The Last Men of the Revolution, Part 1

In my last post, I mentioned Pope Pius IX was born in the 1700s and a few people asked if he was the only person born in the 1700s who was ever photographed. He wasn’t. There aren’t a lot, of course. Photography only became accessible in the 1840s. But plenty of people from the 1700s were still alive then.

The men in this post and the next one were American Revolution veterans, who were photographed late in life. I’m not sure who to credit the images to, I’ve seen them on several websites including Time, genealogy websites,, and

Six of the photographs were taken by Rev. Hillard in 1864, when he documented the last living Revolutionary War veterans’ lives in his book The Last Men of the Revolution. A century later, a reporter named Joe Baumann found several more pictures of veterans who died before 1864. The daguerrotype of Fishley was discovered in a historical society’s storage area where it had been forgotten.

Here are seven of your American Revolutionary War heroes:

Alexander Millener


Alexander Millener enlisted in September of 1780, at the age of 10. His stepfather was a sergeant in the Army and his mother traveled with the troops as a washerwoman. Millener was too young to fight so he became a drummer boy. It’s very strange to think a 10-year-old could join up! He served in George Washington’s unit. General Washington particularly enjoyed Millener’s drumming.

Reverend Levi Hayes


Levi Hayes was born in Connecticut on April 1, 1763. He was also a musician, playing the fife. He became a minister after he was discharged. The book in his hand was probably a Bible.

George Fishley


George Fishley was a soldier in the Continental army. After the war, he lived in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and was locally famous.

Notice his large hat. Continental soldiers wore tall, wide hats with cockades (a rosette or knot of ribbons)Fishley was rather vain about this hat. He loved to march in parades wearing it. But not just any parade. His obituary noted that Fishley was asked to be part of a procession with other Revolution veterans to honor John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. Fishley asked who would be there. “All were named until —– was mentioned. ‘What!’ cried the old man. ‘He a patriot! Why he was a d— Hessian, and came over here to fight us for six pence a day. No s-i-r, I don’t ride with such patriots as he!’ And ride he did not on the solemn occasion.”

Fishley was quite the contrarian. Another amusing anecdote about him on relates that when he was invited to meet President James Polk, Fishley “at first declined to shake the President’s hand saying he had no political sympathies with the man.”

Daniel Waldo


Rev. Daniel Waldo was drafted in 1778 for a month of service, then he enlisted to serve eight months more.  He was taken prisoner by the British but came home safely. After the war, he went back to farming. In 1856, when he was 94, Waldo became Chaplain of the House of Representatives. The age listed on his photo is incorrect. Waldo was 101.

James W. Head


James W. Head joined the Continental Navy in October 1779, at the ripe old age of 14. He served as a midshipman aboard the Queen of France. Head was captured when the Americans surrendered and taken as a prisoner of war. The roar of the cannons had taken a toll on Head. He was deaf in one ear and had hearing loss in the other. Later, Head was a delegate to the Massachusetts convention that ratified the Constitution.

Jonathan Smith


Jonathan Smith was born is 1761 and joined the militia at age 15. He was in at least one battle on August 29, 1778. After the war he became a Baptist minister and was married three times (thrice, as he might say). He is an interesting looking guy, isn’t he?

Less than three months before his death, he had a daguerreotype taken to give to his granddaughter. Pinned on the back was a handwritten note from Reverend Smith.

Hayes’ note to granddaughter


The note is hard to read. It says, ““October 20 1854, A present to Lucy R. Fullen, by her Grandfather J. Smith, Born March 10, 1761”

John Gray


John Gray (1764 – 1868) was the last verified veteran of the American Revolutionary War. After his father was killed in the war, Gray joined up at age 16. He served just six months and was present at the Battle of Yorktown. After the war, he moved to Ohio and lived until the age of 104.

Go to Part 2 to see the remaining pictures!

3 thoughts on “The Last Men of the Revolution, Part 1

  1. Pingback: The Last Men of the Revolution, Part 2 – old spirituals

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