Revolutionary War: The Letters of John Hathorn
NOTE: Omitted from these Letters is his official report of the
1. Regarding Discontent among the Militia
Taupaun, 27th December 1776
Words cannot Express the Situation that I am in here with Respect to the Regiment; there is a pretty General determination Amongst them to go home at all Events. I use every Argument, in my power, with them, to frustrate their Imprudent intention. I hope to Restrain them another day or Two in which time purpose to Execute your order, in Marching my little Regiment to Closter; my People to a Man seems to appear firm in promoteing & carrying into Execution every Command for the purposes for which we are ordered to this place.
I beg leave at the same time to Inform you, that it is distressing to a number of the militia of my Regiment, to be kept so long (in this Season) from their domestick affairs at home, together with the Great difficulties & hardships they now undergo, being almost barefooted & many nearly naked for Cloathes.
Pray sir, Use your Influence in obtaining Liberty for the people to return home. I am sorry to be obliged to declare that it will not be in my power to keep them more than three days longer. You may Rest assured that I shall Carefully Conform to every of your Orders, and have the Honour to be with greatest Esteem,
Your Obe’t Serv’t in hast,
John Hathorn Col.
[Public Papers of George Clinton. Vol. 1 No. 292]
2. Reply of General Clinton to Cols. Allison and Heathorn (Hathorn)
Ramepough, Decem’r 28th 1776
I received your Letters of the 27th Instant both nearly of the same Purport. I am fully sensible of the Distress the Militia labour under by being called out and detained so long from Home in this season of the year. I early mentioned it in a Letter to Convention & have since repeated it in two others, mentioning my Fears that unless I had Leave to dismiss a Part of them that they would be disgusted & desert, from which I feared the worst of Consequences. I did not receive an Answer untill last Night, (before which Time two thirds of them have left me as I predicted); the Convention begg they conjure us to continue a few Days longer in which Case they promise to relieve at leave one half of us; in the Mean Time they consent I should dismiss such as whose Famillies are much Distressed by their Absence.
We are already to weak in numbers to do this consistent with the safety of the Country, but I have ordered home an Officer out of each Company from every Regiment to bring up the Absentees that upon their Arival I may dismiss as many as I can of those now present. This I begg you will also do, but for Heaven’s sake, for the sake of your Bleeding Country, keep your Men together a few Days longer; don’t let them basely Desert so honorable Cause & suffer our Enveterate & Cruel Enemy to plunder & distress our Friends. A Party of the Rebels were up to last Night at Pyramus took 6 or 7 of our Friends there & plundered several Famillies. I have ordered out the Mlitia on the south side of the Mountains in Orange County & wrote to Colo. Dye to imbody the Militia of Bergen. I am yours sincerely,
[Public Papers of George Clinton Vol. 1 No. 292]
3. Col. Hathorn Nabs Four Tories
Closter 31st Dec. 1776
Herewith I send you four persons taken yesterday by one of my Scouts viz. John Acker, Peter Bonter, Daniel Forshee & John Lockman. Acker & Bonter are Inhabitants of the English Neighbourhood and from Account I can Collect are Grand & Active Tories as Acker is proved Guilty of Aiding and assisting the Enemy in their March from Closter to the New Bridge and also assisted in taking three persons & Carrying them to Fort Lee or Powles Hook. I am fully Convinced that he is a person Injurious to the Rights of America. Bonter is also Charged with being unfriendly; his General Character is agreeable to the Charge, and has been in the Ministerial Service with his Waggon some time.
Daniel Foshee, appears to be a Tobacconist; that he lives in new York, his Wife & part of his Family is at Taupaun, he was apprehended last Evening driving Fatt Cattle to new York, he says for his family but Query, his family is principally here; however, he has been here on the same Arrant before, under pretence of Visiting his family. I am fully satisfied that unless a stop is put to these kind f people, having Intercourse among us, our Situation here is very dangerous. Lockman was taken with Foshee driveing the Cattle. I have one Steer that was Taken, which shou’d be glad to know what to do with the other Cattle the Guard being so small, by some means got away.
This Moment Intelligence came from ye New Bridge to advise the Inhabitants to drive their Cattle & Stock away, which they are Effecting as this night the Enemy Intends to attack upon us; he acquaints that there is a Large Reinforcement came to that place.
