Return to Long Island Genealogy

Long Island Patriots and Their Stories
Colonel Josiah Smith, Long Island Hero Caleb Brewster of Setauket
Long Island's Spy Chain Captain Nathaniel Norton 
Long Island Women in Spy Chain Peter and Cornelius Van Tassel & the Van Tassel Family
General Woodhull - Long Island Martyr William Vredenburgh and the Revolutionary War
Mastic, Scene of 1780 Battle
Rev. David Rose Patriot Pastor
An off-site resource that must be visited: 
Olive Tree Genealogy Military Section
American Revolution  Resources of Lorine McGinnis Schulze
located at http://olivetreegenealogy.com/mil/usa/rev/

Off Site links to Long Island patriots Biographies

Lt. Isaac Davis
Ebenezer Dayton
Noah Hammond
Zopher Hawkings
Nathaniel Norton
Major Isaac Overton
Nehehiah Overton
Stephen Randall
Captain David Rose, Jr. 
Isaac Smith

Colonel Josiah Smith Long Island Hero
    Colonel Josiah Smith, a prominent Long Islander during the revolutionary period, was born at east Moriches November 28, 1723, the son of nathaniel Smith and grandson of richard (Bull) Smith, the founder of Smithtown.
    He married Susannah, daughter of Judge Hugh Gelston of Southampton, in 1742.  he was a man of considerable property as he inherited a large estate from his father, and occupied a high position in the county.
    Before the revolution, josiah Smith was a conel of the militia, and at a meeting of the residents of the parish of South Haven on June 13, 1774, it was voted that Captain Josiah Smith, William Smith, Colonel Nathaniel Woodhull, Colonel William Floyd, Thomas Fanning, Captain David Mulford and Captain Jonathan baker, "be a standing committee for this place to correspond with the Committee of Correspondence in the city of New York."
    At a meeting of the inhabitants of Brookhaven town held on June 8, 1775, 16 persons were elected to represent the town as a Committee of Observation and "to deliberate on other matters relative to our political welfare."  Among these was Captain Josiah Smith.
    When the revolution broke out, he was appointed a Colonel of the regiment of Minute Men.  Early in 1776 the Continental Congress proceeded to organize four battalions for defensive purposes in the Colony of New York, and Josiah Smith, chairman, and the members of the Suffolk County committee were authorized by letters to raise three companies, "to prevent depredations on Long Island."
    On July 20, general Woodhull wrote to Colonel Smith, notifying him that Congress had called out one quarter of the militia in Suffolk, Queens and Kings counties for the defense of the stock and inhabitants of Long Island.  This letter further stated that "one regiment has been made of the whole detachment, and you have been appointed to take the command of it."
    Under this authority, Colonel Smith organized the Suffolk County Regiment.  The following quotation is from a historian of the battle of Long Island.  "Suffolk County had early given evidence of its hearty zeal for republican doctrines.  Out of its whole population of freeholders and adult male inhabitants, numbering 2,384 between the ages of 16 and 60, only 236 were reckoned as being of loyalist sympathy.
    The enrolled militia of the county exceeded 2,000, of whom 393 officers and privates were in the ranks of Colonel Smith's regiment, the best disciplined and armed on the island.  It was the only one that could be considered in any form to have survived the shock of the 27th of August, (Battle of Long Island), and only a small part of this body ever did service after that fatal day."
    On August 12, 1776, Colonel Smith returned to his home in east moriches, and according to "Mather's Refugees to Connecticut," went to Connecticut in November, 1776, to escape the British who were in possession of Long Island at that time.  he must have returned to his home sometime later as an item copied by Town Historian osborn Shaw from an old notebook of Colonel Smith (formerly in the possession of the late Riley P. Howell), states that he was seized at his home by two British soldiers on July 1, 1779, and taken to the Provost in New York, where he was kept until September 24 of that year, when he was liberated and he returned to his home.
    He was treasurer of Suffolk county from 1746 until his death in 1786.  He left one son and three daughters, and was buried in a corner of a field near his homestead.  A Tombstone in a neighboring cemetery bears the record of his memory.  This cemetery has been taken over by Brookhaven town, and will be maintained as a historical landmark.

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Long Island's Spy Chain
    One of the best kept secrets of the American Revolution was the spy system that operated on long island, from the village of Setauket, and kept General Washington supplied with important information about the movements of the British troops in New York and on long Island.
    All but one of the members of this spy ring were Setauket people.  The details of the origin of the spy system are not clear, but about 1778 major Benjamin Tallmadge was head ot this organization, and reported to General Washington.  Mr. Tallmadge was born in Setauket in 1754, the son of the local Presbyterian minister, and it was natural hr turned to his Setauket neighbors for help.  For five years or more he and the men picked out by him operated this spy ring under the noses of the British in New York and on Long Island, without any of them ever being caught.  So successful were they in concealing their idenity that General Washington never knew who the members of the spy chain were.
    News of the British plans and monements were gathered in New York city by Robert Townsend, who operated a coffee shop near Wall street.  he was known to General Washington only as "Culper, Jr."  Information gathered by him was taken to Setauket by messenger on horseback, who was Austin Roe of Setauket..  He in turn left it in a secret hiding place for Abraham Woodhull, who was the middleman in the spy system and went under the name of "Culper, Sr."  He turned it over to Caleb Brewster, who took it across the sound in one of his boats and delivered it to Major Tallmadge's headquarters in Connecticut.  From there it was delivered to General Washington, wherever he might be.
    Robert Townsend was the chief figure on the New York city end.  he posed as a young Tory merchant in partnership with james Rivington, and they operated a general merchandise store and coffee shop.  mr Townsend was a well educated man, and soon became widely acquainted in british circles.
    The man who carried the messages from New York to Setauket was Austin Roe. who operated a store and tavern in Setauket.  Disguised as a country merchant, hr traveled back and forth without detection.  it is almost impossible to realize what Austin Roe had to contend with as he rode the 55 miles from Setauket to New York through the enemy's country, often several times a week.
    If it had been possible to follow a message from New York to Setauket and across the sound to major tallmadge's headquarters we might have seen Austin Roe enter Mr. Townsend's coffee shop in new York.  he was tired and hungry, for he had just finished a long ride from Setauket.  When Mr. Townsend saw Mr. Roe come in he knew General Washington was expecting a message from him, so he soon left and went to his quarters nearby.  he was soon followed by Austin Roe, who handed him a letter from John Bolton (Major Tallmadge) which read, "I wish you to send by bearer 1/2 ream of letter paper."  Mr Townsend paid little attention to this message but went to a secret closet and brought out a bottlr of liquid which he brushed over the letter.  Soon another message sprang to light on the paper.  It was from General Washington, requesting certain information.  In the meantime Mr. Roe had started down the street to the printing office of James Rivington, where he purchased a half ream of paper and went back to Mr. Townsend's rooms.  carefully it was unwrapped, so that it could be sealed again without showing without showing it had been opened.  Mr. Townsend began counting the sheets until he arrived at a number previously agreed on.  That sheet was taken out, and mr. Townsend, reaching for another bottle of a different liquid, began to write his message to Washington.  As soon as the stain was dry it disappeared giving no hint it was there waiting to be developed by another liquid.  The sheet was replaced in its proper place in the package of paper and resealed.  Austin Roe packed his saddle bags with a variety of articles needed by those in the Setauket area, and set out for home, crossing the Brooklyn ferry and arriving at Setauket in time to give attention to his cattle which were kept pastured in a field belonging to Abraham Woodhull.  He was a young farmer from Setauket and the middleman in the spy ring, who used his farm on Conscience bay as a base for operations.  because his house was full of British Troops, he arranged for Austin Roe to pasture his cattle on his land, which gave Mr. Roe a place to hide the messages he brought from New York.  mr Woodhull then picked up the messages from a secret box behimd a fence, and latter turned them over to an exwhaler by the name of Caleb Brewster, with carried them across the sound with his boat to Major Tallmadge's headquarters in Connecticut.  In addition to this, Mr. brewster, with his lightly armed whaleboats, captured several supply ships headed for the British army at New York, and also led his men on raids across the island, burning and wrecking whatever they could find belonging to the British.  He led the attack on the British Fort St. George at Mastic in November 1780, which proved a complete success.

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Long Island Women In Spy Chain
    There were several Women in the setauket spy chain that operated during the revolution and kept General Washington supplied with information regarding the movements of the British troops in new York and on Long Island.
    One of the most interesting stories concerns Ann Smith Strong (she was called Nancy in the spy records), wife of Judge Selah Strong, who lived in Setauket.  The British army was having a great deal of trouble with American saboteurs and anyone who rode about very much out of uniform was suspected of unfriendly intentions.  Nancy gave Austin Roe excuses for his trips to New York by giving him large orders for goods so he could ride safely to new York to fill them.
    Since Caleb Brewster was a well know figure in Setauket, it was not safe for him to always land his boat in the same spot, so he had six landing places.  Abraham Woodhull could not always know whether Brewster was in the village or at which landing place his boat was hid, so Nancy made it her business to keep track of him and passed this information on to Woodhull through her clothesline.  Most of the petticoats worn by the women in those days were red, so if Mr. Woodhull saw a black petticoat waving on Nancy's clothesline he knew Brewster was in town.  each of the landing places had a number, and by counting the handkerchiefs hanging on Nancy's clothesline he knew at which landing place Mr. Brewster's boat was hidden.
    Nancy was not discovered by the British, but her husband Judge Strong, was arrested and thrown into prison on one of the worst British prison ships.  Nancy got permission to visit him and took a boat load of food, which probably saved his life and the lives of other prisoners.  Later on she secured his release, although he had to flee to Connecticut for safety.  Nancy's place in the spy ring was an important one, and she occupies a front place in the line of Colonial America's great women.
    Later on in the war, General Benedict Arnold, who was dissatisfied with the treatment he had received from Congress, planned to turn over the key fort at West Point, of which he was in charge, to the British. 

