The following biographical sketches of ten officers of the New York Continental Line come from a 2004 publication by the New York State Society of the Cincinnati written by Francis J. Sypher Jr. These sketches were selected from the 475 short biographies in the book that bring to light the lives of a number of our leaders of the New York Continental Regiments during the American Revolution. The stories provide some insight into the officers and their families but also remind us of the sacrifices by this founding generation to win us the freedom we enjoy today. If you are interested in purchasing a copy of this book, please refer to Publications in the Activities section of this website.
Brigadier General James Clinton, Continental Army
James Clinton (brother of George Clinton, q.v.) was born at Little Britain (in present-day Orange County; formerly part of Ulster County), New York, 9 August 1736, son of Charles Clinton (1690–1773) and Elizabeth Denniston (1704–1779). Like his brother George, James Clinton pursued studies at home under tutors. In 1758 he joined the colonial troops as a captain, and during the French and Indian War campaigned in Canada, until 1763. At the time the Revolution began, James Clinton was a lieutenant colonel of Ulster County militia. In the Revolution, he was colonel of the Second (or South End) Regiment of Ulster County militia, and as of 30 June 1775 he was concurrently colonel of the Third New York Regiment of Continental troops. Col. Goose Van Schaick wrote from Albany, in a letter of 29 August 1775, that Colonel Clinton “arrived here with the other Field Officers and six Companies of his Battalion, five of which are armed but in bad repairs . . . .” Thus equipped, Clinton joined General Montgomery’s Canada campaign, which ended with the British repulse of the Continental assault upon the city gate of Quebec, New Year’s Eve, 1775.
James Clinton, after his return to New York, was made a brigadier general, 9 August 1776, with command in the Hudson Highlands. He was at Fort Montgomery when it was attacked by Sir Henry Clinton on 6 October 1777, and James Clinton was wounded in the action. The British, after making destructive raids in the Hudson Valley, eventually withdrew, upon Burgoyne’s defeat at Saratoga. Gen. James Clinton then served in refortifying the Highlands. He was at Albany in late 1778, and in 1779 accompanied Gen. John Sullivan in his expedition into western New York. In 1780 Clinton was again at Albany, in command of the Northern Department of the army; in 1781 he accompanied Washington to Virginia, and took part in the Battle of Yorktown. Clinton applied for leave, 10 April 1782. He was brevetted major general on 30 September 1783; he was an original member of the New York State Society of the Cincinnati.
After the Revolution, Clinton returned to Little Britain, and held numerous public offices. He was a member of a commission to establish the boundary between New York and Pennsylvania. And he was a member of the state convention to ratify the federal Constitution, which he opposed on the ground that it lacked a bill of rights. He became a regent of the University of the State of New York, and served in the state legislature as an assemblyman (1788), and as a state senator (1789 to 1792). He died at New Windsor, 22 December 1812.
James Clinton married (1) 18 February 1765 Mary De Witt (b. 5 Sept. 1737; d. 12 Sept. 1795), daughter of Egbert De Witt and Mary Nottingham. He married (2) in New York City, 1 May 1797, Mary Little (b. 22 August 1768), daughter of Graham Little (of town and co. Longford, Ireland, her birthplace), and widow of Alexander Gray; she died at Newburgh, 23 June 1835. Children of first marriage: Alexander Clinton (b. 1765; q.v.); Charles Clinton (b. 18 Feb. 1767); De Witt Clinton (b. 2 March 1769); George Clinton (b. 6 June 1771); Mary Clinton (b. 20 July 1773); Elizabeth Clinton (b. 15 January 1776); and Catharine Clinton (b. 24 September 1778). Children of second marriage: James Clinton (died young); Caroline Clinton (b. 27 March 1800); Emma L. Clinton (b. Feb. 1802; d. 6 July 1823); James Graham Clinton (b. 2 Jan. 1804); Letitia Clinton (b. 12 April 1806); and Anna Clinton (b. 26 July 1809).
Major General Alexander McDougall, New York Continental Line
Alexander McDougall was born in 1732 on the island of Islay, one of the Inner Hebrides, off the western coast of Scotland, and near Northern Ireland. He was one of five children of Ronald McDougall and Elizabeth (surname not given). In 1738 the family came to New York, and after a brief period in northern New York, near Fort Edward (in present-day Washington County), they settled near New York City. Ronald McDougall was a milk-dealer, and his son Alexander worked for his father as a milk-delivery boy. But Alexander soon went to sea, and during the French and Indian War he commanded privateers. After 1763 he was a merchant in New York, and was active in politics. Through his authorship of controversial broadsides that championed citizens’ rights, he began to become a public figure. As a result of his activities, McDougall in 1770 was imprisoned at the order of the Provincial Assembly, but his case brought further publicity for his libertarian views, and he became known as the “American Wilkes,” with reference to a member of the British Parliament, John Wilkes, who in 1763 was imprisoned for his opposition to government policies.
