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 29 of 125)
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by the " Invincibles," who occupied the high
grounds south of Kaal Rock, and were concealed
from the enemy by a heavy growth of cedar. A
piece of ordnance, of about three pounds calibre,
was stationed in the ravine between that point and
Kaal Rock, and from this "battery" fire was
opened as soon as the first vessel of the enemy
came in range. " But a few shots from the English
silenced it, and sent the artillerymen flying up the
hill and beyond reach." " The Invincibles fired
a couple of volleys, but a shot or two from another
vessel of the fleet compelled them to 'lay low'
and cease firing. The enemy then passed on with-
out further molestation from our ' forces ' until they-
reached a point near the ferry slip. Here the
enemy again received a shot or two from another
small cannon which was stationed on the high
ground at that place, but without sustaining dam-
age." Firing was continued from the shore until
the fleet passed out of range of the high grounds
at the Upper Landing.* One shot from the enemj",
so we were told by the late Matthew Vassar, Jr.,
struck in the spring near the old Vassar brewery
on Vassar street. Another shot pierced the south
side of the old Livingston house, near the left door
jamb, and the orifice made through the shingle
(for the sides, as well as the roof of the house, are
covered with shingles,) is still discernible, though
another shingle has been inserted under the one
thus perforated to cover the hole made through
the walLf The Invincibles were commanded by
Capt. Jacobus Frear, some of whose descendants
are still living in Poughkeepsie.

* Local Reminiscences^ in The Sunday Cowr^V?- of Poughkeepsie,
June IS, 1873 ; Fishkill in the Revolution, by J. Hervey Cook, of Fish-
kill-on-the-Hudso'n, in the Fishkill Standard, March 4, 1876.

t This old house is one of tlie most interesting rehcs of Duchess
county, and is one of the oldest, if not the oldest building, standmg in
it. It is located on the river, between it and the Hudson River Rail-
road, a little more than a mile below the landing at the foot of Main
street. It was, says Lossing, (Pictorial Field-Book of the Revolution,
Ii 384, 38s,) " the residence of the late Col. Henry A, Livingston, a
grand-son of Philip Livingston, one of the signers of the Declaration of
Independence, and son of the late John H. Livingston, D. D., president
of the College of New Brunswick. It was built by his paternal grand-
father, Henry Livingston, in 1714, and is a fine specimen of a country
mansion of that period." The situation was once delightful, completely
imbosomed in venerable willow trees, planted by the first owner, beside a
once beautiful cove, but whose beauty, like that of the mansion site, has
been iparred by the railroad, which passes within a few feet of the house,
and the works of the Hudson River Iron Manufacturing Company, to
whom the property now belongs. Col. Livingston, who ied June 9,
1849, will long be remembered in Poughkeepsie as one of its best
citizens. " Although Hving in the retirement of a gentleman of wealth
and leisure, he oflen consented to serve the public in offices requiring
judgment, industry and integrity."



The " Duchess Invincibles " were probably the
first uniformed militia company in Poughkeepsie.
The company was organized about 1775 and num-
bered nearly one hundred men. Their headquarters
were on what is now South Avenue, near Mr. Bur-
nap's residence. That portion of Poughkeepsie was
then known as " Freartown," from the fact that
about the whole of it was owned by the Frears.
The uniform of the Invincibles consisted of a bear
skin cap of peculiar shape, long frock coat made
of homespun cloth, trimmed with buff, and
pantaloons of the same material, with buff stripe
down the legs. They had no cartridge box, but
carried their ammunition in a pocket made of
leather which was fastened to the breast of the

Gen. Vaughan, having effected the destruction
of Kingston, rapidly withdrew his forces to the
fleet, which remained at anchor on the night
of the i6th. On the 17th, (Friday,) a strong
detachment was landed on the east side of the
river and marched to Rhinebeck Flats, (now Rhine-
beck,) which, it is claimed, "was eminently a Whig
place during the Revolution." There several
houses were burned; "not those of the poorer
class, nor indiscriminately," says Gen. de Peyster,
" but of rich leaders who had made themselves ob-
noxious." One of these was the residence of the
lamented Gen. Montgomery before he assumed the
command which terminated in his death in an
assault on Quebec, Dec. 31, 1775- This detach-
ment made its way up the river as far as Living-
ston's Manor, and destroyed the mansion and other
houses. Red Hook did not escape the avenging
hand. The detachment disembarked at what was
formerly known as the Lower Tivoli Dock, and
burned the residences above Upper Red Hook
Landing, (now TivoU.) Thence they marched to
their work of destruction, some three miles further
north, along a path still constantly used within a
quarter of a century. They also destroyed Liv-
ingston's (?) Mills, in Red Hook, of which not a
vestige now remains. They consisted of a grist-
mill, very fine for the era in which it did its work,
and' a saw-mill which had an immense business.
They were located at the mouth of the Saw Kill,
which empties into the Hudson just north of what
is known as the "Montgomery Place" which was
built by the widow of the General from whom it
derives its name, after his death, and from 'whose
piazza, in 1818, she saw "her husband's remains

