James H. (James Hadden) Smith.

History of Duchess county, New York : with illustrations and biographical sketches of some of its prominent men and pioneers online

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France to inherit an estate left him by Madame
van der Hulst de Peyster of Rouen.

James I., the eldest son of Abraham II., mar-
ried Sarah, daughter of Hon. Joseph Reade, Mem-
ber of the King's Council. Her brother, John
Reade, was the owner of the land and point now
in possession of Johnston Livingston, known as
Reade Hoek; and from this circumstance the
town of Red Hook took its name. Margaret,
the eldest daughter of James, married Colonel
Thomas James, commandant of the (single) Brit-
ish Regiment of Royal Artillery. Of her three
brothers, Abraham III., at the age of 23, was senior
captain in the 4th or King's American Regiment ;
James II., about 20, was Captain-Lieutenant, com-
manding Colonel's Company, Grenadiers, of the
same regiment; and Frederic I., before he was 18,
was Captain of an Independent Loyal Company,
known as the "Nassau (Long Island) Blues,"
and afterwards Captain in the N. Y. Vols, or
King's (third) American Regiment. All these
troops were organized by the British government
to oppose the rebellion or revolution of the
Thirteen Colonies.

The line through Abraham III.— the oldest sur-
viving son — failed through the successive death of
all the males, without male issue. James II. left
no children ; and James (III.) F., the eldest son of
Frederic I., became the head of the family, although
Frederic, III., the youngest surviving son, is much
the best known and most eminent.

Frederic (I.) de Peyster married, in the house
of her great-uncle Gilbert R. Livmgston, Helen,
only daughter of Commissary-General Samuel
Hake, B. A. The house referred to, and doubtless
known in 1800 as "Green Hill," was purchased
about 1 8 1 o by John S. Livingston. This was the only
edifice in this neighborhood spared by the British
when they ascended the Hudson in 1777. It was
preserved because the owner was a Loyahst and



206



HISTORY OF DUCHESS COUNTY.



had been an officer in the Royal service. The
mother of Helen (Hake) de Peyster was Helen
Livingston, eldest daughter of Robert Gilbert Liv-
ingston, eldest son of Gilbert, second son of the
first Lord of Livingston Manor, who settled in
Duchess County; his brothers having their estates
in what is now known as Columbia County. Rob-
ert Gilbert Livingston married Catherine McPhead-
res, daughter of a rich landed proprietor, who at
that time resided in Duchess County. Captain
McPheadres, like the Gilbert Branch of the Liv-
ingston family, the de Peyster, Watts, and other
kindred stocks, adhered to the Crown, and like all
the Loyalists atoned for his adherence to principle
by the confiscation of his property.

Frederic IL, youngest and only (1881) surviv-
ing son of Frederic (L) de Peyster, married Mary
Justina, youngest child and daughter of Hon. John
Watts, II.

Robert Watt or Watts, the first of his family in
America, was the second son of John Watt, of Rose
Hill, thus styled — mentioned in Burke's Peerage,
1850, (p. 836.) and other similar works — in connec-
tion with the marriager of his daughter, Margaret,
with Sir Walter Riddell, Bart. This Robert, born
in Edinburgh, came out to New York towards the
close of the seventeenth century and married,
about 1706, Mary, daughter of William NicoUs
or NicoU, Esq., of NicoU Manor, or IsUp,
on Long Island, N. Y. Robert Watts intended to
return to, and re-settle in Scotland, but the death
of his first two children at Edinburgh, in 1724,
determined his remaining in America. John Watts,
the son of the above Robert and Mary, was one
of the most noted men in the Colony or Province
of New York. After fiUing a number of public
offices with credit to himself and benefit to his
fellow-citizens, he was made a member of the
King's Council, and, had the mother country suc-
ceeded in putting down the Rebellion, he was des-
tined to be the Lieutenant-Governor and acting
Governor of the Province. He was the first Pres-
ident of the New York City Hospital. His town-
house was in Pearl street, near Whitehall, and was
consumed in the great fire of 1776, and his coun-
try residence. Rose Hill, between the Bloomingdale
and Old Post Roads and the East River, and be-
tween Twenty-first and Twenty-seventh streets,
covered about fifty-four whole and half blocks in
the 1 8th ward of the city of New York.