After McDougall’s release from prison, in March 1771, he renewed his controversial political activities. He helped resist the Tea Act of 1773. And he presided 6 July 1774 at a public meeting to express resistance to Parliament. McDougall was also active in the New York revolutionary militia, and was appointed a colonel in 1775. In 1776 he became a brigadier general in the Continental forces, and in 1777 major general. He saw action at the Battle of Long Island, and the Battle of White Plains; and for most of the Revolutionary War he was in command of forces in the Hudson Highlands. General Washington’s confidence in McDougall was expressed in a letter of 1778, in reference to the strategic value of controlling the Hudson River: “The vast importance of it has determined me to confide it in you.” After Arnold’s fall, Washington entrusted command of West Point to McDougall.
In 1782, McDougall was summoned before a court martial, and reprimanded; but he returned to service, and in 1783 represented the Continental officers in their claims for payment for their services. After the war, McDougall was a congressional representative from New York from 1781 to 1782, and from 1784 to 1785. He was a New York State senator from 1783 to 1786. In private life, McDougall was an organizer of and first president of the Bank of New York, in which Alexander Hamilton played a prominent role, as did McDougall’s son-in-law, John Laurance, or Lawrance (q.v.). McDougall was an original member of the New York State Society of the Cincinnati, and first president of the New York State Society. He died in New York, 8 June 1786, at the age of 54. New York State bounty land was granted in his name 3 July 1790, and three patents delivered to John Lawrance.
Alexander McDougall was married (1) at the Island of Islay, in 1751, to Ann (or Nancy) McDougall, said to have been a distant relative (name of wife also given as Ann Langwell); she died 21 February 1763. He married (2) at New York, in 1767, Hannah Bostwick, the daughter of his landlady at the time, Mary Bostwick (or Bostwich), widow of a minister of the Wall Street Presbyterian Church, of which McDougall was an active member; of this marriage there was no issue. Children, by first marriage: Elizabeth McDougall (who married John Laurance; she died 16 August 1790); John Alexander McDougall (q.v.; eldest son, d. 1775); and Ranald Stephen McDougall (q.v.; d. 1786).
Colonel Goose Van Schaick, 1st New York Regiment
Goose Van Schaick was born at Albany, New York, 5 September 1736, first child of Sybrant Van Schaick (1708–after 1761; mayor of Albany, 1756 to 1761) and Alida Rosenboom. The name Goose (or Goosen, Gozen, et var.) is a familiar baptismal name in Frisian regions of the Netherlands. It is said to be derived from the name of Saint Gosselinus (English “Jocelyn”), or from Saint Goswinus (English “Godwin”). There was a tradition of military service in the family; Sybrant Van Schaick had been a colonel of colonial militia.
Goose Van Schaick in 1755 was commissioned a lieutenant in the New York Provincial troops, and he saw action at the Battle of Lake George. In 1758, at Ticonderoga, he suffered a facial wound from which he never fully recovered, and which ultimately caused his death. He was steadily promoted, until around 1760 he had reached the rank of lieutenant colonel. His sympathy with the revolutionary movement became evident in his membership in the Sons of Liberty in 1766, and he was an early member of the Committee of Correspondence in Albany. Van Schaick was commissioned 28 June 1775 colonel of the Second New York Regiment in the Continental Army, assigned 24 November 1775 to the command of Fort George, at the southern end of Lake George. By 8 February 1776 he was back in Albany, where he remained, except for a brief period in Tryon County, until the end of the year. In the Continental arrangement of 21 November 1776, Van Schaick was designated colonel of the First New York Regiment, and the “Colours” were delivered to him 1 January 1777. He remained in Albany from January through April. In the summer of 1777 he was at Fort Ticonderoga.
In March 1778 Washington ordered Van Schaick to march with the First Regiment to Valley Forge, where he arrived 5 May. In October he was sent to relieve Colonel Gansevoort at Fort Schuyler; Van Schaick arrived 23 December 1778. In the spring of 1779 Van Schaick made an expedition against the Indians of the Mohawk Valley, in the course of which he destroyed numerous settlements and took prisoners to be used for exchange, all without losing one of his men. This action was a precursor to the Sullivan expedition that summer. From 1779 onward, Van Schaick and the First Regiment remained at Fort Schuyler until late in 1780, when he was ordered to join Washington’s army. He was at Albany 14 October 1780, and by the 17th at West Point. In June 1780 he had been passed over for promotion, and he went to Philadelphia in order to, as he wrote, “lay my Case before Congress for that Justice which my Rank Intitels me too.” A committee recommended 31 August that Congress award him “the Brevet to Brigadier General” but the promotion was never formally acted upon by Congress, and Van Schaick evidently retained the rank of colonel for the rest of his military career. Certainly, Van Schaick was reputed to be a fine commander, a soldier’s soldier; but he was also known as a man of strong opinions, and he was perhaps not adept at cultivating political alliances, and for this reason he did not receive the promotion to which he felt, with some justice, his service entitled him.
