Monday, June 22, 2020

The Livingston Lions

They are one of the most identifiable and iconic images of Clermont. Thousands of school children have posed with them, and maybe heard the legend of how they take turns guarding the house. Hundreds of couples have had engagement or wedding photos taken with them looming in the back ground.

I am of course talking about the lions mounted on the front porch of Clermont.

They have become so identified with the house its tough to imagine the site without them and yet most people would be shocked to find out that they are among the last decorations added to the house. Not only do they not date back to the building of the house but the last man of the house, John Henry Livingston never saw them in place on the house.

One of the lions in Italy 
From 1921-1926 John Henry and his wife Alice took their daughters to Italy for a European education.The lions were originally part of the decor at a house the family rented in Florence. the girls, Janet and Honoria really liked the lions as did John Henry's grandchildren from his first daughter Katharine so John Henry and Alice did the only thing they could do. They bought the lions and had them shipped back to America.

Th family returned to America in 1927 and unfortunately John Henry died at the family's South Carolina house before he returned to Clermont.

When Alice and the girls returned to Clermont later that year, Alice had the west side of the house relandscaped, and the porch and patio installed so that the lions could be mounted in their new homes.

The lions on their perches in 1936

So as iconic as the lions have become they have only been guarding over Clermont since the last three residents of the house lived here.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

"perhaps true wisdom would distinguish happiness and riches" Louis Otto

Nancy Shippen
            Anne Hume Shippen, better known as Nancy, was all but forced by her father to marry Henry Beekman Livingston because of Livingston’s wealth and prestige. Prior to that marriage though she was head over heels for a young member of the French Legation to America, Louis-Guillaume Otto.
            Otto’s origins are a bit murky. He was either born in 1753 in Strasbourg, Alsace, France or in 1754 in Baden in what would become southwest Germany. He was educated at the University of Strasbourg before entering the diplomatic service
Louis Otto
            He arrived in Philadelphia in 1779 as a member of the French delegation to the United States. He met Nancy and they exchanged frequent visits and romantic letters. She also began courting Henry Beekman Livingston at this time, much more to her father’s liking. Otto once wrote: “Your papa knows that my fortune cannot be compared with that of Livingston therefore he prefers him, perhaps true wisdom would distinguish happiness and riches.” Nancy married Livingston anyway.
            In March of 1787 Otto married his own Livingston, Elizabeth, daughter of Peter Van Brugh Livingston. Unfortunately, she died in December of that same year.
            Otto’s diplomatic career was on the ascent though. In 1785 he had replaced Francois Barbe-Marbois as Secretary (leader) of the French delegation in America. When he returned to Revolutionary France in 1792, he was made head of the Political Division for Foreign Affairs.
            A year later turbulence in the government led to a slight hiccup in Otto’s career. He was dismissed from the service, arrested and scheduled to be executed by guillotine. Somehow though he talked his way out of the execution though and was made a member of the diplomatic delegation sent to Berlin.
Napoleon Bonaparte
Marie Louise
            In 1800 Otto was sent to Great Britain as the Commissioner for Prisoners of War. He was in charge of negotiating prisoner exchanges and supplying French prisoners taken by the British. Soon though he was appointed Minister Plenipotentiary to Great Britain. He spent the year 1801 hammering out a peace treaty with his British counterparts which was signed in 1802 by Joseph Bonaparte and Charles Cornwallis. The French Revolutionary Wars were over. The Treaty of Amiens, as the treaty was called after the town in which it was signed, would be the only peace between Britain and France from the beginning of the fighting in 1793 and Napoleon’s abdication in 1814. The treaty lasted a year until May of 1803 when the British seized a bunch of French ships in British ports and the French responded by seizing more than 1,800 British citizens in France and Italy. The Napoleonic Wars had begun.
            In 1803 Otto was sent to Bavaria as ambassador where he greatly impressed Napoleon. To honor his service Napoleon named him to the Conseil d'État and honored him as Grand officier of the Légion d'honneur. He also created him the Comte de Mosloy in 1810.
            In 1810 Otto was sent to Vienna as the ambassador to Austria. He was responsible for negotiating Napoleon’s second marriage to the archduchess Marie Louise. She was empress of France until Napoleon was forced to abdicate and sent to Elba in 1814.
The Battle of Waterloo
            Otto was not part of the restoration government as he was viewed as far too much of a Napoleon supporter. During Napoleon’s return in 1815, known as the 100 Days, Otto was made Undersecretary of Foreign Affairs. Napoleon’s second reign effectively came to an end at Waterloo. Otto took the opportunity to retire from public life, living another two years before dying in 1817. He was buried in Paris.