• Local RemmUcences, in The Smiday Courier, of Poughkeepsie,
June 8, 1873.

return with distinguished funeral honors from the
scenes of his heroic death and temporary burial,"
borne to their final resting place in New York

A letter dated Fishkill, Oct. 30, 1777, and pub-
Ushed in the Independent Chronicle, (Boston,) Nov.
6, 1777, attributes to the timely appearance of
Gen. Putnam the prevention of the further de-
struction of villages and property along the river.
It says : —

" Last Friday the fleet returned from their in-
glorious expedition up the North River, having
burnt Kingston, in Esopus, and a few houses at
Rhynebeck and Livingston's Manor. * * * Our
army, commanded by Gen. Putnam, coming up
with them, caused them to skulk on board
their vessels, and prevented their doing further
mischief ; the wind being light in their return,
which gave an opportunity to our army of march-
ing as fast as they sailed and was a happy circum-
stance in our favor, and prevented them from de-
stroying Poughkeepsie and other buildings on the
river side."

Mr. Lossing, the historian, in a contribution to
the Poughkeepsie Eagle of recent date, says that
at Livingston's Manor, Vaughan's forces heard of
the surrender of Burgoyne, " and fled in haste to
New York." Lamb's Journal, {^^. i72-'3>) says
" the advanced state of the season " compelled the

Governor -Clinton concentrated his little force at
Hurley, and did not follow the enemy lest he might
be shut in between the Catskill Mountains and the
river, should the British land in force.

The British fleet lay opposite the northern part
of the county. " The armed vessel highest up the
river," says Gen. de Peyster, "lay just above the
' Lover's Leap '—a tall bluff covered with glorious
evergreens — about three-quarters of a mile north
of Tivoli Station. The rest were strung out south-
ward for over two miles." Here it lay till the 23d
of October, when, to the astonishment of the
American patrol on shore, it steered down, instead
of up, the river, and rejoined the forces in the
Highlands. This retrograde movement, adds Gen.
de Peyster, seemed to the Americans "to be ex-
plained three or four days after, when the news of
Burgoyne's surrender reached this locahty." It
was a serious disappointment to the " large body
of loyalists," who, says Lamb, " were forming at
this time on the eastern shore of the river to join
the royal army."

October 19th, the Council of Safety, which
disn ersed at the burning of Kingston, met at Mar-

~ * Gen. J. Watts de Peyster. in The New York Times, Sept. 30, 1877.



bletown, and adopted the following preamble and
resolutions : —

" Whereas, The late destruction of the town of
Kingston, and a vast number of dwelling houses,
improvements, grain and fodder on either side of
Hudson's River, by a cruel, inhuman and merciless
enemy, has deprived many persons and famiUes,
the good subjects of the State, of shelter and sub-
sistence for themselves and their cattle — calamities
which, by the blessing of God on the fruits of this
land, those who have not shared in so uncommon
a misfortune are enabled in a great measure to
reUeve ;

" Resolved, Therefore, that it be, and it is hereby
most earnestly recommended to the several and re-
spective general and district committees of the
counties of Ulster, Dutchess, Orange and Westches-
ter, to make, or cause to be made, a proper and
proportionate distribution of the aforesaid dis-
tressed persons and families, and their cattle, to
the end that they may all be provided for as the
circumstances of the country will permit ; and it is
hereby most strenuously urged on all those who
may not have shared with them in their afflictions
to receive the aforesaid persons, famihes and cat-
tle, and furnish them with shelter and subsistence
at a moderate rate."

