The Seven Years' War
(17551763) has been called "the first world
war" in history because all the major powers of the time were
involved, and hostilities were waged around the globe.
During the course of this war, England conquered French Canada
and Spanish Florida, thereby securing the flanks of her American
colonies. At the same time, England piled up a war debt. Because
part of this debt had obviously been incurred to defend the
American colonies, the English government, during the decade that
followed, pursued the logical policy of levying taxes and enforcing
the collection of custom duties. However, these measures were very
unpopular in the American colonies, and resistance to them took the
form of indignant speeches, writings, and violence.
On occasion, the English government backed down, but over the
years, resistance to taxation and attempts to curb smuggling
resulted in the passage of more stringent laws, which some colonial
leaders feared would diminish liberty and harm them financially.
The vicious circle of escalating colonial resistance and English
retaliation culminated eventually in a bloody clash on 19 April 1775
at Lexington and Concord, Massachusetts.
During the next year, the political leaders of the colonies approved
increased armed resistance in the hope that the English
government would reverse its course. Instead, the English
government decided to quell the rebellion through armed force, and
the Continental Congress cut the umbilical cord with England by
adopting the Declaration of Independence on 4 July 1776. The
campaign of armed resistance was now war!
Colonel George Washington, who had been appointed Commander
in Chief of the 15,000-man Army of the United Colonies in June
1775, laid siege to British forces in Boston. He succeeded in forcing
them out on 17 March 1776, when they embarked for Halifax, Nova
Scotia, to await reinforcements.
In June, the British fleet set sail from Halifax for New York with
25,000 men and landed them on Staten Island on 2 July.
Washington, who had moved his forces to Manhattan, began to
fortify Brooklyn Heights. On 27 August 1776, General William
Howe shifted a large part of his army by boats across the bay and
put Washington's army to rout in the Battle of Long Island.
Washington withdrew to Harlem Heights, and Howe occupied New
York. The city remained in British hands throughout the war.
The Pennsylvania militia muster rolls published in the Fifth and
Sixth Series of Pennsylvania Archives reveal that at least six
soldiers named "Seidenstricker" or "Silknitter" served the cause of
American Independence between 1775 and 1783.
The Fifth and Sixth Series of Pennsylvania Archives were issued
between 1906 and 1914, more than a century after the
Revolutionary War ended. Obviously then, only a relative handful
of the muster rolls and similar documents survived.
For this reason, it is conceivable that there were Seidenstrickers
who served whose names are not included in the published archives.
In the case of those whose names are presented, probably only a
fragment of each man's total service is reflected.
Another problem involves the identification of two or more men with
the same name who are listed in different units. Because men
frequently shifted from one unit to another, it is sometimes difficult
to determine if such references are evidence only of a transfer or if
these were actually two different men. If they were different men,
what is their relationship? Father and son? Cousins? Some
confusion results because battalion numbers assigned during the
Revolution were not constant, notable changes appearing after the
Militia Act of 20 March 1780. See Henry Howard Eddy, Guide to
The Published Archives of Pennsylvania Covering the 138 Volumes
of Colonial Records and Pennsylvania Archives Series IIX.
Harrisburg, Pa.: Division of Public Records, Pennsylvania Historical
and Museum Commission. 1949. p. 77. Moreover, companies were
often designated by the name of the commander and leadership
changes complicate identification.
Of the six Seidenstrickers/Silknitters who served in Pennsylvania
militia units during the Revolution, two were named "Henry". The
other four were named "Michael", "Philip", "Jacob", and
Except for Abraham, who served in a York County militia company,
all served in Lancaster County units. Four of these men were
brothers Henry, Michael, Philip, and Jacob sons of Sebastian
Seidenstricker of Ralpho Township. The other Henry may have
been a cousin since he is probably the same person listed as "Henry
Seidenstreicher" who accompanied Sebastian's brothers, Johann
Philip and Otto Philip, to Philadelphia aboard the ship. "Brittania",
and took the oaths with them at the courthouse on 26 September
1764. I do not know whether Abraham was related in any way to
Sebastian's family or to the other Henry.
A muster roll dated 29 August 1776 of Captain Henry Weaver's
Company, Eighth Battalion, Lancaster County Militia lists "Henry
Siltneider", "Michael Siltneider", and "Philip Siderstrecher" as
privates. The company, destined for "the camp in the Jerseys," was
mustered and passed before the Committee of Observations and
Inspection in Lancaster 20 August 1776, at which time each man
was advanced 50 shillings. See Pennsylvania Archives, Fifth Series,
v. 7, p. 810.
