Voices from the Past

 

General Patton, Corps and Division Commanders, 4th Armored Division C.P., England, June 1944.

These are the generals of the Third Army. Patton stands in front. My great uncle Brigadier General Julius Easton Slack stands in the back row, second from the right. This photo was taken in June 1944 in England shortly before the landing at Utah Beach in July.

As I look at this photo, I see resolve in their eyes and immovable determination on their faces.

I also feel their deep disappointment at what has happened in the past week.

Their torturous training in the desert theatre, the many observation missions, their development of “informed by getting their hands dirty” strategic and tactical plans, the agility with which they deftly adjusted their plans as they headed through Normandy into Northern France … the victory in liberating Metz and France’s deep gratitude for our unrelenting resolve.

My uncle was the commanding general of XX Corps Artillery. Here he is receiving the French Legion of Honor (Chevalier) medal General Andre Dody on November 29, 1944.

When I consider what we’ve fought for, I can’t stop the questions running through my mind.

What have we done? What in hell have we done?

A Voice from the Civil War

What would my 3rd cousin Brigadier General James Richard Slack say after devoting his entire life leading a free people and fighting to sustain their state? Born in 1818 in Bucks County, Penn., at 22 he was admitted to the bar, elected county auditor in Huntington, IN, and served in that role for nine years, was elected to the Indiana State Senate where he served for seven terms, and then, after the Civil War broke out, he was appointed colonel of the 47th Indiana Volunteer Infantry Regiment. He led the regiment at the Battle of Champion Hill, and for part of the Battle of Vicksburg in 1863. Engraved on his memorial plaque are these words …

“His military career is worthy of grateful remembrance of his countrymen. He was wise in counsel, energetic in achievement, unflagging in zeal, ever vigilant, true, and unmurmuring. No officer looked more carefully after the interest and welfare of his command: hence their devotion to him to the last.”

Voices from the Revolutionary War …

[1]What would my two great grandfathers, 1st cousin, and six great granduncles, who all fought in the Revolutionary War under General George Washington, say to us at this moment, particularly my 1st cousin (7x removed) Captain James Henry Slack? Serving alongside his cousins and uncles in Lower Makefield Company, he was part of the Slack contingent on the crossing of the Delaware with Washington, and fought in the battle of Trenton.

From notes contained in ancestry records: The Battle of Trenton was one of the pivotal moments of the Revolutionary War. Although 1776 opened with the recapture of Boston, the summer and autumn had brought nothing but defeat and retreat. If General George Washington had not chosen to make this bold counterattack against the British Army, or had he lost, the result would very likely have been the disintegration of the Continental Army and the loss [of] the war.

General George Washington and his staff occupied this house while the American Army regrouped after the successful night crossing of the Delaware River in December 1776. Washington’s staff used the shelter of this house to finalize strategy for the attack on Trenton.

Still referred to as Johnson’s Ferry during the American Revolution (Samuel McConkey owned the ferry on the Pa. side), it was rented and operated by James Slack and owned by Abraham Harvey. It is best known for the Christmas Night Crossing of the river of 2,400 Continental Troops leading to the Battle of Trenton. The house was used briefly by Continental troops and officers and possible by George Washington, who was the driving force behind the campaign. The Battle of Trenton was a pivotal victory for the American Cause.

The following description of the crossing is from the pages of the Roster of Revolutionary Ancestors …

“It was a fearful night, even the oldest inhabitants could not recall a worse one. Snow, hail, rain and sleet seemed to be mingled. The storm blinded them. The wind and swift current swept them out of their course. The huge masses of ice drove against the little boat, but back and forth across the river the men guided the frail craft,” (to ferry the men under General Washington across the river to attack the British). “Washington wrapped in a heavy coat stood in the stern. What hopes and fears must have been together in his heart that night. Many were the words of praise and encouragement he gave to William Green, James Slack and David Laning who were the most active among the ferry men.” “Ten long hours were consumed in passage, four more had been allotted. It was nearly four o’clock in the morning before the American army, which numbered but little more than two thousand men were mustered on the Jersey shore and Trenton still lay nine miles away and could not be reached before day break.” …

“Sacred to the memory of James Slack who departed this life 31 Jan. 1832 in the 76 year of his age. He was 16 years a ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church of Newtown and was one of that patriotic band of Revolutionary War Whigs who zealously sustained the case of American Independence in “76.”