His letters to Gen. Monckton, accidentally dis-
covered in England, and published by the Massa-
chusetts Historical Society, present the best pic-
tures of men and manners, politics and public
feeling, just previous to the outbreak of the Amer-
ican Revolution, of any that have been preserved
or recovered. Like his son John, he was a monu-
ment of affliction. Driven into exile by an un-
grateful populace whose rights he had always en-
deavored to maintain, his elegant property was con-
fiscated ; although, through absence from the coun-
try.he should have been excepted from the effects of
such an iniquitous act of spoliation and vengeance.
His noble, stately, and handsonae wife,' Ann de



Lancey, died of a broken heart in New York and her
husband a martyr to duty and loyalty in exile in
Wajes, Jan. 22, 1794, and was buried in St. James
Church, Piccadilly, London. Of their children,
Robert, the eldest son, married Mary, eldest daugh-
ter of William Alexander, Ma:jor-General in the
Continental Army, and titular Earl of Stirling ;
Ann, their eldest daughter, married Hon. Archi-
bald Kennedy, and became Countess of Cassilis ;
Susan married PhiUp Kearny and was mother of
Major-General Stephen Watts Kearny, the conr
querorof New Mexico and CaUfornia ; Mary mar-
ried Sir John Johnson, Bart., and like her father,
suffered the pains of exile and confiscation of proper-
ty ; Stephen, was the famous Major Watts, of Oris-
kany; and John, the public benefactor, married Jane
de Lancey, youngest daughter of Peter de Lancey,
"of the Mills," Westchester county, N. Y., and
was, — through his youngest child and daughter,
the lovely and' intellectual Mary Justina, — the
grandfather of General John Watts de Peyster, of
Rose Hill. '

Frederic (II.) de Peyster — father of General
de Peyster — occupies an enviable position. After
attaining a ripeness of years — 85 — which is reached
by very few in the fullness of health and intelli-
gence, he is reaping a full harvest, the fruits of a
life of virtue, industry and ability. He is, and has
been for years, President of the New York His-
torical Society, of the Board of Trustees of the
New York Society Library and of the St. Nicholas
Club. In addition to these he occupies important
positions in connection with a number of societies
— charitable, literary and business. He has been
President of the St. Nicholas Society. He is au-
thor of a number of historical works of the highest
merit, which have won for him a reputation at
home and abroad such as few amateur writers
enjoy.

Frederic de Peyster (II), LL. D., H. F. R. H.
S. G. B., has been a Member of the N. Y. Histor-
ical society since January, 1824; Corresponding
Secretary, i827-'28, 1838-1843; Secretary, 1829-
'37; Foreign Corresponding Secretary, 1844; Sec-
ond Vice-President, 1850- '63; President, 1864-
'66, 1873-81 ; Member of Executive Committee,
either by appointment or ex-officio, since 1827.

He was also Vice-President of the Association
of the Alumni of Columbia College, Vice-Presi-
dent of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty
to Children; for over fifty years Clerk of the
Board of Trustees of the Leake and Watts Or-
phan House, founded by the father of his wife,
Mary Justina Watts; Senior Warden of Ascension
Church ; Vice-President of the Home of the In-
curables; one of three, Committee on Instruction,
Institution for the Instruction of the Deaf and
Dumb; Trustee of the Bible and Common Prayer
Book Society; Honorary Member of the Royal
Historical Society of Great Britain, &c., &c., &c.;
formerly prominently connected with the Soldiers'
and Sailors' Home, at Bath, Steuben county, N.Y.,
and with the Halleck and the Farragut Monument
Associations.



BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES.



207



He is the author'of a number of obituary notices,
pamphlets and addresses, amounting in matter and
value to volumes, the latest of the series being his
" Address on the Life and Administration of Rich-
ard, Earl of Bellomont," an exquisite production,
both as a Uterary and publishing effort, illustrated
with portraits taken by a peculiar process from
originals in possession of the author, and fac-
similes of manuscripts from originals among the
treasures of tlie New York Historical Society. The
most remarkable facts connected with this address
are that it was prepared and delivered by a gentle-
man 83 years of age, the delivery occupying one
hour and three- quarters. How very few persons
who have reached this advanced term would have
been able to make such a physical effort ; much
more prepare for it by long and arduous study and
labor. It is probable that Mr. de Peyster has
ready for the rostrum and printer, unpublished,
ist. A Brief Sketch of the New York Society
Library, with Proofs of its [comparative as regards
this country] Antiquity; 2d. A Review of the Ad-
ministration of Governor, Col. Benjamin Fletcher,
the iaii predecessor of the gooei Bellomont. Mr.
de Peyster's five principal works : — ist. The Cul-
ture Demanded by the Age; 2d. William III. as
a Reformer ; 3d. Prominent Men ef the English
Revolution ; 4th. Life and Administration of Earl
Bellomont; 5th. Early Political History of New
York ; have been pronounced by a competent
. judge as " worthy productions — accurate, logical
and scholarly."

Gen. de Peyster, like his father, has been one of
the most industrious of literary workers. He has
published a small library of volumes and pamphlets
on historical, military and miscellaneous subjects,
incliiding poems, besides contributing long series
of articles to monthlies, weeklies and dailies, par-
ticularly in connection with the American Revolu-
tion and " Slave-holders' RebelUon."

He married Estelle Livingston, daughter of
John S. Livingston and Anna Maria Martina
Thompson, only daughter of Capt. William
Thompson, an officer in the Pennsylvania Line of
the Revolutionary army. Strange to say, the
General and his wife belong to the same generation
— the seventh — the first through the second and
the second through the first— from the first Lord
of Livingston Manor, and they both resided and
still live on land, or adjoining that of ancestors
who owned it six generations previous. They have
had five children — two daughters, the eldest, Estelle
Elizabeth, married to James B. Toler, Esq., and
the youngest, Maria Livingston, who died a child;
also three sons, all of whom were in the Union
service.

Just as, in 1775, the de Peysters adhered to the
government under which they had prospered, and
"paid the last full measure of devotion " to Loyalty
and duty to the Crown, just so, in 1861-5, they
were found, again, in the front rank of loyalty
and duty to the Union.

The services rendered to his country by Col. J.
Watts de Peyster, Jr., born December z, 1841,



and who died April 12, 1873, in his native city
of New York, are best told in the reports and by
the attests of his superiors, and are almost suffi-
ciently summed up through the quotations inscribed
upon his monument, hereinbefore cited.

One piece of duty, however, performed by this
young officer, has never been sufficiently dwelt
upon, and is best told in the language of another
Union officer, Major-General Alexander Shaler,
U. S. v., who had the amplest opportunities of
judging of its value.

Just after this gallant soldier came back from'
the war, he met Gen. de Peyster- in the Street and
got to talking to the latter about the battle of Chan-
cellorsville, or, rather, Fredericksburg ad. Shaler
said, " de Peyster, when we were marching down
to Bank's Ford, I can recall with what attention
we listened to the thunder of Howe's artillery on
the heights above. I said to myself, as long as
those guns keep on talking at that rate, I feel that
we are safe, for they are holding off the Rebs, that
would otherwise press us as we continue on down
to the bridge of boats. I kept my ear fixed on
those guns and, while we were crossing, still on
those guns. When we were safely over the river,
Howe's artillery was still bellowing away, but the
sound came nearer and nearer, and more and
more distinct. Pretty soon the leading regiments
of Howe's Division came filing down to the bridge,
but the guns were still going. Those guns saved
the Sixth Corps. The man who handled those
guns must have been a brave and a capable
fellow."

