In the opening months of America’s War for Independence, many colonists rushed off to defend their rights without any concept of the reality of war. Their innocence shielded them from the importance of the decision. Thomas Paine described them as the “summer soldier and the sunshine patriot” that would “shrink from the service of their country” when faced with tough conditions of soldiering – hot, humid summer days, without enough fresh water to quench one’s thirst; incessant biting insects and other body vermin; drenching freezing rain; snow-covered military camps that left one numb and weak; deadly diseases sweeping through the ranks, incapacitating many and killing more soldiers than did battle wounds. Under such punishing circumstances, it is perhaps no wonder they fled the effort.
Yet, there were many that had faced the trials of the French and Indian War and knew exactly what difficulties they would encounter, yet they still volunteered to fight in 1775. They were a vital core of experienced men that held the nation’s fledgling army together; regular men from farming communities with a common bond of courage. This is the story of one of those men.
Timothy Percival persevered through four campaigns in the French and Indian War in the wilderness of northern New York. He fought against French soldiers and their Indian allies in a number of battles and woodland skirmishes, including the largest battle of that war. In 1775, after fifteen years of peacefully building a successful farm with a growing family, he bravely volunteered to serve again. Timothy served in two more campaigns and the largest battle of the War of Independence – a war that would cause his family more anguish than ever before.