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See Also: Schenectady in the Revolutionary War

A History of Schenectady During the Revolution:
Chapter VI: The Continental Line, the Militia and the Organization of the Schenectady Battalion

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[This information is from pp. 27-34 of A History of Schenectady During the Revolution by Willis T. Hanson, Jr. (Brattleboro, VT: E. L. Hildreth & Co., 1916). It is in the Schenectady Collection of the Schenectady County Public Library at Schdy R 974.744 H25, and copies are also available for borrowing.]

On June 28, 1775, under a resolution of the Provincial Congress, was formed the New York Continental Line, consisting of four regiments of infantry and one company of artillery. Philip Schuyler had already been appointed to the command of the Northern Department of New York, and Washington had taken command of the disorganized forces around Boston.

On the formation of the Continental Line many of the men throughout the Valley hastened at once to enlist. So short, however, was the term of enlistment (six months) and so scattered and inadequate are the records that it is impossible to trace either the names or the service performed by these early patriots.

To supplement the regular army, provision was made for the raising of state militia, and as it is in connection with the militia that we shall record the major part of the war activities performed by the men of Schenectady, some consideration (1) of this branch of the service may not be without interest.

In the matter of recruiting, the names of the able-bodied men were (with few exceptions) enrolled in their respective localities, and from the lists so compiled companies were formed. Service was generally by draft, and members of any one company, except where the whole regiment was called out, rarely served under the officers of the company to which they belonged; both privates and officers being selected by ballot, some from one company, others from another, whenever called upon to take part in any tour or expedition. On such expeditions a detachment of militia was generally placed under the command of but one officer and when the detachment was small such an officer was not always a commissioned one. (2)

When a detachment of militia left home the men were required to provide themselves with a given number of days' provisions. Those who were too poor thus to provide themselves drew provisions from the quartermaster, commissary or other proper officer nearest to their place of residence. When stationed at posts and garrisons where there were Continental stores, the militia drew rations from these stores; but when there were no such stores at hand, as for instance when they were engaged in ranging the woods or serving in scouting expeditions, they obtained provisions as and wherever they could find them, being on such occasions furnished with authority to do so. (3)

The duties required of the militia were varied. They acted as guards for Tory prisoners or supplies in transportation, served to apprehend Tories, or in reliefs on the frontier and at the option of their officers could be called upon to perform either garrison, field or fatigue duty. (4) They were not, however, required to serve outside the State, and periods for which they were drafted were usually of short duration, although the militia were liable for and often performed more extended duties. (5) Active service over, the men returned to their homes, to take up again their daily occupations — no note in most cases made of the part they played and all record of individual service forever lost.

Upon the militia little reliance was placed by the staff officers of the regular army and this not without some justification.The average militiaman was arrogant, insolent and for the most part totally devoid of any idea of discipline. He knew his rights and quite freely asserted them. At a critical point in a campaign he would not infrequently return home to harvest his crops and quite as frequently flatly refuse to serve when ordered out on an alarm.

This attitude on the part of the militiamen should not be too severely condemned nor must it be assumed that their grievances were without foundation. Their pay was small and difficult to obtain when earned; food and clothing were equally scarce; much was expected of them and a distant alarm often meant leaving their wives and children exposed to the raids of the enemy.

It will be a matter of interest to note in the following pages that although on several occasions the men of Schenectady displayed much the same attitude as the "average militiaman," much more frequently they answered the call to arms with alacrity and performed services which are justly commendable.

On September 2, 1775, agreeable to a request from the Committee of Safety, a meeting of all the militia of the town of Schenectady was held at the Dutch Church for the purpose of forming companies in accordance with the plans of the Continental and Provincial Congresses. (6)

At this meeting the three companies already formed were reorganized and two additional companies raised. Jellis J. Fonda (7) and John Van Patten (8) were retained as captains; John Mynderse, (9) who had originally been selected as a lieutenant in Captain Van Dyck's company, was promoted to the rank of captain; and to the command of the new companies were elected Abraham Wemple (10) and Thomas Wasson. (11)

The companies of Captains Fonda and Mynderse retained their classification as minute men and such served until the spring of 1777, when they were incorporated with the regular militia. The motto of these companies as noted on their flags was "Liberty or Death," and because of the color of the uniform worn by their members Captain Mynderse's company was known as "The Blues" and Captain Fonda's as "The Greens." (12)

At the direction of Congress commissions as field officers of the Schenectady militia (later known as the 2d Albany County) were, on October 20, issued as follows: (13)

At a meeting of the Schenectady Committee on January 26, 1776, it was voted to prepare a list of all the male inhabitants not already in the militia, in order to organize further companies. Following the preparation of the list those whose names appeared on it were required to meet on February 10 for organization and to choose their officers.

Three companies were thus formed and subsequently the following officers were chosen: (20)

