The Spirit of a Hero
It was a warm, sunny, summer day when a brother and sister were playing in the yard of an enormous estate on the Coast of Portugal. Two sailors approached the fence and lured the children to come near. When they did, they were met with bags over their heads. The young girl kicked and thrashed in fear and managed to escape and ran for help, but unfortunately, the five-year-old boy was too small and was taken into captivity. The sailors could see that the quality of the boy’s clothes was of significant value and it is said that the motive for abducting the child was either for ransom or to sell him into slavery.
Almost a full year later, on the wharf of the Virginia City Port, a sailboat appeared, and two sailors emerged. Followed by a large shout, the two sailors boarded the boat and sailed away leaving behind the boy. Shortly after, the citizens of the town surrounded the boy and examined him. He spoke of a language unknown to the settlers. They gazed upon his shoes and found the initials “P.F” on silver buckles. The mysterious child repeated the name “Pedro Francisco, Pedro Francisco”. The colonists called him by the name of Peter.
Unsure of what to do with Peter, Judge Anthony Winston decided to take him into his family as an indentured servant. Judge Winston soon grew to love the boy and planned to formally adopt him. At the age of fifteen, the boy grew to be six feet and six inches, weighing over 200 pounds. Significantly larger than the typical man of that period.
One afternoon, a meeting took place at the Courthouse. Peter, being an indentured servant was not allowed inside, but under the opening of a window, he heard Patrick Henry passionately state, “Give me Liberty or Give me death”. Upon hearing those famous words, Peter knew that his fight had begun. Wanting to enlist in the army immediately, Judge Winston persuaded Francisco to wait one more year.
In 1776, at the age of sixteen, Francisco enlisted as a private in the 10th Virginia Regiment. His first-time seeing action was September 1777 at the Battle of Brandywine in neighboring Pennsylvania. Under the leadership of General George Washington, Francisco was part of the attempt to halt 12,500 British soldiers under the command of British General Sir William Howe. The British General had outflanked Washington’s army, forcing them into retreat.
The 10th Regiment had been assigned to protect Sundy Hollows against the British. As this position was crucial for stopping General Howe from capturing the nation’s capital, Philadelphia, Francisco knew that he had no choice but to stop the advancement. The British General encountered little resistance as he disassembled the American infantry until he had reached the 10th Regiment. Francisco, among many, valiantly held the line of defense for three-fourths of an hour. His bravery and demonstration of strength allowed his fellow soldiers to retreat until he was forced to retreat himself. During the skirmish, Francisco suffered from a gunshot wound to his leg. Once again, he spent time regaining his strengths in the hospital. During his time there, he encountered the young Marquis de LaFayette who had also held his place alongside Peter. It is said that a friendship had grown between the two young soldiers.
Francisco has regained his strength just in time to join his Regiment for the Battle of Germantown. He was positioned at the defense of Fort Mifflen which defended the approach by ship to Philadelphia. The British attacked the fort with such fierceness that the fort had eventually become reduced to rubble, but Francisco stood his ground. During the defense, the 10th regiment had inflicted much damage on their attackers. By mid-November, the British had victory. Some 250 men of the Americans had lost their lives. Few survived, among them Peter Francisco. This boy was sixteen years of age when he had such a demonstration of the spirit of a Hero. Francisco would soon gain the name Hercules of the Revolution.
The 10th Virginia Regiment wintered at Valley Forge, where some hundreds of men died due to malnourishment and hypothermia. Francisco himself, spent the majority of the winter hospitalized.
General Howe had taken over Philadelphia but then decided that it would be best to defend New York, being the better port. Upon retreating, General Washington had taken advantage and marched from Valley Forge. He intercepted the rear guard of the British, forcing Lord Cornwallis to retreat in the middle of the night. During this battle, Private Peter Francisco had suffered from another gunshot wound. This one permanently injuring the young soldier, but when he healed, he re-enlisted. His fight was far from over.
This is Part One of Two Parts of “The Spirit of a Hero” and the Tales of The Hercules of the Revolution.