While Sir Henry CHnton's victorious army was
pushing its way up the Hudson and ravaging the
settlements upon its banks, the straitened army
of Burgoyne was engaged in the vain endeavor to
extricate itself from the toils with which the victo-
rious and increasing array of Gates had surrounded
it, and into which it had been lured in no small
measure by the delusive hope of succor from the
former. On the 17th of October, 1777, the day
following the destruction of Kingston, Burgoyne
surrendered his entire army. The melancholy fate
of this array has a local interest, for its route from
Cambridge, Mass., to Charlottesville, Va., where,
for a long time, it was kept as prisoners of war, was
through this county. After the surrender at Sara-
toga, it was marched to Cambridge, whence,
according to the second article of the convention
between Generals Burgoyne and Gates, it expected
to proceed to Boston and embark for Europe;
but Congress, with perhaps questionable justice,
decided otherwise.

The route of the British army is laid down in a
map accompanying Anburey's Interior Travels
Through America. It entered this county and
State in the neighborhood of Sharon, and
"marched," says the historian Lossing, "down
the valley of the Wee-bee-tuck or Wee-bu-took,
(the Ten Mile River,) " almost to Dover Plains,
wgnt over Plymouth Hill, and through Mutton
Hollow to Little Rest, thence by way of Verbank

and Arthursburg to Fishkill Plains, and crossed the
Hudson River from Fishkill Landing [to] New-
burgh." " In my. boyhood," he adds, " I have
heard old people speak of this march of the Hes-
sians through the country, and of the many women
and children, wives and offspring of the soldiers,
who were forlorn-looking camp-fbllowers."*

It will be of interest to note Anburey's intelli-
gent observations in so far as they pertain to this

" Just before we crossed the North River," he
says, "we came to the town of Fish Kill, which has
not more than fifty houses, [in 1777] in the space
of near three miles, but this place has been
the principal depot of Washington's army,
where there are magazines, hospitals, workshops,
etc., which form a town of themselves. They are
erected near a wood, at the foot of a mountain,
where there are a great number of huts, which have
been the winter-quarters of the American army, and
to which they are shortly expected to return for
the ensuing winter ; they are a miserable shelter
from the severe weather in this country, and I
should imagine, must render their troops very
sickly, for these huts consist only of little walls
made with uneven stones, and the intervals filled
up with wood and straw, a few planks forming the
roof; there is a chimney at one end, at the side
of which is the door. Near the magazines are
some well-constructed barracks, with a prison,
surrounded with lofty pallisadoes. In this prison
were a number of unfortunate friends to Govern-
ment, who were seized in their plantations, for re-
fusing to take the oath of allegiance to the United
States, and who were confined till a sloop was ready
to take them to New York ; for the Americans are
so oppressive, they will not let any one remain
neuter ; and they compel every inhabitant, either
to take the oath, or quit the country. When we
crossed the river, there were two large sloops going
to New York, crowded with people of this descrip-
tion, many of whom, the boatmen informed us, had
left beautiful houses, with extensive and well culti-
vated plantations." " The small part of New York
we passed through," he says, "seems to be well cul-
tivated; it affords grain of all sorts; there are
abundance of cattle, hogs and poultry."
Further on, he says : —

" We passed through a Httle town called Hopel,
[Hopewell,] before we crossed the North River,
which is chiefly inhabited by the Dutch. At a
house where we were quartered, the people behaved
extremely civil and attentive, and upon leaving
them,. would scarce permit us to pay for what we
had; from which circumstance we concluded they
were friends to Government, and some officers
opening their hearts, spoke very freely about the
Congress, Washington, etc., observing how ^eat a
shame it was, that we should be put to such ex-
pence, and that Congress ought to pay for us, the

* Poughkeepsie Weekly Eag!e, Jan. ii, 1876.



man went out of the room in a moment, and just
as we were mounting our horses, brought us an
enormous bill, exhorbitant in every article, which
he insisted upon being paid, and upon our urging
that we had paid him what he had demanded, he
replied, 'Yes, gentlemen, so you have, but then I
thought Congress were to defray all your expences,
now I know you are to pay me, I can't take a
farthing less than this bill, which we were com-
pelled to discharge ; however, it served as a lesson
in future, to be cautious before whom we railed
against Congress."*

While this army of prisoners was en route, Wash-
ington, uncertain of the intentions of Lord Howe,
and apprehensive that Sir Henry Clinton would
attempt a rescue at the crossing of the Hudson,
or the passage through the Jerseys, moved his
army into the latter State, and on their arrival at
Fishkill, detached a large escort, consisting of a
brigade for each brigade of prisoners,! who num-
bered between 5,000 and 6,000.

