This essay is part of the George Lincoln Rockwell Centennial series.
George Lincoln Rockwell was assassinated on August 25, 1967 in the parking lot of a northern Virginia laundromat by a former follower named John Patsalos. In many ways, Rockwell’s death was an ironic end to a valorous life.
While serving in the US Navy, Rockwell had participated in numerous battles in two wars. His first assignment in the Navy was dangerous in and of itself, piloting an OS2U Kingfisher. This was an underpowered, lightly-armed scout plane that was launched by catapult from a cruiser or battleship. Even simple flights over the open ocean were dangerous. Rockwell wrote of the matter:
We had no automatic pilot or mechanical aid whatsoever. You figured out everything by vectors, compass course, speed, distance, time and gas, and then prayed fervently that you and the ship would wind up somewhere in the near vicinity at the end of the flight. If you made a mistake of adding the magnetic variation instead of subtracting it or forgot a single wind figure or made any other ordinarily slight mathematical error, it was curtains.
Apart from his individual valor, Rockwell’s family also had a prestigious history of doing great things for the United States. His patrilineal ancestors, William Rockwell and his wife Susan Capen, came to the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1630 on the ship Mary and John. They were part of the great Puritan migration to New England led by John Winthrop. William Rockwell’s family were also Puritans and came from the West Country of England, specifically Fitzhead in Somerset County.
The Puritans endorsed the radical Protestant ideas of theologians such as John Calvin, but sought to apply those ideas to the existing Church of England. This was different than the Brownist radical Protestants on the Mayflower, who wished to practice their faith separately from the Church of England entirely.
William Rockwell’s group of West Country pilgrims were organized much like the Mayflower pilgrims in that a religious leader did much of the initial work in getting the project moving. In this case, the religious leader was Reverend John White (1575–1648). Reverend White was a Puritan minister from Dorchester, Dorset County, and he initially attempted to set up a colony at Cape Ann, Massachusetts in 1623. Unfortunately, the colony proved unviable, but he learned from his mistakes and sent out a better-organized colonial expedition which travelled with the larger Winthrop Fleet, which was also headed to New England.
Mary and John arrived just prior to Governor Winthrop’s ship, the Arabella. The colonists set up a camp in the Indian Village of Mattapan and renamed the settlement Dorchester, after the town from which so many of the colonists had originated.
In Dorchester, many of the colonists fell ill from scurvy, and that winter the colonists were suffering from the extreme cold of New England. They were so unused to the cold that they spent the winter huddled around their fires and left their cattle to fend for themselves. In February 1631, the ship Lion arrived with two hundred tons of supplies, and this restored the colony to health and well-being.
For the next five years, William Rockwell and the West Country pilgrims would work to make Dorchester into a viable community. They did have much to learn, however, as the summers in New England were hotter and drier than in the West Country. This meant that the traditional English thatched roofs were a greater fire risk, so the colonists needed to switch to shingled roofs. In their first five years, the English in Dorchester cleared land for commons, organized the town’s streets, and set property boundaries. Essentially, they made what began as a makeshift campsite into a viable physical community.
Eventually, there was a controversial push within the Massachusetts Bay Colony for many families to relocate to the Connecticut River Valley, the motivation for which was primarily economic. The economy of New England was still in its infancy, and cattle, and thus room for cattle grazing, was essential to prosperity. The controversy resulted from the colonists’ desire for security. The English population remained low, and far-flung settlements were thought by the colonial authorities to weaken the position of Massachusetts Bay should there be an attack.
However, the Massachusetts Bay Colony’s leaders yielded to expansion, if only to get rid of troublemakers. The Connecticut River Valley was becoming better known to the various English traders and seamen. Roger Ludlow (1590–1664), an excellent leader with the unfortunate habit of stepping on toes, decided that the area that would one day be known as Windsor, Connecticut was a good place for a new community.
Ludlow had to contend with the issue of obtaining a title to the property. A party of adventurers in Boston sponsored by Sir Richard Saltonstall and led by Francis Styles already had a commission to take possession of land in the area. Ludlow arranged for his rivals to be detained in Boston for nearly two weeks, during which time he led his West Country Puritans overland. During the trek to the Connecticut River Valley, the West Country English moved through forests that had already been organized by the local Indian tribes for their own use. As a result, it resembled a forest park, and there was very little underbrush to impede the travelers.
In their haste to take possession of the area prior to the other potential claimants, the settlers had left too late in the year to plant gardens or crops. Winter set in early in 1635, and the community was forced to abandon Windsor for the season. It was impossible to travel overland back to the Bay Colony due to the ice and snow, so they set out southwards, following the Connecticut River in the hope of catching a ride on a trading ship.
They were lucky. The vessel Rebecca was stuck in the ice on the river. After a fortunate thaw that freed the ship, the pilgrims boarded it and travelled downriver. The ship was briefly grounded on a sandbar at the mouth of the Connecticut, but after some hard work unloading the ship in order to lighten it, the ship was eventually freed and reloaded, and then continued to sail for Boston. Thus the colonists were saved from certain starvation.
They returned overland to Windsor in the early summer of 1636. Their bulk supplies had to be transported to Windsor by sea and river, and this time the English were in Connecticut to stay. When they started to develop their town in earnest, they made a palisade for defensive purposes, and using the same basic design that the English settlers had adopted in their settlements in Ulster, Ireland.