A comparison of the names on the muster roll of this militia
company with Lancaster County tax records reveals that many of
the men were from Caernarvon Township. In fact, the commanding
officer, Henry Weaver, owned a 100-acre farm there. A few of the
men were from adjoining Brecknock Township. However, the names
of many others in the company could not be found in the tax lists,
and this is the case with Henry, Michael, and Philip
Seidenstricker/Silknitter, none of whom are named in the Lancaster
County tax lists of 1771, 1772, or 1773 (PA:3:17). However,
beginning with the Caernarvon tax lists for 1778, Henry's name
appears consistently until his death in 1826, but neither Michael
nor Philip are listed in this township's tax records or any other for
In 1777, Henry Silknitter is listed as a private in the second class of
Captain James Davis' Company, the Second Company, Tenth
Battalion, Lancaster County Militia (PA:5:7:977). Many of the men
in this company were residents of Caernarvon Township. However,
neither Michael nor Philip appear on these or any other Lancaster
County militia roll for 1777.
According to a handwritten note in the Seidenstricker family file at
the Lancaster County Historical Society, "Henry Silknitter (2 Davis)
says that his Capt. gave him no notice to exercise or to march. Has
100 acres of poor land. Certified by his neighbors, not able to pay
the whole fine." No date or source is given, but the librarian at the
Historical Society told me she believed the files were compiled by a
Mrs. Charles Coldren many years ago.
Henry Silknitter acquired his 100-acre farm in Caernarvon
Township in 1778 or 1779. In 1778 he assessed £2.10.0. See the
1778 continental tax duplicate for Caernarvon Township in the
custody of the Lancaster County Historical Society. In 1779, his
name appears on the effective supply tax list as "Adam Silkneeter"
with 100 acres, two horses, two cattle, and six sheep (PA 3:17:650).
This is a transcription errorthe name above his on the list is
"Adam Stere" (actually "Styer"), and the transcriptionist
unintentionally carried Adam Styer's first name down a line when
he wrote the entry for Henry Silknitter. This is borne out by
referring to the original copies of the 1779 assessment and the
second continental tax assessment for 1779, both of which are in the
custody of the Lancaster County Historical Society. The former list
shows "Adam Silknitter" on the line below "Adam Stire", assessed
£15.0.0 plus a county tax of £0.7.6 and a non-juror's tax of £1.0.0.
The latter list, however, correctly shows Henry Silknitter on the line
below that for Adam Styre.
Henry Silknitter is listed as a private in the second class of the
Second Company, Fifth Battalion, Lancaster County Militia on a
return of Lt. Sam'l Elliot's Company for the year 1779 (PA:5:7:468).
He is listed again on a return dated 2 May 1781 of all male white
inhabitants between the ages of 18 and 53 fit to bear arms residing
within Captain Elliot's district (PA:5:7:473). He is listed again as
"Henry Silknitter" on a similar return dated 27 April 1782
(PA:5:7:495). Also on that return is Michael Silknitter, a private in
the seventh class.
Henry Silknitter is not listed on any of the Lancaster County militia
rolls after 1782. When the 1790 census was taken, he was
enumerated in Caernarvon Township as "Henry Seidenstricker",
with three free white males, two of whom were over 16 years of age
(including himself), and two free white females. See Bureau of the
Census, Heads of Families at the First Census of the United States
Taken in the Year 1790Pennsylvania. Washington, D.C.:
Government Printing Office. 1908. p. 127.
He continued to reside in Caernarvon Township until his death 15
July 1826. The burial records of Trinity Lutheran Church at New
Holland, Earl Township, Lancaster County, contain this entry:
Heinrich Suterstricker, son of
Sebastian. b. Oct. 1738. d. July 15,
1826 near Churchtown. Age 8715 da.
A transcript of the records of this church is in the custody of the
Lancaster County Historical Society.
Another person named "Henry Seitensticker" served as a private in
the eighth class of Captain Jacob Wilhelm's Company, the Eighth
Battalion, Lancaster County Militia. He is listed on a return dated
1781 (PA:5:7:839) and on another dated 22 July 1782 of every male
white person between the ages of 18 and 53 residing within Captain
Wilhelm's District (PA:5:7:862). Was he on Manheim tax records?
When the 1790 Census was taken, he was enumerated in Warwick
Township as "Henry Seidenstich", with three free white males, two of
whom were over 16 years of age (including himself), and two free
white females. However, he was not enumerated in the 1800 Census
of Pennsylvania so he may have died or moved from the state by
then. (op cit., p. 146).
Insofar as the available records are concerned, the Revolutionary
War service of Michael Silknitter was relatively limited. As noted
earlier, he served as a private in Captain Henry Weaver's Company
in 1776, with his brothers Henry and Philip (PA:5:7:810). Six years
later he is listed as a private in the seventh class on a return dated
27 April 1782 of all male white persons between the ages of 18 and
53 residing within Captain Samuel Elliott's district (PA:5:7:495).
Since he was not listed on any Lancaster County militia rolls or
similar documents in the intervening years, one might assume that
he may have migrated from the area for a time and then returned.
There is a legend among his descendants, traceable to one of his
granddaughters, that he was taken prisoner by the British and held
by them for some years. If true, this could explain his absence
between 1776 and 1782. When the 1790 Census was taken, he was
enumerated in Caernarvon Township as "Michael Seidenstricker",
with four persons in his family: himself, his wife, a male child who
was under 16 years of age, and another female, probably a
daughter. (op cit., p. 127). He later migrated to Barre Township of
Huntington County and died there in 1815.