Upon this Gen. de Peyster remarked, " Shaler,
you are paying me a great compliment."

Shaler looked surprised. "Why? How so?
What had you to do with those guns ?"

"A' great deal,", de Peyster answered, "the
Chief of Howe's Division Artillery was my eldest
son and namesake. He handled those guns."

" Well," said Shaler, " I did not know that your
son was there. This, however, is a fact, Howe's
artillery saved the Sixth Corps that day, and, if
your son was in command of that artillery, he
proved himself a brave and capable officer."

Gen. Howe sent Gen. de Peyster the most magnifi-
cent attest in regard to his son's behavior on this
occasion, and Gen. Owens was hardly less eulo-
gistic ; Owens told and wrote Gen. de Peyster that
his son. Watts, behaved in such an admirable man-
ner that he remained under fire at the risk of his
life to see him handle his artillery and give the
Rebels fits.

Gen. Shaler also furnished, about the same time,
a communication to this, the same effect :

" I am not aware of the name of the officer who
commanded Howe's Division Artillery, but all I
can say is that Ae did his duty well and in the most
admirable manner. Had not Howe been the obsti-
nate and superior officer he ever proved himself to
be. the Sixth Army Corps would have 'gone in'
under the Rebel pressure at the Bank's Ford. Howe
fought his division with distinguished ability and
tenacity, and the combined action of his infantry



2g8 .



HISTORY OF DUCHESS COUNTY.



and Chief of Artillery deserve the highest praise
for the admirable manner in which they discharged
their responsible duties. The Howe Division ar-
tillery was handled with great gallantry and effect,
and, in conjunction with its infantry supports, they
together had a marked effect in preserving the
Sixth Corps and in enabling it to make a success-
ful retrograde in the face of a victorious [as to gen-
eral results] enemy."

Col. Frederic de Peyster, Jr., — born December
i2, 1842, at New York, died October 30, 1874, at
Rose Hill, — served comparatively but a short time
in the " Great American Conflict," but sufficiently
long, to entail what Lincoln styled the "last full
measure of devotion," and finally, through the con-
sequences of his loyalty, died a martyr to duty
faithfully performed. Like his elder brother, how
he carried himself in the presence of the enemy
and in the field has its best attest in the language
of officers of rank and experience who saw and ad-
mired him there. Perhaps the most extraordinary
■achievement in which he participated, was when
Gen. B. F. Butler, on the night of JMay, 13-14,
1 86 1, with a wing of the 8th New York Militia and
another of the 6th Massachusetts MiUtia and Va-
rian's Battery of Artillery belonging to the 8th New
York MiUtia, took the perfidious' city of Baltimore
by the throat and choked it into a sullen submis-
sion, which kept it from farther exhibitions of its
innate wickedness during the rest of the war.

Col. Frederic de Peyster, Jr., married Mary,
only daughter of Clermont Livingston, (eldest
grandson of Chancellor Livingston,) of Clermont,
proper, and Cornelia, only daughter of Herman
Livingston of Oak Hill. They had two children,
Mary, who died a few days before her father, and
Clermont Livingston, who survives.

