History From America's Most Famous Valleys
New York In The Revolution as Colony and State
by James A. Roberts, Comptroller
Second Edition 1898
of THE COLONY AND STATE OF NEW YORK
in the REVOLUTION
(From the First Edition)
DURING my first term of office as comptroller, the work of putting the old records of the comptroller's department in systematic order for purposes of easy reference was undertaken. This work in its progress brought to light quantities of forgotten papers relating to the services performed by New York in the Revolutionary War. These papers, long since detached from their original file packages, were promiscuously scattered through great masses of old vouchers and files. I realized at once their great value and importance, and my impression has been most amply confirmed by the judgment of Col. F. C. Ainsworth, whose great work in arranging for the United States government the contributions of men made in the various wars by the separate states and colonies, is well known. Competent men were, therefore, set at work searching out and arranging these papers, and this task, though slow and laborious, is believed to have been thoroughly and intelligently done. The success of this work is very largely due to the earnest and intelligent interest taken in it by Col. Charles 0. Shepard, and his efforts were greatly assisted by the efficient work of Mr. William B. Wemple of this office.
These papers contain the muster and pay-rolls of different organizations, and the historic value and importance of the papers is clearly proved by the fact that they alone show New York to have furnished nearly one and a half times the number of troops with which she is usually credited, and adding to these the names obtained from other reliable sources, the aggregate is more than twice the number usually credited. General Knox, first secretary of war, in his report to Congress of the number of troops furnished by each colony, gave New York credit for but 17,781 men, and this report, copied into our histories, very naturally has ever since been accepted as correct. We now find positive proof of the service of 41,633 men. [The corrected number is 43,645. See additional note in second edition, p. 15.] I therefore submit the following pages containing the names, rank and organization of these 41,633 men, whose services can be shown beyond any question, with the greater satisfaction for believing that a great historical injustice, reflecting in many minds on New York's patriotic spirit in the Revolutionary struggle, will hereby be rectified, and she take her place, second only to Massachusetts in number of troops furnished, and, under the circumstances surrounding her, second to none in lofty patriotism.
It is true that lists of names of New York's Revolutionary soldiers have been heretofore published, but these were derived almost entirely from other than original sources, the state treasurer's books of account being the chief source, and their accuracy, for this reason, has been a matter of grave doubt, and therefore the results could not be accepted in historical works. All the names published in this volume are derived from that highest of sources, the original muster and pay-rolls, and thus the services of the individual and the aggregate are conclusively shown. Several thousands of the names, particularly of those belonging to the regiments of the " Line," were obtained from rolls on file in the War Department at Washington, through the courtesy of Hon. Daniel S. Lament, Secretary of War. And here it may not be inappropriate to say that Col. Ainsworth, after personal examination of the records of service found in the comptroller's office, was so well satisfied of their accuracy and value, that he has had the same transcribed and placed in the records of the War Department, and the 41,633 names found here will now appear to the credit of New York in the government's record of the Revolutionary War, soon to be published.
Nor do the names contained in this volume in all probability comprise all of those from New York who performed service in that great struggle. Cases exist in which records of a full quota of field, staff and line officers for a regiment have been found, but no enlisted men. This state of things was proof positive, to any one with knowledge of military affairs, that a deplorable deficiency in the records existed. It was not uncommon, as I am credibly informed, for the officer commanding an organization to retain all the records relating to his command. Indeed, the records from which the names of the men in Colonel Gansevort's regiment, Third New York Line, were obtained, are still in the possession of the descendants of Colonel Gansevort, and the original record of Alexander Hamilton's artillery company is in the possession of the New York Historical Society, to which body we are indebted for its appearance here. Had New York, as several of the colonies did, published the record of her Revolutionary service, while the records were still all existing and their location, and the facts connected with them, were within the memory of living men, a far more accurate result would have been reached. As it is, there can be little reasonable doubt that in some cases records of service have been lost, and that New York can never show the full number of troops furnished by her in the struggle. This is almost conclusively shown by the fact that the papers relating to pensions granted by the state for injuries received while in service in the Revolutionary War disclose many names which do not appear upon any roster in our possession.
THE BATTLE GROUND OF AMERICA.
