Samuel W Durant.

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

. (page 180 of 192)
Online LibrarySamuel W DurantHistory of Oneida County, New York : with illustrations and biographical sketches of some of its prominent men and pioneers → online text (page 180 of 192)
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one of his characteristic and scholarly addresses, which
never fail to interest and enlighten his hearers. We make
a few extracts from this address, which was listened to with

the profoundest attention and greeted with hearty applause
at the close :

" In November, 1794, in what was then a dense and wide-spread
forest, a soldier of Frederick the Great, and an associate of George
Washington, was buried near this spot. The snow was shoveled
aside, and a grave dug out among the roots of great trees, by the few
humble and sorrowing neighbors, who lived in what was then a re-
mote wilderness. Wrapped in his military cloak, upon which glit-
tered the star of his knighthood, Frederick William, Baron de Steu-
ben, who had lived in courts and camps, the companion of kings,
princes, and rulers, was buried without one ceremony, in a place
which, by his will, he directed should be kept unknown and un-
marked. ... It was not in a spirit of misanthropy that Steuben di-
rected that his body should be laid in a secret spot in the deep woods,
for he was a kind and genial man, who was fond of the society of
others, and loved to make generous gifts and do liberal acts,

"A childless man, he wished to be buried and lost amid the scenes
of nature he loved, and to mingle with the soil of the grand domain
given to him by this State. No one then foresaw the greatness of
the results he and his compatriots had worked out by the toils and
sufferings of the Revolution. As these unfolded themselves the pub-
lic sense would not permit that his grave should be unmarked and
unhonored. In 1824 the monument which now lies in ruins at your
feet was put up by the citizens of the county of Oneida. For the
purpose of placing hero a more fit and lasting memorial, a, number
of years since the Legislature of New York made a grant of public
money. This was placed in the hands of a commission, of which I
am a member. We put oflF the performance of the duties with which
we were intrusted, as the great change in the value of our cui'rcncy
made the sum in our hands insufficient for the work for which it was
given. We also found that the countrymen of Steuben wished, on
their part, to place over his grave a suitable structure which would
alike honor his memory and show their pride in the services which he
had rendered to the country of his and of their adoption. We there-
fore placed the work in their hands. They are here to-day to lay the
corner-stone of the monument of their representative man with such
ceremonies .as are customary in the land of his and their nativity.

■* They meet here men of different nationalities, all of whom sympa-
thize in the pious woi'k of keeping alive the memory of one who did
^0 much to give the blessings of freedom to all, of whatever lineage,
who live in our broad land. They are justly proud of the soldier who
won honors in (iermany in the seven years' war of Frederick the Great,
and on this continent in the seven years' war for American independ-
ence. As time rolls on the value of his services grows in the public
judgment. Baron Pteuben gave to our annies the discipline and mili-
tary training which they lacked at the outset. Without these patriot-
ism and valor would have been without avail. In this work he was
the right arm of Washington, The recorded opinions of the great
soldier and statesman of the era of the Revolution, the action of
Congress, and the laws of different States, tell of the high regard in
which he was held. New York granted him a township of 16,000 acres,
which bears his name. It made him the owner of the hills and valleys
which lie around us. It gave him the soil with which his dust now
mingles, and upon which his countrymen are about to put up a suitable
monument to his memory. In this act there is another sentiment which
animates those of German birth or descent, which does honor alike to
them and to the buried chieftain by whose grave we now stand. They
wish that his name and this monument should remind the world that
their nationality has had much to do with the beginning and the prog-
ress of our common country. Living here among those of different
languge and lineage, they wish it should be felt that they are not reap-
ing in this country fruits or blessings which their people did not help
to produce, or that they have not the same hereditary rights which
belong to other nationalities. While the English language prevails in
our country, no one race can claim that a majority of the American
people are of their blood. . .

