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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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 28 of 125)
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price, to be affixed by one of the committee and a
person selected by the individual so surrendering
it. In case of disagreement, an appraisement was
to be made by a person selected by these two ;
and in case of refusal, such firelocks were to be
taken forcibly, and a Ust of the names of persons
from whom they were taken, with their value at-
tached, was to be preserved. A considerable num-
ber of guns were thus obtained for the use of the

July 8, 1775, the first Provincial Congress hav-
ing resolved to adjourn, certain of its members were
appointed a Committee of Safety, charged with the
general supervision of the affairs of the Province



when the Congress was not in session. The sec-
ond and third Congresses also met in New York
City, the former Nov. 14, 1775, and the latter
May 14, 1776. The Congress, though deriving its
authority from the people, was a revolutionary
body, and owed its existence to the exigencies of
the times. At its third session, in conformity with
the spirit of a resolution adopted by the Conti-
nental Congress May 15, 1776, measures were first
introduced for the formation of an adequate gov-
ernment. A motion to appoint a committee to
devise a plan for this purpose met with strenuous
opposition from Hhose, who, jealous of every as-
sumption of power, affirmed that that body was not
delegated with such powers. Hence the subject
was referred to a committee, who reported on the
27th of May, "that the right of framing, creating
or remodeling of civil governments is, and ought
to be, in the people," and recommended that, in-
asmuch as doubts existed relative to the powers of
that Congress in the premises, a newCongress be
elected by the people, specially instructed upon
the question of a new government. The old gov-
ernment was declared to be dissolved, the royal
governor having taken refuge under the guns of
the British fleet. "This report," says Hon.
Chauncey M. Depew, in an address delivered at
the Kingston Centennial, in 1877, "is remarkable
as the earUest, clearest, and most emphatic declar-
ation of the doctrine of popular sovereignty." On
the 31st of May, in consonance with the report of
the committee, resolutions were adopted calling on
the people to elect a new body empowered to
form a new government, and instructed also upon
the question of united colonial independence.

In the meantime the seat of war was transferred
to New York. On the 25th of June, the British
fleet and army under Lord Howe, arriyed off Sandy
Hook, and on the 30th, the Congress, apprehen-
sive of an attack, resolved that the next Congress
should meet at White Plains, and adjourned. The
newly elected delegates met at the court house in
that village July 9, 1776,* and on the forenoon of
that day, a letter inclosing the Declaration of In-
dependence, which had been adopted by the Con-
tinental Congress on the 4th, was received from
New York's delegates in that body. On the after-
noon of the same day, this newly created body,
with a marvelous heroism, while lamenting the
" cruel necessity," concurred in that Declaration,
and instructed their delegates in the Continental

m —

•Duchess county's delegates to this and other Congresses have been
named in the Civil List, seep. 124.

Congress to support the same, and give their
united aid to all measures necessary to attain its
object. This was an act which, if the issue was
successful, would crown them as patriots, but
which, if a failure, would stamp them as traitors
and felons. The following day, July loth, the
Congress assumed the name of the " Convention
of Representatives of the State of New York."

On the afternoon of the loth the Convention
resolved to enter upon the formation of a new
government on the i6th, but by that time the'
situation of affairs had become too alarming for
deliberation. Washington was contemplating the
abandonment of New York. British ships of war
were anchored off" Tarrytown, within six miles of
where they were then sitting. Their whole atten-
tion was occupied in raising troops and supplies
and providing for the public welfare. In the
meantime they ordained that all civil officers well
affected toward independence continue the ex-
ercise of their duties until further ordered, except
that all processes thereafter must issue in the name
of the State of New York. It was declared to be
treason, and punishable with death, for any one
living within the State, and enjoying the protection
of its laws, to adhere to the cause of the King of
Great Britain, or levy war against the State in his

On the 27th of July, the Convention found it
necessary to move to Harlem. From Harlem the
Convention removed to King's Bridge, thence to
Odell's, in Philipse's Manor, and from thence Aug-
ust 29, 1776, to Fishkill, where "they supplied
themselves with arms and ammunition, and there-
after legislated with their swords by their sidesj lit-
erally building the peaceful fabric of constitutional
government in the very presence of the alarms, the
perils, and the carnage of war."

At Fishkill the Convention first met in the Epis-
copal church, September sth,but that building was
not in a fit condition to be occupied, being, so the
chronicles say, "very foul with dung of birds and
fowls, without any benches, seats, or conveniences
whatever." They therefore removed to the Dutch
church, which is still standing. Here sessions were
held at intervals till Feb. ii, 1777, when they ad-
journed to Kingston, where the final session was
begun on the 6th of March.

