Morrison's Pensions

The Continental Army of the Revolution
From: Magazine of American History
Vol. VII December 1881, No. 6

It has been sometimes a subject of reproach that in the earlier belligerent movements of the war of the American Revolution, no troops from New York took part; that Ticonderoga and Crown Point were captured without her co-operation; that the British were besieged in Boston without her aid, and that even a year later her delegates in the Continental Congress were without instructions upon the final vote upon the Declaration of Independence. If, however, the people of this State were slow to resort to arms, it was not from any indifference, because no colony had been more intensely agitated by the great questions of the day. The political situation of New York was, however peculiar. This was due to the manner in which it had come under English domination.

By the laws of England two classes of colonies were recognized, viz.: 1st, Settled or Discovered colonies, and 2d, Conquered or Crown colonies. To the first class of Settled or Discovered colonies belonged all of the original thirteen United American Colonies except New York, which belonged to the latter class. The peculiar characteristic of these Settled or Discovered colonies was that when unoccupied land had been taken possession of in the name of the Crown of England, and afterwards colonized an settled upon by English subjects, the Common Law of England became their inheritance, and also all the rights and liberties as against the prerogative of the Crown, which they would have enjoyed in England; such as, no taxation without representation; freedom of speech, and later, of the press; the right of trial by an impartial jury of their peers from the vicinage, after indictment by a local grand jury, and other rights not necessary here to be enumerated. In addition to the character of Settled or Discovered colonies which the other twelve United American Colonies possessed, many of them—particularly in New England—had received special chartered right and privileges, confirmed under the Great Seal of England with considerable formality.

On the other hand, in a Conquered or Crown Colony, except so far as rights were secured by any terms of capitulation, the power of the sovereign was absolute. The conquered were at the mercy of the conqueror, and although they might preserve their laws and their institutions for the time, the Sovereign in Council had absolute power to alter those laws in any way he might deem proper, and in short, in the language of the late Lord Chief-Justice of England, they might “be dealt with legislatively and authoritatively as the Sovereign might please.” Such was the condition of the Colony or Province of New York, and although the Charter of Liberties and Privileges, passed on the 30th October, 1683, secured to its people an appearance at least of a privilege to participate in the government nevertheless, after James II ascended the throne, Governor Dongan was instructed, on the 29th May, 1686 to declare the Bill of Privileges under which the Assembly existed “repealed, determined and made void,” and the sole power of legislation transferred to the Governor and Council.

William and Mary and Queen Anne successively resisted the application and demands of the representatives of the people of the province of New York; and until the final contest in the Revolution, a political struggle was maintained with greater or less intensity. The removal of Chief Justice Morris without cause in 1733, and the appointment of James De Lancey as Chief Justice; the trial and acquittal of John Peter Zenger in 1735, and assertion of the liberty of the press; the refusal of the New York Assembly in 1762 to grant any salary to Chief Justice Benjamin Prat, because he was commissioned “during His Majesty’s pleasure’” the appointment by that body of a Committee of Correspondence with the other colonies in 1764; the subsequent organization of the “Sons of Liberty,” and local resistance to the Stamp Act; the conflict between citizens and soldiers in John Street, New York, in January, 1770 and the resolves of the New York Assembly in 1768, 1774 and 1775, were all incidents of this struggle for exclusive internal parliamentary liberty.

In the New England Colonies the Whigs rested firmly on their rights as Englishman in “Settled Colonies,” and on their chartered privileges. Their political opponents, therefore, were comparatively few, and held opinions as to the rights of Crown and Parliament founded largely in sentiment and regard for the mother country.

In New York, the Whig parting in demanding the same rights that were claimed by the Whigs of New England, were to a considerable extent revolutionary, although they were prompted by the same spirit that gave Magna Carta and the Petition and Bill of Rights to England. On the other hand, the Royalists or Tory party in New York had good English precedents for their adhesion to the Crown.

Each party in New York, therefore, had legal grounds for the support of its political claims. The line of demarcation was less distinct, political feelings became more embittered, and as a consequence, when overt acts of war took place, a large number of the able bodied citizens of the province of New York engaged in the contest on one side or the other. Family influence also contributed to the intensity of part feeling, as was shown in the struggles of the De Lancey’s and Livingston's and their respective family and political adherents for political supremacy. The events which finally brought into existence the New York Provincial Congress, which met on the 22d May 1775, will not here be touched upon.

On the 28th June 1775, the New York Continental Line of the American Revolution was organized under the resolves of the Provincial Congress. It consisted of four regiments of infantry and one company of artillery, viz.: The 1st (or New York) Regiment of which Alexander McDougall became Colonel, Rudolphus Ritzema, Lieutenant-Colonel, and Herman Zedwitz, Major; the 2d (or Albany) Regiment of which Goose Van Schaick became Colonel, Peter Yates, Lieutenant-Colonel, and Peter Gansevoort, Jr., Major; the 3d (or Ulster) Regiment of which James Clinton became Colonel, Edward Fleming, Lieutenant-Colonel and Cornelius D. Wynkoop Major, the 4th (or Dutchess) Regiment of which James Holmes became Colonel, Philip Van Cortlandt, Lieutenant-Colonel and Barnabas Tuthill Major; lastly the Company of Artillery, of which John Lamb became Captain, which was raised in New York City.

