Much of our Civil War collection is sourced by HMM Richards. All accounts mention most family members supporting the union or taking a neutral stance by moving to parts of Texas or beyond (even California in some cases). The records also indicates that affiliate families on the confederate side e.g. Polks, etc were probably unknowingly shooting at their Van Leer cousins on the battlefield. Records also include former union and confederate families coming together post war through marriage. Today we cover a bullet through his pretty head.
To see more of the Civil War collection, visit here.
Anthony was an American military officer and statesman who joined the American Revolutionary War with enthusiasm. His significant contributions to the success of the Revolution are widely documented and there are numerous published biographies available. The most accurate book about Anthony is probably the most recent book “The Unlikely General” by Mary Stockwell, which celebrates all of his strengths along with many human flaws. At the Van Leer Archives we focus more on his personal side with a letters about his relationships with family, sisters and the Van Leers.
The story of the famous Van Leer neighbors known as the Waynes can be found here. It is tradition that fiery “Wayne” blood runs through Van Leer descendants as a positive and negative character trait depending who is asking. Van Leers in Pennsylvania are recorded in the Estelle Cremers book as being graceful, yet not afraid of confrontation, which aligns well in service for a general such as Anthony Wayne. For an example letter between Uncle Anty Wayne as he liked to be called, you can see a letter under Samuel’s page after his sister died.
While still in his teens Wayne came to the attention of Benjamin Franklin as an exceptionally capable and reliable young man. He headed an expedition for Franklin to explore settling Nova Scotia in 1666-67 when he was only 20 years old. His job included surveying the land, procuring land patents, supervising settlers, etc. Historians believe that it was Benjamin Franklin’s support that won Wayne his commission as colonel in one of the four Pennsylvania Regiments on Jan. 4, 1776. He was promoted to Brigadier General on Feb. 21, 1777 and to Major General and Commander-in-Chief of the American Army in 1792. Wayne is credited with playing an important role in keeping some of the early defeats from being disasters–Brandywine, Paoli, Germantown. And in the later years, it was Wayne who commanded stunning victories at Stony Point, Yorktown, Savannah, and Fallen Timbers. His fanatical determination earned him the nickname “Mad” Anthony Wayne. While his letters do indicate a real warmth for his children, his letters to his wife, Polly, are businesslike. On several occasions, he was called to Philadelphia on business, but would not bother to visit Paoli (only 15 miles away). Up until recently, there has not been a book which delves deeper into why and The Unlikely General does a great job filling in the gaps.
Wayne would later be praised by President Theodore Roosevelt as America’s best fighting general.
Wayne is also the namesake in which Batman’s secret identity, Bruce Wayne, with Batman co-creator Bill Finger citing both Robert the Bruce and “Mad” Anthony Wayne as the two sources of the fictional character’s name. That’s right, Batman is named after Anthony Wayne!
Wayne also appears as the leader of a ghost army in IDW Publishing’s Ghostbusters comics.
The door in Senate room 128 features a 19th-century fresco painting by Constantino Brumidi named “Storming at Stonypoint, General Wayne wounded in the head carried to the fort.” On September 14, 1929, the U.S. Post Office issued a stamp honoring General Wayne which commemorated the 135th anniversary of the Battle of Fallen Timbers. The post office issued a series of stamps often referred to as the “Two Cent Reds” by collectors, most of them issued to commemorate the 150th anniversaries of the many events that occurred during the American Revolution. The stamp shows Bruce Saville‘s Battle of Fallen Timbers Monument.
Descendants and other relatives
The Wayne name due to be neighbors, finally by marriage and now blood is passed down through many Van Leers, which can be found through the family tree.
Some relatives and descendants include:
Isaac Wayne (1772–1852), Wayne’s son, was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Pennsylvania.
Captain William Evans Wayne (1828-1901), fought in the Civil War for the Union.
Isaac Wayne Van Leer (1846-1861), enlisted for the Union during the Civil War at age 15 and was documented in several publications for his patriotism.
The Village of Lima is historically significant because its 19th Century
residents were active in the anti-slavery and Washingtonian temperance
movements. The involvement of ordinary citizens in both of these socially
responsible causes was instrumental in shaping the cultural and political
history of the united States.
Philadelphia was the center of the early anti-slavery movement. Initially
the Quakers were the most outspoken opponents of slavery. However, with the
evangelical revival in the late 18th Century the Methodists and Baptists
became very active in the anti-slavery movement. By 1790 the various
anti-slavery societies were meeting in a yearly convention for the purpose of
adopting plans and policies to encourage the manumission of slaves and to help
the newly freed slaves to be assimilated into free white society in the
northern states. The Quakers and Methodists of Middletown Township, Delaware
County practiced what they preached.
