Americans do not realize that the 56 men who ascribed their signatures to the Declaration of Independence risked everything, even their very lives. Five of the signers were captured by the British and died under their torture, nine were wounded, and twelve had their homes ravaged by fire.
Francis Lewis of New York had his home set ablaze and his wife was placed aboard a prison ship where she died after a few months. He never recovered. The homes of Lewis Morris, Arthur Middleton, and Richard Stockton were also burned. Lord Cornwallis seized the home of Thomas Nelson as a headquarters; George Washington blew the mansion up at Nelson's request.
Carter Braxton lost his entire fleet of merchant ships when they were sunk by the British Navy. Joseph Hewes gave his entire fleet of ships to America to start the Continental Navy. Robert Morris donated his personal fortune to fund America. He later died impoverished.
William Whipple, Oliver Wolcott, Arthur Middleton, Thomas Heyward, and Edward Rutledge all saw combat during the Revolutionary War, with Middleton, Heyward, and Rutledge being captured by the British and tortured. George Walton was take prisoner and later released in an exchange. Button Gwinnett was shot and killed by a political opponent.
Richard Stockton spent years in prison after his capture by British troops; he died in poverty after his release. John Witherspoon rebuilt the College of New Jersey that was destroyed by the British, before losing his eyesight in 1792. Thomas Lynch and his wife were lost at sea on a voyage to the West Indies.
Caesar Rodney died of a cancerous growth on his face after the relentless pursuit of the British Army made it difficult for him to obtain the medical care he needed.
Thomas Jefferson lost much personal wealth and possessions after his properties were repeatedly ransacked in British raids in attempts to capture him.
As we enjoy our freedom and safety this Independence Day, remember the costs of those who bought this freedom for us.
Source Information: GenWeekly, New Providence, NJ, USA: Genealogy Today LLC, 2008.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Genealogy Today LLC.
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