Major Ebenezer Robinson of New York
old gun and books In early 1776 the colonialists captured Fort Ticonderoga from the British. The Fort’s cannons were transported to Boston to be used against the British. This left a void in British military strength from Canada to New York City. For that reason, the Hudson River became a prime strategic area to the British and the Americans. If the British could control the river from its upper reaches to New York City, the British could split the colonial military effort in two, separating the New Englanders from the rest of the colonies. Therefore, the Hudson Highlands (Dutchess County) became crucial to the American military effort. General Washington took command of the Continental Army on June 15, 1775. He took the initiative and conducted attacks on the British in Canada during the latter months of 1775. Meanwhile, the British consolidated their hold on New York City. The effect on Dutchess County was significant. The Dutchess County colonists found themselves between a very hostile British force to the south and an increasingly strong American presence to the north of them. The Hudson Highlands, including Dutchess County, became a “no-man’s-land” in which neither British sympathizers or American patriots would be comfortable for several years.

The colonists in New York responded to this situation by forming larger militia units in each county.

“On May 6, 1776 a regiment was formed from the Pawlings Precinct (3rd Regiment) all militia in Fredericksburgh Precinct, except the Northern and Middle Short lots, all militia in Philipps Precinct in County of Dutchess.”
Commanded by:
Colonel Moses Dusenberry, Lt. Colonel Henry Luddington
1st Major Reuben Ferris, 2nd Major Joshua Nelson
First Company (Beat #1)1
Captain Ebenezer Robinson March 8, 1776
1st Lt. Nathaniel Scribner

There were other companies in the Regiment led by Captains; David Waterbury, Johnathan Paddock, John Crane, David Heacock and William Colwell.
It was reported to the New York Provincial Congress in June of 1776 that “there were many disaffected and dangerous persons in Dutchess and Westchester counties, who greatly disturbed the peace, and who would probably take up arms whenever the enemy should make a descent upon that region”2 In July the Provincial Congress ordered that Westchester and Dutchess counties provide one fourth of their militia to be summoned into active service until year’s end and that the same pay and subsistence ($20 bounty) as paid to Continental soldiers be paid to the militia.3

By July of 1776 Colonel Ludington, now in command of the 7th Regiment Dutchess County Militia, wrote “to the Convention - or Provincial Congress on July 19, 1776, from Fredericksburgh, as follows:

“These may inform Your Honors that I meet with some difficulty in furnishing my quota of men for the present emergency, for want of commissions in the regiment which I have the honor to command. We have a number of officers chosen already that have no commissions, and several more must be chosen in order to have the regiment properly officered. And whereas I have applied to the County Committee for blanks to be filled up, and there are none to be had, therefore I, in conjunction with the committee of this Precinct, would desire that there might be about twenty blank commissions sent up by Mr Myrick, the bearer thereof. I would further acquaint Your Honors that the regiment is destitute of Majors, and would be glad if Your Honors would appoint two gentlemen to that office and fill up commissions for them. There are two gentlemen that I do, with the advice of the Committee nominate, viz., Mr. Gee - his Christian name I am not able to tell - of Phillipse Precinct and Captain Ebenezer Robinson of this Precinct. These gentlemen are doubtless known by several members of the honorable House.
From Your Humble Servant,
Henry Ludington, Colonel
To the Honorable Provincial Congress”
4
“The annals of the New York Convention, under date of July 20, 1776, relate that this letter was received, read and that - "On reading the said letter from Colonel Ludenton, of Dutchess County, and considering the state of his Regiment at this critical time, Resolved, That Commissions be issued to the two gentlemen named in said letter, and that 20 other Commissions be signed by the President and countersigned by one of the Secretaries and transmitted to Colonel Ludenton, to be filled up for Captains and Subalterns of his Regiment when necessary, by the Precinct Committee and himself ”5

So, Ebenezer was commissioned as a Captain early in the conflict and due to some as yet uncovered accomplishments, was promoted to Major by July, 1776. A company such as he had commanded as Captain would consist of 85 to 100 men from a specific neighborhood or town. They constituted a “beat” or company. On the first “beat” of a drum, the first company would organize, and so on through the six beats of the regiment.