In any consideration of what was contributed by the separate colonies to the success of the war, it is proper that the situation in each colony should be taken into account. New York, more than any other colony, was the battleground of the war, as indeed, from its position, it always will be in any conflict with Great Britain. The first forts captured from the English in the war were Ticonderoga and Crown Point, May 10 and 12, 1775; and the first attempt to construct an American navy was made by Arnold on Lake Champlain in June, 1775- Johnson's last raid through the Mohawk valley, in which the battle of Johnstown and various smaller encounters were fought, took place in 1781. Between those dates were the expedition from New York into Canada, resulting in the siege and capture of the fort at St. John's, September 25, 1775, followed by the capture of Montreal, and ending in the disaster at Quebec; the expedition to Johnstown, resulting in the surrender of three hundred armed Scotch Highlanders, January 19, 1776; battle of Long Island, August 27, 1776; battle of Harlem Plains, September 16, 1776; battle of White Plains, October 28, 1776; attack upon and capture of Fort Washington, November 16, 1776; naval battles on Lake Champlain, October 11 and 13, 1776; the various manoeuvres of the eventful year 1777, which preceded the famous battles of that year; the battle of Bennington, fought on August 16, 1777, on New York soil, but largely by Vermont boys, and which prevented the British from receiving needed supplies; the successful defense and sortie from Fort Schuyler, and the bloody battle of Oriskany, August 6, 1777, which prevented the junction of St. Leger with Burgoyne, and made the latter's surrender inevitable; the glorious battles of Saratoga, September 19 and October 7, 1777, leading to Burgone's surrender, October 17, 1777; the destructive expedition up the Hudson under Sir Henry Clinton, October, 1777; Johnson's Indian raid through the Mohawk, Schoharie and Susquehanna valleys, 1778; Sir Henry Clinton's second expedition up the Hudson, May, 1779; Mad Anthony's capture of Stony Point with 543 prisoners, July 15, 1779; the expeditions under Colonels Willett and Van Schaick against Onondagas, and the horrible retaliatory raids made by the Indians, 1779; Sullivan's expedition against the Indians in 1779, and the battle near the present site of Elmira; Johnson's raid into the Mohawk valley, 1780, and Governor Clinton's pursuit; the destruction of the Canajoharie and Fort Plain settlements by Brant, August, 1780; the extended raid of Sir John Johnson, Brant and Complanter, in the autumn of 1780, with the battle near Stone Arabia, and Carleton's raid on the upper Hudson, 1780. The surrender of Cornwallis in 1781 was the practical end of the conflict, and the foregoing list of military movements shows that every year during the conflict New York was the scene of very active service.
The extensive fighting done within our borders brought into active and honorable service branches of military which in colonies where no fighting was done were relieved. Our militia were the heroes of many hotly contested fields. The battle of Oriskany, in its percentages of killed and wounded, the bloodiest battle of the war, was won by the militia, and Burgoyne's surrender thereby made sure. The militia bore a highly honorable part in the ever-memorable battles of Saratoga. But many men undoubtedly performed splendid service in the emergencies which called out the militia and then retired quietly to their homes, leaving no record of their service which can now be found.
Again, the portions of New York occupied by the whites were surrounded on almost all sides by tribes of hostile Indians, who were incited and led by still more savage whites. Brant was sometimes humane, but Butler never. The Hurons had inherited from many preceding generations the disposition to make hostile raids upon the territory of their ancient foes, the Iroquois. At the breaking out of the war the influence of Sir William Johnson over the tribes of the Iroquois was almost boundless. His position as Indian agent had brought him into close relations with these tribes, and this position he seems to have honorably used and to have succeeded in convincing them that he was their friend. His mantle, at his death, fell upon his son, Sir John, and his son-in-law, Col. Guy Johnson, and that they used their influence to the fullest extent to stir up Indian hostility to the patriotic citizens west of Albany is a sad page in the history of the war. It required something more or less than patriotism to induce the frontiersman to leave his family with the prospect before them of that most horrible of frontier experiences, an Indian raid.
In the summer of 1776 the control of New York city, of Long Island and Staten Island and a part of Westchester county passed into the hands of the British, there to remain until after the treaty of peace, the evacuation taking place November 25, 1783. Fully one-tenth of the state's population, from which men could be drawn to recruit the armies, were thus locked up. The population of New York state in 1790 was 340,120, and of New York city alone, 33,131.
These facts, briefly stated, show New York's trying position in the Revolutionary War, and confirm what was said at the outset, that in lofty patriotic endeavor, New York was second to none of the thirteen colonies.
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