Like many historical events, the American Revolution is often shrouded in romantic myth and stubborn stereotypes. Perhaps no event offers a better example than General George Washington’s famous crossing of icy Delaware River on Christmas night to lead the Continental Army’s defeat of the Hessians at Trenton, New Jersey, an event which revived the flickering morale American revolutionaries.
In George Washington’s Surprise Attack: A New Look at the Battle That Decided the Fate of America (Skyhorse Publishing, 2014), Phillip Thomas Tucker attempts to parse fiction from fact. He provides an in-depth look (more than 600 pages, with notes) at the events of the Battle of Trenton, presenting new insights and analysis about a battle that holds a mythical place in American national history. Continue reading
Knox’s Headquarters in Newburgh and the New Windsor Cantonment State Historic Site will be offering a full schedule of activities for the Presidents’ weekend. New Windsor Cantonment was the final encampment of the northern Continental Army, in 1782-83. Here over 7,000 soldiers and 500 family members endured the winter and prepared for a renewal of the fighting in the spring. Instead peace was proclaimed and after 8 long years of war they returned home.
Knox’s Headquarters, the elegant 1754 combination English and Dutch style home, of the prosperous merchant miller John Ellison, was one of the longest occupied military headquarters of the Revolutionary War. Continental Army Generals, Nathanael Greene, Henry Knox and Horatio Gates used the house as headquarters, during various periods between 1779-1783. Continue reading
In early spring 1782, General George Washington arrived at the Hasbrouck House in Newburgh, New York for his longest stay – 16-1/2 months. Washington’s time at the Hasbrouck House was one of watchful waiting, followed by a cessation of hostilities, and finally an end to the war.
From the Hasbrouck House Washington made a short trip through the scenic Roundout Valley, stopping at Stone Ridge (or Stoney Ridge), on his way to Kingston, which the British had burned in 1777. En route to his destination, Washington stopped to dine and sleep at the home of Major Cornelius Evert Wynkoop. Continue reading
During the critical Battle of Oriskany in August 1777, Continental forces led by General Nicholas Herkimer defeated the British army under St. Leger in the heart of New York’s Mohawk Valley. It was a hard-won victory, but he and his troops prevented the British from splitting the colonies in two.
In The Battle of Oriskany and General Nicholas Herkimer: Revolution in the Mohawk Valley (History Press, 2013), Paul Boehlert presents a gripping account of the events before, during and after this critical battle. Continue reading
A loyalist is a man with his head in England, his body in America, and a neck that needs to be stretched. – an anonymous patriot.
Late in June of 1776, the New York Provincial Convention (NYPC) received a troubling report from the Dutchess County Committee of Safety. It said that Poughkeepsie officials and patriot warships were being threatened by loyalists, so-called Tories. Continue reading
In the first continental war, the French and Indian War, America fought with the British and against the French. That war was then followed by two others where “We the People” were not good, proud, loyal subjects of British king. We even allied with France against England. Imagine that!
The initial focus was on New York City. At that time, it was limited to southern Manhattan There the statue of King George would be toppled following a reading of the new Declaration of Independence in one of the iconic moments of the war. The remains of the statue would be smelted into bullets to be used against the King’s troops. Later, the sudden appearance of the British armada was a true “shock and awe” experience for the city. The Revolution was nearly nipped in the bud as a providential fog enabled Washington to cross the East River on August 29, 1776. Continue reading
Scholars divide time into periods in an effort to make history comprehensible, but when to draw the diving line can be problematical and historians often disagree where one period ends and another begins.
For the birth of the nation, I am using the end of the colonial period, roughly from the French and Indian War to the end of the War of 1812. The colonial era for me was the time of the settlement of the 13 colonies which would become the United States. That process began in Jamestown and ended approximately 130 years later in Georgia. Up until then individual colonies, notably New York, Massachusetts / New England, and Virginia, dominate the curriculum, scholarship, and tourism, with only passing references to the Quakers in Pennsylvania and the Dutch in New York. Continue reading
Peacefully sharing a space-time continuum does not come easily to our species. The challenge of doing so was played out in colonial New Amsterdam/New York in the 17th and 18th centuries especially from Albany and Schenectady westward throughout the Mohawk Valley.