Already the Continental Congress had appointed Philip Schuyler to be Major General and Richard Montgomery to be Brigadier-General, and the New York Continentals stepped forward to take their places in the military history of their country. Unfortunately the period for which these regiments were enlisted was short, and as a consequence, the services of the New York Continental Line prior to 1777 can be discovered only by patient inquiry. All four regiments, and also Lamb’s Artillery Company served in the Canada campaign of 1775-6 under Montgomery and in the operations which resulted in the capture of the forts at St. Johns and Chamblee. In the middle of November, General Montgomery entered Montreal, and immediately began to reorganize his army for the winter campaign. The six months for which the New Yorkers had enlisted expired with that month, but, in the language recorded by one of their officers in his diary, “the Yorkers in general resolved to see an end to the campaign.” Accordingly a large number of them re-enlisted to the 15th April 1776 and accompanied General Montgomery to Quebec. In the siege and during the assault of that place, where their commanding general fell, the New Yorkers bore a conspicuous part, and a number were killed, wounded and taken prisoners. Lamb’s artillery company was almost destroyed, and he himself dangerously wounded and captured.

On the 15th April 1776 at headquarters before Quebec, Brigadier-General David Wooster, who had succeeded to the command of the besieging forces, arranged a number of the officers of the New York Line into a regiment of which John Nicholson, Major of the Third New York (James Clinton’s) was made Colonel, and Frederick Von Weisenfels, of the same regiment, Lieut.-Colonel, and a sufficient number of the New York rank and file were re-enlisted to complete the regiment. The remainder, comprising the fragments of McDougall’s, VanSchaick’s, Clinton’s and Holmes’ regiments, returned home.

Congress had in the previous month provided for raising four New York regiments (8th and 24th March, 1776), viz.: 1st New York, Colonel Alexander McDougall and Lieut.-Colonel H. G. Zedwitz; 2d New York, Colonel James Clinton and Lieut.-Colonel H.B. Livingston; 3d New York, Colonel Rudolphus Ritzema and Lieut.-Colonel Frederick Von Weisenfels; 4th New York, Colonel Cornelius D. Wynkoop and Lieut.-Colonel P. Van Cortlandt.

The New York Convention also provided for raising a new Continental regiment for Colonel Van Schaick, making five New York continental regiments for 1776 in addition to the regiment formed at Quebec under Colonel John Nicholson, which completed its service with the Northern Army. Colonel Van Schaick’s regiment, on the 20th June 1776 was stationed in detachments at various posts between Half-Moon and Crown Point, while Colonel Wynkoop’s was at Ticonderoga. Their subsequent service was wholly under General Schuyler.

When it became apparent early in 1776 that New York City was to be the objective point of Sir William Howe’s new operations, measures were taken to fortify and garrison it. Among the troops assigned to this duty were the 1st, 2d and 3d New York Regiments of McDougall, Clinton and Ritzema. On the 9th August 1776 McDougall and Clinton were promoted to be Brigadier-Generals.

In the battle of Long Island (August 1776) the New York Continental Line was not engaged, nor in the action at Harlem Heights although present. The 2d New York (late Clinton’s) was sent into Connecticut, to Saybrook on special service. The 1st and 3d New York were in the battle of White Plains, and were conspicuous for their valor. Indeed, the principal part of that action was borne by McDougall’s brigade, to which they belonged, and by the Delaware regiment. Chatterton’s Hill, where the brunt of the action was fought, has become a historic locality.

Referring in his memoirs to the conduct of these troops, the accomplished Brigadier-General Rufus Putnam, then Chief Engineer on the ground says: “The British in their advance were twice repulsed; at length, however their numbers were increased, so that they were able to turn our right flank. We lost many men, but from information afterwards received there was reason to believe they lost many more than we. The rail and stone fence, behind which our troops were posted, proved as fatal to the British as the rail fence and grass hung on it did at Charleston, the 17th of June 1775.

In this battle the 3d New York (Ritzema’s) suffered the most. Its Colonel, however was not on the field, and Lieut.-Colonel Weisenfels led the regiment. In the retreat through the Jerseys the 1st and 3d New York formed part of General Lee’s division which subsequently joined Washington and were in the surprise and capture of the Hessians at Trenton. They were in the brigade under Colonel Sargent, from the 11th December 1776. Immediately after this brilliant action these New York regiments were ordered home to reorganize “for the war,” their terms of enlistment having expired.

At last Congress awakened to the fact that the war must be carried on with regular troops, and not be an undisciplined, expensive and not always reliable militia levy. Accordingly on the 16th September 1776, that body declared that the quota of New York on the Continental establishment should consist of four regiments of infantry.

