On Saturday, August 19th at 10:30 AM at the Union Cemetery, the Governor Oliver Wolcott Sr. branch of the Connecticut Sons of the American Revolution will be honoring five American Patriots with a graveside ceremony. The CTSSAR Color Guard will be presenting a three-volley musket salute and representatives from the Town of Easton, the Historical Society of Easton and the CTSSAR will be speaking about local Revolutionary War veterans Nehemiah De Forest, Jared Baldwin, Daniel Silliman, Zachariah Lacey, and Stephen Hubbell.

Headstone of Nehemiah De Forest – Patriot, storekeeper, tavern owner, husband, and father.

The five men honored at Union today lie beneath rather simple headstones, each weathered with age, some cracked, some with writings so worn by time that they are barely legible, and at least one, just a ragged remanent that might be overlooked entirely were it not in a cemetery. Names, a few words, dates that indicate age and the year of death give but scant clues of the men interred there. What is different today than yesterday is the recent addition of the small bronze markers installed by the SAR that now identify those men as veterans who served in the Revolution.  

Recently added markers by the SAR identify some of the burial plots of those who served in the American Revolution.

From the onset of colonization, the need to provide self-defense for the settlers was accomplished by the formation of local militias made up of ordinary men of all walks of life who trained together several times a year with their own weapons. By 1754, when war broke out over territorial disputes in North America between England and France, the law of most of the colonies under the rule of the Crown required that all free males between the ages of sixteen and fifty be enlisted in local militias. Those militias were engaged to fight alongside British regulars during that war, and as a result, the officers in those colonial units became quite proficient in the training of their citizen soldiers.

As the Revolutionary War approached, the colonies had fully organized military units ready at the calling, their numbers likely exceeding 200,000 men. In 1774, Governor Trumbull of the Connecticut colony reported that there were in excess of 26,000 men enlisted in local militias and that each militia drilled at least four times a year.

When the Second Continental Congress met in Philadelphia in the late spring of 1775, the first salvos of war had already been exchanged between members of local militias and soldiers from the British Army. In June, Congress formalized the rebel militias into the Continental Army and local militia men suddenly became soldiers fighting for independence from the only central government they had ever known – the British Crown.

Finding and verifying the graves of those who served in the Revolutionary War is no easy task. The original settlers in North America were all of British heritage and so many people bore the same names as their father, uncles, and grandfathers, that only the dates on their weathered headstones provide definitive proof that historians have found the correct burial place.

All five of the men honored in Saturday’s ceremony have been painstakingly researched and written about by the Historical Society of Easton’s curator and researcher, Elizabeth Boyce. Readers can find short biographies on each of these patriots that were posted this week on the Society’s Facebook page. Only by learning about these men can we fully appreciate the sacrifices they made to help establish this nation nearly two-hundred and fifty years ago.

We hope those who attend this week’s ceremony will take special note of the remarkable transformation that has occurred at Union over the past sixteen months. What was previously an overgrown, badly neglected historical cemetery, has been brought back to life by the generous efforts of cousins Bob and Bruce Laskay, along with their team of local volunteer weekend warriors. Union Cemetery is still a private association that receives absolutely no outside funding other than donations from benefactors who wish to see it restored and then properly maintained. If you wish to help, please make your check payable to: Union Cemetery Association and send it to P.O. Box 452. Easton, CT 06612.

Union Cemetery in 2021 before volunteers began to cut back the weeds and brush that obscured many of the headstones.

In an ongoing effort to assist Union with their work at restoring the grounds and headstones, on October 21st, the Historical Society of Easton will be sponsoring a talk and workshop by Michael Carroll of Rediscovering History Inc. when he and members of his team will be at Union Cemetery restoring a monument and leading us through a talk and demonstration of the proper cleaning and preservation of headstones. Stay tuned for details!

If you appreciate what our team is doing, please consider helping us fund our continuing efforts to support our community. You can do so by visiting our website at: https://historicalsocietyofeastonct.org

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By Bruce Nelson

Director of Research for the Historical Society of Easton Town Co-Historian for the Town of Redding, Connecticut Author/Publisher at Sport Hill Books