Perspective: Circleville man has learned much as a regimental soldier
The men of the 8th Pennsylvania Regiment joined up to defend their homes from Native American attacks and wound up under the command of Gen. George Washington, fighting British forces.
Circleville resident Joe Forte has learned a lot about the regiment since he joined the Brigade of the American Revolution and reenactors of the 8th Pennsylvania 15 years ago. He’ll be portraying a rifleman in the unit during this weekend’s encampment.
“They were some tough guys. They were awesome guys,” said Forte, 62. “They did what they were ordered to do.”
The 8th Pennsylvania was formed in 1776 in response to incursions by the indigenous people on the frontier of the colony.
“The British would put them up to it to attack the settlement,” Forte said. “If the Continental Congress had to send soldiers from the east, it would detract from the war effort.”
But in late 1776, Washington’s army was in need of manpower, and the Continental Congress ordered the 8th Pennsylvania east.
“Of course they were not happy because that’s not what they joined to do,” Forte said.
In a letter reprinted in “Pennsylvania in the War of the Revolution, Battalions and Line: 1775-1783,” available on the nonprofit Internet Archive at www.archive.org, regiment Lt. Col. George Wilson says the order was not a complete surprise to him, but still the men are troubled at the thought of leaving their families and property “defenceless.”
“I Have Warmley Recomended to (the) officers to Lay aside all Personall Resentments at this time,” he writes.
Wilson also expresses some reservations about the approximately 500-mile march to New Jersey the regiment would undertake.
The regiment started out in January 1777 with 684 men, but desertions and deaths, including Wilson’s, dropped that number to less than 500, Forte said.
“But the unit persevered under its officers and arrived in New Jersey in the spring of 1777,” he said.
The first battle in which they participated was likely the Battle of Bound Brook, and they were routed, Forte said. Eventually, Daniel Morgan would take three companies of riflemen from the 8th Pennsylvania and fight the Battle of Saratoga in September 1777. The rest of the unit went with Washington for the Philadelphia campaign.
Members of the 8th trained with Washington’s troops at Valley Forge that winter, and in May of 1778 they were finally sent back west, their numbers reduced as Washington’s army was reinforced.
The regiment does not have any specific ties to Marietta, “but the 8th was in the neighborhood, patrolling up and down the Ohio river from Fort Pitt,” Forte said.