RELICS OF SEVENTY SIX
Under this heading the Philadelphia Saturday Courier in an issue of
April 1847 reported on the death of one of the few remaining veterans of
the Revolution. The subject of the article, John Conrad Aleshire (1755-
1847) was 20 years old when he enlisted in Colonel Peter Muhlenberg's
8th Virginia German Regiment. The story told here was essentially the
same for the thousands of German settlers in the back parts of Penn-
sylvania, Maryland, Virginia and the Carolinas:
ANOTHER VETERAN GONE
Died, at the residence of his son, Col. Jonas Aleshire, in Page County,
Va., on the 18th, Mr. John Conrad Aleshire, aged 91 years, 2 months,
and 22 days.
Mr. Aleshire was of German descent. His immediate ancestors imigrated
from Germany in the year 1749 and settled on the Monongahela near
Fort Redstone, now Brownsville, in Pennsylvania. This being the extreme
frontier settlement at that time, they soon found it necessary in conse-
quence of their unprotected situation and the frequent depredation of
the hostile Indians, to retire farther into the interior. Accordingly, they
sunk a pit, into which they put all their implements of husbandry and
other articles inconvenient to remove in this hasty retreat, and converting
it into a lettuce bed to divert the attention of the Indians, they retired
to Cedar Creek, in Frederick, now Shenandoah County. Here on the 24th
day of December, 1755, the subject of this notice was born. The settle-
ments were being still annoyed by the Indians. They erected forts or
block houses to which they retired for safety on any demonstration of
hostilities. In the spring of 1756, when but a few months old, a party of
hostile Indians made their appearance in the settlement and murdered
several members of a family named Painter, a neighbor of Aleshire's family
made a precipitate retreat, but in their haste, entirely neglected the infant
who was sleeping in his cradle, until they reached the fort. His sister
returned determined to peril her life for his safety, and cautiously ap-
proaching the house, entered through the window, succeeded in getting her
infant brother in her arms and bore him in triumph to the fort. She had
scarcely left the house, ere the demoniac sound of the savage war-whoop
rent the air and told how narrow was the escape from their blood thirsting
At the commencement of the war of the Revolution, he was mustered
into the service, and underwent many hardships in the struggle for freedom.
He was one of Washington's forlorn hope, that crossed the Delaware amid
the floating ice on Christmas night, 1776, and attacked and routed the
Hessians under Rahl at Trenton.
After this engagement his term expired and a dissolution of the old
army occurred. Though much worn down with hardships incident to a
severe winter campaign, yet he beheld with a patriot's heart the
critical situation of his country; and with a lofty zeal characteristic of
gallant spirits that periled their all in its behalf, he again entered the
service and in a few days participated in the bloody conflict at Princeton.
He continued in the army during three tours and was in several of the
hardest contested battles. For a time, he retired from the field, but was
not inactive in furthering the common cause. His frequent sallies against
the Tories caused them much discomfiture and his name among them
struck terror in their ranks.
In the last campaign, when liberty and slavery seemed suspended in
the balance, and so nicely equipped that even the most sanguine contem-
plated these with trepidationwith a shout of defiance to the British
Lion, he shouldered his knapsack and musket with a firm resolve, so far
as it was in his power, that the equilibrium should be destroyed in the
preponderance of freedom. Noble was his resolve! And how noble verified!
In the closing scene, near to the side of the father of his country, he stood
before Yorktown. The thunder of British cannon was no terror to him.
It was familiar to his ears. His country's freedom was at issue and the
common sentiment was diffused through the ranks of his compatriots in
arms. The struggle was short but decisive, and with eyes swimming in
tears of joy, he beheld his country's flag wave in triumph over the ramparts
of the enemy.
At the close of the war, he married and settled in Shenandoah, now
Page County. Here there may be many interesting incidents mentioned
in the eventful life of Mr. Aleshire, did not the limits of a note of this
character forbid it; but I will mention the following as one somewhat
similar is recorded in the life of General Putnam;
"During the winter of 1805-6, the wolves were very numerous in the
neighboring mountains and committed great depredations on the sheep-fold.
The farmers formed hunting parties and ranged the mountains to destroy
them or drive them out. Mr. Aleshire and one of his neighbors Mr. Charles
Keyser, discovered two wolves at a place called Burner's Gap. Aleshire
fired and killed one. Then seizing Mr. Keyser's gun, fired, but missing his
aim, the other escaped into its den. The balance of the party assembled,
and having exhausted every effort in vain to drive it from its retreat, or
to induce the hounds to enter, Mr. Aleshire with torch in hand, descended
into the den. Finding the wolf with its head snugly ensconced behind a
rock, he laid down his torch, grasped it firmly with both hands by the
back of the neck and brought it out alive."
Mr. Aleshire was a pious and respected member of the Baptist Church
for sixty years, and the last surviving soldier of the Revolution in Page
County. He had voted at every presidential election from that of Wash-
ington to that of Polk.
The natural decay of age brought his eventful career to a close, and
he died without a pang or murmur, with the brightest hopes of a happy
immortality. Truly the grand Reveille is beating on high!