WAR HEROES OF THE MANOR AND THE
INAUGURATION OF GEORGE WASHINGTON
The War of The Revolution was drawing to a close. In the parsonage and the two Manors, and in the farm houses scattered between, there was eager expectation of a new order of things. There had been suffering and anxiety, privation and death in many homes. Soon after the election of Governor Clinton a public appeal had been made for funds from New York State to carry on the war. To this War Fund, Dominie Gebhard and his congregation had subscribed liberally.
Colonel Jeremiah Hogeboom's regiment had been made up largely of Claverack men. In Lieutenant Hendrick Van Hoesen's Company were Killian and Peter Van Rensselaer, sons of Hendrick, a younger brother of the Patroon Johannes, and through all the Companies the familiar names of Ludlow, Delamater, Philip, Harder, Hoffman, Esselstyn, Miller, Van Deusen, [page 57] Van Ness, Groat, Mesick, Van Allen, Pitcher and a host of others abounded. Colonel Robert Van Rensselaer had seen service in the campaign of the Mohawk, while Henry I. Van Rensselaer served as Commissary-General, and nearly all the sons of Colonel Johannes, and his younger brother Killian Van Rensselaer held some commission in the Continental Army.
Captain John McKinstry, of Livingston, in the Regiment of Colonel John Patterson, had fought bravely at the battle of the Cedars on the St. Lawrence River, in the spring of '76, and had there met with a narrow escape from death in a more terrible form than battle. He had been captured by a party of Indians under the leadership of the famous Captain Brant. The Indians were about to celebrate their victory after their usual fashion, by killing their captive by torture. The fagots and the stake were ready, but Captain McKinstry remembered in that supreme moment that Brant was a Free Mason. He lost no time in giving the signal of distress which the chief recognized at once, and immediately direct his followers to liberate their prisoner.
In after years the two men were fast friends, and [page 58] the Indian chief is said to have visited the man whose life he had saved, more than once in his own home. In later years Brant, in company with Colonel McKinstry, visited the Masonic Lodge in Hudson, where he was most warmly welcomed, and was an object of great interest to his fellow Masons. Charles Jenkins was less fortunate than Colonel McKinstry. He was taken prisoner by the British and confined a year and a half in the sugar house in New York, when he escaped and made his way back to Claverack.
While the men of Claverack and the vicinity were serving their country in the war, the women at home sometimes had reason to discover an undaunted war-like spirit within their own breasts. One day during the absence of the men of the household one of the goodwives of Claverack opened her door to two suspicious travelers. Their manner and words proved them to be Tories. The wife of the absent householder directed them to the cellar to obtain for themselves a refreshing cup of cider. As soon as they had reached the foot of the cellar stairs, she dropped the door in the floor and dragged heavy furniture upon it, effectually holding her prisoner until the return of [page 59] her husband. That particular drink of cider proved an expensive refreshment to the Tories that autumn morning.
Brigadier-General Henry B. Livingston, a brother of the Chancellor, was one of the most prominent officers in the American Army during the Revolution from this section of the country. He served in an assaulting column in the storming of Quebec. "As Lieutenant-Colonel he commanded a regiment in the battle of Stillwater and was present at the surrender of Burgoyne," which was no doubt in part the cause of his sister Margaret's pleasure when she heard of the surrender of the British General. The destruction of his mother's and brother's homes he could not prevent, but further disasters on the Hudson, were fore-stalled by the successes of the army of the North. Colonel Livingston served under Lafayette at Rhode Island and Valley Forge, and became a fast friend of the French General.
He was also in command at Verplanck's Point at the time of André's capture, and with his single four-pounder engaged the British ship "Vulture," with so much vigor and effect that it alarmed and delayed André, [page 60] and in the end led to his capture, and saved West Point. General Washington, writing of this event, said, "It is a great source of gratification to me that the post was in the hands of an officer so devoted as yourself to the cause of your country." Lossing adds to this eulogy, "Washington's confidence was not misplaced, for there was not a purer patriot in that war than Henry B. Livingston." At the close of the war Colonel Livingston was made Brigadier-General and spent the remainder of his life at his home near Rhinebeck on the Hudson.
No event of the war carried such gloom into the allied homes along the upper Hudson as the death of General Richard Montgomery. General Montgomery had met Janet Livingston, the eldest daughter of Judge Robert R. Livingston some years earlier, when he was a Captain in the British Army, on his way to a distant post. It was love at first sight, and though the meeting was brief, neither of them forgot the impression made at that time. Montgomery, at the end of the war went back to England, sold his commission, and returned to America, and second the meeting between him and Janet Livingston led to an early marriage.
[page 61] They had been married only three years, when his election by Congress to the office of Brigadier-General cut short their dream of rural life on the banks of the Hudson. General Montgomery accepted the position offered him with a high sense of patriotic duty to his adopted country. In this he had the entire sympathy of his wife who was a woman built in an heroic mould. Her love for him carried her with him as far as the home of General Schuyler at Saratoga, postponing the separation as long as possible, yet no word of hers deterred him from the path upon which he had set his feet. It was at the parting of the two, who had not yet ceased to be lovers, that Richard Montgomery uttered the memorable words, "You shall never have cause to blush for your Montgomery."
