My recent York Sunday News column concerning Revolutionary War pension applications from Militia Guards at Camp Security is below. In it I briefly recap how the prisoners of war came to be at Camp Security with York County militiamen serving as their guards much of the time.
Besides reviewing information from previous posts on militia guards William Adams and Andrew Anderson, I have also included Samuel Fulton, another of the former York County veterans who moved west after the war.
There is also a brief mention of John Baker, a Baltimore County native who moved to York County, served as a militia guard at Camp Security. He still lived in York County when he applied for a pension in 1834. Although he doesn’t give much information about the camp, his pension application does verify that he was another or the many, many local men that served at the place nicknamed “Camp Security.” He also mentions a “fort or stockade,” collaborating many other accounts of at least one stockade on the site. One of the citizens who signed an affidavit attesting to the good character of Baker was the well-known Lutheran pastor, John George Schmucker.
The column reads:
Militia Guard pension applications give clues to Camp Security life
After over a decade of ups and downs, thanks to the work of citizens and Springettsbury Township with a mix of private and grant funding, most of the undeveloped site of Camp Security, York County’s Revolutionary War prisoner of war camp, has been secured. In late summer an archaeology dig, funded in part by a grant from the National Trust for Historic Preservation, will begin.
Many questions remain: About how many British, surrendered by Burgoyne at Saratoga and Cornwallis at Yorktown, were detained there, including accompanying women and children? Where was/were the stockade/stockades located? Where was the low security “village” nicknamed “Camp Indulgence.” What was life like for the local militia guards who served rotating two-month tours? We hope to find answers with continuing research and archaeology.
The guards could well be your direct ancestors. If you were an able-bodied male during the Revolutionary War era, you were, with a few exceptions, required to be part of your county militia, ready to serve where needed. Some York County militiamen were called up and marched off to military engagements elsewhere, but the majority did their service guarding at Camp Security. During most of the two active years of the camp, 1781-1783, thousands of York County men were called to guard the British taken at Saratoga, N.Y. and Yorktown, Va.
Some were eventually eligible for state pensions, but I am currently concentrating on applications for federal pensions at the National Archives. Initially only officers in the Continental Army were eligible, but subsequent laws eased requirements. Many of the applications were filed after the 1828 act that included militiamen with at least six months total service, or the 1838 act that extended pensions to widows. Since those laws date 45-55 years after the war ended, many of the Camp Security guards and their widows had already died. The reliability of memories of applicants and their witnesses by that time is also problematic.
The term “Camp Security” does not seem to have been officially used at a federal level, usually just “camp at (or near) York Town.” “Camp Security” is used in Pennsylvania records and often in the U.S. pension applications. From them we obtain clues to life of the detainees and their guards.
Sometimes Camp Security is mentioned briefly, as in the pension application of John Baker. Originally from Baltimore County, he served there twice before moving to York County. In 1834 he swore: “That in the Fall of the year of 1781 he volunteered to serve in York County at a place called Camp Security…to guard, watch and keep secure the British prisoners taken with Genl. Cornwallis, and that he served at said fort or stockade in the years 1781 and 2 for four months.”
Samuel Fulton and his wife, the former Catharine Smith, and James Proudfoot all later moved to Washington County, Pa.. Proudfoot described Catharine as “an old schoolmate of mine,” (in Hopewell Township). He knew her husband well and testified that “Sometime in the year 1781, about the beginning of August, I am sure he went out as Captain of the Militia to guard Burgoyne’s prisoners at Camp Security. I saw him in Camp about the beginning of October…he was much beloved by his men and had the good will of all… .”
Andrew Anderson was also from Hopewell Township and served three tours of militia duty, including three months at Camp Security. He filed this deposition in 1833 at age 72, by then living for many years in Wayne County, Ohio: “That this applicant, under his third draft, was for most of the time stationed at a garrison or fort…a few miles from Little York, that the Soldiers built a Stockade at that place in the woods, where the Soldiers built ‘Block Houses’ to live in…they built a Block House to keep the Prisoners in…a portion of the Prisoners who had been taken at the capture of Lord Cornwallis was sent to that place, where this applicant with the Drafted Militia of York County, under the command of Major William Bailey…was employed to take care of and keep guard of the British Prisoners who had been sent there to be detained as Prisoners of War.”
“This applicant recollects that whilst so stationed there, he and several others went out into the country to get straw to cover their log Huts…they got it of the Farmers in the neighborhood of Little York, that the Farmers told the soldiers they might have the straw if the grain was out of it. That Major Bailey sent this applicant along with several others to thresh out a large quantity of grain, that the solders could have the straw for the use of the soldiers, that this applicant assisted in threshing it out, and assisted to bring it into the Camp… .
Whilst the British Prisoners were stationed at this place, a great number of them died of a Complaint which seemed to be mortal to the Prisoners, but did not spread or affect the Americans.
For some of the time, the soldiers had nothing to eat but ‘Flour.’ That the soldiers could get no meat…they got, each man, two pounds of Flour, and lived on that till they could get meat…they lived on Flour, or Bread alone, without meat for two or three weeks….the soldiers were frequently out of Bread as well as meat.” (When Anderson says “soldiers,” he seems refer to the local militia, as opposed to the term “prisoners” for the British.)
Ireland born William Adams settled in York County. His third term of service was in August 1781 when Camp Security opened. In 1834, at age 86, he filed his pension application in Washington County, Pa. He had left York County in 1782, also living in Virginia and Ohio. His file includes an 1836 affidavit from Rachel Danley, probably his sister. She “…remembers William Adams, the petitioner, was absent from home…two months as a drafted soldier guarding the British prisoners near Little York…what strengthens her recollections is that she, the deponent, nursed and took care of the petitioners wife’s child, whilst the said wife went to visit the petitioner at the camp on one occasion…deponent never saw the petitioner in camp, but remembers that when the above soldiers came home from camp they brought with them Iron ball and buckshot.”
See www.campsecurity.com for lists of some of the Camp Security guards transcribed from the Pennsylvania Archives series by Blake Stough. Did you have an ancestor at Camp Security?