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JOHN WATTS DE PEYSTER




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JOHN WATTS DE PEYSTER
About 1880



John Watts de Peyster



BY

FRANK ALLABEN



AUTHOR OF "THE ANCESTRY OF LEANDER HOWARD
CRALL," "CONCERNING GENEALOGIES." "THE ARMS
AND PEDIGREE OF KINGDON-GOULD," "THE ARMS AND
PEDIGREE OF SEYMOUR;" EDITOR OF "AMERICA
GENTRY."



VOLUME II




FRANK ALLABEN GENEALOGICAL COMPANY

Number Three West Forty-Second Street . . . New York



T\2'5



UBHARY of 0ONQRES3
Iwu Copies tteceivtfj)

JUL 22 1»U«

oust Jn AXc. (V,



Copyright, 1908, by
FRANK ALLABEN GENEALOGICAL COMPANY





CONTENTS






VOLUME II






BOOK IV






LITERARY WORK




CHAPTER




PAGE


XXX


The Approach of War


11


XXXI


Proffer of Services . . . :


19


XXXII


The Prophet on the Watch Tower .


37


XXXIII


Military Writings During the War .


58


XXXIV


Decisive Wars and Battles .


68


XXXV


Shiloh


78


XXXVI


South Mountain and Antietam .


85


XXXVII


Fredericksburg ....


95


XXXVIII


The Plan of Chancellorsville


. 101


XXXIX


Jackson's Last Fight .


. 117


XL


The Crux of Chancellorsville .


. 126


XLI


The Fruits of Chancellorsville .


. 143


XLII


Gettysburg


. 154


XLIII


America's Greatest Military Critic


. 173


XLIV


Estimates of Men


. 181


XLV


Powers of Prediction .


. 194





CONTENTS










BOOK V




BENEFACTIONS


CHAPTER


PAGE


XLVI


The Leake and Watts Orphan House 211


XLVII


Hospitals and Schools . . .219


XLVIII


Churches






226


XLIX


Bronzes and Paintings






. 234


L


The Ferguson Eifle .






. 241


LI


Colleges and Libraries






247


LII


Personal Traits .






259




Bibliography


269




Degrees and Other Honors






320




Index






323



ILLUSTEATIONS



FACING
PAGE

John Watts de Peyster, about 1880 . . Frontispiece
Hoisting First Eeal American Flag Over Kich-

mond, 1865

John Watts de Peyster, 1875 ....

John Watts de Peyster, about 1882

John Watts de Peyster, about 1885

John Watts de Peyster, 1888 ....

John Watts de Peyster, 1896 ....

Bronze Statue of John Watts, Jr., Trinity

Churchyard

Bronze Statue of St. Winefride, Hudson, N. Y.
Watts de Peyster Library, Lancaster, Pa.
Bronze Statue of Heer Abraham de Peyster .
Bust of John Watts de Peyster, 1902
John Watts de Peyster, 1905 ....



34
70
108
152
174
198

216
236
248
256
260
264



BOOK IV
LITERAEY WORK



CHAPTEE XXX

THE APPROACH OP WAR

Important as were the results of General de Peyster's
active connection with the New York State troops, and
of his services as Military Agent of the State, it was
through his pen that his genius found its suited expres-
sion. His literary work as a military critic and
historian is the great work of his life. His activities
were turned into this channel partly because of dis-
appointments experienced in his attempts to regenerate
the New York Militia, but still more on nccount of
ill-health, suffered during the greater part of his life,
which disqualified him for the hardships of a soldier's
career.

Finding that the political and military authorities of
the State, unmoved by his enthusiasm, could not be
induced to adopt suggestions looking toward the creation
of a genuine soldiery, he entered upon a campaign of edu-
cation. In 1850, and during the early winter and spring
of 1851, articles by him appeared in the United Service
Journal. "Staff Organization,'^ "Headquarters Notices,"
"Origin of the Bayonet Eifle," "Staff and Artillery
Organization," "Uniformity of Dress," "A Vidimus of
the Military Force of the Principal European Powers,"
"Artillery Organization" and "Militia Organization" are
some of the titles.

In the summer and fall of 1852, after his return from
his first tour in Europe as Military Agent, additional
articles were published in the United Service Journal,
most of them suggested by the study of foreign military
systems. One was upon "Eifles," another upon "The
Prussian Needle Eifle." He also wrote on "Sardinia
(Piedmont)," "Sweden," "Tunis and Tripoli," and to
several issues contributed "Correspondence to Editor."