William Rockwell was a Deacon in the church at Windsor, and was one of the men with the power to sign orders on behalf of the town. William died young in 1640, and his widow married Matthew Grant. In his memoirs, the Union General and American President Ulysses S. Grant writes:
Mathew Grant’s first wife died a few years after their settlement in Windsor, and he soon after married the widow Rockwell, who, with her first husband, had been fellow-passengers with him and his first wife, on the ship Mary and John, from Dorchester, England, in 1630. Mrs. Rockwell had several children by her first marriage, and others by her second. By intermarriage, two or three generations later, I am descended from both the wives of Mathew Grant.
William and Susan Rockwell and the other West Country Puritans who traveled overland to Windsor, Connecticut set a pattern for bringing our civilization to all of North America.
There are no Rockwells listed in George M. Bodge’s Soldiers in King Philip’s War, but this family would have been affected by the dreadful Indian War which nearly wiped out the English in New England in 1675. George Lincoln Rockwell’s ancestor at the time was Samuel Rockwell. He would have been in his mid-forties and probably missed being drafted due to his age.
During the Revolutionary War, Rockwell’s family again did excellent service. Isaac Rockwell (1742-1802) served in Captain Hezekiah Bissell’s Company. The records of individual units in the Revolutionary War are not as well documented as those of the Civil War, but they do show that Captain Hezekiah Bissell had a commission in the Commissary Department, and the memoirs of other men under his command show that they were stationed in New London, Connecticut. Connecticut was the scene of several raids by the British operating out of their base in New York City, and New London was burned in 1781.
George Lincoln Rockwell’s grandmother Mary MacPherson was from Pugwash, Nova Scotia and lived a pioneer life in that Canadian extension of New England’s cultural zone. On a visit to relatives,
. . . she met John Rockwell, a mature and dignified Civil War veteran of Scotch-English descent who had opened a real estate office and had already married and raised a small family, before he lost his wife. Mary MacPherson married John Rockwell and they bought a house, with a large mortgage, on Pemberton Street in the Mount Pleasant, section of Providence [Rhode Island].
While Rockwell calls his grandfather “John” Rockwell, the gravestone as well as Civil War records show that the man’s name was George Lyton Rockwell. Rockwell says that Mary was a credit to her family in dealing with Indian troubles. This is very likely true, as even today, Nova Scotians continue to have a touch-and-go relationship with the local Mi’kmaq tribe.
During the Civil War, Rockwel’ls grandfather served as a Private in Company D of the 22nd Connecticut Infantry. He enlisted in the Union Army on August 23, 1862 in Bloomfield and was mustered into his regiment on September 20 of that year in Hartford, Connecticut.
Rockwell’s grandfather served with the22nd Connecticut for the entire period that the regiment was on active duty. At first he served along Washington, DC’s defensive fortifications, and later his regiment was positioned on the critical Miner’s Hill in Arlington County, Virgnia, near where George Lincoln Rockwell would later have his American Nazi Party headquarters. The regiment went on an expedition against General J. E. B. Stuart in December 1862, and built forts Craig, McDowell, and McCellan. The regiment’s most notable action was at the Siege of Suffolk, Virginia in April 1863. The Union Army had captured Suffolk and the Confederates attacked in order to free the town. The Union Army held, and the Confederates withdrew upon the orders of Robert E. Lee. Private Rockwell was mustered out with the rest of the 22nd Connecticut on July 7, 1863.
When George Lincoln Rockwell chose to devote his life to his people’s struggle in the early 1950s, while posted in San Diego, he was merely making a brave stand as his Yankee forebears had done. However, in many ways, he was far braver. The West Country pilgrims who founded Windsor, Connecticut faced many unknown dangers, but they had the blessings of their wider community for their endeavors. When Isaac Rockwell enlisted in the Connecticut Militia to fight the British, he was well within the norms of his community. And when Rockwell’s grandfather did picket duty in Washington, DC, both the federal and state government of Connecticut were backing his efforts.
During the Second World War and the Korean War, George Lincoln Rockwell was also supported by his community, but in his greatest fight he was alone, save for a handful of followers. For pointing out the Jewish backing of Communism and other disruptive social movements in 1950s and ‘60s America, he faced a hostile press, a hostile government, a hostile public, and ultimately, even a hostile US Navy. He was honorably discharged just short of retirement for being “non-deployable,” despite his proven record in combat.
Since Commander Rockwell’s assassination, he has been proven correct, as the detrimental impact of Jewry on the United States has left a grim legacy in America’s domestic and foreign policies in the decades since.
In 1967, Rockwell’s followers were a tiny band of misfits. Today, his ideas are reaching a much larger audience of solid citizens. Many of these citizens can claim descent from or affinity for Rockwell and his brave Connecticut ancestors. His message to modern Americans still resonates: “Square your jaw as your forefathers did, steel your will, and tell these sneaks that America has TURNED AT LAST!”
1. George Lincoln Rockwell, This Time the World (1961), Kindle edition, p. 75.
2. Frank Thistlethwaite, Dorset Pilgrims: The Story of West Country Pilgrims Who Went to New England in the 17th Century (London: Barrie & Jenkins, 1989), pp. 103-105.
3. Ulysses S. Grant, The Complete Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant (Seven Treasures Publications, USA, 2009), p. 15.
4. Rockwell, This Time the World, p. 11.
5. Rockwell, This Time the World, p. 312.
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