During this time, from July 11, 1775, to March
S, 1777, the government was often confided to
the Committee of Safety owing to the extreme
difficulty of keeping so large a body together at this
critical period, and from Sept. 2, 1776, to Feb. 14,



1777, this committee, at intervals, held its sessions
at Fishkill.

Nathaniel Sackett, who was born and received
his education in Orange county, but was then a
resident of Fishkill, was secretary of the commit-
tee, and Jan. 3, 1777, was authorized by that body
"to employ such detachments of the militia of
Duchess county as are not in actual service, as he
may deem expedient," " for inquiring into, detect-
ing and defeating all conspiracies which may be
found, * * * against the Liberties of America."*
In i775i Poughkeepsie was selected as one of
the places where vessels for the Continental navy
were to be built; and on the 7th of March, 1776,
workmen and materials were conveyed to that
place by sloop from New York, the navigation of
the lower Hudson being then .uninterrupted by
ice. Before the middle of that month, a sloop
came down from Albany, laden with lumber from
the mills of Gen. Schuyler at Saratoga, for the
ship yard at Poughkeepsie, which was in the lo-
cality of Southwick's tannery, near the lower land-
ing. There in 1776, the frigates Congress and
Montgomery, the former of twenty-eight, and the
latter of twenty-four guns, were built, launched
and equipped, under the supervision of Captains
Lawrence and Tudor. They are said to have been
staunch vessels and of good model ; but they
never got to sea, as the British held the mouth of
the river from the time they were built till 1783.
They were wintered at the mouth of Rondout
Creek; and are supposed to have been burned
in 1777, to prevent their falling into the hands of
the enemy when Sir Henry Clinton took the forts
in the highlands. One or two fire-ships with
fire-arrows were fitted out here by Capt. Hazel-
wood in the summer of i776.t Robert R. Living-
ston, in a letter to John Jay, under date of May
21, 1776, urged the importance of building here
" fourteen or fifteen hght boats, capable of carry-
ing a twelve-pounder, to secure Hudson River,
which," he said, " is to be the chief scene of ac-

Stedman, the English historian, mentions the
fact that two frigates, two galleys and an armed
sloop belonging to the Americans, lay at anchor
under the guns of Forts Montgomery and Clinton,
when those works were taken by the forces under

* Fishkill in the Revohitian, by J. Hervey Coolc, in the Fishkill
Standard oi April 12. 1876.

+ Contribution from Benson J. Lossing to the Poughkeepsie Weekly
Eagle of Feb. 26, 1876, and Sketches of Local History, by the same
mthor, m The jDutchess Farmer o(X>ec.JZ, 1876. Local Reminiscences
in The Sunday Courier, of Poughkeepsie, April zo, 1873.

t Clarkson's Clermont, or Livingston Manor, 87.

Sir Henry Clinton, Oct. 6, 1777, and, being unable
to escape by reason of adverse winds, were fired
by their crews.

July 25, 1776, a secret committee of the Con-
vention met at Poughkeepsie and ordered the
building of a boom and chain across the Hudson
at Fort Montgomery, to prevent vessels from the
British fleet ascending the river. The greater por-
tion of that chain was brought down from Ticon-
deroga ; the remainder was wrought by Theophilus
Anthony, a blacksmith, whose shop was at Milton
Ferry, about four miles below Poughkeepsie,
(where he also. carried on farming and milling;)
now the " Spring brook '' property of his descend-
ants, the Gill family. For these services the prop-
erty of this staunch Whig was destroyed by the
British expedition which burned Kingston in the
fall of 1 7 7 7,which was piloted up the river by a Duch-
ess county Tory, who lived at Barnegat, (Clinton
Point,) and knew all the Whigs in this locality.*

This chain was stretched from the mouth of
Poplopen Kill to Anthony's nose, a lofty projecting
rocky eminence, tunnelled by the Hudson River
Railroad. It was 1,800 feet long, weighed, says
Stedman, over 50 tons, and is supposed to have
cost about jQ<iO,ooo. Its links were about 2-^
inches square. It was buoyed up by heavy spars,
connected by ironUnks, and also by large rafts of
timber. The additional obstructions at this point,
which were not completed till the fall of 1777, con-
sisted of a boom and chevaux defrise, which so ob-
structed the current of the river, (here very strong,)
that the water was raised two or three feet above
them and pressed upon them heavily. Twice the
chain was parted by this pressure : — first, a swivel,
which came from Ticonderoga, was broken ; and,
the second time, a clevis, which was made at
Poughkeepsie, gave way.f

