Friday, September 6, 2019

The True-born "Sons of Liberty" or How A Quackenbush started the first battle of the Revolutionary War

Would it surprise you to know that one of our ancestors was directly responsible for provoking the very first battle of the Revolutionary War and was himself a member of the Sons of Liberty?

The Sons of Liberty, or Liberty Boys as they were sometimes called were a group of American patriots originating in the British colonies prior to the Revolutionary War. The group was formed to protect the rights of the colonists and to take to the streets against the taxes by the British government. They are best known for the Boston Tea Party in 1773, which led to the Intolerable Acts (an intense crackdown by the British government).

The group was shrouded in secrecy and historians debate its origins, but the group existed throughout most of colonial America. Some historical sources claim that the movement began in New York City in January 1765. A more popular claim is that the movement began in Boston, Massachusetts through the leadership of one Samuel Adams in early 1765.

Tradition has it that the Boston chapter gathered beneath the Liberty Tree for meetings while the New York City chapter met beneath the Liberty Pole for its meetings. For reasons of safety and secrecy, Sons of Liberty groups tended to meet late at night so as not to attract attention and detection of British officials and the American Loyalist supporters of the British Crown.

According to Adriana Suydam Quackenbush in her book "The Quackenbush Family In Holland and America",1871, Wouter or Walter Quackenboss, of New York City, was an ardent "Son of Liberty" and figured conspicuously in the defense of the Liberty Pole, which had been set up on the Common to commemorate the repeal of the Stamp Act. Many attempts on the part of the British troops to destroy this emblem of liberty had been thwarted by the "Sons," which so irritated the British that they caused a scurrilous placard to be printed and posted in public places, assailing the " Liberty Boys " individually and collectively. The story is as follows:

Battle of Golden Hill


The battle of Golden Hill is regarded as "First Blood" in the Revolutionary War or War Of Independence. It is the first confrontation in which serious injures were taken by both the British and the colonists. New Yorkers battled with troops attempting to cut down the Liberty Pole on Golden Hill (in present-day downtown Manhattan) three previous poles having been destroyed by British troops since 1766.

On Saturday Night the 13th Instant [of this month], about eight o'clock, a Party of Soldiers, near forty in Number, began to execute a Design [plan] they had formed to cut down the Liberty Pole. To effect this with the greater Safety, they placed Sentinels in the different Roads that lead to it and the most public Places to discover any Number of the Inhabitants that should be making towards the Pole to obstruct them. In this Situation they were discovered sawing the Spurs by some Persons that were crossing the Fields, who went into Mr. Montanye’s and reported it to sundry [several] Persons in the House. Captain White was attacked near the House by a Soldier who drew his Bayonet on him and threatened to take his Life if he alarmed [warned] the Citizens, upon which the Soldier returned to his Companions at the Pole. The People at Mr. Montanye’s came out and called out Fire in order to alarm the Inhabitants. Soon after a Fire was seen at the Pole, which proved to be a Fuse that the Soldiers had put in it in order to communicate Fire to a Cavity which they had made in the Pole and filled with Powder, with a Design to split it. The Fuse did not communicate [start] the Fire, nor do the Execution that was expected, which the People at Mr. Montanye’s observing, hissed at the Soldiers, and as the former had but just before called out Fire, the latter considered it as a Taunt on their abortive [failed] Labor.

These Sons of Mars [British soldiers] could not brook [tolerate] the least Sign of Satisfaction in the Citizens at their heroic Attack on a Pole’s proving unsuccessful. No, they, unprovoked, determined on a more heroic Action, which was to storm Mr. Montanye’s House, and accordingly entered it with drawn Swords and Bayonets, insulted the Company and beat the Waiter. Not satisfied with this mal-Treatment, they proceeded to destroy every Thing they could conveniently come at. They broke Eighty-four Panes of Glass, two Lamps and two Bowls, after which they quitted the House with Precipitation [haste] lest any of them should be discovered.

After a British officer sent a guard to the pole, no further violence occurred that night. Three days later, however, British soldiers succeeded in exploding the pole and placing its remnants at the door of Mr. Montanye. Tensions escalated until Friday, the 19th, when two “Sons of Liberty” attempted to stop British troops who were posting a handbill around the city.

The Soldiers, still bent on further Insults to the Citizens, on Friday the 19th published the following Paper and went in Posses through the Streets, putting them up at the most public Places of the City, and threw some of them into the Mayor’s Entry.

God and a Soldier all men doth adore
In Time of War, and not before:When the War is over, and all Things righted,
God is forgotten, and the Soldier slighted.

WHEREAS an uncommon and riotous disturbance prevails throughout this city by some of its inhabitants, who style themselves the S⎯⎯s of L⎯⎯⎯y, but rather may more properly be called real enemies to society, and whereas the army, now quartered in New York, are represented in a heinous light to their officers and other, for having propagated a disturbance in this city by attempting to destroy their Liberty Pole in the Fields, which, being now complete, without the assistance of the army, we have reason to laugh at them and beg the public only to observe how chagrin’d those pretended S_ _s of L_ _ _ _ _y look as they pass through the streets, especially as these great heroes thought their freedom depended on a piece of wood . . . .