One the 15th October, 1776, the New York Convention appointed committees to visit respectively the army in the Northern Department under Major-General Schuyler, and the main Continental army under General Washington in order to obtain from the General officers the characters of the New York officers then in Continental service. Lewis Graham was the chairman of the Committee which at once visited the main army, and James Duane the chairman of the Committee which went northward. At this time New York had a number of volunteer and militia regiments in actual service; and the Committees extended their inquiries also to these in order to obtain recommendations. The principal among these volunteer and militia regiments were the 1st New York Volunteers, under Colonel John Lasher, of New York City, which was in the lines at the battle of Long Island. Also, Col. William Malcom’s, Col. Samuel Drake’s and Col. Cornelius Humfrey’s, all of Brig.-General John Morin Scott’s Brigade; also, Col. Isaac Nicholls’, col. Thomas Thomas’, Col. James Swartwout’s, Col. Levi Paulding’s, and Col. Morris Graham’s, of Brig.-General George Clinton’s Brigade. General Washington himself, and also Generals Schuyler, George and James Clinton, McDougall, and John Morin Scott made carefully considered recommendations.

The full Committee of Arrangements of the New York Convention met in Fishkill on the 15th day of November 1776, and after hearing the reports of the respective sub-committees on their return from the main and northern armies, began to consider the characters and merits of all the persons recommended for commissions in the reorganized New York Continental Line. There were many meritorious officers whose services were deemed necessary to the State. Some of these who remained in Canada when the terms of service of their old regiments had expired, had obtained exceptionally high rank, which caused much difficulty and considerable heart-burning in arranging them and their former superiors in the new Line. The papers of the Committee in the Secretary of State’s office, in Albany, show the difficulties it had to contend with and the care taken in making selections. Thoroughly patriotic and earnest in the American cause, they came to the conclusion that New York could contribute one more regiment of infantry than called for by Congress, and they accordingly so recommended and proceeded to act on that basis, which was approved.

On the 21st November 1776 the officers of the first four New York Continental regiments were announced, and soon afterwards, on the 14th December, those of the fifth regiment. Colonel Goose Van Schaick was assigned to the 1st regiment, Colonel Philip Van Cortlandt, who had succeeded Ritzema as Colonel, was assigned to the 2d regiment, Colonel Peter Gansevoort, Jr., late Lieut.-Colonel of Van Schaick’s regiment, was promoted to the 3d regiment, Colonel Henry Beekman Livingston, late Lieut.-Colonel of James Clinton’s was promoted to the 4th regiment, Colonel Lewis Dubois, lately appointed a Colonel by Congress, was assigned to the 5th regiment.

Thus at last, after nearly two years of war, the New York Continental Line was permanently formed and engaged in the service of the United States until peace and independence should be secured. The military history of these regiments can now be briefly chronicled: Of the 1st, Colonel Goose Van Schaick personally deserves a passing notice, because at the close of the Revolution, he was, by date of commission, the senior Colonel in the Continental service. A native of Albany, where he was born in 1737 the became a Lieutenant at the age of nineteen in the expedition against Crown Point; promoted to a captaincy in 1758, in the New York regiment under Lieut.-Col. Isaac Corse, he took part in the expeditions against Forts Frontenac and Niagara, and in 1759 was made Major in Colonel Johnson’s New York regiment. In March 1762, he came Lieut.-Colonel of the 1st New York Regiment, and in the battle of Ticonderoga was severely wounded in the face by a blow with the butt of a French musket. Shortly after his assignment to the 1st New York Continentals in November 1776 he was successful in recruiting his regiment, which was first stationed at Fort George and in the Spring of 1777 was ordered to Cherry Valley to protect the inhabitants against incursions by the Indians; and thence, in May to Saratoga, companies being detached to Fort Edward and Fort Ann, and to Fort Dayton on the German Flats. Here the 1st New York remained during the stirring events of the Burgoyne Invasion and then marched to join the main army under General Washington and passed the memorable winter of 177708 at Valley Forge. In General Orders of General Washington dated Army Headquarters, Valley Forge, 31st May 1778, the regiment was temporarily assigned to the place of the 8th Pennsylvania Continentals, in the Second Pennsylvania Brigade, in the division under Major General Mifflin, and pursued Sir Henry Clinton across the Jerseys, participating in the battle of Monmouth. Thence the main army marched to the Hudson River, crossed at King’s Ferry, near Stony Point, and moved down to White Plains. There on the 22d July 1778 in General Orders, his Excellency General Washington, as his soldiers and Congress always officially termed him, formed the New York Continental brigade under Brigadier-General James Clinton, composed of the 1st New York (Van Schaick’s) 2d New York (Van Cortlandt’s), 4th new York (Henry B. Livingston’s), 5th New York (Lewis Dubois’). Thenceforward, to the end of the war there was always a New York Continental Brigade, which as we shall see, by its perfect discipline, good conduct and gallantry in action, attracted the favorable notice of the continental officers from other States, and of the officers of the French army.