How sleeps the brave who sinks to rest,

By all their countries wishes blest.”

Voice from Esopus Village – The Beginning of the Slacks in America

Much of this is taken from a previous post I wrote several months back. The sources are footnoted below.

Cornelius Barentse Slecht, my 9th Great Grampy, was encouraged by his friend, Peter Stuyvesant, Director-General of New Amsterdam (New Amswterdaam was governed by the East India Company), to emigrate from Woerden, Holland to New Netherlands.

The story of Cornelius Barentse Slecht is a pivotal example of what was required of men in the early pursuit and protection of freedoms. The Dutch had demonstrated an insatiable appetite for liberty given their history in Europe. Sent to America by Stuyvesant, Cornelius took his place in Esopus making a living as a miller, serving as a magistrate, and becoming prominent in the civil affairs of Esopus and in those of the church. As Sergeant of a Military Company, he signed an agreement in May of 1658 with Governor Stuyvesant to build a stockade and make peace with the Indians (that famous Stockade still stands in Kingston).

The Dutch colonies of New Netherland, which covered parts of present-day New York, Delaware, New Jersey, and Connecticut, were not under British colonial rule. Instead, they were owned by a corporation, the Dutch East India Company. From the beginning, new Netherland was a multiethnic, multi-religious, and multi-lingual society (18 languages). About half of the population was Dutch and the other half was comprised of French, German, Scandinavian, and a small number of Jews from Brazil. They valued freedom of worship, local self-government, and free land that would remain tax-exempt for ten years.

Tensions with the English over shipping and trade escalated, and on August 27th, 1664, four English frigates under the command of Richard Nicolls, a former cavalry commander on the Royalist side in the English Civil Wars, and trusted by the Duke of York (for which New York is now named) sailed into New Amsterdam’s harbor and demanded surrender. A letter from Richard Nicolls offering good terms for surrender was sent to Stuyvesant, who promptly tore it up and ordered preparations for resistance. He clearly wasn’t inclined to roll over, but then reality set in. The locals were not inclined to fight the English, and in fact, the English who had settled in Long Island had already expressed their allegiance to fight on the side of the English. Stuyvesant eventually surrendered New Amsterdam in early September.

The Dutch, loyal to the fatherland, and pretty dang feisty in spirit, chose to resist the surrender as far as they could. And once the English established an English Garrison at Wilwyck headed by Captain Daniel Brodhead, all hell broke loose. “Disorder, fighting, and rioting ensued.” Ah yes, those pesky “mostly peaceful protests.”

On February 16, 1666, Cornelius Barentse Slecht took up arms against the English in revolt against their authority and was brutally and severely beaten by a small detachment of British soldiers. After 2 ½ years of instability, in April of 1667, a petition was made, signed by a large number of inhabitants, and forwarded to the Governor. It said:

“Upon the 4th day of Feb. last, upon the doleful cry and lamentation of the children of Cornelius Barentse Slecht, that their father was miserably beaten and wounded by Captain Brodhead,” they had returned to his house and determined the complaint to be true.  This was followed by another petition which recited “that Cornelius Barentse Slecht is beaten in his own house by his soldier George Porter, and after this by the other soldiers, and forced to prison, and at his imprisonment used very hard … and his arms by force taken out of his house which still do remain by said Captain Brodhead.”

Things grew much worse. Cornelius Barentse Slecht was arrested in 1667 as one of the four leaders in an insurrection against the oppression of the English Commandant. Yikes!

On April 16, 1667, the Governor appointed a commission to investigate the troubles, which turned out to be a formality given the findings had already been prepared. (Why is this ringing a bell?) No jury was present, and only a few allowed into the hearing. It was, therefore, easy for the commission to decide that a state of rebellion and insurrection existed, and that “the four principal instigators were Antoni d’Elba, Albert Heymans Roosa, Arent Albertson and Cornelius Barentse Selcht. These gentlemen were taken for sentencing, and Roosa was banished for life from the government; the others for shorter terms out of Esopus, Albany and New York. And again, as is common in our day, these sentences were soon modified and the accused permitted to return to their homes … yet the record states “but the spirit of resistance was neither modified nor crushed.”

It is true … the spirit of our ancestors lives beyond the grave, passing forward some mysterious and powerful notion of honor, purpose, doing good, and a willingness to die for what will best serve posterity. I hold out hope that the spirit of every honorable freedom loving warrior that has brought us this far will rise up and take us beyond what is, at this moment, an unthinkable turn toward darkness.

