Photo courtesy of Tom Nycz
How much do you know about the history of the Revolutionary War in the Hudson Valley? Learn about the events that shaped our nation.
Local Patriot Purchases Gomez Mill House
Founded in 1714, the Gomez Mill House is America’s oldest Jewish establishment. For years, the Gomez Mill House operated as a stone-lime and timber operation.
In 1772, Wolfert Ecker bought the trading post. He was a lieutenant of the New Marlborough Company of Minute Men and the chairman of the Committee of Safety in 1782. It was a center for Patriot meetings and identifying suspected loyalists.
Coxsackie Declaration of Independence at the Bronck Museum
Did you know that Hudson Valley patriots had their own form of dissent a year before the signing of the Declaration of Independence? After the Battles of Lexington and Concord — the first military engagements of the Revolutionary War in April 1775 — Albany citizens voiced their anti-British sentiment.
On May 17, 225 men from Southern Albany County signed the Coxsackie Declaration of Independence at the modern-day Bronck Museum. The declaration was penned to King George III and the British Parliament, and stated the Loyalist military was not welcome in New York.
Fourth Regiment Drills at the Beekman Arms
Throughout 1775, the Fourth Regiment of the Continental Army performed drills at the front lawn of the Bogardus Tavern, now known as the Beekman Arms, in Rhinebeck. The tavern — built in 1704 — was originally established to withstand Native American attacks, and is made from timber and stone.
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The Beekman Arms was added to the tavern in 1766. Throughout the war, key players like George Washington, Benedict Arnold, Alexander Hamilton, and Philip Schuyler all stayed here.
The Establishment of the Shore Guard
Haverstraw residents joined forces with the Orange County Militia to create the Shore Guard, an organization tasked with repelling the British navy from landing.
Learn more: The Haverstraw Brick Museum details the history of the Shore Guard and other Rockland-based connections to the Revolutionary War.
The Committee of Five
A group of five founding fathers — John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Robert Livingston, Thomas Jefferson, and Robert Sherman — started drafting what would become the Declaration of Independence on June 11. Livingston was born and raised at Clermont Manor in Tivoli, and later became a representative of New York. (He is perhaps best known for negotiating the sale of the Louisiana Purchase in 1804.)
New York Ratifies the Declaration of Independence
The Fourth Provincial Congress of New York gathers at the White Plains Courthouse — now the White Plains Armory — and ratifies the Declaration of Independence on July 9.
Shore Guard Blocks the British
The Shore Guard blocks James Coe’s July 15 attempt to land the British military in Haverstraw. The guard saved key munitions, which were being held at a store in town.
Frederick Philipse III Is Arrested
The third lord of Philipsburg Manor, Philipse III, was arrested on August 9 by orders of Washington himself. Philipse was a committed loyalist and was detained until December 1776. He later committed treason in the spring of 1777 by trying to warn British garrisons of impending raids from the Continental Army. His family fled Philipsburg Manor in Sleepy Hollow for New York City and never returned.
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The British Invade New York City
Five days after the Continental Army’s defeat at the Battle of Long Island, the British invaded Manhattan on August 22. They brought 32,000 British regulars, 10 ships of line, 170 transports, and 20 frigates — ultimately defeating Washington’s troops again at Kip’s Bay. The city was occupied by the British until 1783 and allowed for constant British attacks on nearby Hudson Valley settlements, forts, and headquarters.
Battle at Pell’s Point and Saint Paul’s Church
The British defeated the Continental Army at Pell’s Point (now modern-day Bronx) on October 18. Though it was a Colonists loss, it allowed for Washington’s troops to retreat to White Plains. Mount Vernon’s Saint Paul’s Church served as a hospital for German Hessians; they tore down the original church for firewood.
The Hessians who died were buried in a mass grave in its cemetery and were not discovered until new graves were being dug. Today, there is a tombstone that marks the mass grave’s location.
Battle of White Plains
Result: British Victory • Casualties: 50 American (16 captured), 47 British
A lone cannon at the Battle of White Plains Park is one of the few remnants of this early Patriot defeat in the Revolutionary War. More than 10,000 soldiers from both sides gathered in White Plains after Gen. George Washington’s retreat from New York City.
White Plains’ low hills (just north of present-day Main Street) were incorporated in battle strategy for the Patriots; Washington believed the terrain would support his troops against oncoming enemies. On October 28, British soldiers — joined by the German Hessians — climbed Chatterton Hill (modern-day Battle Hill) and were met by musket and cannon fire of Washington’s right flank.