[It] is well known since their [troops’] arrival in New York they have watched night and day for the safety and protection of the city and its inhabitants; [they] have suffered the rays of the scorching sun in summer and the severe colds of freezing snowy nights in winter, which must be the case, and fifty times worse had there been a war, which we sincerely pray for in hopes those S_ _s of L_ _ _y may feel the effects of it, with famine and destruction pouring on their heads. . . .[Addressed to the public for which, may the shame they mean to brand our names with, stick on theirs. Signed by the 16th Regiment of Foot [Infantry].

Mr. Isaac Sears and Mr. Walter (Wouter) Quackenbos, seeing six or several Soldiers going towards the Fly Market, concluded they were going to it to put up some of the above Papers [handbills]. Mr. Sears seized the Soldier that was fixing the Paper by the Collar and asked him what Business he had to put up Libels against the Inhabitants? and that he would carry him before the Mayor. Mr. Quackenbos took hold of one that had the Papers on his Arm. A Soldier standing to the Right of Mr. Sears drew his Bayonet, upon which the latter took a Ram’s Horn and threw it at the former, which struck him in the Head, and then the Soldiers, except the two that were seized, made off and alarmed others in the Barracks. They immediately carried the two to the Mayor and assigned him the Reason of their bringing them before him. The Mayor sent for Alderman Desbrosses to consult on what would be proper to be done in the Matter. In the mean Time, a considerable Number of People collected opposite to the Mayor’s. Shortly after, about twenty Soldiers with Cutlasses and Bayonets from the lower Barracks made their Appearance, coming to the Mayor’s through the main Street. When they came opposite to Mr. Peter Remsen’s, he endeavored to dissuade them from going any further (supposing they were going to the Mayor’s) representing to them that they would get into a Scrape, but his Advice was not taken, owing, as he supposes, to one of two of their Leaders who seemed to be intoxicated.

The People collected at the Mayor’s determined to let them pass by peaceably and unmolested, and opened for them to go through. Captain Richardson and some of the Citizens, judging they intended to take the two Soldiers from the Mayor’s by force, went to his Door to prevent it. When the Soldiers came opposite to his House, they halted. Many of them drew their Swords and Bayonets; some say they all drew. But all that were present agree that many did, and faced about to the Door and demanded the Soldiers in Custody. Some of them attempted to get into the House to rescue them. Capt. Richardson and others at the Door prevented them, and desired them to put up their Arms and go to their Barracks, that the Soldiers were before the Mayor who would do them Justice. The Soldiers within likewise desired them to go away to their Barracks and leave them to the Determination of the Mayor.

Upon the Soldiers drawing their Arms, many of the Inhabitants, conceiving themselves in Danger, ran to some Sleighs that were near and pulled out some of the Rungs. The Mayor and Alderman Desbrosses came out and ordered the Soldiers to their Barracks. After some Time, they moved up the Fly. The People were apprehensive that, as the Soldiers had drawn their Swords at the Mayor’s House and thereby condemned the Civic Authority and declared War against the Inhabitants, it was not safe to let them go through the Streets alone lest they might offer Violence to some of the Citizens: To prevent which they followed them and two Magistrates aforesaid to the Corner of Golden Hill, and in their going, several of the [obscured] reasoned with them on the Folly of their drawing [obscured] Swords, and endeavored to persuade them to sheath them, assuring them no Mischief was intended them, [obscured] without Success.

They turned up Golden Hill and about the Time they gained the Summit, a considerable Number of Soldiers joined them, which inspired them to reinsult the Magistrates and exasperate the Inhabitants, which was soon manifested by their facing about, and one in Silk Stockings and neat Buckskin Breeched (who is suspected to have been an Officer in Disguise) giving the Word of Command, “Soldiers draw your Bayonets and cut your Way through them.” The former was immediately obeyed, and they called out, “Where are your Sons of Liberty now?” and fell on the Citizens with great Violence, cutting and slashing. This convinced them that their Apprehensions were well founded, for although no Insult or Violence had been offered to the former, yet instead of going peaceably to their Barracks, as they were ordered by the Magistrates, they in Defiance of their Authority (Veteran-like) drew their Arms to attack Men who, except six or seven that had Clubs and Sticks, were naked [unarmed]. These few that had the Sticks maintained their Ground in the narrow Passage in which they stood and defended their defenseless Fellow Citizens for some Time against the furious and unmanly Attacks of armed Soldiers, until one of them missing his Aim, in a Stroke made at one of the Assailants, lost his Stick, which obliged the former to retreat to look for some Instrument of Defense. The Soldiers pursued him down to the main Street. One of them made a Stroke with a Cutlass at Mr. Francis Field, one of the People called Quakers, standing in an inoffensive Posture in Mr. Field’s Door, at the Corner, and cut him on the Right Cheek, and if the Corner had not broke the Stroke, it would have probably killed him. This Party that came down to the main Street cut a Tea-Water Man driving his Cart, and a Fisherman’s Finger. In short, they madly attacked every Person that they could reach, and their Companions on Golden Hill were more inhuman, for, besides cutting a Sailor’s Head and Finger [who] was defending himself against them, they stabbed another with a Bayonet, going about his Business, so badly that his Life was thought in Danger.

