., William Calahan, Alexander Commin, Lewis Pierce, Thomas Aldridge Sikes, Gatewood Dunn, ditto for Larking Wilson, William McLain, Reubin Glaze, Robert Russell, Edward Hardin, William Stewart, Thomas Loyd, Jr., and Walton Dossey.”42
“The first permanent settlements in what is now Oglethorpe County were along the Broad River ~ settled by a group of Virginia planters in the 1780s ~ and along Long Creek near the town of Lexington.”43 Thomas Aldridge Sikes was one of those who migrated south along the Indian trading path, which was a corridor of river crossings, linking roads, and trails. Many of the old colonial towns, such as Hillsborough, Mebaine, and Salisbury in North Carolina, and Augusta and Athens, Georgia lay on this route. The current Interstate 85 that begins in Petersburg, Virginia and runs into Atlanta, Georgia closely followed a large portion of this old trading route. Thomas Aldridge Sikes and his small family probably joined the Indian trading path where it crosses the Meharrin River in south-central Virginia sometime in late 1786, or early 1787. The 1790 Tax Return abstracts indicate that Thomas Aldridge Sikes was in Wilkes County, Georgia in 1787.44 The note associated with the return reads as follows, “The tax returns for the district in which this taxpayer possibly resided in 1790 are missing, so there is no tax record to show that he actually was a resident. However, he is recorded as a taxpayer in 1787 for the indicated district or the district from which it was made, and even though he is not found in the returns for 1791, he is included herein as a possible resident of the indicated district in 1790.”45 The first land record that gives an indication of Thomas being in what we now call Oglethorpe County was when he witnessed a deed for 330 acres between William Graves and Solomon Burford on June 22, 1795.46
What motivated Thomas’s migration south? One could guess that Miller Bledsoe may have been an influence. A fellow Virginian who fought with Thomas A. at Paulus Hook, and subsequently spent time with Thomas at Middlebook, New Jersey, might have been a close friend and an instigator of the Sikes’ migration to Oglethorpe County. Miller Bledsoe left Virginia and came into Georgia in February 1793.47 Miller’s son, Moses, eventually moved to Alabama. Moses was probably the father of Elizabeth Bledsoe, the wife of Thomas Aldridge’s youngest son, Robert. Miller and Thomas may have been friends, but because Thomas had arrived in Georga five years earlier, if anyone influenced the other, it would have been Thomas Aldridge Sikes enticing Miller Bledsoe.
Oglethorpe County’s 1800 Census is the only one from early Georgia that survives. I found in my research that much of the information missing in other parts of the south, are readably available in Lexington, Georgia, Oglethorpe’s County seat. Thanks must go to their County Clerks for their diligent work. The 1800 Census records for Captain Stewart’s district, known as Bairdstown District, which is south of Lexington, close to the North Fork of the Little River, indicate that Thomas Sikes had in his home 3 “Free White Males” under the age of 10. They were Robert (1 year old), John (3 years old), and Jonas (7 years old). The “Free White Males 10-15” indicate the household had 1, which must have been 13-year-old Jesse. Thomas, who was approximately 41, was listed as the only adult male. His 3 daughters under 10 were Mary (3 years old), Nancy (5 years old), and Rebecca (9 years old). Susan (11) and Elizabeth (15) would have been the 2 noted in the “Free White Female, 10-15”. Sally Willis Sikes (40) would have been the only listed in the “26-44, Free White Females”. Records reveal no slaves or other Free Persons living in Thomas’s house. The 1810 Census was lost, but that does not seem to matter as Thomas Aldridge Sikes moved to Tennessee around 1808.
One reference indicates that Thomas was part of Georgia’s Revolutionary War Land Lottery, but I believe this statement was the result of a misreading of the Georgia Genealogical Magazine source. You could buy land from the state of Georgia, but Georgia often distributed some of its Public Land by conducting lotteries that were open to all of its citizens. The state did not do anything special for Revolutionary War veterans until the Lotteries of 1820, 1827, and 1832. By then, many of the soldiers were dead or infirm to do anything but pay the low price for the 202 ½ acre lots.48 Between 1805 and 1832, Georgia distributed land that they had acquired from the Creek and Cherokee tribes by allowing their citizens to draw lots in the newly forming counties. The 1807 Land Lottery is of particular interest as it involved Thomas Aldridge Sikes. “Participants had to be citizens of the United States and residents of the State of Georgia for the three years immediately preceding the Act of 26 June 1806, and could not have won in the previous (1805) lottery. In addition, participants had to meet one of the following eligibility requirements, for which they received one or two draws.
1. Free white male, 21 or over, one draw.
2. Free white male, 21 or over, with a wife, or a legitimate child aged under 21, two draws [This is where Thomas Aldridge Sikes qualified to enter the pool].
3. Widow, one draw.
4. Free white female, 21 or over, one draw.
5. Family of orphans aged under 21, father deceased, one draw.
6. Family of two or more orphans, both parents deceased, two draws, and to register in the county where the eldest orphan lives.