Alexander Hamilton, a young artillery captain at the time, set up a two-gun battery at the hill’s highest point. Only a few thousand soldiers from both sides were deployed. The Hessians trapped the militia and caused Washington to further retreat into the Hudson Highlands and northern New Jersey. The Battle of White Plains resulted in an American loss of Forts Washington and Lee, and impacted Patriot morale early in the Revolutionary War.
Did you know? This battle also has a direct connection to the famed The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving, according to some historians. Irving was inspired by the story of a Hessian horseman who lost his head by cannon fire on Chatterton Hill.
Founding of the Fishkill Supply Depot
Known as “America’s Last Great Revolutionary Site,” the Fishkill Supply Depot was a center frequented by key figures of the Revolutionary War, like Gen. Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Hamilton, John Jay, the Marquis de Lafayette, Col. William Knox, and Baron Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben, until the war’s end in 1783. The Depot was one of three major encampments along with Valley Forge and Morristown. During the rough winters of the war, Patriot soldiers camped at this dismal outpost. Hundreds of soldiers died and were buried in unmarked graves at the Crossroads. According to the Fishkill Historical Society, it is the largest known burial site of Continental Army soldiers.
Sybil Ludington: Hudson Valley’s Paul Revere
On the eve of April 26, Col. Henry Ludington of Carmel received a tip that the nearby town of Danbury, CT, was under attack. Sybil Ludington, the colonel’s 16-year-old daughter, volunteered to alert his troops who were at their respective farms.
Sybil hopped on her horse and galloped through farmland to gather hundreds of soldiers; some historians say she rode for 20-40 miles through dark woods and rain. Though the troops arrived in Danbury too late, Sybil’s courageous ride is one for the books.
New York’s First Senate in Kingston
As the British tried to cover more ground in New York, the first elected representatives of the state convened in Kingston. Rebellious New Yorkers formed a new state government and its first Senate. Pierre Van Cortlandt (of Van Cortlandt Manor in Croton-on-Hudson) was chosen as President of the Senate. The first Constitutional Convention — and the drafting of the state constitution — took place on April 20 in Kingston. The legislators needed a location to assemble; on September 9, the Senate chose the unassuming stone house of merchant Abraham Van Gaasbeek, located on modern-day Fair Street, Kingston. The Assembly would meet at Bogardus Tavern.
The Saratoga Campaign: Battles of Bennington, Freeman’s Farm, and Saratoga
Result: American Victory • Casualties: 500 American, over 1,000 British (6,222 captured)
The turning point of the Revolutionary War happened right here in the Valley. In mid-1777, British General John Burgoyne hoped to attack and control the strategically important Hudson River. On August 17, 2,000 Continental soldiers defeated the Brunswickers, plus Canadian and Native American allies by preventing supply and horse missions at the Battle of Bennington. This victory in modern-day Hoosick cut Burgoyne’s troops by almost 1,000; a majority of Native American allies also abandoned the British.
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On September 19, Burgoyne won the Battle of Freeman’s Farm (at modern-day Saratoga National Historic Site) but it cost him hundreds of lives. On October 7, with over 15,000 men, Horatio Gates and Benedict Arnold paraded into modern-day Schuylerville, outnumbering the British by almost three-to-one. They succeeded at the Battle of Bemis Heights — resulting in British surrender and convincing the French to join the American cause.
Did you know? After the first phase of the Battle of Bemis Heights, it’s said General Arnold angrily rode into the battlefront — drunk!
Battle at Forts Clinton and Montgomery
Result: British Victory • Casualties: 25 American (263 captured), 41 British
Over 2,100 British soldiers hiked through the Hudson Highlands to storm Forts Clinton and Montgomery. British General Clinton hoped to divert Continental General Gates’ troops from Saratoga in order to give Burgoyne the advantage.
On October 6, divided troops assaulted both forts and captured them within a few hours. Clinton’s troops then dismantled the first (and less effective) Hudson River Chain.
The Burning of Kingston
One month into meetings at the Senate House, General Clinton dispersed forces into the Hudson Valley after his victory at Forts Montgomery and Clinton. Lieutenant-General John Vaughn attacked and burned the state capital — Kingston.