" It is well that the grave of the hero — whose memory we now
honor — lies upon the heights which overlook the great valley settled
by his countrymen, which was defended by their courage, and which
is the scene of the victory won by them for the whole American

"It is in view of this fact at which I have glanced that the com-
missioners appointed by this State to put up a monument over the
grave of Steuben have given over the work to his countrymen. It



now remains with them to show that they hold in due reverence the
memory of the hero who won glory alike in the hattles of his native
land as well as in those which were fought in the cause of American
independence. It remains for them to show, by their liberal and
earnest action, that they care for the part taken by German nationali-
ties in the infancy, and growth, and greatness of American affairs,
and to show that they mean, by the honors shown by them to their
representative man, to claim the rights which belong to all nationali-
ties which have helped to build up American greatness and glory from
the foundation-stone to its highest pinnacle."

After music by the New Band, Governor Seymour per-,
formed the ceremony of laying the corner-stone, while the
assemblage stood with uncovered heads in profound silence.
Standing in the excavation prepared for the monument, he
received the trowel and mortar from the hands of the
committee, and as the granite block settled to its place,
spoke these words :

" In behalf of our German fellow-citizens, in behalf of the citizens
of the State of New York, in behalf of the whole American people,
who desire that the memory of this great man shall never pass away,
since his Revolutionary acts were instrumental in laying the corner-
stone of our liberties, I now deposit the corner-stone of this monument,
erected in honor of Frederick William, Baron von Steuben. May God
grant that it will ever serve to remind the American people of the
great services which he performed in their cause, which he adopted as
his own! May God grant that it may always be treasured as sacredly
as we treasure his memory to-day !'*

Immediately after this ceremony Governor Seymour
proposed that a vote of thanks be given by the Steuben
Association to the Welst Baptist Church for the fidelity
and care with which they had carried out the request of
Colonel Walker in preserving and protecting the grounds
made sacred by the dust of the great soldier. The motion
was unanimously carried with hearty acclaim. The Gover-
nor then introduced General Franz Sigel, who delivered a
splendid eulogy of the baron, in the German language, '
which was received with rounds of applause.

Short speeches from various individuals followed, relics
of the baron were exhibited, and, after music and the bene-
diction, the gathering dispersed.

The monument .was designed and executed by Mr.
-,_ , (Henry Reck, of New York, at a cost of $3500. The base
and body of the monument are of Trenton limestone, and
the surmounting shaft of granite. The base is 14 feet
square, and the total height from the ground 15 feet.
Within a wreath cut in relief in the granite upon one of
the faces is the simple word " Steuben." Four Parrott
guns are planted, en reverse, at the angles of the monument.
The whole work is plain, simple, and substantial.


Colonel Marinus Willett was born July 31 (0. S.), 1740,
at Jamaica, Long Island. His grandfather, Samuel Willett,
held the office of sherifiF of Queens County. His father,
Edward Willett, was born in 1701, and died in New York,
at the advanced age of ninety-three years. There were
thirteen children in this family.

Colonel Willett's first public experience was in 1755-56,
when he was present and witnessed the operations of a
British press-gang in New York City.

In 1758 he was commissioned a second lieutenant in a
colonial regiment commanded by Colonel Oliver Delancy,
a brother of James Delancy, then lieutenant-gOTernor of

the colony of New York. His company was raised on
Long Island, and was commanded by Captain Thomas Wil-
liams. His regiment was in the northern campaign under
Abercrombie, and participated in the disastrous attack, upon
Montcalm's lines at Ticonderoga. The regiment also formed
a part of Colonel Bradstreet's expedition to Frontenac,
which resulted so successfully to the British arms.

On his return from this latter expedition. Lieutenant
Willett was taken sick at Fort Stanwix, where he remained
until November, when he made a bateau voyage down the
Mohawk to Schenectady, and thence to New York, in De-
cember, which place he reached after an absence of seven
months. He was not engaged in active service during the
remainder of the war. He took an active part on the side
of the colonies in the exciting scenes following the passage
of the "Stamp Act," and in the opening of the Revolution.

On the breaking out of the war between the colonies
and Great Britain he at once offered his services, and was
commissioned captain in Colonel Alexander McDougall's
regiment (the second "company), June 25, 1775. In Au-
gust following his regiment joined General Montgomery's
army at Albany, which soon after departed on its way to
the invasion of Canada. He was present at the siege and
capture of Chambly and St. John's, and his company was
detached as a guard to convey the prisoners to Albany,
which duty was satisfactorily performed, and the company
returned to Montreal on the 22d of November. From
this point he was sent to take command of St. John's, where
he remained until February, 1776, when he was again sent
to Albany as a guard to a number of British officers and
their families, who had been taken prisoners during the

When the Continental army was reconstructed and re-
cruited, the State of New York was called upon to furnish
four regiments, and Captain Willett was commissioned lieu-
tenant-colonel of the third, of which Peter Gansevoort was
appointed colonel. The regiment not being full, Colonel
Willett was sent to Fishkill on recruiting service.