To every active duty solder … remember from whom you came.

[1] They deserve to be named:

  • John Cornelius Slack 1715-1785,
  • Abraham Slack 1722-1802, of Lower Makefield Company, crossed with Washington over the Delaware to Trenton and fought in the Battle of Trenton
  • Noah Slack 1744-1792, of Bensalem Company, Bucks County, PA.
  • Joseph Slack 1746-1815, of both Lower Makefile Company and Bensalem Company
  • Cornelius Benjamin Slack 1742-1810, of Lower Makefield Company and buried in Newtown Presbyterian Cemetery
  • Thomas Slack 1744-1811, of Lower Makefield Company, fought in the Battles of Brandywine and Valley Forge
  • Timothy Slack 1748-1817, of Lower Makefield Company
  • Phillip Slack 1749-1827, of Lower Makefield Company
  • John Slack 1754-1838, played the fife and was on the boat with George Washington as he crossed the Delaware (son of Abraham who was with him on the boat that day)
  • Captain James Henry Slack 1755-1831, of Lower Makefield Company, was also on the boat crossing the Delaware, and assisted with the rowing. The boat left from Slack’s Landing, now the area of “Washington Crossing.”

Footnotes from original post:

[1] A minor disclaimer. I meticulously researched all of this, discarding information that seemed even slightly doubtful, believe me. But there is a structure to Ancestry.com that makes fluid research across people and generations somewhat clunky. Although the best tipsters in the Ancestry space suggest opening multiple windows when needing to jump around and clean things up, I wasn’t able to do that without having to log in and go through the 2FA again and again and again. And I didn’t want to do that. This made the validation of sources and even capturing the source information very challenging. Where I was able to mention the source, I did, but most of this can be verified online anyway. Or if you have questions, you may message me.

[2] The family name is spelled in several in various ways, including Slecht, Sleght, Slaght, and Slack. One of those is my maiden name. You’ll see these variations throughout this post. There is also a specific method used by the Dutch in naming their children, which caused me no insignificant confusion while researching, that is until I found the code breaker chart.

[3] A large portion of the basic genealogical data on Cornelius Barentse Slecht was sourced from a document prepared from records of Ulster County, N.Y. Probate Records; Flushing Records; Schoonmaker “History of Kingston: and F.L. Van Wagnen “Garrett Conrad Van Wagnen.”

[4] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cornelius_Hendrickson

[5] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Gibraltar_(1607)

[6] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cornelius_Hendrickson

[8] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Esopus_Wars First Esopus War

[9] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Esopus_Wars Second Esopus War

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  1. Columbo Member
    Columbo
    @Columbo

    Outstanding post GLW!!

    And Sad.

    • #1
  2. God-LovingWoman Coolidge
    God-LovingWoman
    @GodLovingWoman

    Columbo (View Comment):

    Outstanding post GLW!!

    And Sad.

    Thank you Lieutenant. Yes, I am sad and angry and wishing I was younger. I have the same temperament as my ancestors (and I’m looking forward to spending eternity with them because they of all people will understand me, and me them), … I would run into this to do all I could, but I am past my prime by a long shot. Yet … words can still be written.

    If you are at all interested, I’m building a site … theslacksite.com … you might like it. It’s a work in progress but still has lots of photos and little stories.

    • #2
  3. CACrabtree Coolidge
    CACrabtree
    @CACrabtree

    Fantastic post GLW.

    “…resolve in their eyes and immovable determination on their faces.”

    Indeed.  And I see very little of this in today’s JCS; only a shallow careerism coupled with a disdain for the troops they are supposed to lead.

    • #3
  4. Front Seat Cat Member
    Front Seat Cat
    @FrontSeatCat

    Columbo (View Comment):

    Outstanding post GLW!!

    And Sad.

    I second that – Outstanding post – wow – so fascinating!!  What a legacy you have! Did you do a family tree through Ancestry or did your family have it all?  Yes I am with you 100% on your thoughts, and I have to wonder if much of our military at this moment isn’t thinking the same things. Thank you for your post – I hope it makes The Main Feed.

    • #4
  5. God-LovingWoman Coolidge
    God-LovingWoman
    @GodLovingWoman

    CACrabtree (View Comment):

    Fantastic post GLW.

    “…resolve in their eyes and immovable determination on their faces.”

