This post was contributed by Sue Woodruff Noland. Her previous post on the topic of the Woodruff family can be found here.
Benjamin Woodruff, born 26 November 1744 to James Woodruff* (1722-1759) and Joanna ? (1722-1812), attended the Morristown Presbyterian Church. He served during the Revolution with the New Jersey militia, leaving behind his wife and 3 children; his wife, Phoebe Pierson Woodruff, died 21 January 1777, aged 36, and one can only hope that Benjamin was able to be there with her and the children. Benjamin married again 8 July 1778, to Patience Lum, daughter of Obadiah Lum, with whom he had more children he left behind as he served our country. It has been certified that Benjamin served one monthly tour in 1776 as a drummer; three monthly tours as a sergeant in 1776, including an engagement near Elizabeth, NJ, on 17 December 1776. He served under various captains to the close of the war. [information from the genealogical history provided by Charles Marius Woodruff]
Those of you who are familiar with Michigan and the Great Lakes, which is where I live, know how variable the weather can be; mid-May average temperature is mid-60s. On May 14, 2016, the day of the Grave Marker Dedication Ceremony for Benjamin Woodruff, son Andrew and I, both descendants of Benjamin, encountered temperatures in the low 40s and brisk breezes that carried sleety-snowy-rain as we gathered at Forest Hill Cemetery in Ann Arbor, Michigan!
As was common in 1837, when Benjamin died, he was buried the following day and therefore was not accorded a military funeral. The DAR and SAR strive to provide a service for our forgotten patriots; on this day another Revolutionary War soldier, Josiah Cutler, was honored with our ancestor, Benjamin.
The ceremony began with a welcome from Phil Jackson, Huron Valley Chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution (SAR). Following Phil’s remarks, we watched the posting of colors and standards with bearers dressed in Revolutionary War period uniforms. Thomas Pleuss, Chaplain of the Huron Valley Chapter SAR, gave the invocation, and then Kate Kirkpatrick, from the local Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) chapter made some remarks, followed by remarks from a representative from each patriot’s family. Thomas Woodruff and Frank Ticknor (Josiah’s family) each presented a brief history of our respective ancestor. This portion of the ceremony was conducted about mid-way between the two patriot’s graves. After family remarks, the ceremony was conducted separately at each grave site.
Benjamin’s grave site is a family memorial with several of his family interred there. Tom and his son, Michael, generously purchased a marker for Benjamin indicating his service as a Revolutionary War patriot. (The US government ‘declined’ to provide a marker.) Our grateful thanks to Tom and Michael’s families for researching Revolutionary War markers and commissioning the marker to be made. The marker was unveiled before our nation’s tribute, the folding of the flag. Since there was no flag pole, the ceremony actually involved unfolding a flag brought by the SAR/DAR for the occasion, and then refolding it as a story was told about the meaning of the folds, the last fold being a representation of a mother tucking in her child for the night—a story made up sometime in the past, but a touching story nonetheless. Once folded, the flag was presented to Tom. We were then cautioned that the next part of the ceremony would be the military tribute, a 21-gun (and 2 muskets) salute—startlingly loud!
The veterans Honor Guard of Washtenaw County (Michigan), the Indiana Society Color Guard, and the Ohio Society Color Guard performed the tribute of three volleys. The 21 spent shells were given to Tom, who offered one to each of the family as a memento of the day.
The Sword Salute was by far the most touching part of the ceremony for me. Three of the Color Guard detached from the group. The leader explained that, on command, the three of them would tip their tri-corn hats to honor our patriot and then bow, touching the ground with their swords, to show humility for Benjamin’s service to us and our country. To conclude the ceremony there was a sounding of taps by two buglers.
Both families (Woodruff and Cutler) came together once again after Josiah’s ceremony, for floral tributes from several SAR, DAR, and CAR groups (Children of the American Revolution). These organizations developed at various times with the objective of keeping alive their ancestors’ stories of patriotism and courage “in the belief that it is a universal one of man’s struggle against tyranny….” [from SAR website] The conclusion of the entire ceremony was a bagpipe tribute to both soldiers, by Herm Steinman.
Chilled to the bone, but eager to meet cousins we didn’t even know existed a few short weeks before, we gathered with Benjamin’s other descendants at Conor O’Neill’s Irish Pub in Ann Arbor, as guests of Tom and his wife, Jane, and Mike and his wife and tiny daughter. We met ‘new’ cousins, including Tom and Mike’s families, as well as Pam Olander from the Chicago area and reacquainted ourselves with cousins who had attended one of the Woodruff family reunions we organized during the mid-2000s. The room was quite abuzz with everyone sharing history and asking questions. Tom told us the motto on our Woodruff Coat of Arms, “Sit Dux Sapientia,” translates as “Let wisdom be your guide;” we had not known the motto, only the shield design.
The day before the ceremony, Andrew and I had met Pam at the Bentley Historical Library on the U of M campus in Ann Arbor. We spent over two hours poring through Woodruff documents stored at the Library and were finally able to answer a question: Why would John Woodruff leave England in 1640? The answer: he seems to have decided that King Charles I was taking too much of the family income via taxes. Later, it seems our Benjamin, living in the colonies, may not quite have agreed with King George III’s Stamp Act of 1765 (and a few others: sugar tax, currency, etc.), thus leading to his participation in the Revolutionary War a few years later.
If any of you should travel to Michigan in the future, for research at the Library or simply to visit Benjamin’s final resting place (he was moved to Forest Hill from another site), we would love to meet any ‘new’ cousins.
*James Woodruff (b. 1722, Elizabethtown, NJ) was the son of Benjamin Woodruff (1684-1726) and Susanna (1686-1727), both of whom were born and died in Elizabethtown, NJ.