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ITS MILITARY HISTORY*
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REVEREND EDMUND BANKS. SMITH, B.D.
CHAPLAIN OF GOVERNOR'S ISLAND
PUBLISHED BY THE AUTHOR
COPYRIGHTED' . ""
* ' * "
,< t fcEVEREND EDMUND BANKS SM^TH
DEDICATED WITH RESPECT
TO THE MEMORY OF
MAJOR-GENERAL FREDERICK DENT GRANT
UNITED STATES ARMY
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Chapter I. Indian and Dutch Period ... to 1674
Chapter II. English Colonial and Revolutionary
Chapter III. Period of the War of 1812 . . . 1812-1815
Chapter IV. Mexican and Civil War Period . . 1846-1865
Chapter V. Garrison Notes 1865-1913
Chapter VI. Ferry Transportation in Four Cen-
Chapter VII. The New York Arsenal .... 1831-1913
Chapter VIII. Religious Work and Influence.
Chapter IX. Governor's Island Extension.
Chapter X. Commanding Generals, Post Com-
manders, British and American
Addenda British Regiments on Governor's Is-
land H. M. 6oth Foot the
King's Royal Rifle Corps.
The Post Headquarters Building.
TT SEEMS to be a beneficent arrangement of Nature that all
great harbours are provided with small islands. These
serve highly important purposes as breakwaters or stations for
various official uses, and especially for Army and Navy pur-
poses as ship yards and bases for defensive works and military
Thus the harbour of Rio de Janeiro has Lage with its forts-
Cobras, Santa Barbara and others; Naples, its Ischia and
Capri; San Francisco has Angel Island and Alcatraz; St.
Petersburg, Basil and Petropski Islands ; Montreal, St. Helen's
and He Ronde ; Manila has Corregidor, our Eastern Gibraltar ;
and Panama in the South, Naos, Perico and Flamenco. New
York Harbour is well provided with these friendly aids to good
National housekeeping, which, beginning with the lighthouse
islands in the lower bay, and including the mighty Richmond
with its quarantine attendants, sweep in graceful lines through
the curving East River to where it debouches into the open
Sound. Among these sentries which stand on guard wherever
an open door invites attack is one, the fairest of them all, the
"Smiling Garden of the Sovereigns of the Province," as the old
Colonial Governors used to call it, which in its long career has
done more smiling than frowning, the subject of this History,
"Pagganck" in Indian days, "Nutten" in Colonial Dutch and
"Governor's" in English and American occupation by every
name it has been fair and sweet, and it deserves as well of the
future as it has served well the past.
May the day never come when it shall lose its beauty and its
dignity and sink to the level of mere commercialism, swarming
with restless crowds on outing bent or disfiguring the noble ap-
proach to our Metropolitan city by ranks of cheerless chimneys
and a dismal waste of warehouses !
Governor's Island has stood in four centuries for that which
is best in our National life. It has represented authority and
defense. The Dutch and English before us regarded it as a
source of influence and power. Its nearness to the Metropolis
gives it convenience; its isolation bestows dignity and security.
In addition to its value and importance in time of peace for the
preservation of civic interests and in war for defense as a
centre of administration, a depot for supplies and a receiving
and training station, a value may be mentioned which as a
principle ranks above the definite purposes already men-
tioned. Historical continuity and veneration for persons and
places of dignity are not valued as they should be by the
American of today. It is needless to say how important
these considerations are for the higher development of our
National life. The writer does not know of any one place
in America where opportunities for developing these charac-
teristics of a high National life cluster as they do at Governor's
Here, for two hundred and seventy-five years, since Von
Twiller and the Indians signed their Roman-Dutch agreement,
authority has held the keys; here, for one hundred and fifty-
six years, since the "Royal Americans" mounted guard in
1756, the tramp of sentries has never ceased; here, since 1/83,
our flag has welcomed and dismissed the sun each day at
reveille and retreat; here, gallant officers and fair ladies have
lived and served and by their simple devotion to God and
country have taught to others that great silent lesson of patri-
otism which is the alphabet of the Army ; here, have been re-
ceived with dignified respect the representatives of the Powers
of every land, who have returned to their homes with a better
opinion of America because in seeing our greatest Port they
have seen also Governor's Island with all it represents. Truly,
this Island has served well the State. As a picture of our
Past, as a living reality in our Present, for the development of
our Future, it must be preserved and endowed with greater
power and activity.
