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AMERICAN PATRIOTSAnswering the Call to Freedom
By RICK SANTORUM
Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2012 Rick Santorum
All right reserved.
Chapter OnePETER FRANCISCO
The Virginia Giant
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The Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon him.... Finding a fresh jawbone of a donkey, he grabbed it and struck down a thousand men. JUDGES 15:14-15, NIV
At the heart of the fundamental right to life is a belief that every life is a gift and will make a contribution to society if given the chance. Or, as I was taught as a child, God doesn't make mistakes. There is no better example of this principle during the Revolution than the contribution made by a giant of a man who mysteriously appeared on a dock in City Point, Virginia, in 1765.
According to an eyewitness account, "a foreign ship sailed up the James River, dropped anchor opposite the dock, and lowered a longboat to the water with two sailors in it. Then a boy of about five years was handed down and rowed to the wharf, where he was deposited and abandoned. The boat returned, quickly, to its ship. The ship weighed anchor at once, sailed back down the James River, and was never heard from again."
The boy was well dressed, with silver buckles on his shoes. One buckle formed the initial P, and the other the initial F. He spoke a combination of European languages, and he was eventually able to communicate to bystanders that his name was Pedro Francisco. According to some accounts, a Portuguese noble named Francisco was being pursued by political enemies, and he orchestrated his son's abduction to protect the boy. Other stories speculate that he was kidnapped by sailors who intended to hold him for ransom or sell him as an indentured servant.
Francisco was shuffled around, moving from seaside warehouses to the county poorhouse, until his story intrigued a local judge named Anthony Winston, who took him in. The judge treated Francisco well and offered the boy all the advantages of someone growing up in a well-to-do household. And grow he did! At a time when the average height of a man was five feet four, Francisco towered over everyone else at the impressive height of six feet six. Remarkably strong, he weighed around 260 pounds.
In 1774 Judge Winston became one of the first Patriot leaders to defy royal authority by participating in illegal legislative sessions. Later he decided to bring fourteen-year-old Peter with him to one of these meetings. Virginia's greatest Revolutionary voices, such as Thomas Jefferson, Richard Henry Lee, and Judge Winston's soon-to-be-famous nephew, Patrick Henry, attended the meeting at St. John's Church in Richmond. The treasonous topic was armed defiance of British authority, and there Francisco witnessed Patrick Henry give his famous "Give me liberty, or give me death!" speech. Francisco's patriotic fervor was sparked from that moment.
Before the end of the meeting, the convention authorized a Virginia militia, which Francisco wished to join immediately. Judge Winston entreated him to wait a year, which he did. As soon as the year was up, Francisco, age fifteen, eagerly joined the Tenth Virginia as a private. Not long after his enlistment, he saw his first battle and received a minor bullet wound at the Battle of Brandywine Creek. He convalesced at a Quaker home with his new friend, the Marquis de Lafayette.
A month later, Francisco was back in action, defending Philadelphia at the Battle of Germantown and the Siege of Fort Mifflin. He was one of the few who survived to spend the winter of 1777 at Valley Forge. The following summer he was severely wounded at the Battle of Monmouth in New Jersey, and his injuries were so extensive that it took him a year to heal.
Undaunted, he reenlisted and returned under the command of General Washington, where he was one of twenty skilled soldiers selected for the front lines of battle. This group was known as the "forlorn hope," so called because their chances for survival were slim. They were to lead the light infantry assault on Stony Point on the Hudson River, just south of West Point. Peter was the second Patriot soldier to scale the fort's wall, where he engaged in hand-to-hand combat, suffering a nine-inch bayonet gash across his abdomen. He killed three soldiers before capturing the British battle flag. Francisco was one of only four from the "forlorn hope" to survive the assault.
Francisco's enlistment was up shortly after this battle, but he went back and enlisted a third time, then headed south to the next British offensive. Accounts about Francisco's legendary exploits at the Battle of Camden vary somewhat in terms of chronology, but there is no dispute about his bravery on the battlefield.
