Flashback Frank - Revolutionary War Veteran Peter Jennings

Aug 05, 2021 at 08:00 am by Dalton Barrett

This is Flashback Frank of the Rutherford County Historical Society.



A study of the history of Rutherford County reveals several Revolutionary War soldiers coming to Rutherford County after the War to make Rutherford County their home.


One Revolutionary War veteran in particular moved to Murfreesboro, started a business and became a friend and community servant to all.


Peter Jennings was an African-American born in Connecticut in 1752, putting him around 24-years-old when he enlisted in the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War.


While many of the youth in our newborn nation had little schooling, Jennings was adept at reading and writing. Jennings enlisted in the Continental Army in 1776 in Providence, Rhode Island, where he resided at that time.


Jennings was a private in the 5th Regiment of Artillery of Blacks in the Continental Line and served under Gen. James Varnum of the 1st Rhode Island. By the way, the 1st Rhode Island distinguished itself as one of the few regiments to serve throughout the entire Revolutionary War…


Jennings was present on the icy Delaware River on Christmas night in 1776, as General George Washington and his troops attempted to surprise a Hessian force in Trenton, New Jersey.


Jennings was engaged in several major battles, including Trenton, Princeton, Brandywine and Yorktown. Jennings suffered a massive wound from direct fire in his right knee. He carried this wound the rest of his life.


Jennings served throughout War and continued for an additional ten months as a soldier after the surrender of Lord Cornwallis in Yorktown in 1781.

Even though the British offered freedom in exchange for enlistment, Jennings was born a free man and chose to serve among the 5,000 black soldiers fighting for our original 13 colonies. For his service, he received an annual pension of $100.


After his service in the Revolutionary War, Jennings took to the sea for the next twenty years, traveling much of the world. He was involved in a shipwreck near the Bahamas, thus he lost his discharge papers. Nevertheless, he applied for an annual pension of $250 that began at age 81 and continued through his death at age 90.


In the 1830 census, Jennings lived in Murfreesboro, a bustling town of 1,000 residents at that time. Jennings owned a house at the corner of Vine and Church streets. The one-story frame building served as his residence and his bakery. He lived as a free black and was a wonderful baker, creating ginger cakes, pies and delicious breads.


Children gathered around his bakery as Jennings delighted in sharing the exploits of his time in the Continental Army and the adventures from his two decades sailing the seven seas. He gave thrilling accounts of seafaring with descriptive sea phrases. He demonstrated army maneuvers using broomstick for a musket. He also taught the boys boxing and fencing skills.


Jennings died on January 22, 1842, yet the exact location of his burial is unknown. The Daughters of the American Revolution erected a beautiful memorial headstone with an engraved cross for Jennings in the Old City Cemetery, on Vine Street.


Peter Jennings was a soldier who fought for the independence we experience today. He also chose Murfreesboro as his final home where he found great happiness to the end of his life.


Enjoy this story and 2,000 other stories concerning Rutherford County history by visiting www.rutherfordtnhistory.org


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