PETER6,GEORGE5, JOSEPH4 KLOPFER, GEORG ADAM3, REINHARDT2, ELIAS1
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George Klopfer/Clapper Young George Klopfer’s early years on his father’s farm are unrecorded and no doubt unremarkable. From his birth in February, 1757 the growing family and the hardships of farm life in a barely settled territory prevented any formal education. He never learned to read or write and signed his 1832**** Pension Application with an "X". George was not quite seventeen years of age when his father died and one can only imagine the responsibilities he had to assume – his brother Frederick being only two years older and Lorenz nowhere in the record. Brother Simon may have still been on the farm but the early death of Joseph must have been a severe blow to the family. Additionally the economic and political events of the mid-1770’s would draw George to a destiny he could not have imagined.***** (Freely adapted from Prowell’s "History of York County" Vol.I; Italics are mine) In June, 1776, after the British under General Howe had evacuated Boston and were about to threaten New York, the Continental Congress issued a call for troops to join Washington’s army. These troops, 10,000 in number, were to be enlisted for a term of six months from the organized militia in Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Delaware. This body of troops, after enlistment and organization, became known as the Flying Camp. By request of Washington, his personal friend, General Hugh Mercer, a physician by profession and soldier by instinct, was selected as commander with the rank of Brigadier-general.The enlisted men of the Flying Camp, under the act of Congress, were required to furnish their own arms, blankets, haversacks and knapsacks. Men unable to furnish their own muskets were to be supplied with arms, which had been made by order of the Pennsylvania Assembly for the use of the Militia. In obedience to the call for militia from Pennsylvania to join the Flying Camp, being formed in the state of New Jersey, five battalions of Associators left York County in July, 1776. (On or about July 14, 1776, George and a number of his neighbors were enlisted at York, although in his pension application of 1832 he refers to himself as a draftee; there was no draft at this time. George was nineteen years old. This was about ten days after the public posting of the Declaration of Independence throughout the Colonies.) Two Regiments had been formed from the York County Militia. These commands were designated the First and Second Pennsylvania Regiments of the Flying Camp. The Officers of the Second Regiment were: Michael Swope, Colonel; Robert Stevenson, Lieutenant colonel; William Bailey, Major. The Second Regiment was composed of eight Companies. (George Klopfer/Clapper was assigned to the Fourth Company, commanded by Christian Stakes, Captain; Cornelius Sherrif, First Lieutenant; Jacob Holzinger, Second Lieutenant; Jacob Barnitz, Ensign.) These battalions passed through Lancaster and Philadelphia and then proceeded by water to Trenton, and from thence to the headquarters of the Flying Camp at Perth Amboy, arriving there late in July. At this time, other battalions of Associators from Pennsylvania and New Jersey arrived at Perth Amboy, where General Mercer and his Brigadiers, Ewing and Roberdeau, began the organization of the Flying Camp, by asking volunteer enlistments. Here they encamped through the month of October. (This was a period of organization and training and drills, which transformed simple farm boys into some semblance of an army. It was not until November 16th that General Mercer’s new army, anxious for a confrontation with the British, would get their first taste of battle, at Fort Washington on the Hudson in the northern part of Manhattan Island. ….)The battle of Long Island having been fought, and the British taking possession of New York City, which then covered the lower part of Manhattan Island, Washington retreated to the Northern part of the island and then placed his troops on both sides of the Hudson. Swope’s Regiment was stationed on the New Jersey side of the Hudson to guard the passes of that stream during the battle of White Plains, fought on the Eastern side of the river, below Yonkers. Colonel Robert McGaw, of Cumberland County, PA, with twelve hundred men, was placed in charge of the defenses of Ft. Washington. General Greene, struck with the importance of protecting McGaw, suggested to the commander-in-chief that a portion of the Flying Camp, then stationed on the western side if the Hudson, should cross over and assist Colonel McGaw in defending Ft. Washington. This fort was considered a strategic point, and General Howe determined to attack it with a large force. It was one of the most hazardous positions defended by Pennsylvania troops during the entire period of the Revolution. Ten thousand regulars would have been required to successfully perform this duty.In accordance with Greene’s suggestion, Colonel Swope’s and a part of McAllister’s regiments crossed the Hudson and joined