First Company,

Second Company,

Third Company,

Notes

  1. The material used in this connection is based for the most part upon statements of Schenectady soldiers found in the records of the Pension Office.
  2. Pension Office Records, Daniel Kittle W 21528. Pension Office Records, William Corl W 22736.
  3. Permission to purchase seems first to have been asked, but in cases of refusal provisions were taken by force. James Barhydt mentions (Pension Office Records S 12948) an instance which happened on a certain expedition to Harpersfield. A man refused to give up a sheep required for the detail, whereupon it was confiscated, and the man later sent to Hartford a prisoner, having been found guilty of disaffection upon trial by the Committee at Schenectady.
  4. Pension Office Records, Simon J. Van Antwerp S 28924.
  5. When the tours were of long duration three or four draftings often took place, one squad relieving another. Pension Office Records, Daniel Kittle W 21528.
  6. The Minutes of the Schenectady Committee of Safety.
  7. Captain Fonda served until the end of the war. The other officers in his company were:
    • First lieutenant, Andrew Van Patten. Reappointed June 20, 1778.
    • Second lieutenant, Myndert A. Wemple. Reappointed June 20, 1778. Promoted to rank of first lieutenant February 25, 1780, and assigned to Captain Mynderse's company. His office was filled by the promotion of Nicholas Yates.
    • Ensign, Nicholas Yates. Reappointed June 20, 1778, and promoted to the rank of second lieutenant February 25, 1780. His office was filled by the appointment of Lawrence Vrooman.
  8. Captain Van Patten resigned his commission toward the close of the war. The other officers in his company were:
    • First lieutenant, Cornelius Mebie. The name of Tennis Swart appears as holding this office June 20, 1778.
    • Second lieutenant, Simon F. Van Patten. The name of Philip Vedder appears as holding this office June 20, 1778.
    • Ensign, Daniel Toll. Reappointed June 20, 1778.
    • This company was recruited in the Westina and during the war this section, an especially exposed one, was constantly patrolled by its members. This company also garrisoned the dwelling-house of Teunis Swart, who on June 20, 1778, was serving as a lieutenant under Captain Van Patten. His house was located about four and a half miles above Schenectady on the north side of the river almost on its bank; it was built of brick, was picketed in and had as an armament a small field piece fixed in a porthole and a quantity of small arms, and it was to this "fort" that the inhabitants were accustomed to resort for protection in case of alarms. There were undoubtedly a great many of these so-called forts, i.e., dwelling-houses in which some means of defense was provided, scattered throughout this section. One that is well remembered by many of the older generation as being a supposed relic of the Revolutionary period was the "Old Fort" located in Scotia, a few hundred feet north of the present Vley Road, at a point about the same distance west of Halcyon Street. A few years ago the foundations of what was supposedly a watch- or blockhouse were unearthed near the river at the "Hoek" not far from Ulrich's. In the space included by the foundations were found many cannon balls.
  9. Captain Mynderse served until the end of the war. The other officers in his company were:
    • First lieutenant, Gerrit N. Veeder. He entered the Continental service as a captain in the spring of 1776. The office was held by Lawrence Mynderse June 20, 1778, and by Myndert A. Wemple February 25, 1780.
    • Second lieutenant, Solomon Pendleton. He entered the Continental service some time before October, 1777. On June 20, 1778, the office was held by James H. or Jacobus Peck.
    • Ensign, Lawrence Mynderse. On his promotion to the rank of first lieutenant the office was filled by the appointment of Abraham Truax.
  10. Abraham Wemple was subsequently commissioned colonel. The other officers appointed for his company were:
    • First lieutenant, Thomas Brower Banker, subsequently commissioned captain.
    • Second lieutenant, Abraham Swits, subsequently commissioned first major.
    • Ensign, John B. Vrooman, subsequently commissioned first lieutenant.
  11. Captain Wasson served until the end of the war. The other officers in his company were:
    • First lieutenant, John Little. John Thornton was promoted to fill this office February 25, 1780, Little having removed from the beat.
    • Second lieutenant, John Thornton. Promoted to rank of first lieutenant, February 25, 1780, and his office filled by the appointment of William Moore.
    • Ensign, Jacob Sullivan. Alexander Crawford was appointed to fill this office on February 25, 1780, Sullivan having died.
    • Captain Wasson's company was recruited at Currybush, now the town of Princetown. On June 12, 1776, the Committees at Schoharie and Schenectady "prayed the advice" of the Albany Committee as to whether this company should belong to the Schenectady battalion or to that of Schoharie. It was decided that it should remain a part of the Schenectady regiment.
  12. Pension Office Records, Jellis J. Fonda.
  13. The Minutes of the Schenectady Committee of Safety.
  14. He held this office until near the close of the war, when he resigned and Abraham Oothout was promoted to fill his place.
  15. He refused to accept the commission and on January 13, 1776, Christopher Yates was appointed in his stead.
  16. He held this office until the close of the war.
  17. He refused to accept the commission and on January 13, 1776, Myndert M. Wemple was appointed in his stead.
  18. He refused to accept the commission and on February 10, 1776, John Van Driesen was appointed in his stead.
  19. He resigned his commission on December 9, and on January 13, 1776, John Post was appointed in his stead.
  20. The Minutes of the Schenectady Committee of Safety.
  21. The name of Freeman Schermerhorn appears as holding this office, June 20, 1778.
  22. He probably did not serve actively as captain. Jacob Schermerhorn was also elected to the office but refused to serve, and at a subsequent meeting of the company the captaincy was voted to Abraham Oothout.
  23. He served as first lieutenant until August, 1776, when he was transferred to Bradt's Rangers and the office filled by the appointment of John Roseboom.
  24. He probably did not serve actively as captain.
  25. He was promoted to the rank of captain. The other officers of his company recorded as of June 20, 1778, were as follows:
    • First lieutenant, Walter Jacob Vrooman.
    • Second lieutenant, Francis Vedder.
    • Ensign, Jellis Abraham Fonda.
  26. He was appointed a captain some time previous to the summer of 1777. The other officers of his company recorded as of June 20, 1778, Were as follows:
    • First lieutenant, Jellis Yates.
    • Second lieutenant, Philip Van Vorst, Jr.
    • Ensign, Aaron I. Van Antwerpen. The name of John Vedder appears as holding this office, February 25, 1780.

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See Also: Schenectady in the Revolutionary War

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