NOTE of historical correction: It has been stated that Robert Townsend discovered the Benedict Arnold plot and passed the information on to Maj. Tallmadge. There appears to be some doubt as to the accuracy of the story as commonly conveyed.  Mr Worley Thorne, through a letter to LIG stated - Though it's possible that Tallmadge knew something, it is doubtful he knew much about the plot or that Arnold was involved. If Tallmadge had known it seem logical he would have notified Gen. Washington immediately; resulting in Arnold's immediate arrest. Furthermore, why would Tallmadge not have told Col. Jameson of the situation, after Jameson had control of Maj. Andre and the six incriminating papers, and thus prevented Jameson from alerting Arnold, the alert which allowed Arnold to escape?
     The greatest accomplishment of the Culper Ring was the warning given in 1780 that the British planned to attack the French at Newport.  That could have spelled disaster for our alliance with the French, and thus for the war.  I think it is clear that we would not have triumphed at Yorktown without the French fleet or the French army. Whether that would have loss of the war, or many more years of fighting and suffering for our troops, would, of course, be highly speculative. (Thank you Mr Worley Thorne for your input.)
    On September 10, Major Tallmadge had received a letter from General Arnold saying he expected a "John Anderson" from New York, and if he should come to Major Tallmadge's headquarters would he give him an escort and send him to General Arnold's headquarters below West point.  On September 23, james Anderson (who was Major Andre) was captured while crossing the American lines near Tarrytown.  the following morning when General Arnold received word that Major Andre was being held as a British spy, he hurriedly called for a horse and rode to the river, where he ordered his bargemen to row him, not up the river to West Point but down the river to the British Sloop of War "Vulture," and so he escaped to the British.
    Major Andre was convicted and hanged as a spy October 2, 1780.  the surrender of west point was prevented by the fast work of the Setauket spy ring, and again the course of history was changed through their activities.
    After the war, Benedict Arnold went to live in London, where he was despised even by the country he had sold out to, and died in June 1801.  the only tribute to his memory in American hearts was a contempt and hatred more enduring than granite.

A few additional links for added information:


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General Woodhull - Long Island Martyr
    No town in the Province of New York furnished more prominent men to the cause of American independence than did Brookhaven town.  Among these was General nathaniel Woodhull, who was one of the first notable martyrs in the Revolution.
    General Woodhull was born at Mastic December 30, 1722.  His wife was a sister of general William Floyd.  In 1769 he was elected to the assembly and during the continuance of the colonial government was a faithful advocate of the wishes of his constituents of Suffolk county for the preservation of "their freedom and the command over their own purses."  Col. Woodhull was at the head of the deligation from Suffolk County in the first provincial congress which met in New York May 22, 1775, and on the 28th of August following was elected president of that body.  he was re-elected to the same position in 1776.  The congress of  1775 reorganized the militia of the colony and appointed Col. Woodhull brigadier general of the brigade which was formed of the militia of Suffolk and Queens counties.
    On the 16th of August 1776, General Woodhull left his seat in the Provincial Congress, then in session at White Plains, to take an active part in the military operations then being commenced upon Long Island.  While waiting at Jamaica for reinforcements to assist in collecting and drivingg eastward the cattle on the western part of the island, so as to secure them from the reach of the enemy, he was over taken by a party of British troops and made prisoner.  The officer who first approached him ordered him to say "God save the King" and the General replied, "God save us all," after which the officer attacked him with his broad sword and would have killed him on the spot but for the interference of another officer of more humanity and honor.  The General was badly wounded in the head and one of his arms was mangled from the shoulder to the wrist.  he was taken to the old stone church in Jamaica where his wounds were dressed, and the next day was confined in a vessel at Gravesend with about 80 other prisoners.  The General was released from the vessel which had no provisions for medical attention and was transfered to a house near the church in New Utrecht where he was permitted to receive some medical attention.
    He sent for his wife with the request that she bring with her all the money that she had, which she did, and the General had it distributed among the American prisoners to relieve their sufferings, thus furnishing a lesson of humanity to his captors and closing a useful life by an act of charity.  It was found necessary to amputate his arm, and after this was done infection set in, resulting in his death on the 20th of September, 1776.
     The talents of General Woodhull were adapted to military operation.  With personal courage, he possessed judgement, decision, and firmness of character which commanded the respect and obedience of his troops. He had more military experience than most of the early officers of the Revolutionary army, and no one in this state, at that time, promised to make a better officer.
    The Nature of the work assigned to him at the time of his capture, and the force placed under his command were both unworthy of his military abilities.
    The following quotations are from Silas Wood's History of Long Island (1828):
    "The capture of General Woodhull was one of the most calamitous events of that disastrous period.  It deprived the country of the talents, the experience and counsels of one of the ablest and most patriotic of her citizens.  The cruel and dastardly treatment of a prisoner, especially of his rank and character, after a peaceable surrender, raised a spirit of indignation in the breast of every honest man."
    "General Woodhull was as much distinguished for his private and domestic virtues, as for his zeal for the rights of his country, and was held in the highest estimation by all those who enjoyed his society.  His death spread a gloom over Long Island, and was universally lamented by the friends of freedom; and while the American Revolution continues to be a subject of gratitude with the people of Long Island, his memory will be cherished among their fondest recollections."

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Mastic, Scene of 1780 Battle
    In November, 1780, one of the most daring expeditions of the Revolution in Brookhaven town was planned and carried out by Major Benjamin Tallmadge.  This was the capture of the British Fort, St. George, located on the south side of the Island at Smith's Point, Mastic.  At this point a triangular enclosure of several acres had been constructed, at two angles of which were strongly barricaded houses, and at the third a fort, 96 feet square, well protected by sharpened pickets projecting from the earthen mound at an angle of 45 degrees.
    The fortification had just been completed and two guns were mounted.  It was intended as a safe depository for merchandise and munitions of war.  The garrison numbered about 50 men.  About 4 o'clock in the afternoon of November 21, Major tallmadge with two companies of dismounted dragoons, numbering in all 80 men, left Fairfield, Conn. in eight open boats and crossed the Sound, landing at Mt. Sinai about 9 o'clock in the evening.  After securing their boats in the bushes and stationing a guard over them, the troops were set in motion to cross the island.  They had proceeded but a few miles when a severe rainstorm came on, which compelled them to return and take shelter under the boats.  Here they remained all night and the next day.
    About 7 o'clock in the evening of the 22nd, the rain stopped and the men again started on their march arriving within two miles of the fort by 3 o'clock the following morning.  Here the troops were divided into three detachments, each of which proceeded by a different route for the purpose of making an attack upon the fort at different points.  Major Tallmadge himself led the main colimn, whose approach was not discovered by the enemy until they were within 20 yards of the stockade.  A breach was quickly made and the troops rushed through to the main fort, which they carried with the bayonet without firing of a single shot.  At the same instant the leaders of the other two detachments mounted the ramparts and from the three sides of the triangle a chorus of "Washington and Glory" was shouted by the elated victors.  Just then a volly of musketry was discharged upon them from one of the barricaded houses in which a considerable number of the garrison were hidden.  The attention of Tallmadge's men was immediately directed to that point, and for a few minutes a sharp contest ensued, during which the latter forced an entrance to the house and hurled a number of the enemy from the second story windows head long to the ground.
    During the encounter seven of the enemy were killed or wounded.  the fort was destroyed, 54 prisoners were taken, and a quantity of merchandise brought away.  A vessel lying near the fort was also burned.
    Having accomplished the object of their visit, the Americans returned to Mt. Sinai with their prisoners.  Major Tallmadge took 12 men and went by the way of Coram where they set fire to a magazine of hay, estimated at about 300 tons, which had been collected there by the British.  Arriving at their landing place they all returned to Fairfield the same night, reaching there about midnight.  None of Tallmadge's men were killed and only a few injured.  A letter of commendation was addressed to him by General Washington for the successful capture of Fort St. George and the burning of the hay at Coram.

