Two posts ago, we featured the house of Captain Robert Higgins. Here is a note authored by Higgins in support of a post-war bounty land warrant issued to the heirs of one of his soldiers, Zachariah DeLong. In the spring of 1777, the enlistments of an entire company of the 8th expired. Short a company, Colonel Muhlenberg proposed his brother-in-law, Francis Swain (the regiment's adjutant), be made a captain. Washington overruled Muhlenberg and promoted Robert Higgins instead. Higgins spent the next six months diligently attempting to recruit a new company from scratch. The euphoria of 1776, however, had been replaced by the cold reality that nearly half of the original regiment was already dead or severely sick from malaria. Higgins was never able to recruit more than about 15 men. Zachariah DeLong was one of the brave souls who signed up.
Higgins brought his tiny company to the main army in August of 1777 and quickly faced combat at Brandywine (September 11) and Germantown (October 4), where Higgins and many others were captured. As an officer, Higgins was treated better by the British than Zachariah and his enlisted companions were. Higgins signed at least three of these notes, attesting that soldiers had indeed served under him before dying of rampant disease in a filthy British jail only four months after their capture. (Peter Muhlenberg, by the way, made Francis Swain his brigade major when he received his promotion to brigadier general. Swain was terrible at the job and washed out of the army.)
Thanks to Tom Higgins of Shelbyville, Kentucky, for this document.
is researching the history of the Revolutionary War's 8th Virginia Regiment. Its ten companies formed on the frontier, from the Cumberland Gap to Pittsburgh.
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