In the Village of Lima, free black tradesmen were resident owners of five of the ten houses within in the Village of Lima historical district. The free black community expanded as more parcels of ground were subdivided from the Rattew-Fox farm and conveyed to free black men. These lots were located along a private road that was later named Van Leer Avenue after John Van Leer and Van Leer family members. The Van Leers owned nearby Cabins which were used as Underground Railroad stations. They were also noted for attending anti-slavery committee meetings. Sixty-nine acres along, what is now, Van Leer Avenue was sold to John P. Van Leer who subdivided 2 to 4 acre lots and sold or donated them to the free black occupants or only to people who were supportive of the free black community. There are records of “Vanleers” and other residents with both African and Caucasian ancestry in this area.Ref PA Archives
The Lima Methodist Church was built on one of the small lots. Roughly half a mile down the road there was a meeting house which was actually a station in the underground railroad to help runaway slaves. There is a recorded account of a group of men raiding the buildings for a fugitive slave, which they did not find.
By 1852 the free black community in Lima was sufficiently large and secure that it established its own house of worship near Lima. Renowned Underground Railroad “conductor” Harriet Tubman was known to point fugitives North to West Chester, West to Kennett Square or East to Delaware County and Philadelphia. Because of the strong support from white farmers in these areas, these routes were considered reasonably secure. In Media, Delaware County, the Providence Friends Meeting was known as an active participant of the Underground Railroad. Historians have also determined that the Honeycomb A.M.E Church, definitely sheltered escaped slaves. The Honey Comb A.M.E Church still holds regular services in the building erected on a lot subdivided from the farm.
In 1832, the Methodists living in and around the Village of Lima founded the Lima Methodist Church, despite the objection of and harassment by some of the more unruly patrons of the Blackhorse and Pine-Apple Taverns. By 1848 the residents of Lima and members of the Methodist Church established a temperance hall on North Pennell Road as part of the Washingtonian Temperance
About the Village
It’s located at the intersection of North Middletown (laid
out in 1686), North Pennell (laid out in 1750) and Barren Roads (laid out c.
By 1798 The Village of Lima consisted of six log dwelling houses, two barns
and a blacksmith shop. Early in the 19th Century all of the log structures
were replaced with stone buildings.
The Lima Store and Joseph Starr’s 1833 house and the frame home on the north side of Middletown Road have all been razed. However the remaining buildings have retained their architectural integrity.
The History of Chester County, Pennsylvania, 1881 gives a detailed account of this young man’s devotion to the Union.
Fighting with coolness bravery,” is how Captain C.M.G. Eicholtz of Co, B, 53rd Pennsylvania Volunteers described 15 -year-old Isaac Van Leer during the Battle of Fair Oaks, Virginia. Eicholtz reported that Van Leer’s voice could be heard ringing out, “shrill and clear” above all others as he cried, “Steady, boys, steady.” Isaac Wayne Van Leer was born on June 15, 1846 not far from Elverson, Pennsylvania. Growing up, he was characterized by his family and friends as loyal and high-spirited. Not much is known about his antebellum life, but when southern cannon fired across the harbor on Fort Sumter, Isaac was barely fifteen years old. Though young, he could not stand around while others were enlisting, so Isaac left home without his father’s knowledge or permission. Knowing he was too young, Van Leer told the enlisting officer in Harrisburg that he was 18 years of age and even assumed a fictitious name. Once his father discovered that his son joined the army, he determined to bring him back home. He asked a relative, Captain John Potts, to watch for his son and persuade him to return home. However when Potts confronted the youth, Van Leer replied, “I cannot go home; I feel it my duty to go to war.” Potts promised his father that he would watch over him and keep Van Leer in his company. While the 53rd Pennsylvania trained and did provost guard duty at Camp Curtin, Van Leer caught typhoid fever. His sister Ellen Francis came to Harrisburg and nursed him. Finally, after nursing him back to health and after many attempts to persuade him to return home, his sister left him with these words, “Dear brother, if the rebels should put a bullet through this pretty head, how it would spoil it.” He replied, “Not more than any other man’s; and somebody’s must be spoiled.” The 53rd was part of the reserve division during the siege of Yorktown. Late in May, the 53rd assisted in building a grapevine bridge across the Chickahominy River. Shooting began around 5 a.m. on the morning of June 1 in the woods around Fair Oaks and shortly afterwards, the green regiment, which was attached to Sumner’s division, would see its first action of the war. At some point during the fiercest of the day’s fighting, an order was given in the regiment adjacent to the 53rd to retreat, and the troops in the 53rd started to retreat as well. Captain Eicholtz of Co. B realized that this order was a mistake and ordered his company forward, the rest of the regiment soon following. Eicholtz noted that Van Leer was one of the first men to step forward when the order was given and that he fought gallantly. Van Leer soon was wounded severely in the ankle and fell to his knees being unable to stand because of the intense pain. Even so he managed to load and fire his Springfield a few more times after being wounded until a bullet hit him in the head, knocking him unconscious. To make matters worse, as the Confederates advanced towards the end of the day, Van Leer also received a serious bayonet wound to the side. It would be two days before his comrades would be able to remove him from the field. When they finally reached him, the muscles in his mouth were so paralyzed that he could not even form a single utterance. Van Leer was removed to a hospital at Fortress Monroe, and according to Captain Eicholtz, it was nine days before the balls that struck him were removed. He was next taken to a New York hospital where Ellen Francis came to nurse him. His wounds finally took their toll and Isaac Van Leer succumbed on June 19th, 1862, just four days after his sixteenth birthday
Written by Joel Peterson from Military Images Magazine
Military Images, Vol. 24, No. 3 (November/December 2002), p. 29
This is the story about the Van Leer Cabins. There are two cabins still standing today, which served as a underground railroad stations. The Van Leers were close friends of the Earle family and a George Hussey Earle Sr. married Samuels granddaughter (Ellen) Frances Van Leer. George was a prominent local Philadelphia lawyer and well known abolitionist who represented many fugitive slaves. He was a founder of the Republican party. Frances and George who also play an important role in anti-slavery movement. In the 1830s Frances’s cousin John P Van Leer went so far as to setup custom lots for newly free African Americans. He was documented setting up numerous housing lots over sixty-nine acres along only for newly freed people or those who supported newly free people.
