Buried at the Rural Valley Cemetery in Cuddebackville, New York is Benjamin Eaton, the last surviving Life Guard of George Washington.
On March 11, 1776, during the Siege of Boston, General Washington directed the formation of a “corps of sober, intelligent, and reliable men.” Washington’s order read as thus:
The General being desirous of selecting a particular number of men, as a Guard for himself, and baggage, The Colonel, or commanding Officer, of each of the established Regiments, (the Artillery and Rifflemen excepted) will furnish him with four, that the number wanted may be chosen out of them. His Excellency depends upon the Colonels for good Men, such as they can recommend for their sobriety, honesty, and good behaviour; he wishes them to be from five feet, eight Inches high, to five feet, ten Inches; handsomely and well made, and as there is nothing in his eyes more desirable, than Cleanliness in a Soldier, he desires that particular attention may be made, in the choice of such men, as are neat, and spruce. They are all to be at Head Quarters to morrow precisely at twelve, at noon, when the Number wanted will be fixed upon. The General neither wants men with uniforms, or arms, nor does he desire any man to be sent to him, that is not perfectly willing, and desirous, of being of this guard. They should be drill’d men.
Banner of the Guard
Between 1780 and 1783, Benjamin Eaton served in this role as a Life Guard to George Washington. Throughout his career in the Revolutionary War, Eaton was in 16 engagements, including the Battle of Monmouth and the Siege of Yorktown. He was also present at the encampment at Valley Forge as well as the Surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown.
Prior to becoming a Life Guard, Eaton volunteered for the Sullivan Expedition in 1779. The expedition was a scorched earth campaign that methodically destroyed at least forty Iroquois villages throughout the Finger Lakes region of western New York in an attempt to put an end to the Iroquois and Loyalist attacks that had ravaged the American countryside in 1778.
By the end of his life, Benjamin Eaton was considered to be the last living Life Guard of George Washington.