We believe Philip Sidertrecher, who together with Henry and
Michael Siltneider, is listed among the privates on a muster roll
dated 29 August 1776 of Captain Henry Weaver's Company, Eighth
Battalion, Lancaster County Militia (PA:5:7:810) is the same Philip
Seidenstricker who later served as a private in the first class of
Captain Thomas Robinson's Company. Captain Robinson's
company was designated as the Third Company, Seventh Battalion,
Lancaster County Militia prior to 1783; and as the Eighth
Company, Fourth Battalion, Lancaster County militia after the
War of the Revolution. (Check Mount Joy tax records) Philip is
listed as "Philip Seitnenstriker" on a muster roll dated 29 May 1781
(PA:5:7:687). His surname is correctly spelled on the return dated
27 November 1781 (PA:5:7:700). His name is spelled "Philip
Sidenstriker" on the return dated 27 June 1782 of every male white
person between the ages of 18 and 53 residing within Captain
Robinson's district (PA:5:7:756). His name is again spelled correctly
on the muster roll dated 30 November 1782 (PA:5:7:739). (Also
check 5:7:723) But his name is shown as "Philip Sidenstricer" on an
undated muster roll of Captain Robinson's Company (PA:5:7:784).
As was the case with his brother, Michael, Philip's name does not
appear in the muster rolls for quite a few years after 1776. Once
again there is the prisoner of war legend. According to an article
entitled The Sydenstricker Family, by the Reverend Christopher
Philip Sydenstricker, my great-grandfather,
enlisted as a soldier for the cause of Independence in the American
Revolution. He was captured by the British at Fort Washington and
held many months as a prisoner." See J.R. Cole, History of
Greenbrier County. Lewisburg, W. Va.: The Author. 19. p. 240. The
Battle of Fort Washington was a disastrous defeat for American
forces: 2,500 men were captured, and Philip (and perhaps Michael
as well) may have been among them.
Philip moved to the area which is now Dauphin County between
1784 and 1791 and served in a Dauphin County company during
the Whiskey Rebellion of 1794. When the 1790 Census was taken,
he was enumerated in Dauphin County as "Philip Sickneter", with
five persons in his family: himself, his wife, and three free white
males under the age of 16 (op cit., p. 97). He migrated to Fort Spring
District of Greenbrier County, Virginia, (now West Virginia) in
1795. He was one of the first four settlers of that district. He died
there in August 1833.
Insofar as the available records are concerned, Jacob Silknitter's
service was relatively limited. He was a private in the fifth class of
Captain Joseph Jenkin's Company, the Fifth Company, Tenth
Battalion, Lancaster County Militia. He is listed on a return for the
year 1777 (PA:5:7:983) as well as another list of men who served
their tour of duty at camp during 1777 (PA:5:7:467). According to a
handwritten note in the Seidenstricker family file at the Lancaster
County Historical Society, "Jacob Silknitter (5 Jenkins) says he has
been in Berks County for 14 years past , is a Delinqt for years
1777but cannot pay whole fine without distressing his family." No
date or source is given. This would indicate that Jacob did not
attend the required drills and musters for some years after 1777,
had been fined as a result, but pleaded poverty to avoid paying the
The Berks County tax returns for Robeson Township show Jacob
Seidenstricker was assessed £240 on 90 acres in 1779 (PA:3:18:281);
Jacob Silknitter was assessed £18.17.6 on 140 acres in 1780
(PA:3:18:411); and Jacob Seidenstricker was assessed £ 2.14.2 on
100 acres in 1781 (PA:3:18:520). In 1785, he moved across the
county line to adjoining Caernarvon Township of Lancaster County
and was taxed there in the years 1787, 1788, and 1789. He
apparently left Pennsylvania in 1789 for he is not enumerated in
the 1790 Census, nor does his name appear on the tax rolls
We have been unable to trace his movements between 1789 and
1797, when Jacob Silknitter appears for the first time on the tax
rolls of Augusta County, Virginia. He resided there until 1808/1809,
when he migrated to Greenbrier County, Virginia, (now West
Virginia), where his name appears on the tax rolls until 1826. He
probably died that year for he would have been approximately 70
years old then. However, he owned no land in Greenbrier County,
left no will, and we have not been able to find any record of his death
The records of Abraham Seidenstricker's service is also limited. He
served under Captain Wm. Dodd in October and November 1781 in
York County. (PA:6:2:639). However, the records for Captain Wm.
Dodd's company, the Sixth Company, Ninth Battalion, does not list
We have not found any record that Otto Philip Seidenstricker of
Hanover Township served in the War of the Revolution. He arrived
in Pennsylvania in 1764 and settled in Lebanon Township in 1771.
He moved to Hanover Township in 1775 and signed his will in 1793.