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Tools and Woods with Bob Smalser

  Peter Neuhardt, Gunmaker, (1743-1813) by Bob Smalser 1 of 7  


I was laid up for a bit this year after some elective surgery, and had the opportunity to continue some research I began on the family history decades ago when I was in the Army stationed in Germany. As it's about craftsmen... including one featured in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC... I thought y'all might enjoy it.

Our best, Bob.


Gunmaker Peter Newhard (Newhardt) (Neihardt) (1743-1813)
The Moll-Newhard-Kuntz Triangle of Old Northampton County Gunmaking, including some Rupp-Schreckengost Family Relationships.

Factors in the evolution of a regional craft style once had faces and names. Here are a few of them from the point of view of a family member.

N.C. Wyeth, The Capture of Alice

It was December, 1755 on the Pennsylvania frontier, early in the French and Indian War, and Delaware Indians prodded by the Iroquois and the French were attacking and burning outlying farms and settlements. In a scene reminiscent of James Fenimore Cooper’s The Last of the Mohicans, 32-year-old German immigrant Johannes Sensinger and his 14-year-old brother Nicholas were killed on their Lehigh Township homestead when they stood and fought to cover the successful escape of eight family members to safety with distant neighbors.

The group included Johannes’ wife Magdalena and four children under five years old, one a newborn. Others on the frontier didn’t fare as well. Eleven Moravian missionaries to the Delaware were slain at Lehighton 20 miles to the north, with an additional Moravian woman dying in captivity. Up and down the Appalachians, from two to five thousand settlers were killed or captured by Native American allies to France or (later) Britain between 1755 and 1780, and twice that number made refugees.

The last major incident in the Susquehanna-Lehigh area of Pennsylvania was the destruction of Wilkes Barre by Seneca Indians allied to the British in 1778, with a reported 227 scalps taken. One of the last incidents in the Allentown area was in October, 1763. Twenty three people were murdered and scalped, thirteen of them young children, after local friendly Lenape Delaware’s went on a ten-mile rampage after being robbed while staying at a local tavern.

The terror of these conflicts would impact family members for a generation and more, including gunmakers Andreas Albrecht, Peter Newhard, John Moll, David Kuntz, Jacob Kuntz, Herman Rupp and their immediate descendants. Were the origins of Jacob Kuntz’s use of Indian head decorations on rifles the whimsical depictions currently described in contemporary references? Or were the emotions darker? The Sensingers had been members of his wife’s family. (Kastens Vol IV pp158-60, Klein pp25-28, the LDS Genealogical Library, Mickley, Stroh pp11-12, Fischer pp419-425, PAGCA).

Twenty years later when danger again threatened, a nephew of the slain Sensinger men, 16-year-old Philip Newhard (1759-1827) would be one of the first to enlist in Captain Smith’s Company of Colonel William Thompson’s Rifle Battalion. Philip’s parents and six older siblings, ages three through eleven had been made refugees by the massacres of 1755, and their farm had been completely destroyed. Philip walked over 90 miles to Harrisburg to enlist.

These frontiersmen weren’t militia, but one of the first regular units in George Washington’s new Continental Army, answering the call for “six companies of expert riflemen to be raised in Pennsylvania” after the Battles of Lexington and Concord. As men were eager to join, Pennsylvania soon formed nine companies instead of the six requested, and the unit quickly grew into a regiment.

Philip’s company would serve as advance scouts and hunters for Colonel Benedict Arnold’s invasion force while attached to Captain Daniel Morgan’s Riflemen during the Quebec Campaign. Morgan would go on to become the teamster-turned-Brigadier who made Tarleton and Cornwallis look like amateurs at The Battle of Cowpens. (Note 1) Philip would survive the war to become a prosperous farmer in Allen Township near Kreidersville. He and his wife Maria Rockel produced nine children and 43 grandchildren. (Kastens Vol IV pp162-76, Henry JJ, and PA Archives Series 5 Vol II).

A few months later Thompson’s Battalion evolved into the First Pennsylvania Rifle Regiment, and Philip’s cousin Christopher Neuhart (1729-1776) enlisted as a Private in Captain Henry Shade’s Company raised from men living in Northampton and Lehigh Counties. A widower with a thirteen-year-old daughter, his father-in-law had been murdered, robbed and scalped by Indians in Plainfield Township the year before.



Uniforms of the Pennsylvania Rifle Regiment

  Christopher was killed in action during the Battle of Long Island that same year, probably while covering the withdrawal of General John Sullivan’s 1500-man Division from the high ground north of the village of Flatbush.

This was a delaying action which devolved into desperate hand-to-hand fighting between Sullivan’s small delaying force against 5000 Hessians under Lieutenant General Philip von Heister of Kassel. Sullivan’s Division reached Brooklyn Heights as planned, but Sullivan himself was captured along with Christopher’s regimental commander, Colonel Samuel Miles, commander of the delaying force. When word reached Christopher’s family that he had been killed, all four of his younger brothers enlisted en masse in the Northampton County Militia. Courage breeds. (Adams, Kastens, Vol IV pp14-16, Klein pp18-25, and PA Archives 5 Vol II, Vol VIII).

A Delaying Force of Riflemen Makes a Stand

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