A second chain was stretched across the Hud-
son at West Point, May i, 1778, aportion of which
is preserved in the Artillery Laboratory at West
Point. The links are made of iron bars, 2^ inches
square; average in length a little over two feet, and
weigh about 140 pounds each. The chain was
stretched across the river at the narrowest point,
between the rocks just below the steamboat land-
ing and Constitution Island, opposite. It was
fastened to huge blocks on each shore, and buoyed

* Sketches of Local History, by Benson J. Lossing, in The Dutchess
Farmer, Dec. 12, 1S76; and the Poughkeepsie Weekly Eagle, July 8,

fLossing's Pictorial Field Book of the Revolution, I, 732 ; Clinton
on the Hudson, by Anclwr, (J. Watts de Peyster, of Tivoli,) in ?■&
New York Times, Sept. 3°. '877.



by large logs, about i6 feet long, pointed at the
ends, to lessen their opposition to the current at
flood and ebb tide. Anchors, to which it was
fastened by means of cables, were dropped at
proper distances, to give it greater stability.

The following letter, which appears in the Fish-
kill Standard oi 1876, shows how great were the
hopes based on this obstruction, which, however,
was no formidable obstacle to the progress of the
British fleet after the fall of Forts Chnton and

Montgomery: —

FiSHKiLL, Sept'r nth, 1776.

Sir : — It is conceived highly necessary that the
Iron Chain should be immediately dispatched. If
it is finished, pray send it down to, the Fort with-
out delay. If it is not finished, let no time be lost,
and in the interim give us the earliest particular ac-
count of its present state, and when it will prob-
ably be finished.

" I am, sir, your very hum. servt.,

" Wm. Yates, Jun.
" To Gilbert Livingston, Esq., Po'keepsie."

A few years since a three-pointed caltrop was
found in the locality of Anthony's forge.

In the fall of 1776, Washington's army was
driven from New York by the forces under I.,ord
Howe, and withdrawn from the east side of the
Hudson into New Jersey. The command of the
forts in the Highlands was devolved on George
Clinton, who was afterwards elected the first Gov-
ernor of the State. The term of enlistment of the
militia under his command had expired, and ap-
prehension was felt that the enemy meditated an
attack on the Highland passes. In response to
Washington's appeal to the State to meet this
emergency with a temporary supply, Dec. 21,
1776, the Convention, then in session at Fishkill,
• ordered the entire militia force of the counties of
Westchester and Duchess and part of Albany, to
be marched forthwith to North Castle, in the
former county, " well equipped with arms and am-
munition, and furnished with six days' provisions,
and blankets, and a pot or camp kettle to every
six men." Exemption was, however, granted to
such persons as the field oflicers judged could not
" be called into service without greatly distressing
their families," or who were " actually engaged in
the manufacture of saltpetre, or of shoes and cloth-
ing for the army." The militia were to be allowed
Continental pay and rations, and such as could not
provide themselves with arms were to be supplied
from the public stores.

In 1777, Gen. Burgoyne was struggling, first

,with Gen. Schuyler, and subsequently with Gen.

Gates, for the supremacy of the Upper Hudson

and, in spite of the unhappy jealousy and strife
between the latter generals, which seriously weak-
ened the American array in that quarter, was
checked, and finally overwhelmed with disaster on
the fields of Saratoga. Oct. 4, 1777, Sir Henry
Clinton, then in command of the British forces in
New York, started a force, "variously estimated at
3,000 to 3,600, and 4,000 regulars and loyal organ-
izations," up the Hudson ; but whether designed to
co-operate with Burgoyne, or, merely, by a diver-
sion in his favor, to facilitate his operations, is a
mooted question. Certain it is that Burgoyne
counted on his support and co-operation ;* but
whether Clinton so intended is not so certain,
though Dunlap says this was his obvious intention.
If he did, his failure to take advantage of his suc-
cesses was as inexcusable as inexpUcable.t

The defense of the Hudson was entrusted to the
inefficient Major General Israel Putnam, whom the
great Massachusetts historian pronounced " unfit
to be a General officer." His jurisdiction extended
from King's Bridge to Albany. " Although having
guard-boats all along the river and spies on the
alert in every direction," says Gen. de Peyster,
"the British Chnton completely outwitted him;
made him believe that he was about to turn his
position by the practicable passes through the
eastern Highlands, then took advantage of a fog,
transferred his troops oyer to the western side of
the river, to Stony Point, made a wonderful march
across or rather around the Dunderberg Mountain,
and carried Fort Chnton and Fort Montgomery by
assault, performing the most brilliant British oper-
ation during the seven years' war."