I am determined not to leave my post unless forced from it; our fatigue, D’r S’r, is too Great, our body very small but I believe very Good; we hear the Regulars’ Drums, Twice a day, very plain. I also Inform you that I have not more than 120 Effective men in the Regiment, therefore, you may Easily Judge my Present Situation.
I am with every mark of Esteem yours &c &c.
[Public Papers of George Clinton Vol. 1 No. 297]
4. Henry Wisner Exposes a New Line of Communication of the Enemy
Kingston 6th of Aprel 1777
Mr. Kyte from Menesinck is now here with several depositions taken Before the Committee of Peempack By which and many other Sircumstances it is Evident to me y’t a number of designing villens are skulking about and Between the neighbourhoods of Menesinck and Keshaighton, with design to strike a stroak wherever opertunity may offer; you may depend on it, Sir, that a Constant Communication is Kept up Between the two British armies by way of Warwick, Greenwood By the head of the drounded land through Menisinck Kashaighton and so norwestward. He tels me that part of Cutaback’s and Kortright’s Companies are gone out to indeavour to apprehend them. I take the Liberty to Refer it to your Better under standing wheather it will not Be Best to imploy part of the malitia near those parts to Cut of y’t Rout and to apprehend those villens. I am Just inform’d that 17 of our Newburough quallity are taken at said Greenwoods and are now in Goshen gole.
I am Sir your
[Public Papers of George Clinton Vol 1 No. 429]
5. Placing the Chain across the Hudson: Report of the Committee to the Provincial Convention
January 14, 1778
Your committee, who were sent to ascertain the place for fixing a chain and erecting fortifications for obstructing the navigation of Hudson’s river, beg leave to report: That they have carefully viewed the ground on which Fort Clinton lately stood and its environs, and find that the ground is so intersected with long, deep hollows, that the enemy might approach, without any annoyance from the garrison within the fort, to within a few yards of the walls, unless a redoubt should be raised to clear the hollow next to the fort, which must be built at such a distance from the fort that it could not be supported from thence in case of an assault, so that the enemy might make themselves masters of the redoubt the first dark night after their landing, which would be a good work ready to their hand for annoying the fort and facilitating their operations against it; and, together with the eminences and broken grounds within a short distance of the fort, would render it impossible for the garrison to resist a general assault for many hours together. Another objection that appeared to the committee was the want of earth on the spot, which would reduce the engineer to the necessity of erecting his works entirely of timber, which must be brought to Pooploop’s kill in rafts, and from hence drawn up a steep and difficult road to the top of the hill. The rafts cannot be made till the water is warm enough for men to work in it, by which it is probable that a fort cannot be erected before the ships of the enemy will come up the river. Besides, at this place, the chain must be laid across the river so that it will receive the whole force of the ships coming with all the strength of tide to possess themselves of the passes in the mountains through which they marched to the attacks of forts Montgomery and Clinton, it would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, for the militia of the country to raise the seige. Upon viewing the country at and about West Point, the committee found that there were several places at which the enemy might land and proceed immediately to some high grounds that would command a fort erected at West Point, at the distance of six or seven hundred yards, from which they might carry on their approaches through a light gravelly soil, so that it would be impossible for the fort to stand a long siege. But to balance this disadvantage in this place, there is plenty of earth. The timber may be brought to the spot by good roads from the high grounds at the distance of one to three miles. Three hundred feet less of chain will be requisite at this place than at Fort Clinton. It will be laid across in a place where vessels going up the river most usually lose their headway. Water batteries may be built on both sides of the river for protecting the chain and annoying the ships coming up the river, which will be completely commanded from the walls of the fort. There are so many passes across the mountains to this place, that it will be almost impossible for the enemy to prevent the militia from coming to the relief of the garrison. From these considerations, the committee are led to conclude that the most proper place to obstruct the navigation of the river is at West Point; but are at the same time fully convinced that no obstructions on the banks of the river can effectually secure the country, unless a body of light troops, to consiste of at least two thousand effective men, be constantly stationed in the mountains while the navigation of the river is practicable, to obstruct the enemy in their approach by land.