In the reorganization of the army by Congress, the First and Third New York Regiments were consolidated into one, under Van Schaick, effective 1 January 1781. During 1781 and 1782 Van Schaick was frequently away from the regiment, at Albany or Philadelphia, where he sought treatment for the cancerous disease that had resulted from the wound that he had received in 1758 at Ticonderoga. He would have liked, after the war, to continue to serve in the regular army, but when he was not offered a promotion, he retired to his home in Albany. In 1788 his health seriously worsened; he made his will 10 November, and died at Albany, 4 July 1789.
Goose Van Schaick married, at the Reformed Dutch Church of the City of New York, 15 November 1770, Mary (or Maria) Ten Broeck (b. 31 July 1750, daughter of John Tobias Ten Broeck and Elizabeth Oothout, of New York); she died at Albany, N.Y. 15 January 1829. They had seven children: Alida Van Schaick (b. 25 December 1771); John Van Schaick (b. 1 January 1774); Sybrant Van Schaick (b. 19 May 1776); Tobias Van Schaick (b. 9 December 1779); Myndert Van Schaick (b. 16 September 1782); Elizabeth Van Schaick (b. 11 June 1786; d. 18 August 1786); and Abraham Van Schaick (b. 10 November 1787).
Colonel Philip Van Cortlandt, 2nd New York Regiment
Philip Van Cortlandt was born, as he tells us in his autobiographical memoir, in Manhattan, “in a house in Stone Street near the Fort” (Fort George, near Bowling Green), 21 August 1749 (O.S.), and he later celebrated his birthday on the 1st of September (N.S.). He was son of Pierre Van Cortlandt (1721–1814) and Joanna Livingston (1722–1808), who were married 28 May 1748; she was daughter of Gilbert Livingston (1690–1746), and Cornelia Beekman (1693– 1742). Philip was named after his grandfather, who died 2 September 1748. Soon after young Philip’s birth the family moved to the Manor of Cortlandt, at Croton, New York. There, Philip Van Cortlandt attended a school where, as he says, he was taught “to read, write badly and something of arithmatick untill the age of fifteen,” when he was sent to Coldenham Academy. He later studied surveying, and he served in the New York provincial militia as a major in the regiment of Col. James Ver Planck (before 1774). Of this period, he writes: “in the Spring of 1775 observing that a crisis was fast approaching when it would be necessary to take an active position for or against our Country I did not hesitate, but Immediately declarid my intention of risquing my all my property and life if necessary in the Defence of my Country.” This was in spite of efforts to persuade him by loyalist members of his family, such as Philip Van Cortlandt (1739–1814) of New Jersey, who served with the British, and later lived in England, where he died.
Van Cortlandt was a member of the New York Provincial Congress that met 29 May 1775. He was made a member 9 June of the “Committee of Arrangement of Troops” to be raised, and on the 18th was commissioned a lieutenant colonel under Col. James Holmes, in the Fourth Battalion of New York troops, and was ordered to Albany, where he organized the men and had to provide clothes, arms, tents, and other supplies. From there he marched to Ticonderoga, where he was “confined with a fever” for a time. In October 1776 he was at the Battle of White Plains.
Van Cortlandt was appointed 21 November 1776 colonel of the Second New York Regiment, which he joined at Trenton, where he saw the Hessian prisoners that had been taken, and met with Washington and congratulated him on the victory at Trenton and Princeton. Van Cortlandt served in the Mohawk Valley, at Saratoga, and at Kingston; and he was at Valley Forge in the winter of 1777–1778. In 1779 his regiment served in General Sullivan’s campaign in western New York, and then wintered at Morristown, New Jersey until 1780, when he and his regiment were ordered to West Point. In the fall of 1781 his regiment marched to Yorktown, and after the surrender of Cornwallis returned north to quarters in Pompton, New Jersey. In 1783 he was awarded the rank of brigadier general, in recognition of his “gallant conduct” at Yorktown. He was an original member of the New York State Society of the Cincinnati, and served as treasurer.