There, and north to the Champlain Valley and Canada, multiple peoples who had not yet become two-dimensional cliches struggled to dominate, share, and survive in what became increasingly contentious terrain. Battles were fought, settlements were burned, and captives were taken, again and again.
By the 19th century, much of that world had vanished save for the novels of James Fenimore Cooper. By the 20th century, that world existed in state historic sites, historical societies and local museums, Hollywood, and at times in the state’s social studies curriculum. Continue reading
I’ve been researching the Hasbrouck Family for close to twenty years. During that time, I’ve spent most of my time exploring and writing about Colonel Jonathan Hasbrouck. His home, located in Newburgh, is famous for being the headquarters of General George Washington from 1782-1783 and today it’s a state historic site.
An often overlooked member of this family is Jonathan’s oldest brother, Abraham. During his long life, Abraham kept a diary and because of this journal, we know a lot about Jonathan and his family, as well as the events (and even notable weather) of his time. Continue reading
A small, but important part of the American Revolutionary War took place during 1777 at Livingston Manor, Albany County (now Columbia County), New York. The few historical references about this event identify the event as the Battle of Egremont, implying that it happened in Massachusetts.
While it was customary to name a battle after its location, participants or some other feature, these conventions were overlooked in this case and the involvement of Egremont, Massachusetts militiamen seems to be the primary reason for the naming of the battle. However, many participants were from New York militia units, and the battle actually took place in New York. The battle was actually a series of four skirmishes that occurred over two-days. Continue reading
Gravestones represent some of the most valuable evidence available to archaeologists currently working on the St. George’s/St. Mark’s Church site in Mount Kisco, New York. Once occupied by two Episcopal churches – St. George’s (1761–1819) and St. Mark’s (1850–1916) – the site is also the final resting place of over 400 people, all buried between the 1760s and 1940. The area where the churches once stood was excavated this fall. The artifacts and information they uncovered is now undergoing analysis, and the excavation is planned to resume in the spring.
As co-directors of the excavation, Laurie Kimsal and I have discovered just how essential gravestones are to our understanding of the site. To begin with, gravestones offer clues to the location and orientation of the 18th-century St. George’s Church. Secondly, the gravestones provide insights into the values and beliefs of the people who erected them, as well as the social, religious, and economic worlds of the 18th and 19th centuries. Continue reading
Once upon a time many years ago, there was no tourism in America. And then there was. And the place where tourism began was here in New York State especially along the Hudson Valley.
The tourist explosion combined the artistic explosion generated by people like Irving, Cooper, and Cole along with technological developments like the steamship all New York State developments…and peace with England helped too!
Saratoga helped create this tourist boom. Continue reading
A new exhibit, presented by the Mount Kisco Historical Society and the Lower Hudson Chapter of the New York Archaeological Association (NYSAA) has opened at the Mount Kisco Town Hall, 104 Main Street, Mount Kisco, New York (Monday to Friday, 8:30 am to 4:30 pm).
The exhibit features dozens of artifacts unearthed from an archaeological excavation
undertaken this fall at the St. George’s/St. Mark’s Cemetery, the oldest historic site in Mount Kisco, a suburban town thirty miles north of Manhattan in Westchester County. Continue reading
On September 6, 1776 American forces launched the first-ever submarine attack against British warships in New York Harbor. The submarine Turtle utilized in the attack was later called “an effort of genius” by George Washington.