11



12 JOHN WATTS DE PEYSTER

Returning, in May, 1853, from his second military
tour abroad, and finding himself crippled for active field
work by continued ill-health, with undaunted spirit he
devoted himself more and more to writing. In August,
1853, appeared the first number of the Eclaireur, a
monthly military journal founded by him, in association
with Colonel Augustus T. Cowman. The death of
Colonel Cowman, nominal editor of the first volume,
from 1 August, 1853, to 1 August, 1854, occurred 12
September, 1854, when General de Peyster became editor.
From the beginning he had been the financial support of
the magazine, as well as its chief contributor. His
editorship covered Volume II, from 1 September, 1854,
to 1 August, 1855, and Volume III, from 1 August, 1855,
to 1 August, 1856, together with some scattering num-
bers, down to August, 1858.

In 1853 and 1854 he contributed to it articles entitled,
"Remarks on the Rank — Entire System of Cavalry,"
"Military Organization," "English Military Organiza-
tion," "Cadres, etc.," "Gymnastics," "The Prussian,
Berlin, Fire Extinguishing Establishment," "Prussia"
(in two numbers), "The Russian Army," "The Swiss
Military Penal Code and Judiciary" (in two numbers),
"Russia" (in four numbers), "Gustavus II Adolphus,
King of Sweden," "Leonard Torstenson," "Correspond-
ence to Editor" (in three numbers), "Our National
Armories," "A General," and "Uniform and Badges of
Rank."

He published in the Eclaireur a number of important
translations, including Von Hardegg's treatise on the
Science of the General Staff, a considerable volume; the
Bersaglieri Rifle Drill and Bayonet Exercises; and Von
Hardegg's Chronological Tables of Military Science and
History.

Some of General de Peyster's writings during the
decade preceding the Civil War disclose an instinctive
sense, if not a premonition, of the mighty storm about
to burst upon the land. In his first military report he
prophetically wrote of "that woeful day of which curious



THE APPROACH OF WAR 13

patriots talk calmly, when, by a division of the Union,
two or three rival nations put arms on their frontiers
and accustom their people to taxes." Again he declared,
"Although we do not need a nation of soldiers, we need
such a number of those who really are so that we cannot
be taken by surprise." "If we do not wish to pay foreign
enemies for teaching us the art of war," he added, "we
must learn it ourselves, and practice before they come;"
and he warned against the danger of such a state of
unreadiness that we "must wait until the end of the war
until we are fit to oppose our enemies."

In his "Address to the Officers of the New York State
Troops," 19 January, 1858, after speaking of the bril-
liant participation of raw militia in a number of the great
decisive battles of history, he said: "If, then, militia
have played such an important part in the world's
history; if religion, civilization, freedom have hung upon
their conduct, courage, fitness for the hour; does it not
behoove militia, particularly in this country, this State —
wherein we have no other armed force upon which to
rely — to prepare themselves for the crisis every age
presents ?"

In the same address he urged the training of the New
York Militia in connection with regulars and United
States officers. The soundness of his view was demon-
strated by the act that, during the Civil War, the training
which he suggested as necessary had to be given to the
Union armies, through their defeats, before they became
competent to deal with the forces of secession.

"It is very doubtful," the General had written,
"judging from what has transpired since our very first
essays in arms, if there is any people in the world who
so soon become soldiers as our own, and therefore it is
a great pity, as we have one of the finest, if not the finest,
military institutions in the world — West Point — that
our State troops are not enabled to profit by the instruc-
tion imparted thereat, by being drilled, or partially
commanded, or serving with troops drilled and com-
manded, by pupils of that wonderful Academy.



14 JOHN WATTS DE PEYSTER

"The proposition for a camp of Regulars and State
troops combined has been mooted more than once, but
unfortunately never carried into execution.

"The non-formation of such a camp is by no means
extraordinary to me, when we recollect that my proposi-
tion, while I was Adjutant- General, for the formation of
a State Camp of Instruction — absolutely called for by
law — met with opposition where it was least to be
expected.

"The most experienced oflQcers believe that the joint
service of Regulars and Militia will do more to make
soldiers of the latter than years of service, if the latter
are left to themselves. The best Militia Regiments I
have ever seen cannot divest themselves entirely of
extraneous flourishes, whereas there can be no humbug
about the exercises of the Regulars.

"The only country, however, that I know of, which
renders such a conjunction of Militia and Regulars
obligatory, is Holland — and in this, as in every other
case, the Dutch government evinces exquisite practical
judgment.