    Indeed. And I see very little of this in today’s JCS; only a shallow careerism coupled with a disdain for the troops they are supposed to lead.

    Thank you CACrabtree. Those guys (JCS) don’t resemble any general I grew up expecting to see in their high positions. With leaders like Milley, we might as well … I won’t say. But, it is astonishing how far afoul of clarity we’ve drifted. 

    • #5
  6. God-LovingWoman Coolidge
    God-LovingWoman
    @GodLovingWoman

    Front Seat Cat (View Comment):

    Columbo (View Comment):

    Outstanding post GLW!!

    And Sad.

    I second that – Outstanding post – wow – so fascinating!! What a legacy you have! Did you do a family tree through Ancestry or did your family have it all? Yes I am with you 100% on your thoughts, and I have to wonder if much of our military at this moment isn’t thinking the same things. Thank you for your post – I hope it makes The Main Feed.

    Thanks FrontSeatCat! I started with a handwritten tree created by a great great aunt, and then two years ago I came into possession of my uncle Julius’s personal photos, military and personal records, and some personal items like holsters, riding tack, flags, etc. I have hundreds of his photos from 1918 through 1945; battle field, awards ceremonies, personal photos with Hollywood stars … it’s crazy! And then I started building from what I had using Ancestry. It has been an amazing experience for me personally, but more importantly it makes me realize how much our ancestors have poured themselves into who we are today.

    My heart aches for those active duty heroes who feel so betrayed right now. I’m praying for miracles.

    • #6
  7. Front Seat Cat Member
    Front Seat Cat
    @FrontSeatCat

    God-LovingWoman (View Comment):

    Front Seat Cat (View Comment):

    Columbo (View Comment):

    Outstanding post GLW!!

    And Sad.

    I second that – Outstanding post – wow – so fascinating!! What a legacy you have! Did you do a family tree through Ancestry or did your family have it all? Yes I am with you 100% on your thoughts, and I have to wonder if much of our military at this moment isn’t thinking the same things. Thank you for your post – I hope it makes The Main Feed.

    Thanks FrontSeatCat! I started with a handwritten tree created by a great great aunt, and then two years ago I came into possession of my uncle Julius’s personal photos, military and personal records, and some personal items like holsters, riding tack, flags, etc. I have hundreds of his photos from 1918 through 1945; battle field, awards ceremonies, personal photos with Hollywood stars … it’s crazy! And then I started building from what I had using Ancestry. It has been an amazing experience for me personally, but more importantly it makes me realize how much our ancestors have poured themselves into who we are today.

    My heart aches for those active duty hero’s who feel so betrayed right now. I’m praying for miracles.

    I’m praying for miracles too.  Our ancestors went thru things and survived the most severe and diabolical conditions. I don’t think I would have in those days.  If they could do it, considering all we have at our disposal today, so can we. 

    • #7
  8. CACrabtree Coolidge
    CACrabtree
    @CACrabtree

    God-LovingWoman (View Comment):

    CACrabtree (View Comment):

    Fantastic post GLW.

    “…resolve in their eyes and immovable determination on their faces.”

    Indeed. And I see very little of this in today’s JCS; only a shallow careerism coupled with a disdain for the troops they are supposed to lead.

    Thank you CACrabtree. Those guys (JCS) don’t resemble any general I grew up expecting to see in their high positions. With leaders like Milley, we might as well … I won’t say. But, it is astonishing how far afoul of clarity we’ve drifted.

    “…how far afoul of clarity we’ve drifted.”

    That might be the understatment of the year.  I’m searching for a term worse than FUBAR’d but I haven’t come up with one yet.  I’ll keep searching…

    • #8
  9. God-LovingWoman Coolidge
    God-LovingWoman
    @GodLovingWoman

    CACrabtree (View Comment):

    God-LovingWoman (View Comment):

    CACrabtree (View Comment):

    Fantastic post GLW.

    “…resolve in their eyes and immovable determination on their faces.”

    Indeed. And I see very little of this in today’s JCS; only a shallow careerism coupled with a disdain for the troops they are supposed to lead.

    Thank you CACrabtree. Those guys (JCS) don’t resemble any general I grew up expecting to see in their high positions. With leaders like Milley, we might as well … I won’t say. But, it is astonishing how far afoul of clarity we’ve drifted.

    “…how far afoul of clarity we’ve drifted.”

