Tuesday, September 17, 2019

The Further Adventures of Colonel Hendrick "Henry" Quackenbosch

Col. Henry Quackenbush was a provincial officer in the British Army under Lords Amherst and Abercrombie during the French and Indian War. He was engaged in the attack on Crown Point and Ticonderoga, and was with Lord Howe when he was shot by the Indians. During the Revolutionary War he was Chairman of the Albany Committee of Safety, and member of the Colonial Legislature. He was appointed Captain, and then 1st Major of the 3d Albany County Regiment, October, 1775, and succeeded Garret Van den Bergh as Colonel of the 5th Albany Regiment in 1778. He was wounded when in command of his regiment in the last attack of the American troops led by Gen. Arnold against the British at Saratoga, and commanded the guard of 200 men who brought Gen. Burgoyne to Albany after the last battle, where he— Gen. Burgoyne — was confined in the house of Gen. Schuyler in the south part of the city. (Col. Quackenbush's daughter said the soldiers encamped in front of their house, and wine and refresh ments were brought them by her father's orders.) Colonel Quackenbush received an autograph letter from General Burgoyne thanking him for kindness and attention shown him while a prisoner. After the war Col. Quackenbush was one of the Presidential Electors.

The following references to the private character of Col. Quackenbush are selected from a memoir entitled "A Few Events in the Life of Col. Henry Quackenbush," written by his great-grandson, Henry Quackenbush Hawley:

A great name in history, as we all know, is built up much more from fortunate opportunity than from real merit. In fact, the true heroes of the world are seldom the men it delights to honor, but rather those who, from the force of circumstances, pursue a simple and retired life, practicing virtue and self-denial, because it is their nature so to do, and without the stimulus of applause, acting nobly and tenderly and generously, because they are genuine men.

It is these qualities, and not the bubble reputation, that makes God's noblest work, a true gentleman. And such was Col. Henry Quackenbush, in all that justly makes that character; in courage, in integrity, in lofty sentiments and personal honor, in rugged strength, in tenderness of heart, in pure love of country, he was a marked man, even in the time he lived — now a century ago — when the country was young, and engaged in the fearful struggle we call the " Revolution." He was then a very prominent private citizen of Albany, the Chairman of the Committee on Public Safety, and preeminent in social life. Many a time have I listened with intense interest to anecdotes of his life and character, related by his daughter [Mrs. Anna Lansing , my grandmother, and so illustrative are they of simple manliness of character, that I can never recall them without a feeling of personal pride that I am descended from so noble a gentleman.

There are now in Albany but three or four dwelling houses representing the old architecture of the city. Two of these, the Lansing residence, on the corner of Broadway and Quackenbush street (in which I was born), and the building now known as the Pemberton house (in which my mother was born), were in Col. Quackenbush's family. In the former of these he resided, and in the latter his son-in-law, Jacob I. Lansing (my grandfather). He was then a rich man, and his house was ever open to sustain the hospitalities of the city. "Many a time," my grandmother used to say to us children, as we clustered around her in the old house, " when a girl have I seen the entire Senate dine at this house." And I remember with what wonder I used to listen to her descriptions of the venison and game of all kinds, which persons dealing with her father used to bring him in great abundance, some in exchange for store goods, and others as tokens of regard, and of the number of slaves in the kitchen (young and old there were eighteen), and how each one had a separate duty. That was, of course, after the war had ended. Col. Quackenbush was then an extensive merchant, having embarked in a new business, to regain from commerce what he had given to his country in its time of need ; and for nothing should he be held in higher honor in times like these than for that sacrifice. "It never caused him a single regret," said my grandmother. "It was for his country", he said, "and, if necessary, he would do it again." And yet, what he did was to loan the government, when it was in despair and without credit, sixty thousand dollars in gold, returned to him after the war in Continental money, repudiated afterwards by Congress. And I remember well, when a boy, seeing a great chest in the garret of the old house filled with that money, then as worthless as rags. It was a great injustice, but perhaps at the time a necessity, as the bills

had been so extensively counterfeited that to redeem them was beyond the resources of the nation.