After the war, Van Cortlandt settled at the manor house at Croton, and plunged into the public life of the country. He was one of the Commissioners of Forfeiture, who supervised the sale of lands seized from loyalists, such as members of the Philipse family, who had owned much of what is now Westchester County. In 1788 he was a member of the Constitutional Convention, as a representative from Westchester County. In the dispute over ratification, which Governor George Clinton opposed, Van Cortlandt took the side of the supporters, and soon was elected a member of the New York State Assembly, where he was again elected in 1789, and later served in the State Senate. In 1793 he became a representative in the U.S. Congress, and served on several committees. He again was elected to Congress in 1801, at the new national capital in the District of Columbia, and served until 1809. He retired when he was sixty years old, and lived at his family house, where he welcomed Lafayette in 1824. Philip Van Cortlandt never married. He died 5 November 1831, and is buried at the Van Cortlandtville cemetery, in Peekskill, New York.
Colonel John Lamb, Second New York Continental Artillery
John Lamb was born in the City of New York, 1 January 1735, son of Anthony Lamb. Before his arrival in North America, Anthony Lamb had been convicted in London, in 1724, of burglary. As a first offender, he was transported rather than sent to the gallows. After a period of indentured servitude in Virginia, Anthony Lamb came to New York and successfully established himself as a manufacturer of scientific instruments. In New York, he married (an early biographer states) “a lady of Dutch parentage named Ham.” John Lamb at first worked for his father, and then became a wine merchant. Like many businessmen in New York, Lamb was sympathetic to the cause of Revolution. He joined the Sons of Liberty, and was an early and conspicuous leader of the movement for independence.
Lamb wrote to the New York Provincial Congress 2 June 1775 to express his desire to serve: “As I embarked very early in the Cause of Liberty and have ever defended the Rights of America by every means in my power, so I am still actuated both by Principle and inclination to exert myself to the utmost of my Abilities in preserving the Freedom of my Country and as it is highly probable that Troops will soon be raised in this Colony, I take the Liberty, to tender you my best services.” He specifically requests an appointment “in the Artillery Department, having made that Branch (of Military Science) more particularly my Study.” Lamb’s initial appointment was as captain of an independent artillery company, 30 June 1775. He asked Congress for permission to enlist his own men, and asked that “their Cloathing may be blue with buff Cuffs and facings.” Lamb was ordered to raise a company of one hundred men, including officers. His company was sent to Ticonderoga 2 August 1775, to join General Schuyler. Lamb, with his unit, was in the Canada campaign. In the assault on Quebec, 31 December 1775, he was wounded, with loss of an eye, and taken prisoner. While he was still held by the British, he was promoted, 9 January 1776 to major-commandant of artillery in the Northern Department of the Continental troops.
Lamb was released on parole 2 August 1776; and the day before his exchange, 2 January 1777, he was promoted to colonel of the Second Regiment, Continental Corps of Artillery, under General Knox. At this period Lamb was residing in Connecticut; he was wounded in action at Compo Hill, 28 April 1777. When Fort Montgomery fell, 6 October 1777, Lamb at the last moment spiked the American guns, before escaping capture. He later was posted at West Point. Lamb was in action at Yorktown. By brevet he was promoted 30 September 1783 to brigadier general. John Lamb was an original member of the New York State Society of the Cincinnati, and later became vice president of the Society.
Upon his return to New York, Lamb was elected to the New York State Assembly, as a member for New York County, seventh session, 1784. He resigned this post when he was appointed collector of customs for the Port of New York, 22 March 1784; reappointed 29 March 1791. He was awarded New York State bounty land of five 600-acre lots, 7 July 1790. While he was collector of customs, one of the clerks embezzled a large sum of money; Lamb took responsibility for the money, and as a consequence lost his entire assets. He died in New York, 31 May 1800, and was buried at the churchyard of Trinity Church, Wall Street.
John Lamb married at New York, 13 November 1755, Catherine Jandine, daughter of Charles Jandine, of Huguenot origin. At the beginning of the Revolution, his family included three children: Catherine Lamb; Anthony Lamb (b. 15 January 1771); and Sarah Lamb.
Colonel Peter Gansevoort, 3rd New York Regiment
Peter Gansevoort was born at Albany, New York, 17 July 1749, son of Harme Gansevoort (1712–1801) and Magdalena Douw (1718–1796). Gansevoort was appointed 19 July 1775 major of the Second New York Regiment under Col. Goose Van Schaick, and served in the Canada campaign. Gansevoort was promoted to lieutenant colonel 19 March 1776, and in July he was at Fort George, on the Niagara River. In the arrangement of 21 November 1776 Gansevoort was appointed colonel of the Third New York Regiment. As of 18 January 1777 he was at Fort Constitution.