At an early period of the war, Washington
evinced an appreciation of the importance of an
adequate defense of the Hudson River, and when
he withdrew his army from New York, the selec-
tion of eligible defensive situations revealed to him
the strategical advantages of West Point. The
campaign of 1777 having revealed the apparent
effort of the British to gain control of the Hudson,
and thus separate New England from the rest of
the country, led to the improvement of the defen-
ses of that stronghold, which were in progress in
the fall of 1777. Fishkill, from its secure posi-
tion at the head of the Highlands, and being on a
direct route of communication with the New Eng-
land States, was the natural depot of supplies for
this section, and at an early period was selected
for that purpose, a sergeant and fourteen men being
detailed from each regiment within the county to
erect barracks there. Each man so detailed was
required to provide himself with either " a good
sufficient spade, shovel, stubbing hoe, felling ax, or
corn hoe, and every other necessary for his ac-
commodation." Large quantities of stores from
the Eastern States and adjacent country were there
accumulated for the use of the Continental army;
and there numerous refugees sought shelter on the
evacuation of New York City in 1776.

Considerable bodies of troops were stationed in
Fishkill at different periods. The Wharton House."|

*Anburey's Tranels, II., i34-»43.

t/Jirf, 136,

XLossing's Pictorial Field Book of the Revolution, I,6goi The same
author in one of a series of Historical Sketches, published in the
• Pouehkeeisie Eagle, reiterates the name. Mr. Brmkerhoff, in the
sketch already noted, calls it the "Walton House," a name, he saySj
which "has already lead to much needless mistake The place,

he adds, "has always been in tlie possession of the VanWyck famUy, Irom
the first' settlement of the country."

named from Mr. Wharton, who then owned it, and
made memorable by Cooper's story of The Spy*
but now the residence of Sidney E. VanWyck, was
the head-quarters of the officers. The house stands
a short distance south of the village, on the turn-
pike, near the foot of the mountains. The bar-
racks extended along the road, a half-mile south of
the village, in close proximity to the house. Near
this residence, " by the large black-walnut trees,"
says Mr. Brinkerhoff, before quoted, " and east of
the road near the base of the mountain, was the
soldier's burial-ground. * * * This almost un-
known and unnoticed burial-ground holds not a
few, but hundreds of those who gave their lives for
the cause of American Independence. Some fif-
teen years ago, [about 1861,] an old lady who was
then living at an advanced age, and who had lived
near the village until after she had grown to woman-
hood, told the writer that after the battle of White
Plains she went with her father through the streets
of Fishkill, and in places between the Dutch and
Episcopal churches the dead were piled up as high
as cord wood. These were buried there. The
wounded of the battle who afterwards died, were
buried there. The constant stream of death from
the hospitals were buried there. The small-pox,
which broke out in the camp, and prevailed very
malignantly added many more." The same writer
adds, " it is doubtful whether any spot in the State
has as many of the buried dead of the Revolution
as this quiet spot." Some of the hospitals were
located in the barracks, others, in the more imme-
diate vicinity of the village. The Episcopal church
was used for that puspose when needed ; also the
Dutch church, though less often. The academy
building was likewise used for hospital purposes ;
and finally the Presbyterian church.

Fishkill was, for brief periods, the headquarters

* In this house a company of Tories, who were lured by Enoch
Crosby into the power of the Whigs, were tried before the
Committee of Safety in the fall of 1776- Crosby was a native of Massa-
chusetts, and in infancy removed with his parents to South East, in
Duchess, (now Putnam, ) county, where he learned the trade of a shoe-
maker. When the Revolution broke out he was living at Danbury. He
laid aside the lap-stone and last and shouldered a musket. In 1776,
after rendering service on the northern frontier, he engaged in the
" secret service," at the suggestion of the Committee of Safety of this
State, and distinguished himself by his exploits in luring bands of Tories,
with whom he was usually captured, tried and imprisoned, but managed
to escape through the connivance of his captors, until his frequent
escapes from durance excited the suspicions of the Tories of Westchester
and the southern portion of Duchess county, among whom he had freely
mingled as a traveling cobbler. He, in company with the band
of Tories above referred to, was confined in the old stone (Dutch)
church at Fishkill ; in which, also, were confined several British and
Hessian soldiers captured through a stratagem of Crosby's at Teller's
Point. This old stone church still stands, an eloquent relic of the dim
past. Enoch Crosby, it is asserted, was the original of ' ' Harvey Burch,"
the hero of James Fennimore Cooper's Spy: a Tale of Neutral