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Rev. David Rose Patriot Pastor
    The Rev. david Rose, who was pastor of the South Haven Presbyterian Church from 1765 until his death in 1799, and also pastor of the Middle Island Presbyterian Church from the time of its organization in 1766, was an interesting and important man in those early days.  He rode over his large parishes on the south side and in the Middle Island area on horseback, his saddle bags filled with drugs, medicines and a bible, and combined the three most prized functions of that day, preacher, doctor, and teacher.
    He lived on and worked a farm near the church, and in 1767 the ear marks for his cattle were recorded in the town records as being that "formerly of Justice Nath. Woodhull at South."
    It was this intensely busy man who wielded a great influence over the people in the southern and central part of brookhaven Town in the years leading up to the Revolution.  He feared encroachment on personal liberties by the British government like all the Presbyterians who were so devoted to the ideal od freedom for the individual and were the descendants of those Puritans and Independents of whom King James, I, once remarked, "A Scottish Presbyter agrees as well with an amsolute monarchy as God with the devil."
    He was also aquainted with the despute in 1740 between the Presbyterian Church and the struggling young Angelican Church in which the latter demanded some of the town lands and patronage.  In this didpute the Presbyterian Church was referred to as the "Descenting party" and the rev. Mr. Rose feared the loss of the freedom for which the settlers had come to this land.
    "Priest Rose," as he was called, led an active campaign to resist these encroachments on their liberties, and one of the most outstanding examples of the way the members of the South haven Church declared allegiance to the cause of liberty is found on the first page of "Onderdonk's Revolutionary Incidents," which is as follows:
    "At a meeting of the inhabitants of the parish of South haven, June 13, 1774, William Smith moderator:
"1.  It was voted and agreed that the Act of Parliament for blocking up the port of Boston is unconstitutional and has a direct tendency to enslave the inhabitants of America, and put an end to all property.
2.  And it is also the opinion of this meeting, that if the Colonies all unite and strictly adhere to a non-importation agreement from Great Britian and the West Indies, and should have reason to expect in a short time, a repeal of that oppresive act, and for that purpose we heartily desire that such an agreement may be entered into.
3.  And it is voted that William Smith, Esq., Col. Nath'l Woodhull, Col. Wm. Floyd, Mr. Thos. Fanning, Capt. Josiah Smith, Capt. David Mulford, and Capt. Jona. Baker, be a standing Committee of Correspondence of the city of New York, and others, and that they immediately communicate the above statements to them."
    Priest Rose was very active in the cause of American Independance, and served in the army after taking his family to Connecticut for safty, where his wife died from the hardship of exile.
    During the seven long years that the British were in possession of Long Island, the farms and homes of the members of the South Haven Church were seized, and the church used as a horse stable by the British soldiers.  After the war, the Rev. Mr. Rose returned to Connecticut with his family and began the difficult task of restoring the two churches of his parish and carried on this work until his death in 1799.
    Remarkable was the influence of this small country church for it sent out into the political world of that colonial day, distinguished men who have been recognized and remembered as leaders in the early life of our country.  Among these were General William Floyd, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independance; General Nathaniel Woodhull, who became one of the first notable martyrs to the American cause; Col. Josiah Smith, who led a regiment in the battle of Long Island, and Judge William Smith, lord of the Manor of St. George.
    Let no one forget that behind the developement of this church, and its power and influencxe during those most important years in the history of the American republic, stood its pastor, the Rev. David Rose, that capable and courageous leader who gave over half of his life to the service of the church.
    Another promonent man in the early history of the church was the Rev. Ezra King, who was pastor from 1810 to 1839 of the combined churches of South Haven and Middle Island.  He also covered his large parishes on horseback, and was a teacher, serving for many years as inspector of the town schools.  He lived on his farm in Middle Island, and it was during his pastorate that the present South Haven church was built in 1828, and the one in Middle Island in 1837.

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Caleb Brewster of Setauket
    Caleb Brewster of Setauket was an important member of the American spy ring that operated out of Setauket during the Revolutionary War under the direction of Major Benjamin Tallmadge.
    Austin Roe of Setauket, brought the secret messages from the chief spy in New York, Robert Townsend (alias Culper, Jr.).  These were turned over to Abraham Woodhull, who in turn gave thenm to Caleb Brewster, who carried them across the sound in one of his boats and delivered them to Major Benjamin Tallmadge, who delivered them to General washington, wherever he might be located.
    Caleb Brewster was born in Setauket in 1747.  He was the son of Benjamin Brewster,  grandson of Daniel Brewster, great-grandson of the Rev. Nathaniel Brewster (the first minister of the old town church in Setauket) who is supposed to have been a nephew of Elder William Brewster, who arrived with the pilgrims .  His father was a farmer and, as was too often the case in that day, gave his son only a limited education.  Caleb was an active boy and was anxious to explore the world beyond his native village, so at the age of 19 went on a whaling ship bound for the coast of Greenland under command of Capt. Jonathan Worth.
    His next voyage was to London in a merchant ship, and upon his return found his country engaged in the Revolutionary War.  He immediately volunteered his service and within a short time was made a lieutenant of artillery.  he was help in such high esteem by his officers and the commander in chief for his integrity, courage and patriotism, that in 1778 he was employed as a secret agent by Congress.  Through the rest of the war he devoted himself in procuring and transmitting important information relative to the movements of the British Army in New York and on Long Island.
    Brewster was among those who under Col. parsons crossed the sound in 1777 for the purpose of capturing a company of British soldiers who had taken possession and made a fort of the Presbyterian Church at Setauket.  This expedition was not successful, as, while they were making their attack on the British in the old church word came that reinforcements were coming down the sound to the aid of the British, so the attack was abandoned.
    For several years, Brewster was the trusted messenger of the secret messages from Setauket to the headquarters of major Tallmadge, across the sound, and in his lightly armed whaleboats, with good men, traveled this route as often as was necessary.  he sailed under his own name and made no attempt to keep secret which side he served on.  In addition to this he captured several supply ships headed for the British Army in New York, and also led his men on raids across Long Island, burning and wrecking whatever they could find belonging to the British.  He had many encounters with the enemy and was sometimes wounded, but always came off victorious and was never caught.
    He was with Major Tallmadge in November 1780 in the expedition that came across the sound from Fairfield, Conn., and landed at Mt. Sinai; then marched across the Island and made a successful attack on the British Fort St. George at Mastic.  They returned the same way with their prisoners and part of the force went back by the way of Coram, where they burned a hay stack of 300 tons collected by the British.
    On December 7, 1782, Capt. Brewster, with the whaleboats under his command, gave chase to several armed boats of the enemy in the sound, and after a desperate fight succeeded in capturing two of them.  During this encounter his shoulder was pierced with a rifle ball and he was hospitalized for some time, after which he was placed on the pension roll of the army for the rest of his life.  He was engaged in several other important encounters with the enemy on the water after this, and in 1783 captured the Fox, an armed British vessel in the sound during a short but fierce encounter.
    In 1784 he married Anne. daughter of Jonathan Lewis of Fairfield, Conn., where he continued to live when not in public service.  he was long remembered for his great size, his fine proportions, vigorous constitution, unrivaled wit and his devil-may-care bearing.  He died on his farm at Black Rock, Conn., at the age of 79.

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Captain Nathaniel Norton
The following was taken from DAR records pg 285 ( first sentence missing)  Provided by Carol  (thank you)
---------    their services; it is to be lamented that many worthy individuals have passed into oblivion, while scarcely any thing is remembered of their particular services; however much their efforts may have contributed to success in that dark and trying period of American history. In the rank of this class of patriots may be reckoned the subject of this notice, yet it is evident tat he performed much in the sacred cause of liberty and his country.  Mr. Norton was born in Brookhaven in the year 1742. What were the particular circumstances and employment of his juvenile days are not exactly known? At an early age he volunteered as a private in the provincial corps in the French war , ( which commenced in 1756) in the force commanded by Major General Bradstreet; and in the year 1760 was stationed at Oswego. Mr. Norton displayed on all occasions the characteristics of a brave and prudent soldier. In the beginning of 1776 he was appointed and commissioned as lieutenant in the fourth New- York Continental Regiment, commanded by Col. Henry B. Livingston; and continued attached to that body till toward the end of the year 1781, when five New York regiments, were consolidated; and although he was not appointed to a command in those regiments, yet such was the estimate of his services and usefulness, that his pay and appointments were continued to him during the remainder of the war; and by a resolution of Congress became entitled to his due succession of rank. In the same year he was secretly commissioned by Governor Clinton to obtain loans of money from the wealthy Whig inhabitants of Long Island for the use of the government; and thereupon the better to conceal this object and fulfill its duties, he was appointed to the command of a small national vessel called the "Suffolk" in which he cruised in the Sound, between Sands Point and Newhaven. In this business he was very successful, and obtained large sums on the faith of the government, which he regularly delivered to the governor. Captain Norton had previously done duty in the corps de reserve and at the battle of Monmouth, on the 28th day of June 1778, and was engaged with the artillery in that action. He afterwards accompanied General Sullivan in the expedition against; the six Nations, the occupying the western part of this state but was prevented by sickness from taking an active
part inn the cations of Bemus Heights and Stillwater, which led to the British army under Burgoyne. After the war, Captain Norton retired to his farm in this town, and remained there till 1790 when he became and elder and subsequently a minister in there Baptist church. He was settled for some time in Connecticut, and afterward at Herkimer in this state. In 1805 , age and bodily infirmity made it necessary to relinquish hiss pastoral duties, and he spent; the remainder of his days in retirement, which a pension from the government enabled him to do in a comfortable manner. His mental powers were active and vigorous, his memory retained, And his conversation at all times interesting and agreeable. He died suddenly, while on a visit to New York, the 7th of October 1837 ; and his funeral solemnities were attended by his surviving brethren of the Cincinnati of which he at the time of his death; the oldest member. By his own previous desire his body was conveyed to Brookhaven and conveyed to Brookhaven, and interned in the burial-ground of the Baptist; church at Corum on the 10th of October 1837.