"Thus Militia learn their duty, and the Regulars
acquire that enthusiasm — that martial rejuvenescence —
which nothing but youth and a generous emulation can
awaken.

"This principle, this tie, has more than once saved a
cause and an army ; and, fostered as it should be, between
our Regular army and our Uniformed Militia, in case
of sudden war, will save our country.^'

These admonitions fell upon deaf ears, and the seces-
sion of the Southern States disclosed a condition of
unpreparedness, on the part of the North, which necessi-
tated scores of fruitless but frightful battles, with the
sacrifice of thousands of lives, in order to weld our
officers and soldiers into a. military machine capable of
grappling with the situation. Had General de Peyster's
recommendations been followed, the transformation into
a true soldiery of the militia of New York State
alone would have furnished priceless regiments. Thrown



THE APPROACH OF WAR 15

into the struggle upon the first call for volunteers, to
secure a decisive victory instead of the rout at Bull
Run, they might have changed the history of the war.
But this was not to be. Providence decreed a life-and-
deatli struggle, in order that the issues might be settled,
once and forever.

Upon the termination of his active connection with
the militia of New York, in 1856, General de Peyster
published his "History of the Life of Leonard Torsten-
son,'' and the "Dutch (Hollander) Valaslavas.'' In
1857 he put forth "The United States Expedition against
the Mormons," "The Dutch at the North Pole and the
Dutch in Maine," and "The City of New York." His
publications in 1858 include "History of Carausius, the
Dutch Augustus," a work of three hundred and thirty-
five pages, including an account of the Menappii, or
ancient Dutch, "The Battle of the Sound or Baltic,"
"An Address to the OflScers of the New York State
Troops," "The Writers of Piedmont," and "Proofs Con-
sidered on the Early Settlement of Arcadie by the
Dutch."

To the Eclaireur of 1855 and 1856 he contributed the
following articles: "The Battle of Aughrim," "Remarks
on Uniform," "Heavy Field Batteries," "English Uni-
forms," "White Cross Belts," "The Vicissitudes of a
Turkish Functionary's Career," "Sketches of Distin-
guished Military Men: Leonard Torstenson, Iskender-
Bey, Ismail Pacha," "A Fearful Tragedy," "Lying
Bulletins — Military Despatches," "Gasconading (Ha-
vana)," "England and the United States," "New Cap for
the United States Army," "The Portland (Maine)
Liquor Riot," "A Letter on Forbes' Volunteer's Manual,"
and "Synopsis of the Commands Requisite for the
Manoeuvres and Movements Detailed in Part I, Cooper's
Tactics."

The progress of the Italian War of 1859, between
France and Sardinia on the one side, and Austria on the
other. General de Peyster commented upon in a series of
sketches. His familiarity with the scene, and with the



16 JOHN WATTS DE PEYSTEE

military condition and strength of the combatants, gained
by extensive reading, and by personal researches abroad
w]ien Military Agent, enabled him to make the conflict
intelligible to the American public and even to predict
the course of events. His articles included "The Ground
Occupied by the European Armies,^^ "The Country of
the War,'' "Italian Battle Grounds," "Sardinia,'' "The
Lombard War Rivers, Cremona — Battle Grounds Along
the Mincio," and "Piedmontese Territory" (two articles) .

The following, among other articles from his pen,
appeared prior to the Civil War: "Artillery Improve-
ments," 1859; "Evolutions of the Line by Battalions,"
"Discipline," "The Invincible Armada," "Simon Stevin
of Bruges," "Ho ! for the Pole !" and "Cape Cod and Its
JSTeighborhood," all published in 1860.

A copy of General de Peyster's Life of Torstenson was
sent to Oscar I. of Sweden and Norway. Count Erie
de Lewenhaupt, private secretary to His Majesty,
acknowledged the gift in a letter to General de Peyster,
dated from Stockholm, 22 December, 1856, in which he
said, "The King has ordered me to express the high
gratification afforded to His Eoyal Majesty by receiving
your work, and to offer you, as a token of his appre-
ciation of the sentiments which dictated your homage,
the hereby joined collection of medals, with the effigies
of the great Gustavus Adolphus, of Charles XIV., John
and of his august son. King Oscar."

