Revolutionary War

Hugh Dunlap

Dunlap, Hugh census 1850, Brunswick, Maine
Hugh Dunlap in the 1850 census for Brunswick, Maine.

Hugh Dunlap (1749-1850) was born in 1749 in the town of Brunswick, District of Maine, in Great Britain’s Massachusetts Bay colony. He was the fifth child of Ulster Scot immigrants, Jane (Allison) and her husband, Presbyterian minister Robert Dunlap.

When Dunlap was 26 years old, Brunswick solicited soldiers to fight for American independence. He enlisted with other area men in Capt. Nehemiah Curtis’s company, in Col. Jonathan Mitchell’s regiment. These soldiers were at the unsuccessful 1779 Penobscot Expedition to remove the British from their fort at Castine.

After the war, Dunlap returned to Brunswick where, at the age of 41, he was listed as a farmer in the very first United States census, conducted in 1790. In 1820, when he was 70, Maine broke off from Massachusetts to become a separate state. In 1848, when the horseless carriage chugged down Brunswick’s brand-new railroad tracks, Dunlap was 99 years old.

In 1850, the year Harriet Beecher Stowe’s arrival in Brunswick foreshadowed the Civil War, Hugh Dunlap was still a farmer. The census taker was so impressed with Dunlap’s age of 100 that he wrote the entry in extra-large, bold letters.

When Dunlap died in October that same year, he had lived in Great Britain, the United States of America, Massachusetts, and Maine, even though he had made Brunswick his home for 101 years.


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Polansuwe Susehp Neptan

Pay Roll of Indians in the Defence of Machias
Image of Pay Roll of Indians in the Defence of Machias. The Bangor Historical Magazine, Vol. 4., Bangor. Benjamin W. Porter, Editor and Publisher, 1888-1899. Page 168.

Polansuwe Susehp Neptan (Passamaquoddy translation of his Christian name Francis Joseph Neptune) (c1735-1834) was a member of the indigenous Passamaquoddy or Sipayik Tribe whose ancestral home covered more than 3 million acres in northern Maine into neighboring New Brunswick, Canada. The Passamaquoddy ranged throughout those acres, hunting and fishing according to the season, and travelling the river networks to trade with other tribes in New England and Canada.

In 1777 General George Washington asked the Tribe to aid American colonists in their fight against the British, promising them continued access to their ancestral land. That promise, coupled with the intermarriage of some Passamaquoddy with French colonists, convinced nearly 200 to ally with the American cause. This included both Neptan and his father, whose Christian name was Chief Jean-Baptiste Neptune.

Legends of Polansuwe Susehp Neptan’s exploits during the war indicate that he was a key combatant in the First Battle of Machias. Documents do show that the indigenous troops proved key in protecting the eastern-most coast of Maine from British ships, particularly in the 1777 Second Battle of Machias, a British assault from land and sea.

When Neptan’s father died the following year, the son became chief. After the war, Chief Polansuwe Susehp Neptan travelled to Boston to remind the Americans of the role of the Passamaquoddy during the war and of Washington’s promises regarding their territory. The United States did not fully honor its promises. By the time of Neptan’s death at age 99, the Passamoquoddy Tribe no longer had access to their ancestral lands, but were relegated to 100 acres at Pleasant Point and 23,000 acres at Indian Township. Two centuries after the start of the Revolutionary War, Federal courts revisited the promises made to Neptan and his people. Finally, in 1980, Congress passed the Maine Indian Claims Settlement Act, “a good faith effort on the part of Congress to provide the Passamaquoddy Tribe, the Penobscot Nation, and the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians with a fair and just settlement of their land claims.”

To hear  an 1890 cylinder recording of the Revolutionary War song performed by French-speaking Passamaquoddy Tribe member Peter Lacoute, go to Passamaquoddy People.


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John McManus   (ADOPTED)

The last line above lists Revolutionary War pension payments to Corp. John and Elizabeth McManus from March 1836 to March 1844. Digital image from the National Archives; Washington, D.C., via
Image: The last line above lists Revolutionary War pension payments to Corp. John and Elizabeth McManus from March 1836 to March 1844. Digital image from the National Archives; Washington, D.C., via

John McManus (1759-1843) was just a young boy when his family emigrated from Ireland to Brunswick, Maine. Just out of his teens, he enlisted in the Continental Army to fight for American independence from Great Britain. He survived the war and lived out his very long life on Rocky Hill in Brunswick.

A death notice published May 17, 1843, in the Brooklyn Eagle described his service:

Brunswick, Maine: John McManus 83y. He served in the army of his country, as a soldier nearly 4 years, was at the surrender of Burgoyne, served under General Sullivan in the Mohawk County, and received a wound at Cherry Valley, which rendered him lame during life.

For stories of other River Road Revolutionary War veterans go to: Rocky Hill Revolution.


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Francis Heuston 

Image: Francis Heuston tombstone, photo by Barbara A. Desmarais, 2017.
Image: Francis Heuston tombstone, photo by Barbara A. Desmarais, 2017.

Francis Heuston (1765-1858), an African American from Nantucket Island, served on a Revolutionary War armed vessel while still a boy. He settled in Brunswick where he bought a sizeable farm. Heuston, his wife, and their children operated a way station on the Underground Railroad.

Find out more about Francis Heuston and his wife, Mahitable Griffin, at Revealing Hidden Stories.


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Deborah Sampson Gannett   (ADOPTED)

Sampson, Deborah Rev War
Drawing of Deborah Sampson Gannett, Revolutionary War Army veteran. Library of Congress, Washington, D.C., native number LC USZ 61 202.

Deborah Sampson Gannett (AKA Robert Shurtleff) (1760-1827) was born in Plympton, Massachusetts, daughter of Jonathan and Deborah (Bradford) Sampson Jr. When Jonathan was lost at sea, her mother indentured her seven children to other households. When Deborah completed her term with farmer Benjamin Thomas, she worked as a weaver during the winter and as a teacher in summer sessions.

In 1781 she enlisted in the Fourth Massachusetts Regiment, disguised as a man named Robert Shurtleff. She began as a scout assigned to observe the strength of British troops and material on Manhattan Island in New York. She led raids, captured prisoners-of-war, dug trenches at Yorktown, and survived canon-fire. In June 1782 she was one of the leaders of an expedition resulting in one-on-one fighting with Tories. She was shot in the left thigh and gashed by a sword at her temple. She removed the pistol ball herself to avoid detection. Unfortunately, in 1783 her gender was discovered when she was hospitalized during an epidemic in Philadelphia. Nevertheless, she was honorably discharged from the Army in October that year.

In 1785 she married farmer Benjamin Gannett. They would have three children, Earl, Mary, and Patience. In 1802 she left the farm for a year to lecture about her war experiences, sometimes dressed in military uniform.

Three official documents recognized her service as Robert Shurtleff; two of them included her own name.

The first was a discharge letter from Col. Henry Jackson certifying the service of Robert Shurtleff. The second was a resolution passed by the Massachusetts Legislature in 1792 awarding her backpay for her Revolutionary War service.  The last official document was the 1805 order by the War Department that placed Deborah Gannett on the Revolutionary War pension list, backdated to include and additional 2 years’ pension.

Another document, though not issued by a governmental department, is equally unusual. In 1909, a descendant of “Deborah Sampson” was approved for membership in the Sons of the American Revolution.

For stories of other women veterans go to: Womens Memorial.


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