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The Van Tassel Family of Colonial America

For an excellent Van Tassel resource visit The Van Tassel Family History Homepage

    Jan Cornelius Van Tassel was the first of that name, known to have come to New Netherlands. Among the first settlers to locate upon Philipse Manor, were John, Jacob and Cornelius Van Tassel, sons of the first mentioned. They were the 38th, 52nd and 73rd persons whose names appear upon the roll of members of the old Dutch Church of Sleepy Hollow. Dirck, the son of Cornelius, was the 25th person baptised previous to 1699. In 1723 he married at the church in Hackensack, N.J., Christina Buise, daughter of Aaron Buise, who was an officer of the old Dutch Church, from 1743 to 1767. His five daughters, and Cornelius, the subject of this sketch, were all baptised at that church, the latter in 1734. A receipt given by Dirck Van Tassel to Frederick Philipse dated Dec. 22, 1767, for 6 pounds, 2s. 6d, for rent of the farm, is still preserved. Lieut. Cornelius married Elizabeth Storms, daughter of Nicholas, and sister of Capt. Abraham Storms, the first Captain elected for the company that was known as the
Tarrytown Company, this Sept. 2, 1775, being the first and earliest mention of the name Tarrytown yet discovered.
    Lieut. Cornelius Van Tassel, was elected an officer of one of the four companies organized in the upper Manor of Philipsburg. The Provincial Congress in session in New York city, gave them their commissions during the month of Sept., 1775. His farm of two hundred and odd acres, was the same formerly occupied by his father and grandfather, and was situated upon the Saw Mill river road, one mile south of the present Elmsford.
    The British scouting parties having met with many humiliating defeats at the hands of these defenders, Governor Tryon determined to adopt harsh measures to exterminate them. James Delancey, the Tory Sheriff of the County, was the Colonel of the Westchester Co. Militia, a regiment that had been organized for a number of years previous to the Revolution. Many of the members of the South Battalion were also enrolled as members of that regiment, but were looked upon as deserters by the British.   Governor Tryon directed Col. Delancey to recruit a company out of his regiment which were called Rangers.  They were mounted, and the Governor, to stimulate enlistments in that branch of the service, gave them a reward of twenty-five dollars for the capture of every committeeman, and five dollars each for every deserter. This command soon grew to be a very effective regiment. They were given the name of Cow Boys, as their thorough knowledge of the roads and country was a great help to them in that particular line of cattle capture. On the night of Nov. 17, 1777, Peter and Cornelius Van Tassel were taken prisoners at their
homes by Capt. Emmerick's command from King's Bridge, a part of which also proceeded to the house of Maj. Abraham Storms, which they partially burned. The enemy having collected the Van Tassel's stock of cattle, made sure their prisoners should not escape as they tied their hands to their horses' tails, in which position they compelled them to drive their cattle to their camp. While they were preparing to burn the dwelling, Lt. Van Tassel's son, Cornelius, Jr., having secreted himself in the attic, was driven out by the smoke. Throwing a blanket over his head he came down stairs and sprang over the lower half of the hall door and ran rapidly to the Saw Mill River, pursued by the enemy, who gave up the chase when they found that he had broken his way through the ice, in order to escape to the Farcus Hott, the picket station on Beaver Mountain. Cornelius, Jr., died Jan. 3, 1780, as the result
of his exposure at the time of his father's capture. While the dwelling was burning one of the soldiers actuated with praiseworthy feelings of humanity obtained a feather bed and threw it over the mother and child, who were then left to care for themselves as best they could. They afterward found temporary shelter in a dirt cellar, the only habitation left upon the farm.
    Capt. John Romer gives the following account of the affair, date of 1845: "The night on which the houses were surprised and burnt was one of the coldest of the season. Cornelius Van Tassel on the first alarm sprang from the windows and tried to escape, being almost naked. He was taken, but never recovered from the exposure of that night.  The Tory Captain, Joshua Barnes, acted as guide for Emerick that night, and his voice was heard above the tumult.: 'The houses are both owned by d____d Rebels--burn them!' My wife, Leah Van Tassel, was the only daughter of Cornelius, and she was the infant taken out of the house in a blanket by a soldier, laid carefully in the snow and the mother, distracted, was seeking her babe when he told her where the child was. The only son, Cornelius, Jr., fled for safety half naked to the roof of the house and held on by the chimney, from which when the
fire began to reach him he jumped to the ground. He escaped that night, but caught cold from which he never recovered."
    It was about this time that Gov. Tryon issued his infamous order to "Burn Tarrytown," which provoked swift reprisal in the destruction of Gen. Oliver Delancey's house down the river in the night from this place. And so Lieut. Cornelius and Peter Van Tassel were cruelly and ignominiously carried away to New York as prisoners. A petition signed by Lieut. Cornelius and Peter Van Tassel, as Committeemen, and others, drawn up at the Provost Goal, date of Feb. 6, 1778, is on file among the Clinton papers, in which they set forth that they are there as Committeemen, and hence unable to get exchanged, and they ask the Governor to help them out of their dilemma so that they may be returned to their families, which it appears he was not very soon able to do. The official records show that their release from prison took place on the 17th of Oct. 1778, making just 11 months of captivity. The following is copied from the book of Audited Accounts pertaining to the Revolution in the State Archives at Albany.
    When peace was at last proclaimed, Lt. Van Tassel purchased his old farm from the Commissioners of Forfeiture, but on account of the losses incurred, was unable to rebuild his dwelling. His only son having died from exposure received in fighting for his country, he postponed the affair until the marriage of his daughter Leah, to John Romer, son of Jacob Romer, Sr., who with his three brothers had been active participants in the cause of Independence; and in 1793, they erected the dwelling still standing, of which a photo representation appears herewith, and where for upward of fifty years the annual town meetings of the township of Greensburgh were held. Here Lt. Van Tassel and wife, Jacob Romer, Sr., and wife, and their son John Romer and wife spent their remaining days. John Romer became Captain in the war of 1812, and took an active part in those proceedings that were
productive in the advancement of the best interests of the community. He was not only a well known man among men, bit it is said, was decided by vote at a general election to be the best looking man in the town! He died at the age of 90, beloved by every one.
    Lieut. Cornelius Van Tassel died Mar. 6, 1820, in the 86th year of his age, and Elizabeth Storms his wife, died Mar. 25, 1825, in the 87th year of her age. J. C. L. Hamilton, of Elmsford, is the grandson of John Romer and great-grandson of Lieut. Cornelius Van Tassel.
     Peter Van Tassel's name appears as a member of Capt. Daniel Martling's Company as early as 1776, and as already stated he was a member of the Committee of Public Safety for this County when taken prisoner and carried away to the Provost Gaol in New York in Nov., 1777. His tombstone in the old Dutch Churchyard shows that he was born in May, 1728, and that he died in Sept., 1784, just after the close of the Revolutionary war, and probably as a result of the hardships endured during that period. His birth, and consequently parentage, do not appear in the records of the old Dutch Church, and the latter for some evaded all research, but it was finally discovered in the will of Johannis Van Tassel (son of Jacob) of Philipsburg, recorded in the Surrogate's office in the city of New York. The will is dated Dec. 23, 1771. By it the testator gives to his wife Trintje, (Buys), his son Jacob, daughter Anna, widow of Jacob Wormer, daughter Rachel wife of John Van Tassel, daughter Catrina wife of Abram Ecker, "son of Abm," and grand child of Catrina daughter of his son John Van Tassell, dec'd, and appoints his well beloved sons Peter and Jacob his executors.
    So Peter was the son of Johannis who had married Trintje, and the brother of famous Major Jacob Van Tassel of Wolfert's Roost, also brother of Catrina who married Abraham Acker of Ecker, 2d, and John, took title to his farm of 150 acres in the Saw Mill River Valley just south of and adjoining the farm of Lieut. Cornelus Van Tassel, who was his kinsman.
    The will of Hendrick Van Tassel, who had married Balith Buys, also appears in the Surrogate's office at New York City, date of 1771. He gave his wife Balith, sons John and Hendrick, daughters Mary and Balithy Slymets.
     Jacob Van Tassel, the son of Johannis Van Tassel and Catharine his wife, was baptised Nov. 10, 1744. Hester Van Tassel his wife, was the daughter of a Johannis Van Tassel and Helena Hammen his wife. They were married Sept. 23, 1764. Their home was at the Wolfert Acker place, long known as "Wolfert's Roost." The following fancy sketch of the Roost and its brave defender, Lieut. Jacob Van Tassell, from the gifted pen of Washington Irving is well introduced here:
    "The situation of the Roost is in the very heart of what was the debateable ground between the American and British lines, during the war. The British held possession of the city of New York, and the island of Manhattan, on which it stands. The Americans drew up towards the highlands, holding their headquarters at Peekskill. The intervening country, from Croton River to Spiting Devil Creek, was the debateable land, subject to be harried by friend and foe, like the Scottish borders of yore. It is rugged country, with a line of rocky hills extending through it like a backbone, sending ribs on either side; but among these rude hills are beautiful winding valleys, like those watered by the Pocantico and the Neperan. In the fastnesses of these hills, and along these valleys, exists a race of hard-headed, stout-hearted Dutchmen, descended of the primitive Netherlanders. Most of these were strong whigs throughout the war, and have ever remained obstinately attached to the soil, and neither to be fought nor bought
