The 1st New York Regiment of the Continental Line 1776-1783

Written by Park Ranger Kelly Cardwell

The regiment that came to be known as the 1st New York was actually authorized as the 2nd NY Regiment of the Continental Line on May 25, 1775. They were assigned to the Northern Department in Albany, NY with 10 companies from Albany, Tryon, Charlotte, and Cumberland Counties. After a year, Colonel Goose Van Schaick was designated as commander. Van Schaick reorganized the regiment to consist of eight companies. They were promptly assigned to the Canadian Department. After only a month, on June 9, 1776, they were again reassigned to the Northern Department. As the 2nd NY Regiment, they participated in the failed American invasion of Canada and the debatably successful Battle of Valcour Island (Lake Champlain).

On January 26, 1777, the 2nd NY and 4th NY were consolidated under Goose Van Schaick's command into a group to be known as the 1st NY. They were assigned to the Northern Department under the overall command of General Philip Schuyler at Albany, NY. Schuyler would have chose detachments from their ranks to serve as serve as his personal bodyguards, as they were the most senior New York Regiment.

As the British invasion of New York State changed from a threat into a reality (with the attacks and take take-over of New York City in mid-1776, and the subsequent Siege of Fort Schuyler and invasion of the Champlain Valley in the summer of 1777) Gen. Schuyler made the decision to split his forces and send a contingent, under command of General Benedict Arnold, to help the men of the 3rd NY Regiment at Fort Schuyler (Stanwix) under the command of Van Schaick's brother-in-law, Colonel Peter Gansevoort. A portion of the 1st NY Regiment became part of this relief column, and arrived at the fort in barely a week's time around August 23, 1777. They remained as part of the Fort Schuyler garrison until the winter. As the winter of 1777 set in, the entire 1st NY Regiment was assigned to General Washington's army and spent the rest of the year and early spring of 1778 at Valley Forge.

Throughout 1778, they served in various parts of General Washington's Continental Army Line; including as a portion of the 2nd Pennsylvania Brigade during the military actions around Philadelphia and Monmouth, and as New York Brigade soldiers as well. By the latter half of that year they had been officially reassigned to the Northern Department and on November 4, 1778 they were ordered to relieve the 3rd NY and garrison Fort Schuyler.

While at the frontier outpost, the regiment participated in an early raid of the Sullivan-Clinton Campaign of 1779 against the Onondaga Indians. On April 18, 1779, Van Schaick left the fort with approximately 550 men, marched through the surrounding Onondaga territories were able to disable the Nations forces for making war; capturing 37 prisoners, and 100 muskets. Van Schaick himself recalled that the expedition immediately began to retrace its steps back to Fort Schuyler after accomplishing its mission, "and, upon arriving at Onondaga Creek, the troops came under fire from about 20 Indians who lay concealed on the opposite side of the Creek." The rifle company moved forward after killing one warrior and dispersed the rest. The return journey continued on with no further occurrences, and the troops arrived back at Fort Schuyler on April 24 at "about 12 o'clock when [they] were saluted by 3 pieces of cannon from the fort and each Compy. Took their old quarters." Van Schaick also reported that the entire expedition had been, "out five days and a half, the whole distance of going & returning being one hundred & Eighty miles, not having lost a single man." Officers in command of main of the branch of the Sullivan-Clinton Campaign considered the 1st NY raids the most successful in the entire operation.

After the Campaign of 1777 had failed, a series of raids from the Canadian border had devastated the Mohawk Valley. Due to lack of support from destroyed New York State militias and the rest of the Continental Line force, the fort garrison was not able to properly respond. The fort had also become dilapidated and isolated as the New York State border was pushed farther east and the supply chain was severed. By mid-May 1781, it was decided that the fort would be abandoned at the end of the month due to the extensive weathering and fire damage that had occurred that spring. General Washington gave a final order allowing their departure and by the end of June 1781, the 1st NY Regiment rejoined the Northern Department near Albany, NY.

Officially in early of 1781, the 3rd NY Regiment was consolidated into the 1st NY Regiment (as five New York regiments were consolidated into two for the remainder of the war). The combined NY Regiments took part in the Siege of Yorktown in October of 1781. The New York Light Infantry companies made up part of the force that successfully attacked Redoubt Number 10, which helped bring about the British surrender. After Yorktown, the New York troops went into winter quarters at Pomton, New Jersey.

In the spring of 1782, the two New York regiments went into final quarters at New Windsor, New York, as the war wound down. In June, many of the men were furloughed home; and in November 1783, with the coming of peace, the men of the old 1st NY Regiment were honorably discharged and became citizens of the new United States of America.

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  • Boatner III, Mark M. Encyclopedia of the American Revolution. Van Rees Press: New York , 1966.
  • Colonial National Historical Park. Yorktown Battlefield,
  • Coulthart, Stephen B. Third New York Regiment of the Continental Line 1775-1788. Research article from the NPS-Ft. Stanwix NM Garrison Training Manual.
  • Egly Jr., T. W. History of the First New York Regiment 1775-1783. Publisher: Peter E. Randall, 1981.
    **all quotes excerpted from the above publication**
  • Luzader, John F. Construction and Military History of Fort Stanwix. Office of Park Historic Preservation. National Park Service. U.S. Department of the Interior: Washington, 1976
  • Luzader, John F. Saratoga: A Military History of the Decisive Campaign of the American Revolution. Savas Beatrie: New York, 2008
  • Wright, Robert K. The Continental Army. United States Government Printing, 1983.

Last updated: February 26, 2015

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