Andrew Thompson is believed to have been born around 1750 in Ireland and immigrated to colonial America in his early 20’s. Shortly after his arrival, he joined a local militia in Washington County, Virginia, appearing as Ensign in Robert Doak’s Company of Militia in a list dated June 2nd, 1774. Later that same year, Doak’s Militia and hundreds of other Virginia militiamen fought in a little-known war of expansionism called Dunmore’s War, a fight between colonials and natives over the fertile lands of the Ohio River Valley. The Battle of Point Pleasant, October 10, 1774, was the war’s only major battle, ending with a victory for the Virginians, forcing the area’s native population to recognize the Ohio River as the new boundary between their land and the colonies.
By the time many of Virginia’s militiamen returned home in mid-1775, the American Revolutionary War had already begun. Returning militias quickly routed Lord Dunmore, who had led Virginia’s assault against the natives but now commanded British troops against Virginians.
Also in 1775, Andrew found time to marry Ann, and they had their first of 8 children later that year or early in 1776.
The next time I am able to find Andrew Thompson on record is in April of 1777. For reasons as yet unclear, Andrew travelled from Virginia to Lyons, New Jersey, and joined Colonel Oliver Spencer’s Regiment of the Continental Army. As Ensign, the lowest officer’s rank at the time, he was to be paid $20 a month for his service.
After years of fighting as a militiaman, Andrew would see comparatively little action as a soldier of the Continental Army. A mere six months into his service with Spencer’s Regiment, Andrew found himself helping to defend his infant nation’s capital, Philadelphia. On September 11, 1777, the British were victorious over Washington’s army at the Battle of Brandywine. Philadelphia was lost to the British, and Ensign Andrew Thompson was a prisoner of war.
British prisons and prison ships were brutal places where many died of disease or starvation. Andrew’s position as an officer appears to have spared him that fate. Although at least one list of prison ship captives does include his name, it doesn’t seem that Andrew spent all, if any, of his captivity in a British prison. Due to the overcrowding of the prisons and perhaps to a strategy of separating captured enlisted men from their leadership, the British devised a scheme to parole captured officers on their word as gentlemen that they would not leave the city they’d been placed in nor assist the Continental Army in any way. Andrew was paroled to Flatbush on Long Island, New York, where he rented lodging either in the home of Peter Lefferts* or on his account. An Army “Account of Debts due by sundry American Officers during their Captivity To the Inhabitants of Long Island for mentainance [sic]” reports that Andrew Thompson owed to Peter Lefferts 65 pounds, 2 shillings, and 9 pence.
Andrew remained as a prisoner in Flatbush for much of the war. His name appears many times in Continental Army lists of “Absent Officers,” and, in March 18, 1780, he is described as an “unexceptionable” prisoner of war, a man beyond reproach. All available evidence suggests he kept his word as a gentleman and an officer on the terms of his parole, staying in Flatbush and out of the war effort. Of course, little evidence is available.
He was released on December 15, 1780, more than three years after his capture, and when he retired from the Continental Army two weeks later on the first day of 1781, he returned to his wife and son as Lieutenant Andrew Thompson.
He’d come from Ireland little more than 7 years past, and he’d been in war or a prisoner of war ever since. He soon moved his wife and child to farmland in what is now Bland County, Virginia, where he lived a long life as a farmer and public servant, working at different times as Sherriff and Deputy Sherriff. Some evidence suggests he may have also remained active in his local militia. As was typical for the time and place, Andrew did have slaves. Four are counted among his household on the 1810 census, eight in 1820, seven in 1830, and three in 1840.
Andrew Thompson died in 1843 at the age of 93. His great grandson, St. Clair Thompson, fought for the Union in the American Civil War.
Andrew Thompson is my 6th great grandfather, and St. Clair Thompson is my 3rd great grandfather. My grandmother, Margaret Thompson Brooks planted the seed for this story and many, many more.
*Lefferts has been mis-characterized in some Thompson family histories as a Loyalist, a British sympathizer, perhaps because his large family estate was burned by Continental soldiers early in the war to prevent its being captured by the British. Lefferts was, in fact, a 1st Lieutenant in the Continental Army and, following the war, served as a delegate to the New York state convention when it ratified the United States Constitution.