Monday, May 18, 2020

The Court Martial Of Henry Beekman Livingston: The Legal Action That Helped Win The Battle of Saratoga

On March 23, 1777 a body of British soldiers were brought out of New York City on transports, sailed up the Hudson River and landed at Peekskill. There they burned store houses full of supplies and barracks where American soldiers were supposed to sleep. (Washington 1777)
Henry Beekman Livingston
Henry Beekman Livingston, colonel of the 4th New York Regiment and Colonel Van Cortlandt’s regiments were present but received no orders and could only watch as the British landed. Livingston estimated them at only about 500. The American regiments faced the British force at about 400 yards, and it seemed that they were poised for battle when suddenly the Americans received orders from their brigadier general Alexander McDougall to retreat. They carried away what supplies they could, but the British were able to destroy the rest, burn their store houses and barracks. The following day Marinus Willet attacked their advanced guard and the British retreated to their ships, sailing away the next day. (Livingston 1777)
            McDougall had a slightly different recollection of the event. He said the enemy greatly outnumbered him and he had to retreat. Most of the supplies that were destroyed were destroyed on his orders to prevent the enemy from carrying them off. The skirmish on Monday with the advanced guard supposedly threw the British into confusion and led to them sailing away. (McDougall 1777)
            This event was the last straw for any kind of civil
Alexander McDougall
relationship between Livingston and McDougall. Livingston thought McDougall was below him, the son of a dairy farmer and a common merchant before the war started it rankled Livingston to no end to have some one of lower social rank promoted above him in the army. McDougall thought Livingston was haughty, overly aggressive and we can only assume the blatant classism that Henry displayed must have annoyed him some.
            Livingston began to talk to other officers about McDougall. He indicated that McDougall was a coward for retreating from the enemy at Peekskill. Word got back to McDougall, possibly from Henry’s own regimental paymaster who was also McDougall’s son-in-law. When Major General Israel Putnam arrived in the Highlands in June to take command, he found Livingston under arrest and awaiting a court martial for “Traducing” the character of General McDougall in ordering the retreat and for using language unbecoming the character of an officer and a gentleman.
            While Henry was under arrest, an unsigned letter began to circulate in the American camp calling McDougall “a poor contemptible mean half starved Scotchman who didn’t have the courage or class to give satisfaction (to duel) with someone he had offended. McDougall was sure Livingston had written the letter but could not prove it. If he had been able to he intended to charge Livingston with mutiny as well.
Not that George Clinton
            Putnam ordered the court martial held with George Clinton as president. Livingston was found not guilty of everything except breach of respect for a senior officer-but not to the degree that was unbecoming of an officer and a gentleman. He was rebuked in general orders and the matter should have been dropped. It also seems to indicate that at least some officers agreed with Henry in that McDougall had been to quick to retreat that day.
That's the guy
            Except it was not. Livingston called McDougall out and although he originally agreed to the duel McDougall would never fight Livingston. (Putnam, To George Washington from Major General Israel Putname, 10 June 1777 1777)
            Putnam soon found himself on the outs with Livingston as well. He had ordered Livingston south to White Plains, but hearing that the British were moving on Morrissania he sent Colonel Philip Van Cortlandt to take command of the two regiments. Livingston was the senior to Van Cortlandt at the time and took great offence at being told to submit himself to the command of another inferior. He actually returned to camp rather than carry out Putnam’s orders and wrote to Washington to demand his rank be clarified to those who didn’t seem to understand. He also found himself desirous of being out of the Hudson Valley and requested a transfer. (Putnam, To George Washington From Major General Israel Putnam, 4 July 1777 1777)
Israel Putnam
  McDougall was not sorry to see Livingston go although he thought he could make a good soldier with more experience. His greatest problem was the chain of command probably because to that point all his commands had been intendent. He was in charge when he was stationed at Fort Constitution and he was in command on the east end of Long Island.
            Eventually Livingston, who had hoped to have his regiment transferred to the army of George Washington would be assigned to the Northern Army under Horatio Gates. They fought at both battles of Saratoga. At the second battle Livingston once again took his own initiative and followed Benedict Arnold on his unapproved attack on the Hessian works. Livingston would claim to be the second man into Breymann’s redoubt behind Arnold but only because Arnold was on a horse.

This action won the October 7, 1777 battle for the Americans and eventually led to the surrender of General John Burgoyne’s army. The Court Martial of Henry Beekman Livingston led eventually to his regiment being removed from the Hudson Valley and moved to the Northern Army. Its very possible that without that court marital the Battle of Saratoga could have ended differently.