the Pennsylvania troops under McGaw in defending the fort.November 15, the adjutant general, Colonel Patterson, of the British army, was sent to summon the garrison in Ft. Washington to surrender, threatening at the same time to "put it to the sword" if the demand was rejected. At this juncture, Colonel McGaw sent the following communication to General Greene:" A flag of truce came out just now from King’s Bridge. The adjutant general was at the head of it. I sent down Colonel Swope. The adjutant general would hardly give him two hours for an alternative between surrendering at discretion or every man being put to the sword. He waits an answer. You will, I dare say, do what is best. We are determined to defend the post or die."In response to this communication, Colonel Swope delivered the following remarkable document to the adjutant general of the British Army in accordance with the directions of Colonel McGaw:"If I rightly understand the purport of your message from General Howe, communicated to Colonel Swope, this post is to be immediately surrendered or the garrison put to the sword. I rather think it is a mistake than a settled resolution in General Howe to act a part so unworthy of himself and the British nation. But give me leave to assure His Excellency that, actuated by the most glorious cause of mankind ever fought in, I am determined to defend this post to the very last extremity."After learning the determination of these gallant Pennsylvania troops, the British decided to make the attack the following day.Early on the morning of the sixteenth, the enemy’s batteries from the eastern side of the Harlem River opened fire upon the commands of Colonel Baxter of Maryland, and Colonel Lambert Cadwallader of Pennsylvania, who held positions without the fort.Meantime General Washington, with Greene, Mercer and Putnam, crossed the river from Fort Lee to examine the position of the American troops and reconnoitered the movements of the enemy. These officers then returned to Ft. Lee, entrusting the entire command to Col. McGaw and his heroic band of patriots.About noon, simultaneous attacks by British and Hessian forces commenced upon the fort. Swope’s regiment was defending one of the outposts some distance to the southeast. His position was assaulted by the Hessians under General Knyphausen. Swope’s men fought gallantly, but being overpowered by the enemy, were compelled to fall back. In this movement they were flanked by the British and Hessians and forced to surrender. Almost the entire command of 400 York County soldiers became prisoners of war. Col. McGaw’s loss in killed and wounded did not exceed 100 men, but almost his entire command of 3,000 was compelled to surrender to the enemy.(It is interesting to note that, although George Clapper Sr. was an active participant in this battle, he was neither killed, wounded, nor taken prisoner. There could be several explanations for this but it is likely that he was part of a detachment sent from Capt. Stakes’ company to Ft. Lee for some purpose. We know that such a detachment was made, though of how many troops and whom and to what purpose we do not know. If true, he would not necessarily have been directly in combat, but would definitely have been in the presence of Washington and his staff. On the other hand, he may well have simply eluded capture, somehow. He does not offer any explanation for this in his Pension Application of 1832.)These American soldiers were placed in jails, churches, sugarhouses and other buildings, and held as prisoners for many months, some of them not having been released until three years after their capture. The stories of their treatment if given in detail would rank among the most sorrowful ever recorded in the pages of history. They were given an insufficient amount of food and medical treatment, were obliged to remain in cold, damp rooms without any privileges of outdoor exercise. Many of these gallant sons of Pennsylvania died from the horrors of British prison pens and others contracted diseases from which they never recovered. The treatment of British and Hessian prisoners by the Americans formed no comparison to the treatment of Col. McGaw’s men while they were held prisoner in New York and Long Island.Washington desperately needed victory after the disaster of Ft. Washington and he found his opportunity early Christmas morning at the village of Trenton, New Jersey. He divided his force into three Divisions, with General Sullivan above Trenton, General Ewing downriver, and Washington himself in the center. This is the subject of the famous painting "Washington Crossing the Delaware" and our George was there, although about two miles downstream with Ewing’s Division.After the victory at Trenton, George’s unit went into camp to guard Hessian prisoners and later acted as reserves at the Battle of Princeton. About January, 1777, George re-enlisted for a period of three months and by March of 1777 was compelled to serve another three months, this time as "guard at the Continental Congress at Philadelphia". He may have been just one of hundreds guarding the city of Philadelphia itself, or perhaps he was actually a guard at Independence Hall, in which case he may have had daily contact with some of the Founding Fathers as they came and went during the session of Congress.