As the battle intensified, the Patriots' lines broke and American soldiers went into full retreat. Francisco and a few others tried to stem the tide, but eventually they were caught in the chaos. A British dragoon on horseback approached Francisco, his weapon poised to kill him. "Surrender or die!" he shouted.
Francisco responded, "My gun—it isn't even loaded," as he cautiously stood up and extended the musket toward the British soldier. At the last second, Francisco swung it around and impaled the trooper with the bayonet, then lifted the skewered soldier off his horse. Francisco mounted the horse and rode until he encountered more cavalry, which he managed to make his way through by acting like a British sympathizer. Then he spotted his regimental commander, Colonel Mayo, being led away by a British officer. He killed the officer and gave Colonel Mayo the horse he had captured so Mayo could get away.
A second act of heroism at that battle was recognized by the United States Post Office in 1975 with a stamp commemorating Francisco's incredible strength and valor. In the midst of the Patriots' retreat in one battle, Francisco noticed a cannon carriage stuck in the mud. Knowing it would be vulnerable to falling into the hands of the British, he hoisted the 1,100-pound barrel onto his shoulder and carried it to safety.
Several accounts suggest that in recognition for Francisco's outstanding service, George Washington personally had a five-foot-long broadsword made for him. Washington was quoted as saying about Francisco, "Without him we would have lost two crucial battles, perhaps the War, and with it our freedom. He was truly a One Man Army."
Francisco's fourth enlistment landed him in a cavalry unit under the command of Colonel William Washington. Many stories about Francisco's bravery surround his service in the cavalry, but the best known occurred at Guilford Courthouse in 1781. During a single charge, Francisco reportedly killed eleven British guards. An early-American historian named Benson Lossing wrote that later in the battle a British soldier "pinned Francisco's leg to his horse with a bayonet.... [Francisco] assisted the assailant to draw his bayonet forth, when, with terrible force, he brought his broadsword down and cleft the poor fellow's head to his shoulders!"
Francisco continued the attack until he was injured a second time—again by a bayonet in the leg, but this time it slashed him from his knee all the way to his hip. He held on to his horse until he was away from the battle, and then he fainted from the pain. He was left for dead, bleeding profusely, until a Quaker came to his aid and nursed him back to health. For his bravery, Francisco was offered a commission by William Washington, but he refused it due to the fact that he was illiterate.
Having survived five wounds—two of them nearly fatal—Francisco decided his fighting days were over. He enlisted as a scout in what turned out to be the final year of the war. While reconnoitering at a Loyalists' tavern, he was captured by nine British dragoons. There are various accounts of exactly what happened, but most agree that he escaped, leaving several of the nine dragoons dead. Francisco finished his military career by witnessing the surrender of the British at Yorktown.
Finally finished with fighting, the man referred to as George Washington's One-Man Regiment, the Virginia Giant, and the Hercules of the American Revolution directed his passion toward a new pursuit. Her name was Susannah Anderson. Tradition says that Francisco and the Marquis de Lafayette were walking by the same church where Patrick Henry had delivered his famous "Give me liberty!" speech when a lovely girl came down the steps and tripped. The legendary war hero caught her, and he promptly fell in love. There was one glitch, however: Susannah's father objected to him due to his illiteracy. But Francisco wasn't about to let her get away. As one historian put it, "The offer of a commission in William Washington's cavalry hadn't inspired him to try to learn to read and write; but the lure of Susannah Anderson proved a more potent stimulant." After setting up some businesses and putting his nose to the books, Francisco was married to Susannah in 1785.
Francisco's last service to our country was in the Virginia House of Delegates as sergeant at arms, a position he held from 1825 until his death in 1831. Every year on March 15, Peter Francisco Day is celebrated in Virginia, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island to honor Francisco, the mighty defender of life.
Excerpted from AMERICAN PATRIOTS by RICK SANTORUM Copyright © 2012 by Rick Santorum. Excerpted by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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