Works Cited

Livingston, Henry Beekman. 1777. "To George Washington from Henry Beekman Livingston, 29 March 1777." Founders Online. March 29. Accessed May 12, 2020.
McDougall, Alexander. 1777. "To George Washington from Alexander McDougall, 29 March 1777." Founders Online. March 29. Accessed May 12 , 2020.
Putnam, Israel. 1777. "To George Washington From Major General Israel Putnam, 4 July 1777." Founders Online. July 4. Accessed May 12, 2020.
—. 1777. "To George Washington from Major General Israel Putname, 10 June 1777." Founders Online. June 10. Accessed May 12, 2020.

Washington, George. 1777. "From George Washington to Major General William Heaat, 29 March 1777." Founders Online. March 29. Accessed May 12, 2020.

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Margaret Beekman Livingston and the Essential Workers Needed To Rebuild Clermont

Margaret Beekman Livingston, not a woman to be denied
Margaret Beekman Livingston spent the winter following the destruction of her house in a house owned by her cousin, Robert Livingston, the Third Lord of Livingston Manor. What she really wanted though was to be back in her own house.
In the spring of 1778, she moved back to Clermont’s land and had, what she called a hovel, built in the shadow of the ruins of Clermont. Looking at the north and south walls and the rubble in between them Margaret decided to rebuild Clermont as it was.
To do this she needed experienced workmen to do the construction. Most importantly they though must not have their work interrupted by the war. New York State required every man between the ages of 16 and 60 to respond to militia calls In the case of Margaret’s workers, they would have to lay down their tools and go if called.
One of many letters to George Clinton
Although we now know that there would be no more big battles in New York after the Battle of Saratoga, Margaret and her workers had no way of knowing this. The British still occupied New York City and Canada with Clermont sitting almost directly in between. The British could have attacked the Hudson River again at any time and in fact the militia was called out several times in response to raids and attacks by small parties of British soldiers and their loyalist and native allies.
To alleviate this situation Margaret Beekman Livingston bombarded New York governor George Clinton with letters requesting workers for her house be released from their militia obligations so they could focus only on her house.
Her essential workers included Conrad Lasher Jr. as a stonebreaker, Henry Timmerman as a limemaker and Phil Shultis as a laborer. Lasher and Timmerman were both in Diel Rockefeller’s company of militia from Germantown and Shultis was in Philip Smith’s company of militia from Livingston Manor.

Not that George Clinton 
That George Clinton 
Initially Clinton refused to give Margaret special treatment but her constant line of correspondence combined with the family’s influence finally made him relent. Lasher, Timmerman and Shultis, joined by other laborers when they were available had Clermont rebuilt in less than four years, during the war. Not only was Margaret living in the house again by 1782 it had enough fit and finish to host George and Martha Washington. 

UnderWhere 1905

In this video Educator Kjirsten Gustavson shows all the layers that went under a woman's dress in 1905 to create the ideal silhouette. This is the sort of outfit that Alice Livingston would have worn when she was engaged to John Henry Livingston.

Sunday, May 3, 2020

There Once Was A Family Called Livingston: Poetry in the Guest Books of Clermont and Staatsburgh

Guest books. They’re pretty familiar. Perhaps you’ve been asked to sign one at a wedding or a party. Maybe there was one in a hotel room you stayed in. Or it’s possible you visited a local historic site and found one in their Visitor’s Center. Guest books allow you to make your mark and to stand out amongst a crowd. You can leave best wishes, say what you liked best about your stay, or sign up for a mailing list.

Now imagine having one of those guest books in your home. Imagine everyone who comes to see you leaving their name and the date of their visit. It may seem oddly formal to us now but in the late 19th and early 20th centuries it was the norm amongst well-to-do families. For example, the Livingston Family.

When visiting Clermont, you may have noticed the guest book sitting on a table in the family’s drawing room. That particular book covers the years 1900-1935. During that time, John Henry Livingston lived in the house with his wife, Alice and their daughters Honoria and Janet. Depending on which page the book happens to be open to during your tour you might find more than names. For example, you may see the eight-year jump from 1919 to 1927
when the family spent most of their time in Florence, Italy. On later pages, you will see the name Rex or Reginald McVitty many times. Rex would go on to marry Honoria Livingston and clearly felt he had to leave his name every time he came to visit his intended.

If, after your Clermont tour you venture a ways down the road, there is a home that belonged to a cousin of the Clermont Livingstons. Gertrude Livingston (the Chancellor’s younger sister) married a man named Morgan Lewis and their home became known as Staatsburgh. In the early 20th Century, that house was inhabited by Ruth Livingston Mills, her husband Ogden, and their children: Beatrice, Gladys, and Ogden. The Staatsburgh guest book has an interesting story in that it was given (or returned) to the site a few years back. A woman in Virginia came across a book in her parents’ attic with the name “Staatsburgh” on it. No known connection exists between this family and the Mills’ but the site was very excited to get the book, which covers the years 1899-1908. Once again, you find more than a simple roster of guests. One page has all of the visitors using presidential surnames as middle names (ie Cleveland, Buchanan, even Andrew Jackson).
On another page it seems Ruth actually signed her own guest book!