* * * » » *

Within the last thirty-five years the United States
has been engaged in two wars which resulted tri-
umphantly for the National and Union arms. Both
of these were virtually terminated by the capture of
the Capital (1847) of Mexico, and of the "Slave-
holders' Rebellion," Richmond, (1865). In both
instances the colors of the United States were
hoisted by officers born immediately adjoining, or
in the town of Red Hook ; in the first place by
Major-General John Quitman, in the second by
Lieutenant (now Colonel) Johnston L. de Peyster.
The former was the son of the pastor of the Luth-
eran — known as the " Stone Church" — at Pink's
Corner, or Monterey, on the Old Post Road, about
a half a mile below the southern limit of the town-
ship of Red Hook, who after the war, returned and
had a re-union of his friends at Lower Red Hook,
as the representative center of the neighbohood to
which he felt that he belonged. The latter was
born at Rose Hill, near Tivoli station, and is now
the owner of the " Chateau of Tivoli," from which
the locality takes its name. He was brevetted Lieut -
Col. U. S. v., and Colonel N. Y. V. for this deed
done by him in his eighteenth year. According to
the decision of General Scott in 1848 (as cited by
Rear-Admiral Preble in his " History of the Flag



of the U. S. A." p. 537), the grateful service of a
formal occupation of Mexico was reserved to Gen-
eral Quitman by his hoisting the colors of the
United States on the National Palace. In the
same manner the honor of raising the '■'■first real
American flag, " to use the words of Major-General
G. Weitzel, over the Capitol of the Confederate
States, and the formal occupation of that edifice,
belonged to Lieut. Johnston L. de Peyster. This
feat he proposed to do nearly a week before the
opportunity was really presented ; and he carried
on his saddle-bow the flag entrusted to him, ex-
pecting to encounter the perils of an assault, and
he hoisted it assisted by Capt. Langdon, ist U. S.
Artillery. General Shepley looked forward with
horror to the storming, which he considered inev-
itable, as he set forth in an article entitled, " Inci-
dents of the Capture of Richmond," published in
the Atlantic Monthly Magazine for July, 1880.
Admiral Farragut gave it as his opinion, that the
fact that the assault did not take place did not
detract in the slightest degree from the credit due
to Lieut, de Peyster for his act, which General
Grant observed put the seal to the termination of
the RebeUion. General Adam Badeau, author of
the " Military History of U. S. Grant," wrote to
General de Peyster from Jamaica, L. I., Dec. 24,
1880, that General Grant decided that the cavalry
guidons are not to be considered " National flags."
" I shall therefore state [as Gen. Badeau did in his
History] that Lieut, de Peyster raised the first flag
over Richmond." In his " Life of Gen. Grant"
(Vol. III., page 543) Gen. Badeau uses the follow-
ing words, " Lieut, de Peyster, of Weitzel's staff, a
New York stripling, eighteen years of age, was the
first to raise the National colors, and then in the
morning light of the 3d of April, the flag of the
United States once more floated over Richmond."

A great many invidious persons have undertaken
to detract from the glory of the capture of Rich-
mond by Weitzel, on Monday morning, April 3,
1865, because it was achieved at no cost of blood
or life. Ignorance is their only excuse. Weitzel
had orders from Grant to assault on the 3d, a. m.,
and not only to assault, but to do so at the immi-
nent risk of being bloodily repulsed. The idea was,
that by this active demonstration, this terrible sac-
rifice — Longstreet occupying the strongest works
in front of Richmond, on the north side of the
James, with numbers superior to those under Weit-
zel — ^would, if thus assaulted boldly and persistent-
ly find himself unable, not knowing Weitzel's com-
parative feebleness of force, to send re-enforcements
across the James to Lee, and thus the latter [Lee]
would not have men enough to garnish, adequately,
the defences of Petersburgh, and consequently
Grant could at length carry his entrenchments and
overwhelm the Rebel Army of Northern Virginia.

Is was under these circumstances that Colonel-
then Lieutenant — Johnston Livingston de Peys-
ter, Aide-de-Camp to General Shepley, and con-
sequently attached to the staff of General Weitzel;
wrote a letter to one of his friends, a letter dis-
patched in the firm conviction that he was about to



BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES.



209



venture his life in a supreme effort, in which the
vast majority of the chances were adverse to his
success and to his escaping unscathed.