Meantime, with the greatest apprehension. General de
Peyster had been watching the gathering of war clouds
above our own country. "Ever since the election of
1856," he writes in his reminiscences, "I saw the collision
in arms coming." To the very last others, to whom he
addressed his fears, were optimistic, as the following from
a letter of one of his intimate friends. Rev. R. W. Oliver,
bears witness :

"Your views of our political affairs, and of J.
Buchanan in particular, are but too true. Alas, had
we only an old woman at the head of the Government
she would not have entered into a treaty with rebels, and



THE APPEOACH OF WAR 17

suffered them to rob, plunder, and bully the Government.

"Still I look for a peaceful solution of the whole
matter, and I confess I fear more a hasty compromise
than all the war, blood, and thunder threatened by the
rebels to our peace and to the Government. Time will
soon tell the tale. I go as Chaplain on Friday to Harris-
burg, where I hope to see the President Elect."

General de Peyster, however, had already suggested
to the authorities at Albany an immediate re-organization
of the Militia of New York as a preparatory move. The
following letter to him from Colonel Abraham Van
Vechten, dated at Albany, 5 February, 1861, shows that
even as late as that date the General's warnings remained
unheeded.

"Nothing can of course be done upon the matter of
organizing the Militia until the Legislature takes some
action upon it. They will doubtless do something, but
what, it is as yet difficult to say. My idea is to vest the
whole power with the Governor. A short, simple bill
will answer the purpose.

"When the time arrives your aid and assistance will,
T know, be gladly received. Until then there is no neces-
sity of your doing anything. The Governor, when vested
with the power, will advise and consult with military
men, and then is the time for the service of men like
you to be called into requisition."

A letter to General de Peyster dated 19 April, 1861,
from William P. Wainwright, who long had been a regi-
mental commander in the former's Brigade of the Militia,
shows that in less than a week after the firing upon Fort
Sumter General de Peyster was actively engaged in
movements looking to the raising of volunteers to support
the national government.

"It is my intention to report myself for service at the
Adg't Gen'l's office. I have no particular desire to be
ordered out, but, as we all are, am ready. At the same
time I think I might aspire at least to the rank of Major.

"In further answer to your kind jDroposition that I
should take a command in your Brigade, it would give



18 JOHN WATTS DE PEYSTER

me the greatest pleasure to do so were you to be on duty
in this city, but, besides the inconvenience of absenting
myself from home, the expense is a very material consid-
eration with me. At the same time any assistance I can
well render you know will be more than willingly given.
"It seems to me that with your health any exposed
service would be out of the question and your proposition
seems an excellent one. It will cost you something, but
if you can get a cadi^e ready in your district under the
direction of the Government it will be just the thing,
either as a school for others or the basis of a contingent."



CHAPTER XXXI

PROFFER OF SERVICES

Unfortunately General de Peyster never completed his
project of writing an autobiography. In addition to his
early recollections, and a few brief and scattered refer-
ences to other periods of his life which have been
incorporated in the present work, his reminiscences only
include an account of the offer of his services to the
General Government, during the Civil War, and of the
military careers of his three sons. The events recorded
in these personal recollections have such a direct bearing
upon his literary work that they are given in this place.
The present chapter, therefore, is devoted to the personal
narrative of General de Peyster.

I never was an Abolitionist, but I was always an Anti-
slavery man. Washington Hunt was the only politician
I ever knew who fully appreciated the evil, perceived the
true remedy, and indicated it. In 1859, when John
Brown invaded Virginia, I was one of the few men who
dared to come out in the newspapers and take his part;
one of my articles appeared in the Evening Post; this,
too, at a time when it was somewhat risky to take such
a stand ; and previously I had been one of the few militia
officers of rank who had publicly announced that I would
not assist in enforcing the "fugitive slave law.^^

In 1856 the Solid South had made up their minds
to inaugurate a civil war, in case that Fremont was
elected, and in 1860, with Slavery as the cornerstone of
their projected sovereignty, they precipitated the Civil
War.

Perhaps it was the intention of Providence, Who
always accomplishes His ends through natural causes
and by human instruments, to render the result certain
by permitting the election of Buchanan.

19



20 JOHN WATTS DE PEYSTER

My recollections of April, 1861, and antecedent, are
very vivid. All through the winter of 1860-1861
thinking men had arrived at the solemn conviction that
the matter was never going to be settled by words - it
was no longer a question for statesmen, but for soldiers.
I remember making my calculations, in regard to men
and money for the struggle, in December, 1860.