The thought is not mere sentiment. It is practical patriotism.
Our people need the object lesson which this military Station
in New York can furnish. Washington has its Capitol, a pic-
ture in stone and iron for the Nation. New York has its civic
and mercantile buildings to inspire municipal pride and to
encourage financial enterprise. Governor's Island is the one
point in our vast City on which to centre a common patriotism.
We have pride and enterprise strongly developed. Our pat-
riotism which mounts to the sky in time of war lags sadly be-
low in peace when it is most needed. If this book has any
suggestion in its story of Governor's Island, it is of the im-
portance of preserving inviolate this spot of National and
Municipal interest, which through its long and honoured career
has touched so many points in the history of the American
Army and of the City of New York, and which today is a
reminder to millions, as it watches o'er the Town, that the
eternal vigilance of the Army is of fullest value to the State
when every citizen is a patriot. Semper floreat.
It has been found impossible to give the data in full of every
organization and individual stationed here. The records avail-
able are incomplete, and if they were not so to transcribe them
in full would encumber these pages with a mass of details and
not carry out the idea of the writer, which is to present a sim-
pie picture of our Island in four centuries from a military
point of view, with such touches of social life as can be gathered
from various sources.
The author desires to express his thanks to a number of
friends for aid in writing this History, especially to Brigadier-
General George Andrews, The Adjutant-General of the Army,
and to Colonel Herbert J. S locum for valuable assistance, and
to Captain Arthur F. Halpin for his kindness in preparing the
GOVERNOR'S ISLAND, New York Harbour. 1913.
(The spelling and capitalization in original papers, orders and reports are
Reference is made in the following pages to the authorities
mentioned, with the acknowledgments of the author:
Manual of the Corporation of the City of New York.
Manual of the Common Council of the City of New York.
Memorial History of the City of New York by Gen'l James
History of Trinity Parish in the City of New York by the
Rev'd Morgan Dix, D.D., Rector of Trinity Church.
The Story of the Chapel of St. Cornelius the Centurion, Gov-
ernor's Island, by Dr. Dix.
Historic New York, Half Moon Series, by Blanche W.
Tompkins Military Papers, by Daniel D. Tompkins, Governor
of New York 1807-1817.
Journal Legislative Council of the Colony of New York.
Colonial History of the State of New York. Brodhead. ,
Medical History of Governor's Island, by Charles Page, Sur-
geon, U.S.A., F. W. Elbrey, Asst.
Original General and Special Garrison Order Book, 1814-15.
Colden Papers. Lt.-Governor Colden.
Clinton Papers. Governor Clinton.
Adjutant General's Department Compilation.
Circular No. 8 Surgeon Genl's Office.
* The profuse use of capital letters in the time of Washington, as ex-
hibited in some of the Revolutionary Orders quoted in this History, may
be defended on the ground of good usage at the period. Benjamin
Franklin, as late as 1789, laments the new use coming then into vogue
of the non-capitalization of the initial letters of all nouns.
MSS. Minutes of Common Council subsequent to 1786, in
Library of City Hall, New York.
New York City in the War of 1812. Guernsey.
Memorial History of Staten Island. Colonel Ira K. Morris.
Historical and Statistical Record of the University of the State
of New York. F. B. Hough.
New York Historical Society Publications.
Kemble's Journal. Lt.-Col. Stephen Kemble, Royal American
New Amsterdam and its People. J. H. Innes.
Lamb's History of New York.
Historical Register U. S. Army. F. B. Heitman.
Army List British Forces, 1756, &c. (Official.)