What I have related of Col. Quackenbush while leading a prosperous but unostentatious life after the Revolution, interest his descendants from the evidence it affords that their ancestor was a true gentleman.

That he was also a brave and resolute man is apparent from the following adventure, while he was in the Federal army, as Colonel of the Albany Regiment.

While serving in that capacity under Gen. Gates, he was ordered to take a batteau and make a reconnoissance upon the Lake (Champlain), to ascertain the position of the British ships. Accordingly he started as soon as it was dark, his men rowing with muffled oars. As he had been much engaged during the day, he instructed his men where to go, and then lay down, closing his eyes that he might not be distracted while thinking over his instructions. And thus matters remained for some time, the men silently rowing and their officer apparently sleeping. In the meantime, the boat having drawn near to the British line, the men stopped rowing and (thinking the commander asleep) began to whisper together.

"The Colonel is asleep," said one of them. “For one, I am tired of being starved. Now is our chance. Why not ?"

And they shipped their oars, and hurriedly debated what they should do with their officer. He was not asleep, however, but heard all that was said; and when the time for action arrived, he sprang to his feet, and seizing a stout boat-hook, fortunately at hand, knocked the leading traitor from the boat.

Then, drawing a pistol, he said sternly, "The man that speaks, or stirs, dies."

For a moment the men looked uncertain, when seeing in his eyes that he would do what he said, and the man overboard having risen and seized the side of the boat, crying for mercy, they also asked for it, and swore vehemently that if he would forgive them, they would be true as death.

"Well," said Col. Quackenbush, "I will trust you. Take in your comrade, but mark me, the man that in any way betrays us to the enemy, I will kill; now row."

And the men, completely cowed, obeyed silently, and the reconnoissance was safely made.

By a curious coincidence, Col. Quackenbush again met the same party after the army was disbanded. As his way homeward took him to another station of the army, to which Gen. Gates desired to transmit a large sum of money, he requested him to take charge of it. This he agreed to do, and while on his way, through a lonely road in the forest, he suddenly came upon a party of men bivouacked around a camp fire. Seeing a solitary horseman approaching, they rose hurriedly and separated, apparently to intercept him. This suspicious action for a moment caused Col. Quackenbush to hesitate, but it being the habit of his life to meet danger when it came face to face, he boldly rode up to the party.

And the event proved he was right, for when the men recognized him they shouted together, "It is the Colonel. God bless you, sir, and its mighty glad we are to see you."

"And so am I to see you, boys. Where are you going?"

"Well, Colonel, it's happy we'd be to go with you. Sure we'd be true to you. We'd follow you to hell."

"But I'm not going that way, boys, so we'll have to part. There are a few dollars to help you on; goodbye, and don't forget that your country needs good men and true. Be such; goodbye."

"Goodbye, Colonel," said the leader. "Three cheers for the Colonel," and as long as he was in sight the forest rang with the huzzas."

Colonel Quackenbush was not only a strong and brave man, but also of fine presence, being over six feet in height. The picture I have of him (a copy of a portrait by Stewart, I think) my grandmother said was an excellent likeness. If it is we have occasion to be proud of his appearance, as all the lines show it was that of a gentleman.

There is a family tradition that Col. Quackenbush received an autograph letter from Gen. Washington, which was borrowed by a relative and never returned.

Henry Quackenbush held many public offices, as a member of Assembly, etc. He died February 2, 1813, and a monument marks his grave in the Albany Rural Cemetery, bearing the following inscription:

Sacred to the memory of Colonel Henry Quackenbush, who, having lived the life, died the death, of the righteous, on the 2nd of February, 1813, aged 76 years. Colonel Quackenbush was with Lord Amherst at Ticonderoga, with General Gates at Saratoga, " in the days that tried men's souls ! "Chairman of the Committee on Safety, Member of the Colonial Legislature, Elector of President and Vice-President. In all the relations of life, virtuous; in all the stations which he filled, faithful; respected and honored in life, and lamented in death

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