In the spring of 1777 he was placed in command of Fort
Constitution, and on the 22d of March was personally en-
gaged in the affair at Peekskill, where the British forces
were repulsed in an attack on the place. The celebrated
" camlet cloak," used in the construction of the garrison
flag of Fort Stanwix, was captured in this affair.

On the 18th of May, he was ordered with the regiment
to Fort Stanwix, where he arrived on the 29th. The name
of this fort had been changed to Schuyler, in honor of
General Philip Schuyler, and was so known during the war.
By Willett's advice. Captain Marquizee, the French engineer
officer in charge of the work of repairing the fort, was re-
lieved, and returned to headquarters at Albany, and Colonel
Willett himself took charge of the work.

The part taken by Colonel Willett in the memorable siege
of Port Stanwix (Schuyler) is narrated in another portion
of this work. During Colonel Gansevoort's absence from
the fort, subsequent to St. Leger's retreat, Colonel Willett
was in temporary command. Upon Colonel Gansevoort's
return in September, Colonel Willett was granted a short
leave of absence, and visited his family at Fishkill. Dur-
ing the supimer of 1778 he seems not to have bad an active




command, for we fiad him visiting the main army under
Washington in New Jersey. He was present at the battle
of Monmouth, in June of that year, and took an active part
as a volunteer aid of General Scott.

In 1779 he accompanied General Sullivan on his great
expedition against the Six Nations.* During the winter
of 1779-80 he was with the main army, and performed a
noted exploit on Staten Island ; and in 1780 he commanded
the Fifth New York Regiment, attached to the Grand
Army. In the latter part of that year he was placed in
command of all the troops raised for the defense of the
northwestern frontier of New York, with headquarters at
Fort Rensselaer, now Canajoharie. In the beginning of
July, 1781, his command had several skirmishes with
marauding-parties of the enemy. In October of the same
year occurred the raid of Majors Ross and Butler into the
Mohawk Valley, and their pursuit and defeat by Colonel
Willett. Considerable fighting occurred near Johnstown,
and during the enemy's retreat, when crossing West Canada
Creek, the notorious Major Walter N. Butler was killed.
The enemy were finally driven in a starving condition into
the wilderness to the north of the Mohawk Valley.

In FebiTiary, 1783, at the special request of General
Washington, he led a well-equipped expedition for the pur-
pose of surprising the British garrison at Oswego ; but the
guide losing his way, they were discovered, and obliged to
abandon the object. Peace had already been ratified, and
was soon after proclaimed.

In 1784, Colonel Willett was appointed sherifi'of the city
and county of New York, which office he held for four
years. In 1790 he was sent on a special mission to negoti-
ate a treaty with the Oreek Indians, then located in Georgia
and Alabama. When the war with the northwestern In-
dians broke out he was ofiered the position of brigadier-
general, but being conscientiously opposed to the war he
declined the honor.

He was mayor of the city of New York in 1807, and
held the position of chairman of the committee for the
assistance of the Greeks in 1825-26. He died on the 23d
of August, 1830, in New York, at the age of ninety years,
universally honored and beloved.

For his distinguished services at Fort Stanwix, Congress,
the same year, ordered an elegant and costly sword to be
presented him. He was a member of the New York State
Society of the Cincinnati, which order passed complimen-
tary resolutions at his death and attended his funeral in a
body. His funeral was also attended by many military and
civic bodies.f



Oneida County performed well her part during the
struggle of four years to prevent the dissolution of the

» He also served in Colonel Van Sohaick's expedition against the
OnoudagaB in April, 1779.

t For a full account of Colonel Willett's military operations during
the Revolutionary war, see general chapters.