Forts Chnton and Montgomery, the latter com-
manded by Admiral George Clinton, the first
Governor of the State of New York, and the for-
mer by his brother. Gen. James CUnton, were
taken on the 6th of October. *The garrison of
Fort Montgomery, according to Stedman, num-
bered 800 men; that of Fort Clinton, 400; though
Gordon and Irving agree in stating their united
force did not exceed 600, mostly militia. Gov-
ernor Chnton, having, according to Gen. Sir
Edward Cust, lost 100 in killed and 250 taken
prisoners, escaped with the remnant of his force
from the two forts under cover of night, and
placed himself in a position to watch the further

* Anburey's Travels in America^ /, 410, anr/ //, 30. WilkimtiH^s
Memoirs^ (Vol. I, p. 251.) furnishes copies of letters from Burgoyne to
Clinton showing this fact ; and the expectation of aid fror^| Clinton was
one of the determining conditions in Burgoyne's final surrender.

t Gen. J. Watts de Peyster, of Tivoli, contributed a very able re-
view of Clinton's expedition to The New York Times of September 30,



movements of the enemy and to aiford succor to
Esopus (Kmgston,) then the State capital. Other
forts had been constructed along the Hudson to
guard special interests, among them two at the
Wiccopee Pass, about four miles south of Fishkrll
village, (whose sites are yet plainly discernible,) to
guard that pass, and protect the military stores at
Fishkill. But these could offer no resistance to
the progress of the enemy up the river, after the
fall of Forts Clinton and Montgomery. Putnam,
whose force numbered, according to Botta, 600
regulars and an uncertain number of militia, re-
treated from Peekskill, where he was encamped, to
the stronger Highlands in his rear, before an insig-
nificant force sent by Sir Henry CUnton to conceal
the advance of his forces on the west side of the
river. On the 7th he wrote to Gates, then in
command of the Northern army opposed to Bur-
goyne : "I cannot prevent the enemy's advancing;
prepare for the worst ;" and on the 8th : " The
enemy can take a fair wind, and go to Albany or
Half Moon with great expedition and without any

Sir Henry Clinton removed the obstructions for
the defense of the river on the 7th; but not until
the 13th (Botta, II, 26,) did he send up the__river
" a flying squadron of small frigates, under Sir
James Wallace, carrying a detachment of British
troops under Major Gen. Vaughan," while he,
himself, after garrisoning Fort Montgomery, re-
turned to New York. He had, however, on the
nth sent Sir James Wallace to reconnoiter the
river. That officer proceeded to within three
miles of Poughkeepsie, and having burned Van
Buren's mills and several buildings, also several old
vessels along the shore, returned in safety.* His
report determined the expedition under General
Vaughan ; for, says Stedman, the necessity of a di-
version in favor of Burgoyne was not even suspected.

On the 7 th of October, from New Windsor, Gov.
Clinton, after his narrow escape from capture at
Fort Montgomery, communicated the loss of the
Highland forts to the Legislature, then in session
at Esopus, and requested them to urge forward the
detachment of Duchess and Ulster county militia
from the army under Gen. Gates. Clinton removed
his personal effects from Little Britain to Esopus^
and his brother-in-law, Dr. Peter Tappen, removed
Mrs. Clinton and the family to Pleasant Valley, in
Duchess county, where they remained until the
marauders under Vaughan returned to New York.

*Zephaniah Piatt to the Council of Safety, dated Poughkeepsie, Oct.
12, 1777. Gates Papers,

