A story of a family who always answered the call to duty
Generations of Patriots
I recently became involved with researching my genealogy. I was honored to learn that many of my forefathers fought in the various conflicts that helped preserve our nation’s freedom and forged trails for many to follow. I have no Audie Murphy’s in the family, no heroic Generals that led gallant charges up hills in some far off land and no politicians that enacted articles to our Constitution. What I did have, were strong, brave family men unafraid to tackle the rigors of frontier life and who grew a respect for our emerging nation. They were willing to stand up for what they believed was right for our young nation and their families.
Some were Quakers who escaped religious persecution. Most were Scotch-Irish escaping the harsh life in Scotland and Ireland at the time, while others were seeking a chance at a better life or simply new adventures. Whatever their reasons for coming to America they all seemed to have a common purpose and that was to seek freedom from tyranny. This was the ideals from which came generations of patriots.
The progenitor of one of the branches of my family arrived on the ship “Patience” in Philadelphia in 1727, with his mother and at least four brothers. Having lost their father at sea on the voyage over, they settled near Philadelphia, in York Co., Pennsylvania where he later married and started his own family. Within a few years his yearning to have a better life for his family led him, as it did thousands of others, down the “Old Wagon Trail” through Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina and ultimately to South Carolina. Along with his brothers they loaded their wagons and headed south through forests inhabited by Indians and all manner of dangers that these new immigrants were unaccustomed too.
With stops in Virginia and North Carolina, where some of the family decided to call home, my fifth Great Grandfather McCarter gathered up his brood, and a brood it was, for there were eleven children, and headed to the end of the existing Wagon Rd. in Abbeville, South Carolina, where he made his home. He arrived in South Carolina in the mid 1760’s.
By the escalation of the fighting with the British he had established himself as a wealthy plantation owner, with several sons and slaves to do his bidding. However he had apparently established a sense of pride and patriotism for his young country, because he and two of his sons soon joined the South Carolina Militia under the command of Gen. Francis Marion, commonly referred to as the “Swamp Fox”. Marion headquartered his militia, or more aptly named Marion’s Rangers, in the local swamps out of site of the British. He and his men played a valiant and effective roll in the defeat of the British and General Cornwallis with their guerilla type tactics of harassing and disrupting the movement of the British.
Other members of my extended family served in varying capacities during the Revolutionary War. One was a scout directly under General Washington and was present at the surrender of Cornwallis. Several family members served in the Virginia and South Carolina Militias as infantrymen, while yet another was a young surgeon with the grizzly task of severing limbs and patching up musket ball holes in wounded soldiers.
Shortly after the Revolution many of my family became pioneers of the new frontiers and were with the first settlers to many parts of the country. They were daring pioneers unafraid to load up their families and move to unsettled lands, fighting Indians, the elements and sickness along the way to their promise land. They were first in settling eastern Tennessee. One of Marion’s Rangers, James McCarter, my direct ancestor, took title to a large tract of land in an area that the locals referred to as the State of Franklin. I think they were just trying the name on for size, in anticipation of when it became a separate state. The land grant was for his service in the Revolutionary War. This land was still part of North Carolina only separated by the Smoky Mountains. The area later became Tennessee and his tract of land was sold off in smaller parcels and a town emerged. It was called Cartertown and is still in existence today. But, if you blink while driving through, you’ll miss it.
Most of my family remained in the Eastern Tennessee area, while others in the extended family moved on to establish settlements in Missouri, Texas, Indiana and Oklahoma. A few members of one branch of the extended family became Mormons and made the journey with Joseph Smith’s Battalion of Mormons to the present day site of Salt Lake City, Utah
Throughout the history of our nation I have had family members in about every major conflict in the defense of our country. It was never talked about as a family tradition or duty or anything like that. It was merely a fact that my ancestors were ready when called upon to serve their country. They always stood up for what they believed in. One family from Virginia had two sons fighting for the Union and two fighting for the Confederates during the Civil War. While yet another family from the southern state of Tennessee fought for the Union. It was always about personal beliefs.
My father was in the army during World War II. He received a medical discharge on December 6, 1944, the day before Pearl Harbor was attacked. I spent thirteen months in Viet Nam in an Artillery Unit. My service, I can honestly say was not out of a sense of pride, but, out of a sense of duty. My nation needed me, so I went. It must have been that sense of unspoken family tradition that led me to join the Army to fight in an unjust and unpopular war. I survived and apparently passed along my sense of patriotism to my son.
My son joined the Army in June, 2001. He had completed his basic training and was in the middle of his Infantry school training by that infamous day of 9/11. I don’t think he appreciated the gravity of the situation he was in. He was young and full of himself at the time. I was older and more experienced and could better see what the near future held for him. As a young foot soldier I knew he would soon be cannon fodder for the military. My only hope was that they had prepared him for what lie ahead.
Within a few short months after 9/11 my son called from Ft. Campbell, Kentucky, with our prearranged signal that he was being shipped out to Afghanistan. Before he hung up he said, ”You had your war, Dad. This one’s mine.” And with that the young soldier of the 101st Airborne Division that I knew as Joey became a veteran with his own stories and horrors of war locked away in his mind, only to be shared at his discretion and passed along to the next generation.