In April 1777 Gansevoort was in command of Fort Schuyler, which, because of its strategic location in central New York, was soon to play an important role in the defense against the British three-pronged attack, aimed at uniting with Burgoyne on the Hudson. The British campaign from the west was led by Lt. Col. Barry St. Leger, who approached Fort Schuyler with a force of nearly 2,000 including many Indians. Gansevoort had less than half that number of men. St. Leger besieged the fort, 3 August 1777. Gen. Nicholas Herkimer was on the way to assist the fort, and part of St. Leger’s force met him (6 August) at Oriskany, where Herkimer was mortally wounded. While this battle was being fought, Gansevoort (not knowing of the battle at Oriskany) sent out a force under Marinus Willett, who successfully raided a camp while its forces were at Oriskany. St. Leger demanded 9 August the surrender of Fort Schuyler, to which Gansevoort replied that it was his “determined resolution,” with the forces under his command, “to defend this Fort at every hazard to the last extremity, in behalf of the United American States who have placed me here to defend it against all their enemies.” Meanwhile, in response to Gansevoort’s request to General Schuyler for assistance, Benedict Arnold was on his way from Stillwater with reinforcements, and as he approached, he ensured that the British would receive an exaggerated rumor of Arnold’s strength. His stratagem worked, and the Indian allies deserted the British; St. Leger retreated, 23 August 1777. Arnold arrived on the 24th, and soon afterwards marched back to join in facing Burgoyne at Saratoga.
Gansevoort was congratulated by Congress, and his officers signed a testimonial to him 12 October 1777: “We congratulate you that those Characteristics which so eminently point out the Gentleman and Soldier, have by your Personal bravery been deservedly noticed by our Bleeding Country.” Gansevoort remained at Fort Schuyler as Colonel Commandant through 1778, and participated in the Sullivan expedition in the summer of 1779. In 1780 Gansevoort was at Saratoga. And in 1781, he was on active duty as a brigadier general of Albany County militia. After the Revolution, Gansevoort served as a major general of New York militia, and as a brigadier general in the United States Army, 15 February 1809. He died 2 July 1812.
Peter Gansevoort married, 12 January 1778, Catherina Van Schaick, sister of Col. Goose Van Schaick (q.v.), and daughter of Sybrant G. Van Schaick and Alida Roseboom. Of Gansevoort’s marriage there were six children: Herman Gansevoort (b. 12 September 1779); Wessel Gansevoort (b. 23 November 1781); Leonard H. Gansevoort (b. 15 October 1783); Peter Gansevoort (b. 18 December 1786); Peter Gansevoort (b. 22 December 1788); and Maria Gansevoort (b. 6 April 1791), mother of Herman Melville (b. 1819), by her marriage to Allan Melville (d. 28 January 1832).
Lt. Colonel Marinus Willett, 3rd New York Regiment
Marinus Willett was born 31 July 1740 in the vicinity of Jamaica, Queens County, New York, son of Edward Willett (b. 1702), and Aletta Clowes. Willett’s father was an innkeeper. Marinus Willett had some elementary education at a local school, and began work to learn the trade of cabinetmaking. He served in the colonial militia as a lieutenant, and was in Abercromby’s expedition to Ticonderoga in 1758, and in the capture of Fort Frontenac. On Willet’s return to New York, he again worked as a cabinetmaker. During the 1760s and early 1770s, he was a leader of the Sons of Liberty in New York. He was commissioned 28 June 1775 captain of a company in the First New York Regiment of Continental forces, under Col. Alexander McDougall (q.v.). Willett participated in Montgomery expedition to Canada in 1775, and in 1776 was again in New York, where he was at the Battle of Long Island, and the retreat to White Plains. Willett was named 21 November 1776 lieutenant colonel of the Third New York Regiment, under Col. Peter Gansevoort. Willett served at Fort Constitution, and at Fort Stanwix. He participated in Goose Van Schaick’s expedition against the Indians, in April 1779, and in General Sullivan’s western New York expedition in the summer of the same year. Willett resigned from the regular army in 1781, when the five New York regiments were consolidated into two; but he accepted an appointment as a colonel of levies and militia, and saw much action in western New York, through February 1783, when he led a troop of men on snowshoes to attempt an attack on Fort Oswego, which was at that time occupied by the British.
After the war, Willett was elected to the New York State Assembly in 1783, but instead chose to serve as sheriff of the City of New York, from 1784 to 1788, and from 1792 to 1796. In 1790 he was on a federal mission to the Creek Indians. In the early 1800s, Willet was prominent in New York politics, both city and state. In 1807 Morgan Lewis (q.v.) appointed Willet mayor of New York. In 1811 he ran unsuccessfully for lieutenant governor. In 1824 and 1828 he campaigned for John Quincy Adams. At the age of ninety, Willett died in New York, 22 August 1830, at his home, “Cedar Grove,” on the East River. He was buried at the churchyard of Trinity Church, New York.