At a dinner at the house of General W. P. Wainwright,
in the winter of 1860-1861, Senator James W. Beekman
(since dead) agreed with me in an opinion — afterwards
expressed by General Sherman, for utterance of which he
was said to be mad — that it was absolute folly to think of
putting less than two hundred thousand men in the field
at once, because we were going to have a war, and a long
war, and perhaps a war at our own doors. In only one
idea was I mistaken throughout the Rebellion. I feared
the Democrats would give us trouble at the North. I
did not think that Democrats would parley as they did,
and be transmuted from bellowers into Copperheads.

I was at "Rose Hill," my place in Duchess County,
when the Massachusetts Sixth was basely entrapped in
Baltimore, and I never shall forget that night. My
brother-in-law came over from our father-in-law^s resi-
dence, in the darkness, entered my dining-room, set down
his lantern, closed the door, put his back against it with
horror on his face, and whispered in one of those whispers
which are more distinct than loud talking, "They have
been murdering our soldiers in the streets of Baltimore,
and all communication with Washington is cut off."

As soon as Sumter was fired on, I went to Albany, saw
Governor Morgan, and asked to be appointed or selected
as brigadier-general from this State. I offered to show
him the magnificent testimonials of what I had done as
Adjutant-General, and since my visit to Europe. He
was very polite to me, as he always was, but he gave me
no satisfaction.

Kearny was treated in the same way, and that drove
him to New Jersey, which willingly accepted him. I
had no New Jersey to fly to, and, moreover, I was subject



PROFFEE OF SERVICES 21

to terrible hemorrhages, from which, at times, until
within three years, I have almost bled to death. The
doctors, first class, told me that if I took the field, I
had only one chance out of ten to survive the exposure,
unless I got the rank of General and a position where
I could take some care of myself. All these doctors,
younger and older than myself, are in their graves.

Repulsed at Albany, I went to New York, and offered
three picked regiments from my district to the committee
to which applicants were referred.

Thurlow Weed received me. James H. Wood, a lawyer
of standing, was with me. I told Weed I could raise
three regiments in my Congressional district, officered by
men of first-rate military capacity (two afterwards rose
to be brigadier-generals), with a rank and file of unusual
trustworthiness. Weed answered and acted like a fool.
He said, "Shoulder a musket and go to the front." "Mr.
Weed," I replied, "if I had no claims for the rank which
1 demand — and I have testimonials enough to entitle to
any command I might ask — I have hardly strength to
carry my bones, much less a musket. Mr. Bowdoin, a
West Point graduate, told me to mention his name, and
say to you from him, that if you did not mind what you
were about, the Pelicans (Louisiana troops) would be
shaking their tails over New York from Weehawken
Heights." All that I could get out of that old political
fox was, "Shoulder your musket — go to the front."

I left him disgusted. I went to Washington. Senator
Harris said he would take me to see the President. I
asked George Schuyler what dress I should wear. He
said, "Full-dress dinner costume, as due to the head of
the nation, a white choker, swallow-tail," &c. I believe
that dress ruined me — as a wise man observed, "I should
think it might have done so with Lincoln."

I offered the President three picked regiments. He
answered, "I have enough troops." I said, "If you do
not want privates, I offer you a number of officers, whose
superiors West Point cannot produce." "I have more
officers than I know what to do with." "Will you take



22 JOHN WATTS DE PEYSTER

me? With my experience and study I am worth a
thousand such as you can pick up at random/' ''That
demands consideration." "What do you mean ?" I asked.

Lincoln said something that made me believe he
intended to refer my case to Seward. I almost hated
Seward for some things he had done, and when I was
made Adjutant-General, S. N. Y., the only stipulation
that Governor Clark made with me was that I should not
abuse Seward, for Seward was up for reelection as
Senator, and I was a friend of Hunt's. So I said to
Lincoln, "If you intend to submit my case to Seward,
I want nothing to do with him. Please give me your
decision on the merits of the case." "I will make no
promise," said he. "I once made a promise of a frigate,
and when the time came I could not cut it in two, and
so I got myself in a hobble." I did not understand this
little story for four years. It referred to the Powhattan
or Brooklyn, which was intended for the relief of Fort
Sumter, and switched off for the relief of Fort Pickens.

At this juncture Senator Harris made me a sign I was
wasting time. I bowed and left Lincoln, as I had left
Weed, and I never saw him again to speak to him. I
saw him elsewhere, and I thought less of him; but if he
were more than a man, then I have known men, like
George H. Thomas, who were gods.

When I got back to Willard's I met General Mansfield,
who, in the ordinary acceptation of the word, was not
only an acquaintance but a friend. To him I related my



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