Van Leer Cabin
One of the last historical dwellings in Tredyffrin Township, Chester County, Pennsylvania and played a significant role in architectural history like most historical log cabins during colonial times. The Van Leer Cabin followed a German style, where logs are set tightly together and even at the corners. The cabin still stands at the grounds of Conestoga High School. It was revitalized by students and teachers years ago and is now part of the American History Course.
Mortonson–Van Leer Log Cabin
This cabin is an historic cabin and one of the last historical dwellings in Swedesboro,NJ and is one of the oldest original log cabins of early Swedish-Finnish architecture in the United States. The cabin was originally built along the north bank of the Raccoon River by Morton Mortenson, a Swedish-Finnish man who arrived in the Delaware Valley, at that time part of the colony of New Sweden, in May 1654. Mortenson’s great-grandson, John Morton, would go on to sign the Declaration of Independence as a Pennsylvania delegate. The cabin was later acquired by the Van Leers and would be utilized as an Underground Railroad station.
Hussey Earle Sr Poem about Frances:
In 1892 Earle’s wife [Ellen] Frances Van Leer died. After her death, Earle penned a poem—the last stanza which reads:
“I do not think, where’er thou art, Thou hast forgotten me; And I perhaps may soothe this heart, In thinking still of thee. Yet there was round thee such a dawn Of light ne’er seen before, As Fancy never could have drawn, And never can restore!”
Van Leer was already catching heat for pushing through a vote to allow women into Georgia Tech. The vote passed by a split decision. During the lead up to the 1956 Sugar Bowl, Van Leer received death threats, media and political pressure to cancel this game…
Segregationists tried to keep Pitt fullback/linebacker Bobby Grier from playing because he was black. Georgia Tech president Van Leer and coach Dodd met with Governor Marvin Griffin privately who gave his blessing and promised not to interfere. Shortly after Georgia Tech accepted the invitation, Governor Griffin did the exact opposite. He would fire off telegrams to national press and government entities. Griffin went so far as to publicly threatened the Georgia Tech’s president to cancel the game. Griffin also attempted to lay pressure on Van Leer through the Board of Regents to fire him. Ultimately, Bobby Grier played making this the first integrated Sugar Bowl and is regarded as the first integrated bowl game in the Deep South. Van Leer would die two weeks after the game due to stress.
Van Leer and Griffin Clash publicly
Van Leer Georgia Tech Meeting
The story is celebrate by Grier & Van Leer’s descendants Rob Grier and Blake Van Leer III who are friends to this day. Archive content, letters, recordings and other items available upon request.
Thank you to Ella Van Leer, Blake was able to find out about much of his family’s history later in life. As an orphan he only knew his last name and was told he must be dutch and from possibly from Pennsylvania. Ella did so much research, she was considered the family’s historian and even a genealogist. Her work indirectly helped numerous other families learn about their surnames as a result. Ella was able to trace the Van Leer surname all the back to the original last name Valär and confirm this with the Swiss archives. According to documents provided by the Rhaetian Museum in Chur, it is believed that the Valär family was descended from a Rhaetian nobleman named Valerius. The name was spelled “Vadrain” or “Foedrain” in Romansh. The Valärs lived in and around Prättigau as overseer of castle records or bailiffs. They were essentially one step above peasant or middleclass.
