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Lost Signers: Captured Patriots of the Revolutionary War

The American Revolution was a pivotal moment in history when brave patriots fought for independence from British rule. The signing of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, marked a crucial step toward freedom. However, not all the signers of this historic document enjoyed the fruits of their labor. Five signers were captured by the British during the Revolutionary War and endured imprisonment and hardships. This essay sheds light on their stories and sacrifices for the cause of American independence.


George Walton (Georgia):

George Walton, a lawyer and politician, was one of the youngest signers at the age of 26. During the Battle of Savannah in 1778, he was wounded and taken as a British prisoner. Despite his capture, Walton remained committed to the American cause. Remarkably, he was elected as Georgia's governor while still imprisoned but was not released until a prisoner exchange in 1779.


Richard Stockton (New Jersey):

Richard Stockton, a prominent lawyer and jurist, was captured by British loyalists in 1776. He was subjected to harsh conditions in a British-controlled prison in New York. Stockton's health deteriorated during his captivity, but he was eventually released in 1777 due to the intervention of fellow patriots.


John Witherspoon (New Jersey):

John Witherspoon, a Presbyterian minister and educator, played a significant role in the independence movement. His capture by British forces following the Battle of Princeton in 1777 was a blow to the American cause. Witherspoon's release took several months, during which he endured uncertainty and discomfort.


Arthur Middleton (South Carolina):

Arthur Middleton was captured in 1780 when Charleston, South Carolina, fell to British forces. He was imprisoned on a British warship for over a year, separated from his family. Middleton's imprisonment took a toll on his health, but he continued to support the revolution. He was eventually released in a prisoner exchange.


Edward Rutledge (South Carolina):

Edward Rutledge, the youngest signer at just 26 years old, was also captured during the fall of Charleston. He spent nearly a year as a British prisoner before his release in 1781. Rutledge's experience as a captive reinforced his determination to see American independence achieved.


The stories of these five signers – George Walton, Richard Stockton, John Witherspoon, Arthur Middleton, and Edward Rutledge – highlight the sacrifices made by patriots during the American Revolution. Their imprisonments, suffering, and unwavering commitment to the cause of independence serve as a testament to the courage and dedication of those who fought for liberty. Despite their captivity, these signers remained steadfast in their belief in a free and independent United States. Their resilience and determination continue to inspire generations of Americans.


Submitted by Raymond E. Foster

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