Jno. Sloss Hobart,
[Included as note, Public Papers of George Clinton Vol. II No. 1021]
6. Col. Hathorn Intercedes on Behalf of Caleb Hyatt
Warwick 14th April 1778
Dear General, Your favor I received with an Order Inclosed which I Shall Strictly attend to, However difficult it may be, as the distance of some part and indeed the whole of my Regiment from West Point & the other places, may Prevent our Properly Receiving the Alarm; the disposition of my Regiment is Either at West Point or Syndman’s Bridge, I shall be at a Loss which place to March to, I hope that on the appearance of the Enemies Landing on the West Side of the River I may be informed thereof, from the Governor or Officer Commanding at that Post, otherwise I must if alarmed by the Fireing of the Guns march to West Point.
Sir, you may Remember that you ordered Into Confinement, last Winter at N. Windsor a Certain Caleb Hoyatt supposed to be a prison of Warr, from which place he was Transmitted to Poughkepsey Goal; he is now out, at Work at Crumb Pond, on some kind of Security, I have Since Enquired of Some Deserters who left the Enemy Since he was taken who declares he was deemed a deserter, from them, I believe he was coming in when he was taken, although he told So bad a Story when Examined before you for which he has pretty well Suffered.
His Wife and Family Stands in Great Need of Some aid,; unless he is allowed to take some care of them, its probably they will be an Expence to the Publick. I hope the General will Consider his Case who by a little Interference he may be Enlarged, be I am Convinced may with less danger to the County be allowed to be here with his family than where he now is. I will make it my Business to keep a Watchfull Eye over him, however I am well Sattisfied his Intentions was Good Nothwithstanding his Conduct. I am with Sentiments of Esteem Your obt Serv’t
John Hathorn Col.
[Public Papers of George Clinton Vol. II No. 1278]
7. Letter from Col. John Hathorn to George Clinton Regarding the Raids of the Followers of Claudius Smith
From Warwick,  March, 1779
The following transcription is taken from a photocopies of this letter, which is part of the Draper Manuscript owned by the Wisconsin Historical Society [Volume 20F Page 29]. Due to the fact that some words are difficult to read, we enclose all questionable "best guesses" in square brackets. The portion of the letter given below omits a few sentences about the disposition and appointment of troops found in the original letter.
"I take the liberty to mention to your Excellency this peculiar Cituation, which is truly deplorable. Their Residences are in that part of the Mountains and their Vicinity where the late Claudius Smith [Ranged]. He is dead yet his Baneful Poison remains. A recent Instance thereof a few days ago happened about three [&] half Miles from my House. John Clerk was by Richard Smith Son of the said Claudius in a Cool and Premeditated manner with his Six other Villains taken out of his house about 150 Yards from the same. Their Intention was to hanged him but, fearing this Business would detain them too long, the said Smith put a Pistol to his breast and shot him through the body, of which Wound he died. These Villains did not stop there but made another Attempt the following Night but was Providentially disappointed in their Intention.
Instances of their Bloody Acts are [become] frequent, their threats obvious, insomuch that every man that is a Whig is realy in danger, its Notorious that no Individual that lives near their [Course] can be Exempt from their Power.
[A] Number of the Inhabitants are removing for fear and [those] who even dare to keep their families on their places don't pretend to Sleep in their Houses at Night.
I can truly say the [unfortunate] Clerk was a good Soldier and a Indefatagable Watcher of every Motion of the disaffected who [have] been pretty Numerous where he lived. He is a loss to this Regiment and to the Publick in General.
[I enclose] the Original paper the Villains left with Mrs. Clerk, they were so audacious as to mention a number of Names who should become Victims of their Rage.
I am with Great Personal Esteem
Transcription by S. Gardner, Sept. 1999
8. Court Martial in Warwick Warwick 7th November 1778
Sir, Agreeable to a General Order of the 21st of September last I have the honour to transmit your Excellency the proceedings or rather the verdicts of a Court martial held in my Regiment from the Continued movements of the Regiment, was prevented from Transmitting it Earlier. I take the liberty of Submitting to your Excellency the Particular situation of John Monger & John Newberry, two of the Inclosed delinquents, whose fines run pretty high; the former was not at home when the Regiment marched; was moving his family to or near New Windsor, and when the Court sat, he had not the Opportunity of mak’g his defence, not being apprised, of the Court’s sitting; the latter has abundantly sattisfied me that he is an infirm person seldom capable of marching or undergoing the least fatigue; therefore, would hope their fines may be lessened or mitigated.,
I would thank your Excellency for your direction in Collecting the fines inflicted by Regimental Courts Martial, as don’t find any way pointed out by the Militia Law, for that purpose. I think it too great a burthen on Either Adjutant or Serjents, to collect so many fines without being rewarded; the Militia I assure your Excellency, are almost weary even of welldoing; the time that consequently must be spent in obtaining such serious sums of money must be considerable. Neither do I find any provision made to pay the Court martial for their service, which is an Intollerable Burthen on the Officers.