out of their paternal acres. Others were tories, and adherents to the old kingly rule; some of whom took refuge within the British lines, joined the royal bands of refugees, (a name odious to the American ear), and occasionally returned to harass their ancient neighbors. In a little while this debateable land was overrun by predatory bands from either side; sacking hen-roosts, plundering farm-houses, and driving off cattle. Hence arose those two great orders of border chivalry, the Skinners and the Cow Boys, famous in the heroic annals of Westchester County. The former fought, or rather, marauded under the American, the latter under the British banner; but both, in the hurry of their military ardor, were apt to err on the safe side, and rob friend as well as foe. Neither of them stopped to ask the politics of horse or cow, which they drove into captivity; nor, when they wrung the neck of a rooster, did they trouble their heads to ascertain whether he was crowing for Congress or King George.  While this marauding
system pervailed on shore, the Great Tappan Sea, which washes this belligerent region, was domineered over by British frigates and other vessels of war, anchored here and there, to keep an eye upon the river, and maintain a communication between the various military posts. Stout galleys, also armed with eighteen pounders, and navigated with sails and oars, cruised about like hawks, ready to pounce upon their prey.  All these were eyed with bitter hostility by the Dutch yeomanry along shore, who were indignant at seeing their great Mediterranean ploughed by hostile prows; and would occasionally throw up a mud breast-work on a point of promontory, mount an old iron field-piece, and fire away at the enemy, though the greatest harm was apt to happen to themselves, from the bursting of their ordnance, nay, there was scarce a Dutchman along the river that would hesitate to fire with
his long duck gun at any British cruiser that came within his reach, as he had been accustomed to fire at water fowl.
    I have been thus particular in my account of the times and neighborhood, that the reader might the more readily comprehend the surrounding dangers in this, the heroic age of the Roost. It was commanded at the time, as I have already observed, by the stout Jacob Van Tassel. As I wish to be extremely accurate in this part of my chronicle, I an Tassel, commonly known in border story by the name of 'clump-footed Jack,' a noted tory, and one of the refugee band of Spiting Devil. On the contrary, he of the Roost was a patriot of the first water; and, if we may take his own word for granted, a thorn in the side of the enemy. As the Roost, from its lonely situation on the water's edge, might be liable to attack, he took measures for defence. On a row of hooks, above his fire-place, reposed his great piece of ordnance, ready charged and primed for action. This was a duck, or, rather, goose-gun of unparalleled longitude--with which it was said he could kill a wild goose, though half way across the Tappan Sea. Indeed, there
are as many wonders told of this renowned gun as of the stone walls of his mansion he had made loop-holes, through which he might fire upon an assailant. His wife was stout-hearted as himself, and could load as fast as he could fire; and then he had an ancient and redoubtable sister, Nochie van Wurmer, a match, as he said, for the stoutest man in the country. Thus garrisoned, the little Roost was fit to stand a siege, and Jacob van Tassel was the man to defend it to the last charge of powder.
    "He was, as I have already hinted, of pugnacious propensities; and, not content with being a patriot at home, and fighting for the security of his own fireside, he extended his thoughts abroad, and entered into a confederacy with certain of the bold, hard-riding lads of Tarrytown, Petticoat Lane and Sleepy Hollow--who formed a kind of holy brotherhood, scouring the country to clear it of skinners and cowboys, and all other border vermin. The Roost was one of their rallying points. Did a band of marauders from Manhattan island come sweeping through the neighborhood, and driving off cattle, the stout Jacob and his compeers were soon clattering at their heels, and fortunate did the rogues esteem themselves, without a rough handling. Should the moss troopers succeed in passing with their cavalgada, with thundering tramp and dusty whirlwind, across King's Bridge, the holy brotherhood of
the Roost would reign up at that perilous pass, and, wheeling about, would indemnify themselves by foraging the refugee region of Morrisania.
    "When at home at roost, the stout Jacob was not idle; he was prone to carry on a petty warfare of his own, for his private recreation and refreshment. Did he ever chance to espy, from his look-out place, a hostile ship or galley anchored or becalmed near shore, he would take down his long goose-gun from the hooks over the fire-place, sally out alone, and lurk along shore, dodging behind rocks and trees, and watching for hours together, like a veteran mouser intent on a rat hole. So sure as a boat put off for shore, and came within shot, bang went the great goose-gun; a shower of slugs and buck-shot whistled about the ears of the enemy, and, before the boat could reach the shore, Jacob had scuttled up some woody ravine, and left no trace behind.
    "About this time the Roost experienced a vast accession of war-like importance, in being made one of the stations of the water guard. This was a kind of aquatic corps of observation, composed of long, sharp canoe-shaped boats, technically called whale-boats, that lay lightly on the water, and could be rowed with great rapidity. They were manned by resolute fellows, skilled at pulling an oar or handling a musket. These lurked about in nooks and bays, and behind those long promontories which run out into the Tappan Sea, keeping a look-out, to give notice of the approach or movements of hostile ships. They roved about in pairs, sometimes at night, with muffled oars, gliding like spectres about frigates and guard-ships riding at anchor; cutting off any boat that made for shore, and keeping the enemy in constant uneasiness. These mosquito cruisers generally kept aloof by day, so that their
harboring places might not be discovered, but would pull quietly along, under shadow of the shore, at night, to take up their quarters at the Roost. Hither, at such time, would also repair the hard-riding lads of the hills, to hold secret councils of war with the "ocean chivalry;" and in these nocturnal meetings, were concerted many of those daring forays, by land and water, that resounded throughout the border."
    The chronicler here goes on to recount divers wonderful stories of the wars of the Roost, from which it would seem that this little warrior nest carried the terror of its arms into every sea from Spiting Devil Creek to St. Anthony's Nose; that it even bearded the stout island of Manhattan, invading it at night, penetrating to its centre, and burning down the famous DeLancey house, the conflagration of which makes such a blaze in revolutionary history. Nay, more; in their extravagant daring, these cocks of the Roost meditated a nocturnal descent upon New York itself, to swoop upon the British commanders, Howe and Clinton, by surprise, bear them off captive, and, perhaps, put a triumphant close to the war.
    "This doughty Dutchman (continues the sage Diedrich Knickerbocker) was not content with taking a share in all the magnanimous enterprises concocted at the Roost, but still continued his petty warfare along shore. A series of exploits at length raised his confidence in his prowess to such a height, that he began to think himself and his goose-gun a match for anything. Unluckily, in the course of one of his prowlings, he descried a British transport aground, not far from shore, with her stern swung towards the land within point-blank shot. The temptation was too great to be resisted; bang! as usual went the great goose-gun, shivering the cabin windows, and driving all hands forward. Bang! bang! the shots were repeated. The reports brought several sharp-shooters of the neighborhood to the spot; before the transport could bring a gun to bear, or land a boat, to take revenge, she was soundly peppered, and the coast evacuated. She was the last of Jacob's triumphs. He fared, like some heroic spider,
that had unwittingly snared a hornet--to his immortal glory, perhaps, but to the utter ruin of his web.
     "It was not long after this, during the absence of Jacob Van Tassel on one of his forays, and when no one was in garrison but his stout-hearted spouse, his redoubtable sister, Nochie Van Wurmer, and a strapping negro wench called Dinah, that an armed vessel came to anchor off the Roost and a boat full of men pulled to shore. The garrison flew to arms--that is to say, to mops, broomsticks, shovels, tongs, and all kinds of domestic weapons--for unluckily, the great piece of ordnance, the goose-gun was absent with its owner. Above all, a vigorous defence was made with that most potent of female weapons the tongue. Never did invaded hen-roost make a more vociferous outcry. It was all in vain. The house was sacked and plundered, fire was set to each corner, and, in a few moments, its blaze shed a baleful light far over the Tappan Sea. The invaders then pounced upon the blooming Laney Van Tassel, the beauty of the Roost, and endeavored to bear her off to the boat. But here was the real tug of war. The mother, the aunt, the strapping negro wench, all flew to the rescue. The struggle continued down to the very water's edge, when a voice from the armed vessel at anchor ordered the spoilers to let go their hold. They relinquished the prize, jumped into their boats, and pulled off, and the heroine of the Roost escaped with a mere rumpling of the feathers. Shortly after the catastrophe of the Roost, Jacob Van Tassel, in the course of one of his forays, fell into the hands of the British, was sent prisoner to New York, and was detained in captivity for the greater part of the war."
    But to turn from the realm of fancy and tradition to the realism of personal experience, the following copied from the original in the archives of the Pension Office at Washington, is herewith presented: Lieut. Jacob Van Tassel's statement made in his application for pension, April 30, 1836, in his 92d year:
    "Was then a resident of Greenwich St., New York. He states that he was then upwards of 91 years of age. That on the breaking out of the Revolutionary War he was a farmer living on Philipse Manor, present town of Greenburgh, County of Westchester, N.Y. That he first entered the service in the year 1776 in a company of Militia commanded by Capt. Glode Requa; that as a private and Sergeant in his company he served for different periods until the resignation of Capt. Requa in 1778; that in June, 1778, he received the commission of Lieutenant in same company under Capt. Geo. Comb, Col. Hammond's Regt.; that by order of said Col. Hammond he received directions to take as many men from his company as seemed advisable, and go as far down the Hudson as he could with safety, and gather all the information he could relative to the movements and designs of the enemy, and that he selected six privates and went down, and on their return put up for the night at a private dwelling in the vicinity of Croton River; that in the morning, as they were about in readiness to march they were surprised by a party of British
soldiers of 72 foot and 9 horse, and he further learned that they had been betrayed. Two of his men escaped, but himself and four others were taken prisoners and went to Verplanck's Point, and there put on board a vessel and transported down the river to Yonkers; that he was kept at this place but for a short time, when he was put on a vessel and sent to New York City and confined there in the building called the "Old Jail."  That after being there four or five weeks he was put on his parole, which was executed at the old Sugar House in Liberty St., was then sent to Flatbush where he remained until he was exchanged in the fall of 1781, and on his arrival home he first heard of the surrender of Cornwallis.
    Relates being one of the Company that made a raid to Morrisania when the guide Dyckman was killed. Upon one occasion he recollected to have shot a deserter from our troops who had been with the British at Fishkill, and that he frequently shot at the British Galleys going up and down the river. That on one occasion the British (under Lieut. Althouse) having taken a number of cattle, he and a party among whom was Capt John Buchanan, recaptured them and killed 4 or 5 of the British.
    That when they went down the river on a scout as aforesaid they went nearly to King's Bridge and lay over night in the bushes; that they obtained much information relative to the intended movements of the British, and that on their return they took two prisoners from the British guardships and had them in custody when they themselves were taken prisoners at Croton River. That during the whole adventure they were in iminent danger, particularly when they lay in the bushes at King's Bridge, as the British were constantly passing in immediate view; and he further declares that Abraham Van Tassel, David Van Tassel, and Wm. Reton, his relatives, and Isaac Delameter, were the persons who were taken prisoners with him. That at Flatbush where he was on parole, were many American officers, including Col. Hammond, the latter part of the time, he having been taken out of his bed when he was taken prisoner. That when they were exchanged Hammond accompanied them up through New Jersey to Greenburg; that they were advised to return that way as the British lay in New York. And he further states that during his imprisonment his dwelling houses and out houses were burned by the enemy and his personal property wholly wasted and destroyed.
    Isaac Dalameter swears to the date of the capture (was taken prisoner on the 1st day of July, 1779, with Lieut. Jacob Van Tassel, and was a prisoner until Nov. 5, 1781,) by reason of its being his 21st birthday; that they were betrayed by the person with whom they stopped that night at Croton, and he corroborated Lieut. Van Tassel's statement.
    Jacob Van Tassel took title from the Commissioners of Forfeiture to 185 acres, the place which he had occupied as a tenant under Frederick Philpse, and for which he paid 500.  Jacob Van Tassel and Hester his wife had "Lena" who married Caleb Brush and had Jacob born Aug. 28, 1790, and also sons Caleb and Joshua. She died Oct. 27, 1861, in her 95th year, and he died Nov. 59, 1856, in his 93d year. Jacob also had sons Isaac, Jacob, and William. Charles Denison Belden, of New York, is a great-grandson of Lieut. Jacob Van Tassel.
    The following inscription appears on his tombstone in the old Dutch Churchyard, he being there designated "Major" Jacob Van Tassel, to which honor he was entitled by reason of a commission he had held in the Militia after the Revolution: Hester, wife of Lieut. Jacob Van Tassel, died Dec. 10, 1811, aged 77 years, 8 months and 10 days. Jacob was afterwards twice married. His latter years were spent in the family of his son-in-law, Caleb Brush, in New York. Altogether Jacob Van Tassel was a great character and well deserves posthumous fame.
     Stephen Van Tassel's application for a pension, dated Dec. 11, 1832, states that he entered the service as a Volunteer about the first of May, 1776, at Tarrytown, for 9 months in the Co. of Capt. Abram Ladieu; resided in or near Tarrytown at that time; was at the battle of White Plains in the right wing of the American Army near Chatterton Hill.  In the spring of 1777 re-enlisted in Capt. Sybert Acker's Co., Lieut. Col. Hammond's Regt.; was in Capt. Daniel Williams' Co., at the Youngs' House fight; afterwards in the Co. of Capt. Gilbert Dean. In 1780 enlisted in the Continental line under Col. Hughes; was taken prisoner in April, 1780, and taken to New York and confined in the old Sugar House Prison 11 months and 5 days. Was born in the year 1758. Endorsed by John Israel, who says that he was himself taken prisoner in Dec., 1779, and confined in the old Sugar House Prison, and saw
Stephen Van Tassel there. This Stephen was a son of Johannis Van Tassel, who was a soldier in the French war as well as in the Revolution, and grandson of Jan Van Tassel and Annatie Acker his wife. He married Mary, the daughter of Stephen Bertine, and lived at "Haventje," know as the Fremont place. This Johannis Van Tassel was the great-grandfather of Mr. Daniel Van Tassel of Tarrytown.
    A John Van Tassel, born 1737, and who died 1807, was one of the John Van Tassels who served in the French war; was also a soldier of the Revolution. He kept the Van Tassel Inn, present Jacob Mott house, which was a rallying place in the early part of the Revolution, a photo representation of which is herewith produced. It was there that Washington once visited a sick officer, as was well remembered by the late Mrs. Romer.  It was there that a party of British Refugees (Tories) was surprised and captured by Major Hunt, in 1781. The door is said to have been pierced by a cannon ball during one of the bombardments of Tarrytown by British frigates. It is one of the oldest buildings remaining in this vicinity, and it is said was erected by one of the Martlings as early as 1712.
    Another John Van Tassel who was a Revolutionary soldier was killed in the attack on the Glode Requa house on May 26, 1779. John Romer says of the affair, "John Van Tassel was posted as sentinel near the house, and challenged the enemy who charged. He fired, defended himself with his bayonet, but was surrounded and cut to pieces by the dragoons. The men then jumped out of the window and escaped."  The State afterwards gave a pension to "Catharine Ann and John Van Tassel, orphan children of John Van Tassel, late private in Col. Hammond's Regt., who was slain on the field, May 26, 1779."
    The David Van Tassel who was a prisoner at the same time with Lieut. Jacob, was a brother of Hester Van Tassel, Jacob's wife. Abraham and Isaac who were also prisoners at the same time, were brothers, the sons of Abraham Van Tassel and Cornelia La Mettie his wife. The aforementioned Isaac was the grandfather of the venerable John C. Van Tassel, of Mt. Pleasant and of Wm. H. Van Tassel, of the Architectural Iron Works of New York, their fathers being brothers.
    Among the early if not original members of the old Dutch Church were Jacob Van Texel and Aletje his wife, Jan Van Texel and Cathrina his wife, and Cornelius Van Texel and Antje his wife. Among the officers of that Church appear the names of Cornelius Van Texel, Deacon, 1709; Jan Van Texel, Deacon, 1716; Cornelius, Elder, 1717; Jan, Elder, 1727; Jan, Elder, 1736; Hendrick, Deacon, 1738; Dirk, Deacon, 1743; Hendirck, Elder, 1745, 1749, 1750, and 1754; Johnannis, Deacon, 1757-60. Hendrick, Elder, 1762; Dirck, Elder, 1767; Jacob, Deacon, 1770; Jan, Deacon, 1790.
    Old Manor records show that Johannis Van Tassel was Collector 1722-3-5. 1742-- Overseer for the King's Road from Charl Davids, Evert Bruyn and Johannis Van Texel the son of Jacob. 1743--Hannis Van Texel one of the Fence Viewers. Same year, Hannis Van Texel was one of the Overseers of the Highway. 1750, Feb. 20, ear mark of Wm. Van Tassel; 1756, Dec. 29, ear mark of Johannis Van Tassel; 1757, March 20, ear mark of Johannis Van Tassel, son of Hendrick. 1760, Mar. 4, licensed Inn Keeper, Peter Van Tassel; 1778, John Van Tassel, a Pound Master; 1779, John Van Tassel Assessor.
    The following, copied from the original on file in the State Archives at Albany, well deserves a place here as a picture of heroic endurance by the Van Tassels in the great struggle for American Liberty and American Independence:
To his Excellency, Gov. Clinton, & c. This Petition Respectfully Showeth:
That your petitioners have endeavored to defend and protect the Freedom and Liberty of the United States. After the many disappointments and reverses of fortune which we have had to struggle with, the expectations of rising again to prosperity are brought low enough by long imprisonment; but it would be a satisfaction to us that our real character were known to your Excellency and the Senate and Assembly, which if it were we flatter ourselves that we should have your indulgence, nay, your esteem. Refuse not most gracious gentlemen, the means for gaining this end to men who are ready and willing to shed their blood in proof of their loyalty and affection for our country's cause.
     Notwithstanding the enemy has not left us one single head of our cattle, furniture, &c., but has plundered us of all, we beseech that you will look with an eye of pity on us and have some consideration for our past services, and that a year's imprisonment and five years' exile, the ruin of our fortunes, and the submission with which we have born these punishments and the zeal which we are still ready to show for our country's cause, if your Excellency and the Senate and Assembly do not make some provision for us we and our families must inevitably perish. Therefore we hope you will take Christian pity and assist us from this labyrinth of misery. By so doing, your petitioners and the widows and fatherless will be forever bound to pray for your Excellency, and the honorable Senate and Assembly.
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William Vredenburgh and the Revolutionary War