The narrative of this exploit is told at length by
Rear Admiral George Henry Preble, U. S. N., in
his " History of the Flag of the U. S. A.," pp. 536-
8, and through the official attest of Hon. Geo. W.
McCirary, Secretary of War, Washington, May 25,

1877.

Admiral Preble observes that Lieut, de
Peyster, then in the eighteenth year of his
age, was a member of one of the oldest
families of colonial New York, and aUied
with nearly every family of consequence in
that State. He entered the army to seek
glory, and doubtless felt that the honor of a
long line of ancestors was placed in his
especial keeping.

Two small guidons, belonging to the
Fourth Regiment of Massachusetts Cavalry,
were found on the roof of the Capitol by
Lieutenant de Peyster and CaptainrLangdon,
which had been placed there by Major,
Stevens and Major Graves, members of the
military staff of General Weitzel, who had
accompanied the party of cavalry which was
sent forward in pursuit of the fugitive enemy.
By an unauthorized detour they raised the
guidons of their party on the roof of the
abandoned Capitol.

The hoisting of these guidons failed to
secure the "grateful service," as it was styled
in Mexico by General Scott, of a formal pos-
session of the Capitol at Richmond, and as
was reserved to General Quitman, in the
former case, the honor of formal occupation,
by "hoisting the colors of the United States
on the National Palace," so to Lieutenant de
Peyster and Captain Langdon rightfully be-
longs the honor of hoisting the colors of the
United States over the Capitol of the Con-
federate States and the formal occupation of
that edifice.

Two days after the event, (April sth,)
General Weitzel wrote to the father of de
Peyster : —

"Your son, Lieut. J. de Peyster, and
Captain Langdon, my Chief of Artillery,
raised the first real American flag over the
Capitol in Richmond. It was a flag formerly
belonging to the Twelfth Maine Volunteers. Two
cavalry guidons had, however, been placed over
the building previously by two of my staff officers ;
these were replaced by the flag that de Peyster
and Langdon raised. Yours truly,

" G. Weitzel, Maj.-Gen."

April 2 2d, General Shepley wrote his father : —

"Your son, Lieut, de Peyster, raised i}a& first
flag in Richmond, replacing two small cavalry
guidons on the Capitol. The flag is in the pos-
session of Major-General Weitzel; I enclose a
small piece of the flag. The history of the affair
is this : I brought with me from Norfolk an old



storm-flag, which I had used in New Orleans, re-
marking sportively, that it would do to float over
the Capitol in Richmond, where I hoped to see it.
De Peyster, who heard the remark, said, ' General
will you let me raise it ?' I said, 'Yes, if you will
bring it with you, and take care of it, you shall
raise it in Richmond.' As we left our lines to ad-
vance towards Richmond, Lieut, de Peyster said,
' General, do you remember your promise about




Hoisting First Real American Flag over the Capitol of the captured Rebel Capital,
Richmond, Monday, 3d April, 1 865, by Lt-Col. Johnston Livingston de Peyster, A.D.C.

the flag ?' I said, 'Yes, go to my tent and get the
flag, and carry it on your saddle, and I will send
you' to raise it.' The result you know."

On the I St of May, 1865, the Governor of the
State of New York honored Lieut, de Peyster with
a brevet Lieutenant-Colonel's commission, for
gallant and meritorious conduct, and for hoisting
the first American flag over Richmond, Va., after
the capture by the Union forces, April 3d, 1865,
and as a testimonial of the zeal, fidelity and cour-
age with which he had maintained the honor of the
State of New York in her efforts to enforce the laws
of the United States, the supremacy of the Con-
stitution, and a republican form of government.

On Christmas day, 1865, the city of New York
by a formal vote, tendered to him the Thanks ot



HISTORY OF DUCHESS COUNTY.



Online LibraryJames H. (James Hadden) SmithHistory of Duchess county, New York : with illustrations and biographical sketches of some of its prominent men and pioneers → online text (page 43 of 125)