Hans Valär and later “von Lähr” is the earliest ancestor the Van Leer archives can trace back to. Hans and his son are documented in many archery tournaments and is noted as a skilled archer in the Swiss Archives. Hans would later be recruited by Zurich to the Battle of Grandson like many locals.
The family story past down talks about Hans and his son Kaspar who had a tremendous bond. Hans would take his son hunting frequently and desired a simple life in the countryside. However, this is not the case on March 2, 1476. This is a red-letter day in both Swiss and Van Leer history. Hans helped play a crucial role in the battle and is known as the hero of Grandson. He was awarded with treasure and elevated to the “burger” class in the city of Zurich. Hans registered his coat-of-arms in Zurich in 1488. As an immigrant from the Grisons, Hans probably spoke both Romansh and German. The literature available also indicates that Hans was basically a “nobody” before March 2, 1476. The burgers of 1476 represented the middle class of tradesmen and artisans who–along with the nobility–elected city officials and established laws. The Battle of Grandson was a crucial battle with Burgundy.
The siege of Grandson and the execution of the garrison, illustration by Johann Stumpf (1548)
In late February 1476, Charles the Bold, also called Charles the Rash, besieged the castle of Grandson, located on the lake of Neuchâtel. Grandson belonged to Charles’ ally Jacques de Savoie, and the place had been brutally taken by the Swiss the previous year. Charles brought a large mercenary army with him together with many heavy cannon, and the Swiss garrison soon feared, after the effectiveness of the bombardment was demonstrated, that they would be killed when their fortress was stormed. The Swiss, under heavy pressure from the canton of Bern, organized an army to come to the garrison’s relief. A boat approached the garrison with the news that an army was coming to its relief, but the vessel was unable to approach the fortress closely for fear that it would be hit by Burgundian cannons. The men in the boat gestured to the defenders in the fortress to inform them that help was on the way, but their gestures were misunderstood, and the garrison decided to surrender.
Execution of the garrison of Grandson
Swiss sources are unanimous in stating that the men only gave up when Charles assured them they would be spared. The historian Panigarola, who was with Charles, claimed that the garrison had thrown themselves on the mercy of the duke, and it was up to his discretion what to do with them. He ordered all 412 men of the garrison to be executed. In a scene Panigarola described as “shocking and horrible” and sure to fill the Swiss with dread, all the victims were led past the tent of Charles on 28 February 1476 and hanged from trees, or drowned in the lake, in an execution that lasted four hours.
The Swiss had no news of the fate of the garrison and assembled their forces in the hope of lifting the siege. This army numbered a little over 20,000 men without artillery and probably slightly outnumbered the Burgundians. On 2 March 1476 the Swiss army approached the forces of Charles near the town of Concise. The Swiss advanced in three heavy columns, echeloned to the left rear, moving directly into combat without deploying, in typical Swiss fashion.
Poor reconnaissance left Charles uninformed as to the size and deployment of the Swiss, and he believed that the Swiss vanguard was the entire force sent against him. The vanguard, consisting mainly of men from Schwyz, Bern, and Solothurn, realized they would soon be in battle and knelt to pray. When they said three Our Fathers and three Hail Marys, some of the Burgundian army reportedly mistook their actions as a sign of submission. In their zeal, they rode forward shouting, “You will get no mercy; you must all die.”
The Burgundian knights soon surrounded the Swiss vanguard, but then Charles made a serious mistake. After brief skirmishing, Charles ordered his cavalry to pull back so the artillery could reduce the Swiss forces before the attacks were renewed. At this time, the main body of the Swiss emerged from a forest which had hitherto obscured their approach. The Burgundian army, already pulling back, soon became confused when the second, and larger, body of Swiss troops appeared. The speed of the Swiss advance did not give the Burgundians time to make much use of their artillery and missile units. Charles attempted a double envelopment of the leading Swiss column before the other two arrived, but as his troops were caught shifting to make this attack, they caught sight of the other Swiss columns and retreated in panic. The withdrawal soon turned into a rout when the Burgundian army broke ranks and ran. For a time, Charles rode among them shouting orders for them to stop and hitting fleeing soldiers with the flat of his sword. But once started the rout was unstoppable, and Charles was forced to flee as well.
Few casualties were suffered on either side: the Swiss did not have the cavalry necessary to chase the Burgundians far. At insignificant cost to themselves, the Swiss had humiliated the greatest duke in Europe, defeated one of the most feared armies, and taken a most impressive amount of treasure. Charles had the habit of travelling to battles with an array of priceless artifacts as talismans, from carpets belonging to Alexander the Great, to the 55-carat Sancy diamond, and the Three Brothers jewel. All these were looted from his tent by the confederate army, together with his silver bath and ducal seal. The Swiss initially had little idea of the value of their loot. A small surviving part of this fantastic booty is on display in various Swiss museums today, while a few remaining artillery pieces can be seen in the museum of La Neuveville, near Neuchâtel, Switzerland.