I send a person with this and hope your Excellency may not be so much engaged in other Business as to prevent your determination on the within proceedings, that return may come back by the bearer, as Immediate Examples are Realy necessary.
I am happy in being at liberty to Transmit this proceedings; the time is Elapsed since I received a message from the Industrious Col Newkirk, that on my noncompliance to his special order, given under his hand, I was to be put under arrest, I have not complyed with the order. I could not think myself Justified in doing it. I consider myself, however unfit to be honoured with the care of a Regiment, therefore, not Subject to the Controul of any Inferior Officer, the Dignity of my Commission I am determined not to lessen, It is my duty and I have made it my Study, to invariabley, Execute, every order, of your Excell., as well as other Superior officer. I cant conceive I am vested with power by any Law or order, to make any person go into service; the Militia Law points a punishment for delinquents by Courts martial which I had put in practise, previous to the Recieval of your Excellency’s Orders, or the Orders of Lieut. Col. Newkerk.
Being Conscious that his orders was not Complied with, in any of the Neighbouring Regiments no more than mine, I feel myself as willing to endure the Censure of a Court Martial, as to be threatned with it; I think my Conduct will stand the strictest enquiry of a Court martial; I am therefore prepeared for defence.
I shall be obliged to continue Courts martial unless otherwise ordered by your Excellency. I wish was in my power to recall, and Establish that publick virtue in the minds of every Individual, of my Rgt. Which is apparently lost, it would stimulate to duty, and would Supercede the Necessity of Courts Martial. I have the Honour to be with the Greatest Regard Your Excellencyes most Obedient Servant
N.B. Pardon my imperfect Letter being in hast.
At a Regimental Court Martial Held at Warwick in the County of Orange, for the Trial of Sundry delinqu’ts of Col Hathorn’s Regiment of Militia, Commencing the 12th of October and Continued by adjournments unto the Thirty first of the same month 1778; Whereof Capt. Andrew Milder was President, Lieuts. Benjamin Coley Nathaniel Ketchum and James Right, & Ensigns John Wood & henry Bartolf Members: the following Persons were fined the several Sums annexed to their names for disobeying orders to march into the late Class Service at Minisink & General Alarm to Parramus: [note of transcriber: amounts are given in ‘pounds’]
Andrew Wood 5; Phinehas Tompkins 8; Colvil Bradner Jun’r 40; Abraham Osburn 24; Joseph Todd 5; William Clerk 10; Andrew Christie 5; James Demorest 40; David Demorest 40; Philip Reddick 20; John Newberry 40; John Robinson 24; John Miller 5; Garret Decker 4; John Tebow 40; Smith Wesner 5; Joseph McCane 12; John Coster 5; John Sandford 24; Isaac Winings 5; James Bennedict, Jun’r 12; Anthony Bramer 10; Thaddeus Scott 4; Thomas Allenton 5; Cornelious Dekcer 2; Samuel Hamanway 5; Joshual Hallack 8; Justice Odle 5; Henry Allison 8; James Tidd 24; Jesse Mullocks 12; James Arsball 5 James Reder 5; Stephen Wood 12; Henry Clerk 20; Geroge Hamilton 8; Isaac Jennings 5; George Wood 5; John Monger 16, Samuel Raner 20; Samuel Raner Jun’r 40; Richard Clerk 5; Timothy Clerk Jun. 6; Henry Jackson 8; John Low 16; Isaac Decker 8; Nathaniel Davies 16; Thomas Welling Jun’r 5; John Welling 5; William Helmes 12; John Kelly 12; Oliver Baley 2.