union of States, and from the first alarm was up and ready
for any emergency. It is estimated that she furnished ten
thousand men for the Union army during the war, and, as
their history shows, they everywhere covered themselves
with glory. Five regiments were organized almost entirely
in the county, and many others had representatives from it.
The accompanying roster is as perfect as could be obtained
from the adjutant-general's reports and the records of
towns. Blanks were furnished in 1865 to every town clerk
in the State, and each was directed to fill them up prop-
erly, place a copy on file in his office, and forward the
duplicate to the adjutant-general of the State. This was
done in order to secure a perfect list of those who entered
into the service of their country, and a reliable descriptive
roll, giving the final disposition of each man, — his dis-
charge, muster-out, desertion, death by sickness or on the
field of battle, his wounds, the fact of his being taken pris-
oner, with dates, etc. ; — but not half of these blanks were
ever filled out as directed. They were in many cases
neglected entirely and in others but indifferently arranged,
and the consequence is the record of the noble boys in blue
has become almost an impossibility to procure in anything
like a satisfactory shape. We present herewith, as fully as
possible to ascertain them, short histories of the regiments
in which Oneida's sons enlisted and took part in the great
struggle for the preservation of the country from the evils
of slavery and disunion. Sketches have been promised us
of several regiments by competent members thereof, but after
long waiting they are not forthcoming, and we present what
is in our power.


This regiment was the first raised in the county, and was
familiarly known as the " 1st Oneida." It was organized
at Albany, New York, to serve two years, and was mustered
into the United States service May 17, 1861. Among the
engagements in which it took an active part were Gaines'
Mills, Hanover Court-House, Malvern Hill, Fredericksburg,
and Chancellorsville, all of them most bloody affrays. The
regiment suffered quite severely during its term of service.
It was mustered out at the expiration of the time for which
it enlisted. May 24, 1863.


This regiment was organized at Elmira, N. Y., for two
years' service, and was mustered in May 21, 1861. The
companies composing it were raised in the counties of
Monroe, Tioga, and Oneida, the majority of the men being
from the latter county, and it was known as the " 2d
Oneida." This regiment also suffered severely during its
two years of service, and the names of Cedar Mountain,
Second Bull Run, Chantilly, South Mountain, Antietam,
and Fredericksburg bring to its surviving members vivid
recollections of the bloody days of war. The 26th was
mustered out May 28, 1863, at the expiration of its term
of service.


Companies C, D, and B of this regiment contained men
from Oneida County. The 50th was organized at Elmira



for three years, and was mustered into the service of the
United States Sept. 18, 1861. On the expiration of its
term of service the original members, except veterans, were
mustered out, and the regiment, composed of veterans and
recruits, was retained in service until June 13, 1865, when
it was mustered out in accordance with orders from the
War Department.


A few men in Company D of this regiment enlisted from
Oneida County. The 53d was organized in New York
City to serve three years, and was mustered in from Aug.
27 to Nov. 15, 1861. It was mustered out, in accordance
with orders from the War Department, March 21, 1862.


^ The companies composing the 57th Regiment were raised
in the counties of Dutchess, Kings, New York, and Oneida,
those from the latter forming Company B. The regiment
was organized in New York City for three years, and mus-
tered in from Aug. 12 to Nov. 19, 1861. At the expira-
tion of its term of service the original members, except
veterans, were mustered out, and the veterans and recruits
transferred to the 61st New York Infantry, Dec. 2, 1864.
The principal engagements participated in by this regiment
were Yorktown, Fair Oaks, Gaines' Mills, Peach Orchard,
Savage Station, White Oak Swamp, Malvern Hill, Antie-
tam, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, Bristow
Station, Mine Run, Wilderness, Po River, Spottsylvania,
North Anna, Tolopotomy, Cold Harbor, Petersburg, Straw-
berry Plains, Deep Bottom, and Ream's Station.