There is one feature both of these books share (besides the names of some of New York society’s elite). They both have poems written in them.

In September of 1908, someone visiting Staatsburgh left the following message:

“There was a young Captain called Duds
Who fattened on pigs feet + spuds
At the restaurant Sherry
He got very merry
And burst his shirt collar + studs”

And below that:

“There was a young lady called Cutie (Cuty)
Who thought the above-named a beauty!
So she lunched him + dined him
And tea’d him + wined him
And thought he would then do his duty.”

No name follows these rhymes and it’s unclear whether they were written by the same hand. But one striking feature is how they seem to be limericks. They follow a very clear rhyme and syllable pattern. And more than that, they’re funny and even a little saucy.

Despite the fact that Ruth Livingston Mills was one of the Queens of Society and very proud of her Livingston heritage, it sort of makes sense that there would be silly poems in her guest book. After all, Staatsburgh was a home for entertaining. The family lived in it for a couple of months (usually September to October) and anyone who visited them was doing so to relax and take in a weekend in the country. During the day, folks would explore the grounds, play golf, go horseback riding, or any number of outdoor activities. At night, Ruth would host elaborate dinners and the guests would perhaps hear music after the meal or simply play cards and talk. It was a home for the upper class of New York Society to unwind (as much as they ever did). And apparently, writing silly poems was part of the relaxation.

The poem in Clermont’s book has a very different tone. On June 28th, 1909, E.M Livingston wrote:

“The Briton of old came with sword and with fire;
The Briton to-day comes with joy to admire,
For like the fabulous bird of the story
‘Clermont’ arose from its ashes in renewed glory.”

Unlike the poems in the Staatsburgh book, this one features no abbreviations and no “+” to mean “and”. It makes reference to the historic burning of Clermont in 1777 by the British during the American Revolution. And it even makes an allusion to the mythological phoenix. Certainly the tone is very different from that of the story of Captain Duds getting so large he bursts out of his clothes.

Why is this poem so formal? Most likely it has to do with the way the Clermont Livingstons viewed society. While Ruth attended and hosted parties for the Gilded Age Elite, John and Henry and Alice would be entertaining only close friends. For starters, their home was nowhere near as large as the 75-room Staatsburgh. Not only that but, unlike his cousin and her New Money husband, John Henry wasn’t exactly filthy rich. His branch of the Livingstons had lived off family money for years. And it’s almost certain the kinds of people John Henry would associate with would be nothing like the nouveau riche. They would be from Old Money like the Livingstons themselves. And, in visiting John Henry they were not only making a social call, they were seeing a home where a drafter of the Declaration of Independence had lived; a home that had stood in that exact spot since 1782. Not only that, remember the author of this poem is also a Livingston. The formality of the poem certainly befits a distant relative who is visiting the original home of the Livingstons.

None of this is to say that Staatsburgh served as a frivolous party house or Clermont was full of stodgy snobs who expected tribute. These branches of the Livingstons were both fun-loving and intensely proud and aware of the importance of their family in the local area and in the United States at large. The poems in their guest books reflect on the sorts of socializing the families did and the friends who left their marks. 

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

"The Little Gamecock": George Croghan in the War of 1812

George Croghan 
George Croghan has been mentioned in a few of our other blogs most notably here and here. He is noted for his disastrous marriage to Serena  Livingston, the daughter of John R. Livingston, where money troubles and possible alcoholism caused Serena to seek a legal separation from him. But there must have been something that made Croghan worthy of marrying into the illustrious Livingston family to begin with.

George Rogers Clark
The short answer is the man was a hero.

William Clark
Croghan was born in Kentucky, the son of William Croghan, who had fought in the Revolutionary War and Lucy Clark Croghan. Lucy had two famous brothers; George Rogers Clark, the Revolutionary War soldier often referred to as "the Hannibal of the West" and Captain William Clark of Lewis and Clark fame, explorers of the Louisiana Territory purchased by Croghan's future wife's
uncle. Needless to say Croghan had a lot to live up to between his father and his uncles.

Old Tippecanoe himself, William Henry Harrison

After graduating from William and Mary College in Williamsburg, Virginia in 1810 Croghan decided to try his hand at army life. In 1811 Croghan found himself in the Indiana Territory under the command of Governor William Henry Harrison, that is future president William Henry
Harrison. Harrison was marching to disperse a large village, called Prophetstown, lead by Tecumseh and his
brother Tenskwatawa, who were attempting to unite all the native tribes they could to stop American encroachment on their land. Tecumseh was the military leader of the
movement and Tenskwatawa the spiritual leader.