Willett married (1) 2 April 1760 Mary Pearson (b. 1746; daughter of his first employer), who died 3 July 1793. They had one child, Marinus Willett (b. 1761). While stationed at Fort Plain (1781 to 1783), on the Mohawk River, Willett fathered an extra-marital child, Marinus W. Seeber, son of a widow, Mrs. Seeber. Late in 1793 Willett married (2) Susannah (Nicol) Vardle (or Vardill); they were divorced in the late 1790s (no issue). Around 1800 Willett married (3) Margaret Bancker (1783–1876), and they had five children, born between 1800 and 1810: Marinus Willett (1801–1840); William Marinus Willett (1803–1895); Edward Marinus Willett (b. 1805), Elbert Marinus Willett (d. 1834), and Margaret Willett.
Colonel Henry Beekman Livingston, 4th New York Regiment
Henry Beekman Livingston was born 9 November 1750, second son of Robert R. Livingston (1718–1775) and Margaret Beekman (bpt. 1724; d. 1800). Henry Beekman Livingston had been a commissioned officer during the colonial period, and was appointed in early July 1775 captain of the Dutchess County Company of the Fourth Regiment of the New York Continental forces. He at once began, as he states in a letter to the Provincial Congress, to enlist his men. He sent to Congress 8 August 1775, a list of upwards of 72 men enrolled. Livingston soon joined the Canada campaign, and from St. Johns he wrote in detail to his father in a letter of 6 October, describing the action he had seen during the siege under General Montgomery. When Montgomery took Montreal, the general sent word to General Schuyler, requesting him to “send Harry Livingston with your dispatches for Congress.” Schuyler sent Livingston to Philadelphia with a letter of recommendation to President Hancock describing the bearer: “Captain Livingston (who brought me General Montgomery’s despatches) as a gentleman whose alertness and zeal has caused him to be distinguished in the army.” Congress rewarded him with a ceremonial sword “of the value of one hundred dollars” and a promise of promotion “on the first opportunity.” Livingston expressed his thanks in a letter that was read before Congress on 22 December, and he was nominated for promotion to major 28 February 1776, and elected 8 March lieutenant colonel of a new regiment to be raised under Col. James Clinton. This force, referred to as the Second Battalion, was ordered by General Washington, in a letter to Livingston, to undertake construction work at Forts Montgomery and Constitution in the Hudson Highlands.
Later in 1776, Livingston was stationed on Long Island, and during the Battle of Long Island was cut off from the rest of the American army, but succeeded in moving with his men across Long Island Sound to Connecticut, and returning to New York. Washington took note of his “activity and zeal for the service” and recommended Livingston for promotion. He was put in command of the Fourth Regiment, 21 November 1776. Livingston was next stationed at Peekskill under Brigadier General McDougall, with whom he became involved in a quarrel that led to Livingston’s court martial, terminating in a reprimand for the young colonel for his “great imprudence and indiscretion in some parts of his language and conduct towards the general.”
Livingston’s next campaign was in northern New York to face General Burgoyne. Livingston was at the Battle of Freeman’s Farm, 19 September 1777; there, and in subsequent encounters his conduct won special recognition for “alertness and good order.” Upon the surrender of Burgoyne, the Fourth Regiment was ordered to Albany, where Governor Clinton sent Livingston in late October to New York with a message to the British command there. During the winter of 1777–1778, the Fourth Regiment was at Valley Forge, where Livingston on Christmas Day wrote to Governor Clinton of how his regiment was “wholly destitute of clothing, the men and officers perishing in the field.” In 1778 he was at the Battle of Monmouth, where he was slightly wounded, and noticed with distinction.
Livingston’s last campaign was under Gen. John Sullivan in Rhode Island, during August 1778, where he was again distinguished in action. But Livingston resigned 13 January 1779 without giving an explanation for his action. It has been suggested that he was protesting his not having received further promotion in rank. Upon his retirement he lived at Philadelphia, but in October 1780 he commanded a force of levies that were sent to Tryon County, New York to reinforce the militia.
After the war, Livingston was appointed attorney general; he later served as chief justice of the State of New York. He was an original member of the New York State Society of the Cincinnati. He saw service in the War of 1812 as a major general. He died at Columbia County, New York, 5 November 1831.
Henry Beekman Livingston married, at Philadelphia, 11 March 1781, Anne Hume Shippen, daughter of Dr. William Shippen and Alice Lee. They had one child, Margaret Beekman Livingston, who died unmarried.
