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Local De Anza chapter attends Southern Council

Delegates from De Anza Chapter attended the California State Society Daughters of the American Revolution’s biannual Southern Council on Sept. 25 at the Irvine Marriott. They attended classes on financial matters, how to grow and revitalize chapters and the Bible records project of the new State Regent, Karon Jarrard of San Diego. The event concluded with a luncheon and speaker in keeping with the culmination of Constitution Week.

Michael H. Caldwell spoke to the gathering. He is an author of 10 books, a songwriter and a poet. He is a direct descendant of the Presbyterian minister Rev. James Caldwell, known as the Battling Parson of Springfield, New Jersey and the Rebel High Priest. Rev. James Caldwell epitomized the spark and spirit of the American Revolution. He was a Presbyterian minister who preached on Sundays and fought the British during the week, encouraging the colonial troops with glowing patriotic and religious sermons on the field. The British put a price on his head. British colonist James Morgan, bribed by the British to assassinate the Reverend, murdered wife Hannah Caldwell as she sat holding her baby and burned their house to the ground; Rev. Caldwell was away from home at the time.

The church bell that rang, “The British are coming; the British are coming!’ was atop Rev. Caldwell’s Presbyterian church that was burned during the Battle of Springfield, New Jersey. Rev. Caldwell yelled, “Give ‘em Watts!” as he ran into the burning church to retrieve the Watts hymnals in order to use their pages as wadding for the muskets, since wadding was in short supply. In 1781, 15 months after the Battle of Springfield, the British assassinated Rev. Caldwell. Their orphaned 10 children were adopted out, including one by the Marquis de Lafayette, who was instrumental in defeating the British via his collaboration with General George Washington.

In 1873, Francis Brett Harte immortalized the sacrifices made by the Caldwell family with the poem, “Caldwell of Springfield,” printed below:

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Here’s the spot. Look around you. Above on the height

Lay the Hessians encamped. By that church on the right

Stood the gaunt Jersey farmers. And here ran a wall--

You may dig anywhere and you’ll turn up a ball.

Nothing more. Grasses spring, waters run, flowers blow,

Pretty much as they did ninety-three years ago.

Nothing more, did I say? Stay one moment: you’ve heard

Of Caldwell, the parson, who once preached the Word

Down at Springfield? What, no? Come — that’s bad; why, he had

All the Jerseys aflame! And they gave him the name

Of the ‘rebel high priest.’ He stuck in their gorge,

For he loved the Lord God — and he hated King George!

He had cause, you might say! When the Hessians that day

Marched up with Knyphausen, they stopped on their way

At the ‘farms,’ where his wife, with a child in her arms,

Sat alone in the house. How it happened none knew

But God--and that one of the hireling crew

Who fired the shot! Enough! There she lay,

And Caldwell, the chaplain, her husband, away!

Did he preach--did he pray? Think of him as you stand

By the old church today, — think of him and his band

Of militant ploughboys! See the smoke and the heat

Of that reckless advance, of that straggling retreat!

Keep the ghost of that wife, foully slain, in your view—

And what could you, what should you, what would YOU do?

Why, just what HE did! They were left in the lurch

For the want of more wadding. He ran to the church,

Broke the door, stripped the pews, and dashed out in the road

With his arms full of hymnbooks, and threw down his load

At their feet! Then above all the shouting and shots

Rang his voice: ‘Put Watts into ‘em! Boys, give ‘em Watts!’

And they did. That is all. Grasses spring, flowers blow,

Pretty much as they did ninety-three years ago.

You may dig anywhere and you’ll turn up a ball—

But not always a hero like this—and that’s all.

The Daughters of the American Revolution help bring history alive. Membership is open to women 18 years and older who can prove they are descended from a patriot of the American Revolution. For more information on membership or to attend a De Anza chapter meeting, please call Marti Meiners at 858-759-3220.

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