INDIAN AND DUTCH PERIOD
Of the occupation of Governor's Island by the Indians little
is known except that they were here when the Dutch arrived
and that they undoubtedly enjoyed its quiet retreats, as suc-
ceeding generations of Dutch, English and American residents
have done. That they were ready to part with it for what they
deemed a fair consideration is evident from the deed of sale,
as recorded, to Governor ,WOuter Van Twiller in 1637, and
when we reflect that the Indians of Manahatas parted with
their Island to Minuit, Governor and DirectCr-CJeneral of New
Netherland, for sixty guilders (twenty-four dollars), we must
conclude that they made a shrewd bargain with Van Twiller
for Governor's Island,. . The Indian name for the Island was
"Pagganck," referring to the groves of hickory, oak and
chestnut trees with whicji it was well covered.
The Dutch rendered, cl\Is name by "Nutter,'.' and it was so
f ' 1 ' H J ' j o
called till the late Dulc,h, a,nd ,even the. ^arly English Colonial
period, the term "Nutter.," lingering in r.onie cases into the
Revolutionary times, although the, rut trees that gave it that
name had doubtless disappeared under the influence of the
famous saw mill of which mention is frequently made in early
times. The name of the Island was officially changed from
"Nutten" to "Governor's" by Act of Legislature, March 29,
That the Dutch had really a right to hold New York is
denied by Dr. Dix in his History of Trinity Church (Vol. I,
p. 21 ), in which he points out that "the Dutch had no right by
virtue of discovery, for the River and the Bay had been well
known since Verrazano's voyage in 1524. They had no rights
by virtue of Charter: three years before the voyage of Hud-
son . . . the region had been doubly covered by patents
HISTORY OF GOVERNOR'S ISLAND
issued by King James to the North and South Virginia Com-
panies, a royal donation based on the claim of England to the
North American Mainland acquired by John Cabot in 1497.
The whole country was "preempted," as the Dutch very
well knew, both by priority of discovery and formal occupation.
Even if the Dutch had possessed a good title, a glance at the
map will show that the position could not have been perma-
nently maintained between the English settlements on the
North and Virginia on the South : it was merely a question of
time before inexorable laws must take their course."
Woodrow Wilson in his "History of the American People"
seems to hold an opposite view, regarding the claim of right as
a pretext, but he acknowledges that under Colonel Nicolls, "no
less a statesman than a soldier,. New Netherland was within a
year transformed '.into New York under laws which promised
toleration and -good,' government and which all sensible men
accepted with satisfaction."
The Dutch occupation of what is now New York, neverthe-
less, conferred a lasting benefit upon the- community in the
importation '6'i ( sturdy traits of character which are appreciable
in some of it's most distinguished families today. Architec-
tural remains 'are naturally non-existent,, except in the style of
some modern adqpt|t<ons,'but the raines of streets and locali-
ties, such as SpiiyteV Diiyvil, Corlaers Hook, Coenties Slip,
Dutch and Van Dam Street's,' Stuyvesant Square and St.
Mark's-in-the-Bouewrie, where Petrus Stuyvesant lies buried,
and many other names of like character, remind us of those
days when the foundations of our present greatness were laid.
The foundation of the settlement may be dated from 1621,
when the States-General of Holland gave the West Jndia Com-
pany its Charter. In 1623 the "New Netherlands," a stout
Dutch sailing vessel, Cornelius Jacobs of Hoorn, Skipper, with
thirty families came to this western Land of Promise. So sea-
worthy was this good ship that she continued in active service
for more than thirty years after this and brought doubtless a
large proportion of the early Dutch settlers to this land. In
1625 two more ships sailed from Holland laden with agricul-
INDIAN AND DUTCH PERIOD
tural implements, seeds for planting, 103 head of cattle, house-
hold furniture and 200 settlers. Upon arrival in the harbour
the cattle were landed on what is now Governor's Island.
The West India Company was incorporated June 3, 1621,
through the efforts of William Usselinx to colonize the lands
discovered by Hudson. In addition to the expectation of
revenue to be derived from the Colony was the idea of estab-
lishing a naval base for Dutch vessels in the war with Spain.
"In 1621, the year of its establishment, the Company obtained
a grant or patent from the States Generall for the setting and
Planting a Colony here and was called the New Netherlands
and made one of its first settlements near the mouth of Hud-
son's River upon an Island called Nutten Island."
