Letter from Solomon Van Rensselaer
to Stephen Van Rensselaer

Below is a letter from the American politician Solomon VAN RENSSELAER (1774-1852) to his cousin Stephen VAN RENSSELAER (1764-1839) regarding payment owed. The letter was written in 1802, according to the contributor, who wishes to remain anonymous.

Solomon Van Vechten Van Rensselaer was a son of Jeremiah VAN RENSSELAER and a nephew of Killian VAN RENSSELAER. Solomon Van Rensselaer was born 6 August 1774 in East Greenbush, future Rensselaer County, NY. He completed his preparatory studies there, entered the US Army, was promoted to captain of a volunteer company, was promoted to major on 8 January 1799, and was mustered out in June 1800. He was an adjutant-general of the state militia in 1801, 1810, and 1813. Although most of his service had been in the militia, through battles such as Fallen Timbers (the Battle of Fallen Timbers was fought in August 1794 near what is now Toledo, Ohio, as part of the so-called "Indian Wars"; US militia forces defeated the Miami tribe of Native Americans), he had earned a reputation as a tough, shrewd, and fair man. Like many Federalists, Van Rensselaer was opposed to the War of 1812 and blamed the Republican government for creating a critical situation for which the country was so ill-prepared. But Van Rensselaer was also a patriot, so when it came time to serve, he wanted to do what he could for his country. Stephen Van Rensselaer credited Solomon as indispensable for the success on the Niagara. Solomon had the strategic and tactical skills that Stephen lacked, Stephen being essentially a career bureaucrat with little military experience. Solomon led 300 militia in the first part of the attack on Queenston Heights. (The Battle of Queenston Heights, fought just above Queenston, Ontario, Canada, on 13 October 1812, ended in a decisive British victory.) There Solomon sustained no fewer than five leg wounds, yet remained calm and continued to command until he lost consciousness, after which he was evacuated to safety. This incident was to be the end of Solomon Van Rensselaer's participation in the war. In his home state of New York, Solomon Van Rensselaer was hailed as a hero. He rode this reputation to the US Congress. He was elected as a Federalist to the 16th and 17th US Congresses and served from 4 March 1819 to 14 January 1822, when he resigned. He was postmaster of Albany, NY from 1822 to 1839 and from 1841 to 1843. He was a delegate from NY at the opening of the Erie Canal on 4 November 1825. He later campaigned for his old army friend William Henry HARRISON (1773-1841) when Harrison ran for President in 1840. Solomon Van Rensselaer died 23 April 1852 in Albany.

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