Death by Pig

While researching soldiers and their families from the Revolutionary War, it can be difficult to uncover reliable information.  We have written about some of our methods before, and you can read one of those posts here.  However, sometimes the best we can do is to make an educated guess or conclusion, as was done in the case of the biography of John Jasper.

We don’t know a lot of information about John Jasper.  He enlisted in the Seventh Company of the First Maryland Regiment in January 1776 and became one of the famed Maryland 400 before deserting to join the Maryland Loyalist Battalion in 1778.

In 1811, a man named John Jasper died in Liverpool.  His obituary, which was widely circulated, reads

“John Jasper…having stolen a dead fat pig, placed it upon his back, throwing the hind legs with the stick which passed through them, over his head, and while making off stopped to rest himself by lodging the carcase on the balustrade of a bridge, when the pig slipping down on the outside of the stone work, the leg-stick unfortunately became a halter for the thief, on the inner side, and he was found in the morning thus hung, and dead.” [1]

jasper obituary

While in some cases, we can map out a soldier’s life with near certainty, this cannot be done with Jasper because of the prevalence of towns and cities named Liverpool.  Of course there is the Liverpool, England, but there are also towns or cities named Liverpool in Australia, Illinois, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Nova Scotia.  

The obituary does not appear in English newspapers, so it is unlikely that the Liverpool named in the obituary is the one in England.  Additionally, most of the Liverpools in the United States were only very recently founded in 1811, and it seems unlikely that a story would break nationwide from a new and tiny town.  

Many loyalists fled to Nova Scotia after the war, where there was a town called Liverpool.  So, it is likely that this obituary originally came from Nova Scotia, and the location and timeline make it logical to assume that the John Jasper in the obituary is the same John Jasper from the Maryland 400.  However, there is just no solid evidence to definitively say that is the case. [2]

-Natalie Miller, Maryland Society Sons of the American Revolution Research Fellow, 2017


[1] “Mortuary Notice,” American and Commercial Daily Advertiser (Baltimore, Maryland), 6 May 1811.

[2] What Happened To British Loyalists After The Revolutionary War?” National Public Radio, 3 July 2015; “The Arrival of the Loyalists in Canada,” University of Ottawa, 14 September 2017.

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