of Gen. Washington, who always, when in that
town, stopped at the residence of Col. John Brinck-
erhofif,* which " is one of a group of buildings in
and around Fishkill village made notable by their
connection with historic events." This building,
which, as a stone in one of its gables testifies, was
erected in 1738, by the same Col. Brinckerhoff,
stands a few rods from the line of the Duchess and
Columbia Railroad, about three miles north-east
of Fishkill village. It is an old-fashioned farm
.house, built of stone, its gables being formed of
bricks imported from Holland. It also accommo-
dated other distinguished guests, among whom
was La Fayette, who remained there during a six
weeks' sickness. It is now the property of Mr.
Alfred White. Many other buildings in !^ishkijl
have connected with them Revolutionary associa-
tions, but for more minute descriptions of these,
as well as the comphcity of Joshua Hett Smith in
Arnold's treason and his subsequent arrest in
Fishkill, we must refer the reader to the history of
that town. In the spring of 1779, Fishkill Land-
ing was the headquarters of Anthony Wayne —
" Mad Anthony "—the hero of Stony Point.
There, also, were the headquarters of John Fisher,
Quartermaster-General of the Continental Army.
Pawling, too, is made memorable by its Revolu-
tionary associations. Within its borders, on the
slopes of " Purgatory Hill," a portion of the Con-
tinental army was cantoned in the fall of r778.
They occupied log huts, the remnants of the chim-
neys of which might be seen a few years ago.
Washington, whose headquarters were at or near
Fredericksburg, (now Patterson,) a few miles be-
low Pawling station, spent several weeks with these
troops— from late in September till the close of
November, excepting some ten days spent at Fish-
kill. Well authenticated tradition says that he
sometimes occupied the Ferris house, a first-
class farm house, situated about two miles from
the Harlem Railroad station at Pawling, a little
distance from the more southerly road leading to
Quaker Hill, and built in 1771, by Reed Ferris, one
of a number of families of Friends who immigrated
to that town from Rhode Island. This house is
further made notable by the trial there, in the fall of
1778, of Gen. Philip Schuyler, (the victim of Gen.
Gates' intrigues,) by court-martial, on the general
charge of neglect of duty while in command of the

*Mr. T. VanWyck BrinkerhofF says Washington quartered at the
" Wharton," or "Walton House." Its builder, Col. John Brinckerhoff
•was the maternal grandfather of the late Col. John B VanWyck of
Poughkeepsie, who occupied the mansion till his removal to Pouirh-
keepsie, m 1817, *"

Northern Department in 1777, especially for his
absence at the capture of Ticonderoga July 6th,
of that year. General Lincoln, whose headquarters
were at the Ferris house, was President of the court.
Gen. Schuyler was honorably acquitted, and pend-
ing the action of Congress on the verdict of the
court, he was appointed to that body by the Leg-
islature of New York, then in session at the court-
house in Poughkeepsie. Some changes have been
made in the Ferris house, but it remains substan-
tially the same as when Washington occupied and
Schuyler was tried in it.

While the army lay encamped on " Purgatory
Hill," this region was infested by a band of Tory
robbers, known as " Cowboys," who plundered the
Whigs and were not over-scrupulous in appropriat-
ing the property of moderate Tories. The suffer-
ing Whigs, prominent among whom were Messrs.
Sherman and Akin, of Quaker Hill, unwilling longer
to endure the injuries to person and property in-
flicted by this band, determined to exterminate
them, and securing the services of Col. Pearce, of the
Duchess county militia, and a file of men, accom-
panied them to the house of one named Peaseley,
(a leader of the band,) which was situated on a
high hill about a mile east-south-east of the Ferris
house, and was the chief place of rendezvous. The
heavy growth of woods which almost surrounded
the house enabled them to approach closely with-
out being observed. One Vaughan, a chief leader
of the band, and two of his companions were sitting
near a rock, with their guns by their sides, playing
cards. One division of Pearce's men fired on them,
mortally wounding Vaughan, and lopping a finger
from the hand of another. This broke up the
band and gave peace to the neighborhood. In

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 29 of 125)