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Remember and honor

You can’t help but think how much they had in common … and yet how very different they were.

Their commonalities: both were born to pioneering families. Both chose to fight to protect what they believed in. Both were 23 years old when they died, both in the service of American freedom.

Their differences: Richard Baker was born in Virginia, one of six sons of middle-class land-owning parents. Philip Cottrell was born in South Dakota, the only son of a cattle rancher and a woman of the Lakota Sioux.

Oh, and Richard Baker died in 1776, Philip Cottrell in 1943.

The bookends of the losses of The Legal Genealogist‘s family that we honor this Memorial Day here in the United States.

Memorial Day 2021

Richard — my fourth great granduncle, younger brother of my fourth great grandfather David Baker who served with him in the Third Virginia Regiment — died in the Battle of Trenton, Christmas Day 1776, as Washington’s desperate plan to cross the Delaware and surprise the Hessian garrison at the New Jersey capital worked far better than anyone could have hoped.1

Philip — my first cousin once removed, son of my maternal grandfather’s brother — died in a Marine Corps training accident in the Mojave Desert in August 1943 when his aircraft caught fire and he was forced to jump. A local newspaper reported that it was believed that he hit his head on the fuselage when he jumped; he never pulled the ripcord of his parachute.2

Neither ever married.

Neither left children.

Not a single one of those who loved them best is alive today to remember them.

And yet they are not forgotten.

And will not be forgotten.

Not as long as this family historian draws breath.

Our thanks to them, and to all who gave their all, that we might live free.

Cite/link to this post: Judy G. Russell, “Memorial Day 2021,” The Legal Genealogist ( : posted 31 May 2021).


  1. See Judy G. Russell, “Remembering Richard,” The Legal Genealogist, posted 24 May 2014 ( : accessed 31 May 2021).
  2. See Judy G. Russell, “Memorial Day thanks,” The Legal Genealogist, posted 28 May 2012 ( : accessed 31 May 2021).
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