9. Governor Clinton’s Reply to Colonel Hathorn
Sir, I have received your Letter of the 7th Instant with a copy of the Proceedings of the Court martial ag’t several Persons for Disobedience of Orders; such of them as you think are hardly dealt with, you will please either mitigate or remit their Punishment as you may Judge, most conducive to the good of the Service. The Privates tried by a Court martial are supposed to be in actual Custody & not release till the Fine is paid; and allowance, therefore, for the Collection of them is not provided for by Law. With Respect to the Officers serving on Courts martial I think it perfectly just & reasonable they should receive pay 7 Rations as if out on actual service, but I doubt whether the law as it now stands will warrant my ordering them payment & I mean, therefore, to apply to the Legislature at their next meeting to have this matter properly explained. On the Complaint of the Frontier Inhabitants I issued my Orders to Lieut. Colo. Newkerk who commands on the Frontier to demand of the different Regt’s their respective Proportions. I am ignorant how he has executed my Order as he has not reported his Proceedings to me & he may as well have exceeded his Orders as been uncomplaisant in the Execution of them. I am far however from agreeing that there were great deficiencies in the Militia ordered out for their Protection. That you are not vested with Power to compell the refractory to do their Share of Duty when ordered into actual Service they are Subject to Martial Law in its full Extent, & are not only subject to Tryal & Military Punishment for Disobedience of Orders in the first Instance, but are also liable to be forced out & punished for Desertion should they quit the Service before properly discharged. I wish however as little Severity may be used as possible, as the milder the means to induce the Militia to perform their Duty if effectual, the better. I am fully perswaded you will always exert yourself in the Execution of your office & am &c.
[Above 3 items: Public Papers of George Clinton Vol. IV No. 1908]
10.. Raising Troops for the War
Warwick , 25th December 1780
Sir, This day I am informed the Regiments of Dutchess County are raising the Men required by the act for filling the Continental Battalions of this State during the War. I have seen the Law and Warrant to the Clerk of the Supervisors annex’d, Expressing your Excellency’s Intention to carry that Law into Immediate Execution. I have also received from the Supervisors the proportion of men assigned to be raised in my Regiment. I have been laying on my oars some time waiting Orders to raise the Men. From the afore recited Information I am led to believe, that orders have been issued but had met with some disappointment on their way hither. Its with the greatest reluctance that I trouble your Excellency on this Occasion, conscious of the numerous applications constantly before you, many of which no doubt, are very unnecessary. I don’t wish to be far behind the foremost in performing any duty required of me, more Especially in carrying into Execution a favorite Law, when Effected must contribute amazingly to the Union. I would just take the liberty to add that its more than probably several of my neighbouring Regiments are in my Situation, as I don’t hear of their raising any Men. I have the Honour of presenting the compliments of the Season, and subscribing myself with every mark of Esteem your Excell’ys Obt. Servant
[Public Papers of George Clinton Vol. VI No. 3454]
11. Col. Hathorn Announces His Wish to Resign
Fredericksburgh 25th April 1781
Sir, I have had the honour of commanding a Regiment of Militia in Orange County since the year 1775 during which time my Endeavours were not wanting to Support the Credit of so Important and Honorable a Commission. Officers in that Station on the present Establishment are in a singular and very disagreeable Situation, more especially if the fortune of War should throw them into the hands of the enemy. Instances, recent at this day evinces it. No doubt the Legislature had an Eye to this, as an amendment of the Militia Law very justly in part has Provided for it. The duties required of the officers commanding Regiments are accumulated to a burthen too heavy for my narrow Shoulders to Support. The other Business assigned to me is more than Sufficient to engroce all my thought and attention; its obvious that the Business of my Military Commission have suffered and been greatly neglected.
If no Military operation will be deranged and the Publick in no degree Injured, by Indulging me with a resignation of my Military Commission will give me great ease and contribute to an Interest Inadequate to Support the credit and dignity of so honorable a commission.
Permit me to think that a Colonel of a Regiment, ougt to be a Supernumerary especially when no danger can possibly arise and office as well served by the Lieut. Colonel. I should do violence to my own conscience as well as tending to impose on the gentleman whose conduct at the head of the Militia as an officer, is endearing to the Solder and real friend to his country, was I not convinced that, this will be the case in the present Instance.
I hope the above facts will give Sufficient Weight to Warrant my request, that your Excell’y will lay them before the Hon’ble the Council of Appointment, and second their being granted; it will be a Service ever acknowledged. By your Excellency’s and the Council’s most obedient and Humble Servant,
John Hathorn, Col.
[Public Papers of George Clinton Vol. VI No. 3656]