Independence Day – 4th of July
While walking around, the old Wheelersburg Cemetery, located on the west side of Sheila Boulevard (County Road 4.) I happened upon the grave site of Benjamin Franklin Burt. To my surprise, I was gazing at the final resting place of someone who had witnessed history. A very important part of this nation’s legacy, I might add. The marker stated that he had been a Pvt. 2; (in the) NY ARTY; (during the) – Revolutionary War; (and was) Born March 10, 1761 and Died March 1, 1849. The inscription on the marker read – “Present At The Surrender Of General Cornwallis At Yorktown.” As an early pioneer of the county he eventually became a Justice of The Peace in and for Scioto County. Born in Salem, New York, he died in Wheelersburg at age 87. He was the son of Samuel Burt and Martha Burt and the Husband of Mary Burt and Rhoda Mehittibel Burt.
The Surrender and Beyond: The British were surrounded at Yorktown, Va, and the Commander of the British forces, Lieutenant General Charles, Earl Cornwallis, hoping for reinforcements (none came,) finally relented. On October 19, 1781, Cornwallis formally surrenders 8,000 British soldiers and seamen to a French and American force, bringing the American Revolution to a close. The young Private Benjamin Franklin Burt, was there to witness that historic day. He then like many other young men, having served in the War of Independence; was allotted land in what was considered the western frontier. So, off to Ohio many of the former soldiers would go forth and settle. Among them was that gallant lad, Pvt. Burt, who now sleeps eternally in the Old Wheelersburg Cemetery.
The Beginning –“The Declaration of Independence:” Long before the surrender at Yorktown, the founding Fathers of this great country would meet and discuss independence from British rule. Out of this gallant gathering a most extraordinary document would be created. Although Congress debated and revised the wording of the Declaration, finally approving it two days later on July 4th. The legal separation of the 13 Colonies from Great Britain in 1776 actually occurred on July 2, when the Second Continental Congress voted to approve a resolution of independence that had been proposed in June by Richard Henry Lee of Virginia, declaring the United States independent from Great Britain’s rule. After voting for independence, Congress turned its attention to the Declaration of Independence, a statement explaining this decision, which had been prepared by a Committee of Five, with Thomas Jefferson as its principal author. A day earlier, John Adams had written to his wife Abigail: “The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.” (Letter from John Adams to Abigail Adams, 3 July 1776, Adams Family Papers – Massachusetts Historical Society.) Historians have long disputed whether members of Congress signed the Declaration of Independence on July 4, even though Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and Benjamin Franklin all later wrote that they had signed it on that day. Most historians have concluded that the Declaration was signed nearly a month after its adoption, on August 2, 1776, and not on July 4 as is commonly believed. (Burnett, Edward Cody (1941).) Coincidentally, both John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, the only signers of the Declaration of Independence later to serve as Presidents of the United States, died on the same day: July 4, 1826, which was the 50th anniversary of the Declaration. (Meacham, Jon – Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power.)
Benjamin Franklin Burt we honor you and all of those who defied the yoke of tyranny and made possible the incarnation of a great Nation under God. It is our solemn allegiance, to achieve with utmost fervor, to strive always to protect our freedom, from forces outside and within, to defend our liberty, for this nation we call America. (“Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must, like men, undergo the fatigue of supporting it.”) ― Tom Paine
Bob Boldman is a local historian. He can be reached by email: email@example.com