7. Family of one orphan aged under 21, both parents deceased, one draw.” 49
The intention of this 1807 Land Lottery was to distribute land in the recently formed counties of Baldwin and Wilkinson. These two counties came from lands ceded to Georgia by the Creek tribes in 1803. The State of Georgia only kept the names of fortunate (winning) drawers, who could buy the lot consisting of 202 ½ acres for $12.15. However, again Oglethorpe County Clerks were vigilant and maintained a copy of all Oglethorpe County residents who wished to participate. An entry within Captain Richard Stewart’s district showed Thomas A. Sikes as being one of those who were eligible to enter the drawing, but as his name is not part of the winning list, he did not receive any of the lots that were available. The list is located at the Oglethorpe County Courthouse, Lexington, Georgia.
A unique position was awarded to Thomas during the January, 1802 Term of the Oglethorpe County Inferior Court. “Thomas A. Sikes for Capt Stewart’s District” is appointed a constable for Oglethorpe County.” He receives a reappointment for the year 1803.50 His tasks were not unlike a modern Deputy Sheriff where his duties are to enforce the laws and carry out the directives of the courts.
Thomas Sikes was still in Oglethorpe County on November 3, 1807, as he witnessed a deed that involved a Susanah McCommon, who was the administrator for the estate of James McCommon, her husband. The Will was not proved and entered into the Will Book until October 2, 1813,51 and that is nearly five years after he left for central Tennessee.
Rutherford County, Tennessee
I mention the following about Rutherford County, Tennessee because several references indicate that Thomas A. Sikes took advantage of land grants given for military service, but as of yet, I have not found where he was given a military grant by Virginia or North Carolina. I hope that someone will provide deeds to solve this question.
The North Carolina treasury was low and the state was having difficulty finding the money to pay the Revolutionary War soldiers it had recruited for the Continental Army. They also needed tough men to settle their western lands. Quick legislatures saw an opportunity to satisfy both needs. In the year 1782, North Carolina Legislature set aside a military reservation in middle Tennessee, with much of this land being called “Cumberland County”. North Carolina allocated land to its soldiers based on the highest rank they held during the war. A Private could claim as much as 640 acres, and the amount of land would incrementally increase for each rank. Corporals and Sergeants could claim 1,000 acres in exchange for back wages. Colonels were authorized 7,200 acres, while the highest land allocation was at the Brigadier General level, capped at 12,500 acres.52 In 1789, North Carolina ceded its western reserve to the newly formed United States government. They gave it to the federal government with the proviso that the United States government would honor North Carolina land grants. Tennessee became a state in 1796 and in 1806, its legislature enacted laws addressing rights and procedures to obtain land. Outside of a few squatters who had occupied vacant and unappropriated lands, or the few military land grants that it had issued, property was acquired based on general land sales. At one point, some of the grants in the western counties could be obtained for only one cent per acre.53 I will speculate upon two points. The first point is that Thomas must have departed Oglethorpe County, Georgia with his family in 1808. The travel to Tennessee through what became Chattanooga, and over Eagle Mountain pass, onto the Nashville Pike, but either way the trip would have been long and tedious. Moving through, or south around, the Appalachian Mountains would likely not have been completed during the winter months, December-March. Beginning a move in April would not leave adequate time for the family to become well established in Middle Tennessee by July. Thomas Aldridge is established in Rutherford County, Tennessee well enough by July 1809 to have paid 37 ½ ¢ property taxes54 and to have been selected as a member of two separate twelve-man juries that decide damage cases and court costs.55 The second speculative point is that they moved with the family of Joseph Rogers. Joseph is the father of James Alfred Rogers (1777-1851), who was the husband of Thomas Aldridge Sikes’s daughter, Susan (Sikes) Rogers.
In addition, about this time, Nancy (Willis) Hopwood, a women to whom the exact relationship to Sally Willis Sikes is not entirely clear at this time, had moved to the Lewisburg area, then part of Bedford County, Tennessee, and now part of Marshall County, Tennessee from their home in Mecklenburg County, Virginia. Mecklenburg County, Virginia was one of those counties created in 1765 from the larger Lunenburg County. William and Nancy Hopwood had joined Nancy’s brothers and sisters in a nasty court fight with their stepmother over William Willis’s estate.56 Sally Willis Sikes’s family may have been the draw for her family to move to Middle Tennessee, or it may have been a joint adventure between the Rogers and Sikes clans.