Not satisfied with all this Cruelty, two of them followed a Boy going for Sugar into Mr. Elsworth’s House. One of them cut him on the Head with a Cutlass, and the other made a Lunge with a Bayonet at the Woman in the Entry, that answered the Child. Capt. Richardson was violently attacked by two of the Soldiers with Swords, and expected to have been cut to pieces but was so fortunate as to defend himself with a Stick for a considerable Time ’till a Halbert was put into his hands, with which he could have killed several of them, but he made no other Use of it than to defend himself and his naked Fellow Citizens. . .

From all which I think it is evident that the Inhabitants only acted on the Defensive. Capt. Richardson was a Witness of all that passed, from the Soldiers coming to the Mayor’s Door, and declares that if they had not halted and acted as they did on Golden Hill, he verily believes there would not have been any Mischief done. Some Time after the Commencement of the grand Affray on the Golden Hill, a Posse of Soldiers came down from another Quarter, opposite to the Street that leads down from the Hill, and called out to the Soldiers on the Hill “to cut their Way down, and they would meet them half Way.” During the Action on the Hill, a small Party of Soldiers came along the Fly by the Market and halted near Mr. Norwood’s. Some of the Inhabitants gathered round them when a Conversation ensued on the then Disturbances. Soon after, the former drew their Bayonets, upon which, as the Citizens were all unarmed, they cast about to look for Stones or some Instruments to defend themselves; but the Soldiers observing that they could not find any Thing, one of them made an Attempt to stab Mr. John White who, finding himself in imminent Danger, judged it most safe to take Flight toward the Mayor’s. The Soldier pursued him with his drawn Bayonet and made several Attempts when he thought Mr. White within his reach to stab him, but in crossing the Gutter the Soldier fell, which gave the designed Victim an opportunity to escape or, in the Opinion of all present, he would certainly have fallen a Sacrifice to the unprovoked, malevolent and merciless Rage of his Pursuer. Several of the Soldiers that were on the Hill were much bruised, and one of them badly cut. Soon after the above Attack, many of the Magistrates collected from different Quarters of the City, and several of the Officers being made acquainted with the Affray, came to the Places of Action and dispersed the Soldiers.

Thus ended a Riot which would have been productive of much worse Consequences had the Citizens been armed. In the Evening the Soldiers cut one Lamp Lighter on the Head and drew the Ladder from under another while he was lighting the Lamps. On Saturday the Twentieth, a Soldier made an attempt to stab a Woman coming from Market with a Bundle of Fish, run his Bayonet through her Cloak and Body Clothes. About Noon, at the Head of Chapel Street an Affray began between some Sailors and Soldiers, the Origin of which I have not been able with certainty to find out. . . . The Mayor, giving over all hopes of quelling the Riot, had moved off from the Place of Action in order to bring the Officers out, but some of the Citizens requested him not to quit the Fields and leave the Soldiers with their Arms to destroy the Inhabitants, upon which he returned, and soon after a great Body of People was coming up the Broad-Way which, the Soldiers seeing, they went off to their Barracks. A Report being spread through the City that the Soldiers had rushed out of their Barracks and were slaughtering the Inhabitants in the Fields soon brought out a great Number of the Citizens to the New Gaol [jail]. While they were inquiring into the Cause of the Riot, a Number of Soldiers, not more than Twenty, came up from the lower Barracks and marched through a considerable Body of the Inhabitants collected along the Street (to the South of the Presbyterian Meeting) that leads to the Gaol, when they might very easily have avoided them and taken a Route to the Barracks across the Fields, where none of the Citizens stood, which would not have endangered or exposed them to a Riot, if they were not disposed to it. The People there opened and let them pass. When they got near through, a greater Body standing to the Southward of the Gaol Fence, one of the Soldiers, in the Presence of a very reputable Person, snatched a Stick from one of the Bystanders; others say that a Sword was taken from another. This brought on anew Affray which lasted about two Minutes, cutting and slashing on both Sides when, the Soldiers finding themselves roughly handled, they made the best of their Way to the Barracks, and some of the Inhabitants pursued them to the Gates, and one of them took a bayonet from a Soldier. In this Scuffle, one of the Citizens was wounded in the Face and had two of his Teeth broke by a Stroke of a Bayonet. A Soldier received a bad Cut on the Shoulder. These are the principal Wounds that the Combatants sustained. . . .

To conclude, it’s evident that there has been Blood spilt on both Sides. I therefore submit it to my Superiors whether the Reputation of the Citizens or of the Soldiers can be incontestably vindicated, and indubitable Information thereof given to the Government at Home, unless there is a general legal inquiry into the Whole of these Disturbances. The Inhabitants that were active are desirous that such an Examination should be made, and, as there are sufficient Mediums of Proof to begin it, if it is not done, the World will be at no Loss to what Cause to attribute the Neglect of it, and where all this Mischief first originated.

Newspaper Article

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