D.A.R. essay contest in Berryville focuses on forgotten heroes
BERRYVILLE -- Former or current slaves made up more than half of the Continental Army's 1st Rhode Island Regiment, considered the first African-American military unit. A Quaker woman named Lydia Darrah eavesdropped on a British staff meeting and smuggled details of an upcoming attack across enemy lines in her sewing kit. John Stark, the son of an Irish immigrant, led troops into battle at Bunker Hill, fought with Washington at Trenton and Princeton, and led the Green Mountain Boys to victory in decisive battles at Bennington and Saratoga, considered the turning points of the American Revolution.
"Without him we might have not won the war," Gavin Wilson said.
Gavin, 11, was the third-place winner in the D.A.R. American History Essay Contest in Carroll County, which is sponsored by the Abendschone Chapter of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution of Eureka Springs. This year, the contest's assigned topic was "Forgotten Patriots Who Supported the American Struggle for Independence." On Wednesday, Jan. 16, Gavin and Ian Girourd, first place, and Shane Lewis Wilson, who took second, read their essays in front of classmates at an assembly at Berryville Intermediate School.
"It was so cool to read about all he did," Gavin said about Stark's exploits, which included fighting in the French and Indian War and being captured by Indians. "I would tell people to read about John Stark."
Ian Giroud, 10, who wrote the first-place essay, said he was impressed that by the fact that 5,000 black soldiers fought in the American Revolution.
Shane Lewis Wilson, 11, was impressed with the story of how Lydia Darrah, whose son was in the Continental Army, turned it to advantage when her home was commandeered by the British.
Although most people have not heard of Stark, Gavin said, he was the person who said "Live Free or Die," which became the state motto of New Hampshire.
The 10 students who submitted essays are fifth graders in Larissa Allen's gifted and talented class, who enter the contest as a project every year, Allen said.
Chris Lehr wrote about Wentwort Cheswell, a black patriot who, like Paul Revere, made an all-night ride to warn that the British were coming. Jacey Layne Howerton's subject, Margaret Hill Morris, was a Quaker who offered medical care to people on both sides.
Jesus Perez wrote about Hercules Mulligan, a spy who reported Howe's plans to Gen. Washington. Robert Marts wrote about Esteban Rodriguez Mirodo, who fought against the British in West Florida.
Scotland Lucas wrote about Nathaniel Greene, Washington's third quartermaster, and Jo Dee Smith, 11, wrote about Benjamin Lattimore, a solider who was captured by the British.
"Students were to focus on unrecognized people and groups, including African Americans, Native Americans, Hispanics and others who provided military, patriotic or public service in support of the American Revolution," Schmutzler said.
Each essay had to be 300 to 600 words long, plus a title page and a bibliography. D.A.R. members Rosalie Myers and Suzanne Williams also participated in the awards ceremony, and chapter members provided refreshments for students afterwards.
This is the sixth year that the Abendschone Chapter of D.A.R. has held the contest, which is open to Carroll County students in grades five to eight.
The local winners are entered in the statewide contest, with the state winners going to the national contest. The names of the winners at the national level are entered into the Congressional Record, Schmutzler said.