Montreal surrendered to General Montgomery, and on the last night but one of the year 1775 he made his brave attempt to take Quebec, and was killed while leading his men in an heroic charge upward, through a pass filled with drifted snow and ice, and in a blinding snowstorm. "Forward, men of New York. You will not flinch where your General leads," he cried [page 62] out as he pressed forward in advance of his men. They were his last words. He was killed instantly by the discharge of a cannon of a seemingly deserted battery. The attempt to capture Quebec was unsuccessful, but General Montgomery's brave act is the heritage of the American people.
The surrender of Cornwallis was an event of great joy all over the country. Friends writing from Philadelphia spoke of the watchman's cry in that city after the glad news. "Past two o'clock and Cornwallis is taken," rang out his voice hour after hour, and heart-felt prayers of thanksgiving followed the re-iteration of the glad tidings. Congress recommended the observance of a day of thanksgiving throughout the States, and Washington ordered the liberation of all prisoners, that they might join in the general joy.
At last when the news of the treaty of peace with England was received, the rejoicing was similar to that evinced over the Declaration of Independence. The news was hailed with delight when read in churches and courts, taverns and stores, and many unique methods were adopted to celebrate the event. At a later date there were a goodly number of certificates [page 63] of membership in the Society of the Cincinnati signed by General Washington, held by the men of Claverack who had been his officers.
Richard Morris' family had come to Claverack from New York during the early years of the war. Having espoused the American cause, they found as did many others, that New York invested by the British was no longer a safe place of residence for patriots. Richard Morris' brother Lewis was one of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence, his brother Gouverneur was a prominent patriot, and he himself held the offices of Judge of Vice Admiralty and Chief Justice of the State of New York. It is little wonder that the outcome of the war with England called forth special rejoicing in this family.
When the news of the treaty of peace reached Claverack, Judge Morris procured a barrel of tar and made a great bon-fire on an adjacent hill. There is little question that Robert Morris, his son, at that time a student in Washington Seminary, assisted most willingly at this form of celebration. Nor can it be doubted, that Robert Morris' life-long habit of firing off a cannon from the top of this same hill, on Independence [page 64] Day, giving the hill ever after the name of "Mount Bob," was an outgrowth of this joyous celebration of his boyhood.
Dominie Gebhard was inspired to a different form of celebration by the treaty with England. He was a man of vision, as has been proved by his establishment of Washington Seminary. He saw before him a call for new forms of government. The present government was loose and feeble, as Washington said later, "We are one nation to-day and thirteen to-morrow; who will treat with us on these terms?"
On September 13th, 1783, Dominie Gebhard wrote his Excellency George Washington a letter, setting forth his ideas in regard to the new government about to be established, along the lines of towns to States, and States to the Central Government, based on the government of the Netherlands. This letter General Washington acknowledged in his usual courteous fashion, and Dominie Gebhard's communication is still preserved among the unpublished letters and papers of General Washington.
Nearly six years later, April 30th, 1789, Washington was inaugurated President of the United States.
[page 65] Washington's journey from Mount Vernon to New York was one of continual triumph. Addresses and crowds met him at every town. At Philadelphia he was received with distinguished honors. The Schuylkill bridge was decorated with laurel wreaths and triumphal arches of evergreens. "As he passed over the bridge a civic crown was let down from above on his head, and a great cheer went up from twenty thousand people."
At Trenton there were similar demonstrations. Here on either side of a sweeping arch bearing the legend "December, 1776. The Defender of the Mothers will be the Protector of the Daughters," young girls dressed in white with baskets of flowers in their hands, sang as they strewed his path with flowers,
"Welcome, mighty chief, once more,
Welcome to this grateful shore,
Now no mercenary foe,
Aims again the fatal blow,--
Aims at Thee the fatal blow.
Virgins fair and matrons grave,
These thy conquering arm did save,
Build for thee triumphal bowers,--
Strew, ye fair, his way with flowers!
Strew your Hero's way with flowers!"
[page 66] He was received in New York by Governor Clinton and many distinguished persons, the Inauguration taking place in the old Federal Hall. There were religious and civil services, and processions throughout the day, but its crowning feature was when in the presence of a great multitude of old soldiers and patriotic citizens from many States, he stood on the balcony in front of the Senate Chamber, surrounded by men important in the life of the nation both then and later, and Chancellor Livingston administered the oath of office, prescribed by the Constitution.
At its close, the Chancellor stepped forward, waving his hand and exclaiming, "Long live George Washington, the President of the United States." Flags were raised, cannons were fired, and the multitude rent the air with their joyous exclamations. The new Republic was fully organized at last, with George Washington for its first President, the man most beloved and honored in the young Nation.
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