This information was donated by Larry Vredenburgh.
Larry has a wonderful Vredenburgh site at http://www.cybersurfers.net/vredenb

    According to Army records, William Vredenburgh enlisted in the Continental Army on December 1, 1776, for a period of three
years. However in his pension file William states that he enlisted "...about 1776 in the month of April...in the town of Johnstown." His service was summarized years later by Amy Chase, the wife of his grandson Charles Vredenburgh. In a document she penned, Amy stated, "He enlisted in answer to the first call of his country and served until the close." Amy's document  also  provides us with William's link to his grandparents William and Catharina Schott.
    William began serving in the Army about age 20. He enlisted in the 3rd New York Regiment, commanded by Colonel Peter Gansevoort of Albany, and served in Captain Leonard Bleeker's Company his entire eight year career. Bleeker's service with the 1st New York Regiment began on 28 June 1775 until he was dismissed as unfit for command. Bleecker's November 1776 evaluation stated that he was "not so careful or attentive as might be wished." On 21 November 1776 he began service in the 3rd New York Regiment. During the duration of the war Bleeker's Company, also known as the Light Infantry Company, was involved in many daring attacks against both the British and their Indian allies. Their accomplishments reminded me of the heroic and daring actions of elite forces in recent wars.
    William probably began service with the 3rd New York at Fort Anne that was located eleven miles south of Whitehall, New York, and thirty-six miles south of Fort Ticonderoga. General Schuyler, on March 4, 1777, ordered Gansevoort to leave Fort Anne for Fort Stanwix on March 15, 1777.
    Fort Stanwix, which the British constructed during the French and Indian War, had been abandoned years earlier. By mid 1776 the Americans began to refurbish it. The fort was situated at the head of the Mohawk Valley at what eventually became Rome, New York. The fort guarded an important foot-trail and a nearly continuous waterway, both that linked the Hudson River Valley with the Great Lakes. This natural waterway was interrupted by a mile long portage. Fort Stanwix was at the eastern end of the portage. Eventually the Erie Canal was to follow this natural waterway.
    Fort Stanwix was a frontier post and was never a desirable post to be stationed at from the viewpoint of the men defending it. Gansevoort's 750 men crowded into the fort intended for half that number. The men continued reconstruction of the fort, which had been renamed Fort Schuyler in honor of General Schuyler. The abandonment of Fort Ticonderoga barely a month earlier to British General John Burgoyne's 8,000-man army weighed heavily in Gansevoort's mind.
    British Colonel Barry St. Leger, left Lachine, near Montreal, on June 23, 1777, with some 1,800 men, consisting of more half Indians. Their goal was to cut off the strategic Mohawk Valley, and join General Burgoyne at Albany. Learning of the British advance toward the fort, on July 31, General Nicholas Herkimer mustered 900 men at Fort Dayton 50 miles to the east of Fort Schuyler in order to reinforce Gansevoort. Two days later, a detachment from St. Leger's army ambushed Herkimer's force at Oriskany and in a desperate, bloody battle, forced them to retreat after inflicting heavy casualties. Herkimer was wounded and died several days later.
    On August 3, 1777, while the battle raged six miles away at Oriskany an advance party, consisting largely of Indians and Tories surrounded the fort. Three days later, while most of St. Leger's men were still at Oriskany, 250 men under Lt. Col. Marinus Willett charged out of the front gate of Fort Schuyler and overwhelmed the weak force that surrounded it. Willett's men came upon British and Indian encampments, took some prisoners, and carried away kettles, clothing, muskets, spears, tomahawks, regimental colors, and important papers some of which belonged to St. Leger. After Willetts return to the fort, five flags taken from the enemy were hoisted on the flagstaff under the Continental flag to the cheers of the men.
    The next day St. Leger sent Colonel Butler into the fort with an offer for terms of surrender. Gansevoort gave him a searing reply. Apparently St. Leger had expected the fort to be abandoned like Ticonderoga. This was not to be the case.
    Captain Bleeker and his men were assigned to the defense of the northeast bastion of the fort, which faced the main enemy artillery battery. Fortunately for the defenders, the British artillery lacked sufficient power to seriously threaten the fort. In fact, the Americans gathered up shot and unexploded shells and fired them back to their owners.
    The siege ended when the British learned that a large Patriot army, led by General Benedict Arnold, was headed to Fort Schuyler to rescue the Americans. This news coupled with the death of several Indian chiefs at Oriskany, and loss of possessions during Willett's raid, prompted the Indians to desert. St. Leger lifted the siege on August 22 and withdrew to Canada. Arnold's force, accompanied by the 1st New York Regiment arrived on the evening of August 24, 1777. A total of thirteen American soldiers and civilians had been killed, and twenty-three wounded during the siege and the days leading up to it.
      William continued to serve with the 3rd New York Regiment at Fort Schuyler - on March 1, 1778, he is listed as "lame" in a list of the "return of the sick in the Garrison."
    In response to Indian raids on settlers in the Mohawk and Cherry Valleys, New York, Colonel Van Schaik, commander of the 1st New York Regiment in April 1779 led five hundred soldiers and a few Indians from Fort Schuyler west into the country of the Onondagas. This expedition included Captain Bleeker's Company from the 3rd New York regiment as well as four companies from other regiments. The expeditionary force sneaked into Indian territory during a bitter-cold April snow storm, and in a 180 mile march in five and a half days, destroyed the Onondaga Castle of about 50 houses, captured thirty-seven prisoners, killed more than twenty warriors, and seized a hundred British muskets. They returned without loosing a man.
    In the planning stages even before Van Schaik's successful raid, and in reaction to Indian massacres in the Wyoming Valley of Pennsylvania and Cherry Valley, General John Sullivan in July 1779 began a punishing raid against the Indian strongholds of western New York with General James Clinton and Colonel Daniel Brodhead.
    Brigadier General James Clinton formed the northern wing of the Sullivan expedition. His force included the 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th New York Regiments, and others from other states, and was to rendezvous with Sullivan's force later at Tioga. Immediately Clinton began collecting artillery, supplies and boats, and directing them to be taken to Fort Schuyler and kept there under heavy guard. By the third week of May, over two hundred bateaux (boats) had been acquired for transportation, and sufficient food had been stockpiled to last his force for three months.
    By June 17, Clinton's force of fifteen hundred men with some two hundred and twenty bateaux assembled at Canajoharie on the Mohawk River, and began the twenty mile portage southwest to the headwaters of the Susquehanna River at Otsego Lake. The heavy bateaux were each pulled by four horses in a long line. The portage was completed in thirteen days.
    Finding the Susquehanna River too low to be navigated, Clinton had the lake's outlet dammed, and arranged the boats on the shores of the nearly dry river below Otsego Lake. At six o'clock in the evening of August 6th, after the level of the lake had risen three feet, charges of gunpowder set in the dam were exploded. By eight o'clock the next morning the flow had subsided to the point where it resembled a strong spring flood, and General James Clinton raised his right arm, and the firing of a heavy gun signaled to each boat to take to the river. Each boat was manned by three people and the remaining 600 men began the march down either side of the river. As this force came upon Indian or Tory houses or settlements, they burned the structures and destroyed all crops and fruit trees. On August 22 Clinton's force joined Sullivan's at Tioga on the Susquehanna River, a distance of one hundred fifty four miles in two weeks.
    Just a few days later, on August 29, a force of British, Indians and Tories attempted to ambush the Americans at Newtown, but were detected. An intense battle followed with the opposition fleeing before the Americans.  After Sullivan reached the Indian town of Genesee on September 14, he turned eastward to the north end of Seneca Lake, there he turned south.
Here Sullivan detached Lieutenant Colonel Henry Dearborn, Lieutenant Colonel William Butler and Lieutenant Colonel Peter Gansevoort, commander of the 3rd New York Regiment to systematically destroy the Cayuga towns. William Vredenburgh, serving under Gansevoort would have become familiar with the area - where he settled some twenty years later. Finally, Sullivan directed Gansevoort eastward to the Mohawk River at Fort Shuyler, where he was to descend the river, pausing at the Lower Mohawk Castle, Teantontalago, and arrest every male Mohawk and take them prisoner to Albany.
    With his three years up, in December 1779, William reenlisted in the 3rd New York Regiment.  The 7,000 man Continental Army, including the New York Brigade, consisting of all the troops of the New York Line, excepting the 1st New York
Regiment, encamped during the winter of 1779-1780 with George Washington at Morristown, New Jersey. The soldiers built log cabins, but these were not completed until the middle of February. Prior to that the soldiers were quartered in tents. These conditions occurred during a winter colder than any living person could recall. Baron von Steuben, said that in the winter of 1779, the New York Brigade at Morristown, New Jersey "exhibited the most shocking picture of misery I have ever seen, scarce a man having wherewithal to cover his nakedness, and a great number very bad with the itch." The men often went days without any food whatever.