In the fall of 1778 the 1st New York was sent to the Northern Department, and on the 1st December was stationed at Fort Schuyler, with detachments in Albany and at Saratoga (now Schuylerville). On the 18th April 1779, one battalion of the regiment and one battalion of the 3r New York were sent under Colonel Van Schaick against the Onondaga settlements near Salina, which were destroyed, and the expedition, after six days absence, returned to Fort Schuyler. Here the regimental headquarters remained, with detachments at Schenectady, Albany and Saratoga, until the 1st January 1781, when the 3d Regiment (Gansevoort’s) was incorporated with it, and the New York Continental line of infantry was reduced to two regiments, under Colonel VanSchaick and Van Cortlandt, for the remainder of the war, pursuant to the resolutions of Congress of the 3d and 21st October, 1780. The further history of the 1st New York is identical with that of the 2d New York, as they thenceforward served continuously together, and as the 1st January 1781, was the time when all the Continental regiments of each State line were incorporated and consolidated, this date forms a good point at which to leave the 1st New York in order to narrate the previous history of the remaining four regiments of VanCortlandt, Gansevoort, Henry B. Livingston and Dubois.

The record of services of the 2d New York, under Colonel Philip VanCortlandt is to be found in considerable detail in the autobiography of that distinguished officer, in the New York Genealogical and Biographical Record for July 1874 (Vol. V. p. 123) and in The Magazine for American History for May 1878 (Vol. II p. 278). It will not therefore, be dwelt upon here. Briefly the 2d, after being recruited and organized “for the war,” took post in May, 1777 at Peekskill in McDougall’s Brigade in the command of Major-General Israel Putnam, and after outpost service in Westchester county, near the British lines, was withdrawn and marched to Fishkill, where it embarked in sloops for Albany in August 1777 and soon joining Major-General Gates, was ordered to march to the relief of Fort Stanwix (or Schuyler), but had occasion to go no further than Schenectady. The 2d New York was in the battles of Stillwater and Saratoga, and at Lieut.-General John Burgoyne’s surrender, and then marched southward and joined General Washington at White Marsh. It served at Valley Forge, was in the battle of Monmouth, and in July marched to White Plains, and then went to the frontier in Ulster county until April, 1779, when it marched to Fort Penn, and thence through the wilderness to Wilkes-Barre, where it joined Major-General John Sullivan’s historic expedition against the Five Nations, and was in the action at Newtown. After the close of this expedition, the regiment marched via Easton in Pennsylvania, Sussex, Warwick and Pompton to Morristown, New Jersey, where it was quartered in tents during the remarkably severe winter of 1779-80, and did not get into log huts until the snow was deep on the ground. In the spring the regiment marched to Fort Edward, in the Northern Department and thence in November 1780 to Schenectady via Albany, where the rank and file were quartered in the barracks, and the officers billeted in private houses. This was the station of the regiment on the 1st January, 1781, when the 4th New York (late H. B. Livingston’s, but then under Lieutenant-Colonel Commandant Baron Frederick Van Weisenfels) and the 5th New York (late Lewis Dubois’, under Lieutenant-Colonel Commandant Marinus Willett), were incorporated with it, and the junior supernumerary officers honorably retired with the promise of seven years’ half-pay.

The 3d New York (Colonel Peter Gansevoort, Jr.) after its organization and recruitment was stationed at Fort Schuyler (old Fort Stanwix) in 1777 and defended that work during the memorable siege by Brigadier-General Barry St. Leger, in which the successful sortie was made for which the thanks of Congress was given (Res. 4, Oct., 1777). A detachment was on duty at Albany from December 1778 to May 1779 and in June the whole regiment assembled at Canajoharie and formed part of Brigadier-General James Clinton’s brigade, which joined Major-General Sullivan in the expedition against the five hostile tribes of the Six Nations. Colonel Gansevoort’s regiment afterwards joined the main army at Morristown, New Jersey, where it remained during the winter of 1779-80, and was, in the earlier operations of the year 1780, under General Washington, after which it took post in the Highlands of the Hudson in July 1780 and subsequently proceeded to Fort Edward, where the regiment was incorporated with the 1st on the 1st January 1781.

The 4th New York (Col. Henry B. Livingston) had the most eventful history of any of the New York regiments. Just after its organization, it was in the defense of Peekskill, 23 March 1777; then in August with the 2d New York, joined Major-General gates, participated in the battles of Stillwater and Saratoga, and was at Burgoyne’s surrender. It then marched to the South, and was at White Marsh under General Washington on the 2d December 1777 and during that terrible winter in huts at Valley Forge. On the 14th May 1778 as the regiment was sickly, General Washington ordered its commanding officer to apply for tents and “remove the men from their huts.” Taking part in the battle of Monmouth, it did good service. It was sent after the army reached White Plains, under the Marquis de Lafayette to Rhode Island, where it was present at the siege of Newport and subsequent battle of Rhode Island which Lafayette characterized as one of the best fought actions of the Revolution. Returning in the fall of 1778 to the Hudson, it marched to Albany and rejoined Brigadier-General James Clinton and was in the movement via Otsego Lake, down the Susquehanna to join Major-General Sullivan, and was in the expedition against the Five Nations and at the action at Newtown. Subsequently the regiment rejoined the main army in the winter camp at Morristown, 1779-80; was in the Highlands of the Hudson in the following summer, and then proceeded to Fort Schuyler, where it was incorporated with the 2d New York (Van Cortlandt’s) on the 1st January 1781.

The 5th New York Continental Infantry (Colonel Lewis Dubois’) was an unfortunate though gallant regiment. After its organization and recruitment in the winter and spring of 1778-7 it was stationed at Forts Montgomery and Clinton on Poploopen’s Kill opposite Anthony’s Nose on the Hudson. Here it participated in the gallant defense of those forts under Governor George Clinton and his brother, Brigadier-General James Clinton on the 6th October 1777 and lost heavily. In the final successful assault of the British forces under Sir Henry Clinton at sundown, a considerable portion of the regiment became prisoners of war, including the Lieutenant-Colonel, Major, Quarter-master, one Captain, seven Lieutenants and three Ensigns. A battalion of the regiment managed to escape in the darkness of the night, and was on duty during the winter in the Highlands and at Newburgh and Peekskill, until the fall of 1778, when it proceeded to Albany and Schenectady, and formed part of Brigadier-General James Clinton’s brigade, which joined General Sullivan in his Indian expedition. At its conclusion the regiment marched to Morristown, New Jersey, for the winter of 1779-80. It subsequent history is identical with that of the 2d New York, until its incorporation with it on the 1st January 1781, in the Mohawk valley. From this date the history of the 1st New York (VanSchaick) and 2d New York (Van Cortlandt), constituting the newly arranged New York Line, is one and the same.

In June 1781, while French and American Armies were in Westchester County making threatening demonstrations against New York City, General Washington sent orders for these two regiments to join him. Accordingly the detachments at Fort Plain, Stone Arabia, Johnstown, Schoharie, Fort Herkimer, Fort Dayton, etc., were called in and assembled at Schenectady and Albany and the two regiments in a few days proceeded to Stoney Point via the Hudson River, where they encamped during those movements of the allied armies before New York which deceived Sir Henry Clinton as to their real objective point. Each regiment had a Light Infantry company of selected men. These two companies were detached on the 31st July and with two companies of New York Levies, formed into a battalion under Lieutenant-Colonel Alexander Hamilton, late an Aid-de-camp to Washington.

On the morning of the 19th August 1781 the American and French Armies paraded at Philipsbourg, and pioneers were sent forward to clear the road to Kingsbridge; but to the surprise of the troops, they themselves were faced about and marched rapidly to King’s Ferry, and as soon as possible crossed to Haverstraw. Soon the truth broke upon the minds of the Allies. Their great commander had outwitted Sir Henry Clinton, and they were marching south to attack Earl Cornwallis.

In this historic march General Washington in General Orders dated Springfield, New Jersey, 28th August 1781 organized a light division under Major-General Benjamin Lincoln, which contained the choicest American regiments in the expedition. This division consisted of the light infantry on the right under the accomplished Colonel Alexander Scammel of the 1st New Hampshire Continentals, who lost his life before Yorktown; the two New York Regiments on the left under Brigadier-General James Clinton, and the two New Jersey regiments and the Rhode Island Continental Regiment in the center. As to the siege of Yorktown and the gallant conduct of the New York Light Infantry under Alexander Hamilton, in the assault of the advanced redoubt in front of the American right, on the night of the 14th October, or of the conduct of Colonel Lamb’s Artillery Regiment, it is not necessary here fore than to refer. On returning north, the New York and New Jersey Regiments escorted 1,700 British troops as far as Fredericksburgh, Virginia.

Brevet Brigadier-General Van Cortlandt in his autobiography has given an interesting instance of the depreciation of the continental currency in which his regiment was paid, by noting that at Hanover Court House he was given his choice of paying, for a bowl of apple toddy, five hundred dollars in continental money or one dollar in silver. Marching through Alexandria, Georgetown, Bladensburgh, Baltimore, Philadelphia and Trenton, the New York Infantry went into camp for the winter at Pompton, New Jersey, and built themselves huts. Here General Washington and his wife visited them and remained from Saturday evening until Monday morning. The condition of the New York Infantry at this time is well illustrated in the General Orders of General Washington from Army Headquarters, Newburgh, 20th May 1782 in which referring to the last inspection made of the army, he said: The commander-in-Chief “cannot, however, conceal this pleasure he receives from finding the two regiments of New York in the best order possible, by the report of the Inspector-General, which also concurred with his own observations.”

On the 4th June 1782, the New York Regiments were again inspected by Inspector-General Baron de Steuben, and reported as being “in excellent order.” This report General Washington announced in General Orders to the army from his Headquarters, Newburgh, on the following day. On the 28th August he placed these regiments as a brigade in the division of Major-General Horatio Gates of the main army.

But little more remains to be said of the New York Infantry. In the autumn maneuvers at Verplanck’s Point, they attracted particular attention by their steadiness and discipline. Indeed, at this time the American Infantry, veterans in war, had acquired under Baron de Steuben’s remarkable training, a degree of military proficiency which made them the equal if not the superior of the best disciplined regiment of Europe. In the winter of 1783, under a previous resolution of Congress (7th August 1782) a further reduction and incorporation of Continental regiments was decreed. From this the New York Line was spared, as the quota of New York was kept complete by the exertions of Governor George Clinton. In January the two regiments marched to their last post in the vicinity of New Windsor and built huts on the road leading to Little Britain. In May 1783 the Society of the Cincinnati was formed at the cantonment, and on the 6th June the New York officers became members.

As the terms of re-enlistment of their rank and file were “for the war,” the two regiments were furloughed on the 8th June 1783; the men proceeded to their homes, and on the 3d November 1783 were finally honorably discharged the service. Colonels Van Schaick and Van Cortlandt were each brevetted Brigadier-Generals on the 30th September 1783. The musical instruments of the Band of the 2d New York, and the colors of the two regiments, were taken to Poughkeepsie and there presented to Governor Clinton by Colonel Van Cortlandt, and it would be interesting to trace the history of these honored flags. In this connection it is deserving inquiry as to what has become of the flags captured during the Revolutionary War. None are known to exist, either of those taken at the Hessian surrender at Trenton, or at Burgoyne’s surrender at Fort Hardy, while of the twenty-eight flags taken at Yorktown, but six are deposited in the chapel of the United States Military Academy at West Point.

I shall not enter into any statement as to the earlier uniforms of the New York Infantry, my paper on the Uniforms of the American Army, published in this Magazine [I, 461] fully covering this subject; it is enough to state that in October 1779 General Washington under the authority given him by Congress, prescribed for the new York Line the following uniform, viz.: Black cocked hats, edged with white binding, black cockade or rosette, and black plume; coats to be of dark blue faced with buff; but in August 1782, the facing was changed to red, buttons and lining to white, white worsted shoulder knots, white cross belts, white under dress and black half gaiters.

I have now chronicled the services of the New York Continental Line proper. It is not, however, to be understood that New York furnished no other forces to the American cause. On the contrary, for reasons already stated, political feelings were so intense that at one time or another very nearly every able-bodied man in this state took up arms on one side of the other.

On the 23d December 1776 Congress alarmed by the retreat through the Jerseys and dwindling away of the army, vested General Washington with quasi dictatorial powers, and authorized him to raise, on Continental establishment, sixteen “additional” regiments of infantry, three regiments of artillery, and four regiments of cavalry. These were separate and distinct from regiments called for from the states. General Washington appointed the officers, whereupon Congress commissioned them, and the men were recruited irrespective of State Lines. Accordingly a large number of men were enlisted in New York State, not only in these regiments, but in the two Canadian Regiments raised in like manner. Quite a number also enlisted in New England Regiments, in consequence of the large bounties offered. The following named regiments were largely recruited in New York, viz.: 1st Canadian Continental Infantry, Colonel James Livingston; 2d Canadian Continental Infantry, Colonel Moses Hazen; additional Continental Infantry (Vermont), Colonel Seth Warner; additional Continental Infantry (Connecticut and Rhode Island), Colonel S. B. Webb; additional Continental Infantry (New York and New Jersey), Colonel Oliver Spencer; 2d Regiment Corps of Artillery (New York Artillery), Colonel John Lamb; 3d Regiment Corps of Artillery, Colonel John Crane; 2d Regiment Continental Cavalry, Colonel Elisha Sheldon; 4th Regiment Continental Cavalry, Colonel Stephen Moylan; 2d Battalion Continental Partizan Legion, Lieutenant-Colonel Henry Lee.

After a time the New Yorkers in these regiments were duly credited to the state and acknowledged by it. The 2d Regiment of the Continental Corps of Artillery, under Colonel John Lamb, was particularly a New York regiment, nearly all of its companies having been raised in that State, and after 1782 it was frequently called the “New York Artillery Regiment,” because it was placed on New York’s quota, although originally raised by General Washington himself. The history of this regiment is interesting, but can only be briefly alluded to here. We have seen that in June 1775 New York raised an Artillery Company under Captain John Lamb which went to Canada and did gallant service in the siege of and assault on Quebec under Montgomery. Leaving New York City in August 1775 with 70 enlisted men, this company by actual field casualties was reduced by the return made in the lines before Quebec on the 30th March 1776 to 31 rank and file under Captain-Lieutenant John Wool. Upon the expiration of their enlistments, this company disappeared as a living unit of organization. Several of its officers, however were promoted and appointed subsequently in Colonel Lamb’s Regiment the 2d Artillery and one, a Lieutenant in the company now to be noticed. The senior company in this regiment was organized quite a year before the regiment itself was authorized, pursuant to a resolution passed by the New York Provincial Convention in New York City on Sunday the 6th January 1776 for the defense of the Colony and to guard its records. The sabaltern (meaning junior officers) officers were speedily appointed. Alexander McDougall, then Colonel of the 1st New York Infantry, recommended Alexander Hamilton, then a student in Kings College for the Captaincy. After an examination by a board of officers, he was accordingly commissioned Captain of the “New York Provincial Company of Artillery” on the 14th March 1776. Already a few men had been enlisted for one year, but Hamilton, with that political sagacity for which he became distinguished saw that the was then in progress was to be a long and arduous one, and he accordingly directed his subalterns to recruit for the war. These instructions were not fully complied with, although over a third of the 95 rank and file recruited under authority of the New York Convention were thus enlisted. This fact is more remarkable as the continental forces for this year were raised on short enlistments, which generally expired in December, at the most critical period of the contest. During the retreat through the Jerseys General Washington was left with but the skeleton of an army, which remained in service at his urgent solicitation for a few additional days, until their places could be supplied by militia and troops newly raised. Hamilton’s Company after the arrival of the American army in New York City from the siege of Boston was while in the city, temporarily attached to Colonel Henry Knox’s Regiment of Massachusetts Continental Artillery, which however, had been raised for one year only. During the battle of Long Island the company was sent across the East river and did good service. Present during the action at Harlem Heights, it subsequently specially distinguished itself in the battle of White Plains, where it was attached to General McDougall’s Brigade. In the retreat through the Jerseys it marched with the rear guard, and at New Brunswick engaged in a sharp artillery duel across the Raritan River with a company of the royal artillery which was in the van of Cornwallis’ pursuit. At Trenton, Assunpink Bridge and Princeton, the company did such good service, and displayed such discipline and steadiness under fire as to attract the particular attention of Washington to its youthful commander, who was then only in his 20th year. After the army went into winter quarters at Morristown, the great chief offered Captain Hamilton the commission of Lieutenant-Colonel and Aid-de-camp on his staff. This flattering offer was accepted on the 1st March 1777. Meanwhile after independence had been declared, the style of the company had been changed to that of “The New York State Company of Artillery.” On the 6th March 1777, Lieutenant-Colonel Hamilton from Morristown wrote to the New York State Convention informing it of the condition of his late company and asking that it might be permanently transferred to the service of the United States. On the 17th March 1777, the Committee of the New York Provincial Convention from Kingston replied and authorized the transfer and it still remains in that service.

General Washington immediately promoted Captain-Lieutenant John Doughty of a New Jersey Artillery Company, who was a graduate of Kings (Columbia) College, to its command to date 1st March 1777 and assigned it to the new 2d Regiment of Artillery (Colonel John Lamb). Captain Doughty distinguished himself in service, was brevetted Major the 30th September 1783, and when all the rest of the Continental army of the Revolution was mustered out, was specially retained in service with his company. Later when Congress on the 20th October 1786 found it necessary to raise enough artillery companies on the peace establishment to for a battalion, Captain and Brevet-Major Doughty was promoted to be Major of the battalion, and the old 1st Lieutenant of the company, James Bradford was promoted to its Captaincy. In the disastrous defeat of St. Clair on the 4th November 1791 the old Alexander Hamilton-Doughty Company suffered severely and its Captain, Bradford, was killed. In the following spring, at Fort Washington, now Cincinnati, Ohio, this company and another company of the battalion, which ad been raised in 1784 and was then on duty with it, were incorporated. Each had about 35 men as each had suffered heavily in St. Clair’s defeat. There were enough officers and non-commissioned officers left in each to raise the joint company to the full compliment. Twice afterwards, before 1822, the company met with like recruitment by incorporation. The living unit of organization however, remained. Its daily roll calls and drum beats or bugle calls continued, and from the day when Captain Alexander Hamilton first paraded his company in the present City Hall Park in New York City to the present time, the United States has had the services of a continuous and organized body of artillery soldiers in the unit of artillery organization, now known as Battery F, 4th Regiment, United States Artillery, which has under late orders for artillery changes, recently changed station from Washington Territory to Fort Warren, Boston Harbor, Mass. On its battery Guidon may property be inscribed: New York, 12th July 1776 (affair with the British ships of war): Long Island; Harlem Heights; Pelham Manor 18th October 1776; White Plains; New Brunswick; Trenton; Assunpink; Princeton; Brandywine; Germantown; Monmouth; Springfield; Yorktown; Wayne’s victory over the Miami Indians in 1794; Battle of New Orleans under Andrew Jackson 1815; and all the principal actions under Major-General Winfield Scott in 1847, namely, the siege of Vera Cruz, Cerro Gordo, Contreras, Chapultepec and City of Mexico. In the late war of the rebellion it likewise “served in many actions” namely: Winchester, Va. 25th May 1862; Cedar Mountain, Va., 9th August 1862; Antietam, Md 17th September 1862; Chancellorsville, Va., 2d to 4th May 1863; Gettysburg, Pa. 1st to 3d July 1863.

One other artillery company was raised by the New York Provincial Congress on the 16th March 1776 in New York City under Captain Sebastian Bauman, for actual continental service. It also was assigned to Colonel Lamb’s regiment of artillery when that regiment was raised on the 1st January 1777 and disappeared with the honorable discharge on the 20th June 1784 of all of that regiment, except the Alexander Hamilton company of artillery.

This is in brief, the record of the New York Line. The names of its general officers, Schuyler, McDougall, Montgomery, George Clinton and James Clinton, occupy a prominent place in the history of the War of the Revolution. Our country owes its independence principally to the military exertions of the New England states and of New York, New Jersey and Maryland with the assistance of foreign powers. The efforts of Pennsylvania although respectable, were not as great, after the revolt of her Continental line, as her resources warranted. Delaware exerted herself to raise one regiment, but after a portion of it was captured at the siege of Charleston, S.C., in 1780, she could not keep in the field more than about two companies. The amount of military service rendered to the cause after 1778, by the great states of Virginia, North and South Carolina and Georgia was in no comparison whatever to their respective abilities.

By the resolution of Congress of 26th February 1778 Virginia was required to have fifteen regiments and North Carolina nine, but in May 1778 (29th) Congress provided for the supernumerary officers of the North Carolina line to go home to recruit. Only three infantry regiments remained of this latter state’s line under General Washington and when they were sent southward and captured at Charleston in May 1780, her efforts, except with one small regiment and hastily levied militia, practically ceased.

In Virginia, the fifteen regiments called for by Congress in May 1778 were consolidated into eleven in September of that year. In the following year the quota of this state was reduced by Congress to this number, and three small regiments were sent to Charleston and captured there. In the fall of 1779 the enlistments of most of the Virginia Line expired and the state never had more than enough men for two respectable regiments of Continental infantry in service, although its quote was eight. When, therefore, Major-General Gates needed the services of “regulars,” Virginia and North Carolina could give him only militia hastily levied, as supports to the two gallant Maryland Continental brigades. History tells us that in the battle of Camden, which prostrated the power of the United States in the South, the Virginia and North Carolina militia at the first advance of the British, threw down their loaded arms and fled in the utmost consternation from an advantageous position. They subsequently measurably redeemed their character for steadiness under fire at Guilford Court House and Eutaw Spring. New York on the other hand, never failed to respond when called upon, and in addition to her excellent and reliable Continental Line, turned out at one time or another, all her able-bodied militia.

In looking at the composition of the British forces in America in 1782, more than twenty-five American loyalist volunteer regiments or battalions are found enrolled. Of these, the 1st American Regiment or Queen’s Rangers, under Lieut.-Colonel Simcoe; 2d American Regiment or Volunteers of Ireland, under Lord Rawdon; 3d American Regiment or New York Volunteers under Lieut.-Colonel Turnbull; the Prince of Wales American Regiment, under Colonel Mountfort Brown; the Loyal American Regiment under Colonel Beverly Robinson and Brigadier-General Oliver DeLancey’s brigade of three regiments, were all, presumably largely recruited in New York City and its vicinity. This fact show the intense earnestness with which the people of New York entered into the war, when once that course was decided upon.

In 1780 Congress reduced the quota of New York, as has already been said, to two regiments of infantry as her fair proportion to the general defense, but directly afterwards Governor Clinton offered to raise two regiment of levies. Congress accepted and on the 28th April 1781, Lieut.-Colonel Commandant Marinus Willett and Lieut.-Colonel Commandant Frederick Weisenfels who had been previously honorably discharged as supernumeraries, were appointed to the command of these regiments. The two remained in service in addition to the regular New York Continental line until the 25th December 1783 and did excellent service on the frontiers and two companies as light infantry at Yorktown.

When peace came Virginia made haste to get rid of her Continental officers and soldiers by granting them their promised land bounties in Kentucky or in the territory northwest of the Ohio and Virginia thenceforth gradually lost her position among the states of the union in regard to population and growth. Governor Clinton and the authorities of New York with a wisdom beyond praise, retained her honored soldiers within the state, by granting military lands in the territory wrested from the Sic Nations and in the tract ceded for a like purpose within her limits without loss of jurisdiction, to Massachusetts, many continental soldiers of that state received land bounties and settled. Possibly nothing aided so much to the development of New York as this action, and it was not long before the state indeed became fully entitled to the name which Washington had bestowed on it, of the Empire State. ASA BIRD GARDNER

Return to opening page of Morrisons's Pensions

Copyright 1998, -- 2005. James F. Morrison and Berry Enterprises. All rights reserved. All items on the site are copyrighted. While we welcome you to use the information provided on this web site by copying it, or downloading it; this information is copyrighted and not to be reproduced for distribution, sale, or profit.