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Sacred honor: the immortal 56: few Americans are aware of the tremendous sacrifices made by the brave and selfless men who signed the Declaration of Independence.

Have you ever wondered what happened to those men who signed the Declaration of Independence?

Five signers were captured by the British as traitors and were tortured before they died.

Twelve had their homes ransacked or burned. Two lost their sons in the Revolutionary army. Another had two sons captured. Nine of the 56 fought and died from wounds or the hardships of war.

What kind of men were they? Twenty-four were lawyers and jurists. Eleven were merchants. Nine were farmers and large plantation owners--men of means and well-educated.

But they signed the Declaration of Independence, knowing full well the penalty would be death if they were captured. They signed and pledged their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor.

Carter Braxton of Virginia, a wealthy planter and trader, saw his ships swept from the seas by the British navy. He sold his home and properties to pay his debts and died in rags.

Thomas McKean was so hounded by the British that he was forced to move his family almost constantly. He served in Congress without pay and his family was kept in hiding. His possessions were taken and poverty was his reward.

Vandals or soldiers or both looted the properties of Ellery, Clymer, Hall, Walton, Gwinnett, Heyward, Rutledge and Middleton. Francis Lewis had his home and properties destroyed. The enemy jailed his wife, after which she died within a few months.

At the Battle of Yorktown, Thomas Nelson, Jr., noted that British Gen. Cornwallis had taken over the Nelson home for his headquarters. The owner quickly urged Gen. Washington to open fire on the dwelling. The home was destroyed. Nelson died a bankrupt man.

John Hart was driven from his wife's bedside as she was dying. Their 13 children fled for their lives. His fields and grist mill were laid waste. For more than a year, he lived in the forests and in caves, returning home after the war to find his wife dead and his children vanished. A few weeks later, he died from exhaustion and a broken heart. Morris and Livingston suffered similar fates.

Such were the stories and sacrifices of the American Revolution. These were not wild-eyed, rabble-rousing ruffians; they were soft-spoken men of means and education. They had security, but they valued liberty more.

They pledged: "For the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of the Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor."

This article is based on a sermon delivered by the Rev. Frederick R. Trumbore. It was provided by a member of Post 621 in Luray, Va.

Signers of the Declaration of Independence

Fifty-six members of the Continental Congress signed the Declaration. Most members signed it on Aug. 2, 1776; the remainder on later dates.
Huntington, Samuel
Sherman, Roger
Williams, William
Wolcott, Oliver

McKean, Thomas
Read, George
Rodney, Caesar

Gwinnett, Button
Hall, Lyman
Walton, George

Carroll, Charles
Chase, Samuel
Paca, William
Stone, Thomas

Adams, John
Adams, Samuel
Gerry, Elbridge
Hancock, John
Paine, Robert T.

New Hampshire
Bartlett, Josiah
Thornton, Matthew
Whipple, William

New Jersey
Clark, Abraham
Hart, John
Hopkinson, Francis
Stockton, Richard
Witherspoon, John

New York
Floyd, William
Lewis, Francis
Livingston, Philip
Morris, Lewis

North Carolina
Hewes, Joseph
Hooper, William
Penn, John

Clymer, George
Franklin, Benjamin
Morris, Robert
Morton, John
Ross, George
Rush, Benjamin
Smith, James
Taylor, George
Wilson, James

Rhode Island
Ellery, William
Hopkins, Stephen

South Carolina
Heyward, Thomas, Jr.
Lynch, Thomas, Jr.
Middleton, Arthur
Rutledge, Edward

Braxton, Carter
Harrison, Benjamin
Jefferson, Thomas
Lee, Francis Lightfoot
Lee, Richard Henry
Nelson, Thomas, Jr.
Wythe, George
COPYRIGHT 1999 Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1999 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
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Author:Trumbore, Frederick R.
Publication:VFW Magazine
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 1, 1999
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