    That might be the understatment of the year. I’m searching for a term worse than FUBAR’d but I haven’t come up with one yet. I’ll keep searching…

    I’m intrigued! Looking it up now. 

    Ah … yes. Says it well in the bluntest of terms. 

    • #9
  10. Cosmik Phred Member
    Cosmik Phred
    @CosmikPhred

    Wonderful post!

    As an ex-Bucks County guy I saw many familiar place names related to the Revolutionary War military units you referenced.  There’s so much surviving history there.  My family’s history on these shores does not go back that far.  I think Dad got as far back as 18th century Swabia in present-day Germany with our genealogy, but not with that level of specificity.  Nice work.

    A couple of corrections for your records (could be just typos):

    • Cornelius Benjamin Slack 1742-1810, of Lower Makefield Company and buried in Newton Presbyterian Cemetery …Newton” should probably be Newtown, a borough adjacent to Lower Makefield Township.  I went to high school in Newtown and had many classmates from Lower Makefield Twp.  Bensalem is an adjacent township to where I lived in Bucks.
    • “McKonkey’s Ferry” should read “McConkey’s Ferry.”
    • #10
  11. God-LovingWoman Coolidge
    God-LovingWoman
    @GodLovingWoman

    Cosmik Phred (View Comment):

    Wonderful post!

    As an ex-Bucks County guy I saw many familiar place names related to the Revolutionary War military units you referenced. There’s so much surviving history there. My family’s history on these shores does not go back that far. I think Dad got as far back as 18th century Swabia in present-day Germany with our genealogy, but not with that level of specificity. Nice work.

    A couple of corrections for your records (could be just typos):

    • Cornelius Benjamin Slack 1742-1810, of Lower Makefield Company and buried in Newton Presbyterian Cemetery …Newton” should probably be Newtown, a borough adjacent to Lower Makefield Township. I went to high school in Newtown and had many classmates from Lower Makefield Twp. Bensalem is an adjacent township to where I lived in Bucks.
    • “McKonkey’s Ferry” should read “McConkey’s Ferry.”

    @Cosmik Phred

     

    Thank you so much. You are right, it is a lot of work. Once I got into Ancestry, I learned the hard way that you have to be methodical and diligent and not just pick up anything another researcher might have posted. Original sources are key along with holding a policy of ruthless rejection of anything that pops up smelling of reasonable doubt. I was fortunate to have started with a handwritten tree from at least four, maybe five generations back on my paternal side, which provided a solid starting point to build from. 

    Yes, that first one was a typo, which for me is not uncommon, unfortunately. Thank you for pointing that out and for the corrected spelling for McConkey’s Ferry. I really appreciate it. I’m building a website that covers much of this in more detail (mostly about my ancestors during WWII), and the process continues to surface errors here and there. I’m a stickler for accuracy, and it takes time, but I think the site will be entertaining and a good source once it’s finished.

     

    • #11
  12. God-LovingWoman Coolidge
    God-LovingWoman
    @GodLovingWoman

    God-LovingWoman (View Comment):
    Cosmik Phred (View Comment)

    Drat!  I made the corrections, “yay me!” and the post was taken off the Main Feed, “boo me!”. I didn’t realize that would happen, so hopefully my pleas for help will be heard and it will be re-promoted. That said, I have made the updates and I appreciate you taking the time to let me know!

    • #12
  13. CACrabtree Coolidge
    CACrabtree
    @CACrabtree

    God-LovingWoman (View Comment):

    CACrabtree (View Comment):

    God-LovingWoman (View Comment):

    CACrabtree (View Comment):

    Fantastic post GLW.

    “…resolve in their eyes and immovable determination on their faces.”

    Indeed. And I see very little of this in today’s JCS; only a shallow careerism coupled with a disdain for the troops they are supposed to lead.

    Thank you CACrabtree. Those guys (JCS) don’t resemble any general I grew up expecting to see in their high positions. With leaders like Milley, we might as well … I won’t say. But, it is astonishing how far afoul of clarity we’ve drifted.

    “…how far afoul of clarity we’ve drifted.”

    That might be the understatment of the year. I’m searching for a term worse than FUBAR’d but I haven’t come up with one yet. I’ll keep searching…

    I’m intrigued! Looking it up now.

    Ah … yes. Says it well in the bluntest of terms.

    Always striving to bring rays of enlightenment to my fellow Ricochetites…

    • #13