***** George left military service in May of 1777 and returned to the family farm in Dover Township. Sometime before 1780 he met and courted Elizabeth Souders, daughter of Christian Souders and his wife, Sarah, of Hopewell Township, York County. They married sometime in 1780 and on March 7, 1781 their first child, George Jr. was born. (This George often confuses research, as the terms "Jr." and "Sr." are either not used or, after the death of Joseph’s son, "Sr." refers to "Jr." This is particularly troublesome in trying to determine deeds and tax records. Additionally, the name George was passed on to subsequent generations and to cousins. The researcher must take care to differentiate the various George’s for the next one hundred years.) Thus began Elizabeth’s child-bearing years. From 1781 until about 1810 she was either pregnant or nursing, a fate not uncommon for women of the time.It was during this early period of the marriage that George and Elizabeth acquired a farm of about 130 acres in Hopewell Township, York County. The date of purchase of this land has not been determined, though further research at the York County Recorder’s Office may turn up a deed. But it is possible that the land may have been a parcel owned by Elizabeth’s father and was either a dowry, a gift, or a simple sale to George. This is pure speculation, but it is hard to imagine how he might have acquired the cash for such a purchase.Nevertheless, from at least the mid-1780’s, this was home for George and Elizabeth and their growing family. The tax list for 1795 indicates the farm was valued at nearly sixty-eight pounds, a substantial sum for the time, and the tax paid – five shillings, eight pence – was also for three cows and a horse.By the time of the first National census in 1790, George’s brother, Frederick had changed the family name from Klopfer to Clapper (at least this is the first reference I have been able to find) and thereafter the direct male descendants of Joseph Klopfer retained the name Clapper.In April, 1800, after seven children and perhaps fifteen years of building a life in Hopewell Township, George sold the farm to an Arthur Smith (York County Deed Book, pgs. 548-9 2Q) and moved the family to Fayette County, Pennsylvania. This was no small decision to make, for the journey across most of Southern Pennsylvania with a family that included our ancestor, Jacob, age 10, and two younger siblings, Maria Barbara, eight, and Christine, just two to four years old, was filled with dangers and hardships. We’ll never know why George decided to give up some of the most productive and civilized land in the new Nation for a new life in a region not known then, or now, for good farm land or anything else.For the next sixteen years the still-growing Clapper family struggled hard for what must have been a meager life in the hills of Fayette County. But sons and daughters were born and others were married, and by 1808 the eldest of George’s sons began to purchase cheap land in the territory now known as Muskingum County, Ohio. Land and tax records show that George, Sr. purchased a parcel of land by 1816 that is at the intersection of present-day Three Towers Road and the Chandlersville Pike in Salt Creek Township, Muskingum County. It is in this year that George first appears in the tax records and he states in his ****pension application of 1832 that he’d resided in Muskingum County for sixteen years. (I did not find a deed for this parcel, but a Township-Range-Section description, which is continuous in the tax records at least until George’s death shows this to be his final homestead.) His sons continued to purchase land in Salt Creek Township and Blue Rock Township at least until 1833. Oddly, his son Jacob, my direct ancestor, does not appear in land or tax records at all.George was 59 years of age when he purchased this land and although life may have slowed him down some, he and his family were an important presence in Muskingum County. Son George, Jr. was a founder of St. John’s Lutheran Church in Zanesville and established a well-known tavern on the Zanesville-Marrieta Pike. (I wonder how that fit in with their traditional Lutheran values) and all the sons and daughters helped to tame and civilize a new frontier.In 1832 George finally decided to apply for a Revolutionary War pension, a copy of which may be obtained from the National Archives (file# R-1958). It seems his first application was rejected for insufficient information but later was approved after submitting a sworn statement signed by a prominent local clergyman and two witnesses.George Clapper, Sr. died on August 11, 1837 at age eighty. He is buried in the Salt Creek Baptist Cemetery, along with Elizabeth and most of their children. Elizabeth died in 1852. A bronze plaque from the D.A.R. honors his grave for his Revolutionary War Service.