The Senate fled British troops into neighboring towns outside of the Valley. Kingston townsfolk took refuge at the modern-day Beekman Arms. Over 300 buildings in Kingston were burned and destroyed.
The Burning of Clermont
Robert Livingston — founding father Robert Livingston’s father — built the original Clermont Manor in 1740 on willed land (separate from Livingston Manor). The original 13,000-acre estate in Germantown has sweeping views of the Hudson River and was home to seven generations of Livingstons. Much like Kingston, a small force of British soldiers was sent to Clermont in October and burned the estate and 24 other buildings owned by the Livingstons. Before it burned, Margaret Beekman Livingston escaped with her daughters and youngest son to a relative’s house in Connecticut.
Introducing Fortress West Point
If you controlled the Hudson River — chances are you’d have the upper hand. Before its founding, Patriots had camped throughout West Point in 1776-77. In 1778, Washington ordered Continental engineers, including Saratoga hero Thaddeus Kosciuszko, to design fortifications to block the British from sailing north. They created drafts of a fort — with strategic views of the river, batteries and redoubts, and a stronger, 150-ton iron Hudson River Chain that spanned across the water. Washington moved his headquarters to West Point in 1779; the fort was never captured by the British.
Did you know? West Point is the oldest continuously occupied military post in the country.
The Death of Chief Daniel Nimham
Chief Daniel Nimham of the Wappinger, a loose confederation of tribes living on the eastern banks of the Hudson River, had fought for their land for a decade before the Revolutionary War. In 1775, Nimham traveled to Boston and allied with the Patriots; he and his son joined the Stockbridge Militia Company, a unit of Native American tribes from the Munsee, Mohican, and Wappinger. On August 31, 1778, the Stockbridge Militia Company was scouting in modern-day Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx. They were ambushed by two famed British troops: Queen’s Rangers and Tarleton’s Dragoons. Dozens of men from Stockbridge were killed, including Nimham and his son.
The Marquis de Lafayette and the Brinckerhoff Inn
Fishkill’s Brinckerhoff Inn was a waystation for travelers, troops, and anyone in between during the Revolutionary War. In the fall of 1778, French Major Gen. Marquis de Lafayette fell ill and recuperated in a second-floor bedroom of the home.
After he returned to France, he sent a gift to the Brinckerhoffs as a thanks for their aid. In November, Washington, Hamilton, and Baron von Steuben watched British and German prisoners march from Boston to Virginia from the Brinckerhoff Inn.
The Battle of Stony Point
Result: American Victory • Casualties: 15 American, 20 British (472 captured)
Though this battle had little effect on the outcome of the Revolutionary War, the Battle of Stony Point was one of the more brutal and gripping events in this time period. As the sun set on July 15, Brigadier General “Mad Anthony” Wayne was preparing for a midnight assault against the remaining Loyalist troops in the Hudson Valley.
After camping in Stony Point’s steep mountains, Mad Anthony and 1,200 Light Infantryman (an elite corps with some of the best Patriot soldiers) stormed the British camp at Stony Point — much of the battle was fought in hand-to-hand combat and bayonet spearing. The British suffered huge losses and it boosted the morale of Continental soldiers; the Loyalists retreated quickly and never returned to Rockland County for the remainder of the Revolutionary War.
The Philipsburg Proclamation
From the desk of Sir Henry Clinton’s temporary headquarters at Philipsburg Manor, in Sleepy Hollow, the British freed thousands of enslaved African Americans. On June 30, the British general tried to attack the labor supply and bolster his arsenal.
By penning the Philipsburg Proclamation — named after the estate — Clinton hoped to encourage slaves in the north to join the Loyalist troops with a promise of freedom. It did work, but with any British loss (and the subsequent surrender in 1783) most slaves were returned to their owners.
General Washington Stays at DeWint House
Major Frederickus Blauvelt (ring a bell?) heard Washington was returning to the Hudson Valley, and invited the general to stay at his in-laws’ home. From August 8-24, Washington stayed at the DeWint House while inspecting a redoubt (a defensive fort system surrounding a larger fort inside) on the Hudson River. Soon after the Continental Army moved to Orangeburg; Washington returned to the DeWint House from September 28 to October 7 for the trial of John André.