From Colonial Documents London.
The first permanent Colony upon Manhattan Island was
made by Peter Minuit in 1626 and the first act of settlement
was to acquire land from the owners. Governor Peter Minuit
made a bargain with the Indians as already mentioned, estab-
lishing thus early in what was to be the financial centre of the
world a basis of real estate valuation.
The prudent Van Twiller followed the precedent set by
Minuit with careful attention to comparative values and so in
1637 our Island passed forever from the control of the original
Race, the hut was abandoned, the tent was folded and
stowed in the canoe, the stealthy tread of the moccasin gave
place to the heavy tramp of the wooden shoe, "Pagganck" be-
came "Nutten" and a momentous page was opened in the
history of the subject of this memorial as tribal existence
yielded to National life. The flag of Holland is the first to
proclaim a National occupation, to be succeeded as time goes
on by that of England and then by that of England's daughter,
grown too big and free for Georgian leading strings.
It is not the purpose of the author to point a moral to adorn
this tale. The great fact stands out in considering the story
of this spot, as in larger issues, that National life depends upon
its standard of just dealings for continued existence. This is
HISTORY OF GOVERNORS ISLAND
why the great Roman Empire fell and why little Switzerland
endures. We may add many stars to the canton of our flag,
but they must be kept undimmed, for even a just cause needs
The author trusts this simple tale of our Island will be of
interest to many and that the record of the illustrious Past
will inspire to even greater successes in the future. Before
going on to review events under the flags of Holland, England
and our own country, let us give a thought to those early in-
habitants who had no flag save the waving branch on the trees
which gave the name of Pagganck in the days before American
The Indians who inhabited Pagganck Island_j^d_lhe_Islajid
of Manhattan (named from them) were of the Manhattan^
tribe, belonging to the Wappinger Confederacy. Geographi-
cally and linguistically they were intermediate between the
Delawares to the south and the Mohegans who lived in other,
parts of New York State.
Their principal village was Nappeckamack (now Yonkers).
Their fort was Nipinicksen on Spuyten Duyvil Creek. From
this point they sailed out to attack Hudson on his return voy-
age down the River that now bears his name a quarter of a
century before their sale of Pagganck (Nutten, Governor's)
Island to Wouter Van Twiller.
The illustration (p. 16) is from a rare engraving, an "ancient
engraving, executed in Holland," as its title sets forth. It
shows Fort Amsterdam erected in 1623 but finished as de-
picted in the engraving in 1635 by GovejLn^r__Wouter_Van_
Twiller, first Lord of Governor's Island. This engraving is
believed to be the only portrayal of the Island under the Indian
occupation as indicated by the tents and huts upon its shores
and the fleet of canoes plying between their Pagganck Island
and the mainland.*
This engraving has been the subject of considerable discussion. As
it appears (p. 16) Fort Amsterdam is on the East side of Manhattan
Island, whereas it should be upon the West. J. H. Innes holds that
the reversal is due to the fact that the original view was taken from the
INDIAN AND DUTCH PERIOD
The deed of sale to Van Twiller extracted from the ancient
records of the Manual of the Corporation of the City of New
York is given in full, 'as befits its importance in an historical
account of this Island and also for its interest as a document
of the period.
We can imagine the effect upon Cakapeteyno and Pehiwas,
the agents of their tribe in the sale to the Governor, of the
sonorous phrases of the Roman-Dutch law and of the impres-
sive circumstances with which the ceremony was doubtless
invested. Whether the pipe of peace was passed around or
not we are not informed, but doubtless these original pro-
prietors were well content with the "certain parcels of goods"
which they acknowledged "to their full and grateful satis-
faction to have received into their hands and power," and in
such simple form of transportation as the ancient engraving
portrays they doubtless glided away to fish in other waters
and enjoy their parcels of goods on other shores.
Colonel Ira K. Morris in his "Memorial History of Staten
Island" says that wampum at this period was estimated as fol-
lows: "With the Dutch Governors six beads of the white or
four of the purple were equal in value to one penny. This
currency was used by Europeans for many years after their
settlement here. Both the Dutch and English recognized it as
currency for a long time. In 1683 the schoolmaster at Flat-
bush was paid his salary in wheat "at wampum value." In
1693 the ferriage for passage from New York to Brooklyn
was "eight stuyvers each in wampum."
