Monday, July 11, 2011

Military Monday: Benjamin Ishmael's Revolutionary War Pension Application

I love researching my Revolutionary War patriots and learning about their lives during that important period of our history. Each of my patriots had different experiences. Some served for a short time, while others served for several years, even after the end of the war. Some didn't live long to see much action, while others fought in, and survived, many important battles. Fortunately, most of the patriots in my lineage lived through the Revolutionary War and were able to go home to their families. Each soldier has his own story to tell, and I'm proud to be able to share their experiences with you here.

Here's a small part of the Revolutionary War pension application for my paternal 6th great grandfather, Benjamin Ishmael (July 1736 - July 10, 1822). He served in Pennsylvania, but eventually migrated west to Kentucky, which is where he applied for his pension.

Here's the transcript (exactly as written, including grammar and run-on sentences) of the second document, which details Benjamin Ishmael's service in the Revolutionary War:
District of Kentucky (??)
On this 1st day of October 1818, before me the undersigned, one of the circuit judges for the Commonwealth aforesaid, personally appeared Benjamin Ishmael aged 82 years resident of Nicholas County, in the said District, who being by first duly sworn according to Law doth on his oath, make the following declaration in order to obtain the provision made by the late act of Congress entitled, "An act to provide for certain persons engaged in the Land and Naval Service of the United States in the Revolutionary War" that he the said Benjamin Ishmael in the year 1776 enlisted Canegagig Settlement in the State of Pennsylvania in The Company Commanded by Captain Abraham Smith of the 6th Regiment of the Pennsylvania Line Commanded by Colonel Irwin a continental Establishment for one year and that he continued in the service for the term of one year in the Company Regiment and line aforesaid when he was discharged from service in Albany in the State of New York and that he again enlisted about a year afterwards at the place aforesaid under (??) Blueford [note: I think this may be Colonel Bluford] of the Cavalry and was transferred to Gen'l Count Pulaski's Independent Legion and continued to serve therin for more than one year that he belonged to his first troop under Captain Peter Bentlow when he was discharged at Williamsburg in Virginia and that he was in several skirmishes one at Eggharbour and he is in reduced circumstances and stands in need of the assistance of his country for his support and that he has no other Evidence now in his power of said services.

(??) to before (??)
sworn and declared before me the day and year aforesaid

                                                                                         John Trimble
After the Revolutionary War, Benjamin went back to being a farmer in Cumberland County, Pennsylvania, and was found on the 1780 tax records in that area. It is written that Benjamin Ishmael also received a land grant of 160 acres from Virginia for services rendered in the Revolution. By the 1810 US Census, Benjamin and his family appeared in Fleming, Kentucky. They were in Nicholas County, Kentucky, by the 1820 Census, which is where he died on July 10, 1822. 

Benjamin initially applied for his pension in 1818, but was not officially awarded it until January 15, 1823 -- about six months after he had died. Benjamin died in relative poverty, and wasn't able to enjoy the assistance of his country that was finally awarded to him. According to a transcription of his will, he left what very little he had to his wife, Jenny (I had always thought he was married to a different woman and will be researching this more!) and his many children. What he was owed for his pension was prorated to his date of application in 1818 and finally paid to his family.
While digging through Benjamin's Revolutionary War records, I found some other intriguing stories about this man and his descendants. One other researcher noted that he'd been sued for "Bastardy" and that the the document is on file in Nicholas County (yes, I'll be looking that!). A book has also been written about some of Benjamin's descendants who "were discovered in the slums of Indianapolis in the 1870s and became a symbol for all that was wrong with the urban poor." Yep, it's on my summer reading list!


  1. Hi Wendy,
    I, too, am descended from Benjamin Ishmael and have read several articles about his military history as well as his less "honorable" reputation. Not sure at this point whether to be proud or mortified? Whichever, this geaology stuff is so RICH - who needs fiction?

  2. Hi,
    Benjamin is also my 6th great grandfather. My family comes from his 1st wife. Ican't remember her name. Jenny was his 2nd wife who, from what I've read,was quite a character. That's when the "Ishmael Tribe" was born. VERY interesting! They headed a "tribe" of freed & runaway slaves (of all races), native americans, and anybody else that needed a place to belong. Every summer they went on a pilgrimage from Kentucky to Illinois to Indiana and back to Kentucky. Indiana tried to legally sterilize our relatives. We were always told we were part of an outcast native american tribe but nobody knew the name. It's obvious my great grandfather was at least a part Native American but it's not documented as such. My aunts were not happy when I researched and found out which "outcast tribe" we actually belong to. I think it's very interesting history.

    1. Benjamin was my Great Great Great Great Grandfather. The "Ben Ishmael Tribe" stuff is hogwash, made up from a study and speech by a Reverend Oscar McCullough in the 1870'S. Also he had only one wife, Jenny or sometimes Jane. Go to http// to get the story on that.

    2. I went to that sight and there are also inconsistencies there compared to the documentation I have found on my great-grandfather and his parents. Even this sight states Jennie was Benjamin's 2nd wife. I'm sure most of what Reverend McCullough wrote was to further his agenda to sterilize those he deemed undesirable. But I also know that we have been told by our family that we are descended from an outcast "tribe" and that our Ishmael ancestors came here (Illinois) from Kentucky.

    3. I grew up going to Ishmael reunions in Cynthiana Ky. I'm a direct descendant of Benjamin and Jenny.
      No one ever spoke of this but it's obvious to look at us and see we have Native blood.

  3. Thanks "Cousin". Benjamin is my 4th gt-grandfather. I descend thru his son Robert C. Ishmael. I had a copy of the transcript of his will, but not his application for aid, so this is wonderful! I have read "Inventing America's "Worst" Family: Eugenics, Islam, and the Fall and Rise of the Tribe of Ishmael" by Nathaniel Deutsch. Good news is that not all of Benjamin's descendants were
    slammed in this book.

  4. Greetings & Hello! I too am descended from Benjamin from his son Samuel, then John A, then Freeling, and finally his daughter Katherine was my grandmother!

    1. Howdy !! Jenny was my 3th great grandmother. I have so.e theories about Ben's parents. Very Romantic ones.

  5. He is my 5th great grandfather through my grandmother.

  6. He is my 5th great grandfather through my grandmother.