This regiment contained a considerable number of re-
cruits from Oneida County, but was originally principally
raised and organized in New York City, for a term of three
years, and mustered in from Aug. 22 to Oct. 26, 1861.
At the expiration of the three years the original members,
except veterans, were mustered out, and the veterans and
recruits retained in service until July 14, 1865, when they
were mustered out in accordance with orders from the War
Department. The battles in which this regiment was en-
gaged were Yorktown, Fair Oaks, Peach Orchard, Savage
Station, White Oak Swamp, Gleudale, Malvern Hill, An-
tietam, Bristow Station, Gettysburg, Chancellorsville, Mine
Bun, Fredericksburg, Wilderness, Corbin's Bridge, Po
River, North Anna, Spottsylvania, Tolopotomy, Cold Har-
bor, Petersburg, Strawberry Plains, Deep Bottom, Ream's


This regiment was organized and principally raised in
New York City, although Companies D, B, and H con-
tained men from Oneida County. It was mustered in for
three years, from Aug. 1 to 20, 1861. On the expiration
of its term of service the original members, except veterans,
were mustured out, and the regiment, composed of vete-
rans and recruits, retained in service till Nov. 30, 1865,
when it was mustered out in accordance with orders from
the War Department. Among its battles were Cross-Keys,

White Sulphur Springs, Waterloo Bridge, Fremont's Ford,
Groveton, and Bull Run.


A few men from Oneida County were in Company B of
this regiment, which was mustered in Nov. 26, 1861. The
original members, except veterans, were mustered out at
the expiration of service, and the veterans and recruits re-
tained until Aug. 31, 1865, when they were mustered out
in accordance with orders from the War Department. The
regiment was organized for three years at Auburn, New
York. Among its engagements were Gotten, Brisland, and
Port Hudson.


A portion of Company A of this regiment was raised
in Oneida County. The regiment was organized at Albany
for three years, and was raised principally in the counties
of Otsego and Cortland. It was mustered in Jan. 16,
1862. The original members, except veterans, were mus-
tered out in December, 1864, and the veterans and recruits
were transferred to the 147th New York Volunteers. The
battles of the 76th were Rappahannock Station, Warrenton,
Gainesville, second Bull Run, South Mountain, Antietam,
Upperville, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg,
and Mine Run.


This regiment was organized in New York City to serve
three years. The companies composing it were raised in
the counties of Erie, Monroe, Steuben, Niagara, and Oneida,
and mustered in from Oct. 1, 1861, to April 12, 1862. On
the 29th of June, 1864, the 78th was consolidated with
the 102d. Its battles were Wauhatchie, Lookout Mountain,
Resaoa, Dallas, Lost Mountain, Pine Knob, Kenesaw, Peach-
Tree Creek, and Atlanta.


This regiment was organized at Albany, N. Y., to serve
three years, and was mustered into the United States ser-
vice Sept. 14, 1861. Until the 20th of January, 1862, it
rendezvoused at Oswego ; but on that date it left for Albany,
where, on the 1st of February, 1862, it received an acces-
sion of 350 men from Oneida County, forming afterwards
Companies C, E, and I. This completed the regiment, and
on the 21st of the same month it departed from Albany
for the front. Proceeding to New York, it went into bar-
racks on Staten Island, and remained there until the 5th of
March, when it was ordered to Washington, which city it
reached on the 7th, and encamped on the 8th on Kalorama
Heights, where it remained 20 days, and was in the mean
time attached to the Third Brigade, Casey's Division, of
the Fourth Corps. March 28, the boys were sent to Alex-
andria, thence to Fortress Monroe, where they arrived April
1. From this time their position was almost constantly
changing, and on the 31st of May, 1862, they received
their baptism of fire in the battle of Seven Pines, where
they behaved like veterans. A member of the regiment
thus describes this engagement :



" Tho enemy in front, soi'ooned by a thick undergrowtli of buslies,
poured several volleys of musketry into tho regiment, and although
this was the first regular engagement in which they had participated,
yet they stood like veterans. Volley after volley was poured into the
bushes with deadly effect. Soon finding that they could not maintain
their exposed position, the regiment fell back in good order to the edge
of the woods in their rear. During this time both iield-ofBcers fell.
Lieutenant-Colonel De Forest was shot in the breast, Major John Mc-
Ambly and Captain Kingman were killed and left on the field, together
with many privates. Captain Wm. C. Raulston, being the senior ofii-
cor present, then assumed command, and, in the position then taken,

Online LibrarySamuel W DurantHistory of Oneida County, New York : with illustrations and biographical sketches of some of its prominent men and pioneers → online text (page 180 of 192)