“Each man had to furnish his own good musket or firelock and Bayonet, sword or tomahawk, a steel ramrod, worm, priming wire and brush fitted thereto, a cartouch box to contain 23 rounds of cartridges, 12 flints and a knapsack, or to be fined under forfeiture” 6
Early in the conflict, the firearms and often the horses of the citizens of the county sympathetic to the British were confiscated and utilized to better arm the militia. “The militia could not be taken outside the colony or state for more than three months at a time. Militia units might be called out several times a year for varied durations and assignments. Officers were elected in each company, but all officers above the rank of Captain were appointed by respective Provincial Assemblies or Conventions, or Committees of Safety. A Colonel was paid $75/month, a Private $6.66/month, sometimes in script, sometimes with the authority to conscript cattle or goods for which receipts were given the owners so that payment be made by the state.” 7

Limited documentation is available on Major Ebenezer’s individual participation in the conflict. The best documentation available today are the Revolutionary War Pension Applications, such as the one (enclosed) on Issachar. Since Congress did not enact pension legislation for Revolutionary War veterans until well after the war, the older soldiers had mostly passed on by then. Such was the case for Ebenezer who died in 1802. What is available is a detailed account of the exploits of Colonel Ludington’s 7th Regiment Dutchess County Militia. Since Ebenezer was a Staff level officer in this regiment, it can be inferred that he participated in many of the following exploits. I will try to link the specific challenges faced by the militia in Dutchess County with the strategic actions which drew the Hudson Highlands into such significance.

About the same day that the Declaration of Independence reached New York and the inhabitants had a chance to read it, a large fleet of British ships landed at Staten Island. This was one of the largest expeditionary forces ever seen, over 30,000 troops, reinforced by fresh troops from England and Hessian troops hired by the British King. In early August of 1776 the British moved onto Long Island. By that time Washington and his army of approximately 23,000 was converging on the highlands, on the Manhattan side of the Hudson. Without going into too much detail, Washington’s troops took on the British at Long Island Heights and fell back when it was obvious they were to be overwhelmed. They disappeared overnight, to the amazement of the British, and formed new American Lines in Brooklyn Heights. The Heights were lost and Washington fell back through Manhattan to Harlem Heights. The British took Manhattan rather easily. The Americans put up a stiff resistance in Harlem, firing from behind trees and fences, again to the consternation of the British in their tight battle lines. The war moved farther and farther north into White Plains and Westchester County.

At the Battle of White Plains, Colonel Henry Ludington, commander of the 7th Regiment, Dutchess County Militia was aide-de-camp to General Washington who later thanked him for his assistance. “On the 28th, the enemy outflanked Washington’s position by capturing, with discouraging ease, a nearby hill which Washington had partially fortified. Again moving silently at night, the Americans retired to higher hills near New Castle. The British thereupon wheeled to their left and disappeared in the direction of the Hudson River.”8 Washington split his forces at that time, sending half his force to defend the Hudson and half to move into New Jersey to defend Fort Lee. This was the farthest north the British moved in force during the coming months, but set the stage for actions facing the Dutchess County Militia in late 1776 and early 1777.

Colonel Ludington’s memoirs indicate that at this time his regiment was ordered to set up defense of the Hudson Highlands by remaining at North Castle. They remained there until the announcement of Washington’s victories in Princeton and Trenton. The threat at that time to the Highlands seemed diminished and the militia was allowed to return to their homes and neglected farms. John Jay and Nathaniel Sackett, two prominent patriots of the day were directed by General Washington to set up a means of protecting the Highlands from the threat of British intrigue and conspiracies. Colonel Ludington’s militia took up “military police” duties in Dutchess County. They were to intercept any suspected attempts at communication between the British in New York and the British in the north woods coming south from Canada.