On November 6, 1811 Harrison camped his army on the Tippecanoe River within striking distance of Prophetstown. Tecumseh was away on a recruiting trip and Tenskwatawa asked to meet the next morning to negotiate. Instead on the morning of November 7, 1811 Harrison's camp was attacked. Over the course of about two hours the camp withstood several charges from the gathered tribes but held out until the First Nations warriors began to run out of ammunition and leave the field. For his actions at Tippecanoe Croghan was promoted from private to captain. Harrison burned down Prophetstown and claimed a great victory but the town was rebuilt as soon as he left the area.

Major Croghan next took center stage in 1813 when William Henry Harrison gave him command of Fort Stephenson in present day Fremont, Ohio. After twice failing to take Fort Meigs, British General Henry Proctor decided to attack Fort Stephenson as a way to capture the important American supply depot of Sandusky, Ohio. Fort Stephenson was defended by 160 men, one Revolutionary War era cannon name Ol' Betsy and George Croghan

General Henry Proctor
Proctor commanded 500 British regulars and 700 native allies. Another 2,000 men under Tecumseh were also moving toward the fort. Harrison, hearing the numbers Croghan faced, ordered him to destroy the fort and retreat which Croghan refused to do. Harrison had the 21 year old major arrested and brought to his headquarters at Fort Seneca. Somehow, Croghan convinced Harrison to let him return to the fort and defend it although no reinforcements would be coming from Harrison.

As soon as he landed his forced on August 1, 1813 Proctor sent an emissary to demand the fort's surrender and threatened  massacre by the natives if they did not. Croghan's emissary, Lieutenant
Shipp gave Croghan's answer; "My commandant and the garrison are determined to defend the post to the last extremity, and bury themselves in its ruins, rather than surrender to any force whatever."

With negotiations at a standstill, Shipp attempted to return to the fort. Suddenly First Nations man tried to grab Shipp's sword. Only the intervention of a British officer stopped blood from being shed right there. Seeing all this Croghan called from the fort, "Shipp, come in, and we'll blow them all to hell!"

Fort Stephenson
That night the British bombarded the north west corner of the fort. Croghan returned fire with Ol' Betsy, moving her around the fort so he appeared to have more than one cannon, while also strengthening the north west corner of the fort with sand bags, sacks of flour and anything else he could find, gambling that that was where the British would make their assault.

The next morning the gamble paid off. The British marched right at the northwest corner of the fort and the ditch that protected it. At point blank range Croghan's men opened fire with muskets and Ol' Betsy let loose with grapeshot, pieces of metal, pieces of pottery and anything else that would fit down her barrel. The attack was sliced to pieces. They retreated. Proctor decided to withdraw rather than fight the defenders again. Fort Stephens was saved with only one American casualty.

James Madison
Croghan was now a national hero. President James Madison promoted him to lieutenant colonel as
soon as he heard the news. Croghan's ailing uncle George Rogers Clark said "The little game cock, he shall have my sword." The ladies of Chillicothe. Ohio also sent him a sword. They sent Harrison a petticoat. In the 1830's Congress would mint a medal for Croghan to celebrate the victory.

In the summer of 1814 Croghan was charged with recovering Mackinac Island from the British which controlled the straits between Lake Michigan and Lake Huron. The British had taken the island in July of 1812 before word of war had reached the island's defenders. Croghan commanded 700 soldiers but did not feel it was sufficient to overcome the island's defenses. Commodore Arthur Sinclair, who commanded the ships that Croghan's army embarked on later wrote that Croghan was convinced " He could not effect the object in view."

The small naval squadron tried to bombard the forts on the island but found they sat too high on the island's cliffs for their guns to reach. On August 4, 1814 Croghan's army  landed on the island and began marching toward the forts. They encountered a small British force of about 90 men from the Royal Newfoundland Fencibles,50 men of the Michigan Fencibles and about 150 men from the Menominee tribe. The small force was well positioned on a ridge however and Croghan's advance stalled. Attempts to flank the enemy were met with ambushes from the Menominee and soon the attack collapsed and retreated back to their boats. Mackinac Island remained in the hands of the British until the end of the war a few months later.

As for Croghan, he left the army at the end of the war. In 1816 he won the hand of Serena Livingston
Serena Livingston
over the likes of Washington Irving and Henry Lee. Irving wrote "The marriage of Serena L is in the best style of modern romance. I hope the Colonel is as amiable in the parlour as he is gallant in the field; if so, he is the very man for her." They settled on a plantation outside New Orleans where he proved he was most certainly not the man for her. He was appointed postmaster of New Orleans but fell to drinking, which he was very good at, and gambling, which he was very bad at. Serena eventually left him and in 1825 he returned to his first love, the army.

