5 – Immigrants and Patriots

immigrantsandpatriots-2 (1)A great multitude of Germans departed Europe in the mid-1700’s to pursue new lives in America. Most settled in Pennsylvania, where their native German culture thrived. These new citizens of the New World gladly swore their oaths to Great Britain’s king, and enjoyed the rights and privileges afforded to all citizens of England’s colonies.

But, when the American Revolution erupted in their new land, these German pioneers had to make a very difficult choice. They could retain their allegiance to King George III and Great Britain, or they could align themselves with the rebels, and fight for the formation of an altogether new nation.

Immigrants and Patriots tells the stories of two young German-Americans who chose to fight for the United States of America. In so doing, they each charted a course in life that would lead them much personal pain, privation, tragedy, and loss. But, ultimately, that same choice would help ensure liberty and freedom for their families and for generations of their descendants.

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This book was an entirely new and challenging research project for me.  Most of my writing is in the Southern Theater of the Revolution, simply because that is where all of my ancestors lived at that time.  My wife, however, has several more “exotic” ancestors from other locales.

The “heroes” of Immigrants and Patriots, Michael Yeisley and Dr. Nicklaus Schell, were both my wife’s 5th great-grandfathers.  Both men died in what is now Shepherdstown, West Virginia (formerly Virginia).  The are buried approximately 30 feet apart at the German Reformed Church Cemetery.  Their grandchildren married one another in Shepherdstown, thus my wife’s descent from them both.

Kim and I visited Shepherdstown during our research trips to Valley Forge in 2017 and 2018.  We snapped some pretty amazing pictures while we were there.

This one was in the cemetery.  It shows the location of the graves.  My lovely wife is pointing toward them.  Dr. Schell’s grave is indicated by the bronze plaque on the left.  Michael Yeisley’s is the smaller plaque on the right.

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We thought it quite sad that Michael Yeisley had only a bronze DAR marker sticking out of a column of ancient concrete.  So, when we returned in 2018, we placed a new headstone on his grave.  Here is an image of the proud descendant.

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Amazingly, Private Yeisley’s home still exists in Shepherdstown.  It is one of the oldest homes in the town, built around 1790!  Here is Kim, standing on the porch.

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We had a fantastic time “walking the ground” and doing the groundwork for this novel.  I sincerely hope that the attention to detail helps bring the story to life.

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