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See Also: Schenectady in the Revolutionary War

A History of Schenectady During the Revolution:
Chapter XX: After Yorktown

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[This information is from pp. 121-125 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.]

While with the culmination of the campaign ending in the American victory at Yorktown active hostilities in the country at large were brought to an end, minor raids were to keep the frontiers in alarm for nearly a year and a half, necessitating constant watchfulness and preparedness (1) on the part of the authorities.

In June, 1782, reports (2) brought to General Washington indicated that Albany and Schenectady were to be the chief objects of another attack on the part of the enemy. While these reports were probably without foundation there may have been some connection between them and the visit which General Washington paid to Albany during the latter part of the month.

It was during this visit that Washington, on the invitation of the townspeople, took occasion to pay his second (3) visit to Schenectady, riding over in a carriage with General Schuyler on the thirtieth. On their arrival these two distinguished guests were received with "no little formality by the civil and military authorities and escorted some distance by a numerous procession in which [Washington] walked with his hat under his arm." (4) At the public dinner given later at the tavern of Robert Clench were assembled "a respectable number of gentlemen," and to Colonel Frederick Visscher, who was then living in Schenectady, Washington assigned the seat on his right. (5)

At some time during the day an address was publicly delivered and before Washington set out on his return to Albany he took occasion to write the following reply: (6)

To the Magistrates and Military Officers of the town of Schenectada:

Gentlemen — I request you to accept my warmest thanks for your affectionate address.

In a cause so just and righteous as ours, we have every reason to hope the Divine Providence will still continue to crown our arms with success, and finally compel our enemies to grant us that peace upon equitable terms, which we so ardently desire.

May you, and the good people of this town, in the meantime, be protected from every insidious and open foe, and may the complicated blessings of peace soon reward your arduous struggles for the establishment of the freedom and independence of our common country.

Go. WASHINGTON.

The news of the declaration of peace in 1783 was received in Schenectady amid great rejoicing and followed by a befitting celebration; a large bonfire of pine knots was built on the hill overlooking the town and hung in the midst of the flames was an effigy of Benedict Arnold. (7)

With the return of peace to the frontiers the settlers began to return to the desolation that everywhere prevailed to rebuild their homesteads and again take up their daily tasks.

For the Indians who had fought on the side of the King, deprived now of British support and not even mentioned in the treaty of peace, nothing remained but to abandon themselves to the mercy of the victors. (8)

In Schenectady the fortifications were permitted to go into decay or removed and at this time also, for the war had brought the townspeople into contact with the men and customs of the other colonies, there began to disappear many of those primitive usages peculiar to the Dutch inhabitants of the town.

In the English Church (St. George's), while many of the indignities suffered by her sister churches had been escaped, desolation now prevailed. The building, dilapidated, with windows broken out, had even become the resort of the swine that roamed at will through the streets of the town. (9) Of those who had attended service before the war but a few remained, (10) upon whom, as courage revived, devolved the burden of restoring the church building and renewing parochial activities.

Soon came many from New England to the rich lands of western New York, journeying with their families in ox-cart and covered wagon or transferring to boats at Schenectady. To meet the ever increasing demands of the travelers and to facilitate the transportation of supplies there was incorporated in 1792 and completed in 1797, under the direction of General Philip Schuyler, the enterprise known as the Inland Lock Navigation Company, whereby boats of a deeper draught than the small batteaux might proceed without unloading from Schenectady to Oswego. For a quarter of a century the Mohawk was to remain a scene of commercial activity, or until 1825, when with the completion of the Erie Canal the traffic of the Valley was transferred to that channel.

In 1795 the Academy built by the Dutch Reformed Church through the influence of Doctor Romeyn became Union College, the consummation of a movement started four years before the war cry of the Indian and crack of the rifle had ceased to resound throughout the Valley.

With these enterprises looking toward the economic, commercial and intellectual welfare of the community as well as with the political affairs of the State, early became associated many men of Schenectady, who, with distinction, had served their country throughout her struggle for independence and whose names appear quite as prominently in the history of the years following the Revolution, until each in his turn was claimed by death, as they appear in the short period covered by the war itself.

Notes

  1. The Act of the New York Legislature of November 17, 1781, and the Act of March 23, 1782, brought into being during the spring of 1782 the class of militia known as "Militia-Land Bounty Rights." Under this arrangement for raising fifteen hundred men for the defense of the frontiers and to fill the vacancies in the Line, the militia companies were divided into "classes" averaging fifteen men in number and each "class" was obliged to furnish one man fully equipped for service, for which it received a compensation of two hundred acres of land. The granting of lands as a bounty was necessitated because of the very great scarcity of specie.
  2. Washington Papers, Library of Congress.
  3. His first visit was a hurried one soon after the commencement of the war in order to make arrangements for frontier defense. He dined and lodged at the residence of John and Henry Glen and also took tea at the residence of John Sanders. Washington again visited Schenectady in 1786 while making a tour through the country. On this occasion he was quartered at the inn of Robert Clench. Hon. John Sanders, Early History of Schenectady, p. 274.
  4. Jeptha R. Simms, Frontiersmen of New York, II, 624.
  5. Ibid.
  6. Ibid.
  7. Jane Ferguson's Revolutionary Recollections. The American Monthly Magazine, April, 1902.
  8. Due to the influence of Washington, who advocated a liberal policy toward the Iroquois, they were not expelled from the State, where by the laws of war all their lands had been forfeited. To the Oneidas and Tuscaroras in 1785 were granted certain lands in the western part of New York, which were subsequently in 1788 purchased from them by the State.
  9. Jonathan Pearson, History of the Schenectady Patent, p. 396.
  10. Mr. John Doty reported in 1780 from Montreal where he had taken refuge that "his poor little flock [had] been almost dispersed and the few remaining were in the most deplorable circumstances," adding that he had been informed by a young man, lately from Schenectady, that the congregation consisted of only twenty-seven white adults, twenty children and some blacks." The fate of the Presbyterian congregation was in all probability not unlike that of St. George's. Jonathan Pearson, History of the Schenectady Patent, p. 401.

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See Also: Schenectady in the Revolutionary War

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