Story off the Week: The Revolution's Longest Love Story

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Gil Troy, a native New Yorker, is Professor of History at McGill University. His tenth book on American history, The Age of Clinton: America in the 1990s, will be published by Thomas Dunne Books of St. Martin’s Press this fall. Follow him on Twitter @GilTroy

Daniel Frederick Bakeman, the leathery New York farmer who lived long enough to become the American Revolution’s last surviving veteran, played his part brilliantly.  He despised the British until his death at 109. 

Even after turning 100, Bakeman continued firing his wartime flint lock musket thirteen times every July 4, one for each original colony. Then, with the touch of an accent reflecting his Dutch or Palatine German origins, the old man saluted beloved generals and comrades, shouting: “HURRAH FOR WASHINGTON, GATES, PUTNAM, AND LEE AND ALL DER BRAVE MEN WHO FOUGHT FOR LIBERTEE.”  Bakeman’s fellow villagers in the aptly-named Freedom, New York, were so charmed that after the Civil War they lobbied for him to get a long-delayed Revolutionary War pension. 

The government finally granted Bakeman $500 annual pay in 1867, two years before he died.

This oldest revolutionary veteran made history in love not just war. His 91-year, 12-day marriage to Susan née Brewer is the longest matrimonial claim on record.  Even if, as some allege, the two were married only eighty-one years, both spouses displayed remarkable endurance. 

Of course, both achievements emphasize one ability – durability. Just as John Kennedy downplayed his PT-109 naval heroics against the Japanese during World War II by saying “It was involuntary, they sank my boat,” Bakeman simply outlived any rivals. But while voting in every election from George Washington’s in 1789 to U.S. Grant’s in 1868 required near-superhuman longevity, staying married for nine decades demanded godlike patience. ...




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