Sunday, June 9, 2013

Founding Fathers & Sons

Who’s your Daddy? 

Apologies for a trite phrase as a lead in to this blog.  But there is nothing trite about the subject.  There were many father-son combinations during the American War for Independence, especially in the local militia units that came and went with the ebb and flow of hostilities. But some served at the highest levels of the Revolution. With Father’s Day coming up I thought it would be worth profiling a few of these. In order not to make it too long-winded, I am posting these  in three separate blogs this week…so stay tuned...

Part One

A Pair of Irishmen from the Palmetto State

William of Orange
This pair of First Patriots are from South Carolina by way of Ireland. Jonas Lynch fought with the Irish in their valiant but hopeless stand against William of Orange's forces.  The final resistance to William's mercenary army surrendered after the siege of Wexford in 1691. Many went to France, where they hoped to take up the cause under the King of France. Unlike so many Irish expelled from Ireland following the defeat in the Irish wars, Jonas Lynch made his way to America.  He became a successful planter. His son, Thomas was born in Berkeley County in 1727. 

Thomas Lynch Senior
Thomas  Lynch Sr. also engaged in planting, and owned extensive rice fields along the Santee River and other watercourses and a huge estate called Hopsewee Plantation, on the North Santee River. He became the second wealthiest man in the colony. Lynch was also the leading statesman in the colony serving in the Colonial Legislature of South Carolina, representing the colony of South Carolina in the Stamp Act Congress of 1765 including heading the committee that drafted the petition to the House of Commons, and serving as a representative to the both the first and second Continental Congresses. Lynch Senior would have been a signer of the Declaration of Independence representing South Carolina. Unfortunately, he suffered a massive stroke in the early part of 1776. With the father struck down, the South Carolina Assembly named his son, Thomas Lynch Jr. in his place. 

Thomas Lynch Junior
Thomas Lynch  Jr. was born in 1747 at his family's Hopeswee Plantation and, unlike his father, had the advantage of a world class education, attending elite schools in America and then Eton, Cambridge and read the law in London. He returned to America, made a grand marriage and took up planting like his father. As the son of one of the most fervent revolutionaries and influential men in the colony, Lynch Jr. naturally took a deep interest in politics and enjoyed strong support from the electorate. During the years 1774-76, while his father served in the Continental Congress, Thomas Jr. labored on the home front, attending the first and second provincial congresses as well as the first State legislature and sitting on the State constitutional committee. In 1775,the younger Lynch accepted a captaincy in the First South Carolina Regiment of Continentals. This upset his father who hoped to use influence to obtain a higher rank for his son. Unfortunately, young Captain Lynch contracted bilious (an intestinal ailment) fever while recruiting duties in North Carolina. Incapacitated, he had to give up his nascent military career. 

Triumph and Tragedy

But when in the spring 1776, Thomas Sr.’s condition in Philadelphia proved grave, South Carolina’s Assembly sent Thomas Jr. to the Continental Congress. Despite his own significant medical issues, the younger Lynch dutifully traveled to Philadelphia where he remained throughout the summer.  During that revolutionary season,it was the younger Lynch not the father, who got to vote for and sign the Declaration of Independence.  The Lynches were the only father-son team that served concurrently in the Continental Congress.  

But personal tragedy followed political triumph and more blows to the father and son First Patriots were yet to come. Both Lynches’ health worsened and by the end of the year, they headed homeward. Thomas Sr. never made it back. En route, at Annapolis, MD, a second stroke took the life of the elder Lynch. Thomas Jr. returned home a broken man – physically and emotionally. Late in 1779 he and his wife  , headed to France in an attempt to regain his health. They sailed for the Dutch island of  St. Eustatius in the West Indies to find a ship back across the ocean but a storm struck and their ship was lost at sea. This was a common occurrence during the age of sail but the tragedy is not just personal (Thomas Jr. left no male heirs). The loss of the father and son team was a loss for the fledgling nation, which could have used the considerable talents and dedication of the Lynches of South Carolina.

The harbor at Saint Eustatius -
a key transit point between America and


  1. Given there was a father/son team at the signing of the Declaration of Independence, I wonder if there was ever a father/son team to serve in the Congress.

  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.