Morgan’s Riflemen, the detachment Philip’s company served under during the Quebec Campaign
Within only three weeks of forming, Thompson’s Rifle Battalion marched by company from Pennsylvania to Boston to join General Washington’s siege there, arriving between July 25th and August 18th, 1775. The Lexington and Concord battles had occurred the previous April, and Bunker Hill in June.
“Rumor reached Boston about a peculiar kind of a musket called a ‘rifle’ which was carried by these new Continental soldiers from the South. In August, Washington held a review of his troops on the Cambridge Common…. There were over a thousand riflemen there…spare, rangy men with the independent manner of the western wilderness. Uncouth they were in their fringed hunting shirts; their breech-clouts and snug-fitting buckskin leggings; wearing moccasins instead of shoes. There they stood, their gunstocks resting on the ground, one hand around the longest barrel anyone in Cambridge had ever seen.”
“A sergeant, far out in the Common, was just finishing supervising the setting of a row of poles, each averaging seven inches in diameter, into holes previously dug for this purpose. He then paced away from the poles….The sergeant stopped at two hundred and fifty paces and the men with the hunting shirts walked out to where he stood. Then they moved out into a rough line of companies… The crowd watched them uproarious, it was an amusing game….No gun ever dreamed of could carry two hundred and fifty paces. The riflemen aimed, and… the shots hit the poles; they were destroyed before the firing stopped.”
“If there is a record of what the generals in Boston said when the British spies got back, it has not been found. We know that Howe (British Major General William Howe) wrote home later about the ‘terrible guns of the rebels.’ We are told that Howe presently offered a reward for the capture of a rifleman with gun.” (Bolton, Klein pp7-15, Sawyer, Stroh pp19-20)
There were unintended consequences of Washington’s demonstration of the skills of his frontier riflemen, however. Between the sunburn incurred on the march to Boston, the fringed hunting shirts, breechclouts, leggings and moccasins, combined with the presence of a few Mohican militiamen from western Massachusetts in the siege force, initial British reports were that the rebels sniping at their sentries so effectively from great distances were Washington’s tribal allies. When these reports reached British Commander-in-Chief General Thomas Gage, he stated “the rebels…have brought down all the savages they could against us”, and in consequence “opened the door” for British use of Indian allies in the fighting ahead. This would have disastrous consequences later for families on the frontier. (Silver, pp242-3.)
The Grave of Peter Newhard’s Father
The fathers of Philip, Christopher and Peter had immigrated together to Philadelphia from what is now the German state of Rhineland Palatinate on the border with France, as part of a large exodus from that region. The land was still ravaged from a century of intermittent warfare and the disorganization that followed. The population was crowding with refugees from war in Germany and religious persecution in Switzerland. Minor noble landowners driven off by warfare had returned, and were reimposing tithes, rents and forced labor on villagers who had become accustomed to managing their own affairs. With population increases, agriculture practices intensified, soils were becoming overworked, and the regional tradition of partible inheritances meant landholdings were becoming too small to support a family. The most eager to leave were those possessing ambition combined with poor prospects in a society still hidebound by feudalism and guilds - often the youngest sons of youngest sons. North America wasn’t the only option. Russia and Hungary offered free transportation and attractive subsidies to German settlers, where America did not. What drew German villagers to America was clear title to land in large parcels. In America, individual farmers often owned more land than an entire village of farmers shared with noble landowners in the Palatinate. Partible inheritances also meant that emigrants kept in close touch with their home villages to eventually recover those inheritances, and the paths and pitfalls to fulfilling dreams of land ownership in America quickly became well known. As a consequence, the Newhard family’s organization for travel and actions upon arrival weren’t happenstance. (Fischer pp419, Fogelman pp15-28 and Kastens Vol IV pp1,13,111,156,179)
