The Last Men of the Revolution

Photographs of veterans number in the thousands within the collections of the Library of Congress. We can see the faces of veterans of wars fought in foreign lands and in our own backyards. We have photographs of veterans who fought in wars in the last century – and the one before that – as well as men and women just returned from the scene of a conflict.

But what if we go even further back in American history – all way to the American Revolution? We know the faces of that war only through the hand of an artist, through oil paintings and engravings, right?

Not exactly. Though they were taken many decades after the Revolution, the Prints and Photographs Division does in fact have photographs of six men who fought for American independence from the British in the 18th century.

These were the Last Men of the Revolution:

The last men of the Revolution. Photos by Roswell A. Moore, 1864. http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.35341

The last men of the Revolution. Photos copyrighted by N. A.  & R. A. Moore, 1864. http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.35341

Lemuel Cook, aged 105, one of the survivors of the Revolution. Photograph copyrighted by N. A. & R. A. Moore, 1864. http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.35339

Lemuel Cook, aged 105, one of the survivors of the Revolution. Photograph copyrighted by N. A. & R. A. Moore, 1864. http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.35339

Lemuel Cook (right), aged 105, reported he was present at the 1781 surrender of Lord Cornwallis to General George Washington, a pivotal moment in the Revolution.  And Alexander Millener (bottom left in the above grid) recalled seeing Gen. Washington and his wife Martha while stationed at Valley Forge. The photographs were published in 1864, even as the U.S. was embroiled in another war – the American Civil War.  Similar photographs as well as interviews with the men appeared in a book published by Rev. E. B. Hillard the same year.  The personal accounts Hillard collected in the book are intriguing, of course, and add to the pages and pages written about the American Revolution. But there is also something powerful about having the photographs of six faces who actually saw those events unfold.

Hillard spoke of this idea in the introduction of his book:

“History lives only in the persons who created it. [...] As we look upon their faces, as we learn the stories of their lives, it will live again before us, and we shall stand as witnesses of its great actions.” -Rev. E.B. Hillard, “The Last Men of the Revolution,” p. 24.

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7 Comments

  1. Danny Adams
    November 7, 2013 at 6:46 pm

    As I recall, Cook was also the last known survivor of the Revolution on the American side.

  2. Dawn Hermann
    November 7, 2013 at 9:08 pm

    What treasures. The amazing lives of common men.

  3. RJ
    November 7, 2013 at 10:35 pm

    Thanks SO much for this article. How amazing and special to see the faces of some who fought for America so long ago. Wow. I love this. Thanks for posting.

  4. Betty Bolte
    November 8, 2013 at 7:35 pm

    This collection is so amazing! I really appreciate the associated links. Amazing also how few images are from the South. But I do love all the info. Thanks!

  5. Michael Stummer
    November 11, 2013 at 2:59 pm

    What a stately group of men. I am always amazed at the longevity of people from past centuries. Great article!

  6. Ryan Shepard
    November 11, 2013 at 4:24 pm

    Full text of the book is available here:

    http://americanrevolution.org/lastmen.html

  7. PF
    March 11, 2014 at 3:13 pm

    A Veteran that Hillard missed was James Barham 1764-1865
    Photograph and memorial at
    http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GSln=Barham&GSfn=James&GSbyrel=all&GSdy=1865&GSdyrel=in&GSob=n&GRid=21561651&df=all&

    John Gray 1764-1868
    Photograph and memorial at
    http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GSln=Gray&GSfn=John&GSby=1764&GSbyrel=in&GSdyrel=all&GSst=37&GScntry=4&GSob=n&GRid=11163444&df=all&

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