Colonel Morris points out the advantage the Governor's
Island Indians had over those of Staten Island in making a
sale of their land to the Dutch in that "on the adjoining Island
(Staaten Eylandt) the Indians lived a most miserable life
from the time of the arrival of the Dutch. War and blood-
Long Island shore by means of a plain camera obscura and that the
proper orientation was not restored when the engraving was made in
Holland. The reader who desires to correct the error has only to hold
the picture before a mirror, when he will, upon reflection, perceive that
he has the proper view.
HISTORY OF GOVERNOR S ISLAND
shed followed almost constantly. At times the whites were
murdered or driven away. At others, the Indians perished.
The Indians gradually decreased in number and power, and
their dust to the very last mingled with the earth where their
feet had trod. The last of the Raritans (or Aquehongas) on
Staten Island passed away about 1826."
It is a cause for gratification that our Island began ,its offi-
cial career in 1637 by honourable purchase from its owners.
During its documentary history of two hundred and seventy-
six years not a single transaction can be found of a question-
able character.* Under the three flags of; Holland, England
and America, as well as under the curling smoke of the wig-
wam, honour and justice have been the keynote of its existence
and the glory of its history.
* The alleged diversion of funds by Lord Cornbury in 1702 must be
mentioned as an unfortunate exception to this statement.
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DIRECTOR AND COUNCIL OF NEW NETHERLANDS
CAKAPETEYNO AND PEHIWAS
JUNE 16, 1637
WOUTER VAN TWILLER
[FROM THE MANUAL OF THE CORPORATION OF THE CITY OF NEW YORK]
"The Director and Council of New Netherlands residing
on the Island of Manahatas in the Fort Amsterdam under the
Government of their High and Mighty Lords, the States Gen-
eral of the United Netherlands and the privileged West India
Company, at their Chambers at Amsterdam, by these presents
do publish and declare that on this day, the date underwritten
before us, in their own person appeared and presented them-
selves, Cakapeteyno and Pehiwas as owners and declared that
voluntarily and deliberately at the special charge of the Rulers
and with the approbation of the Community for, and in con-
sideration of, certain parcels of goods which they, the said
appearers, before the passing of these presents, acknowledged
to their full and grateful satisfaction to have received into
their hands and power, they in their rightful ownership have
transported, ceded, given over and conveyed and by these
presents they do transport, cede, give over and convey to the
behoof of Wouter Van Twiller, Director General of New
Netherlands, the Nooten Island (Nut Island), in the Indian
tongue called Pagganck, situate over against the Island Mana-
hatas between the North and East Rivers of New Netherlands,
and that with all the action right (and) equity which to them
the said appearers in their said quality appertained, constitut-
ing and substituting the aforesaid Wouter Van Twiller in
their place and stead in the real and actual possession thereof,
and at the same time giving to the said Wouter Van Twiller
or to his successors full and irrevocable power, authority and
special license, tanquam actor et procurator in rent suam ac
propriain the aforesaid land peaceably to possess, inhabit,
cultivate and occupy, and also therewith and thereof to do,
trade, and dispose in the same manner in which he might do
with his own lands honestly and lawfully without their the
granters any longer any part, right, action or authority what-
ever, whether of ownership charge or jurisdiction, having,
reserving or saving but to the behoof as aforesaid, now 7 and
forever from the same resisting and denouncing, abstaining
HISTORY OF GOVERNORS ISLAND
and withdrawing, promising moreover not only by this their
transport and whatever may have been done by virtue thereof
forever by these presents, firmly, inviolably and irrevocably to
maintain faithful and execute, but also the said Island, against
all and everyone to deliver and maintain, free from all de-
mands, prosecutions and incumbrances that thereto may be
instituted by anyone all in good faith, without fraud and
These presents are confirmed with our usual signatures and
our seal thereto suspended.
Done on the aforesaid Island of Manahatas the sixteenth