Lt. Colonel Frederick Weissenfels, 4th New York Regiment
Frederick Weissenfels (or Friedrich Heinrich, baron von Weissenfels) was born at Ebling, in the kingdom of West Prussia, in 1728, son of Ann Gotlieb de la Palm and George Emilius, baron von Weissenfels, son of Augustus, baron von Weissenfels (born in Saxony, 1633; d. Dresden, 1704), and Baroness von Hoënlow (spellings thus in genealogical manuscript). According to John Schuyler, Weissenfels trained as a cadet under Frederick the Great before joining the British service, and coming as a lieutenant in 1756 to North America. In the French and Indian War, Weissenfels was “at the taking of Havana, and served under General Abercrombie at the siege of Ticonderoga, in 1758, and on the Plains of Abraham, at Quebec, when General Wolfe fell at the moment of victory.”
Weissenfels settled at Rye, Westchester County, New York, where he was a storekeeper, and ran a ferry service across Long Island Sound, to Oyster Bay. But he soon moved to Dutchess County, where there are records of his commercial activities. He became a naturalized citizen, 20 December 1763. From Rhinebeck, New York, with letters of transfer, Weissenfels was admitted 19 February 1768 to membership in the Reformed Dutch Church, City of New York. At the start of the Revolution, he offered his services to the Provincial Congress of New York, 6 June 1775, and was appointed 28 February 1776 a captain in the First New York Regiment, under Col. Alexander McDougall. Weissenfels served in the Canada campaign, and was promoted to lieutenant colonel in the regiment under Col. John Nicholson. When this unit was disbanded, Weissenfels was transferred to the Third New York Regiment, under Col. Rudolphus Ritzema, who later in the year went over to the British side; Weissenfels took command, and led the regiment at the Battle of White Plains, and during the retreat into New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
In the arrangement of 21 November 1776, Weissenfels was appointed lieutenant colonel of the Second New York Regiment, under Col. Philip Van Cortlandt. Weissenfels served at Valley Forge. Upon the resignation of Col. Henry B. Livingston, as colonel of the Fourth New York Regiment, Weissenfels was transferred 13 January 1779 to that unit, as lieutenant colonel commandant. He was deranged 1 January 1781. Subsequently, Weissenfels served as lieutenant colonel commandant of a regiment of New York levies, raised 2 November 1781. He was an original member of the New York State Society of the Cincinnati. He was awarded New York State bounty land, 9 July 1790, of five lots, totaling 3000 acres, and the patent was delivered to “Himself.” He was an original member of the New York State Society of the Cincinnati.
There are scattered records of postwar activities of Weissenfels. As of 10 November 1783 (when he placed an advertisement concerning a runaway servant) he was living in Manhattan, at No. 2 Fair Street (later named Fulton Street). He evidently was involved in financial hardships, from at least 1794, when the Society began to make donations to him (according to John Schuyler, he refused to collect the half-pay that was due to him). In a request (dated at New York, 4 February 1795) for assistance, Weissenfels writes that his valuable land holdings were “swallowed up, in the Whirlpool of speculation by the unfortunate Mr. Platt for the Paultry sum of therty Pound, and I never Could, owing as I believe to his Embarrassments, recover my power of Attorney from him, (on the lender of the Monny)—although promissed to do so.” (See present article on Richard Platt.) As of 22 July 1795, Weissenfels was a resident of New York City, and working as a “gauger,” when he transferred to Jeremiah Van Rensselaer, of Albany, five lots in Onondaga County. In the census of 1800, Weissenfels appears as a resident of the City of New York, as a single householder (no other persons indicated in census return). Weissenfels is said to have been holder of “a minor police office” at New Orleans, Louisiana, when he died there, 14 May 1806.
Frederick Weissenfels was twice married, and there were children of both marriages. He married (1) at Trinity Church, New York, 20 December 1756, Mary Shurman (New York marriage bond dated 16 December 1756). He married (2) at the Reformed Dutch Church of New Hackensack, Dutchess County, 26 March 1777, Elizabeth Williams, widow of Henry Bogart, with Philip Van Cortlandt as “groomsman.” She died in Washington, D.C., 20 April 1818, where she was living with her daughter Harriet (Mrs. John Martin Baker). Of the first marriage, the following eight children are recorded in various sources: Ann Weissenfels (b. 1757?); Charles Frederic Weissenfels (q.v., b. 24 July 1759); Catherine Mary Weissenfels (b. 28 Oct. 1761; md. John Elsworth); George Petrus Weissenfels (bpt. at Red Hook Lutheran Church, Dutchess Co., 27 May 1764; md. Maria Leaycraft); Johannes Weissenfels (bpt. at Reformed Dutch Church, New York, 29 March 1767); Wilhelm Henrich Weissenfels (bpt. at Reformed Dutch Church, New York, 7 January 1770); Mary Charlotte Weissenfels (bpt. at Reformed Dutch Church, New York, 8 November 1772; md. John Salter, of Morris Co., N.J., and had issue); and Elizabetha Anna Weissenfels (bpt. at Reformed Dutch Church, New York, 3 March 1775; md. Mr. Rigal). Of the second marriage was born Harriet Weissenfels (md. John Martin Baker, of Washington, D.C.). There is also mention (by John Schuyler) of a son Frederick Weissenfels (d. 1798, at Alexandria, Virginia, of yellow fever).