In early 1776, a committee was appointed and titled “The Committee for the Convention of the State of New York for Enquiring into, Defeating and Detecting all Conspiracies that may be formed in said State”. On March 10, June 14 and July 6, the Committee took many arms from Tories, Disaffected and Non-Associates in New York City. In the coming months, the Committee ordered “Victuals” and handcuffs for the Tories. Bills showed that it cost two shillings either to put hand-cuffs on or take them off (by a blacksmith). Captain Joshua Myrick (Colonel Ludington’s 7th Regiment Dutchess County Militia), was paid 148 Pounds for the Pay and Subsistence of his Company. Another bill was paid for apprehending Suspects. The Committee appointed Samuel Smith Commissary to a Detachment of Col. Robert Van Rensselaer’s Regiment, and ordered him to guard the Prisoners to New Hampshire. Lieutenant Bezaleed Rudd was ordered, with his detachment to join the command of Captain Robinson for escorting the Prisoners from Fishkill to New Hampshire, and he was required to report to the committee on his return.”9 There were countless other “military police” and espionage engagements noted in Colonel Ludington’s memoirs.

Westchester and Dutchess counties became overrun by scavenging raiders called “Cowboys” and “Skinners”. They were stealing crops, horses, cattle and other stock to feed the British army in New York or were taking advantage of the unsettled times to rob and pillage farms empty of male defenders. The militia took on these bands as they found them. One example of the divisions facing the populace in these days were the Loyalty Oaths. John Jay called for all citizens to proclaim their loyalty, to the British or to the Revolution. Fully one third of those eligible in Dutchess County to proclaim their loyalty took the side of the British. Imagine, in times such as these, one of every three of your neighbors siding with the British. Cooper’s “The Spy” would provide a reader with a great appreciation of life in the Highlands during these times.

Colonel Ludington was instrumental in the rounding up and neutralization of many of these potential Tory spies. “His activity and energy were so conspicuous and successful in thwarting the plans of the Tory emissaries of British General Howe, that a large reward was offered by that officer for his capture, dead or alive”10 Ludington could depend on his young daughters to sit for hours in windows of his home and warn of danger. He often had a detachment of his militia present to guard the home.

No narrative of these times would be complete without mention of Enoch Crosby. As stated earlier in this manuscript, Ebenezer and his wife Anne Stone were married in the home of Enoch Crosby’s parents, Thomas and Elizabeth Crosby. Enoch was only six years old at the time of the wedding. By 1777 he was twenty-seven and was to become known as the inspiration for the hero Harvey Birch, of James Fenimore Cooper’s novel “The Spy”. He entered military service in 1775 in Connecticut and in August of 1776 joined the regiment in Fredericksburg, now Kent (then Dutchess County) under Colonel Swartwout. Early in this assignment he was traveling through the highlands countryside when he fell in with a stranger who assumed Enoch was going down to join the British. This began a ploy that Enoch used over and over again, that of convincing Tories that he was one of them, joining them and eventually turning them over to the militia or line units for capture. He was again and again captured with the groups he befriended and over and over again allowed to be “escaped”. He was mentioned in depth in Colonel Ludington’s memoirs such as the following:

“He was a frequent visitor at Ludington’s house, and often lay hidden securely there while Tories were searching for him. Colonel Ludington’s daughters, Sibyl and Rebecca, were also privy to Crosby’s doings, and had a code of signals, by means of which they frequently admitted him in secrecy and safety to the house. Colonel Ludington furnished numerous other members of the Secret Service from the ranks of his own regiment, and was himself the recipient of clandestine reports, some of which were transmitted by him to the Committee of Safety and some to the headquarters of General Washington”11
The best well known expoit of Colonel Ludington’s 7th Regiment Dutchess County Militia was their participation in the repelling of the British as they burned Danbury, Connecticut on April 26, 1777. On Friday, April 25, 1777 the British landed a force of approximately 2,000 Regulars near Fairfield Connecticut from ships on Long Island Sound. By mid-day Saturday, the 26th, they had marched the 25 miles north to Danbury with plans to destroy a large American supply depot. They burned parts of Danbury and began a slow withdrawal to their ships on the Sound.