    During the winter at Morristown, the 1st New York Regiment guarded Fort Schuyler. By late spring 1780 supplies at the fort had become dangerously low. Renewed Indian attacks on supply shipments were the cause. In June, General James Clinton ordered Col. Gansevoort and the 3rd New York Regiment to guard supplies headed to the fort. It appears that Gansevoort's regiment was stationed at Albany in June. But by July it was at West Point, for on July 6, 1780 William Vredenburgh, a private the New York Line - Third Regiment, Captain Bleeker's Company was stationed at West Point. In October Washington ordered the 1st New York to West Point. Soon the Continental Army began constructing log houses for winter quarters. However, the 1st New York Regiment remained at West Point only a few weeks. On November seventh, the regiment was ordered back to Albany.
    On January 1, 1781, the 3rd New York Regiment was consolidated with the 1st New York Regiment. With this reorganization, the 3rd ceased to exist. With his rank eliminated, Peter Gansevoort accepted rank of brigadier general in the militia. Under their new commanders, the men of the 3rd New York carried their "old" regimental flag for the remainder of the war. Lieutenant Leonard Bleeker was to lead the Light Infantry Company in the 1st New York Regiment.
    On February 16, six companies of Col. Van Schaicks regiment, including the Light Infantry Company was ordered back to West Point. The 1st New York settled into quarters in the barracks at Fort Clinton, at West Point. General Washington, from his headquarters at Dobbs Ferry, on July twenty-seventh, called for the Light Infantry Company of the First New York to leave West Point and "Join the Army."
    The remainder of the 1st New York men remained at West Point until the end of August, when with the rest of the Continental Army, they assembled at Kings Ferry. On August 20, they crossed west across the Hudson River, on a secret mission, which within two months, was to determine the outcome of the war at Yorktown. The crossing was complete on the twenty-sixth, and the army separated into two columns. The First New York and the Light Infantry marched from Kakiate by way of Pramus, New Jersey and Second River, and camped at Springfield on the 27th.
    The 1st New York, and the rest of the Continental Army, had begun on a gruelling 450-mile march; they arrived in Trenton, New Jersey on August 31, crossed the Delaware River the next day and on September second, marched through Philadelphia. They marched on to Baltimore and  Annapolis and on September 26th arrived at Williamsburgh, and finally on September 27 to Yorktown. As Egly  relates it, at
     The Light Infantry Company of the First New York was one of the four companies under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Hamilton and formed part of the Second Brigade of Light Infantry commanded by Brigadier General Moses Hazen.   Brigade major was Captain Leonard Bleeker of the First New York.
    The siege of Yorktown had begun. On Saturday night October sixth, work began on two trenches, which were parallel to the defenses at Yorktown.  Captain Duncan, whose Pennsylvania company accompanied the Light Infantry Company of William Vredenburgh, recorded in his diary the reckless daring of Colonel Alexander Hamilton. Smith described what happened next:
     By the seventh, batteries were ready to have artillery emplaced in them and the trenches to be occupied with soldiers. A ceremony was made of the occasion, with drum beating and colors flying. The light infantry division was given the honor of occupying the trenches, and the flag was planted on the parapet with the motto, Manus haec inimica tyrannis. Then with a show  of bravado that startled the British, the light infantry mounted the parapet above the trenches and there, within easy range of  the British guns, went through the manual of arms: shouldering arms, presenting arms, aiming, and then grounding  their pieces. To  the British who watched this bold maneuver, it must have seemed a portent of things to come [or perhaps they couldn't believe  their eyes]. The order for this bit of showmanship had been given by Colonel Alexander Hamilton. At least one officer (and doubtless many men) thought it a reckless and ill considered gesture. James Duncan of the Pennsylvania Line noted, "Although I esteem him [Hamilton] one of the first officers in the American army, must beg leave in this instance to think he wantonly exposed the lives of his men..."
    On October 10 Washington touched off the first cannon shot toward the enemy. Over the next several days there was continuous firing from the American and French batteries, with the British fire having little effect. Two British redoubts stood in the way of continued progress of the trenches, so Washington decided to storm the redoubts. The French were to capture redoubt number nine. Alexander Hamilton's Battalion of Light Infantry was assigned redoubt number ten, closest to the river. Hamilton's Battalion included Captain Leonard Bleeker's Light Infantry Company. Each column consisted of about two hundred men. About seventy British manned redoubt 10. On October 14, under Hamilton's direction Chevalier de Gimat and Major Nicholas Fish of New York would lead battalions, supported by a detachment of the explosive experts, trenchers and miners who were to cut paths through the sharp branches protecting the British works like barbed wire. The detachment moved into the open field at dusk and lay down to wait. The Americans were told to empty their muskets. They were to take the redoubt with the bayonet. At seven o'clock at the firing of six mortar shells the two assault columns moved out.
     Halfway to the redoubt the column was halted and twenty men, one man from each company was chosen to form the "forlorn hope," which would climb the enemy wall. The men followed their commander John Mansfield and circled toward the rear of the redoubt to cut off the enemy's retreat.
    The remainder of the of the company reached the redoubt and began chopping the sharp branches placed at its base. A British sentry called a challenge, and when there was no reply, the British began firing. The exposed Americans impulsively shouted back. Then the British called out and signalled to their army, which began firing at the entire line. Lieutenant Mansfield and his squad overran the men hacking at the branches, squirmed through the thicket, crossed the ditch and climbed the parapet. There was a furious scramble to reach the wall. Men were falling on every side, but not from being shot, they were tumbling into shell holes, climbing out and rushing forward, only to fall again.
Davis (1970, p. 228 - 229) describes the rest of the short but furious battle:
     Old Captain Olney led the way though the palisade and called to his men, "Olney's company form here!" Half a dozen bayonets  lunged down at him, and Olney tried to beat them off with his long spear. The bayonets slashed his fingers and stabbed into his thigh and abdomen, but Olney felled one of the enemy with a blow to the forehead. The captain's life was saved by two of his men who had loaded their muskets in defiance of orders and now drove off the redcoat party with their fire. Some one in the front shouted, "Rush on boys! The fort's ours!" The British threw small hand grenades, which crackled in the trench-so many of them that the Americans thought they were fire crackers.
    Men in the trench below stood on the shoulders of their companions to climb up, but the tiny Hamilton, too short to reach the top, commanded a nearby soldier to kneel, stepped on his back, and vaulted into the redoubt. A brief bayonet fight soon cleared the redoubt, and the British began to leap away into the darkness.The capture took ten minutes. Everything had gone as planned. Hamilton reported casualties in his battalion of four rank and file wounded. One of these was Corporal Adam Coopernal of the First New York. Total American losses in storming of redoubt number ten were put at nine killed and thirty-one wounded. One of the wounded was Sergeant William Brown of the Fifth Connecticut. Brown was the first soldier to be decorated with the Purple Heart, the first U.S. military award for valor without regard for rank.
    The next morning, the New York Brigade, advanced with drums and colors flying and carried arms to the redoubt taken by the French. This display drew an incessant shower of shells which did no harm.
    On October 17, General Cornwallis, requested a cessation of hostilities, and a commission was drawn up for terms of surrender. Surrender was completed on the nineteenth. After the surrender at Yorktown the 1st New York Regiment marched back through Philadelphia and Trenton to Pompton, New York where they constructed log houses for winter quarters. In March 1782 William took 20 days furlough. The 1st New York eventually remained at Pompton until August 1782. On August 21 Captain Bleeker's Light Infantry Company was ordered to join with the other light companies of the New York and New Jersey regiments to form a battalion under the command of Major Forman. Within days the 1st New York broke camp and moved to Verplank's Point on the east side of the Hudson. The purpose of this move was to receive the French army and extend a welcome as they marched from Yorktown to the Eastern Seaboard prior to leaving on the voyage home, as well protect against British surprise attack.By September first, the regiment had arrived at Verplank's Point - altogether about 6,000 men of the Continental Army were encamped there.
    About the first of November, the New York Brigade decamped from Verplank's Point, crossed the Hudson to West Point. At New Windsor the army began construction of log houses for the winter of 1782-1783. All together there were seven to eight thousand men encamped in the 1,600-acre site. Each house accommodated 16 men, and measured 20 by 36 feet with a fireplace at each end with a partition down the middle. Bleeker's Light Infantry Company was assigned duty guarding a line stretching from Stony Point to the Westchester Country. The other companies grudgingly completed quarters for Bleeker's Company. In February, the Light Infantry Company was stationed guarding the ordinance storage at Stony Point.
    On April 19 1783, eight years to the day from Lexington and Concord a cease fire agreement was signed.  During the morning of Friday June sixth, Captain Bleeker's Light Infantry Company formed up and received custody of the flags and colors of
the Regiment. The officers had agreed to present the flags of the First New York to Governor Clinton at his residence in Dutchess County. Shortly after receiving the flags, they departed. Colonel Van Cortlandt accompanied the escort to Poughkeepsie, Dutchess County.
    Two days later discharges, signed by General Washington were distributed. The men were free to go. William Vredenburgh was honorably discharged as a private, at Newbergh, New York on June 8, 1783.

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