Saturday, June 17, 2017

First Fathers

N.B. This is an edited reprise of an earlier post on the subject. With Father's Day tomorrow I decided to revisit the tragic case of the Lynch father - son team.

Who’s your Daddy?
 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. The Lynch's were one such duo.

Father - Son Signers...

Eighteenth century rice house
Thomas Lynch Sr. was the son of Jonas Lynch from the Galway lines of the Lynch family who were expelled from Ireland following their defeat in the Irish wars of William of Orange. Jonas Lynch came to America and became a successful planter. His son Thomas was born in Berkeley County, S.C., in 1727. By the time  his son Thomas Jr.’s birth in 1747, he owned a huge estate called Hopsewee Plantation, on the North Santee  River and other watercourses. He was also active in politics. As the crisis with Britain worsened the elder Lynch became an influential and often times fiery revolutionary. He eventually became a member of the Continental Congress serving from 1774-1776. The senior Lynch was to be 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 Jr. was born at Hopeswee and, unlike his father, had the advantage of a world class education.He  attended elite schools in America and then Eton, Cambridge and finally read the law in
Thomas Lynch Jr.
London. He returned to America and made a grand marriage. He then took up planting. As the heir of one of the most fervent revolutionaries and influential men in the colony, Lynch Jr. naturally took a deep interest in politics himself. He enjoyed strong support from the electorate. During the years 1774-76, while his father served in the Continental Congress, he 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.

A Military Career Curtailed

In 1775, Lynch accepted a captaincy in the First South Carolina Regiment of Continentals. This upset his father who wanted to use influence to obtain a higher rank for his son. Unfortunately, young Lynch contracted bilious (an intestinal) fever while on recruiting duty in North Carolina. Incapacitated, he had to give up his nascent military career.

The Stand - In

But when in the spring 1776, Thomas Sr.’s condition proved grave, South Carolina’s Assembly elected 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 the younger Lynch got to vote for and sign the Declaration of Independence at the young age of twenty-seven. The Lynches were the only father-son team that served concurrently in the Continental Congress.

Signing the Declaration of Independence

Double Tragedy

Political triumph was met with personal tragedy and more blows to the patriot family were yet to come. Both Lynchs’s health worsened, and by the end of the year they headed homeward. En route, at Annapolis, MD, a second stroke took the life of the senior 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. Eustasia in the West Indies to find a ship back across the ocean but a storm struck and their ship was lost at sea.

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