From our A Tidbit from History Series…
Francis Lewis represented New York in signing the Declaration of Independence.
In 1775 he was elected to the Continental Congress and shortly thereafter moved his family to a comfortable estate on Long Island. But, it was a sad mistake.
In the fall of 1776, British Colonel Birtch led his cavalrymen toward the Lewis home. He was enraged when he found Mr. Lewis not at home to get “the hanging he deserved,” so he took out his frustration on Mrs. Lewis instead.
He made her watch as his men stole her silver and other valuables. Then the family’s extensive library- a very expensive asset in those days- was set on fire and destroyed. The entire farm was laid waste.
Mrs. Lewis, by no means young and strong, was carried off prisoner. She was locked up with no furniture, not even a bed to sleep on. She was not given a change of clothes for months. Her cell was not heated in the winter and she slept on the floor, a toilet bucket her only furnishing.
Eventually, General Washington was able to procure her freedom in a prisoner exchange, but it was too late. The cruel treatment had done its destructive work and Mrs. Lewis died a short time later.
Her husband, though brokenhearted, nevertheless continued to serve his country.
Rather than withdrawing into self-pity, he continued as a member of the Continental Congress.
When the war ended, he had been reduced to poverty.
He lived the rest of his life in the homes of his sons. He had lost almost everything-except his sacred honor.
Many men and their families gave so much to bring about the freedom you and I have always enjoyed.
It is good to learn their stories and remember and them.
Find out more about other signers of the Declaration of Independence in: