A new book illuminates the life of Michael S. Vandercook, a prominent figure in the early history of Rensselaer County, New York. A Fine Commanding Presence: The Life and Legacy of Maj. Michael S. Vandercook (1774-1852) of Pittstown, Rensselaer County, New York by Vandercook’s great-great-great- grandson, Ronald D. Bachman features more than 400 pages, an in-depth bibliography and extensive genealogy and index.
A descendant of some of the earliest Dutch settlers in the Hudson Valley, Vandercook was born on the eve of the Revolution and lived to see the emergence of the regional divisions that led to the Civil War. He spent his entire life in Pittstown, where he was a merchant, farmer, militia officer, county sheriff, justice of the peace, and father of twelve children by three wives.
During his relatively long life, he crossed paths with such luminaries as Daniel Tompkins,
Henry Dearborn, Henry K. and Solomon Van Rensselaer, Joseph Bloomfield, Herman Knickerbocker, Eliphalet Nott. His second father-in-law was General Gilbert Eddy. On five occasions the Council of Appointment in Albany awarded Maj. Vandercook civil positions in addition to several military promotions. Governor Tompkins repeatedly picked him for special assignments in the militia, including inspector of a detached brigade deployed to the northern front immediately following the declaration of war in 1812. Later that same year, Maj. Vandercook was selected as one of New York’s 29 presidential electors.
He had a remarkable life but more than his share of tragedy. The final third of the book traces the descendancy of the twelve Vandercook children, all but one of whom left New York to seek their fortunes in the West. Many of them enjoyed success in journalism and politics.
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