Colonel Lewis Dubois, 5th New York Regiment
Lewis Dubois was born 16 July 1744 (according to the Elias Dubois family Bible), and was baptized at the Reformed Dutch of Fishkill, Dutchess County, 9 September 1744, son of Elias Dubois (1725–1756) and Susanna Vanderburgh (bpt. 1725), and brother of Henry Dubois (q.v.). In 1762, as a member of Capt. Isaac Ter Bush’s company of Dutchess County provincial militia, Lewis Dubois is described as a carpenter, 5 feet, 7 inches tall. He was appointed 8 July 1775 a captain in the Revolutionary forces; a company muster roll is dated 21 August. His company then joined General Montgomery’s invasion of Canada. When Maj. Henry Livingston left the unit because of illness, Dubois was promoted. As of 28 February 1776, Maj. Lewis Dubois was serving in Canada.
Dubois was commissioned 25 June 1776 “to raise a regiment for three years or during the war.” This was to become the Fifth Regiment of the New York Line, with Dubois as colonel (appointed 26 June), and Jacobus S. Bruyn (q.v.) as lieutenant colonel. Dubois is referred to by a congressional committee 21 November 1776 as having been “well recommended to this Committee as an exceeding good Officer capable of commanding a Regiment with Credit to himself & advantageous to his country.” His regiment was posted in the Hudson Highlands at Fort Montgomery when it fell to a powerful British assault, 6 October 1777. Dubois suffered a bayonet wound in the neck, but succeeded in escaping with two hundred of his men; however, numerous others of the Fifth Regiment were taken prisoner by the British. The remnants of the unit served in the Iroquois campaign of the summer of 1779. Dubois resigned 22 December 1779. He was appointed colonel of a regiment of New York State levies 1 July 1780, and served in the Mohawk Valley in 1780 and 1781.
Before the war, Lewis Dubois had built a house on Dutchess County land that he had inherited from his ancestor Matheus Dubois. After Lewis Dubois completed his service, he returned to the house to live there with his family. He is listed in the 1790 census as a householder in Poughkeepsie. He held public offices in Dutchess County, and was appointed a brigadier general of Dutchess County militia (17 April 1787), and served until 13 June 1793. He sold the house in 1792 to Henry G. Livingston (through many changes of ownership, it is still standing). About this time Dubois moved to Maysfield, Montgomery County. In 1796 he was a representative for Montgomery County in the New York State Assembly, 19th session. By 1805 he was again a resident of Poughkeepsie, when, by legislative Act of 28 March 1805, he was awarded New York State bounty land. As of 28 March 1818, when Dubois applied for pension benefits, he was living in the City of New York. In 1820, according to pension papers, he was living in Poughkeepsie, aged 76, with a wife aged about 73, and a granddaughter aged about 17. The 1820 census lists him in Poughkeepsie with a household consisting of one male 45 or over, one female 45 or over, and one female aged 16 and under 26. He died 4 March 1824; articles appeared in the Dutchess Observer, and in the Poughkeepsie Journal.
Lewis Dubois married (1) 6 January 1765 (by license 31 December 1764), Alida Van Kleeck (d. after 1793), daughter of Baltus Van Kleeck and Catherine Van der Bogart. Of this marriage seven children are recorded: Elias L. Dubois (b. 1766); Catharine Dubois (b. 1768); Johannis Dubois (b. 1769); Susanna Dubois; Catharine Dubois (b. 1775); James Dubois; and Simon Dubois. Lewis Dubois married (2) name given in printed accounts as “Aubry” (or “Ruby”) Dubois, from estate administration papers (1824), Dutchess County Surrogate’s Office (box 1092); also mentioned in estate papers are sons Elias L. Dubois, Henry Dubois, Anthony Dubois, and Lewis Dubois.
Note: The above material was taken from the “New York State Society of the Cincinnati Biographies of Original Members & Other Continental Officers” written by Francis J, Sypher and has a copyright date of 2004