LIMA — On March 5, 1781, a force of 2,100 British troops under Lieutenant General Charles Cornwallis faced 4,500 Americans under Major General Nathanael Greene at Guilford Courthouse, North Carolina.
Standing steadfast in line with the Americans that day was 24-year-old Pvt. William Rodgers, who was born nearby and had entered service the previous October.
The British went on to win the day but suffered such heavy casualties that Cornwallis withdrew his battered force into Virginia where he was boxed in, besieged and forced to surrender at Yorktown that October by a combined American and French force. It was the last major engagement of the Revolutionary War.
Rodgers was wounded at Guilford Courthouse by a musket ball, which lodged in his chest, and was carried from the battlefield to his father’s nearby home to die — which he did not do for another 64 years.
Tended by his family, he eventually recovered, became a shoemaker, moved from North Carolina, to Kentucky, to Ohio, married three times, and fathered nearly a dozen children. In December 1845, more than six decades after he was wounded, Rodgers died in Perry Township, leaving behind an estate valued at $55. He was buried in tiny Logan Cemetery, a family burial ground nestled in a farm field along Ream Road.
On Saturday, Sept. 12, Rodgers and two other veterans of the Revolutionary War whose final resting places are in Allen County, will be remembered in commemorative grave marking ceremonies sponsored by the Sons of the American Revolution with assistance from the Daughters of the American Revolution, the SAR Color Guard and the townships involved.
In addition to Rodgers, Joseph DeFord, who is buried in Bluffton’s Shannon Cemetery, and Simon Cochrun, who is buried in Ash Grove Cemetery on North Cable Road, will be honored.
The Rodgers ceremony nearly did not have a grave site at which to gather.
In March, representatives of the SAR met with Perry Township Trustee Kevin Cox, who also serves as president of the township historical society, at the Logan Cemetery, in which Rodgers’ daughter, Minerva, and her husband, David Logan, were also buried. The group located several Logan family markers but did not find Rodgers’s marker.
It was decided to apply to obtain a government marker and the SAR and Cox prepared and submitted all the necessary documents and paperwork. In the meantime, Perry Township workers in the process of cleaning up old markers in the cemetery came across Rodgers’s gravestone, which had toppled and had been nearly completely buried over the years.
And so, Rodgers’s grave site, which had virtually disappeared over 175 years, now has two markers.
Saturday’s first ceremony will be at the grave of Deford in Bluffton. DeFord was born in 1761 in Queen Anne’s County, Maryland, and it is believed he enlisted in 1777 in the 5th Maryland Regiment, which was assigned to the main Continental Army. The regiment saw action during the battles of Long Island (1776), Brandywine (1777), Germantown (1777), Monmouth (1778), Camden (1780) and Guilford Courthouse.
After the war, Deford moved to Fort Pitt (Pittsburgh) where he built a raft, floated down the Ohio River to the Scioto River and up the Scioto to Ross County, Ohio, where he settled for a short time. He then went by foot to Allen County. According to the 1885 Allen County history, Deford was an early settler of Richland Township and owned a grist mill on Riley Creek. In 1837, he platted the village of Shannon, which was renamed Bluffton in 1861.
Deford’s headstone was one of approximately 40 removed from Shannon Cemetery as part of a plan to turn the site into a park. Under the plan, the tombstones were to be placed in a memorial wall. However, the plan was abandoned after village residents protested and the headstones were reset by volunteers in 2019.
Saturday’s final ceremony is planned for the grave site of Simon Cochrun, who was born in July 1755 in Hardy County in what was then Virginia but is today West Virginia. In 1774, Cochrun served with militia in Dunmore’s War against a Shawnee-led confederacy in the Ohio country. Three years later, he enlisted in a Virginia regiment in Continental Army, which saw action at Brandywine, Germantown and Monmouth.
After his service, Cochrun became a Methodist preacher, married three times and fathered several children. He moved from Virginia to Kentucky before eventually settling in Ohio. He is buried in Ash Grove Cemetery on North Cable Road.
Reach Greg Hoersten at firstname.lastname@example.org.