Historian and author Mike Kochan will present the story of the Turtle’s inventor David Bushnell, his development of the first underwater mine and the submarine invented to carry it to the enemy, his later success with drift mines and the resulting Battle of the Kegs. Continue reading
Glenn Pearsall’s first book, Echoes in These Mountains: Historic Sites and Stories Disappearing in Johnsburg, an Adirondack Community (Pyramid Publishing, 2008), was well received for including the first documentary evidence that famed Civil War photographer Mathew Brady was indeed born in Johnsburg. Now Pearsall has brought forth When Men and Mountains Meet (Pyramid Publishing, 2008), subtitled “Stories of Hope and Despair in the Adirondack Wilderness after the American Revolution.”
“The story of the Adirondacks is more than the history of great camps, guide boats and environmental protectionism. It is, ultimately, the story of a people and their relationship to the land,” Pearsall begins the book. He calls this a book of cultural history, and it is, but it also draws much from environmental history, although more in the vein of “on the ground historians” like William Cronon and Alfred Crosby than the political approaches of Roderick Nash or Frank Graham. Continue reading
The Hudson River Valley Institute at Marist College has released a new edited collection of articles about the American Revolution, published by SUNY Press. Key to the Northern Country: The Hudson River Valley in the American Revolution represents nearly forty years of collected scholarship on the region’s role in the American Revolution.
This interdisciplinary anthology provides essays about political and social issues as well as battles, fortifications, and strategy. The range of perspectives and material make it an ideal textbook for classes on American, regional, and military history, as well as a source for education classes learning about local history and critical thinking. Continue reading
In the town of Mount Kisco in Westchester County, there is a small graveyard known as the St. George’s/St. Mark’s Cemetery, after the two successive Episcopal churches that once stood there. Established in the 1760s, the site is listed on the National Register of Historic Places for its role in the American Revolution. In the late 18th century, the small wooden St. George’s Church was one of the few man-made structures in a sparsely populated area that was transformed into a hostile wilderness with the onset of war.
Accordingly, the church was used by American, British, and French armies as a landmark in their journeys through Westchester County. General Washington’s troops retreated to the church to tend to the wounded and bury the slain after the Battle of White Plains in 1776; Colonel Tarleton brought his army to the church on the eve of the Burning of Bedford in 1779; and in the summer of 1781 the Comte de Rochambeau’s army camped near the church prior to the meeting with Washington that would ultimately bring their combined forces to victory at Yorktown. Continue reading
At the juncture of well worn roads and trails, Schaghticoke became a hub of activity during September and October 1777. Schaghticoke is located east of the Hudson River in what was at the time Albany (now Rensselaer) County, opposite the hamlet of Stillwater. It was a stopping place for hundreds of militiamen who came and went to battle stations in the area.
Like other nearby communities, Schaghticoke was all but abandoned during late summer and fall of 1777. An 8,000 man British Army, invading the Hudson River Valley, was reason enough for most residents to flee to safer places. Many of these refugees went to Albany to escape the threats of war. This article describes the activities of New England militiamen in and around Schaghticoke during the Saratoga Campaign. Continue reading
Fort Ticonderoga has received a grant from the French Heritage Society to underwrite restoration work on the Fort’s Soldiers’ Barracks. The grant was given to Fort Ticonderoga, originally named Fort Carillon in 1755, because of its historic significance as a French heritage site. The project will replace 80 year old windows and sills on the third floor of the Soldiers’ Barracks. Restoration work is currently underway with the windows expected to be installed by the spring of 2014.
“The restoration and preservation of Fort Ticonderoga’s historic structures require on-going effort and investment,” said Beth Hill, President and CEO of Fort Ticonderoga. “Fort Ticonderoga is delighted to be recognized by the French Heritage Society for its significant French story and its on-going legacy. This grant provides important funding that will have a big impact on the preservation of the Soldiers’ Barracks.” Continue reading
One of the first battles of the American Revolution, the Battle of Brooklyn (a.k.a. the Battle of Long Island) took place on August 27, 1776 in what is now Western Brooklyn around Prospect Park and Greenwood Cemetery.
This Saturday the historic Districts Council of New York City is hosting a Battle of Brooklyn Scavenger Hunt, co-sponsored by the urban archaeology firm Chrysalis and Green-Wood Cemetery. Continue reading