Common Regional Origin
1) Sensinger Family: Rosenwiller, Alsace
2) Newhard Family: Rumbach, Palatinate (Note 2)
3) Kuntz Family: Niederbronn, Alsace
4) Schmalzhaf (author’s) Family: Bonfeld, Kraichgau
5) Moll Family: Weisenheim am Sand, Palatinate
7) Schreckengost Family: Bad Berleberg, Westphalia
The fathers of Philip, Christopher and Peter were sufficiently close that passenger lists and later court records describe them as brothers, when they were not. Christopher’s father was the oldest and at 38 years of age, would become the patriarch of the Lehigh Valley Newhards. His family accompanied him, including young Christopher. Peter’s father was 24, was a second cousin, and was also accompanied by his young family, including a toddler named Elizabeth who later in life would become the mother of gunmaker David Kuntz (1764-1834). Philip’s father was a half brother and at 21 years, was single. There was also a hidden nephew traveling as a member of the oldest Newhard’s family. Besides personal baggage, they were burdened with many of the tools and implements they would need to establish farmsteads, as they knew from correspondence from America that such items were more expensive to acquire in Philadelphia than in Germany. Their journey began in May, 1737 on a riverboat traveling down the Rhine River through over twenty customs checkpoints to Rotterdam, followed by a long wait at the port and a longer sea voyage through Cowes, England on the northern passage to North America in crowded, often miserable conditions. At least two Newhard children are thought to have died during the voyage. (Kastens Vol IV pp1,13,111,156,179, Kuhns, Henry M and the LDS Genealogical Library)
Henry Mayer’s 1738 contract for three years of indentured servitude to pay for his transportation expenses, signed with an X.
Arriving in late September, the three oldest Newhards swore allegiance to the King of England to acquire settlement rights on the frontier the following spring. All had avoided being sold by the ship’s captain into indentured servitude because they couldn’t pay their expenses. Christopher’s father squatted on open land for a time so as to avoid the nominal purchase price and taxes, probably because redeeming the entire extended family upon arrival had cost more than planned. Both indentured servitude and homesteading without permission were common, and were reasons why some individuals are so poorly documented in archived records. The sound planning and leadership of Christopher’s father and his Swiss wife Maria Fraudhueger were critical to the early success of all four Newhard families, and the debt to them would extend for at least another generation. The land they settled was “on the forks of the Delaware” at the junction of the Lehigh and Delaware Rivers that the sons of English Quaker William Penn had purchased from local Lenape tribes just a few years earlier, and had encouraged German Pietists to settle because of their reputation for hardiness, productivity, and resulting ability to pay. Then it was called the Bucks County frontier, but in 1752 it would become part of Northampton County and in 1812 Lehigh County. The Penns primarily sought profits, as the proceeds and taxes from land transactions went to their personal real estate enterprise. Pennsylvania was a private colony with the Penns as proprietors. Christopher and Peter’s fathers became neighbors in the Coplay Creek – Laury’s area of North Whitehall Township along the Lehigh River, and Philip’s father homesteaded 15 miles deeper into the wilderness near the Jordan Valley, in Heidelberg Township. The men cleared and farmed homesteads, raised their families, and were members of the Reformed congregations of Egypt and Heidelberg. Philip’s father relocated his family to 200 acres in the Bethlehem area after the Indian attacks of 1755, and Christopher’s father later relocated to 250 acres of better land on Jordan’s Creek closer to Allentown. By the time of the Quebec Campaign, Peter, who was born on the new homestead at Laury’s, was 32 years old and probably well established in his trade. (Gabel p24, Kastens Vol IV pp1,13,111,156,179, Gensey, Henry M, and the LDS Genealogical Library)
Peter’s Cousin Lydia Nyhart with Husband Philipp Schmalzhaf, the Author’s Great Grandparents
Note the laid, dry-stone wall and hand-split chestnut clapboards on their Wyoming County farmhouse. Like their pioneer forbearers a century earlier, they were hard-working, self-reliant, resourceful and tough. Lydia bore 13 children.