Fallen Heroes: Private Christian Blickensderfer, Jr.

Revolutionary War Soldiers

Imagine my surprise to discover a Tuscarawas County hero who was from my small hometown of Lititz, Pennsylvania! Typical fallen heroes’ stories focus on those who gave the ultimate sacrifice while in service. In this case I have chosen to once again look at the service of another Tuscarawas County hero who fought for our independence during the American Revolutionary War.

Christian Blickensderfer, Senior (1724-1800) was born in the town of Kohlhof in the Palatinate region of Germany. He married Catharina Shurger (1727-1778), the daughter of a Mennonite preacher, in 1748 and they moved to the town of Nieder Saulheim. They were residing, and started a family, there when they made the decision to immigrate to America. The couple and two son’s arrived in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in late September 1753. Catharina would give birth to their third son, Christian Blickensderfer, Junior (1753-1820) only a week after they set foot in Philadelphia.

The Blickensderfer family were Moravians and, after about a year and a half in Philadelphia, they moved and acquired land in and around the Moravian community of Lititz, Pennsylvania. The family continued to grow as they welcomed eight children (though only four would survive to adulthood) and Christian Blickensderfer, Senior’s small farm was not sufficient to provide for his growing family. In addition to farming, he purchased property on the main street in Lititz in 1761 and established himself as a teamster and livery.

The Moravian Church and Square in Lititz, Pennsylvania. Buildings on the grounds served as a hospital for Continental Army soldiers during the American Revolutionary War. (Source: https://archive.org/details/lititz1756195600bice/page/24/mode/2up)

When the American Revolution commenced the Moravian Blickensderfer family, and other pacifist sects, came under increased scrutiny and persecution by their neighbors on both sides of the issue of American Independence. During the Philadelphia Campaign of 1777-1778, a Continental Army hospital was housed on the Moravian Church’s grounds in Lititz and the Blickensderfer family was forced to quarter one of the Continental Army’s doctors in their nearby home. It was during this period that Christian, Jr. lost his mother and a brother to a “camp fever” that ran rampant through the troops convalescing there.

Despite his religious pacifism, Christian, Jr. served in the pro-independence Lancaster County militia throughout the war. For five years, from 1778-1783, he mustered as a Private in Captain George Feather’s 6th Company, 9th Battalion. During the Philadelphia Campaign itself, Pennsylvania militia units saw limited activity as combatants. After the campaign, and with the war shifting to other theaters, the duties of these militia units included the suppression of loyalists in the community, the intimidation of many of the pacifist sects living in the county, and the confiscation of weapons from those deemed to be threats.

For information on the role of the Pennsylvania militia during the American Revolution click here.

Detail from Baron Steuben at Valley Forge, 1778, showing American soldiers training. (Source: https://lccn.loc.gov/2018757140)

Christian, Jr. married Barbara Born (1760-1823) in October 1781 as military activities waned until the war’s conclusion in 1783. Christian, Jr. and his wife acquired a nearby farm and began to raise their own family. Christian Blickenderfer, Jr., and his family, resided on the farm outside Lititz until he purchased 1200 acres of land in 1812 in Tuscarawas County, Ohio, a county that had seen Moravian communities dating back to 1761. The land they purchased was located in Warwick Township, coincidently the same township name as their farm in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.

Christian Blickensderfer, Jr. was the first of his family to be born in America. He fought, perhaps hesitantly, for his new country’s independence and was one of the earliest settlers of Tuscarawas County. His teenage years, like mine, were spent on Main Street in Lititz, Pennsylvania and his later adult years, like mine, spent in Tuscarawas County, Ohio. Christian Blickensderfer, Jr. and his wife both died in the early 1820s and are buried in the Sharon Moravian Cemetery in Tuscarawas.

Monument to Tuscarawas County’s Revolutionary War soldiers, Gnadenhutten Cemetery. (Source: https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/85863293/christian-blickensderfer)

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© Noel B. Poirier, 2021.


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