Croghan never lost Andrew Jackson's respect.
So there's that. 
Promoted to colonel and made inspector general of the army he traveled the country ensuring that various forts, outposts and soldiers where up to snuff. He held this position for almost twenty five years until he died. He apparently stayed sober on duty and earned the respect of those he served with and for but continued to drink off duty,  It was once suggested to President
Andrew Jackson that Croghan should be court martialed for his drinking to which Jackson angrily replied "George Croghan shall get drunk every day of his life if he wants to, and by the Eternal, the United States shall pay for the whiskey."

In 1846, Croghan now 54 years old and sickly served in his last battle for the American Army. He joined the army of General Zachary Taylor in the Mexican-
Zachary Taylor
the second future president Croghan served under
American War.  Taylor, who would ride his success as a General right into the White House, was literally Croghan's next door neighbor growing up. Their plantations abutted in Kentucky.

At the Battle of Monterrey in September 1846 Croghan, mounted on a horse, rode to the front of a column of Tennessee volunteers and shouted "men of Tennessee,
your fathers conquered with Jackson at New Orleans, follow me!" He then galloped toward the enemy, perhaps looking for one more moment in the sun or perhaps looking for a musket ball to put an end to it all. Either way the attack worked and the American army won the battle.

The Battle of Monterrey 
Shortly thereafter Croghan came down with dysentery and was returned to New Orleans, He lived out his final days there dying in a cholera epidemic on January 8, 1849. He was buried at his family's home in Louisville, Kentucky.

His story was not over yet though. In 1851 the mayor of Fremont had Ol' Betsy the cannon placed on the site of the long demolished Fort Stephenson. In
1839 a monument was dedicated on the site and in 1906 Croghan himself was disinterred from Kentucky and reburied at the site of his most famous victory where he and Ol' Betsy can stand guard forever.
Ol' Betsy and the monument in Fremont, Ohio. Croghan is buried at the base of the monument.

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Marginalia: The Mysterious Doodles

One of the projects we are hoping to thoroughly undertake when things return to normal is a look through the books owned by the Livingston Family. Even casually browsing the shelves, we can see there are really books for everyone. Several complete works of William Shakespeare. A copy of Jane Eyre. A book of crossword puzzles that has been partially filled in. With about 2,700 volumes, you're sure to find a lot of interesting things.

For example, there is a copy of a book called The Life of Bartolomé E. Murillo that lives in the study. Bartolomé Esteban Murillo was a Spanish painter in the 1600s.  Most of Murillo’s paintings were religious in nature. He has works featuring the Annunciation and the Magi seeing the baby Jesus. He even painted Mary, Joseph, Jesus, and…their dog?
The other side of Murillo’s work was paintings of women and children of his time. His art was lauded for being both realistic and beautiful.

So, the question becomes: Which Livingston might have read this book? Montgomery Livingston, the painter? Alice Livingston, the sculptor? Janet or Honoria Livingston, doing some art history studies?

And the answer seems to be: No one. You see, this particular volume was published in 1819. At that time, printers put the text onto large pieces of paper and then folded them into the pages we are accustomed to seeing. This means that as a book was read, the tops of the folded pages needed to be cut. A glance through this book shows that many of the pages were never separated at all! It would start to appear that this book was purchased purely to adorn the shelves.

But there’s one more twist. We noticed that the front and back inside covers of the book were used, even if the pages inside were not. In exploring this biography, we found sketches done inside the covers. In the front of the book, a bouquet of flowers. In the back, a landscape featuring perhaps a church?

Suddenly, the owner of this book seems pretty clear. Montgomery Livingston lived from 1816-1855. He was the son of Chancellor Livingston’s younger daughter, Margaret Maria, meaning he grew up at New Clermont, The Chancellor’s home on the property (later called Arryl House). As a young man, Montgomery studied art in Europe, particularly Switzerland. He became a prolific, if not terribly profitable landscape painter.

At Clermont, we have several landscapes of Montgomery’s. We would have even more examples of his art if not for the fact that Arryl House, supposedly adorned with murals by the artist, burned in 1909.

That means that this book, almost certainly featuring sketches done by our resident painter, becomes quite a special piece in our collection. It not only provides us with more examples of Montgomery Livingston’s art but I think the idea of doodling is something we can all relate to.

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Henry Beekman Livingston: Loving Father?

Mea culpa
Henry Beekman Livingston
Several years ago I wrote a post about Henry Beekman Livingston (read it here ) which I concluded
by saying Henry died alone and unmourned. While this is what his daughter, Peggy Livingston, would have liked us to believe it simply is not true.

Information buried deep in Henry Beekman Livingston's pension record paints a very different picture of the man. Testimony gathered by Henry Beekman Livingston's son, John, shows a loving father who was more welcome in his family then we previously believed.

