A few miles to the east of where I live in Missouri is a quaint little country graveyard. I stumbled across the Cave Springs cemetery while on a fall drive a few years ago. I surprised to find one grave that held a veteran of the Revolutionary War. "You are a long ways from Valley Forge," I chided the old fellow (who proved a disappointing audience). On the drive home I realized that I should not have been surprised. A young man in the Revolution could easily have lived long enough to have been part of the initial white settlement of southwest Missouri in the 1830s and 40s. There must be thousands of veterans of the revolution buried across the middle west. And farther. Why a boy of 16 in 1781 who had fought at Yorktown could even have been on the Oregon Trail in the 1840s. He would have been in his seventies, but perhaps that is not impossible? It occurred to me that this was a great teaching opportunity as well. The westward movement of Revolutionary War veterans could be used to illustrate western movement and to tie it to other themes in American history. And because they were veterans, the genealogists will have located and marked their graves and put the data online somewhere. Witness the American Revolutionary War Veteran Graves waymarking page.
So did any Revolutionary soldiers make it to the Pacific Northwest? At least one did--William Cannon, Oregon's Only Known Revolutionary War Veteran. Cannon had quite the life. He fought at Charleston, one of the worst American defeats of the war. (Many American captives from that defeat ended up on British prison ships in New York harbor, but Cannon's name does not appear on the list of known prisoners.) He turns up again in 1810 in the employment of the Northwest Fur Company at Mackinaw, where he was lured away to join the Overland Astorians in 1811. Cannon merits a brief vignette in George Washington Irving's Astoria, who describes how the hunter became the hunted when a grizzly bear discovered Cannon hauling fresh buffalo meat back to camp:
"In passing through a narrow ravine he heard a noise behind him and looking round beheld to his dismay a grizzly bear in full pursuit apparently attracted by the scent of the meat. Cannon had heard so much of the invulnerability of this tremendous animal that he never attempted to fire but slipping the strap from his forehead let go the buffalo meat and ran for his life The bear did not stop to regale himself with the game but kept on after the hunter He had nearly overtaken him when Cannon reached a tree and throwing down his rifle scrambled up it. The next instant Bruin was at the foot of the tree; but, as this species of bear does not climb, he contented himself with turning the chase into a blockade."
Presumably Cannon endured the same horrendous trek as the other Astorians across the Bitterroots and down the Snake River. He is nearly invisible in the historiography of Astorian--mentioned only once in James Ronda's Astoria and Empire and not at all in Robert Stuart's or or Hawaii, so it looks like William Cannon is the westernmost known veteran of the Revolution.