In 1809, Thomas A. had paid the property tax for both Jesse W. Sikes and himself. In 1810, Jesse W. Sikes paid his portion, 18 ¾¢, the same amount paid by his father.57 It is from these tax records that The Reconstructed 1810 Census of Tennessee was created.58 Thomas Aldridge remained active and shows up several times in the Rutherford County legal procedures. Court Minutes of April 1811 show that a jury found in favor of Jeremiah Grizzard, who had sued “Joseph Rogers, Thomas A. Sikes, John Wadley, James Rogers (Thomas’ son-in-law), John Rogers” for a debt and damages, amount was $103.50.59 In July 1813 court; Thomas A. Sikes recorded the earmark of his stock.60 Thomas also sued John Gossage in July 1813, but after recovering the debt and costs expended, he dropped the suit.61 On January 8, 1814, Thomas and his son Jesse witnessed the will of Mary Whitnell62 and two days later, he was once again a member of a Rutherford jury.63 On April 11, 1814, he and Jesse proved the Whitnell Will for the court that they had witnessed in January.64 On November 7, 1814, he is a buyer during an auction of Joseph McLaughlin property.65 Thomas is again listed as a buyer in the sale of James Henderson’s property as recorded during the July 1815 court.66 The court conducted another sale of property on May 18, 1817, in which Thomas A. Sikes was an active buyer.67 During the two-day sale of Francis Ogilvie’s property on November 8 - 9 1820, both Thomas and his son, John, were active buyers.68 The final legal mention of Thomas A. Sikes that I could find was when he is listed as being owed money from the estate of Henry M. Hudson on July 18, 1825.69
Thomas A. Sikes and Sally had applied for a pension in 1820. I had obtained a copy of Revolutionary War Pension application and the associated File 991 from the National Archives in Washington, D.C. in the early 1970s, but in the past 35 years, I have misplaced them. I remember reading an inventory of the items in Thomas and Sally’s house. Donna Lee Pressnall, a fantastic family genealogist in her own right, was kind enough to send me a second copy. The 1820 application’s front page contains the following remarks: (The first page of the application is on a preprinted form with vital information added by pen. For the ease of the reader, pen entries are those shown here in bold italics.)
Thomas A. Sikes
of Rutherford Co. in the state of Tennessee,
who was a private in the company commanded
by Captain Winston of the regiment commanded
by Colonel Lewis in the state of Virginia
line, for the term of 3 from years 1775.
Inscribed on the Roll of West Tennessee,
at the rate of 8 Dollars per month, to commence on the 25th of August 1823.
Certificate of Pension issued the 18th of Octo. 1823,
and sent to S. R. Rucker, Senior,
Arrears to 4th of Sept. 1823 $2.86
Semi annual allowance ending 4 Mar. (18)24 $48.00
7/31 & 3/30 $50.86
Acts March 18,1818,
and May 1 1820”
An inventory provided in the December 26, 1820 application of his report worldly property makes interesting reading as to the family lifestyle and Thomas A’s occupation. Property that he claims to have on this date is as follows:
“Schedule of real & personal property belonging to Thomas A Sikes
1 Sorrel Mare $60
1 Dun Mare & sorrel Colt $55
2 Cows & 1 year old calf $20
2 Sows 5 shoats $9
2 Beds, Bedsteads & furniture $40
1 flat iron $00.50
1 Bell $00.50
Old Books $1.50
1 Loom & 2 Spinning Wheels $7.00
2 Saddles $15
2 Iron Wedges $1.50
1 Pair(difficult to read) Chain Traces & 1 harness $2.00
Table furniture stable $8
8 Chairs $4
Kitchen Furniture $7
Farming tools $50
One Shot Gun $6
1 Small Chest & 1 old chest (difficult to read) $2.50
Candle Stick & snuffers $0.3x
1 Handsaw & 2 chisels $2.50
2 Pair Cards $1.50
2 Sleighs $1.25
Shoemaking Tools $2.00
One Log Chain $2.50
Meat (difficult) Hook $00.50
Amount of Debts owing to Thomas A. Sikes $75
Debts owing by the Said Thomas A. Sikes amounts to $286.40
Value of property after payment of debts - $67.72”
As I recall, his property value was at a high enough level that it excluded him from being awarded the pension. The subsequent petition in 1833 was approved. The family collected a war pension of $96.00 per year from 1833 until 1835.70 After Thomas’s death on September 5, 1835, Sarah (Sally) asked that the Widow’s Pension be transferred to Bedford County, Tennessee and she collected $80 per year until her death on June 2, 1849 in that county. Sally lived to be 89. Exactly where in Bedford County Sally Willis Sikes moved is not known, but a hint may have been provided in the following land transaction, “Joel Stallings Deed to H.C. Pickle and wife, 60+ acres. I, Joel Stallings, have sold unto Henry C. Pickle and Margaret E. Pickle a tract of land in District No. 18 of Bedford County and bounded by Thomas Darell’s corner by Hoskins’ line, and by Sallie Sykes’ corner…This February 2, 1867.”71 I remember reading a comment made by J. Wade Sikes, of Bentonville, Arkansas, when asked about his advanced age of nearly 100 years. He said that his grandmother had lived to be over 100, but this would indicate that he was in error.
I am sure this work will be modified over the next few years, especially when copies of the pension applications and the family bible are obtained. In addition, work is required to find deeds, or grants, for land that might have been received, bought or sold in Norfolk-Lunenburg-Halifax-Mecklenburg Counties, Virginia, Greene-Wilkes-Oglethorpe Counties, Georgia, and Bedford-Rutherford Counties, Tennessee. I would ask that if you find any such records, or errors in the above, that you pass them back to me, along with the source, so I may modify this document for the descendants of Thomas Aldridge to inherit the most accurate family history possible.