A Tale of Two Jeffers: How Pension Information Differentiates Revolutionary War Soldiers

The first biography I wrote for Finding the Maryland 400 covered the life of Jacob Jeffers, a soldier who served in Maryland’s Fourth Independent Company during the Battle of Brooklyn. Jeffers later served in the Second Maryland Regiment until his discharge from the service in 1780. Most of the important information used in his biography came from various muster rolls. Research derived from other sources is sometimes left out because that information cannot be connected to soldiers who served in the Maryland Line. Census information, for example, is useful for corroborating information from other sources, but is often too vague to connect to a specific soldier. There are multiple people named Jacob Jeffers in the 1790 federal census, but none of them can be definitively linked to the Fourth Independent Company. This also means that we are often able to trace the movements of more than one person through our research. My post today will discuss the history of another Jacob Jeffers who also served in the Maryland Line. [1]

Unlike the Jacob Jeffers who served in the Fourth Independent Company, this Jacob Jeffers—a free African-American Maryland soldier—applied for a federal pension as a Revolutionary War veteran. Pension applications are extremely useful in learning about a soldier’s wartime service as well as their personal life. Because of his pension, more information about this Jacob Jeffers is available than the Jacob Jeffers who served in the Fourth Independent. [2]

Born in 1761 or 1762, Jeffers grew up on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Jeffers enlisted as a private in Captain Thomas Mason’s company in April of 1778, becoming part of the Seventh Maryland Regiment at an early age. Although this prevented Jeffers from fighting in the Battle of Brooklyn, Jeffers served throughout the rest of the war, participating in the Battle of Camden. Jeffers transferred to a company under the command of Captain Christian Orendorf until the war’s end. [3]

Jeffers returned to Queen Anne’s County following the war, continuing to work as a “common laborer.” In 1793, Jeffers married Ann Goldsborough. The couple had at least fifteen children together, and remained in Queen Anne’s County. Although he lost his certificate of discharge, Jeffers successfully applied for a pension in 1818, arguing that he was “considerably disabled by reason of [his] advanced age.” Ann Jeffers became “sickly” around the time of Jacob Jeffers’s application, worsened by her already advanced age. Her sickness and age left her “unable to perform much labor.” [4]

Jacob Jeffers encountered few of the problems that other African-American veterans faced in receiving pensions, successfully listing his extensive service with the same name he used on muster rolls. The federal government sometimes rejected other African-Americans on the grounds that their service in the army did not qualify as military service. Other African-Americans changed their names following the war, sometimes making it difficult to verify their identity. Overall, however, an individual’s racial identity had little impact on whether or not they would receive a Revolutionary War veteran’s pension in 1818. The federal government provided Jeffers with a pension of $8 per month that year. Jeffers continued to work as a laborer and farmer, eventually living on the property of a wealthy plantation owner named William Cornelius. Jeffers received his pension until his death on November 3, 1841 at around 81 years old. [5]

Fold3_Page_6_Revolutionary_War_Pension_and_BountyLand_Warrant_Application_Files (2)

The bible page which recorded the marriage of Jacob Jeffers and Ann Goldsborough. The Jeffers family also recorded the birth years of three of their children on this page.

In 1847, Ann Jeffers applied for a federal pension as the widow of a Revolutionary War veteran. Unfortunately for Ann, the couple only recorded their marriage date within their family bible, not with a governmental agency. Only white people could apply for a marriage license at the time.  Witnesses also attested to knowing Ann and Jacob Jeffers, supporting her claims. Unfortunately, African-Americans who applied under the 1832 Revolutionary War pension legislation faced rejection rates over double that of their white counterparts, providing insight into the evolving nature of racial prejudice. The federal government ruled that Jeffers’s “Proof of marriage [was] wanting,” and prevented Ann Jeffers from claiming her husband’s pension before her death on June 25, 1853. In 1857, Joseph Jeffers, their only surviving son, also applied for Jacob Jeffers’s Revolutionary War pension. The federal government denied his claims, as “no arrears of pensions or the pension to which the parent was entitled can be allowed to the children.” [6]

Information on the Jacob Jeffers with a pension frequently appeared while searching for information on the Jacob Jeffers involved in the Fourth Independent Company, including census data showing the former’s property. The high number of Jacob Jeffers living in Maryland after the war makes it difficult to connect any census information to the Jeffers who served in the Fourth Independent Company. It can sometimes even be difficult to even piece together which solider served in which company. Furthermore, Jacob Jeffers may have his name recorded as Jacob Jeffries on muster rolls and government records, making it difficult to tell each individual apart. By cross-referencing information found in Jacob Jeffers’s pension with muster rolls and other documents, the Jacob Jeffers who served in the Fourth Independent Company and Second Regiment can be differentiated from the Jacob Jeffers of the Seventh Maryland Regiment. [7]

-James Schmitt, Maryland Society Sons of the American Revolution Research Fellow, 2019

Notes:

[1] Muster Rolls and Other Records of Service of Maryland Troops in the American Revolution, Archives of Maryland Online Vol. 18, 24, 126

[2] Pension of Ann Jeffers (Jacob Jeffers), National Archives and Records Administration, Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files, NARA M804, R 5561

[3] Jeffers pension; Rieman Steuart, A History of the Maryland Line in the Revolutionary War, 1775-1783 (Towson, MD: Metropolitan Press, 1969), 111; Archives of Maryland Online Vol. 18, 450

[4] Jeffers pension.

[5] Jeffers pension; U.S. Federal Census, 1840, Queen Anne’s County, Maryland; A Census of Pensioners for Revolutionary or Military Services: With Their Nanes, Ages, and Places of Residence as Returned by the Marshals of the Several Judicial Districts, Under the Act for Taking the Sixth Census in 1840 (Washington, 1841; Baltimore, MD: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1967), 128; Judith L. Van Buskirk, Standing in Their Own Light: African American Patriots in the American Revolution (USA: University of Oklahoma Press, 2017), 193-194, 196.

[6] Jeffers pension; Van Buskirk, 209, 212.

[7] Federal Direct Tax, 1798, Archives of Maryland Online, vol. 729, Queen Anne’s County, General List of Dwelling Houses, 37.

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2 Responses to A Tale of Two Jeffers: How Pension Information Differentiates Revolutionary War Soldiers

  1. Christos Christou Jr. says:

    Excellent article and a great summary of the difficulties and challenges to document soldiers post service during this period. Men of the same name, distinguishing records from each man, etc.

    Liked by 1 person

    • James Schmitt says:

      Hello, and thank you!

      Many individuals in the Fourth Independent Company share these problems. A few individuals, such as the company’s drummer, James Mead, received pensions, which leads to more complete records of their lives before and after the Revolutionary War. I have personally researched a few members of the company whose records only exist until September 1776, and cannot be found in other sources. Although it can be challenging to find some sources, the biographies I have written so far have felt like excellent rewards in their own way.

      Thank you again!
      -James Schmitt

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