Fallen Heroes: Private Adam Frantz

Typically my fallen heroes stories focus on those who gave the ultimate sacrifice while in service. In this case I have chosen instead to look at the service of a man who fought for independence during the American Revolutionary War, became one of the earliest American settlers in Tuscarawas County, and yet somehow escaped attention.

Adam Frantz (1755-1835) was fifty years old when he arrived in what is today southern Tuscarawas County with his wife and family. His movement west had included extended stops in York and Washington counties in Pennsylvania, with a number of children born along the way. Like many of his generation, the draw of lands northwest of the Ohio River was impossible to ignore and it was there that this Revolutionary War veteran would eternally rest.

Adam Frantz was born in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, the son of Cocalico Township farmer George Adam Frantz (1730-1819) and his wife Maria Renner (1734-1784). Cocalico Township was in the northern portion of Lancaster County, where the landscape more resembles the mountainous frontier than it does the rolling fields most associated with the county. Adam, like most young men, worked on his father’s farm and supplemented their diet with hunting the numerous game to be found in that part of Pennsylvania.

Cocalico Township, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, 1765. (Source: https://lccn.loc.gov/74692507)

As the political situation between the thirteen colonies and Great Britain deteriorated, citizens in the colonies began to choose sides. Perhaps it is because of the rugged nature of where Adam was raised, or perhaps he was merely looking for excitement away from the farm, but he was one of the earliest to choose to fight on the side of the rebelling colonies. Adam joined Captain John Jones’s Company in Colonel Peter Grubb’s Battalion of Associators in the summer of 1776. The Battalion marched eastward shortly after to assist with the defense of Philadelphia.

Adam’s soldiering did not end when his two-months service with Captain Jones expired. Congress, on General George Washington’s recommendation, established a “flying camp” of soldiers from the middle colonies to be used as a strategic reserve. Adam enlisted in Colonel J. Klotz’s (sometimes Clotz) Battalion of the flying camp, made up of men from Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. The flying camp was principally tasked with the defense of New Jersey, but its first taste of battle would be during the campaign to defend New York from the British.

Battle of Fort Washington on the Hudson River, November 1776. (Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Fort_Washington)

After a string of battlefield losses in and around New York City, the Battle of Fort Washington on November 16, 1776 was the last humiliation suffered by the Continental Army during the ill-fated attempt to defend New York. After the fort fell to the British, Colonel Klotz’s Battalion along with the rest of Washington’s army, retreated across New Jersey. The retreating Americans eventually crossed the Delaware River, north of Trenton, where they took up defensive positions. The flying camp suffered significant losses during the New York campaign and suffered numerous desertions during the march through New Jersey. The entire flying camp numbered only 480 men when it finally arrived in Pennsylvania.

Adam Frantz, in his later pension application, asserts that he also fought at Washington’s surprise victory at Trenton, New Jersey on December 26, 1776. If he did so, he did it in a unit other than the flying camp as it was disbanded at the end of November 1776. It is possible that he stayed and was serving in the Pennsylvania militia units under Generals Ewing and Cadwalladar. Either way, it is unlikely that Adam actually took an active part in the Battle of Trenton. Adam claimed that he was discharged, following his four month of service in the flying camp, on New Year’s Day 1777.

The engagement at Barren Hill near Germantown, Pennsylvania, May 1778. (Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Barren_Hill)

Another engagement that Adam made point to mention in his pension application was the Battle of Barren Hill. This battle, more like a skirmish, occurred just outside of Germantown, Pennsylvania in the spring of 1778. Following the occupation of Philadelphia by the British and the Continental Army’s winter at Valley Forge, the Marquis de Lafayette and 2200 men had taken up a position outside of Germantown to observe British movements. The British, sensing an opportunity to surprise and capture the young general, sent a force to do just that. Lafayette, through better knowledge of the surrounding terrain and roads, was able to extricate himself from the trap. It is not clear what unit Adam Frantz was serving in at the time of Barren Hill, but his mention of such an obscure action would indicate he was present in some capacity.

Adam Frantz’s name appears on the muster rolls of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania militia units until the very end of the war. He managed to avoid illness and death in the service and, after the war’s end, made his westward movement that made him one of the earliest American settlers in Tuscarawas County. Adam Frantz moved from the southern portion of the county to Dover Township in 1808. He would die there in 1835, a mere year after submitting his pension paperwork documenting his military service to his young nation.

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© Noel B. Poirier, 2021.


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