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Isaac Franks, a New Yorker who fought with the Continental Army against the British from 1776 to 1782, was born on this date in 1759. After the Revolution was won, Franks acquired a house in the Germantown section of Philadelphia, where the Battle of Germantown had been fought, and twice lent it to President George Washington, during the Whiskey Rebellion of 1791 and as an escape from the Yellow Fever epidemic that gripped Washington, DC (and Philadelphia) in 1793. Franks ended his life as an indigent, living off a veteran’s pension, and died in 1822. Originally from England, his family consisted of merchants who settled in New York and Philadelphia during the 1700s. By the end of the century, they had mainly disappeared as Jews through conversion. They are known to us through correspondence and seven portraits that hang in the Smithsonian.
“Although Franks was Jewish, he was a practicing Christian. He joined the Continental army at age 17 and fought the British in the battles on Long Island. He was captured in Manhattan but escaped to New Jersey in a leaky rowboat. There he joined the quartermaster division as an assistant foragemaster for Washington’s main army. He was promoted to foragemaster and sent to West Point, where he received a commission as ensign in a Massachusetts regiment in 1781. He resigned the following year, married and moved to Germantown. He worked as a financial broker.” —UShistory.org