According to John and the testimony, much of which comes from Henry's sister's husband the Reverend Freeborn Garretson, who had oddly enough inherited the sword that Henry had been presented by Congress in 1775. Nancy Shippen left Henry
Nancy Shippen Livingston
Beekman Livingston after only six weeks of marrige in Rhinebeck to move back to her family in Philadelphia. Henry then met another woman named, Maria Van Clief, with whom he would eventually have three children. They were together until her death in 1809.

He never married Maria but he did divorce Nancy in 1791. He had to move briefly to Salisbury, Connecticut to obtain the divorce. An earlier attempt to divorce in  New York in which Aaron Burr represented Nancy Shippen had been blocked in the Chancery Court by Henry's brother Chancellor Robert R. Livingston. Its unclear if there was a legal reason to block the divorce or if the Chancellor was trying to avoid having the family name associate with the scandal of divorce.

As mentioned Henry had three children with Maria Van Clief. They were Harriet, John and Charles. Harriet never married and lived with her father until he passed away in 1831. When she died twenty years later she was buried along side Henry in the Thomas Tillotson tomb at the Rhinebeck Reformed Church. Henry had been buried there in a mahogany coffin with a silver plate engraved with his name on it.
Rhinebeck Reformed Church

John was Henry's youngest child. He had aspired to be a soldier and Henry has written to both Thomas Jefferson and James Madison to try to get him an appointment as an officer in the army but failed to accomplish this. John settled for becoming a lawyer.

In between Henry and Maria had a son named Charles who was developmentally disabled. He lived with Henry for his entire life and sadly died only a month after his father and was buried in the same churchyard as his father.

Henry acknowledged all of these children, he educated them and tried to find them jobs and posts. Yet because he never married their mother the children were considered illegitimate and could not inherit from their father. His only legal heir was their half sister Peggy. Henry had tried to get her to build a relationship with her siblings but she rebuffed him at every turn.

The documents pertaining to Henry's second family came about from an attempt by John to get a portion of Henry's pension from the army. Ultimately he lost his case because the judge ruled he was an illegitimate child and could not inherit anything.

These documents paint a very different picture of Henry Beekman Livingston then we have seen before. He did not die alone and unmourned  but surrounded by his loving children, He was buried by the Tillotsons and Garretsons out of filial respect if not love.

Perhaps Henry was not the angry, hermit that many sources paint him as. Perhaps in Maria Van Clief and the children born out of their love he found some peace and solace.

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Son of a Loyalist: John Cox Jr.

The Revolutionary War was as much a civil war as it was a war between two opposing powers. This meant that fights often involved family members on both sides as each person was forced to decide where their loyalties lay.

The Livingston family of Clermont was rather unscathed by this as they were a pack of patriots. They all lost friends who remained loyal to the crown. Janet Livingston's husband Richard Montgomery had the most to lose by rebelling against the crown as most of his family was still in Ireland but the fact that family welcomed his widow openly when she visited after the war show that they were
willing to forgive, if not support his decision.

People living in the area around Clermont and Livingston Manor were not so lucky. Over the course of the war several young men would sneak down to New York City to join loyalist forces, for which their father's were fined by the local Committee of Safety

In the case of John Cox Jr. it was the son who was a patriot while the father was a loyalist. At the age of 15 Cox was sent from New York City to the Clermont area to apprentice with Will Cockburn as a surveyor. Cox became a skilled surveyor, eventually laying out the town of Rhinebeck, where he would teach school serve as town clerk and eventually represent the town as a member of the New York State Assembly. He even married a local girl, Maria Schotter, in 1776.

Margaret Beekman Livingston, one of Cox's Livingston bosses
John Cox Sr. on the other hand stayed in New York City as a merchant even when the British captured the city in 1776. By the time the war was over Cox Sr. realized he would not be welcome in the new country and he, along with his wife and several of his other adult children took passage to Nova Scotia.

This story has a happy ending though,. In 1789 John Cox Sr. and his wife returned to New York City. Two years later following an incident with his son Jameson, in which Jameson threatened to cut his throat, the elder John Cox moved to Rhinebeck near his name sake son, John Cox Jr. in the mean time had become estate agent for Margaret Beekman Livingston. He soon exchanged that job for a job as estate agent for Janet Livingston Montgomery.

Seven boxes of Cox's papers survive in the Edward Livingston papers at Princeton University. This article owes a great deal to Stacy F. Roth and her article "Loyalist Father, Patriot Son: The Cox Family at Shelburne, Nova Scotia" from The Princeton University Library Chronicle Vol. 51 No.2 Pages 183-200.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

A Long Drop From A Short Rope: The Danger of Making an Enemy of Robert Livingston

 It takes a special kind of person to be cursed by two different men on their way to the gallows. Especially if you are not a judge or a hangman. Robert Livingston was just that
Robert Livingston
type of man. When you rise from a simple clerk to one of the most powerful and richest men in the colony of New York you are bound to make one or two enemies.