The Legislature received information of the re-
duction of Forts Clinton and Montgomery on the
7th of October, and anticipating an advance upon
Esopus, took immediate steps to do what lay in
their power to promote the public weal. They
passed resolutions continuing the county and dis-
trict committees, as well as the commissioners for
. detecting conspiracies. They required the com-
mittee to lade all the vessels at the different land-
ings and other places along the river with flour,
wheat, or other provisions which was near the shore,
and send them to Albany ; to cause all cattle and
Hve stock near either side of the river, not required
for present use, to be removed into the interior, or,
in case persons refused to permit such removal, to
destroy them. They appointed a Council of Safe-
ty, consisting of William Floyd, Evert Baucker,
Egbert Benson, Daniel Dunscomb, Robert Harper,
Jonathan Landon, Levi Pawling, John Morin Scott,
Johannis Snyder, Peter Pray Van Zandt, Alexan-
der Webster, Wrn. B. Whiting and Abraham Yates,
Jr., any seven of whom were vested with the pow-
ers of government, to continue as long as the ne-
cessities of the State should require.* As the dan-
ger from the enemy seemed imminent, the public
records were ordered boxed, ready to be moved at
a moment's notice to Rochester, (Ulster Co.,)
which was designated as their repository. Vari-
ous other measures were taken for the public weal.

Clinton kept close watch of the movements of
Vaughan's forces up the river, and when it became
evident that Kingston was the objective point, he
set his small army in motion toward that village,
whither he preceded them, arriving at 9 oclock on
the night of the 15th of October. His army,
fatigued by a forced march, did not reach that
place until about two hours after it had been de-
stroyed by the British, but had it been at hand, it
was inadequate to successfully oppose them. Strenu-
ous efforts were made to save as much of the public
and private property as possible, but the British
moved with such celerity that much plunder fell
into their hands and was destroyed with the village.
They gained the landing on the i6th and marched
immediately up to Kingston, driving from their
hastily constructed earth-works on the river bank,
at the point of the bayonet^ about 150 miUtia,
commanded by Cols. Levi Pawhng and Johannis
Snyder. Kingston, which was then the third town
in size in the State, was destroyed on the i6th,
only one house escaping plunder and the torch.

t Journal Provincial Convention, I, io6l. This Council held its ses-
sions first at Kingston, next at Hurley, and finally at Poughkeepsie. It
continued from Oct. 8, 1777, to. Jan. 7, 1778, its first session in Pough-
keepsie being held Dec. 21, 1777.



Authors differ in regard to this date, some as-
signing to it the 13th, others, the 15th, others still, -
the i6th, and one, {The New American Encyclope-
dia,) the 17th. The researches of Hon. George
W. Pratt, embodied in a paper read before the
Ulster County Historical Society Oct. 16, i860,
have thrown light on this subject and shown pretty
conclusively that the i6th is the correct date. He
cites the following letter from Gov. Clinton to Gen.
Putnam, dated " Marbletown, seven miles from
Kingston, 17th October, i777-" "Kingston was
burnt yesterday afternoon because I had not troops
to defend it;" and the following draft of a letter
from the Council to the New York delegates in the
Continental Congress, referring to the movements
of Vaughan's troops. {Journal Provincial Conven-
tion, I., 1072;) * * * on the sixteenth, * * *
gained the Landing and * * * marched imme-
diately up to Kingston and reduced the whole
town to ashes." The New York Journal and the
General Advertiser of May 11, 1778, then pub-
lished at Poughkeepsie, states that Kingston was
destroyed on the i6th.

The advent of Sir Henry Clinton's forces up the
Hudson was anticipated in the early autumn and
occasioned much alarm to the people living adja-
cent to the river, but the dilatory moments of the
British commander had measurably allayed the
apprehensions thus awakened. They were revived,
however, when, on the 6th of October, the roar of
cannon was heard at Forts Clinton and Mont,
gomery, and when, on the night of the 7th, the
beacon lights on the northern summits of the High-
lands, flashed out the intelligence that those works
had succumbed to the enemy.

In the postscript to a letter from Brig. Gen.
James CUnton to his brother, the Governor, dated
Little Britain, Oct. 18, 1777, it is stated that Gen.
Parsons remained at Peekskill with about 2,000
men; that the militia regiments of Cols. Humphrey
and Brinkerhoof were left at Fishkill, and Col.
Piatt, with about 150 men, at Poughkeepsie.

The British, it would seem, did not delay their
progress up the river to commit depredations along
its shores until reaching the vicinity of Rondout
Kill. They did, nevertheless, fire a few shot and
shell in response to the firing from the shore, and
made targets of the dwellings of prominent Whigs,
which were pointed out by a Duchess county Tory,
who piloted them up the river. Several shells were
fired at a party who were standing on the porch of
one. of the old houses above the Fishkill Landing
Machine Works, arjd two of them were subse-

quently found in making excavations. One of
them went as far up as what is known as the Wm.
H. VanVoorhis place. Several shots were fired at
Poughkeepsie, where a vigorous fire was kept up

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 28 of 125)