111 – Revolutionary War Years 1775-1781

The British are coming!

On April 19, 1775, the first battles of the American Revolution took place at Lexington and Concord, Massachusetts. British troops were sent to capture military supplies at Concord. But the colonial militia had been warned and were waiting for the British.

The first shots were fired on Lexington green, and the war had begun.

The Battle of Lexington

Word spread quickly, and each colony prepared for all-out war. Like other states, Maryland was bitterly divided by the war; many Loyalists refused to join the Revolution. But most Marylanders supported the resistance.

1775 The Bush River Declaration

In March 1775, a group met in Harford Town on the Bush River. They signed a declaration to “pledge ourselves to each other, and to our country, and engage ourselves by every tie held sacred among mankind, to perform the same at the risque of our lives and fortunes.”

The Bush Declaration is often called the first declaration of independence.

1775 Association of Freemen

The “Association of Freemen of Maryland” was created early in 1775. This document required the signature of each citizen to support the colonial cause or be disarmed. Those not signing and posting a bond for good behavior were to be imprisoned.

Many British Loyalists voluntarily left the colony. Others were forced to leave as the requirements became increasingly more radical.

In July 1775, the “Association of Freemen of Maryland” language was toughened to pledge military and financial support against British armed forces.

James Jervis (6G) signed the Association of Freemen, as did all his brothers and nephews except Joshua. Joshua didn’t sign and was fined. But he signed the later 1775 version.

The Militia

The Maryland Assembly declared that all counties raise a militia.

It was resolved that freeholders and others and freemen from fifteen to sixty years of age should form themselves into companies of sixty-eight men, to choose a captain, two lieutenants, four sergeants, four corporals and a drummer for each company.

History of Harford County

Nineteen militia companies were enrolled in Harford County. James Jervis signed with Captain Jacob Bond’s Company No. 11 on December 9, 1775.

1776 Declaration of Independence

In June 1776, the Continental Congress created a committee to draft a document justifying separation from Britain.

Declaration of Independence – John Trumbull

The Declaration of Independence was adopted unanimously by Congress on July 4, 1776. Each colony became independent and autonomous.

1776 Maryland Census

The Continental Congress decreed that a census be taken in 1776 to enumerate the inhabitants of the colonies, and to set a base for taxation based on the populations. The Maryland census for Bush River Lower Hundred was taken by Joseph Renshaw and completed August 15, 1776.

Census – Bush River Lower Hundred, Harford County, Maryland – 1776

There was no standard format, so it was up to each census taker. We’re lucky that Renshaw listed each person in the household and their age.

James Jervis’ family is enumerated:

  • James Jervis (6G) – 36
  • Esther Jervis (7G) – 78
  • Elizabeth Jervis – 33
  • William Jervis (5G) – 16
  • Joseph Jervis – 4
  • Thomas Jervis – 2
  • Mary Jervis – 6 months

We can deduce many things from this census:

  • James and Elizabeth were probably married around 1771, with births to Joseph in 1772, Thomas in 1774, and Mary in 1776.
  • Elizabeth probably isn’t the mother of William. She would have been 17 when William was born. And there’s a 12 year gap between William’s birth in 1760 and the next child Joseph in 1772.
  • James was a young father when William was born, with a 20 year age difference.
  • James’ mother Esther was living in his household, and had likely done so since William was born in 1760 when James may have been a widower.

Life goes on

Two of Harford County’s militia companies were attached to the army after a defeat at Fort Washington. The other militia companies continued to live at home and maintain a state of readiness.

And life continued; farming, commerce, family. James and Elizabeth Jervis were living at Scott’s Old Fields.

In 1776, their last child Mary was born, following Joseph in 1772 and Thomas in 1774. James’ son William was 16.

James and Elizabeth operated a tavern and inn at their home. In 1777, James was in court for selling liquor without a license. James must have learned innkeeping from his father Joseph, who had several court appearances for the same offense.

1777 Articles of Confederation

Articles of Confederation – Page 1

The Second Continental Congress approved the “Articles of Confederation” for ratification by the states on November 15, 1777; the Congress immediately began operating under the Articles’ terms, providing a structure of shared sovereignty during prosecution of the war and facilitating international relations and alliances with France and Spain.

Oath of Allegiance and Fidelity

The Oath of Fidelity was enacted by the Maryland General Assembly in 1778.

Oath of Fidelity – James Jervis – 1778

Every free male 18 years and older was required to subscribe to an oath renouncing the King of England and to pledge allegiance to the revolutionary government of Maryland.

James Jervis and most of his siblings and nephews pledged their oath.

Ed. Note: Being a direct descendant of a signer of the oath is sufficient condition to join the Daughters of the American Revolution or Sons of the American Revolution.

1778 The war tide is turning

In 1778, France joined the war on the side of the colonies. This was a major event because Britain now had to pay attention to a European threat. A year later Spain joined the war as an American ally.

The Continental army was scoring some major battle victories.

And life goes on

On August 24, 1780, William Jervis (5G) married Margaret Thompson (5G). William was 20, Margaret 18.

There were many Thompson families in Harford County. Margaret was the daughter of John Thompson and Margaret Gilbert Thompson. She was born in 1762.

1781 Articles of Confederation ratified

The Articles of Confederation were ratified on March 1, 1781. The Continental Congress was dissolved, and the new government of the United States met the next day. The Articles would serve as the founding documents until they were replaced by the US Constitution eight years later.

1781 Cornwallis surrenders

In the fall of 1781, American and French forces captured General Cornwallis and his British army at Yorktown. This was the last major battle of the American Revolutionary War. 

Surrender of Lord Cornwallis – John Trumbull

1783 Treaty of Paris

The Treaty of Paris was signed on September 3, 1783, formally ending the conflict, and confirming the new nation’s complete separation from the British Empire. The United States took possession of nearly all the territory east of the Mississippi River and south of the Great Lakes, with the British retaining control of northern Canada, and Spain taking Florida.

Treaty of Paris (1783) – Wikipedia

Nibbles Extra Credit

Here’s a summary of revolutionary oaths and militia involvement for the Jervises in Harford County.

  • James Jervis
    • Private in Captain Bond’s Company 11 – December 9, 1775
    • Signer – Association of Freemen, 1776, Bush River Lower Hundred
    • Signer – Oath of Fidelity and Allegiance to Maryland, 1778
  • John Jervis
    • Signer – Association of Freemen, 1776, Spesutia Upper
    • Signer – Oath of Fidelity and Allegiance to Maryland, 1778
    • Private, Maryland Line, 2nd Maryland Regiment
  • Joseph Jervis
    • Private, Captain Archer’s Company 2 – September 16, 1775
    • Signer – Oath of Fidelity and Allegiance to Maryland, 1778
  • Joshua Jervis
    • Non-associator (did not sign Association, paid fine) – September 10, 1775
    • Later Signed – Association of Freemen, 1776, Spesutia Upper
  • William Jervis
    • Private, Captain Anderson’s Company 3 – September 23, 1775
    • Signer – Association of Freemen, 1776, Susquehanna



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