“Patriot messengers rode at top speed in three directions from Danbury - toward New Haven to hasten American Generals Benedict Arnold and Wooster, who were already on their way, to meet General Silliman, and to Fredericksburgh to tell the news to Colonel Ludington.” 12

The messenger reached the Colonel’s home at 9:00 p.m. that evening. The Colonel felt that he had to remain at his farm, which served as the rallying point and drill ground for the regiment. He allowed his daughter, Sybil, just sixteen years old, to ride and alert the regiment to gather at his home. This led to Sybil’s heroic 40 mile ride, at night, over muddy country roads, potentially meeting bands of Cowboys and Skinners. The roads in the area are strewn with historic markers outlining her ride. There is an impressive statue to her on the edge of the lake in the middle of Carmel, New York and the National Rifle Association has named their annual award to heroic women after her.

Her ride took her from “Carmel down to Horsepond Road to Lake Mahopac, to Captain Cranes house, through Red Mills to Peekskill Hollow and back up the pike to Hortonville and Peekskill.”13 My wife and I have driven those roads and cannot impress on the reader what this young lady must have gone through.

“By daybreak, thanks to her daring, nearly all the regiment was mustered before her father’s house at Fredericksburgh and an hour or two later was on the march for vengeance on the raiders. They were a motley company, some without arms, some half dressed, but all filled with a certain berserk rage. That night they reached Redding (Connecticut) and joined Arnold, Wooster and Silliman. The next morning they encountered the British at Ridgefield. They were short of ammunition and were outnumbered by the British three to one. But they practiced the same tactics that Paul Revere’s levies at Concord and Lexington found so effective. Their scattered sharpshooter fire from behind trees, fences and stone walls, harassed the British sorely, and made their retreat to their ships at Campo resemble a rout. .... Arnold had a horse shot out from under him... and gallant Wooster received a wound from which he died a few days later.”14 An American boy was captured and escaped to tell of 500 casualties among the enemy, as he saw them carried on board the fleet.15

In June of 1779, according to his Memoirs, Colonel Ludington and his regiment were called to Fishkill, when the British seized Verplancks Point (just above West Point). On June 24, 1779 they were surprised by approximately 200 British Cavalry who had moved rapidly up from the area of New York City and joined with 130 British Light Infantry. In the engagement the regiment lost 30 killed or wounded. The regiment was then attacked while preparing breakfast and defending a church which was being used to store military goods. After this last skirmish, the regiment was marched home and for a time disbanded to tend to the summer farm chores.

Throughout the rest of the conflict, the regiment continued with its police duties in Dutchess County and the quelling of Tory instigated disturbances. It must be assumed that Ebenezer depended on his sons to maintain order on the home front. Little is known of Ebenezer, Jr., Stephen, Nathaniel and Daniel and their experiences during the War, but Issachar and David did serve and their pension applications provide details of their service. It is assumed that Ebenezer allowed Issachar to join the service as he approached his twentieth birthday. As will be seen, he was tenacious about serving.

David, Ebenezer, Sr.’s fourth oldest son joined the Continental Army in July of 1781, just four months after his older brother Issachar. David was 16 years of age in 1781. His pension file provides the following details:

“On July 1, 1781, enlisted in the Company of Captain Jacob Reed in the Regiment of Artillery commanded by Colonel Lamb of the New York Line and Continental establishment, and served until the close of the War when he was honorably discharged” Signed 12 September, 1821, Virgil, NY.”16
It appears that David first joined Captain Reed’s company in Colonel Lamb’s Artillery Regiment before Issachar did. Issachar has an interesting tale of military service before he eventually joined that Regiment.
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