Records of the Revolutionary War consist almost exclusively of paintings, sketches, and writings. However, one book, The Last Men of the Revolution, written by Reverend E. B. Hillard 81 years after the war's conclusion, does contain photographic evidence of a few individuals who fought for America's freedom:
"Published in 1864, the 64-page book stands as the only record of its kind, immortalizing Revolutionary War veterans in photographs alongside their tales from the fight for independence. In July 1864, Hillard, accompanied by two photographers, brothers N. A. and R. A. Moore, traveled across New England and New York State to interview and photograph all known surviving veterans, six in total. The images, made on glass plate negatives, were then printed on albumen paper and pasted into the book, along with colored lithographs depicting the veteran’s homes."
Then, in 1976, journalist Joe Bauman came across Hillard's photos and figured out that it was likely that some revolutionaries had been captured in daguerreotypes, which became popular in the 1840s and 1850s. He found photos of people that fit into the right age range, and after some extensive digging into their personal histories, he had his subjects:
"His collection, which now includes eight daguerreotypes, took three decades of research to compile and is considered the largest known collection of Revolutionary War veteran daguerreotypes to date. Several years ago, Bauman published the images, along with histories of the men, in an e-book, Don’t Tread on Me: Photographs and Life Stories of American Revolutionaries, not only bringing to light images that had largely gone unseen, but that astonished — and still astonish — people who never imagined that such portraits even existed."
Check out their photos below.
Enlisted at age 16, and served as a private from New Hampshire. At the time his picture was made, he as 102 and living in the town of Edinburgh, Saratoga Country, New York. He died on February 18, 1867.
Rev. Daniel Waldo
Drafted in 1778 for a month of service in New London. After that, he enlisted for an additional eight months, and in March 1779 was taken prisoner by the British at Horseneck. After he was released, he returned to his farm again.
Witnessed the British surrender at Yorktown, the event that guaranteed American independence. Of the event, he said, 'Washington ordered that there should be no laughing at the British; said it was bad enough to surrender without being insulted. "The army came out with guns clubbed on their backs. They were paraded on a great smooth lot, and there they stacked their arms."
Enlisted at age 15 for the coastal defense of his home state, New York. Writes Hillard in The Last Men of the Revolution, "The only fighting which he saw was the siege of Castine, where he was taken prisoner; but the British, declaring it a shame to hold as prisoner one so young, promptly released him."
Enlisted as a drummer boy who served in Gen. Washington’s Life Guard unit. He was a favorite of Washington’s, often playing at his personal request. Was at the British surrender at Yorktown: "The British soldiers looked down-hearted. When the order came to 'ground arms,' one of them exclaimed, with an oath, 'You are not going to have my gun!' and threw it violently on the ground, and smashed it."
He was a 16-year-old apprentice blacksmith in Boston working on the night of December 16, 1773, when a group of young men rushed into the shop, grabbed ashes from the hearth and rubbed them on their faces. They were among those running to Griffin’s Wharf to throw tea into the harbor as part of the Boston Tea Party that started the Revolution. Mackintosh later served in the Continental Artillery as an artificer, a craftsman attached to the army who shoed horses and repaired cannons.
A Minuteman from Rehoboth, Massachusetts. Hicks mobilized with his unit and helped seal off a British garrison in Boston after the Battles of Lexington and Concorde. He served several short enlistments and fought in the Battle of Bennington, August 16, 1777. After the war, Hicks became something of a local celebrity and lived out his final years in Sunderland, Vermont. He was the last person alive to have seen the Battle of Bennington.
Fought in the Battle of Long Island on August 29, 1778. His unit was the first brigade that went out on Long Island, and was discharged in December after a violent snow storm. After the war he became a Baptist minister. He was married three times and had eleven children. On October 20, 1854, he had a daguerreotype taken to give to a granddaughter. He died on January 3, 1855.
A soldier in the Continental army. When the British army evacuated Philadelphia and raced toward New York City, his unit participated in the Battle of Monmouth. He was part the genocidal attack on Indians who had sided with the British, a march led by General John Sullivan through 'Indian country,' parts of New York and Pennsylvania. Fishley was a famous character after the war in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, where he lived and was known as "the last of our cocked hats."
Joined the Continental Navy at age 13 and served as a midshipman aboard the frigate Queen of France. Taken as a prisoner of war, Head was released at Providence, Rhode Island and walked home. His brother wrote that when he arrived, Head was deaf in one ear and had hearing loss in the other from the cannons’ concussion. Settling in a remote section of Massachusetts that later became Maine, he was elected a delegate to the Massachusetts convention in Boston that was called to ratify the Constitution. When he died he was the richest man in Warren, Maine and stone deaf because of his war injuries.
Rev. Levi Hayes
A fifer in a Connecticut regiment that raced toward West Point to protect it from an impending attack. He also participated in a skirmish with enemy 'Cow Boys' at the border of a lawless region called the Neutral Ground (most of Westchester County, New York, and the southwestern corner of Connecticut). In the early years of the nineteenth century, he helped organize a religiously-oriented land company that headed into the wilderness of what was then the West. They settled Granville, Ohio, where he was the township treasurer and a deacon of his church. His daguerreotype shows him holding a large book, most likely a Bible.
A member of the elite Sheldon’s Dragoons. He sat up all night fanning his commanding officer, Captain George Hurlbut, who had been shot in a fight during which the British captured a supply ship. Spencer’s account of the death of the officer differed markedly from that of Gen. Washington's; Spencer said the wounds of the officer had nearly healed when he caught a disease from a prostitute and this illness killed him, whereas Washington said he died of his wounds. Spencer’s pension was revoked soon after it was granted and for years, he and his family lived in severe poverty. Eventually, his pension was restored. He was the guest of honor during New York City’s celebration of July 4, 1853.
Dr. Eneas Munson
As a teenager, he helped care for the wounded in his hometown of New Haven, Connecticut, after the British invaded. Commissioned as a surgeon’s mate when he was 16 years old, shortly before he graduated from Yale. He extracted bullets from soldiers during battle. In 1781, he was part of Gen. Washington’s great sweep to Yorktown, Virginia, which led to Gen. Cornwallis’ surrender and American victory of the Revolution. During the fighting at Yorktown, he was an eyewitness to actions of Gen. Washington, Gen. Knox, and Col. Alexander Hamilton. Gave up medicine after the war and became a wealthy businessman, but his family spoke of how he loved recalling the exciting days of the war, when he was a teenage officer.
Head over to Time to read more.
All images via Joseph Bauman