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.