Philip Schuyler

An older looking man in an elaborate Continental Army uniform.
General Philip J. Schuyler as depicted by J. Trumbull

Library of Congress

Quick Facts
General Schuyler served as commander of the Northern Continental Army under George Washington, an American Indian Department agent, and he invested heavily in the area surrounding the historic Fort Schuyler. This included projects such as the Inland Lock Canal, precursor to Erie Canal.
Place of Birth:
Albany, NY
Date of Birth:
November 20, 1733
Place of Death:
Albany, NY
Date of Death:
November 18, 1804 (aged 70)
Place of Burial:
Colonie, NY
Cemetery Name:
Albany Rural Cemetery

Philip Schuyler came from a prominent Dutch family in the Albany area. During the French and Indian War, he served first as a captain then as a major of the New York troops fighting alongside the British. In 1768, he became a member of the provincial assembly, and he advocated for the constitutional rights of the colonies.

In 1775, Schuyler became a delegate of the Second Continental Congress. When war came, Schuyler sided with the Patriots and was commissioned a Major General on June 19, 1775. In addition to his military duties, he also served as an Indian Commissioner, as the Americans attempted to gain the support of the Six Nations Confederacy against the British. Schuyler was in command of the "Northern Department," which included the area Fort Stanwix occupied. In 1776, he issued the initial orders to have the fort reoccupied and repaired by the Americans. The fort was renamed Fort Schuyler in his honor, by the first American garrison.

When the fort was under siege in August 1777, Schuyler, though hard pressed by British Gen. John Burgoyne's invading army, detached a part of his force under Benedict Arnold to march up the Mohawk Valley and come to the aid of the fort. It was this action by Schuyler that finally caused the British to end the siege and retreat. Some of Schuyler's actions during this period came into question however, and he was replaced by Gen. Horatio Gates. Gates thus claimed the honor of victories over Burgoyne's army at the Battles of Saratoga, though it was Schuyler's work that has made those American victories possible. Wanting to clear his name, Schuyler demanded a hearing and was eventually cleared of all charges.

Upset over the continued allegations made against him, Schuyler tried to resign from the army, and was finally granted his request in 1779. He resumed his work in politics and continued to serve as an Indian Commissioner for the rest of the war.

In 1792, A private company was formed as the “Inland Lock and Navigation Company. It was the desire to allow passage for larger craft that led to the idea of canals being introduced into the already existing water routes. With the former Gen. Schuyler as president, the company began the work necessary to create a continuous deep-water route between Schenectady and the Oneida Carry area. Small scale improvements while money was being raised set the stage for major work beginning in 1793.

In 1798, Schuyler was elected to serve as a United States senator, thus helping manage the new country he had helped to create. One of Schuyler's more recent claims to fame is as father-in-law to Alexander Hamilton, who married his daughter Elizabeth. Schuyler died at the Schuyler Mansion in Albany on November 18, 1804, four months after his son-in-law, Alexander Hamilton, was killed in a duel and two days before his 71st birthday. He is buried at Albany Rural Cemetery in New York.

Throughout his life, Philip Schuyler and his family enslaved dozens of people at any given moment. These people provided the basis of the Schuylers' wealth and social status, laboring in a wide variety of roles including household servants, cooks, sawyers in the mills, logging, carting, fishing, and agricultural tasks. 

Fort Stanwix National Monument, Hamilton Grange National Memorial, Saratoga National Historical Park

Last updated: June 29, 2024