The chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee told Big League Politics about his induction Wednesday into the Sons of the American Revolution and what it means for him, his family to be part of a continuum of service that stretches back to the birth of the Republic.
“My grandfather always told me growing up that I was an Addington,” said Rep. Michael T. McCaul Sr. (R.-Texas), who before his election to Congress, served as a Justice Department prosecutor specializing in counter-intelligence.
“My ancestor, Addington, was in the Carolina Wars,” he said.
“The Carolina Wars were very ugly. The attrition rate was horrific, it was like Vietnam, it was that attrition rate that defeated the British,” he said. “My ancestor fought at the siege of Ninety-Six, which is almost like the Alamo of the Revolutionary War.”
Ninety-Six, South Carolina is a small town in the western part of the state and the origin of its name is still debated. In the spring of 1781, Loyalist troops built an eight-point “Star Fort” with 14-foot walls in a addition to a traditional stockade garrison. From May 22, 1781 through June 18, 1781, Continental soldiers under the command of Maj. Gen. Nathanael Greene, and army’s chief engineer Brig. Gen. Tadeusz Kościuszko, sieged the 500 Tories stationed there with a contingent of 1,000.
The Patriots dug trenches, employed tunnel mines and built a 30-foot sniper tower to harass the Loyalists for the 28-day engagement.
Greene lost the battle for the town, when Francis, Lord Rawdon marched from Charleston to relieve the siege with 2,000 men. Rawdon was one of the most successful British commanders during the War for Independence, beginning with his star turn at the Battle of Bunker Hill, where he led the third and successful assault against the American position and is credited with delivering the mortal shot that killed Joseph Warren.
McCaul said, “For me, what is cool is that my fourth generation grandfather, who was a Patriot, thank God, and my father who had the same middle name–he was a WWII veteran and a bombardier on a B-17–he was part of the D-Day air campaign, so when I spoke at the SAR dinner, I talked about the line of succession between the generations going back to the Revolutionary War, WWII, my father and to the present–serving in Congress.”
In addition to his work in Congress, McCaul was the lead investigator looking into the Red Chinese operatives, who were part of Johnny Chung ring that donated nearly $400,000 to the Democratic National Committee in the two years before President William J. Clinton ran for reelection.
The next step is to visit Ninety-Six and then, Addington’s grave in Franklin County, North Carolina, he said. “It is on my bucket list.”
The chairman said he asked two fellow GOP congressmen if they also had a connection to the Siege of the Ninety-Six. “It is interesting that a guy named ‘Gouedy’ was the head of the Ninety-Six community–I asked Trey Gowdy: ‘Are you related to this?’ He said nah. My ancestor married a Deliah Duncan, so I asked Jeff Duncan of South Carolina.” Duncan told him he did not think they were related.
Joel P. Hinzman, a third vice president at District of Columbia Society of the Sons of the American Revolution, told Big League Politics: “Finding out your history tells you who you are and where you came from, which is really what it is all about.
McCaul said he told Hinzman his grandfather always told stories about the Addington family and how he was supposed to have a relative, who fought in the American Revolution. “My grandfather’s middle name was Addington and my father’s middle name, too–my son’s middle name is Addington”
The Texas congressman worked with Hinzman and the volunteers in the local chapter to conduct the SAR genealogy investigation, he said.
“Sure enough–well, you know with genealogy, you never know what you are going to find, could be good could be bad,” he said. “I am glad I was born in the right family, you don’t know until you actually do the genealogy.”
Hinzman said many Americans did not come from good families in Europe, but they made their names in America. “If you were coming here in the 1700s, things probably were not going that well back home.”
“You have to find the original documents that prove each generation, so it was not clear-cut,” he said.
“There has to be documented proof,” he said. “We heard his family’s stories and we were able to do the research to prove that it was true.”
“He served three months as a private, then three months as a lieutenant,” he said.
It is a fairly common occurrence that someone would approach a member of the SAR and ask for help revolving if their family legends were true or not, he said.
Hinzman said he is very proud of the SAR program for helping wounded warriors at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. “We will chat with service members, and we will work on their genealogy as well.”
Another mission of the SAR is to work with the Veterans Affairs Department to ensure that the graves of Revolutionary War soldiers have a headstone or bronze plate.