Benedict Arnold and John André Affair
Perhaps the most infamous Revolutionary War event from the Hudson Valley is the treasonous scheme of American Gen. Benedict Arnold and British Major John André. The two had secret communications before their notorious meeting. Early in the morning on September 22, Arnold and André corresponded in the forest alongside the Hudson River in the modern-day Haverstraw Beach State Park.
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Turning his back on the Continental Army, Arnold handed over the plans to the West Point fortress in exchange for money and a command in the British Army. André crossed the Hudson at King’s Ferry (from Stony Point to Verplanck) in an attempt to return to British lines with the plans, via passes drawn by Arnold. Disguised in civilian clothing, he was captured by three Westchester militiamen in Tarrytown (Patriots’ Park in Sleepy Hollow is now at this location).
Two days later, Arnold learned of the major’s capture — right before a planned breakfast with Washington. He narrowly escaped to New York City and into British protection; eventually, he fled altogether, and moved to London, known forever as a traitor to America.
Breakfast at the Brinckerhoff
Gen. Washington was enjoying breakfast in late September at the Brinckerhoff when he learned about Arnold’s betrayal. Sources say he was extremely calm when he heard the news.
John André is Executed
Fourteen military generals gathered to examine the Arnold-André affair. After questioning André, who was imprisoned at Mabie’s Inn in Tappan (now the Old ’76 House), his execution was decided. Washington offered André to the British in exchange for Arnold, but they refused. On October 2, André was taken from the present-day Old ’76 House to the gallows in Tappan, where he was hanged for the crime of espionage; he was 31 years old.
Did you know? André requested an execution by firing squad, but Washington refused. You can visit his capture site at Patriots Park in Tarrytown, and burial and hanging site at the Major André Monument on André Hill Road in Tappan.
Commander-in-chief of the French army in America, Comte de Rochambeau stopped in Suffern with his 5,500 French troops in the fall. The French had traveled from Newport, RI, and camped near the intersection of Lafayette and Washington Avenues.
They later joined with Washington’s and the Marquis de Lafayette’s troops and rushed to Yorktown, VA., to defeat British General Charles Cornwallis in October. Rochambeau returned in September 1782 and headquartered at Suffern Tavern — which is now a green space.
Did you know? Suffern’s historic theater (soon celebrating its 100th birthday in 2024) and downtown avenue were named after the Marquis de Lafayette.
Washington’s Headquarters State Historic Site
From April 1782 to August 1783, Washington lived in Newburgh. Originally owned by the Hasbrouck family, the estate was rented to Washington for its strategic location, safely north of West Point. While Washington headquartered here, 7,000 Continental soldiers encamped nearby at (present-day New Windsor Cantonment Historic Site).
Throughout his time at Hasbrouck House, Washington rejected the Newburgh Letter — a proposal for the general to become king of America — and issued his first proclamation in August 1782: the creation of the Badge of Military Merit (similar to the Purple Heart).
Did you know? Washington’s Headquarters was the home of the Hasbroucks, a Huguenot family who fled religious persecution in France and co-founded New Paltz.
New Windsor Cantonment State Historic Site
Orange County was quite the hotspot for the Revolution as the war winded down. More than 7,500 soldiers and 500 women and children refugees stayed at this location. Six hundred log huts were erected into a military enclave, known as a cantonment.
On April 19, 1783, issued a cease fire ordinance from the New Windsor cantonment — ending eight years of rebellion and signaling the rise of the United States of America.
Von Steuben Moves to Mount Gulian
After the Battle of Yorktown, Washington believed the British might attack the Hudson Valley. He had Baron von Steuben move his headquarters from Vail’s Gate (where he stayed with General Knox; current day Knox Headquarters) to Mount Gulian in Fishkill.
Von Steuben stayed at the headquarters throughout the spring peace negotiations. On May 13, the Society of Cincinnati, the first veterans’ fraternal organization, was founded at Mount Gulian — with von Steuben presiding and Alexander serving as the orator.
Washington Moves Out
In August, Washington and his wife Martha leave the headquarters at Hasbrouck House in Newburgh. He lived at the home for 12 months — marking it the longest tenure of any Washington.
The Revolutionary War officially ended on September 3, when representatives of King George III and the United States of America met in Paris and signed the Treaty of Paris. Finally, on November 25, Patriots and citizens of the Hudson Valley celebrated the evacuation of the British Army. Soon-to-be President Washington and Governor Clinton paraded the Continental Army from its Fort Washington headquarters (present day Washington Heights) into lower Manhattan.