The first man to curse Robert Livingston on the gallows was Jacob Milbourne, the son-in-law of Jacob Leisler. Leisler had attempted to take over the colony following the Glorious Revolution in England but was opposed by Robert Livingston.

The Revolution left New York in the hands of Lieutenant Governor Francis Nicholson who was a deeply unpopular man. He felt so unliked that he once threatened to burn the entire town of New York. Poor leadership combined with economic issues made the town of New York ready for a change into which Jacob Leisler stepped. Seizing the town’s fort and a letter from the crown Leisler feigned legitimacy.

However the town of Albany and its leaders like Robert Livingston and the Van Rensselaers resisted Leisler largely because of Livingston’s money. Unfortunaltey, Livingston was forced to leave the city after the Massacre at Schenectady, to go to Massachusetts and Connecticut to seek help defending the western frontier.

Jacob Leisler
In his absence Albany surrendered to Leisler and Livingston spent the next year exiled to Connecticut and Massachusetts. Despite Livingston’s absence Leisler continued to blame him for all the problems he had in New York.

The arrival, in early 1691, of the new legitimate lieutenant governor, Henry Sloughter put an end to Leisler’s rebellion. Leisler blamed all this on Livingston. Sloughter threw Leisler and the other ringleaders in jail and soon sentenced them to death. He commuted all the sentences except for Leisler and his son-in-law Jacob Milbourne.

At the May, 1691 hanging Milbourne spotted Livingston in the crowd and said to him; “You have caused the King that I must now die but before God’s tribunal I will implead the same for you.”

A decade later another man went to the gallows cursing Livingston’s name. He was William Kidd, better known as Captain Kidd the pirate.

He had started out as William Kidd the sea captain when he met Livingston in London. Livingston arranged the backing of several members of the upper class of English society for a voyage, commanded by Kidd, to capture and destroy French flagged ships and pirates. Even the King signed a special license for Kidd to keep all prizes he captured. The Adventure Galley a 34 gun warship was built in record time, only five weeks, for Kidd, and he sailed it to New York where he would start his mission from.
William Kidd

Trouble began almost immediately when Kidd secretly agreed with the crew to give them ¾ of the mission’s profits rather than the ¼ his backers had agreed to. Livingston heard about this less than five days after Kidd sailed and called for him to be seized.

Aboard ship Kidd was not himself. He had a reputation as a bully to his crews but on this cruise he seemed timid, even scared of the crew. He was certainly not in control of them. When they stopped an English ship to talk, Kidd entertained the captain in his cabin while his crew tortured the other crew and seized supplies from the ship. They had made Kidd a pirate whether he liked it or not. Later, his gunner, William Moore openly threatened Kidd with a chisel, to which Kidd responded by hitting him in the head with a bucket and killing him.

By the time Kidd returned to the western hemisphere he found that most of the English world was hunting for the pirate Captain Kidd. He sold the ship he was on and most of the goods he had plundered in the Caribbean. He took a new ship the Saint Antonio to New York and then to Boston where he was arrested.

His treasure though was missing. Livingston was brought before a court in Boston and admitted to receiving an enslaved boy and possibly some cheese from Kidd but no money. Certainly not the hundreds of thousands of pounds that Kidd had supposedly plundered.

With no information on the money coming the backers turned their backs on Kidd and he was sent to London to stand trial for murder and piracy. After a trial in which the outcome was never in doubt he was sentenced to hang. He said “My Lord it is a very hard sentence, for my part I am the innocentest, person of them all, only I have been sworn against by perjured persons.” Kidd went to the gallows believing he had done nothing wrong and that if Livingston or any of the other backers had spoken up for him his innocence would have
After he was hung Captain Kidd was 
gibbeted as a warning to other pirates
been proven.

Robert Livingston made more than a few enemies in his time, as many ambitious men did. It was rare though that Livingston’s ambitions saw more than a few men take their last steps off the gallows cursing his name as they went.

Zacks, Richard The Pirate Hunter: The True Story of Captain Kidd Hyperion, New York 2002

Leder, Lwrence H. Robert Livingston and the Politics of Colonial New York University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill 1961

Seitz, Don C. Under the Black Flag: Exploits of the Most Notorious Pirates Dover Publications Inc. Mineola, 2002 (Originally published 1925)

Cordingly, David Under the Black Flag; The Romance and Reality of Life Among the Pirates Harcourt Brace and Company, San Diego 1995.